December 16, 2015 – CLIMATE AND GUNS

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Today’s topics are climate and guns. Two topics upon which left/liberals go absolutely bonkers. Few things better illustrate their urge to coerce and command. Why is it their solutions always increase the state’s power?

 

We start with a post from Watt’s Up With That. Says the Paris confab has produced voluntary mush.

Paris climate talks this week descended into madcap all-night negotiations, as delegates desperately tried to salvage some kind of agreement beyond empty promises to do something sometime about what President Obama insists is the gravest threat to our planet, national security and future generations.

He gets far more energized about slashing energy use than about Islamist terrorism, even after the Paris and San Bernardino butchery. Determined for once to lead from upfront, he took a 500-person greenhouse gas-spewing entourage to the City of Light, to call for preventing increasing droughts, floods, storms, island-swallowing rising acidic ocean levels and other disasters conjured up by alarmist computer models.

Legally binding carbon dioxide emission targets were too contentious to pursue. So was modifying the concept of “differentiated responsibilities.” It holds that countries that historically caused the recent atmospheric carbon dioxide build-up must lead in cutting their emissions, while helping developing countries eventually do likewise, by pouring trillions of dollars in cash and free technology into the Green Climate Fund for supposed climate change adaptation, mitigation and compensation. Developing countries had insisted on that massive wealth redistribution as their price for signing any binding document.

Although China now emits far more CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) than the USA or EU, it refused to fast-track reducing those emissions. China and wealthy petro-states also opposed paying into the Climate Fund. Other major bones of contention were likewise never resolved.Thus, in the end, what we apparently got out of Paris is voluntary emission caps, voluntary progress reviews, no international oversight of any voluntary progress, and voluntary contributions to the Fund. …

 

 

 

David Harsanyi writing for the Center for Individual Freedom says the climate talks reveal progressives true hypocrisy.

What do you call it when elites fly their private jets to an international climate change conference to forge a deal with despots that caps American prosperity without our consent? You call it progressivism.

It’s estimated that 50,000 carbon-spewing humans participated in the Paris climate conference. …

… On Wednesday, Obama alleged that without a climate change agreement, there could be “submerged countries, abandoned cities, fields that no longer grow” — assertions that are no more than fearmongering, ratcheted up over the decades by frustrated environmentalists and now confidently thrown around by presidents. These prophecies are tethered to reality in the same way Donald Trump’s whoppers are, although the media treat the former with undeserving respect.

Transforming ideology into a “science” is not a new development on the left. But the most useful indicators tell us that humanity’s prospects are on the upswing. Poverty is declining; crops are producing higher yields; and humans are living longer and healthier lives despite the mild warming we’ve experienced. And in spite of these advancements (or maybe because of them), Western leaders are prepared, conveniently enough, to cap growth, spread wealth and centralize power in the way progressives have always wanted to cap growth, spread wealth and centralize power. …

 

 

 

John Hinderaker says if you follow the money you’ll learn what climate meeting was about.

Yesterday in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry inadvertently said something true, admitting that the policies the Obama administration has pursued with the ostensible object of fending off global warming are worthless:

“The fact is that even if every American citizen biked to work, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes, if we each planted a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what – that still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world.

If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions –- remember what I just said, all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions -– it wouldn’t be enough, not when more than 65% of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world.”

So what is global warming hysteria really all about? Money, mostly. The Paris conference is going into overtime, as we all knew it would, as the parties debate who is going to pay whom, and how much: …

 

 

 

Craig Pirrong turns our attention to gun control.

The San Bernardino massacre unleashed an all-too-common phenomenon: literally (and I am using the word properly) before the bodies were even cold, politicians, pundits, and the hoi polloi (especially on Twitter) were using the atrocity to advance their own preferred narrative. The most common of these on the left was the gun control narrative. Hillary Clinton was one of the first off the mark to use San Bernardino to call for more stringent gun control measures. You know, before anyone–most notably one Hillary Rodham Clinton–knew anything about what had happened, beyond the fact that more than a dozen people had died. Obama was actually somewhat reserved, by his standards on this issue, and unexpectedly soft-pedaled his gun control message in his Oval Office speech on Sunday. But on the left the gun control drum was pounded for all it was worth, notably in a New York Times front page editorial.

Mass shootings like San Bernardino and Colorado Springs catalyze a flurry of calls for further restrictions on gun ownership, though these calls are frequently lacking in specifics, and are often more like ritual acts and political signaling of right-thinking (or should I say left-thinking?) views than concrete proposals. Moreover, mass shootings also unleash a volley of bad and misleading statistics. So bad, in fact, that those using them are almost certainly doing so in bad faith.

This phenomenon is not limited to activists, or the left generally. Even allegedly reputable mainstream publications like The Economist also peddle agitprop. The MO is to claim that mass shootings occur almost daily in the US: when brought up in the context of a Newtown or Aurora, the clear intent is to suggest that these types of mass shootings are representative. But even a cursory look shows that this is definitely not the case. …

 

 

More on guns as Kevin Williamson writes on “Irish Democracy.”

It isn’t even St. Patrick’s Day, but we are all Irish now: In Connecticut, the boneheaded state government passed a law demanding the registration of certain firearms, and the people of Connecticut, perhaps communing for a moment with their independent-minded Yankee forebears, mainly refused to comply. On the other side of the country in the heart of California’s technology corridor, the city of Sunnyvale demanded that residents hand over all firearms capable of accepting magazines holding more than ten rounds — effectively, everything except revolvers and some single-shot rifles — and the good men and women of Silicon Valley responded by turning in a grand total of zero firearms. Similar initiatives in other jurisdictions have produced similar results.

Political scientists call this “Irish democracy,” the phenomenon by which the general members of a polity resist the mandates of their would-be rulers by simply refusing to comply with them. It is a low-cost form of civil disobedience, but one that can be very effective at times: Mohandas K. Gandhi was entirely correct in his famous declaration to the British powers that they would eventually be forced to simply pack up their tiffin pails and go home, because 300,000 Englishman could not control 300 million (at the time) Indians if those Indians didn’t cooperate.

One way of considering the radical potential of simple noncompliance is the “10 percent synchronous subversion factor,” the proposition that if 10 percent of the U.S. population refused to (for instance) pay taxes or answer jury-duty summonses, then the rules would have to change, because they would be unenforceable: There aren’t enough tax agents, constables, slots on court dockets, or jail cells to enforce the rules against 32 million Americans if they should decide to refuse to comply with a given law. …

 

 

 

The No Pasaran blog found its way into the NY Times with a rebuttal to the front-page editorial.

… It is easy to tout the success of gun control laws in the rest of the Western world and to say that “this just doesn’t happen in other countries” when you ignore : the 1996 massacre of 16 children at a Scottish primary school; the 2000 killing of eight kids in Japan; the 2002 deaths of eight people in Nanterre, France; the 2002 killing of 16 kids in Erfurt, Germany; the 2007 shootings to death of eight people in Tuusula, Finland; the killing of 10 people at a Finnish university less than a year later; the 2009 killing of 15 people in Winnenden, Germany; and, needless to say, Anders Breivik’s 2011 mass murder of 77 Norwegians, most of them teenagers.

Is it unrealistic to wonder whether the tolls would have been lesser had a few of the adults in each place — as well as in Paris’s Bataclan a couple of weeks ago — carried a weapon and tried to shoot back at the respective killers? …

 

 

Late Night from Andy Malcolm.

Fallon: Sting will perform at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this month. Hillary says she’s been a huge Sting fan ever since he agreed to perform at her fundraiser.

Fallon: Mark Zuckerberg is taking two months’ paternity leave now that his first child is born. That marks the first time anyone’s had a baby and tried to avoid Facebook.

December 9, 2015 – POSEUR PRESIDENT

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Thomas Sowell on the president’s speech.

… When it comes to matters of life and death, that is no time for the kind of glib, politically correct rhetoric that Barack Obama specializes in.

Obama may think of himself as a citizen of the world, but he was elected President of the United States, not head of a world government, and that does not authorize him to gamble the lives of Americans for the benefit of people in other countries. …

… Like so much that President Obama says, his talk of “stronger screening” of people coming into the United States is sheer fantasy, when even his own intelligence officials and law enforcement officials say that we have no adequate data on which to base a meaningful screening of Syrian refugees.

When Obama spoke of the danger of our being “drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria,” that was yet another fantasy, that wars are optional.

When terrorists are at war with us, we cannot simply declare that war to be over, whenever it is politically convenient, as Obama did when he withdrew American troops from Iraq, against the advice of his own generals. That is what led to the rise of ISIS. …

 

 

Streetwise Professor posts on the San Bernadino aftermath.

… Although Obama has seen fit to lecture us in the aftermath of Charleston, Sandy Hook, Ferguson, and even Louis Gates, for Christ’s sake, his statements in the aftermath of San Bernardino were limited primarily to his weekly radio address, recorded before he went to party down at the White House holiday party, with, among others, BLM (Black Lives Matter) luminary Deray McKesson. Priorities, you know.

One of the obvious early tells of the Islamist nature of the attack was that mere hours after Farook had been identified, his family members were participating in a press conference with Muslim Brotherhood front organization CAIR. Another tell came yesterday, when the Farook family’s scumbag lawyers gave a press conference that can be summarized as: “Who is the real victim here?” Hint: Farook, Malik and Muslims generally. After all, somebody teased Farook about his beard, and that might have set him off.

The administration picked up the victimhood narrative, with Attorney General Lynch saying that  her “greatest fear” is the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric” and promising to prosecute speech that “edges towards violence” (whatever the hell that means). So, along with trashing the Second Amendment, the administration has its sights set on the First. No doubt the 5th can be jettisoned too, if guns or politically incorrect speech are involved.

No doubt the administration’s denial of reality and its attempt to suppress speech has many causes. For one, San Bernardino totally contradicts the administration’s narrative on terrorism. …

 

 

 

Andrew Malcolm on the speech.

News Flash for Barack Obama: Americans are not afraid of terrorism. We’re afraid of you.

Your chronic diffidence, dismissal and downplaying terrorism — especially from radical jihadi extremists, in both word and deed — is scaring the hell out of your countrymen.

Get over it! It’s not cool. Nor is it presidentially-composed to disregard the palpable fear that permeates America today. Even if we’re all so ignorant, naive and unworldly as to elect you twice.

Leading from behind does not work as United States commander-in-chief.

Sunday night was only Obama’s third Oval Office address. (Scroll down for the C-SPAN video.) The first was also overdue, about the Gulf oil spill. The second was a victory lap about withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq, which created the inviting power vacuum for the current ISIS problem.

It’s one measure of the detached president’s willful public cluelessness about terrorism that the big news from Sunday evening’s 1,970 words was his admission that last week’s San Bernardino attack killing 14 was terrorism. Is there any sentient American who hadn’t figured that out? The clues were as abundant as empty shell casings. And a garage pipe-bomb factory did not speak of global warming. …

 

 

The blog Pre-Occupied Territory thinks ISIS has found a way to get the president’s attention – they have renamed themselves “Global Warming.” 

… After years of attempting to directly engage with what it calls the Great Satan in a fateful, apocalyptic showdown, the Islamic State intends to rectify its failure to date to provoke the US into all-out warfare by renaming itself Global Warming in order to convince US President Barack Obama that it must be confronted seriously. …

 

 

 

Nile Gardiner in Cap X says our leader is weak and delusional.

Barack Obama’s primetime address from the Oval Office last night will do nothing to reassure the American people in the wake of the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. After 14 Californians were slaughtered by Islamist radicals in San Bernardino last week, President Obama offered nothing in the way of a new strategy for defeating the mounting threat posed to the US homeland and to the West by Islamist terrorism. His speech was defiant, defensive and delusional, at a time when the free world badly needs leadership from the world’s superpower, and as the Islamic State continues to expand its presence across the globe.

There was no overarching vision offered by President Obama for defeating the ISIS menace, both at home and abroad. The tone from the White House was dismissive of criticism and hugely complacent. This was not a Churchillian call for the free world to stand up to the forces of evil, but more of a whimper from a president who prefers to lead from behind rather than project strength and resolve in the face of our enemies. …

 

 

Turning our attention to Chicago, Ron Fournier says it’s time for the Hillary and the president to send a dead fish to Rahm. 

Pres­id­ent Obama needs to mail Rahm Emanuel a dead fish in a box. Hil­lary Clin­ton should de­liv­er it. For the in­teg­rity of the party that rep­res­ents a vast ma­jor­ity of black voters, Demo­crat­ic lead­ers every­where need to send the Chica­go may­or a mes­sage: You’re dead to us.

A long­time lieu­ten­ant for the Clin­ton fam­ily and former chief of staff in the Obama White House, Emanuel nev­er hes­it­ated to muscle weak or dis­loy­al Demo­crats out of power. It’s time to flip the script on the en­for­cer nick­named “Rahmbo.”

Emanuel once sent a poll­ster who was late de­liv­er­ing a sur­vey res­ult a dead fish in a box. The night Bill Clin­ton won the 1992 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, his aides were cel­eb­rat­ing around a pic­nic table when Emanuel picked up a knife and shouted the names of politi­cians who had “f****ed us.” After each name, Emanuel de­clared, “Dead man!”

I’ve got noth­ing against Emanuel. I’ve known him since 1992 and be­nefited from his stra­tegic leaks in the Clin­ton White House. And I know this: Emanuel epi­tom­izes a brand of polit­ics that puts loy­alty and elect­or­al suc­cess above all else. He was edu­cated in the school of Clin­ton, where the ends jus­ti­fy the means, and ruled the Obama White House when it ca­pit­u­lated to the cul­ture of Wash­ing­ton that his boss had vowed to fight.

And then off he went to Chica­go, a his­tor­ic­ally cor­rupt city with a po­lice de­part­ment known for hid­ing mis­con­duct and bru­tal­ity.

On Oct. 20, 2014, po­lice of­ficer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 times at 17-year-old Laquan Mc­Don­ald, killing him. The next day, a po­lice de­part­ment state­ment claimed the teen­ager was shot while ap­proach­ing po­lice of­ficers. That was a lie. …

 

 

 

Late Night from Andy Malcolm.

Meyers: A self-driving Google car was pulled over. The company touted the cars as having the human equivalent of 90 years behind the wheel. Which also explains why the left blinker was on for 17 miles.

Meyers: A pair of zebras escaped from a circus in downtown Philadelphia. They were chased down and captured almost immediately by Eagles fans who mistook them for referees.

December 5, 2015 – HIGHER ED

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

The Islamic terror attacks in Paris and CA have crowded out news about campus unrest so perhaps we can spend some time on that subject.

 

Stuart Taylor  has written a good examination of the detritus left on college campuses by racial admissions preferences. This was published in American Spectator November 23th. Yes, even during this hiatus Pickerhead has been paying attention. 

Why are some of the most privileged students in the nation plunging into a racial grievance culture and upending their campuses as though oppressed by Halloween costumes they don’t approve, imagined racial slights, portraits of Woodrow Wilson, a tiny handful of real racial epithets, and the like?

The reasons are of course multifaceted. But one deserves far more attention than it has gotten: Many or most of the African-American student protesters really are victims — but not of old-fashioned racism.

Most are, rather, victims of the very large admissions preferences that set up racial-minority students for academic struggle at the selective universities that have cynically misled them into thinking they are well qualified to compete with classmates who are, in fact, far stronger academically.

The reality is that most good black and Hispanic students, who would be academically competitive at many selective schools, are not competitive at the more selective schools that they attend.

That’s why it takes very large racial preferences to get them admitted. An inevitable result is that many black and (to a lesser extent) Hispanic students cannot keep up with better-prepared classmates and rank low in their classes no matter how hard they work.

Studies show that this academic “mismatch effect” forces them to drop science and other challenging courses; to move into soft, easily graded, courses disproportionately populated by other preferentially admitted students; and to abandon career hopes such as engineering and pre-med. Many lose intellectual self-confidence and become unhappy even if they avoid flunking out.

This depresses black performance at virtually all selective schools because of what experts call the cascade effect. Here’s how it works, as Richard Sander and I demonstrated in a 2012 book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It: …

 

 

 

Some of the legal background for the diversity disaster is provided in a National Review OpEd.

In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), Justice Lewis F. Powell introduced into constitutional law the well-intentioned canard that race-based affirmative action is permissible in higher education — despite race being a “suspect classification” under the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment — because the presumed benefits of a “diverse” student body constitute a “compelling state interest.” This unsubstantiated rationale was based on Powell’s approval of Harvard’s use of race as a “plus factor” in admissions. Explicit quotas would not be tolerated, but more nuanced consideration of race by college and university admissions officers would pass muster if necessary to achieve “a diverse student body.” Thus was the current model of affirmative action in higher education launched and legitimized. In Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), the Court narrowly affirmed the vitality of Bakke, in a shaky 5-4 decision written by the now-departed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. …

… Racial preferences in higher-education admissions are a failed social experiment. The current campus unrest throughout the nation is undeniable evidence that “diversity” does not improve the learning environment at colleges and universities. Taylor concludes that racial preferences — and the resulting “mismatch” — go “a long way toward explaining the over-the-top demands now roiling our campuses for still more racial admissions preferences; more preferentially-hired, underqualified professors; more grievance-focused courses and university bureaucrats; more university-sponsored racial enclaves; and more apologies for ‘white privilege.’”

In Fisher II, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to revisit Grutter, and Bakke. It is time to lay to rest, once and for all, the myth that affirmative action improves higher education. All across the country, we are witnessing the opposite.

 

 

 

If you’ve ever wondered how America’s intellectuals know so much that is not true, Andrew Ferguson’s piece from the Weekly Standard will help you understand. The title is Making It All Up.

One morning in August, the social science reporter for National Public Radio, a man named Shankar Vedantam, sounded a little shellshocked. You couldn’t blame him. 

Like so many science writers in the popular press, he is charged with reporting provocative findings from the world of behavioral science: “.  .  . and researchers were very surprised at what they found. The peer-reviewed study suggests that [dog lovers, redheads, Tea Party members] are much more likely to [wear short sleeves, participate in hockey fights, play contract bridge] than cat lovers, but only if [the barometer is falling, they are slapped lightly upside the head, a picture of Jerry Lewis suddenly appears in their cubicle .  .  .  ].”

I’m just making these up, obviously, but as we shall see, there’s a lot of that going around.

On this August morning Science magazine had published a scandalous article. The subject was the practice of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology is a wellspring of modern journalism. It is the source for most of those thrilling studies that keep reporters like Vedantam in business.

Over 270 researchers, working as the Reproducibility Project, had gathered 100 studies from three of the most prestigious journals in the field of social psychology. Then they set about to redo the experiments and see if they could get the same results. Mostly they used the materials and methods the original researchers had used. Direct replications are seldom attempted in the social sciences, even though the ability to repeat an experiment and get the same findings is supposed to be a cornerstone of scientific knowledge. It’s the way to separate real information from flukes and anomalies. 

These 100 studies had cleared the highest hurdles that social science puts up. They had been edited, revised, reviewed by panels of peers, revised again, published, widely read, and taken by other social scientists as the starting point for further experiments. Except . . . 

The researchers, Vedantam glumly told his NPR audience, “found something very disappointing. Nearly two-thirds of the experiments did not replicate, meaning that scientists repeated these studies but could not obtain the results that were found by the original research team.” …

… For one thing, the “reproducibility crisis” is not unique to the social sciences, and it shouldn’t be a surprise it would touch social psychology too. The widespread failure to replicate findings has afflicted physics, chemistry, geology, and other real sciences. Ten years ago a Stanford researcher named John Ioannidis published a paper called “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” 

“For most study designs and settings,” Ioannidis wrote, “it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true.” He used medical research as an example, and since then most systematic efforts at replication in his field have borne him out. His main criticism involved the misuse of statistics: He pointed out that almost any pile of data, if sifted carefully, could be manipulated to show a result that is “statistically significant.” 

Statistical significance is the holy grail of social science research, …

… Publication bias, compounded with statistical weakness, makes a floodtide of false positives. “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue,” wrote the editor of the medical journal Lancet not long ago. Following the Reproducibility Project, we now know his guess was probably too low, at least in the behavioral sciences. The literature, continued the editor, is “afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance.”

Behavioral science suffers from these afflictions only more so. Surveys have shown that published studies in social psychology are five times more likely to show positive results​—​to confirm the experimenters’ hypothesis​—​than studies in the real sciences. 

This raises two possibilities. Either behavioral psychologists are the smartest researchers, and certainly the luckiest, in the history of science​—​or something is very wrong. …

… Behavioral science has many weaknesses unique to itself. Remember that the point of the discipline is to discover general truths that will be useful in predicting human behavior. More than 70 percent of the world’s published psychology studies are generated in the United States. Two-thirds of them draw their subjects exclusively from the pool of U.S. undergraduates, according to a survey by a Canadian economist named Joseph Henrich and two colleagues. And most of those are students who enroll in psychology classes. White, most of them; middle- or upper-class; college educated, with a taste for social science: not John Q. Public. 

This is a problem​—​again, widely understood, rarely admitted. College kids are irresistible to the social scientist: They come cheap, and hundreds of them are lying around the quad with nothing better to do. …

… Behind the people being experimented upon are the people doing the experimenting, the behavioral scientists themselves. In important ways they are remarkably monochromatic. We don’t need to belabor the point. In a survey of the membership of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 85 percent of respondents called themselves liberal, 6 percent conservative, 9 percent moderate. Two percent of graduate students and postdocs called themselves conservative. “The field is shifting leftward,” wrote one team of social psychologists (identifying themselves as “one liberal, one centrist, two libertarians, two who reject characterization,” and no conservatives). “And there are hardly any conservative students in the pipeline.” A more recent survey of over 300 members of another group of experimental psychologists found 4 who voted for Mitt Romney. …

… Aping the forms and methods of physical scientists, crusading social scientists are bound to produce a lot of experiments that are quasi-scientific. They will resist replication if only because an experiment is just a one-off, a way to agitate and persuade rather than to discover. Scientists themselves speak of “confirmation bias,” an unnecessary term for a common human truth: We tend to believe what we want to believe. …

… Even before the Reproducibility Project, direct replications failed to find evidence for many other effects that the social psychology literature treats as settled science. “Single-exposure conditioning”​—​if you’re offered a pen while your favorite music is playing, you’ll like the pen better than one offered while less appealing music plays. The “primacy of warmth effect,” which tells us our perceptions are more favorable to people described as “warm” than to people described as “competent.” The “Romeo and Juliet effect”: Intervention by parents in a child’s romantic relationship only intensifies the feelings of romance. None of these could be directly replicated. 

Perhaps most consequentially, replications failed to validate many uses of the Implicit Association Test, which is the most popular research tool in social psychology. Its designers say the test detects unconscious biases, including racial biases, that persistently drive human behavior. Sifting data from the IAT, social scientists tell us that at least 75 percent of white Americans are racist, whether they know it or not, even when they publicly disavow racial bigotry. This implicit racism induces racist behavior as surely as explicit racism. The paper introducing the IAT’s application to racial attitudes has been cited in more than 6,600 studies, according to Google Scholar. The test is commonly used in courts and classrooms across the country. 

That the United States is in the grip of an epidemic of implicit racism is simply taken for granted by social psychologists​—​another settled fact too good to check. Few of them have ever returned to the original data. Those who have done so have discovered that the direct evidence linking IAT results to specific behavior is in fact negligible, with small samples and weak effects that have seldom if ever been replicated. One team of researchers went through the IAT data on racial attitudes and behavior and concluded there wasn’t much evidence either way. …

  

 

Almost as a companion piece to Ferguson’s article above, Ricochet published a Media Narrative Chart that helps explain how the media march in lockstep. Here’s how the chart works; If a police officer shoots a black the narrative will be police brutality. No matter what the facts are. And if a black person shoots a cop, the narrative will be “reaction to police brutality. You will see how simple it can be for simpletons with agendas, or as Glenn Reynolds said when looking at media bias, “The media are simply Democrat operatives with bylines.”

November 27, 2015 – CLIMATE REPORT

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

The ship of fools will be visiting Paris next week for the Climate Summit. Take that, ISIS! Time for another CLIMATE REPORT.

 

Just to prove some college professors have played the part of idiots for a long time, Real Science has found a 1941 paper from Cincinnati that quotes a U of Cinncy prof who says it was climate problems that caused Hitler. He says warmer weather makes people more docile. Just for added grins they included in the post some stuff from CIA pukes in 1974 and 1976 that predicted global instability caused by a cooling climate. 

CLIMATE – there’s nothing it can’t do! 

And here, all along, Pickerhead thought that was solely the power of bacon.

 

 

 

Steve Hayward of Power Line says the New Yorker is trying to be as silly as the NY Times.

Oh, good grief. The New Yorker is trying to give the New York Times a run for its money as the most pathetic attempt to put The Onion out of business:

Why a Climate Deal Is the Best Hope for Peace

By Jason Box and Naomi Klein

. . . The connection between warming temperatures and the cycle of Syrian violence is, by now, uncontroversial. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in Virginia, this month, “It’s not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.” …’

 

 

 

Some scientists say the Climate Summit is based on nonsense. Climate Depot has the story.

A team of prominent scientists gathered in Texas today at a climate summit to declare that fears of man-made global warming were “irrational” and “based on nonsense” that “had nothing to do with science.” They warned that “we are being led down a false path” by the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris.

The scientists appeared at a climate summit sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The summit in Austin was titled: “At the Crossroads: Energy & Climate Policy Summit.”

Climate Scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen, an emeritus Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, derided what he termed climate “catastrophism.”

“Demonization of CO2 is irrational at best and even modest warming is mostly beneficial,” Lindzen said.

Lindzen cautioned: “The most important thing to keep in mind is – when you ask ‘is it warming, is it cooling’, etc.  — is that we are talking about something tiny (temperature changes) and that is the crucial point.”

Lindzen also challenged the oft-repeated UN IPCC claim that most of warming over past 50 years was due to mankind. …

 

 

 

Ed Rogers understands why the upcoming Paris climate change conference is perfect for this president. Yes, this is a repeat from the last Climate Report. But, this post is about climate fools so recycling is appropriate. 

After failing at almost every foreign policy challenge he has been confronted with, perhaps there is now something on the horizon that actually sets up nicely for President Obama. The Paris Conference on Climate Change, which will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, could be an event that perfectly matches his skills and interests.

The U.N.-sponsored Paris festival lends itself to unrealistic giveaways and meaningless rhetoric — the more self-righteous and pretentious, the better. The meeting won’t produce any particular result, and the day of reckoning where we find out it was all for naught won’t be scientifically determined until many years in the future. It seems well-suited for this president.

All Obama has to do is go to Paris, give a vapid speech about saving the planet, capitulate to those who would like to see the United States weakened, pretend that others will fulfill their pledges to reduce carbon emissions and then return home to a round of self-congratulations from his own staff and sycophant appointees. To follow up on his brave proposals, all he has to do is sign a couple of executive orders that slap American businesses with some gratuitous, onerous regulations and declare that a noble deed has been done. And, by the way, the White House will have to do whatever it takes to keep any agreement reached in Paris from being voted on in Congress. …

 

 

 

John Barrasso, Wyoming senator, says Congress can cool off obama’s climate plans.

When the U.N. climate-change talks convene in Paris next week, the risks will be high for American taxpayers. President Obama wants a climate deal and is willing to pay dearly to get it. The inevitable outcome is a plan with unproven benefits and unreachable goals, but very real costs. It will be up to Congress to check the president’s ambition of committing the U.S. to an international green scheme that will produce little or no return.

The ostensible goal of the Paris talks (Nov. 30-Dec. 11) is to convince countries to commit to enacting laws that reduce carbon emissions. That fits President Obama’s vision of a world without fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The American people oppose these policies, but the president has shown himself determined to circumvent Congress.

The Obama administration has already imposed burdensome regulations—for instance, the sprawling Clean Power Plan aimed at wiping out the coal industry—that will raise the cost of energy and put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work. Now the president wants his negotiators to use these international climate talks to pile on more restrictions. …

  

 

Actually, the earth is coming into a cold spell reports the Nation.

The sun will go into “hibernation” mode around 2030, and it has already started to get sleepy. At the Royal Astronomical Society’s annual meeting in July, Professor Valentina Zharkova of NorthumbriaUniversity in the UK confirmed it – the sun will begin its Maunder Minimum (Grand Solar Minimum) in 15 years. Other scientists had suggested years ago that this change was imminent, but Zharkova’s model is said to have near-perfect accuracy.

So what is a “solar minimum”?

Our sun doesn’t maintain a constant intensity. Instead, it cycles in spans of approximately 11 years. When it’s at its maximum, it has the highest number of sunspots on its surface in that particular cycle. When it’s at its minimum, it has almost none. When there are more sunspots, the sun is brighter. When there are fewer, the sun radiates less heat toward Earth.

But that’s not the only cooling effect of a solar minimum. A dim sun doesn’t deflect cosmic rays away from Earth as efficiently as a bright sun. So, when these rays enter our atmosphere, they seed clouds, which in turn cool our planet even more and increase precipitation in the form of rain, snow and hail. …

 

… Other researchers and organisations are also predicting global cooling – the Russian Academy of Science, the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Scientists, the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism Russia, Victor Manuel Velesco Herrera at the National University of Mexico, the Bulgarian Institute of Astronomy, Dr Tim Patterson at Carleton University in Canada, Drs Lin Zhen at Nanjing University in China, just to name a few.

For now nevertheless, the IPCC and other authoritative agencies are sticking to their CO2-dominant climate-forcing theory. They attribute the cold spells to a disruption in the jet stream caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming. Some of their theories have heads being scratched, for instance the “pause” in global warming they attribute to heat being absorbed deep into the oceans. When Antarctic ice reached record levels in 2013, scientists were “baffled” because the water beneath the ice was warm, they claimed. In climate science old and new, nothing is certain.

We conclude with a bit of good news, though. Recent research has determined that the famous Stradivarius violin owes its unique, esteemed sound to the last Maunder Minimum. The solar condition changed the texture of the trees that provided the wood from which the instrument was crafted. So lovers of classical music can place their orders for the next generation of incomparable violins, coming – giving the trees time to mature – in about 100 years.

 

 

Meanwhile polar bears are doing great. The story from Breitbart

Global polar bear populations are at a fifty-year record high. Yet the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has just released a study suggesting that they are doomed.

Which version of events should we believe?

Well that all depends on where you prefer to place your trust: on reality or on computer models concocted by activists who desperately want the polar bear to retain its status as the ursine victim of the man-made global warming apocalypse.

If you prefer to go with reality, here’s the good news from Susan Crockford, who puts the global polar bear population at a very healthy 26,000. This would mean, she has noted before, that the population has increased by around 4,200 since 2001.

Ironically, the IUCN—the world’s leading conservation monitoring body, responsible for producing the “Red List” which classifies endangered species—agrees with her estimates. What it won’t do is admit that the news is good. (Well, good if you think having lots of extra polar bears is good. I’m not so sure. I’d agree with my friend Steven Crowder that actually they are evil: one of only two species—the other being the Saltwater crocodile—which deliberately hunts down human beings as prey). …

November 23, 2015

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Our last post covered the president and some of his foreign policy failures. We were looking for other subjects, but events intrude. Of course our favorites have found fault, but today’s post is bookended by Ron Fournier of the National Journal and David Remnick of The New Yorker. Two more reliably left/liberal types could hardly be found. So we post again on the empty suit in the White House.

 

Fournier is first with his essay titled – Leaderless. 

In his mem­oir, Le­on Pan­etta ar­gued that for all of Barack Obama’s strengths, he is miss­ing an es­sen­tial in­gredi­ent of lead­er­ship. He lacks “fire,” wrote Obama’s former CIA dir­ect­or and Pentagon chief. “The pres­id­ent re­lies on the lo­gic of a law pro­fess­or rather than the pas­sion of a lead­er.”

Obama has proved Pan­etta right again and again dur­ing his pres­id­ency, but nev­er more dan­ger­ously so than with his shoulder-shrug ap­proach to IS­IS. Obama called it a “J.V. team” be­fore it star­ted be­head­ing Amer­ic­ans. He said it was “con­tained” be­fore it at­tacked Par­is. Now he’s call­ing it “a bunch of killers with good so­cial me­dia.

That’s how you de­scribe a street gang—a bunch of killers with good so­cial me­dia. The Is­lam­ic State is no street gang.

Ob­ject­ive ob­serv­ers from across the polit­ic­al spec­trum took ex­cep­tion to Obama’s tone. This from Frank Bruni, a lib­er­al-minded New York Times colum­nist: …

… On IS­IS, Obama breaks every rule. He min­im­izes the threat and dis­misses our fears, which raises doubts about his candor and cap­ab­il­ity. An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans dis­ap­prove of his hand­ling of IS­IS, a new poll shows, and 81 per­cent think IS­IS will strike the United States.

In Ju­ly 2013, six months in­to his second term, I wrote a column that ques­tioned wheth­er Obama would ful­fill his enorm­ous po­ten­tial, wheth­er he even cared any­more about his prom­ises to change Wash­ing­ton, wheth­er he could write the mod­ern rules of the pres­id­ency and build a new bully pul­pit. I asked, “What if Obama can’t lead?”

I now have my an­swer.

  

 

Next we have the weekly USA Today column by Glenn Reynolds who is a law professor in Tennessee and blogs at Instapundit.

When President Obama spoke in Washington about the terrorist attacks in Paris, he was curiously unable to raise much passion. The passion came out only later in Turkey when he started attacking Republicans. Those attacks continued throughout that week, with charges that people who oppose resettling Syrian refugees in America are somehow xenophobic haters who are not in touch with American values.

There are two problems with this line of attack for President Obama. The first is that it isn’t true: The opponents of refugee resettlement aren’t xenophobic haters, but ordinary Americans — and, in fact, include roughly a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus, who voted with Republicans to limit refugee resettlement.

The second problem is that Obama himself is the source of the Syrian refugee crisis. But don’t take it from me. Listen to foreign-affairs expert Walter Russell Mead, an original Obama supporter himself: “To see the full cynicism of the Obama approach to the refugee issue,” Mead wrote in The American Interest, ”one has only to ask President Obama’s least favorite question: Why is there a Syrian refugee crisis in the first place?”

Mead continued, “Obama’s own policy decisions — allowing Assad to convert peaceful demonstrations into an increasingly ugly civil war, refusing to declare safe havens and no fly zones — were instrumental in creating the Syrian refugee crisis. This crisis is in large part the direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to stand aside and watch Syria burn. For him to try and use a derisory and symbolic program to allow 10,000 refugees into the United States in order to posture as more caring than those evil Jacksonian rednecks out in the benighted sticks is one of the most cynical, cold-blooded, and nastily divisive moves an American president has made in a long time.” …

… In 2008, a substantial chunk of American voters chose to take a holiday from history and go with “hope and change.” In 2012, they chose to ignore Mitt Romney — whose warnings about everything from Russian adventurism to terrorism in Mali have borne fruit — in order to continue that holiday.

The holiday is over now, and the bills are due. The next president will find undoing this damage a tough job.

 

 

And David Goldman in his Spengler guise at Asia Times essays on Vladimir Putin – the Leader of the Free World. 

… In 2008 I endorsed Putin for the American presidency, in jest, of course. Now he is leading America’s president by the nose and directing the anti-terror efforts of France and Germany. No-one could have anticipated Putin’s sudden ascent to global leadership during the past several weeks. Russia is in the position of a vulture fund, buying the distressed assets of the Western alliance for pennies on the dollar. Faced with an American president who will not fight, and his European allies whose military capacity has shrunk to near insignificance, the Russian Federation seized the helm with the deployment of a mere three dozen war planes and an expeditionary force of 5,000 men. One searches in vain through diplomatic history to find another case where so much was done with so little. As an American, I feel a deep humiliation at this turn of events, assuaged only slightly by Schadenfreude at the even deeper humiliation of America’s foreign policy establishment.

The world runs by different rules than it did just a few weeks ago. Putin has answered the question I asked in September (“Vladimir Putin: Spoiler or Statesman?”). President Obama declared at the Nov. 17 Antalya summit, “From the start, I’ve also welcomed Moscow going after ISIL…We’re going to wait to see whether, in fact, Russia does end up devoting attention to targets that are ISIL targets, and if it does so, then that’s something we welcome.” After this week’s Russian and French airstrikes on ISIS’ stronghold in Raqqa, that is a moot point. It seems like another epoch when Mitt Romney declared that Russia was America’s greatest geopolitical threat. Russia, on the contrary, is pulling America’s chestnuts out of the fire. Obama is utterly feckless; by the time the next American president is sworn in, the world will be a difference place. Ukraine? Never heard of it. …

 

 

More from David Greenfield in his Sultan Knish blog.

… When reporters ask Obama how he plans to win the war, he smirks tiredly at them and launches into another condescending explanation about how the situation is far too complicated for anything as simple as bombs to work. Underneath that explanation is the belief that wars are unwinnable.

Obama knows that Americans won’t accept “war just doesn’t work” as an answer to Islamic terrorism. So he demonstrates to them that wars don’t work by fighting wars that are meant to fail.

In Afghanistan, he bled American soldiers as hard as possible with vicious rules of engagement that favored the Taliban to destroy support for a war that most of the country had formerly backed. By blowing the war, Obama was not only sabotaging the specific implementation of a policy he opposed, but the general idea behind it. His failed wars are meant to teach Americans that war doesn’t work.

The unspoken idea that informs his strategy is that American power is the root cause of the problems in the region. Destroying ISIS would solve nothing. Containing American power is the real answer.

Obama does not have a strategy for defeating ISIS. He has a strategy for defeating America. …

 

… Obama responded to ISIS by denying it’s a threat. Once that stopped being a viable strategy, he began to stall for time. And he’s still stalling for time, not to beat ISIS, but to wait until ISIS falls out of the headlines. That has been his approach to all his scandals from ObamaCare to the IRS to the VA.

Lie like crazy and wait for people to forget about it and turn their attention to something else.

This is a containment strategy, but not for ISIS. It’s a containment strategy for America. Obama isn’t trying to bottle up ISIS except as a means of bottling up America. He doesn’t see the Caliph of the Islamic State as the real threat, but the average American who watches the latest beheading on the news and wonders why his government doesn’t do something about it. To the left it isn’t the Caliph of ISIS who starts the wars we ought to worry about, but Joe in Tennessee, Bill in California or Pete in Minnesota.

That is why Obama sounds bored when talking about beating ISIS, but heats up when the conversation turns to fighting Republicans. It’s why Hillary Clinton named Republicans, not ISIS, as her enemy. …

 

 

Today the New Yorker published David Remnick’s report on a group of Syrian refugees who are fighting ISIS. This nugget was in the report. And if the president was a Republican, you can bet this would have far more detailed and elaborate.

… The members of R.B.S.S. are utterly frustrated with the efforts of the West to defeat both Assad, who has fended off the opposition so far, and ISIS, which has suffered recent losses in Iraq and Syria, but which has proved capable of exacting suffering from Sinai to Beirut to Paris.

“The problem the Syrian people have with the United States is that we are suffering for five years with barrel bombs,” one R.B.S.S. journalist said. “Assad has killed so many innocents, and many people have lost hope. After Assad’s chemical attack, when he crossed the so-called ‘red line,’ the U.S. just took the weapons. It made America look like a liar and weak. …

 

The cartoons are good too.

November 21, 2015 – PRESIDENT PETULANT

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

After the Paris attacks the president got really angry – at Americans, says Michael Barone.

Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president express heartfelt anger, which he did in his press conference in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of the G-20 summit. And they did hear him describe ISIS as “this barbaric terrorist organization” and acknowledge that the “terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback.”

But what really got him angry, as the transcript and video make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against ISIS; Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq; and critics of his decision to allow 10,000 Syrians into the United States. …

 

 

 

Robert Tracinski, at the Federalist, calls him the worst president ever.

… It’s clear that the prospect of imposing gun control domestically gets Obama riled up. Fighting the enemies of America overseas does not. But the first of these goals is actually prohibited to him by the Constitution — while the second is mandated for him. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a president whose personal priorities are so out of sync with the actual demands of his office.

The administration’s reaction has only gotten worse as it has had more days to respond. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry let out the howler that the terrorist attack in France earlier this year — wiping out the headquarters of a satirical magazine that had offended radical Muslims — was kind of understandable.

There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of—not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.

To be sure, this sentiment didn’t come from Obama himself. But he hired Kerry, who has a record of making horribly insensitive statements. He is the same guy who thought a James Taylor song was an appropriate response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre — and Obama apparently agreed that this would make up for skipping out on an international unity rally in support of France. So maybe we know now why the administration couldn’t really get mobilized to show support for Charlie Hebdo: deep down, they thought the magazine had it coming.

Obama’s administration can’t even get the easy, symbolic stuff right. But the real problem is the substance of his response.

That brings us to Obama’s petty, peevish press conference on Monday. …

… This is one of those moments when you almost appreciate the parliamentary system, which can hold a vote of no confidence in the chief executive. You want to talk about popping off? If Obama is traumatized and overwhelmed by the job of being commander-in-chief, he can pop off to the golf course and clear the way for someone else to do it.

 

 

 

More from Peter Wehner.

We all know people of towering arrogance and we all know people of staggering incompetence, but Barack Obama is quite possibly the perfect package. No one on the scene today combines these two qualities in quite the same way as Mr. Obama.

On the incompetence side, and sticking just with the president’s policies and record in the greater Middle East, there is Mr. Obama’s mishandling of the rise of the Islamic State, which just last year he referred to as the “jayvee team” and just last week declared was “contained.” Recall his threat to Syrian President Assad that if Assad used chemical weapons on his own people it would constitute crossing a “red line” (Assad did and Obama did nothing), and his stop-start-stop support for opposition forces in Syria.

Then there is the president’s decision to pull out all American troops from Iraq, which had disastrous consequences; his failures in Afghanistan (including announcing a withdrawal date even as he was announcing a surge in troops); his bungled relations with Egypt; his failure to support the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, which Charles Krauthammer called ”the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.” Add to that Mr. Obama declaring his policies in Libya, Yemen and Somalia to be models of success before things collapses in all three countries, his alienation and mistreatment of Israel, and his botched handling of relations with our Arab allies – not to mention policies that have allowed Russia a presence in the Middle East unlike any its had since Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet Union from Egypt in the early 1970s – and you have a catastrophic foreign policy record. It was only in the summer of last year that the Wall Street Journal reported, “The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s” – and things are more disordered, chaotic and violent now then it was then. Things are so bad that the president has even lost CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. …

 

 

And Jonathan Tobin.

… the main takeaway from Obama’s presser is not so much that he is unwilling to consider alternatives to an American strategy that offers little hope of defeating ISIS. Just as important is his dogged refusal to admit that he has failed in spite of the manifest evidence that American policy is an ongoing disaster. That’s a terrible failing in any man, let alone a commander-in-chief. But it is particularly bad for Obama because, at least when viewed from this perspective, because it proves that the keynote of his entire presidency is a falsehood. Throughout the last seven years, Democrats have justified everything that Obama has done, good or bad, on the basis of the contrast with the supposedly failed administration of George W. Bush.

Most of us may agree that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake and there is much else to criticize about the Bush presidency. But when faced with the disaster that the insurgency created after Saddam’s fall, Bush did not pretend that all was well as Obama did today. Though he was no more eager to admit failure than anyone else, Bush did not double down on a strategy that was going nowhere. At the end of 2006 with the war at a stalemate, he faced up to facts. He sacked his secretary of defense and switched strategies allowing the troop surge that would during the course of the next two years turn the war to America’s favor. By the time that Obama came into office, he had inherited a stable situation that he could declare Iraq to be a war that had been won.

Obama threw away that victory by abandoning Iraq and opened the door for ISIS. …

 

 

Using Leon Trotsky’s admonition about war, Noah Rothman suggests how to proceed against ISIS.  

… American policy has not been to eliminate it but to confine the Islamic State to its fluid borders. Barack Obama reluctantly swore to lead a multinational coalition designed to “degrade and destroy” the organization, but the practical effects of his nearly 18-month-long campaign have been to do what he admitted yesterday: to “contain” the Islamic State. The West is war-weary. We wanted nothing less than renewed war in the Middle East, but the resulting disengagement is precisely what allowed the ISIS threat to mature and to metastasize. Even if the Paris attack is linked to another terrorist network in the region, it is a clear indication that a terrorist incubator in Iraq and Syria cannot be allowed to survive. This is a proto-state that must be crushed, not only in service to the shared human values and treasures this organization has busily been destroying but in service to the preservation of national security. 

No one wants perpetual war, but that is precisely what the West has invited with its displays of faltering resolution and its commitment to conduct a war with the smallest possible footprint. Meanwhile, Western values are slowly eroded as we grow more comfortable with soldiers on the streets, metadata retention programs, and theatrical displays like TSA airport screenings. There cannot be a “new normal” while one side of this conflict is continually reshaping what “normal” means. The Islamic State will not be destroyed from the air. The handful of Special Forces and U.S. advisors on the ground in Iraq and Syria cannot neutralize this threat. ISIS cannot be contained. Only an overwhelming force can accomplish the necessary task of destroying the Islamic State. What’s more, it is the responsibility of the civilized world to destroy it. …

 

The cartoonists have a field day.

November 16, 2015 – HIGHER ED

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Turning away from the problems in the administration’s foreign policy, we return to their disaster doubling the amount of student loans. First off is the NY Times which has come to think student debt is worse than bien pensants have thought. But you knew that because you’ve been reading Pickings. 

After a series of blockbuster hearings held 25 years ago on abuses in the higher education industry, Congress created a system to protect undergraduates from risky student loans.

But two weeks ago, the Education Department released a trove of new data suggesting that the system is failing and that, at some colleges, the saddling of students with loans they cannot afford to pay down is far more dire than anyone knew.

The loan crisis hits hardest at colleges enrolling large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds. These undergraduates have to borrow for college, then often have difficulty finding well-paying jobs after graduation — if they graduate at all. …

… In September, the department made a different calculation. Instead of default rates, the department calculated nonrepayment rates, which include both defaulters and borrowers who have never paid a single dollar of principal on their loans.

The nonrepayment category includes people who are only paying interest, have delayed making payments by enrolling in graduate school or are getting loan extensions. The nonrepayment rates were calculated over a longer time period: at one, three, five and seven years after students leave college.

Some of the numbers are startling. American National University — a for-profit chain offering degrees in business, health care and information technology, both online and at 30 campuses in six Midwestern states — has an official default rate of 8.5 percent, well below the national average of 11.8 percent. But its five-year nonrepayment rate is 71 percent. Even after seven years, most of the university’s students, the large majority of whom borrow, have failed to pay back a penny of their loans. …

… Among both public and private nonprofit institutions, the debt problem is most acute when students with very little money attend colleges with very little money. All 25 of the public universities with the highest five-year nonrepayment rates are historically black institutions. Of the 25 private colleges with the worst nonrepayment rates, 22 are historically black. One example, Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., has a 12.9 percent default rate but a 78.2 percent nonrepayment rate.

Historically black colleges are neither unusually expensive nor profligate institutions. Most have served their communities for decades or longer, enduring racism and inadequate funding while enrolling young people who are often low-income, first-generation college students. As a result, despite the fact that tuition at historically black colleges is often much lower than at well-heeled private colleges, a vast majority of their students borrow.

That so many graduates of black colleges struggle to repay their loans may exacerbate racial wealth disparities. These nonrepayment rates, moreover, do not include the private loans that many students take out once their federal aid is exhausted, or the debt that parents are increasingly carrying to pay for their children’s college educations.

The new data may prompt Congress to revisit its system for ensuring that students who take on debt have a fighting chance to pay it back.

 

 

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg News wonders what we’re buying with $1,000,000,000,000 (That’s a trillion) in student loans.

College is expensive, and getting more so every year. Since most families don’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around, the government has responded with ever-more-generous student loan programs.

First there were the loans themselves, with interest subsidized while you’re in school. Then, when that proved inadequate, we instituted income-based repayment, allowing students to cap their payments at a percentage of their discretionary income (stretching out the loan, and getting forgiveness on any balance remaining after 25 years). Then, since that wasn’t quite enough, we made the terms more generous. Now the Obama administration has announced that it’s making 5 million more people eligible for the program.

You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This is certifiable. College is too expensive, so have the government make it easier to finance — then keep shifting more and more of the cost burden to the government, without doing anything about the underlying cost inflation that is making it necessary for government to get into the finance business.

Obviously, this can’t go on indefinitely. …

 

 

Richard Vedder of PopeCenter lists seven ways the Fed Ed Department has made higher Ed worse.

… The 30 years between 1950 and 1980 were the Golden Age of American higher education. The proportion of adult Americans with college degrees nearly tripled, going from 6 to 17 percent. Enrollments quintupled, going from 2.3 to 12.1 million. 

By the end of the period, the number of doctorates awarded in engineering had quintupled and over 40 percent of Nobel Prizes were going to individuals associated with American universities. 

This was the era in which higher education went from serving the elite and mostly well-to-do to serving many individuals from modest economic circumstance. State government support for higher education rose dramatically—spending per student rose roughly 70 percent after inflation. 

During this period, however, the federal role was quite modest. …

… Compare the Golden Age to the post-Department of Education era (1980 to 2015). While college attainment has continued to grow, in percentage terms the growth has slowed. But that is not all. Let me briefly enumerate seven other unfortunate trends.

First, of course, education costs have soared. Tuition fees rose more than three percent a year in inflation-adjusted terms, far faster than people’s incomes. As new research from the New York Federal Reserve Bank demonstrates, rising federal student financial aid programs are the primary factor in this phenomenon.

If tuition fees had risen as fast after 1978 as in the four decades before, they would be about one-half the level they are today, and the student debt crisis would not have occurred. Presidential candidates would not be talking about “free” tuition. …

… Sixth, the Department is guilty of regulatory excesses and bureaucratic blunders. For example, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) imposes a “preponderance of evidence” standard on colleges in sexual assault cases that violates American ideals regarding due process and fair treatment of accused. Twenty-eight members of the law faculty at Harvard, among others, have bitterly complained about that, but the OCR continues its crusade. 

Also, the form required of applicants for federal student aid (FAFSA) is Byzantine in its complexity—the 2006 Spellings Commission criticized it severely—but nothing important has been done about it.

Seventh, the one arguably useful function of the Department is to provide information to consumers and taxpayers about college performance. Yet Department bureaucrats have done very little to give useful information on student learning, post-graduate success, consumer satisfaction, et cetera. …

 

 

And in the Washington Post a former editor of the Chronicle of Education writes on how baby boomers have presided over a disaster in higher Ed.

Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, ushering in an era of massive federal support for college students through a flurry of new programs: tuition grants, guaranteed student loans, and work-study funds. The law allowed a much greater swath of Americans to earn a college degree regardless of their family income. During the following decades, enrollment at campuses across the country grew threefold, to some 20 million students.

But today, Johnson’s vision of the Higher Education Act as a great equalizer in the American economy is at risk. Indeed, the divide between the haves and have-nots in higher education is almost as great today as it was in the mid-1960s. In the past decade alone, the percentage of students from families at the highest income levels who received a bachelor’s degree has grown to 82 percent, while for those at the bottom it has fallen to just 8 percent.

Who is to blame for this growing divide? In large part, the same generation that mostly benefited from the original ideal of the law: the Baby Boomers.

When that generation went to college in the 1960s and 1970s, many of them paid little in tuition at nearly-free public institutions or received generous federal and state grants that paid for most of their bachelor’s degree. But during the past two decades, as members of that same generation came to power — in Washington, in state legislatures, or as college presidents and trustees — they presided over the decay of the basic building blocks of the Higher Education Act as they drastically increased tuition and pulled back on financial aid.

In a column last week about how Baby Boomers are to blame for much of what’s wrong with the American economy, The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley mentioned how college costs have more than doubled since the early 1980s. But Tankersley’s list of grievances with the Baby Boomers didn’t go far enough when it comes to higher education. A college degree has become much less affordable for families in recent years largely because public officials and college leaders have abandoned three basic elements of the original Higher Education Act: …

 

 

Another day without cartoons, but from a blog in Canada, Syrup Trap, we learn about a wayward coyote who wandered onto a campus in British Columbia. Certain predictable mishaps have befallen the canine.

VANCOUVER (The News Desk) — A coyote that has been seen wandering around the campus of the University of British Columbia has suddenly found himself with more than $21,000 in outstanding student loan debt.

“I don’t know, yesterday I lost my way in the forest and ended up wandering around the campus for a few hours. Next thing I know, I’m getting an email from the NSLSC saying that my loans are going into repayment,” said the coyote.

“I am not in a position to take on this much debt right now.”

The coyote told press that his predicament is proof of how much the costs of higher education have spiraled out of control in recent years.

“All I did was eat a squirrel near the Main Library and make eye contact with a professor. Many students spend five, sometimes six years bathing, breeding and foraging on this campus. I can’t imagine what their costs are like.”

Vice-president Students Louise Cowin said that students should not expect exemption from student fees just because they are wildlife.

“I don’t care if you’re an animal — a wolf or a bird or whatever. Many of our students manage to complete undergraduate degrees without displaying any higher-order cognitive functioning.”

November 14, 2015 – PARIS

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Yesterday morning the president declared ISIS had been “contained.” With that in mind, Mark Steyn posts on last night’s attacks in Paris.

… With his usual killer comedy timing, the “leader of the free world” told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning, America” this very morning that he’d “contained” ISIS and that they’re not “gaining strength”. A few hours later, a cell whose members claim to have been recruited by ISIS slaughtered over 150 people in the heart of Paris and succeeded in getting two suicide bombers and a third bomb to within a few yards of the French president.

Visiting the Bataclan, M Hollande declared that “nous allons mener le combat, il sera impitoyable”: We are going to wage a war that will be pitiless.

Does he mean it? Or is he just killing time until Obama and Cameron and Merkel and Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull fly in and they can all get back to talking about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century? By which time France and Germany and Belgium and Austria and the Netherlands will have been long washed away.

Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight’s events as “an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share”.

But that’s not true, is it? He’s right that it’s an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world – an attack on one portion of “humanity” by those who claim to speak for another portion of “humanity”. And these are not “universal values” but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta “universal” when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those “universal values” are utterly alien to large parts of the map today. …

 

 

 

Roger Simon is a more direct than Steyn. 

I am not going to blame Barack Obama entirely for what happened in Paris Friday — but mostly.  And that’s not just because he famously called ISIS the jayvee team, when they are now unequivocally the New York Yankees or the Manchester United of terror, repellent as that analogy may be (he started it).

But what is clear from the carnage at The Bataclan theatre and elsewhere in Paris that we will be studying for weeks or months to come is that the West has no leader in our evident civilizational war — no Churchill, no Roosevelt, no de Gaulle, not even a George W. Bush.  It’s certainly not Barack Obama, a ludicrous man who thinks the world’s greatest problem is climate change in the face of Islamic terror.  This is the same man who oversaw, indeed instigated, a large-scale American démarche for the first time since World War II.

And look what happened. …

 

 

Same with John Podhoretz

“We’ve gone through these episodes ourselves,” President Obama said Friday afternoon in explaining how the “heartbreaking” events in Paris were resonating with Americans. Well, no, we haven’t. We haven’t been through an episode of this kind, ever. We haven’t had a soccer stadium bombed and a concert venue occupied and three gathering places shot up simultaneously. We have not experienced urban warfare executed by a terrorist organization using a combination of suicide bombers and gunmen. We’ve had 9/11, and we had the Tsarnaev brothers, and we’ve had lone shooters. Combining these approaches is a horror we’ve yet to undergo. About these things, we are innocents.

The question is how much longer we will be. If one assumes this was an ISIS operation, that would mean the group may be engaged in a systematic effort against countries that have announced a common goal of extirpating it. And it may be doing so on an accelerated schedule. Two weeks ago, ISIS apparently took down a Russian airliner. Yesterday, it went wild in Paris. Where next? Germany? Australia? Turkey? 

Or here in the U.S.? …

 

 

And Andrew McCarthy.

There is always the chance that the next attack will knock the scales from our eyes. Always the chance that we will realize the enemy is at war with us, even as we foolishly believe we can end the war by not fighting it, by surrendering.

As this is written, the death count in Paris is 158. That number will grow higher, and very many more will be counted among the wounded and terrorized.

“Allahu Akbar!” cried the jihadists as they killed innocent after French innocent. The commentators told us it means “God is great.” But it doesn’t. It means “Allah is greater!” It is a comparative, a cry of combative aggression: “Our God is mightier than yours.” It is central to a construction of Islam, mainstream in the Middle East, that sees itself at war with the West.

It is what animates our enemies.

Barack Obama tells us — harangues us — that he is the president who came to end wars. Is that noble? Reflective of an America that honors “our values”? No, it is juvenile. …

 

No cartoons today. Nothing humorous about living in an obviously leaderless country.

November 11, 2015

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD 

PDF

 

John Hinderaker has a post on  the growing availability of oil.

… So for thirty-eight years, our government has been predicting the demise of fossil fuel energy and subsidizing, to varying degrees but amounting cumulatively to many billions of dollars, solar and wind energy. What has the result been?

This chart tells the story. It plots global energy consumption from 1965 to the present; you can see the contributions of solar and wind power as a virtually straight line, approximating zero, across the bottom of the graph: …

… The world’s energy story is almost all about developing coal, oil and natural gas resources. Nuclear energy makes a contribution, although it is severely limited by hostility from so-called environmentalists and most of the world’s governments. Solar and wind are a joke, existing mainly because they provide opportunities for graft. And nothing about this picture has changed since 1977.

 

 

Road & Track on how to get the best rental car.

Consider this: Whenever you plan a trip, you spend hours poring over the details. The right hotel location and amenities. Which airline to fly. Restaurants, excursions, nightlife. Yet after you’ve done all of that, you select the cheapest rental car you can find and accept whatever happens. What’s that about?

You can do much better. How do I know? I’m on the road for work more than 40 weeks a year. I’ve landed at 76 different airports in the United States, and, in the past five years, I’ve rented nearly 150 cars. For me, travel isn’t just an activity, it’s a way of life. So when I see people making mistakes with their travel planning, I feel obligated to help. Here are some pointers and rules that will keep you in the best cars at any rental agency.

Pick Your Own Car 

Whenever possible, you should choose a rental car agency that allows you to pick your own car—either a specific model when you make your reservation, or from a much wider selection upon arrival. Otherwise, you stand a good chance of getting a Sonic LS just because the attendant behind the counter is having a bad day. Hertz is the only company that allows you to pick a specific model online when you make a reservation, but it’s only from the class that you’ve paid for—no upgrades.

The best option: Several companies have special programs that give you a choice of cars at larger locations upon arrival, including National’s Emerald Aisle and Hertz’s Gold Choice. You can sign up to be a member of their reward programs at no cost to you. Once you do, you can pay the midsize rate and then you’re free to select any car that they have in their Emerald Aisle or Gold Choice areas. With National, after 12 annual rentals, you get bumped up to Executive, which gives you an additional row of upgraded vehicles to choose from. This can often mean an upgrade of two or three car classes for no additional charge. It’s not uncommon for me to make a reservation for an intermediate car—think Sentra or Corolla—and drive out in a premium Explorer Limited or a Cadillac CTS. …

 

 

Telegraph, UK on why other checkout lines move faster. And gives tips on picking.

… How to choose the best queue:

Pick a queue that is mostly men they are less patient than women and more likely to give up

Veer to the left most people are right-handed so we have a natural inclination to turn right. Do the opposite, queues on the left may be emptier

Avoid the supermarket express lane what dictates speed is the number of people in front of you, not the number of items they are buying

Select a cash-only queue. Studies show cash is quickest

Don’t overthink it sometimes you are best off just joining the queue with fewest people in it

 

 

Smithsonian on how monster pumpkins are grown.

Waiting in line for their weigh-in, a plethora of lumpy, pale pumpkins sag on their pallets like deflated balloons. But to become a world heavyweight champion, looks don’t really matter. When it comes to this competition, decades of intense selective breeding have banished the petite, perfectly ovoid and brilliantly orange fruits with a focus on one exclusive trait: massive size.

Every year, an international community of giant-pumpkin farmers loads up beastly gourds on trailers, carting them to local fairs and weigh-ins for a chance at the title.

The size of these pumpkins is unimaginably large to me—I can barely grow tomatoes without making heart-breaking tears through their delicate flesh, innards dripping to the ground. So I went to scientists and competitive pumpkin growers to ask this burning question: How do you make a monster pumpkin?

The current world record is held by Beni Meier, a Swiss accountant by day, who grew a pumpkin that weighs in at 2,323.7 pounds, roughly the same amount as a small car. …

 

 

Whadayaknow? The governments advice to avoid whole milk was wrong. Investor’s Business Daily is first on the subject.

If you look up “whole milk” in the government’s official Dietary Guidelines, it states pretty definitively that people should only drink skim or 1% milk. “If you currently drink whole milk,” it says, “gradually switch to lower fat versions.”

This is the same advice the government has been issuing for many years. And it’s wrong.

Research published in recent years shows that people “might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk,” according to a front-page story in the Washington Post on Wednesday. “People who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.”

The story goes on to note that the government’s push for Americans to eat a high-carb diet “provokes a number of heart disease risk factors.” …

 

 

 

Many more details from WaPo’s Peter Whoriskey. Remember, never trust the government. It’s run by A students. You know, the ones who sat in the front row.

 U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed.

“Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease.

Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk.

Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.

By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.” …

November 6, 2015 – Laqueur, Bannon, and Late Night

Click on WORD or PDF for full content

WORD

PDF

Three items for the weekend. Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s new book is the subject of a devastating review by Walter Laqueur. Bloomberg/Business Week reports on Steve Bannon who they call “the most dangerous political operative in America.” And we have a double strength issue of Late Night Humor from Andy Malcolm.

 

Yale Historian Timothy Snyder made waves five years ago with the publication of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (Basic Books, 2010). It had been previously suggested that the World Wars of the 20th century could easily be called the first and second Ukrainian Wars. Thus, a book about the conflict between Germany and Russia over that piece of the world was well received. Then, mining the same sources, Snyder published Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. 2015. Pickings offered a review of that book in September. As readers can see, Snyder has made a leap from historian to environmental scold. Here are pull quotes from that review;

In my 2012 book, Merchants of Despair, I exposed the role that Malthusian thought — the belief that the world cannot support a growing human population — has had in motivating most of the worst atrocities of the past two centuries, notably including those of Nazism and more recent antihuman movements operating under the “population control” and “environmentalist” banners. Now prominent Yale historian Timothy Snyder has written Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which also lays out the Malthusian ideology behind the Holocaust.

But instead of forcefully rejecting the axioms of Malthusianism and the claims of its modern adherents, Snyder argues there’s something to them. The world faces catastrophe from the overconsumption of fossil fuels, anthropogenic global warming, and impending food and resource shortages, he says — echoing similar pernicious claims of the 1930s — and for this he blames the U.S. …

… But Snyder has it horribly wrong. Competition for scarce resources (land, food, energy) is effective as a demagogic myth, but it is not reality. There was no ecological crisis in the 1930s, any more than there is today. What there was then, as there is today, was ideological insanity. The Nazis’ war had no rational basis. Germany never needed more “living space.” Germany today has much less land per person, but a far higher living standard, than it had under the Third Reich. The problem was all in their heads.

Similarly, today there is no resource crisis. There are far more resources available per capita today than ever before in human history. That is because resources are defined by human creativity. Thus, contrary to Malthus and all of his followers, the global standard of living has continuously gone up as the world’s population has increased. The more people — especially free and educated people — the more inventors, and inventions are cumulative.

In this respect, America has been the most productive of nations. It is an anti-American — and anti-human — lie to say that we are destroying the world’s resources. The opposite is true. …

… The real lesson of the Holocaust for our time is this: We are not threatened by there being too many people. We are threatened by people who say there are too many people. …

… The fundamental question boils down to this: Are humans destroyers or creators? If the idea is accepted that the world’s resources are fixed, with only so much to go around, then each new life is unwelcome, each unregulated act or thought is a menace, every person is fundamentally the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is enemy of every other race or nation. The ultimate outcome of such a worldview can only be enforced stagnation, tyranny, war, and genocide. …

 

Worse for Snyder has arrived in the November issue of Mosaic where his new book is reviewed by Walter Laqueur one of the pre-eminent historians of European History. Laqueur is 94 years old and it would have been better for Snyder if he had held publication until the Mr. Laqueur had passed to his reward.

… The reception given to both of Snyder’s books has generally been rapturous, if more so in the United States than in Europe, and more so in some circles than in others. They have been called epic, haunting, brilliant, profoundly original, groundbreaking, provocative, erudite, challenging, unforgettable—exhausting the thesaurus. Most of those cheering, however, are not historians who have specialized in the study of Nazism, Eastern Europe, or the Holocaust. Within that more select group, a number have entered serious reservations and criticisms of Snyder’s work, and some have voiced harsher and more heated judgments; a harvest can be found at the website Defending History. …

… The belief in the need for German expansion—Lebensraum—did indeed exist and had an impact on Nazi policy, as seen in Hitler’s invasion and seizure of the breadbasket regions of Eastern Europe. But as far as the Holocaust is concerned, it was hardly a decisive factor. Besides, if Hitler really did experience “ecological panic” (Snyder’s term), he would not have kept it a secret. It would have prominently figured in his Table Talk, in the writings of those closest to him (see Joseph Goebbels’ multi-volume diaries), in orders passed on to his ministers, and so on. It does not. By the same token, the central role in Germany’s economy would have been played by Walther Darré and Herbert Backe, the two key operatives in the regime’s agricultural policies, and not, as was really the case, by the banker Hjalmar Schacht in the 1930s and by Albert Speer in the 1940s.

The theory that the Holocaust was decisively motivated by German domestic needs does appear in the writings of a few “unorthodox” researchers. But those writings mainly date back a quarter-century or so, when environmental concerns figured less prominently on the agenda of intellectual and academic politics; instead of ecological panic, they tend to ascribe Hitler’s decision to plunder the Jews on the need to finance his “social state,” that is, the various social services that added much to the popularity of the regime. In any event, I suspect it is to this general source that one should look for Snyder’s misplaced inspiration. …

… There is a great deal more in this very crowded volume, including its bizarre and much commented-upon concluding chapter with the “warning” promised in the book’s subtitle. Here are the supposed lessons for today that lie hidden within the calamitous and genocidal events of yesterday—lessons about all the terrible and mistaken ways that people react in the face of impending dangers, real and perceived. And here the narrative shifts from the barbarism of the Nazis to global warming, from Auschwitz to Rwanda, from the gas chambers in Eastern Europe to greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, from the Holocaust, which took place, to all kinds of ecological horrors that may or may not take place. I need not dilate further. …

… In general, despite the range of his research and his touted command of many languages, Snyder is more reliable when writing about Eastern Europe (though not necessarily about Russia) than about Germany and the West. Little slips give much away. Thus, discussing Rosa Luxemburg, the famous Marxist revolutionary and propagandist of the early 20th century, he refers to the “immensely influential” German journal Die Neue Zeit. In fact, Die Neue Zeit was a close runner-up for the period’s most boring publication; one doubts Snyder ever had an opportunity to consult it. And was it ever influential at all, let alone “immensely influential”? Hardly.

Or take the treatment of Carl Schmitt, Germany’s best known political philosopher of the 20th century, frequently quoted by Snyder as the man who gave Hitler many of his anti-state ideas: “Throughout Hitler’s career, Schmitt had provided elegant theoretical support for the Führer’s actions.” Here, too, reality is otherwise. Schmitt was indeed a member of the Nazi party—which, however, he joined only after Hitler came to power—and he wanted to be the new rulers’ supreme legal authority. But beginning in 1936 he ran into serious trouble, was charged with many ideological sins, and had to resign from all but two of his official positions.

Then there is the matter of the book’s approach and its tone. I’ve already referred to Snyder’s oft-proclaimed confidence in his originality and Newton-like authority. Another nettlesome quality is his tendency to senationalize minor or inconsequential details and magnify them out of all proportion to their historical significance.

One example: the Jewish personality most frequently and copiously quoted in Black Earth is not the eminent British Zionist Chaim Weizmann (who rates a single mention) or David Ben-Gurion (none at all); neither is it a communal leader in prewar Poland, a commander of the Jewish underground, a prominent East European Zionist, Bundist, or Jewish Communist, or one of the heads of the ghettoes appointed by the Germans. Instead, Snyder’s top Jewish witness is a young man in his late twenties named Avraham Stern (codename “Yair”), the head of the Zionist right-wing paramilitary group in Palestine known as Leḥi or the Stern Gang, which split off from the Irgun in 1940.

Stern, who was shot and killed by a British policeman in Tel Aviv in February 1942, is a tragic figure: a poet, a man of great bravery, and unfortunately, when it came to political judgment, something of a hopeless naif if not a fool. Before the war, he and his followers were involved in talks with Polish officials aimed at expediting the emigration of Jews from Poland to either Palestine or Madagascar. Later on, emissaries of his little group were sent to Beirut to talk to German diplomats there, evidently in the quixotic hope of establishing a common front against the British, then the Mandatory power in Palestine. All of these initiatives went nowhere.

Since nothing Stern did or failed to do was of genuine consequence, why has he been singled out for such extended treatment in Black Earth? What point is Snyder striving toward? That not all Jews were political geniuses? This is not exactly news. Was our author ignorant of the fact that Stern’s poignant story has already been thoroughly covered by historians of the period? Was he personally just so captivated as to conclude it therefore warranted greater publicity? Or was it the opportunity to bring into the picture Menachem Begin, a successor head of Irgun/Leḥi and a former member of the Polish anti-Nazi fighting force known as Anders Army, that he found irresistible? Whatever the motive, his elaborate treatment of this one figure is characteristic of an approach that tends repeatedly to favor the striking or outré at the expense of the relevant and important …

… It is not easy to do justice to Snyder. When he is not operating under the compulsion to play the role of a Newton, or to present versions of history radically different from those of his predecessors, or to indulge his mania for exaggeration and sensationalism, or to waste his own and his readers’ time encapsulating serious and complicated topics in shorthand, he deserves attention, respect, and some of the epithets bestowed on him by his admirers. On certain topics and on certain issues, especially concerning Eastern Europe, his work can be valuable and even innovative. If I have dwelled more on his shortcomings and misjudgments than on his merits, it is because seldom if ever can I remember having encountered so maddening a combination of right and wrong, imagination and fantasy, good sense and absurdity located together in such close vicinity.

In the end, one can say this: Snyder’s obfuscating and half-baked “discoveries” about the Holocaust do further harm to a field of study already disfigured by the work of emissaries of one school or another, not to mention outright deniers. His book will not be the last such venture in misguided interpretation—the varieties are unlimited—but it will lengthen the time needed to repair the damage.

 

 

 

When the book Clinton Cash appeared last winter, it was amazing to see how the book was featured prominently by many in the main stream media. How those circumstances were created is just one of the themes in Bloomberg/Business Week’s long and exhaustive story on the man they call “the most dangerous political operative in America” - Steve Bannon. He is the head of the Breitbart organization and the lower key Government Accountability Institute.

… Bannon’s life is a succession of Gatsbyish reinventions that made him rich and landed him squarely in the middle of the 2016 presidential race: He’s been a naval officer, investment banker, minor Hollywood player, and political impresario. When former Disney chief Michael Ovitz’s empire was falling to pieces, Bannon sat Ovitz down in his living room and delivered the news that he was finished. When Sarah Palin was at the height of her fame, Bannon was whispering in her ear. When Donald Trump decided to blow up the Republican presidential field, Bannon encouraged his circus-like visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. John Boehner just quit as House speaker because of the mutinous frenzy Bannon and his confederates whipped up among conservatives. Today, backed by mysterious investors and a stream of Seinfeld royalties, he sits at the nexus of what Hillary Clinton once dubbed “the vast right-wing conspiracy,” where he and his network have done more than anyone else to complicate her presidential ambitions—and they plan to do more. But this “conspiracy,” at least under Bannon, has mutated into something different from what Clinton described: It’s as eager to go after establishment Republicans such as Boehner or Jeb Bush as Democrats like Clinton.

“I come from a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats,” says Bannon, by way of explaining his politics. “I wasn’t political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter f—ed things up. I became a huge Reagan admirer. Still am. But what turned me against the whole establishment was coming back from running companies in Asia in 2008 and seeing that Bush had f—ed up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster.”

As befits someone with his peripatetic background, Bannon is a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde figure in the complicated ecosystem of the right—he’s two things at once. And he’s devised a method to influence politics that marries the old-style attack journalism of Breitbart.com, which helped drive out Boehner, with a more sophisticated approach, conducted through the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, that builds rigorous, fact-based indictments against major politicians, then partners with mainstream media outlets conservatives typically despise to disseminate those findings to the broadest audience. The biggest product of this system is the project Bannon was so excited about at CPAC: the bestselling investigative book, written by GAI’s president, Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. Published in May by HarperCollins, the book dominated the political landscape for weeks and probably did more to shape public perception of Hillary Clinton than any of the barbs from her Republican detractors. …

… While attacking the favored candidates in both parties at once may seem odd, Bannon says he’s motivated by the same populist disgust with Washington that’s animating candidates from Trump to Bernie Sanders. Like both, Bannon is having a bigger influence than anyone could have reasonably expected. But in the Year of the Outsider, it’s perhaps fitting that a figure like Bannon, whom nobody saw coming, would roil the national political debate. …

… What made Clinton Cash so unexpectedly influential is that mainstream news reporters picked up and often advanced Schweizer’s many examples of the Clintons’ apparent conflicts of interest in accepting money from large donors and foreign governments. (“Practically grotesque,” wrote Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination. “On any fair reading, the pattern of behavior that Schweizer has charged is corruption.”) Just before the book’s release, the New York Times ran a front-page story about a Canadian mining magnate, Frank Giustra, who gave tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and then flew Bill Clinton to Kazakhstan aboard his private jet to dine with the country’s autocratic president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Giustra subsequently won lucrative uranium-mining rights in the country. (Giustra denies that the Clinton dinner influenced his Kazakh mining decision.) The Times piece cited Schweizer’s still-unpublished book as a source of its reporting, puzzling many Times readers and prompting a reaction from the paper’s ombudswoman, Margaret Sullivan, who grudgingly concluded that, while no ethical standards were breached, “I still don’t like the way it looked.”

For Bannon, the Clinton Cash uproar validated a personal theory, informed by his Goldman Sachs experience, about how conservatives can influence the media and why they failed the last time a Clinton was running for the White House. “In the 1990s,” he told me, “conservative media couldn’t take down [Bill] Clinton because most of what they produced was punditry and opinion, and they always oversold the conclusion: ‘It’s clearly impeachable!’ So they wound up talking to themselves in an echo chamber.” What news conservatives did produce, such as David Brock’s Troopergate investigation on Paula Jones in the American Spectator, was often tainted in the eyes of mainstream editors by its explicit partisan association.

In response, Bannon developed two related insights. “One of the things Goldman teaches you is, don’t be the first guy through the door because you’re going to get all the arrows. If it’s junk bonds, let Michael Milken lead the way,” he says. “Goldman would never lead in any product. Find a business partner.” His other insight was that the reporters staffing the investigative units of major newspapers aren’t the liberal ideologues of conservative fever dreams but kindred souls who could be recruited into his larger enterprise. “What you realize hanging out with investigative reporters is that, while they may be personally liberal, they don’t let that get in the way of a good story,” he says. “And if you bring them a real story built on facts, they’re f—ing badasses, and they’re fair.” Recently, I met with Brock, who renounced conservatism and became an important liberal strategist, fundraiser, and Clinton ally. He founded the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America and just published a book, Killing The Messenger: The Right-Wing Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government. Brock’s attitude toward Bannon isn’t enmity toward an ideological opponent, as I’d expected, but rather a curiosity and professional respect for the tradecraft Bannon demonstrated in advancing the Clinton Cash narrative. What conservatives learned in the ’90s, Brock says, is that “your operation isn’t going to succeed if you don’t cross the barrier into the mainstream.” …

 

 

Late Night Humor from Andrew Malcolm.

Fallon: New York City Mayor De Blasio signs a bill requiring stores to keep their doors closed when the air conditioning is on. So apparently De Blasio is not only our mayor, he’s also our dad.

Meyers: The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will visit Mexico next year. Now that he’s met all the Catholics in the United States, he wants to see where they’re from.

Fallon: Yellowstone National Park has set a visitor record. Officials credit cheap gas, good marketing and kids being so distracted by their phones that you can drive them anywhere.