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It’s been more than a week since the refusal of the president to attend Scalia’s service and it still rankles. It was a perfect chance for a passive aggressive personality; without lifting a finger, he was able to flip the bird to millions of Americans. Townhall columnist writes on President Demeanor.

When President Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky was exposed, it was a new low for the office of president. It wasn’t the first affair by a president (or Clinton), not by a long shot. But the fact it was with an intern and he committed perjury behind it demeaned the office in a way that hadn’t been done before.

It turned the 2000 election partially into a referendum on restoring the dignity, or at least the veneer of it, to the office. Thanks to the words and deeds of Barack Obama, that dignity needs to be restored yet again.

Disagreements over policy are common, and natural, really. And presidents have used language they, perhaps, would like to have back in hindsight. But their actions, at least their public actions, generally have been presidential. No more.

With President Obama’s public refusal to attend the funeral service for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he demeans the office in a way that transcends politics and exposes him as a small man who never grew into his job. …

… The man could not bring himself to show up to the funeral of a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Let that sink in. Having his spokesman state publicly he wouldn’t rule out golfing instead exposed the man in the office as, yet again, as demeaning the office.

That Press Secretary Josh Earnest tweeted Friday the president would be working with staff on finding a replacement for Scalia this weekend rather than attending his funeral is just the latest in a long line of examples showing President Obama acting anything but presidential.

Some presidents have risen to occasions and grown in office, Barack Obama has had ample occasions, and on far too many of them he shrank. …



More from Kyle Smith on president petulant. 

Gratuitous. Nasty. Petty. Spiteful. Insulting. Just plain rude. When the rhetoric of a major party’s leading presidential candidate falls to this level, we should be scornful.

So, how is it OK when it isn’t just a presidential candidate, but a president, who does it?

Donald Trump’s policy of demeaning and snarking his political opponents has been a favorite habit of President Obama for the last eight years. Obama is perhaps the first president who believes that leading the country and playing to the beliefs of the extremists in his own party amount to the same thing, and like Trump fans, Obama fans are motivated in large degree by sheer hatred.

They love to hear their idol channel their rage by bashing people they don’t like.

Obama’s latest, silent insult — leaving a spokesman to explain he had better things to do on a Saturday than attend the funeral of a 30-year justice of the Supreme Court — isn’t surprising when you consider the mean-spirited things he says virtually every time he steps in front of a microphone.

This week Obama spokesman Josh Earnest bashed Sen. Chuck Schumer, who objected to cuts in counterterrorism funding for New York. Earnest said, in essence, why listen to this fool on anything if he opposed the Iran deal, especially since “most Democrats” were in favor? …



So how is barry doing elsewhere. Charles Krauthammer sums up foreign policy.

1. In the South China Sea, on a speck of land of disputed sovereignty far from its borders, China has just installed antiaircraft batteries and stationed fighter jets. This after China landed planes on an artificial island it created on another disputed island chain (the Spratlys, claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam). These facilities now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge seven decades of American naval dominance of the Pacific Rim.

“China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command told Congress on Tuesday. Its goal? “Hegemony in East Asia.”

2. Syria. Russian intervention has turned the tide of war. Having rescued the Bashar al-Assad regime from collapse, relentless Russian bombing is destroying the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, creating a massive new wave of refugees and demonstrating to the entire Middle East what a Great Power can achieve when it acts seriously.

The U.S. response? Repeated pathetic attempts by Secretary of State John Kerry to propitiate Russia (and its ally, Iran) in one collapsed peace conference after another. On Sunday, he stepped out to announce yet another “provisional agreement in principle” on “a cessation of hostilities” that the CIA director, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff deem little more than a ruse.

3. Ukraine. Having swallowed Crimea so thoroughly that no one even talks about it anymore, Russia continues to trample with impunity on the Minsk cease-fire agreements. Vladimir Putin is now again stirring the pot, intensifying the fighting, advancing his remorseless campaign to fracture and subordinate the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, Obama still refuses to send the Ukrainians even defensive weapons.

4. Iran. Last Thursday, Iran received its first shipment of S-300 antiaircraft batteries from Russia, a major advance in developing immunity to any attack on its nuclear facilities. And it is negotiating an $8 billion arms deal with Russia that includes sophisticated combat aircraft. Like its ballistic missile tests, this conventional weapons shopping spree is a blatant violation of U.N. Security Council prohibitions. It was also a predictable — and predicted — consequence of the Iran nuclear deal that granted Iran $100 billion and normalized its relations with the world.

The U.S. response? Words. …



OK, we know Krauthammer is not a fan. How about the liberal Daily Beast? Here they are in How Obama Lost the Mideast to Putin.

The Middle East is in flames. Just as Iraq was President George W. Bush’s catastrophic legacy, Syria will be Obama’s. Bush’s sins of commission wrought no less chaos than Obama’s sins of omission. … 

… so much of this could have been avoided, if President Barack Obama had displayed two qualities in his foreign policy: leadership and strategic vision.

We know he lacked a strategy because, well, he told us so. And there was no moment of more memorable spinelessness than when Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed Obama’s chemical “red line” with impunity.

However which way Obama is remembered for his domestic record, I—and no doubt many other foreign policy pundits—will forever be gritting our teeth at the sheer arrogant indifference he displayed to the unraveling of the Middle East, and the rise of the Russian Bear. Putin stared Obama down; Obama cowered and blinked. …

… The consequences of Obama’s stunning lack of vision will be felt in Europe, too, in more ways than one. As Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kurds, Turkey, Russia and various jihadist terrorist factions such as ISIS and al Qaeda fight over the Middle-Eastern jewel, half of Syria’s population has become displaced. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing to Europe, and the resulting cultural civil strife this has sparked will only bolster those—like Putin—who seek to break up the European Union. …



And here is the German internationalist Der Spiegel on the Syrian Debacle. Instapundit has the story.

… The war has long since ceased being solely about Syria. The country has become Ground Zero of global geopolitics, an unholy mixture of Russia’s desired return to superpower status, an increasingly authoritarian Turkey, tentative US foreign policy, the Kurdish conflict, the arch-rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Islamist terror and the inability of a divided, crisis-ridden EU to do much of anything.

The war in Syria has transformed from a civil war into a world war.

It has long since reached Europe in the form of millions of refugees, terror attacks in Paris and attacks on tourists in Tunisia and Istanbul. And America, which has long been the leader of the West and guarantor of security in Europe, has refused to get involved. . . .

The man who could answer many of these questions is saying very little these days about Syria, despite the recent drama. In the past, Barack Obama has said that Assad must step down and he still refers to him as “a brutal, ruthless dictator.” At the same time, though, Obama is doing nothing to counter him and there are no signs that he has anything up his sleeve either.

The New York Times recently wrote that it is difficult to distinguish between Putin’s and Obama’s Syria strategies. Meanwhile, historian and journalist Michael Ignatieff and Brookings Institution fellow Leon Wieseltier lamented in the Washington Post, “It’s time for those who care about the moral standing of the United States to say that this policy is shameful.”…



Victor Davis Hanson compares today to the time before WW II.

… Had the U.S. kept its military strong after World War I, and had it entered into a formal alliance with its former World War I partners, Germany never would have risked a second war against the combined strength of a fully armed Britain, France, and United States.

Instead, Hitler assumed the U.S. either could not or would not offer much military help to his intended European targets.

Why, then, did a relatively weak Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1941 believe that it could take on much of the world, and inspire Axis partners such as Italy and Japan to follow its suicidal lead?

The answer is obvious. British and French appeasement, Soviet collaboration, and American isolation had together convinced Hitler and his Axis allies that the victors of World War I were more eager to grant concessions at any cost than were the defeated.

The world of 2016 is eerily beginning to resemble the powder keg of 1939 Europe.

Iran, China, and North Korea, along with radical Islamic terrorist groups, all have particular contempt for Western democracies. Almost daily, various aggressive nations or organizations seek provocation by shooting off intercontinental missiles, boarding American boats, sending millions of young male Middle Easterners into the West, and issuing unending threats. China is creating new artificial islands to control commercial routes to and from Asia. …



John Hinderaker, using a WaPo editorial, posts on the failures of our Cuba policy.

The Washington Post editorial board documents the pathetic failure of the Obama administration’s Cuba policy under the bleak headline: “Failure In Cuba.” Whether it is a failure, of course, depends on what you think Obama was trying to achieve.

President Obama’s opening to Cuba seems to be failing to live up to its declared goals. When the end to a half-century of hostility was announced in December 2014, the proclaimed U.S. purpose was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans,” to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” and to “empower the nascent Cuban private sector,” among other things. …

Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return.

So, it’s not just Iran. It is Obama’s foreign policy.

Since the United States has placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers.

Which raises the question: does Barack Obama actually want Cuba to be free of socialism?

February 29, 2016 – HILLARY

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Camille Paglia lets loose on Hillary. Done there, she lays waste to higher education. Given her milieu we’ll have to overlook her Bernie flirtation. 

Despite Bernie Sanders being tied with her for pledged delegates after last weekend’s Nevada caucuses, the media herd has anointed Hillary Clinton yet again as the inevitable Democratic nominee.  Superdelegates, those undemocratic figureheads and goons of the party establishment, are by definition unpledged and fluid and should never be added to the official column of any candidate until the national convention. To do so is an amoral tactic of intimidation that affects momentum and gives backstage wheeling and dealing primacy over the will of the electorate.  Why are the media so servilely complicit with Clinton-campaign propaganda and trickery?

Democrats face a stark choice this year.  A vote for the scandal-plagued Hillary is a resounding ratification of business as usual–the corrupt marriage of big money and machine politics, practiced by the Clintons with the zest of Boss Tweed, the gluttonous czar of New York’s ruthless Tammany Hall in the 1870s.  What you also get with Hillary is a confused hawkish interventionism that has already dangerously destabilized North Africa and the Mideast.  This is someone who declared her candidacy on April 12, 2015 via an email and slick video and then dragged her feet on making a formal statement of her presidential policies and goals until her pollsters had slapped together a crib list of what would push the right buttons.  This isn’t leadership; it’s pandering.

Thanks to several years of the Democratic party establishment strong-arming younger candidates off the field for Hillary, the only agent for fundamental change remains Bernie Sanders, …

… It is an intolerable scandal that college costs, even at public universities, have been permitted to skyrocket in the U.S., burdening a generation of young adults with enormous debt for what in many cases are worthless degrees. The role played by the colleges themselves in luring applicants to take crippling, unsecured loans has never received focused scrutiny. Perhaps a series of punitive, class-action lawsuits might wake the education industry up. Until the colleges themselves pay a penalty for their part in this institutionalized extortion, things are unlikely to change.

As college became accessible to a wider and less privileged demographic following World War II, many state legislatures were initially generous in their funding. But that support rapidly diminished after the recession and oil embargo of the 1970s. Instead of prudently retrenching and economizing, public universities charged ahead and began raising tuition, in tandem with increasingly expensive private schools. Colleges became overtly commercialized and consumerist in their pursuit of paying customers. The annual college ranking by U.S. News & World Report, which began in 1983, triggered a brand-name hysteria among upwardly mobile parents and turned high school into the nightmarish, gerbil-wheel obsession with college applications that it remains today.

The steady rise in college tuition, leading to today’s stratospheric costs, began in the 1980s and was worsened by a malign development of the 1990s:  the rapid swelling of a self-replicating campus bureaucracy, whose salaries exceeded those of most faculty.  The new administrators, with their corporate and technocratic orientation, had an insular master race mentality and viewed faculty as subordinate employees. The flagrant corporatization of the university was outrageously ignored by the faux Leftists of academe, trendy careerist professors who sat twiddling their thumbs, as they played their puerile poststructuralist and deconstructionist word games. As a consequence, faculties nationwide have fatally lost power and are barraged by dictatorial directives from tin-eared campus bureaucrats enforcing a labyrinth of intrusive government regulations. …




While we’re on the subject of higher ed, Red Alert tells us the average of college prez pay is more than twice the average of the hated CEO’s.

High pay for CEOs attracts annual attention and recitations about the immorality of capitalism, but when the focus is on average CEO pay, they make less than half the annual earnings of college presidents, according to CBS News.

The average CEO earns $176,840 annually, an amount that would make a university president into a pauper. In academia, college presidents earn $377,261 annually.

Americans outraged and indebted by high college costs will be quick to draw the parallel between college president pay and their tuition bill. Correlation, though, doesn’t imply causation. Often, college presidents aren’t even the highest-paid college employees; athletic coaches earn more.

Regardless, college presidents “are well into the 99th percentile of compensation for wage earners in the United States,” Peter L. Hinrichs and Anne Chen noted for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

The median cost of presidential salaries per student is $138.85. Slashing presidential pay could free up some money for student scholarships or additional staff hiring, but students aren’t over-burdened by presidential salaries, as easy a scapegoat as it might be.

Overall staff salaries, however, might be a different story. …




Back to Hildebeast with a post from Craig Pirrong on her emails.

Hillary’s email excuses get more lame by the day. For months her story–and she has stuck to it–is that none of the emails were marked as classified. Yesterday, when (miracle of miracles!) George Stephenopolous called her on this, her excuse became even lamer. And if I were Cheryl  Mills, Huma Abedin, or Jake Sullivan, I would be afraid, very afraid, after hearing it.

Specifically Stephenopolous asked about a non-disclosure agreement Clinton signed before becoming Secretary of State, which states: “classified information is marked or unmarked … including oral communications.” That is, marking is a sufficient, but not necessary, condition for establishing whether something is classified. The mention of “oral communications” points out the obvious issue: if marking was necessary, verbal information could never be an official secret, which is obviously absurd.

Hillary’s response? Here’s to you, Cheryl, Huma, and Jake!:

Clinton pointed to her aides, saying: “When you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain had thought that this was classified and that was not the case.”

Someone down the chain is apparently responsible for establishing whether something sent up the chain should be classified.

There’s only one little problem with this. …



And Nat Hentoff writes on her failure to protect boys from conscription in third world totalitarian states.

If there is one policy issue that most Americans can agree upon, even in our hyperpartisan political times, it is that child slavery should not be tolerated. President Barack Obama gave voice to this principle in a 2012 speech before the Clinton Global Initiative.

“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery,” Obama told the audience, which included his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”

Later that week, Clinton’s State Department implemented “national interest” sanction waivers that authorized millions in military assistance, training and arms sales to countries that allow the use of child soldiers in their armed forces or allied militias. It was the third year in a row that the administration had waived sanctions imposed by the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA). …



How corrupt is the media? Read this article from WaPo by Erik Wemple about what was revealed by a FOIA request.

… Though Ambinder will bear most of the smirch from this Beltway bucket of slime, the episode speaks to the inadvisability of encouraging journalists to flout the SPJ code of ethics. Sure, Reines secured a bit of positive coverage for the speech and perhaps deepened his relationship with a prominent journalist or two. The term “muscular” scooted around the web in connection with Clinton, as Gawker pointed out. And perhaps the secretary came away satisfied with what Reines had orchestrated.

The boost, however, was just as transitory as the Ambinder article itself. And the risk of insisting on conditions with ball-playing journalists is now emerging: The Clinton camp was so desperate for praise that it went to extremes to place a single positive adjective in coverage. Also, Reines’s insistence on secrecy about the “blackmail” was a reckless bet against the very industry he dealt with each day; via the FOIA process, journalism outed his part in rancid sausage-making.




Erik Wemple has more; this time focusing on the egregious bias of CNN as they shill for Hillary.

… Here’s an example CNN’s disclosure approach in practice. On Feb. 17, during his daytime program, CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer turned, as he often does, to the 2016 race. Hillary Clinton, noted Blitzer, was engaged in a tight race against Bernie Sanders, as polling indicated a “dead heat” in Nevada (which Clinton eventually won). The esteemed anchor introduced a pair of commentators to hash things out: “Let’s bring in our CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, and Republican strategist, Tara Setmayer.”

The “Democratic strategist” contributed this comment when asked what had happened to Clinton’s vanishing lead in Nevada. It must be quoted in full:

I think what happened is we have a real primary on our hands. I’ve been saying from the beginning is actually great for the Democratic Party. Look, her campaign absolutely needs to focus on the fact that she needs to continue underscoring her message of lifting barriers for everybody, of making sure that this economy works for all communities of color. The speech she gave in Harlem yesterday was fantastic.

And those, I think, are the themes that will resonate in communities like Nevada, which has a lot of Latino voters there. Latinos have traditionally been backing her, and I think will continue to back her. And is she needs to continue to focus on this message of economic prosperity for everybody. That’s where I think she’ll start to get the younger voters and also focusing on how to it actually get things done as opposed to just talking about what everybody likes and sounds good. But how are you going to deliver for everyday Americans. That’s where I think her strength is.

It’s right there that Blitzer might have said, Viewers should know that you and your colleagues, Maria, have various financial ties to the Clinton campaign and groups seeking to assist it. Instead, Blitzer passed the baton on to Setmayer, and the context-deprived discussion continued.

The minimalist disclosure is ho-hum outrageous — which is to say that it’s an outrage made routine by prevailing TV industry practices. …



Turning our attention to a couple of blowhards, Kyle Smith compares Cam and Donald.

Cam Newton may be the best player in football, but as a man he has a lot of learning to do. He needs to study the virtue called humility.

Newton is a braggart, a showboat and a clown. He says things like, “Hear me out. I’m just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person.” (“Just”!) He does elaborate end-zone dances right in the faces of opposing players. (“If you don’t like it, keep me out of the end zone,” he later said.) Even getting a simple first down inspires him to strike a pose. He named his son “Chosen,” he says, because he didn’t want the kid to carry the awful burden of being known as Cam Newton Jr. Apparently those were the only two options. “Saint” was already taken. …

… Rudeness goes with selfishness and obliviousness: Football is very much a team sport, so no one person should act like he made a play on his own, but so is life. Donald Trump’s boasting about his wealth is off-putting not only because it seems intended to remind us that we’re relatively poor compared to him but because he’s delusional to attribute his fortune to his own hard-nosed business acumen. The source of his wealth is simple: He inherited a New York real-estate empire just as New York real estate was about to go on a dizzying upward climb.

He should thank not only his father but Wall Street, “Seinfeld” and Rudy Giuliani for driving up New York real-estate values.

As Trump made clear in his comical attempts to make himself sound like a student of the Bible while campaigning in Iowa, the only altar at which he bends the knee is his own tacky, brass-lined headquarters. …



John Tierney in Instapundit contrasts the two quarterbacks in the Superbowl.

The vaunted Cam-Peyton quarterback match-up in the Super Bowl didn’t amount to much on the field (the game was all defense), but the contrast was clear after the game. Cam Newton made headlines by abruptly walking out of a press conference after uttering a total of 18 words. Yes, it’s tough to lose, but Peyton Manning endured a much worse defeat in the Super Bowl two years ago (a 43-8 shellacking by the Seattle Seahawks), and look at how he performed after that game (the press conference starts at 2:24).  Manning put on a suit and tie, looked reporters in the eye, answered questions and graciously gave credit to the victors. Earlier this season, when Newton’s team was winning, he too appeared at post-game press conferences in a coat and tie and happily answered questions, but when the going got tough, he showed up in a hoodie and sulked — a performance that one former fan described as Pig Newton.

February 22, 2016 – CHEVY BOLT

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It looks like GM has a sensible electric car that will be ready for delivery in the fourth quarter of this year.


Wired Magazine has our first item on the Chevy Bolt.

… over the past couple of years, a number of major auto­makers—General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen—have lined up with plans to offer an electric car with (yep) approximately 200 miles of range, for a price somewhere around the average cost of a new American car, about $33,000. They all hope to do so quickly, as fuel efficiency requirements are ratcheting up every year. And they all hope to get there before media darling Tesla does. Musk—billionaire, celebrity, space and solar-energy mogul, would-be colonizer of Mars—has said since 2006 that Tesla’s “master plan” is to work toward building an affordable, long-range electric car. And in 2014 he said that goal was in sight: In 2016 Tesla would unveil a car called the Model 3 with a sticker price of $35,000 and 200 miles of range. Production would start in 2017.

In short, the electric car business has taken the form of an old-fashioned race for a prize—a race in very soft sand. There’s no Moore’s law for batteries, which are chemical not digital. Cell development is all slow, arduous trial and error. When your goal is to drive energy efficiency up while driving costs down on a mass industrial scale, there aren’t many shortcuts or late-night inspirations to be had. But now it looks pretty clear who the winner will be. And it ain’t Tesla. …

… For GM, the Bolt stands to offer a head start in a new kind of market for electric cars. But for the rest of us, there’s a broader significance to this news. It’s not just that Chevy will likely be first. It’s that a car company as lumbering and gigantic as GM, with infrastructure and manufacturing capacity on an epic scale, has gotten there first—and is there now. Tesla is nimble, innovative, and fun to watch, as companies go. But the Bolt is far more significant than any offering from Tesla ever could be. Why? Think of the old saw about how long it takes to turn an aircraft carrier around: It’s slow, and there’s not much to see at any given moment. But the thing about people who actually manage to turn one around is: They’ve got a freaking aircraft carrier.

BEFORE WE GO any further, let’s pause for a moment to savor just how richly ironic it is that General Motors is about to take the lead in the electric car race. GM is, after all, a company that went bankrupt just seven years ago and survived only with the help of a federal bailout; a company whose board of directors was described by President Obama’s auto czar, Steven Rattner, as “utterly docile” in the face of impending disaster; a company that has been the butt of jokes about its lackluster, unreliable, macho cars for years; a company that churned out Hummers while Toyota gave us the Prius. And even more to the point, we’re talking about a company that has a long history with electric vehicles—the way SouthPark has a long history with Kenny. …


The Wall Street Journal reviews the Bolt.

… Still, as much as GM might like to say otherwise, the Bolt is not a conceptual breakthrough but rather a triumph of procurement, namely, the small, lightweight and powerful battery concealed under the floor. Comprising 288 lithium cobalt prismatic cells arranged like rows of business envelopes, the Bolt’s battery pack holds a mighty charge of 60 kwh (with 140 kW peak output, or 200 hp) while weighing 960 pounds, including all the thermal management plumbing. There will be an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery.

When Chevy’s Volt plug-in hybrid got off the ground in 2008, GM was paying $1,000 for a kwh of automotive-grade lithium-ion storage. Today, that number is $145 per kwh, and GM gets its cell-level batteries from LG Electronics in South Korea.

Wall Street analysts forecast a price drop to around $125/kwh after Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada comes fully online. But, as Bolt battery engineer Bill Wallace noted, “The Koreans already have a Gigafactory.”

And what about Tesla? The Model 3 compact family sedan will make its public debut next month, with production for Q4, 2017 (but Tesla is famous for being on island time). Tesla also promises 200-plus range, and a price of $35,000, before the federal tax credits, effectively undercutting the Bolt by $2,500.

And just like that, the Bolt turns a corner. GM and Tesla, their competitors and all their proxies are poised to fight a price war, a procurement war, over the price of batteries that will drive energy storage below the $100/kwh mark. Numbers like that make electric cars for the masses a real, levelheaded engineering proposition.

Maybe, could be, nobody’s quite sure. But GM wants to be ready, just in case.


And the LA Times.

For years automakers have failed to make an electric car with the two qualities most drivers demand: a long driving range and a low sticker price. 

Tesla Motors addressed half of the equation with its Model S, a sport sedan that travels 265 miles on a charge — but costs about $80,000. Other automakers tackled the other half, with electrics that are economical but go only about 80 miles between lengthy charging sessions. 

Now General Motors, in a dramatic model debut in Detroit, says it has unlocked the magic formula. Its Chevrolet Bolt concept car will travel 200 miles between charges and sell in the low $30,000 range, after government incentives, GM executives said. The spacious four-door hatchback will go on sale in 2017.

If the automaker can deliver, the Bolt could transform the prospects for widespread adoption of electric cars. The Bolt could be “the first mass-market EV success,” said one industry veteran. 

“A 200-mile EV range at about $30,000 in a crossover body shape is a killer combination,” said John Krafcik, president of auto shopping company TrueCar Inc. and former chief executive of Hyundai Motor America. “You are looking at annual sales of 100,000 vehicles. 

The Bolt’s range more than doubles that of Nissan’s Leaf, the bestselling battery electric car, along with similar offerings from most major automakers. The car could help quell widespread skepticism about the future of electric cars, especially during a time of plummeting gas prices.

Tesla has promised a model with a Bolt-like price and range for years. But the automaker’s next offering will be the repeatedly delayed Model X sport utility vehicle, now expected to launch late this year, for about the same price as the Model S. The affordable Model 3 is still years away.

February 3, 2016 – BERNIE SANDERS

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Time for a look at Bernie Sanders. We start with the Editorial Board of the Washington Post. They call it; “Bernie Sanders’s Fiction Filled Campaign”.

… Mr. Sanders’s story continues with fantastical claims about how he would make the European social model work in the United States. He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.

He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks. …

… Mr. Sanders is a lot like many other politicians. Strong ideological preferences guide his thinking, except when politics does, as it has on gun control. When reality is ideologically or politically inconvenient, he and his campaign talk around it. Mr. Sanders’s success so far does not show that the country is ready for a political revolution. It merely proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear.



Investor’s Business Daily Editors give some Bernie background claiming his yarn of poor hand-to-mouth upbringing was not quite true.

… It wasn’t as bad as he says. His family managed to send him to the University of Chicago. Despite a prestigious degree, however, Sanders failed to earn a living, even as an adult. It took him 40 years to collect his first steady paycheck — and it was a government check. 

“I never had any money my entire life,” Sanders told Vermont public TV in 1985, after settling into his first real job as mayor of Burlington.

Sanders spent most of his life as an angry radical and agitator who never accomplished much of anything. And yet now he thinks he deserves the power to run your life and your finances — “We will raise taxes;” he confirmed Monday, “yes, we will. 

One of his first jobs was registering people for food stamps, and it was all downhill from there.

Sanders took his first bride to live in a maple sugar shack with a dirt floor, and she soon left him. Penniless, he went on unemployment. Then he had a child out of wedlock. Desperate, he tried carpentry but could barely sink a nail. “He was a shi**y carpenter,” a friend told Politico Magazine. “His carpentry was not going to support him, and didn’t.” 

Then he tried his hand freelancing for leftist rags, writing about “masturbation and rape” and other crudities for $50 a story. He drove around in a rusted-out, Bondo-covered VW bug with no working windshield wipers. Friends said he was “always poor” and his “electricity was turned off a lot.” They described him as a slob who kept a messy apartment — and this is what his friends had to say about him. …





Peggy Noonan says Bernie’s rise shows that socialism gets a second life. Proving each generation gets to be stupid in their own way.

… I listen to Mr. Sanders a lot, and what he says marks a departure from the ways the Democratic Party has been operating for at least a generation now.

Formally, since 1992, the Democratic Party has been Clintonian in its economics—moderate, showing the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council. Free-market capitalism is something you live with and accept; the wealth it produces can be directed toward public programs and endeavors. The Clinton administration didn’t hate Wall Street, it hired Wall Street. Big government, big Wall Street—it all worked. It was the Great Accommodation, and it was a break with more-socialist approaches of the past.

All this began to shatter in the crash of 2008, not that anyone noticed—it got lost in the Obama hoopla. In March 2009, when Mr. Obama told Wall Street bankers at the White House that his administration was the only thing standing between them and “the pitchforks,” he was wittingly or unwittingly acknowledging the Great Accommodation.

The rise of Bernie Sanders means that accommodation is ending, and something new will take its place.

Surely it means something that Mr. Obama spent eight years insisting he was not a socialist, and Bernie Sanders is rising while saying he is one.

It has left Hillary Clinton scrambling, unsteady. She thought she and her husband had cracked the code and made peace with big wealth. But her party is undoing it—without her permission and without her leading the way. She is meekly following. …

… Polls show the generation gap. Mr. Sanders does poorly among the old. They remember socialism. He does well among the young, who’ve just discovered it and have little to no knowledge of its effects. A nationwide Marist poll in November showed Mr. Sanders already leading Mrs. Clinton, 58% to 35%, among voters under 30. She led him among all other age groups, and 69% to 21% among those 60 and older. By this month a CBS/New York Times poll had Mr. Sanders up 60% to 31% among voters under 45.

Bernie Sanders is an indicator of the Democratic future. He is telling you where that party’s going. In time some Democrats will leave over it, and look for other homes.

It’s all part of the great scrambling that is happening this political year—the most dramatic, and perhaps most consequential, of our lifetimes.



Kevin Williamson questions the propriety of Ben & Jerry’s’ gift to the Sanders campaign.

Bern, Bern, Bern, you’re killing me here. I want to believe, because you are a Man of Principle. But I am troubled by this Bernie-branded ice-cream business.

Ben Cohen, the founder of Ben & Jerry’s, now a division of the Anglo-Dutch multinational conglomerate Unilever, produced a small batch of Bernie-themed ice cream — 1 percent chocolate on top! Ha! – and donated it to Senator Sanders. As an in-kind donation, the value of the ice cream is negligible. The real value, of course, is the publicity that such things generate. Fair enough.

I myself do not buy the Left’s general critique about corporate tax avoidance, but if I did, I would — if I were a Man of Principle — have to confess that Unilever is widely criticized as a notorious corporate tax-avoider, with hundreds of subsidiaries, many of which are strategically located in infamous corporate tax shelters. Ben & Jerry’s is a revenue stream supporting everything that a Man of Principle such as Bernie Sanders abhors. …


Cartoonists have Bernie Fun

February 1, 2016 – TED CRUZ

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A couple of items today about Ted Cruz, one of the few candidates to have the courage to oppose ethanol while standing on Iowa soil. John Fund tells the story.

For more than 30 years, Iowa’s obsession with its ethanol fuel industry has played an outsize role in its presidential caucuses. The winner of every caucus in both parties during that period has strongly backed federal subsidies or mandates for the corn-grown fuel. That winning streak could end this year if Senator Ted Cruz takes Iowa. Polls currently show him with a narrow lead.

In 2008, Fred Thompson told me he didn’t see merit in subsidizing one fuel over another, but in Iowa’s GOP caucus that year “opposing ethanol was like pushing against a mountain.” Hillary Clinton voted against ethanol a total of 17 times in the U.S. Senate, saying she found it “impossible to understand why any pro-consumer, pro-health, pro-environment, anti-government member” could vote for ethanol mandates. In 2007, as she announced for president, she took a sharp turn on the Road to Des Moines and embraced ethanol. This year, she calls ethanol “a success for Iowa and much of rural America.”

But on the Republican side, two candidates have broken ranks. Senator Rand Paul, true to his libertarian principles, supports an immediate phase-out of subsidies. And Cruz addressed the Iowa Agriculture Summit, run by ethanol and wind-subsidy interests, in March 2015. His message: The federal mandate on ethanol, which has cost consumers at least $10 billion since 2007, had to end. In front of a crowd of pro-ethanol farmers and moneymen, Cruz said: …



And from the Texas Monthly, Erica Grieder writes on 10 things we need to know about Cruz.

One evening in 2009, I spent a few hours at a reception in Dallas, surrounded by assorted young professionals, chatting with a lawyer who had some kind of job in the private sector and the earnest interest in public policy that I tend to associate with political ambition. As a journalist, based in Texas, focused on politics and the economy, such small-talk situations are an occupational hazard. But this schmoozing session stood out. The lawyer and I quickly fell into a lively exchange about the ongoing contrast between the Texas Miracle and the Great Recession, with reference to Dallas Fed data and the political philosopher John Rawls. I was impressed enough to make note of his name: Ted Cruz.

I figured, back in 2009, that he was going to run for something at some point, and that someday I might end up writing about this bright and ambitious lawyer. I failed to foresee that within a few short years, Cruz would be a sitting senator with a realistic chance of being the leader of the free world or that our increasingly nervous nation would be worrying about who Cruz is, and whether he can be trusted with the power of the presidency. I did not anticipate the possibility that helping Americans make sense of the guy would become someone’s job, much less mine.

As it happens, though, I’ve been covering Cruz’s political career since it began, …

January 29, 2016 – CLIMATE

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It’s a week since the big storm in the Northeast; time to have some more rational thought about weather. Our betters in media and government; that would be the climate Cassandra’s, have been singing an Armageddon song. Patrick Michaels is first up with a retort to claims of the “warmest year yet.”

An East Coast blizzard howling, global temperatures peaking, the desert Southwest flooding, drought-stricken California drying up—surely there’s a common thread tying together this “extreme” weather. There is. But it has little to do with what recent headlines have been saying about the hottest year ever. It is called business as usual.

Surface temperatures are indeed increasing slightly: They’ve been going up, in fits and starts, for more than 150 years, or since a miserably cold and pestilential period known as the Little Ice Age. Before carbon dioxide from economic activity could have warmed us up, temperatures rose three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit between 1910 and World War II. They then cooled down a bit, only to warm again from the mid-1970s to the late ’90s, about the same amount as earlier in the century.

Whether temperatures have warmed much since then depends on what you look at. Until last June, most scientists acknowledged that warming reached a peak in the late 1990s, and since then had plateaued in a “hiatus.” There are about 60 different explanations for this in the refereed literature. …

… It is nonetheless true that 2015 shows the highest average surface temperature in the 160-year global history since reliable records started being available, with or without the “hiatus.” But that is also not very surprising. Early in 2015, a massive El Niño broke out. These quasiperiodic reversals of Pacific trade winds and deep-ocean currents are well-documented but poorly understood. They suppress the normally massive upwelling of cold water off South America that spreads across the ocean (and is the reason that Lima may be the most pleasant equatorial city on the planet). The Pacific reversal releases massive amounts of heat, and therefore surface temperature spikes. El Niño years in a warm plateau usually set a global-temperature record. What happened this year also happened with the last big one, in 1998. …

… Instead of relying on debatable surface-temperature information, consider instead readings in the free atmosphere (technically, the lower troposphere) taken by two independent sensors: satellite sounders and weather balloons. As has been shown repeatedly by University of Alabama climate scientist John Christy, since late 1978 (when the satellite record begins), the rate of warming in the satellite-sensed data is barely a third of what it was supposed to have been, according to the large family of global climate models now in existence. …

… Without El Niño, temperatures in 2015 would have been typical of the post-1998 regime. And, even with El Niño, the effect those temperatures had on the global economy was de minimis.




A good post from Power Line has more on the “warmest year.”

Government agencies and climate activists (but I repeat myself) are loudly proclaiming 2015 the “warmest year on record.” There are several obvious problems with this, starting with the fact that the “record” they refer to goes back only until the late 19th century, 1879, coinciding with the end of the Little Ice Age. So, yeah, things have gotten slightly warmer since the Little Ice Age. That’s a good thing.

Actually, current temperatures are relatively cool–cooler than the Earth has been something like 90% of the time since the end of the last real Ice Age, 12,000 or so years ago. When the place where I am typing was buried under ice a mile deep. If you want to worry about climate change, contemplate the fact that we are due, or soon will be due, for another Ice Age.

Then there is the fact that the margin by which 2015 was the “warmest ever” is tiny compared to the margin of error in such measurements. Does anyone seriously believe that we can determine an average global temperature to within a few hundredths of a degree? Now, or 150 years ago? No.

Finally–for now–there is the fact that the “warmest ever” claim is based on surface temperature data that are fatally flawed, both because historical data have been altered by government-funded activists for political reasons, and because surface temperature stations are frequently–usually–thrown off by local environmental factors, most notably (although not most scandalously) the urban heat island effect. …

… the world’s governments are pouring billions of dollars into “research” of one kind only: research that supports giving more power over the world’s economies to governments. Huh. Funny coincidence: when the supposed climate problem was global cooling (a more realistic scare than global warming) back in the 1970s, the solution was more government power, too. Global cooling would have worked just as well for statists, probably better. But: cooling, warming, what’s the difference? We want your money, and we want to run your life! That is what global warming hysteria is all about. The money and the power. Global warming activism is perhaps the most corrupt enterprise of the 21st century.




From WaPo we learn the snowfall totals from Reagan National might have been understated. Imagine that! Who knew government idiots could fail at such a small well defined task?

It has become apparent this afternoon and evening, through multiple conversations with the weather observers at ReaganNationalAirport, that the snowfall totals submitted to the National Weather Service for that location have not been measured properly.

As of 8 p.m., 17.8 inches of snow had been recorded at National – Washington, D.C.’s official weather monitoring location. That reflects just a 0.3-inch increase in the three hours since 5 p.m. during which time light to moderate snowfall was being reported at the airport.

The National Weather Service has clear guidelines on how to measure snowfall for one simple reason: snowstorms have a huge effect on the economy, life and property. They have an impact on millions of people and can result in millions of dollars lost. They also play an obvious important role in the historical record.

The way that the snowfall has been measured at National in this storm has led to snowfall totals that could be much lower than what has actually fallen and may have unnecessarily withheld the storm from ending as one of the top 3 snowiest on record. …




NY Post has a good piece on the faux intellectualism of Hollywood idiots.

Like most A-list celebrities in Hollywood, Leonardo DiCaprio is frequently in the news.

There’s DiCaprio, in Cannes, France, on David Geffen’s mega yacht, alone. And there he is on a different yacht in St. Tropez with his blonde of the month.

There he is getting off a private plane in the celebrity uniform of sunglasses and hoodie. And there he is getting on one again.

And last week, there he was in Davos, Switzerland, lecturing us all and blaming corporate greed for causing global climate change.

It might be funny if it weren’t so galling.

Polls have long shown that Americans either don’t believe in global climate change or don’t consider it a serious issue. A Pew poll last November found that the United States was behind only China in its “concern” about climate change — but that such concern has grown substantially.

What polls also show, however, is that Americans are learning another lesson from our supposed elites: Believing in the existence of climate change or feeling “concern” is enough. Furrow your brow, and you’re a hero. Even as belief and concern has increased in America, our behavior has stayed the same.

Could it be that we are hearing the hysterical pleas of “environmental activists” to change our ways or face doom and noticing that not only are they not changing their ways, but that their ways are far worse than our own? The loudest, most obnoxious and aggressive voices telling us the world is about to end plain old don’t act like it. …



Here’s something from Joel Kotkin we missed at the start of the Paris climate confab in December.

The Paris Climate Conference, convening this week, takes place in the very place where, arguably, the most dangerous exemplar of hysteria, the Islamic jihadi movement, has left its bloody mark. Yet the think tank mavens, academics, corporate shills and endless processions of bureaucrats gather in the City of Light not to confront the immediate deadly threat, but to ramp up their own grisly scenarios and Draconian solutions.

Welcome to the age of hysteria, where friends and foes, and even those who blissfully talk past each other, whip themselves into an emotional frenzy that bears no discussion, debate or nuance. Rather than entering a technological age of reason, we seem to lurching towards a high-tech middle ages, where warring bands – greens, jihadis, libertarians, social conservatives, nationalists – immerse themselves not in intellectual competition but, inflating their own individual outrage. In this environment, exaggeration and hysteria are weapons of recruitment, while opposition is met with demeaning attacks, potential imprisonment and, at the worst, vicious acts of violence. …



For some more topical grins, we have a NY Times piece from 16 years ago bemoaning New York’s lack of snow.

Once, and not so many years ago, no New Yorker would have dignified a January with three chilly days in a row and a soggy spurt of whitish precipitation as winter. Winter in New York was a season of single-digit temperatures, icy winds whipping off the Hudson and snow forts that did not begin to melt until March.

That chilly stuff Thursday that melted as soon as it touched asphalt — snow? A sunny Friday afternoon in the 20′s — bitter cold? In Yazoo City, Miss., or Mobile, Ala., maybe. But not in New York City. Until now. Years of mild, rainy winters seem to be making New Yorkers hungry for the freezing winds and snow they deplored when it was plentiful.

So the arrival of a bit of real winter — of Thursday’s flurries in the city, of yesterday’s lows in the teens, of foot-deep snow in Albany and the Catskills — created the kind of excitement once reserved for much more extreme meteorological episodes. Radio and television announcers warned listeners about frostbite, and news writers dusted off adjectives like ”blustery.”

”It’s good, the snow,” said Glen Cooper, a telephone technician, standing on Eighth Avenue near Times Square, smiling, as the evanescent flakes melted on his face on Thursday. ”Snow slows people down. It makes people happy. It’s natural.”

Freezing, snowy winters are not only natural for New York’s trees and greenery, they are entwined in the lore and arts of the city. They influence moods, they inspire poetry and painting, they drive advertising and appetites, they build childhood memories. So the mild winters of the last few years have caused a major ripple effect, from ecology to gastronomy. …

January 24, 2016 – WEATHER

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The forecasts of this weekend’s storm in the east were very accurate. However,

here’s why Nor’easters are so hard to forecast. From Mental Floss.

… All of the big, historic snows that live in the record books in cities like WashingtonD.C. and New York were produced by a unique kind of East Coast storm known as a “nor’easter,” so called because the storm produces strong northeasterly winds along the coast. Nor’easters form when the dynamics in the upper levels of the atmosphere come together just right to form a low-pressure system at the surface that eventually tracks off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic—think North Carolina and Virginia—and moves parallel to the coast as it heads toward New England and eventually Canada.

Nor’easters can grow into very powerful storms, sometimes the strength and size of a hurricane. The strong winds wrapping around the low-pressure system often drag bitterly cold air from the west and warm, moist air from the south. The varying temperatures through the storm usually lead to the whole spectrum of precipitation, including snow, sleet, freezing rain, and regular rain. The temperature gradient can be so sharp that two neighboring towns can see completely different weather conditions, with one hit by heavy snow while the other gets ice or rain.

When you have such dramatic differences in weather over such short distances, the track of the storm is everything when it comes to determining who will see the worst snow and who will see a cold rain—and this is usually where the greatest uncertainty lies. …



For grins we include a two year old NY Times article on “The End of Snow.”

Officials canceled two Olympic test events last February in Sochi after several days of temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and a lack of snowfall had left ski trails bare and brown in spots. That situation led the climatologist Daniel Scott, a professor of global change and tourism at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, to analyze potential venues for future Winter Games. His thought was that with a rise in the average global temperature of more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit possible by 2100, there might not be that many snowy regions left in which to hold the Games. He concluded that of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics, as few as 10 might be cold enough by midcentury to host them again. By 2100, that number shrinks to 6.

The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.

The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. …



Adding to the mirth, Don Surber posts on the “curse of RFK, Jr.”

The fourth blizzard in six years is about to hit Washington, D.C., if the bureaucrats at the National Weather Station are correct.

If 15 or more inches of snow pile up in the nation’s capital, the blizzard will rank in the top 10 of blizzards ever recorded in Washington, stretching back to 1850.

Three of the top 10 blizzards occurred in this century!

Indeed, six of the 10 worst have happened since 1979.

Now what is with the sudden big snows in Washington?

Blame Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy Junior, a trust fund liberal who has found fame and fortune as a global warming huckster. On September 24, 2008, he doomed Washington to record snowfalls when he wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times that said there would never be big snows in Washington again because of Exxon! …



IBD editors opine on Al Gore’s global warming racket.

Ten years ago Monday, Al Gore said we had only a decade left to save the planet from global warming. But Earth has been doing just fine. Why do we listen to this man?

While preening at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2006 during the premiere of his “An Inconvenient Truth” fib-umentary, Gore made his grand declaration. The former vice president said, in the words of the AP reporter taking down his story, that “unless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return.” In Gore’s own words, he claimed we were in “a true planetary emergency.”

Ten years later, he’s probably hoping that everyone has forgotten about his categorical statement.

The terrible truth for Gore is that there is no planetary emergency. Not one of the dire predictions he and the rest of the alarmist community made has come to pass. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that they have been running a racket. Here’s how we know: …



You won’t believe the waste when Swedish windmills ice up. Power Line post reports on the idiocy.  

… The entire rationale for wind turbines is to stop global warming by reducing the amount of CO2 being returned to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

In the attached picture, recently taken in Sweden, freezing cold weather has caused the rotor blades of a wind turbine to ice up bringing the blades to a complete stop.

To fix the “problem” a helicopter is employed (burning aviation fuel) to spray hot water (which is heated in the frigid temperatures using a truck equipped with a 260 kW oil burner) on the blades of the turbine to de-ice them.

The aviation fuel, the diesel for the truck, and the oil burned to heat the water, could produce more electricity (at the right time to meet demand) than the unfrozen wind turbine could ever produce. (Before it freezes up again).

The attached picture is a metaphor of the complete insanity of the climate change debate.

In decades to come this one photo alone with sum up an era of stupidity, when rational thought, logic and commonsense was abandoned and immense wealth and resources needlessly sacrificed. …

January 20, 2016 – DRONES

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Warfare made a quantum leap just 15 years ago. The history of the development of weapons has been a constant effort to kill from greater and greater distances. In October 2001 a drone pilot executed a discreet kill of two Taliban guards from 6,900 miles away. The birth of drone warfare is covered in an article in Wired Magazine

ON THE AFTERNOON of October 7, 2001, the first day of the war in Afghanistan, an Air Force pilot named Scott Swanson made history while sitting in a captain’s chair designed for an RV. His contribution to posterity was to kill someone in a completely novel way.

In the moments leading up to the act, Swanson was nervous. He sat in a darkened trailer tucked behind a parking garage at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, remotely piloting a Predator drone over Kandahar, 6,900 miles away. Nearly everything about his rig had been cobbled together and hastily assembled. The Predator itself, one of just a handful in existence, was flying about 250 pounds heavier than usual. And the satellite communications link that connected Swanson to the aircraft would periodically shut down due to a power issue, which software engineers in California were frantically trying to patch.

When the order came through to take the shot, Swanson pulled a trigger on his joystick. A little more than a second later, a Hellfire missile slid off an aluminum rail on the Predator’s wing and sailed into the Afghan night.

Swanson’s target was a pickup truck parked outside a compound thought to be hiding Mullah Omar, the supreme commander of the Taliban. The missile killed two unidentified men believed to have been his bodyguards. It was the first time a US drone had fired a weapon in combat. It was the first time a modern drone had ever killed a human being. …

… the national security establishment’s embrace of the drone has been so complete, it’s tempting to assume that this new paradigm of warfare was something dreamed up long ago by senior officials, who methodically plotted their way to it over a span of years and a string of defense contracts. That is, after all, how we got other major weapons like the M1 Abrams tank, the Apache helicopter, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

But that’s not how we got the modern drone. …

… The tiny team of engineers and operators behind the program, who rarely speak publicly about their roles as the architects of remote warfare, worked under intense pressure, almost entirely free from the scrutiny of Pentagon acquisitions officers. In a series of breakthrough hacks, they hot-wired together the lethal, remotely piloted Predator over the course of just a few months in 2000 and 2001, in a mad dash to meet the heinous design challenges of a single job: to kill Osama bin Laden before he could commit an act of terror greater than al Qaeda’s bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. 

The lethal Predator wasn’t a production vehicle. It was a hot rod, built for one all-out race against the clock. Of course, in those months before September 11, 2001, none of its designers knew the nature of the clock they were racing against. And most Americans have no idea quite how close they came to beating it. … 


… Sitting in his windowless office with a short public affairs staffer and a very tall security officer, the official—whom I’ll call Marshall—told me about that first time he saw the Predator in action in Hungary. “I was blown away,” he says. “It flies at 70 miles an hour with a TV camera, but it can stay there forever.” Marshall could see that it represented a strategic breakthrough comparable to that of the World War II codebreakers at BletchleyPark. From then on, he became a Predator evangelist, providing political cover and money when the project faced a roadblock. As I looked around Marshall’s office, I noticed several bottles of a wine called Predator Old Vine Zinfandel sitting on a bookshelf.

In 1998, Marshall helped see to it that the Predator program was handed over to a tiny outfit within the military that would essentially improvise the genesis of modern drone warfare: an entity known as Big Safari.

A HIGHLY SECRETIVE Air Force skunkworks based in Dayton, Ohio, Big Safari specialized in modifying standard Air Force aircraft for time-sensitive and highly classified operations, sometimes even for use in just a single mission. In 1961, for instance, when Nikita Khrushchev boasted that he was about to test the largest hydrogen bomb ever built, Big Safari had just five days to retrofit a Boeing KC-135 to carry a small lab’s worth of sensing equipment—shored up with two-by-fours—to snoop on the enormous detonation. …


… Today the Big Safari team members don’t have much to do with the Predator. They’re mainly retired or doing other things, while the national security establishment that once disparaged the drone has thoroughly embraced it. The Predator has ushered in a more precise era of warfare. It has also inspired new kinds of nightmares for those who live under drones—and those who fly them.

In the summer, Swanson Skypes me from Antigua. During those first missions, he says, he was struck by the intimacy of this new form of warfare. “You’re watching these people coming and going,” he says. “You’re watching them go out and take dumps or pees in the middle of the night.

“I’m not saying you ever really bond with the target,” he goes on. But you dwell on them for dramatically longer than with any other weapons system, he says. His pauses begin to draw out.

I ask how it feels to have participated in the creation of the Predator. He mentions a recent drone strike that killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al Qaeda’s second-in-command. “I feel proud to have been part of the team that brought that forward,” he says.

What about when a strike misses its target or is used for ill? That has less to do with what the Predator can and cannot do, he says. “That is just the ugly nature of war. And yeah, there’s always a little twinge of regret with that.” Swanson pauses again. “The world is not black-and-white,” he says. “It’s shades of gray presented to you in an infrared image.”



Wired had another piece on drones; When Good Drones Go Bad. 

LATE IN THE summer of 2014, surveillance footage of Syria’s Tabqa air base showed up on YouTube. That it was taken by ISIS forces is unremarkable. That it was shot with a DJI Phantom FC40—a popular consumer drone at the time, the kind you might have found under the Christmas tree—certainly was.

In the intervening year and a half, small quadcopter drones have become even more affordable and more broadly available. That’s enabled them to find all sorts of positive new purposes, from agriculture to inspecting cell towers. That increased accessibility, though, has also inspired a proportionate amount of concern about the misuse of drones. A new report (PDF) from the non-profit group Open Briefing lays bare just how far the threat from hobbyist drones has evolved, and how seriously we should take it. …



For comic relief, late night from Andy Malcolm.

Conan: New electronic gadgets out include a drone that follows you around and lets you take selfies 24/7. The device was developed by a team of the world’s leading Kardashiologists.

Fallon: I don’t want to say Hillary Clinton’s upset about Bernie Sanders’ poll rise. But this morning she was spotted shouting into a volcano, “YOU SAID WE HAD A DEAL!”

Meyers: The federal government has unveiled new nutritional guidelines, recommending people eat more fruit, vegetables and whole wheat. Or at the very least, cut back on foods that have the word “triple” in their name.

January 15, 2016 – CURRENT OCCUPANT

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In this installment covering barry’s excellent adventure, we lead with a article from Oliver Darcy at the Blaze about the previous president. It involves W’s Christmas vacations. Seems he would never leave Washington until the day after Christmas. The writer explains why; 

… “[H]ere’s the thing: In December, we never left Washington, D.C., until the day after Christmas. Never. Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, would always depart the White House a few days before the holiday and hunker down at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland,” Curl wrote in a 2013 column that was republished Thursday.

After a few years, curiosity finally got to the former Washington Times reporter and he asked a low-level administration official why.

“I still remember what she said,” Curl wrote. “’So all of us can be with our families on Christmas.’”

“Who was ‘us’? Hundreds and hundreds of people, that’s who. Sure, the reporters who covered the president, but also dozens and dozens on his staff, 100 Secret Service agents, maybe more, and all of those city cops required whenever the president’s on the move in D.C.,” Curl added in his column.

However, things seemingly changed when Obama took office.

“[T]his president would never delay his trip to his island getaway. He’s off every year well before Christmas. Hundreds and hundreds head off with him, leaving family behind,” Curl wrote. …

Quite a contrast to the current occupant who purports to have concern for all. But if anything threatens his sybaritic vacations, barry has a heart of stone.


Craig Pirrong posts on the SOTU.

Lily Tomlin once said “We try to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up.” She didn’t know the half of it, because she said this before the age of Obama.

Tonight Obama gives his last (thank God!) State of the Union Address. To guilt us all about the widespread reluctance to admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, Obama is trotting out a poor boy who lost his family–and his arms–to an bomb strike in Syria.

This is the most rank emotional manipulation I have ever seen in politics, and that is saying a lot. It is cynical beyond belief.

For one thing, as tragic as his story is, this boy is not representative of the refugees that will attempt to get in the US. It is well known that the refugees in Europe are disproportionately young adult males, not women and young wounded waifs.

You could get a more representative example of would-be refugees in front of the Cologne Cathedral on New Year’s Eve.

For another, Obama’s policies in Syria have been cynical beyond belief, and have dramatically worsened the humanitarian crisis in the country. As is his wont in such matters, he chose the worst option. He did not intervene decisively early in the crisis, thereby allowing it to spin out of control. That is defensible. But he also has supported the arming (via the CIA) of opposition groups in Syria, including Islamist groups. This has increased the intensity of, and extended, the war.

Don’t take my word for it. Walter Russell Mead, a very middle-of-the-road guy who started with high hopes for Obama, wrote a scathing article about Obama’s Syria cynicism back in November.

It hasn’t gotten better. Indeed, tonight’s farce shows that it’s gotten even worse. …



From another direction, Barron’s has an interview with Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.

… Part of the reason the world isn’t as buoyant as it might be is that Europe is doing much worse than the U.S. It doesn’t help Europe to have a massive influx of real and “not so real” refugees. Some 220,000 people arrived in the European Union in October, a direct consequence of the disintegration of order in a whole bunch of countries, Syria principally, but not only.

The U.S. walking away from the Middle East has had a direct impact. We’re only beginning to see the ramifications, in Paris most recently. It isn’t going to stop there. There is growing anxiety in East Asia about the rise of China. Japan remains a large economy, but a depressed one in yet another recession. Economists tend to underestimate geopolitical factors because they aren’t in their models. Global order and stability need to be underwritten. It doesn’t just happen spontaneously.

Are you suggesting that the U.S. ought to be the world’s policeman?

Somebody’s got to do it. It better not be the Chinese or Russians. The market system requires an effective state that enforces the rule of law. That is true internationally, as well. As the world becomes less secure, it becomes a less safe place to do business.

A world in which the U.S. yields regional power to China or Russia is one in which the rule of law is driven back. We underestimate the extent to which the age of globalization depended on an American underwriting, and that is gradually unraveling.

Can the U.S. afford to keep the peace?

The U.S. has a fundamental problem: Gradually, its national security is being squeezed by social [benefits], particularly its health-care system. It will be squeezed by the burden of interest payments on Federal debt as interest rates go up. In theory, as the biggest economy in the world, the U.S. should be able to afford to build up its military power. In practice, the congressional budget sequester was a blunt instrument applied to the defense budget, cutting it indiscriminately.

The U.S. should be investing to maintain its lead, particularly in areas where it is vulnerable, such as cybersecurity. No matter how many aircraft carriers we have, it might not be that big of a technological leap for us to be matched in the new theaters of war that are emerging. …



Matthew Continetti writes on the “lamest duck.”

President Obama spent the week defending his proposals to curb gun violence, culminating in a CNN town hall. Think about that. What else happened during the last few days that might warrant a presidential town hall?

Oh, nothing much:

Iranian protestors stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the House of Saud executed a Shiite cleric, escalating sectarian warfare in the Middle East

The stock market tumbled on fears of a global economic slowdown

A U.S. soldier was killed in action in Afghanistan, where the Taliban controls more ground than at any time since 2001

Iran revealed the existence of an underground ballistic missile launch site

North Korea detonated a nuclear device

A terrorist was foiled in Paris on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre

We have entered a most dangerous period of the Obama presidency. It’s not just that every rogue actor from Kim and Putin and Castro to Maduro and Khamenei and Xi knows he has one last year to behave badly without fear of reprisal. It’s that the president and his team are isolated, aloof, detached from reality.

They think a climate deal is a rebuke to terrorism. They think the response to jihad in San Bernardino is to ‘close the gun-show loophole.’ They think a new communications strategy will convince the public that the war against ISIS is going well. I don’t question Obama’s sincerity. I question his sanity.

What actually results from a given policy seems no longer to matter to him. Take guns—he’d sure like to. His executive order does little more than reiterate current law. It wouldn’t have stopped the killing at Sandy Hook elementary or in San Bernardino. Indeed, the most important consequence of Obama’s fight with the NRA has been record gun sales and a windfall for gun manufacturer shareholders. At least when Hillary Clinton takes on an industry, its stock goes down. Obama can’t even get that right.

The Iran deal is another farce. …



Andrew Malcolm posts on vacation costs.

As Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama, family, friends, pets and staff enjoy their half-month-long Hawaiian vacation, the Secret Service finally complied with a court order to release some Obama vacation expenses from two years ago.

That’s how eager the Obama administration is about being transparent when it comes to spending large sums of taxpayers’ money on itself.

As with the slow-motion releases of Hillary Clinton’s emails, the idea of bureaucratic stalling, of course, is that the details become “old” news more likely to be ignored by media. Fortunately, we’re not on vacation this week, so we can help the president out. Here goes:

The new expense reports, heavily-redacted allegedly for security reasons, push the total known costs for vacations during Obama’s reign to nearly $71 million — with another full year to go. That’s about $10.1 million per year in known expenses. …


Thinking about vacations brings to mind a link in December 25′s post. That’s the one where a candidate promised he would not take vacations while in office. Here it is again.

A 2008 video of a presidential candidate promising no vacations during his time in office. Daily Caller has the story. Go to the link for the video of the liar.