August 19, 2014

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Mark Steyn writes on the appalling police of Ferguson, Missouri.

The “narrative” of Ferguson, Missouri changed somewhat today. But, amid the confusion, the blundering stupidity of the city’s police department remains consistent.

This morning the Police Chief, Thomas Jackson, released security-camera shots of the late Michael Brown apparently stealing a five-dollar box of cigarillos from a convenience store. So the 18-year old shot dead by Chief Jackson’s officer was no longer a “gentle giant” en route to college but just another crappy third-rate violent teen n’er-do-well.

This afternoon, the chief gave a second press conference. Why would he do that? Well, he’d somehow managed to create the impression in his first press conference that the officer who killed Mr Brown was responding to the robbery. In fact, that was not the case. The Ferguson policeman was unaware that Brown was a robbery suspect at the time he encountered him and shot him dead. Which is presumably why Chief Jackson was leaned on to give his second press conference and tidy up the mess from the first. So we have an officer who sees two young men, unwanted for any crime, walking down the middle of the street and stops his cruiser. Three minutes later one of them is dead.

On the other hand, Jackson further confused matters by suggesting that he noticed Brown had cigars in his hand and might be the suspect.

It’s important, when something goes wrong, to be clear about what it is that’s at issue. Talking up Michael Brown as this season’s Trayvonesque angel of peace and scholarship was foolish, and looting stores in his saintly memory even worse. But this week’s pictures from Ferguson, such as the one above, ought to be profoundly disquieting to those Americans of a non-looting bent.

The most basic problem is that we will never know for certain what happened. Why? Because the Ferguson cruiser did not have a camera recording the incident. That’s simply not credible. “Law” “enforcement” in Ferguson apparently has at its disposal tear gas, riot gear, armored vehicles and machine guns …but not a dashcam. That’s ridiculous. …

… And, if we have to have federal subsidy programs for municipal police departments, we should scrap the one that gives them the second-hand military hardware from Tikrit and Kandahar and replace it with one that ensures every patrol car has a camera.

As for what’s happened in the days since the shooting, I’ve written a lot in recent months about the appalling militarization of the police in America, and I don’t have much to add. But I did get a mordant chuckle out of this line from Kathy Shaidle on the green-camouflaged officers pictured above:

Shouldn’t a ‘Ferguson’ camo pattern be, like, 7/11 & Kool-Aid logos?

Indeed. To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camo in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camo in Ferguson to stand out – to let you guys know: We’re here, we’re severe, get used to it. This is not a small thing. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson on who lost the cities.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is, to the surprise of all thinking people, right about something: “A spark has exploded,” he said, referring to the protests and violence in Ferguson, Mo. “When you look at what sparked riots in the Sixties, it has always been some combination of poverty, which was the fuel, and then some oppressive police tactic. It was the same in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Los Angeles. It’s symptomatic of a national crisis of urban abandonment and repression, seen in Chicago.”

A question for the Reverend Jackson: Who has been running the show in Newark, in Chicago, in Detroit, and in Los Angeles for a great long while now? The answer is: People who see the world in much the same way as does the Reverend Jackson, who take the same view of government, who support the same policies, and who suffer from the same biases.

This is not intended to be a cheap partisan shot. The Democratic party institutionally certainly has its defects, the chronicle of which could fill several unreadable volumes, but the more important and more fundamental question here is one of philosophy and policy. Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles — and Philadelphia, Cleveland, and a dozen or more other cities — have a great deal in common: They are the places in which the progressive vision of government has reached its fullest expressions. They are the hopeless reality that results from wishful thinking.

Ferguson was hardly a happy suburban garden spot until the shooting of Michael Brown. Ferguson is about two-thirds black, and 28 percent of those black residents live below the poverty line. The median income is well below the Missouri average, and Missouri is hardly the nation’s runaway leader in economic matters. More than 60 percent of the births in the city of St. Louis (and about 40 percent in St. LouisCounty) are out of wedlock. 

My reporting over the past few years has taken me to Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis and the nearby community of East St. Louis, Ill., Philadelphia, Detroit, Stockton, San Francisco, and a great many other cities, and the Reverend Jackson is undoubtedly correct in identifying “a national crisis of urban abandonment and repression.” He neglects to point out that he is an important enabler of it. …

 

 

John Fund takes up the Perry indictment.

If you want to know where the abuse-of-power indictment of Texas governor Rick Perry may be headed, look no further than how a similar indictment of then–U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison crashed exactly 20 years ago.

Republican Hutchison was indicted only four months after her landslide win in a special election in 1993. TravisCounty district attorney Ronnie Earle — whose successor, Rosemary Lehmberg, is at the center of the Perry indictment — persuaded a grand jury made up of residents from the liberal Austin area to indict Hutchison on charges of misusing her prior office of state treasurer. (The TravisCounty district attorney’s office runs the Public Integrity Unit, which enforces ethics laws for all state officials, and Austin is the county seat.) Hutchison was accused of using state employees and her state offices to conduct personal and political business and then ordering records of her activities to be destroyed. Among the specific accusations was that she used state employees to plan her Christmas vacation in Colorado and write thank-you notes.

Hutchison pressed for a quick resolution of the case because she was running for reelection in 1994, much as Governor Perry has to worry his indictment will hang over any 2016 presidential race he might run. The case against Hutchison slowly began to fall apart. The first indictment had to be thrown out because one of the grand-jury members who heard the case was ineligible to serve. A defense motion to move the trial from the politically charged climate of liberal Austin to Fort Worth was granted. Then, when the trial began in February of 1994, it ended after only 30 minutes, when Hutchison was found not guilty on all charges. …

 

 

More from Phil Klein at The Examiner. 

It didn’t take long for it to become widely accepted — and not just among conservatives — that Friday’s indictment of Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, rests on a razor-thin legal premise. MSNBC host Ari Melber called the case “very weak” while Jonathan Chait of New York magazine declared the indictment “unbelievably ridiculous.” Even former senior advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, wrote on Twitter that the indictment seemed “pretty sketchy.” But perhaps the weirdest part about the indictment isn’t just that it’s without merit, but that the underlying dispute it highlights actually makes Perry look good.

Typically, in politically motivated prosecutions, even if there isn’t enough evidence to convict a politician, the case may highlight behavior that, while not illegal, is politically embarrassing.

For instance, the case that’s been most compared to the Perry indictment is the prosecution of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, because both cases originated from Travis County and targeted prominent Republicans. DeLay’s conviction was overturned last fall for lack of sufficient evidence — eight years after he was initially indicted. But the long ordeal of the case did embarrass DeLay by bringing attention to the often ugly world of campaign finance.

Yet in an attempt to portray Perry as abusing his power, prosecutors went after an example that’s likely to make most Texans sympathize with his position.

August 18, 2014

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Charles Krauthammer says the Hillary foreign policy critique is spot on. 

Leave it to Barack Obama’s own former secretary of state to acknowledge the fatal flaw of his foreign policy: a total absence of strategic thinking.

Yes, of course everything Hillary Clinton says is positioning. The last time she sought the nomination (2008), as she admitted before Defense Secretary Bob Gates, she opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons because she was facing antiwar Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa. Now, as she prepares for her next run (2016), she’s positioning herself to the right because, with no prospect of being denied the Democratic nomination, she has the luxury of running toward the center two years before Election Day.

All true, but sincere or not — with the Clintons how can you ever tell? — it doesn’t matter. She’s right.

Mind you, Obama does deploy grand words proclaiming grand ideas: the “new beginning” with Islam declared in Cairo, the reset with Russia announced in Geneva, global nuclear disarmament proclaimed in Prague (and playacted in a Washington summit). But, untethered from reality, they all disappeared without a trace.

When carrying out policies in the real world, however, it’s nothing but tactics and reactive improvisation. The only consistency is the president’s inability (unwillingness?) to see the big picture. Consider: …

 

 

Mark Steyn gives on update on his lawsuit with Michael Mann. Turns out he has lots of new allies in the ACLU, WaPo, and other media outlets as they all have come to see the danger to them should Mann prevail. As always, Steyn leaves no prisoners.

I can’t claim to know what’s inside Mann’s overheated head. Perhaps he genuinely believes he’s a Nobel Laureate who’s been exonerated by Sir Muir Russell and Lord Oxburgh and NOAA and the British Government and everybody else. But his lawyers – even the ideologues, like Peter Fontaine – can’t plead self-delusion. As officers of the court, they’re obliged to do what Steve calls “due diligence”. Mann has played fast and loose with the facts all his adult life. If I were his counsel, I would be double-checking everything he tells me.

Given the procedural bollocks the disgraceful Judge Combs Greene made of this case, my preference since December has been to go to trial as soon as possible. I’ve responded to Mann’s discovery requests on me, and I’d like him to reciprocate and undergo deposition. I think it would be better, both for my own case and the law in general, for him to lose at trial, and I’d like to get there sooner rather than later. All that said, I am modestly heartened by how this case is going, and by the way Mann’s behavior is being seen for what it is. I would especially like to thank SteynOnline readers from around the world who’ve supported this pushback against a vexatious litigant and prodigious liar by buying my books, gift certificates, exclusive trial merchandise, and even my Christmas disco CD over at the Steyn store. You kept us in the game at a very difficult time when the conventional wisdom was that Mann was cruising to victory, and you enabled me to hire a first-rate free-speech legal team that, like me, is itching to get on with deposition and discovery.

He might still win, of course. Given the ghastly misapplication of the law by Judge Combs Greene, one would be foolish to rule out any possibility in this so-called justice system. My plan in such an eventuality was to put a false beard over my real beard, flee jurisdiction, and undergo reconstructive surgery somewhere where they do a nice job, like Switzerland. However, as I said to Hugh Hewitt on the radio today, it’s clear that what’s changed is that the major media and human-rights groups now recognize that Mann’s suit is a serious threat to their freedom. As the ACLU/Big Media brief puts it:

“While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is “right,” the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy. While a mici may not necessarily agree with the con tent of defendants ‘ speech, they believe that, if left to stand , the decision below will chill the expression of opinion on a wide range of important scientific and public policy issues, and therefore urge that it be reversed.”

So, even if he did win in DC court, we’d be pushing on, if necessary all the way to the Supreme Court. And in the end he will lose, and lose big – because the alternative would be the worst setback for the First Amendment in half-a-century.

 

 

Kevin Williamson says thanks to Mayor de Blasio, New York City’s squeegee men are making a comeback.

The Squeegee Man was the personification of old, dysfunctional, pre-Giuliani New York City. These guys were extortion artists, who would “help” motorists stuck in clogged automotive arteries, such as those leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, by forcing their unsolicited windshield-cleaning services on them and then demanding payment, the demand generally being accompanied by verbal abuse or the threat of violence — and, occasionally, with actual violence. Squeegee Man symbolized the disorder and lawlessness of New York life — not a murderer or a rapist, just one of the many lower-level hassles and terrors that made the city so unbearable back in what some insist on remembering as the good ol’ days of crack addicts and hookers on Times Square.

Squeegee Man is making a comeback, both in his traditional form — as documented by the New York Post — and in a new, mutant form: Sunday Hijacker. Sunday Hijacker is cleverer and more cynical than his predecessor, and his modus operandi is to make a scene inside a church during worship until somebody pays him to go away. Screaming, knocking over furnishings, and threatening violence are his shtick.

On Sunday, I was at Mass at a congregation with whom I sometimes worship (Catholic liturgy on Park Avenue — that’s a National Review Sunday, missing only the tying of a soft-shackle Edwards), and was intrigued by one of the announcements at the end of the service: Parishioners were asked to call 9-1-1 if they were threatened inside the church or on the church grounds by people demanding money. We were implored to make a donation to one of the many Catholic charities caring for the homeless instead of complying with vagrants’ demands for cash. The police, parishioners were assured, had been contacted, and they had promised to pay extra attention to the church. …

 

 

And, a Wall Street Journal OpEd says recommended salt levels may do more harm than good.

A long-running debate over the merits of eating less salt escalated Wednesday when one of the most comprehensive studies yet suggested cutting back on sodium too much actually poses health hazards.

Current guidelines from U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and other groups set daily dietary sodium targets between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower, well below the average U.S. daily consumption of about 3,400 milligrams.

The new study, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Risk of death or other major events increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the latest to challenge the benefit of aggressively low sodium targets—especially for generally healthy people. Last year, a report from the Institute of Medicine, which advises Congress on health issues, didn’t find evidence that cutting sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

The new report has shortcomings, and as an observational study it found only an association, not a causative effect, between very low sodium and cardiovascular risk. Still, it spurred calls to reconsider the targets. This “adds a pretty big weight on the side that low salt intake is associated with harm,” said Suzanne Oparil, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an expert on high blood pressure. Without evidence from randomized trials to back them up, the low-sodium targets are “questionable health policy,” she said. Dr. Oparil was author of an editorial that accompanied the findings.

“It’s about time that major groups who are making recommendations on sodium take a more measured approach,” said Salim Yusuf of the Population Health Research Institute, or PHRI, at McMasters University in Ontario and senior author of two papers on the new study.

The American Heart Association, a strong proponent of the low-sodium targets, isn’t persuaded. …

August 17, 2014

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John Podhoretz posts on a WSJ article about the administration’s interference in weapons purchases by Israel. Now the Pentagon can no longer proceed with transfers without white house and state department approval thus allowing more passive/aggressive behavior towards Netanyahu. 

What on earth? In the middle of a war this country’s president (That would be barry obama) publicly says is  justified owing to the relentlessness of the rocket fire against civilian populations, U.S. officials proudly tell the Wall Street Journal, they are holding up weapons transfers to Israel:

They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.

Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.

These transfers were taking place through entirely traditional, legal, and uncontroversial means. Israel is an ally. It’s at war. War depletes stocks. So why is this happening?

Simply put: It’s a gigantic hissy fit, an expression of rage against Bibi Netanyahu, by whom the administration feels dissed. The  quotes in this article are almost beyond belief. In the annals of American foreign policy, no ally has ever been talked about in this way. …

 

 

Here is the Wall Street Journal article mentioned above by Podhoretz.

White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.

The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved. (See photos and maps surveying the destruction in Gaza.)

In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration’s standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.

Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.

U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal. …

… Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.

Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration. …

… Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress’s goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.

A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel’s main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators’ August recess was to provide an overwhelming “show of support” for the military operation. …

 

 

Jonathan Tobin says Israel should ignore the tantrum from the petulant president. 

Last month as the fighting raged in Gaza, news about the United States resupplying the ammunition stocks of the Israel Defense Forces balanced other, more troubling stories about arguments between the two countries over diplomacy. But it turns out the arguments between the Obama administration and the Israelis were even angrier than we thought. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, the White House has been having a full-fledged temper tantrum over Israel’s unwillingness to take orders from Washington and doesn’t care who knows it. But the best advice friends of Israel can give Prime Minister Netanyahu is to stick to his positions despite the insults being flung in his direction.

The article, which appears to be based on leaks from high-ranking U.S. officials, revolves around the notion that the administration is furious with Israel. The anger emanating from the White House is, at its core, the function of policy differences about the peace process. It also revolves around Israel’s decision to attempt to reduce Hamas’s arsenal rather than merely shoot down the rockets aimed at its cities. But what really seems to have gotten the president’s goat is the ease with which Jerusalem has been able to circumvent his desire to pressure it to make concessions via the strong support of Congress and the close ties that have been established between Israel’s defense establishment and the Pentagon. …

 

 

Pickerhead has been on the case of the public safety goobbers running wild with military gear. Here’s Kevin Williamson with comments on the equipment used by police in Ferguson, MO.

… The old-style police uniform, whether that of the English bobby or his American counterpart, communicated a specific civic ethic. Both “bobby” and “peeler” are slang based on the name of Sir Robert Peel, who in 1829 organized the first modern police force, in London. (As prime minister, Peel would make history, and end his career, by repealing the Corn Laws, a red-letter event in the history of free trade.) Peel spelled out his famous Nine Principles of Policing, which are still in effect and still very wise.

The first order of police work is, according to Peel, “to prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.” The second principle is “to recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions, and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.” He called this “policing by consent.” The policeman, in Peel’s view, was a citizen: “The police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

In that context, the function of the police uniform is simply that of an imprimatur — of the municipal government of London or of New York or Mayberry. It tells little Peter Pat whom he can trust.

Our contemporary and increasingly militarized police uniforms are designed for a different purpose: the projection of force. Peel organized the Metropolitan Police as an alternative to “military repression,” but we, in turn, have turned our police into quasi-military organizations: Armored vehicles roam the mean streets of Pulaski County, Ind. Why? “It’s more intimidating,” the sheriff says. In New York City on Monday, I noted four police officers in battle helmets, carrying carbines, standing in front of Le Pain Quotidien on Park Avenue, perhaps expecting some particularly nasty muffin burglar. My subway stop, which is between City Hall and 1 Police Plaza, often resembles a military parade ground. (Not that they do anything about the vagrants camped out there.) Police in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, occasionally go about their business in army-green armored vehicles and uniforms with woodland camouflage patterns, in spite of the fact that God never saw fit to put a tree within a hundred miles of there.

The different uniforms are meant for different kinds of policing: The traditional blue coat is for the policeman who walks a beat, and the ridiculous stormtrooper suits are for those who roll through in an MRAP.

Which sort of policing would you prefer? …

 

 

Popular Science posts on spotting military gear used by police. The formatting of this article so hard to manage so follow the link if you want the complete story. You’ll like the picture of VA Beach storm troopers riding into battle.

Following the fatal police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last Saturday, a protest movement broke out in the small town. Police from St. LouisCounty responded, showing up with body armor, gas masks, rifles, camouflage uniforms, armored cars, and tear gas. This excessive show of force, combined with gear that looks very military, has lead to widespread outcry against police militarization, including some objections from veterans themselves. Here’s a look at some of the gear on the ground in Ferguson and how it made its way from military service to police armories. …

 

 

John Steele Gordon writes on 100 years of the Panama Canal.

On August 15, 1914, the world was fixated on the dramatic first month of World War I, as the German army raced towards Paris and the fate of Europe hung in the balance. But on that day, half a world away, a ship named the SS Ancon became the first vessel to officially transit the Panama Canal — and the canal was opened for business.

It had been 401 years since Balboa had first crossed the Isthmus in 1513 and “stared at the Pacific … Silent, upon a peak in Darien.” For most of that time, a water route across Panama had been a dream. Thanks to one of the supreme engineering feats of the early 20th century, that dream had now been realized.

Until the advent of the railroad in the 1830s, bulk cargo moved by water or it did not move. To shorten these water routes, canals had been constructed since ancient times. In the 17th century, France built the Canal du Midi, fully 150 miles long. It connected the GaronneRiver, which flowed into the Atlantic, with the Mediterranean Sea, eliminating the need for cargo to sail around the Iberian Peninsula.

The Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes with the Hudson River, opened in 1825, greatly shortening the distance between the burgeoning Middle West and the east coast. It quickly made New York City, “that tongue that is licking up the cream of commerce of a continent,” and the greatest boom town in world history.

In the mid-19th century, the Suez Canal, originally 102 miles long, shortened the sea route between Europe and India by thousands of miles.

The Panama Canal route was much shorter than these three great canals, a mere 48 miles. But Suez was built in a level, low-lying desert. Building Suez was, therefore, essentially a matter of shoveling sand, although, to be sure, there was a lot of sand to be shoveled.

Panama, in contrast, was another matter altogether. …

August 14, 2014

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Joel Kotkin takes his working concept of the conflict between the Clerisy and the Yoemen and expands it into a book on the death of the middle class. A 5,000 word synopsis is here today and takes up most of Pickings.

Later in today’s post, for comic relief, a link to Robin Williams and the origins of golf. It is not language normally used in Pickings, but it does, at least, conform to Pickerhead’s usual usage.

From early in its history, the United States rested on the notion of a large class of small proprietors and owners. “The small landholders,” Jefferson wrote to his fellow Virginian James Madison, “are the most precious part of a state.” To both Jefferson and Madison, both the widespread dispersion of property and limits on its concentration—“the possession of different degrees and kinds of property”—were necessary in a functioning republic.

Jefferson, admitting that the “equal division of property” was “impractical,” also believed  “the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind” that “legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property.” The notion of a dispersed base of ownership became the central principle which the Republic was, at least ostensibly, built around. As one delegate to the 1821 …New York constitutional convention put it, property was “infinitely divided” and even laborers “expect soon to be freeholders” was a bulwark for the democratic order. …

… But today, after decades of expanding property ownership, the middle orders—what might be seen as the inheritors of Jefferson’s yeoman class—now appear in a secular retreat.  Homeownership, which peaked in 2002 at nearly 70 percent, has dropped, according to the U.S. Census, to 65 percent in 2013, the lowest in almost two decade.  Although some of this may be seen as a correction for the abuses of the housing bubble, rising costs, stagnant incomes and a drop off of younger first time buyers suggest that ownership may continue to fall in years ahead.

The weakness of the property owning yeomanry comes at a time when other classes, notably the oligarchs and the Clerisy, have gained power and influence. …

… Perhaps nothing reflects the descent of the yeomanry than the fading role of the ten million small businesses with under 20 employees, which currently employ upwards of forty million Americans. Long a key source of new jobs, small business start-ups have declined as a portion of all business growth from 50 percent in the early 1980s to 35% in 2010. Indeed, a 2014 Brookings report, revealed that small business “dynamism”,  measured by the growth of new firms compared with the closing of older ones, has declined significantly over the past decade, with more firms closing than starting for the first time in a quarter century. …

… There are many explanations for this decline, including the impact of offshoring, globalization and technology.  But some reflects the impact of the ever more powerful Clerical regime, whose expansive regulatory power undermines small firms. Indeed, according to a 2010 report by the Small Business Administration, federal regulations cost firms with less than 20 employees over $10,000 each year per employee, while bigger firms paid roughly $7,500 per employee.  The biggest hit to small business comes in the form of environmental regulations, which cost 364% per employee more for small firms than large ones. Small companies spend $4,101 per employee, compared to $1,294 at medium-sized companies (20 to 499 employees) and $883 at the largest companies, to meet these requirements. …

… This reversal in class mobility and the slowing diffusion of property ownership in America, if not addressed, threatens to undermine the country’s traditional role as beacon of opportunity. Equally important, the diminution of the middle orders threatens one of the historic sources of economic vitality and innovation.

The roots of America’s middle class reflects the critical role such small holders have played throughout history.  Dynamic civilizations tend to produce more than their share of “new men.”  But nowhere was this middle class ascendency more dramatic than in Europe, first in Italy and later in northern Europe. 

Initially, this was a comparatively small, outside group, with much of the activity conducted by outsiders such as Jews and, later, Christian dissenters. They were the driving force of the expanding capitalist  market, the creators of cities and among the primary beneficiaries of economic progress. …

… Many of these displaced yeoman found a more opportune environment in America, where diffusion of ownership, as both Jefferson and Madison noted, remained central to the very concept of the nation.  Small holders served, in the words of economic historian Jonathan Hughes, as  “the seat of Republican government and democratic institutions.”

America’s focus on dispersed ownership was further enhanced by government actions throughout the country’s history.  In contrast to their counterparts in Britain, the yeomanry in the United States enjoyed access to a greater, and still largely economically underutilized land mass, as well as a persistently growing economy. “In America,” de Tocqueville noted, “land costs little, and anyone can become a landowner.”

The Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln in 1862. By granting land to settlers across the Western states, Lincoln was extending the notion of what historian Henry Nash Smith described as a  “agrarian utopia” ever further into the continental frontier. Yet in reality the Homestead Act, which offered for a $.25 registration fee $1 per 160 acres proved more symbolic than effective, impacting perhaps at most two million people in a nation over 30 million. Railways, using their land grants, actually sold more land than the government gave away. …

… As the nation moved from its agricultural roots, the yeoman class interest in property would find a new main expression in the form of homeownership. This would represent an opportunity both to escape the crowded city or, for the migrant from rural areas, live in a less dense urban environment. This drive was supported by both conservatives and New Dealers, who promulgated legislation that expanded homeownership to record levels. “A nation of homeowners,” Franklin Roosevelt believed, “of people who own a real share in their land, is unconquerable.”

The great social uplift that occurred then, coming to full flower after the Second World War, saw a working class—not only in America but in Europe and parts of east Asia—now enjoying benefits before available only to the affluent classes.  In 1966, author and New Yorker reporter John Brooks observed in his The Great Leap: The Past Twenty-Five Years in America, that, “The middle class was enlarging itself and ever encroaching on the two extremes—the very rich and the very poor.” Indeed, in the middle decades of the 20th Century, the share of income held by the middle class expanded while that of the wealthiest actually fell. …

… In recent decades, this vision of widening prosperity and property ownership has become increasingly threatened, as most evidenced by the housing bust of 2007-8. It also has come under increased attack from among the ranks of the clerisy. To be sure, many of those who bought homes in the last decade were not economically prepared, as some analysts suggest. But in the wake of the housing bust, the attack on homeownership expanded to include not only planners and pundits, but even parts of the investment community have seen in the yeomanry’s decline an opportunity to expand the base of renters for their own developments.

The ideal of homeownership, particularly in the suburbs, have long raised the ire of many  academics and intellectuals in particular . Some have sought to de-emphasize increased wealth and seek instead to embrace what they consider a more moral, even spiritual standard. This movement, not so far from old feudal concepts, had its earliest modern expression in E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 influential Small is Beautiful and the writings of London School of Economics’ E.J. Mishan.

Both writers rightly criticized the sometimes cruelly mechanistic nature of much technological change, but also revealed a dislike of the very kind of expansive growth that has lifted so many into the yeoman class after the Second World War, not only in America but in Europe and parts of East Asia. “The single minded pursuit for individual advancement, the search for material success,” Mishan wrote, “may be exacting a fearful toll on human happiness.”

In the search for an alternative, both writers looked not forward, but backwards. …

… Increasingly, the media and many urbanists, who see a new generation of permanent renters as part of their dream of a denser America, also embrace this vision as being more environmentally benign than traditional suburban sprawl.

The very idea of homeownership is widely ridiculed in the media as a bad investment and many journalists, both left and right, deride the investment in homes as misplaced, and suggest people invest their resources on Wall Street, which, of course, would be of great benefit to the plutocracy. One New York Times writer even suggested that people should buy housing like food, largely ignoring the societal benefits associated with homeownership on children and the stability communities.  Traditional American notion of independence, permanency and identity with neighborhood are given short shrift in this approach.

This odd alliance between the Clerisy and Wall Street works directly against the interest of the middle and aspiring working class. After all, the house is the primary asset of the middle orders, who have far less in terms of stocks and other financial assets than the highly affluent. Having deemed high-density housing and renting superior, the confluence of Clerical ideals and Wall Street money has the effect on creating an ever greater, and perhaps long-lasting, gap between the investor class and the yeomanry.

 

 

Richard Epstein on the death of Pax Americana.

Thomas Friedman, the respected New York Times columnist, tried to do a beleaguered President Barack Obama a favor by publishing a summary of an extended interview between the two men, which was grandly entitled “Obama on the World.” Friedman tried to present the President in a positive light, by calling his weak responses “feisty.” Yet there is no denying that Obama’s rudderless foreign policy has been a disaster. The international order has rapidly deteriorated since Obama entered the Oval Office. The current situation is so perilous that so long as Obama remains President, the phrase “presidential leadership” will continue to be an oxymoron.

The President suffers from two fundamental flaws. The first is that he is unwilling to make decisions. He much prefers to play the role of a disinterested observer who comments on a set of adverse events that he regards himself as powerless to shape, of which Assad’s carnage in Syria is the prime example. The second is that he fundamentally misunderstands the use of force in international affairs. He handicaps himself fatally by imposing unwise limitations on the use of American force, such as his repeated declarations that he will not send ground troops back into Iraq.

To put these points into perspective, it is important to address two issues that Friedman never raises with the President: military strength and American influence. Regarding the first, Freidman fails to discuss President Obama’s conscious decision to reduce the budgets for, and hence the size of, American military operations throughout the world. In the President’s view, cutting down on the size of the military reduces the American temptation to intervene in disputes around the globe, and thus prevents misadventures such as our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan that have sapped American strength with little or nothing to show for it.

The second issue Friedman never addressed is the deterioration in world peace that has happened since President Obama became president. …

 

Click here for Robin Williams on Scots and the Invention of Golf

 

Fair warning: The language is not what is normally in Pickings.

 

 

August 13, 2014

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John Hayward writes on Hillary’s back stabbing. 

Barack Obama’s disaster in Iraq is so huge that it’s already tearing the Democrat Party in half.  Hillary Clinton was always going to have to position herself as a critic of Obama’s failed presidency in order to run as the “different kind of Democrat” who could be trusted to clean up his mess, but as Iraq spirals into chaos and horror, she’s pretending she was some sort of silent captive to his horrible policies when she was his Secretary of State.  Clinton slipped the knife between Obama’s shoulder blades during an interview with The Atlantic:

President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion. In an interview in February, the president told me that “when you have a professional army … fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict—the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the “failure” that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

This would be the same Hillary Clinton that once hailed Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as a “reformer.”  The Hillary Clinton who accomplished absolutely nothing during her term as Secretary of State, except racking up frequent flyer miles.  Now we’re supposed to believe she was silently fuming over all the obvious mistakes her irresponsible boss was making?

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic says Hillary took care to pat the boy-President on the head by calling him “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful,” but presumably stopped short of praising him as a “mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” the way Joe Biden did in 2007.  With the faint praise out of the way, Hillary resumed damning her former boss: …

… I hope the American electorate has not degenerated enough to buy Hillary Clinton’s pathetic claims to have been a strong but silent critic of the President she fully supported when she was Secretary of State.  If nothing else, that’s exactly the kind of thinking that got us into all of our current messes: short-term political gain over all.  If Clinton had spoken up back in the day, she’d have crippled Obama’s re-election effort, so what she’s telling you today is that she thinks Democrat partisan political gain is more important than doing and saying the right thing when it counts.  That’s exactly the kind of “leadership” that turned the world into a madhouse under Obama.

 

 

Instapundit quotes the campaigner in chief during the 2008 election.

“You have to understand that if you seek that office, then you have to be prepared to give your life to it. Essentially, the bargain that I think every President strikes with the American people is, ‘you give me this office, then in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you.’”

Is there anything he said in that campaign that wasn’t a lie?

 

 

And James Taranto spots President WhoMe(?) blaming the present Iraq disaster on W. 

At a Saturday press conference, a reporter asked President Obama a question that’s been on our mind since Obama announced a new U.S. military intervention in Iraq: “Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S.–is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?”

“What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision,” Obama replied. “Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government.”

Yes, Obama is not only disclaiming responsibility for the troop pullout but blaming it on George W. Bush–among others, as we shall see, but “the previous administration” is the first target of his pointed finger.

Of course Obama is correct that the disposition of the U.S. troop presence was not solely “my decision.” With Iraqi sovereignty restored, Washington and Baghdad would both have to consent to a status-of-forces agreement, or SOFA. In the president’s telling, the Iraqis balked at signing a SOFA unless the U.S. agreed to unacceptable conditions.

“We needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system,” the president said. The Iraqis rejected that demand. “So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because . . . a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.”

In an April story for The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins painted a more complicated picture. U.S. military commanders told Filkins that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “said that he wanted to keep [U.S.] troops in Iraq,” but that “parliament would forbid the troops to stay unless they were subject to local law.” But “President Obama, too, was ambivalent about retaining even a small force in Iraq”: …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin has more.

… Unbelievably, Obama now claims he didn’t make the decision to pull them all out. Only the commander in chief could pull them out, of course, and he did, just as he had promised throughout his 2008 campaign.  In 2011 in a speech to the nation entitled “Ending the War in Iraq,” he declared: “As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end — for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world. After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011. As commander in chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities. Last year, I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq. And to date, we’ve removed more than 100,000 troops. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.”

He continued into his second term, bragging in State of the Union addresses that he had brought all the troops home. He touted his full withdrawal in his presidential debate with Mitt Romney. Not until Iraq came apart at the seams did he indicate that he had wanted to leave troops behind.

On “Fox News Sunday,”Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked what he’d say about Obama’s insistence that it wasn’t his decision to pull out troops:

I’m telling the president, you’re rewriting history at your own convenience. You got the answer you wanted. You promised to get us out of Iraq and you were hell-bent to get out of Iraq. When everybody told you, you need to leave a force behind, you made it impossible for the Iraqis to say yes. …

 

 

Streetwise Professor posts on the reluctant Iraq warrior.

… Obama infamously labeled ISIS the “junior varsity” in a January interview. I wonder if he still considers that description operative, or regrets that he made it. I note that in contrast to Obama’s disparaging remark, only Friday a “senior administration official” said that in its recent attacks, ISIS has demonstrated “tremendous military proficiency.” Either ISIS has navigated a very steep learning curve, or Obama was spewing garbage  7 months ago. Not hard to figure out which is true, especially if you were paying attention to ISIS in Syria and Iraq last year and early this year.

Obama’s attitude, and his preternatural predisposition to avoid any involvement in Iraq, led him to stand aloof when ISIS scored major breakthroughs in Iraq two months ago, and threatened to capture Baghdad. The inaction then, and in the interim, laid the foundation for what is transpiring outside Erbil today. Obama’s consistent Fram Oil Filter foreign policy procrastination (“you can pay me now, or you can pay me later”) only deferred the necessity of military action, and allowed ISIS to become stronger in the meantime.

Obama’s rationale for letting ISIS run amok is a pedantic one. He is (in some ways understandably) frustrated at the inability of Iraq to form a more inclusive government, and at the dysfunctional Maliki government, and refuses to be “Maliki’s artillery”. That is, he is withholding US military action against ISIS in order to force a change of government in Baghdad. Apparently only when Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds hold hands and sing Kumbaya will Obama relent.

In the meantime, vast swathes of Iraq are getting a new government. An ISIS government that rules by terror and very credibly threatens genocide. Obama’s pickiness about what he considers to be acceptable Iraqi government has given ISIS an open field to consolidate its hold over the regions that it has conquered, and to push for further conquests. …

 

 

Pickerhead always said you can get well by doing good. The College Fix has a post on a prof who campaigns against poverty while drawing $200,000 teaching one course per semester.

A controversial, outspoken law professor who frequently bashes Republicans and specializes in poverty issues as a self-proclaimed champion of the poor earns $205,400 per year – for teaching one class per semester.

The University of North Carolina School of Law pays Professor Gene Nichol $205,400 annually for his one class per semester workload. On top of his teaching salary, he receives a $7,500 stipend as director of the law school’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

The News & Observer maintains a public database of public employee and educator salaries, and lists Nichol’s salary at $212,900. Nichol, in an email to The College Fix, confirmed the figure is accurate. …

… His wife, chief of staff for the UNC Health Care System and the UNC School of Medicine, earns $407,000 annually. Combining his and his wife’s salary, the couple makes at least $612,000 per year.

The Nichol family lives in a Chapel Hill home with a tax value of more than $1 million. They also own a bungalow on the beach at Emerald Isle, valued by Carteret County at more than $512,000. In the summer months, Nichol rents his four-bedroom bungalow for nearly $2,000 per week.

When asked by The College Fix about the large inequality between his income and the income of those in poverty, Nichol refused to respond. …

August 12, 2014

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October 22, 2012 just a few days before the election, the clueless president tweeted this;

FACT: President Obama kept his promise to end the war in Iraq. Romney called the decision to bring our troops home “tragic.”

 

 

Scott Johnson of Power Line asked a friend how it is the president looks so smart, yet is so ignorant. Here is part of the answer.

… I think with Obama it starts with ignorance which in his formative years became a required doctrine of the intelligentsia when it came to understanding the way the world works in matters of international security; to be considered politically correct you had to spurn and despise such painfully developed concepts and practices as the balance of power, the necessity of using strength and diplomacy in tandem, etc.

This was allied with a personal drive for High Moralism, the felt need to build a castle around yourself behind a moat of 12-foot thick walls from behind which you could shoot moral arrows at everyone else to demonstrate your superiority and quickly destroy any emerging criticism of yourself. So from this position of invincible ignorance allied with moral perfection and then allied with power, you could become able to cross a line in history to reach a new world shaped by your conviction of your perfected sensibility.

This would mean, 1.) taking the US out of its despicable role of world leadership, which has been immoral and has caused almost all the world’s problems over at least the past century, and 2.) “Transforming” American into a country moral enough to be worthy of you, a kind of big Belgium. As the wicked of the world have refused to fall into line behind this vision, it has made the president increasingly sour and feeling put upon. …

 

 

Charles Krauthammer writes on amnesty as impeachment bait. 

President Obama is impatient. Congress won’t act on immigration, he says, and therefore he will. The White House is coy as to exactly what the president will do. But the leaks point to an executive order essentially legalizing an enormous new class of illegal immigrants, perhaps up to 5 million people.

One doesn’t usually respond to rumors. But this is an idea so bad and so persistently peddled by the White House that it has already been preemptively criticized by such unusual suspects as (liberal) constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, concerned about yet another usurpation of legislative power by the “uber presidency,” and The Post editorial page, which warned that such a move would “tear up the Constitution.”

If this is just a trial balloon, the time to shoot it down is now. The administration claims such an executive order would simply be a corrective to GOP inaction on the current immigration crisis — 57,000 unaccompanied minors, plus tens of thousands of families, crashing through and overwhelming the southern border.

This rationale is a fraud. …

 

 

WSJ Article on the tunnels built by Hamas and the failure of Israel to totally understand what was being prepared for them. We have some good pictures of the tunnels; one of which is amusing.

Israel’s early failure to detect the vast Hamas tunnel network that its forces destroyed in Gaza is triggering a wave of recriminations within the country’s security and political establishment.

As Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a fresh cease-fire in Gaza that started at midnight there, efforts already were under way in Israel to address the latest challenge to the country’s security. Just as Israel built a separation wall to stem a wave of suicide bombings and developed the Iron Dome air-defense system to blunt rocket attacks, it is already casting for deterrents to address the newest Palestinian threat.

Questions over why the tunnel threat was underestimated, and why investment in technology that could detect more of the passages was neglected, are becoming hotly debated in Israel. So is the question of how Hamas was able to obtain the thousands of tons of cement and other materials to build the tunnels.

Meir Sheetrit, a former member of parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, said there was a troubling lack of knowledge about the tunnel building. “I don’t think our intelligence knew how many tunnels were dug, the location of the tunnels or how many of them were planned for assault,” Mr. Sheetrit said.

“We don’t have the technology to detect the tunnels from afar currently. That means we have to rely on information coming from somebody who knows where the tunnel actually is,” he added. “Of course, it’s not easy for Israel to get human intelligence in Gaza.”

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, rebuffed suggestions of any intelligence lapse, saying the military has known about Hamas’s “strategic project” to build tunnels for years.

“We knew the vastness of the project, and we knew the specific points on the ground to a great extent,” he said.

The underground network was painstakingly constructed by throngs of Palestinian workers, who used sophisticated machinery and thousands of tons of cement in a massive multiyear underground construction project into Israeli territory, according to current and former Israeli and U.S. officials. …

 

 

American Thinker posts on the children killed digging the Hamas tunnels.

… Hamas killed hundreds of children in the construction of its extensive tunnel network, built partly to carry out attacks on children across the Gaza border in Israel. That report–confirmed by Hamas itself–emerged in 2012, not from the Israeli government, but the sympathetic Journal of Palestine Studies, in an article that otherwise celebrated the secret tunnel system as a symbol of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli “siege” of the Gaza Strip. (snip)

Hamas is not only using child labor, but likely child slavery, in building its terror tunnel network. While the world worries obsessively over the child casualties of Israeli attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza, it has ignored Hamas’s deliberate killing of hundreds of Palestinian children, over the objections of the local populace.

The knowledge that Hamas used children to dig tunnels for smuggling and terror up to 25 meters below ground changes the moral calculation of the war significantly. Not only does Hamas show extreme indifference to the lives of Palestinian children by using them as human shields, placing rockets in UN schools and the like, but it actively destroys those lives by sending Palestinian children to die underground in 19th century conditions. …

 

 

And now Power Line posts on reports some of the children were executed so the tunnels would remain secret.

Digging tunnels for Hamas and living to tell about it is no sure thing. At least 160 Palestinian children reportedly died while performing the hazardous duty that the tunnel digging for Hamas entails. This number was reported in a pro-Palestinian journalist based on statements by Hamas officials in Gaza.

But surviving the digging was only half the battle. Hamas reportedly executed dozens more diggers in the past few weeks out of fear that they would provide information to Israel about where the tunnels are located.

The executions were reported on an Israeli military blog, based on statements by Palestinians involved in the digging. The Times of Israel could not independently confirm the report. But who can doubt that Hamas, which reportedly spent 40 percent of its budget on the digging and used child labor, would take the most extreme measures to keep the locations secret from Israel?

 

 

Humor seems misplaced today, but for some relief, here’s Andy Malcolm with late night.

Conan: Monday was President Obama’s 53rd birthday. His age is now higher than his approval rating.

Meyers: A New York restaurant has created the Rice Burger, which replaces normal burger buns with rice patties. The restaurant also replaces customers with empty chairs.

Fallon: A man in Maryland claims that he found one of President Obama’s custom golf balls in the woods near the golf course where the President played over the weekend. Yep, Obama said he’d been looking for his balls for a while. Then, Democrats said, “Yeah, we know.”

August 11, 2014

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Joel Kotkin says CA Dems risk blue collar rebellion.

If California is to change course and again become a place of opportunity, the impetus is likely to come not from the perennially shrinking Republican Party but from working-class and middle-class Democrats.

This group, long quiescent, has emerged most notably in opposition to the state’s anti-global warming cap-and-trade policies, which will force up energy prices. Recently, some 16 Democratic Assembly members, led by Fresno’s Henry Perea, asked the state to suspend the cap-and-trade program, which will add as much as a dollar to what already are among the highest gasoline prices in the nation.

In some senses, this budding blue-collar rebellion exposes the essential contradiction between the party’s now-dominant gentry Left and its much larger and less well-off voting base. For the people who fund the party – public employee unions, Silicon Valley and Hollywood – higher energy prices are more than worth the advantages. Public unions get to administer the program and gain in power and employment while venture capitalists and firms, like Google, get to profit on mandated “green energy” schemes.

What’s in it for Hollywood? Well, entertainment companies are shifting production elsewhere in response to subsidies offered by other states, localities and companies, so high energy costs and growing impoverishment across Southern California doesn’t figure to really hurt their businesses. Furthermore, by embracing “green” policies, the famously narcissistic Hollywood crowd also gets to feel good about themselves, a motivation not to be underestimated.

This upside, however, does not cancel out hoary factors such as geography, race and class. One can expect lock-step support for any proposed shade of green from most coastal Democrats. Among lawmakers, the new Democratic dissenters don’t tend to come from Malibu or PortolaValley. They often represent heavily Latino areas of the Inland Empire and Central Valley, where people tend to have less money, longer drives to work and a harder time affording a decent home. Cap and trade’s impact on gasoline prices – which could approach an additional $2 a gallon by 2020 – is a very big deal in these regions. …

 

 

Sherman Frederick posts on Lois Lerner’s salty language.

If you want government to live up to the ideals under which this country was formed, you’re going to be called names.

Get used to it, because periodically the people who run government grow drunk with power and become a toxic combination of corrupt, cruel and petty. It can happen to a president; it can happen to a dogcatcher; and it can happen to all stripes of bureaucrats in between.

There’s no better example of this than how the federal government treats the tea party.

Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and President Barrack Obama have all tried to marginalize the tea party movement because it threatens their tax-’n’-spend status quo. Respectively, they have called these citizens “extremists,” “Astroturf” (the opposite of grass roots) and “haters.”

But perhaps the insult that best captures the attitude of government gone adrift came from embattled former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner. She calls them “ass—–.”

Lois Lerner isn’t the first government employee to go sour. And Reid, Pelosi and Obama won’t be the last pompous politicians to forget the power of a country founded upon extending dignity toward every human being, regardless of race, gender, religion, politics, financial status and all such other external means of discrimination. …

 

 

Mark Tapscott thinks it is time to view the administration as a criminal enterprise. 

See a tree with 20 apples hanging on it and reasonable people conclude it’s an apple tree. So is it a criminal conspiracy when 20 government employees illegally destroy important official emails?

If that seems like an extreme question, consider the steadily accumulating evidence about the Obama administration’s modus operandi with potentially incriminating documents subpoenaed by Congress: A scandal erupts. Congressional hearings are held. Documents are requested and withheld. Subpoenas are issued. Contempt charges threatened. A few documents dribble out.

Then come the admissions that, oh by the way, emails required by multiple federal laws to be preserved have either been destroyed or “lost.”

The latest example comes from the Department of Health and Human Services, which admitted Wednesday that hundreds of Obamacare emails subpoenaed in 2013 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform were destroyed months ago. …

 

 

Sharyl Attkisson has more on elusive federal documents.

When it comes to accountability questions, one owes the benefit of the doubt to the U.S. government, whoever may be in charge. Managing the massive federal bureaucracy isn’t easy. Responding to the demands from the public, the press and Congress for public information can be time consuming.  However, it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend disbelief in the multiple instances in which the Obama administration is obstructing the release of, or losing, documents in major investigations.

In Fast and Furious, President Obama declared executive privilege to withhold documents in a controversy that the White House claimed revealed no evidence of White House involvement. Of course, if all the evidence isn’t turned over, then how is one to be confident no evidence exists? Further, multiple federal agencies have refused to turn over many documents requested in the case under the Freedom of Information Act as far back as 2011.

In the instance of Benghazi, the Obama administration failed to turn over requested documents when asked by Congress and requested under Freedom of Information law. Only recently, nearly two years after-the-fact, under court order, did it produce some withheld material to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which sued the State Department for failing to respond to its Freedom of Information requests. The documents continue to contradict the Obama administration’s narratives surrounding the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks.

With the IRS, President Obama insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption surrounding the tax agency’s targeting of conservatives. But a key IRS official, Lois Lerner, refused to testify to Congress. And the IRS “lost” subpoenaed documents generated by Lerner and other key officials. These may include documents that Lerner sent to outside agencies and officials. Though the IRS says it will turn over tens of thousands of other documents, it’s hard to feel confident that the most damning ones, if any existed, will have been miraculously saved. …

 

 

Further proof of “gangster government” the Examiner editors write on obstruction of inspectors general.

Billions of tax dollars are being lost every day to waste, fraud and corruption in the federal government, but President Obama’s administration is blocking inspectors general — the officials who are most likely to find and expose such wrongdoing — from doing their jobs. That’s the disturbing message given to Congress and the American people this week from a majority of the federal government’s 78 IGs. The blocking occurs when agency lawyers deny the authority of IGs to gain access to relevant documents and officials.

The 47 IGs minced no words: “Each of us strongly supports the principle that an inspector general must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that IG’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens. The importance of this principle, which was codified by Congress in Section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (the IG Act), cannot be overstated. Refusing, restricting, or delaying an IG’s access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin posts on lateness.

The Post documents what anyone following President Obama’s speeches and press conferences knows: He is really late. A lot. “Obama has been a cumulative 2,121 minutes late to events in 2014. That’s 35 hours, 21 minutes — or almost a day and a half — that his audiences have been waiting for him to speak.” On average, that is only 11 minutes per event, but in some cases (for his Wednesday afternoon press conference, for example) he can be an hour late. (George W. Bush was famously punctual.)

But why is he so late? We can only speculate. But it’s a widely studied behavior in the population as a whole, so there is some informed analysis on the topic. Psychologists have several explanations for habitual lateness:

Angry people who behave with almost exaggerated calm and courtesy might nevertheless express their anger through passive means, …

… lateness is the most obvious form of procrastination. We don’t procrastinate tasks that we are adept at and from which we derive satisfaction or praise. In the case of Obama, it’s understandable that he procrastinates, given how poorly his speeches and press conferences have been received of late. He is often angry, defensive or evasive — and, more than ever before in his political career, challenged openly. Mainstream media figures routinely rip his performances as either dishonest (e.g. refusing to admit he lied on “you can keep your doctor”) or lackadaisical and detached. I’m sure he’d rather hang around with aides who tell him what a swell job he is doing, how mean his opponents are and how misinformed everyone else is.

We don’t really know precisely why he’s late, but one thing is for certain. If he cared about keeping others waiting or acknowledged that his behavior is downright rude, he wouldn’t do it.

 

 

IFL Science says if you forget to get out in the sun, you might forget to. 

Adding to an ever-growing body of evidence, a new study has found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. While previous studies have drawn similar conclusions, this is the largest, most robust study carried out to date. The results have been published in the journal Neurology.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is produced by the body upon exposure of the skin to sunlight, but it can also be found in small amounts in certain foods such as oily fish. It plays a variety of roles in the body and over recent years our understanding of how it helps to maintain optimum health has dramatically increased. For example, it’s thought to reduce the risk of certain bone diseases, bacterial and viral infections and autoimmune diseases.

Interestingly, some studies have hinted that vitamin D may play a neuroprotective role. In support of this idea, several recent studies have found links between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. However, one study also found no associations in men.

To find out more, an international team of researchers, headed by scientists at the University of Exeter, …

August 10, 2014

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Before we return to the latest disasters, foreign and domestic, that have overcome our hapless clueless feckless government, we’ll spend time today on the success Israel has had in its campaign against Hamas.

Gabriel Schoenfeld compares Israel’s careful forays into Gaza with the Allied bombing of Germany and Japan.

Condemnation of Israel for its conduct of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza continues unabated. The chief accusation, heard time and again, is that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have either been cavalier about civilian casualties or are intentionally inflicting them. Israel and its defenders, for their part, have been at pains to point out the great lengths the IDF has gone to avoid injuring civilians, while at the same time noting the innumerable ways in which Hamas has violated the laws of war. 

The debate over these matters has been almost as intense as the fighting itself. All too often, historical and moral perspective have been lost in the rhetorical smoke. No nation can survive with hundreds of rockets raining on its cities day after day while its borders are simultaneously penetrated by armed fighters seeking to spirit out hostages via underground tunnels. Once again, Israel has found itself waging a war for its survival. In such a war, the question becomes: What is forbidden and what is permitted? 

As is well known but bears restating, the campaign Israel has been conducting to suppress Hamas rocket fire and destroy its tunnel network employs precision guided munitions. The attacks from land, air, and sea are designed to destroy Hamas’s command and control facilities and those structures in or from which it has been manufacturing, storing, or firing its huge arsenal of rockets. Before the IDF attacks any buildings where civilians are known to be living or congregating, it issues numerous alerts by dropping leaflets, making telephone calls and sending text messages, and firing warning shots.

In a conflict in which its adversary employs innocent women and children as human shields and fires offensive weapons from or near hospitals, schools, and U.N. shelters, Israel’s effort to reduce civilian casualties has clearly not succeeded in every case. But the effort itself, if not unique in the annals of warfare, is certainly far from the norm. Notably, it stands in the starkest possible contrast to the way Great Britain and the United States conducted their own war for survival. …

… This brings us back to Hamas. Its illegal use of Israeli uniforms in combat is but one of many practices that reveal the group to be not a government or a governing party, but a terrorist organization. Indeed, its fighters fall into the same category of “unlawful enemy combatants” that applies to al Qaeda. In fighting such an adversary, one is allowed to take off certain gloves, as the United States has been doing in Afghanistan under both Presidents Bush and Obama. Our forces there have routinely used a variety of tactics to kill our enemies that entail the inadvertent but extensive loss of civilian life.

All this is overlooked by the wolf pack that constitutes Israel’s critics. So too is the ocean of civilian blood flowing in Syria and Iraq at the hands of Islamic butchers of various religio-ideological stripes, about which Israel’s critics are thunderously silent. President Obama fully participates in the hypocrisy by publicly chastising Israel for causing civilian deaths when such deaths have occurred with regularity as a consequence of the drone strikes carried out in Afghanistan and elsewhere at his own orders, and for which the United States has on frequent occasion felt compelled to apologize. …

 

 

Evelyn Gordon reports on just one of the ways Hamas has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. What has gone curiously unmentioned by all the great humanitarians from the UN and “human rights” groups, however, is the degree to which this crisis was deliberately fomented by Hamas: Aside from starting the war to begin with, Hamas has done its level best to deprive Gazans of everything from food to medical care to housing, despite Israel’s best efforts to provide them.

Take, for instance, the widely reported shortages of medicines and various other essentials. Many of these products are imported, and since Egypt has largely closed its border, Gaza has only one conduit for these vital imports: the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel. Thus if Gaza’s Hamas government had any concern whatsoever for its citizens, ensuring that this crossing was kept open and could function at maximum efficiency would be a top priority.

Instead, Hamas and other terrorist groups subjected Kerem Shalom to relentless rocket and mortar fire throughout the 29-day conflict, thereby ensuring that the job of getting cargo through was constantly interrupted as crossing workers raced for cover. Hamas also launched at least three tunnel attacks near Kerem Shalom, each of which shut the crossing down for hours. …

 

 

Seth Mandel on what we now know about Hamas’ tactics.

The fog of war often means the first draft of history makes the greatest impact but needs to be corrected by later drafts. After the Cold War was over, historian John Lewis Gaddis called his updated book on the conflict “We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History.” More famous is Kinglsey Amis’s suggestion that Robert Conquest call his new edition of The Great Terror “I Told You So, You F—ing Fools.” Yet now we have a rare opportunity in Gaza to apply what we now know to additional fighting in a war thought to be over.

With no deal reached for a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization in Gaza wasted no time in renewing its attacks on Israel today. And it’s worth wondering if the atrocious media coverage of the war, which abided by Hamas’s threats and only showed what Hamas wanted the world to see, will be any different for this round of fighting. After all, as Israeli ground troops left Gaza and journalists went with them, reporters began to admit: we now know.

We now know, that is, that Hamas was firing rockets from civilian areas and among neighborhoods where journalists were staying. That meant they were getting a twofer: reporters wouldn’t expose their war crimes and they would draw return fire from Israel that would endanger foreign journalists and Palestinian civilians. As we know from the Tet Offensive, if you can spook the reporters you can get your sky-is-falling coverage made to order. …

 

 

Victor Davis Hanson makes the case for Israel coming out of this war stronger than before.

In postmodern wars, we are told, there is no victory, no defeat, no aggressors, no defenders, just a tragedy of conflicting agendas. But in such a mindless and amoral landscape, Israel in fact is on its way to emerging in a far better position after the Gaza war than before.

Analysts of the current fighting in Gaza have assured us that even if Israel weakens Hamas, such a short-term victory will hardly lead to long-term strategic success — but they don’t define “long-term.” In this line of thinking, supposedly in a few weeks Israel will only find itself more isolated than ever. It will grow even more unpopular in Europe and will perhaps, for the first time, lose its patron, America — while gaining an enraged host of Arab and Islamic enemies. Meanwhile, Hamas will gain stature, rebuild, and slowly wear Israel down.

But if we compare the Gaza war with Israel’s past wars, that pessimistic scenario hardly rings true. Unlike in the existential wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, Israel faces no coalition of powerful conventional enemies. Syria’s military is wrecked. Iraq is devouring itself. Egypt is bankrupt and in no mood for war. Its military government is more worried about Hamas than about Israel. Jordan has no wish to attack Israel. The Gulf States are likewise more afraid of the axis of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood than of Israel — a change of mentality that has no historical precedent. In short, never since the birth of the Jewish state have the traditional enemies surrounding Israel been in such military and political disarray. Never have powerful Arab states quietly hoped that Israel would destroy an Islamist terrorist organization that they fear more than they fear the Jewish state. …

 

 

Craig Pirrong at Streetwise Professor posts on Putin’s pique over the West’s sanctions.  

In retaliation for US and EU sanctions, Russia is banning the importation of large categories of food products from each: food imports from the US are pretty much banned altogether.

These sanctions are aimed at an industry that is politically powerful far beyond its numbers. Chicken farmers in the US will squawk at the loss of about 1 percent of their revenues, and European dairy producers will bellow in anger. But the economic impact on the affected countries will be trivial. The US exports about $300 million in chicken to Russia (down substantially from a few years ago), which is essentially rounding error in US GDP. European net food exports to Russia are about 12 billion euros, or less than .1 percent of the EU’s 13 trillion Euro economy.

The impact on Russia’s people will be substantially greater. Russia imports about 35 percent of its food, about half of that from Europe and the US. Higher value, non-staples are disproportionately affected. This will lead to an appreciable increase in the cost of food, which represents a very large fraction of Russian household budgets. Whereas US consumers spend about 6.5 percent of their total expenditures on food, in Russia the figure is about 32 percent. A rise in food prices hits hard. A 10 percent increase, which is not unrealistic, cuts Russian living standards about 3 percent.

Putin ordered the government to find ways to increase food production, because, you know, that ukases always work as the Tsar intends. Russian food output will no doubt rise in response to higher prices, but in the short run the elasticity of supply is likely to be very low, especially for vegetables and dairy. Anyways, this increased output will only mitigate the price increases. If Russian firms/farms could produce more at current prices, they’d be doing so.

I predict that since increased Russian domestic production will have little effect on prices, Putin will soon resort to the tried-and-false nostrum of price controls, just like Russia did when food price inflation spiked in 2007. This will lead to lines and empty shelves, so Russians can party like it’s 1989: to those nostalgic for the USSR, be careful what you ask for. I note that Russia also adopted price controls, to disastrous effect, in WWI. Putin is idealizing Russia’s role in that war of late, and employs WWI reenactors to lead subversion campaigns in Ukraine, so maybe he’ll think it’s a great idea to reenact the price controls too. …

August 7, 2014

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Victor Davis Hanson says by always taking the easy route in the short term, the current administration has guaranteed longer term trouble.

The Obama administration often either denies any responsibility for the current global chaos or claims that it erupted spontaneously. Yet most of the mess was caused by, or made worse by, growing U.S. indifference and paralysis.

Over the last five and a half years, America has had lots of clear choices, but the administration usually took the path of least short-term trouble, which has ensured long-term hardship.

There was no need to “reset” the relatively mild punishments that the George W. Bush administration had accorded Vladimir Putin’s Russia for invading Georgia in 2008. By unilaterally normalizing relations with Russia and trashing Bush, Barack Obama and then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only green-lighted further Russian aggression, which has since spread to Crimea and Ukraine.

There was no need for Obama, almost immediately upon assuming office, to distance the U.S. from Israel by criticizing Israel’s policies and warming to its enemies, such as Hamas and the authoritarian Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan.

Any time Israel’s enemies have glimpsed growing distance in the U.S.–Israeli friendship, they seek only to pry it still wider. We see just that with terrorists in Gaza who launch hundreds of missiles into Israel on the expectation that the U.S. will broker a favorable deal that finds both sides equally at fault. …

 

 

Lacking the courage and willpower to stop Russia’s hegemonic leaps, the president settles for denigrating Putin and the country. Craig Pirrong has the story. While avoiding short term pain, President Pretend says he’s taking the long view.

Before departing on his I’ll Golf While the World Burns Vacation and Birthday Party, Obama gave an interview for The Economist. It is beyond belief.

Here is what jumped out at me (from a Reuters article summarizing the interview):

‘President Barack Obama dismissed Russia as a nation that “doesn’t make anything” . . .

Obama downplayed Moscow’s role in the world, dismissing President Vladimir Putin as a leader causing short-term trouble for political gain that will hurt Russia in the long term.

“I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything,” Obama said in the interview.

“Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking,” he said.

Obama told Putin last week that he believes Russia violated the 1988 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles.

Speaking of Russia’s “regional challenges,” Obama said in the interview: “We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy.” ‘

Of all the Obama idiocies, this has to rank near the top.

 

 

Jennifer Rubin posts on the current state of the US-Israel relationship.

… The bottom line is relations with Israel have never been so bad for so long. The Times muses that “the chronic nature of this tension is unusual — and, according to current and former officials, rooted in ill will at the very top. ‘You have a backdrop of a very acrimonious relationship between the president and the prime minister of Israel,’ said Robert M. Danin, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.”

It’s not really the president per se, but the policies and rhetoric he’s used, starting with the Cairo speech (that analogized Palestinians to enslaved African Americans and implied that Israel’s claim to the land was based on Holocaust guilt), continuing through the out-of-control condemnations of Israel issuing building permits in its capital and up to the administration blaming Israel for the collapse of the “peace process” and negotiating a rotten interim deal with Iran, which seeks to wipe Israel off the map. Ambushing Netanyahu with a new position on the “1967 borders” didn’t help either.

It’s almost a certainty that if the president hadn’t gone bonkers over settlements, hadn’t staked his foreign policy on an impossible peace process, had stood his ground in the P5+1′s talks with Iran and not berated Israel publicly for failing to use sufficient caution (what do they possibly know about how much caution is being taken?), relations would be better. How do we know most of the rift is Obama’s fault? Our other allies — Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc. — are just as fed up with him as is Israel. Only in Obama’s mind is everything someone else’s fault.

 

 

Noemie Emery writes on the “genius” president.

It’s now two and a half years to the can’t-come-too-soon end of President Obama’s adventure, but his legacy seems to be settled already; he is the smartest man in all of U.S. history to screw up so many big things.

That he is brilliant is something we already knew. “This is a guy whose IQ is off the charts,” Michael Beschloss said of Obama, who was the “smartest guy” to be president. Christopher Buckley said he was first class in temperament and intellectual prowess, boosting him two slots above Franklin D. Roosevelt in the gray matter arena. “You could see him as a NewRepublic writer,” said David Brooks, closing the argument.

But fact that this genius has become a disaster became clear in mid-June when the Middle East imploded, matching his health care debacle with its foreign equivalent. The non-connection of political wisdom to what intellectuals think makes for intelligence was never more painfully clear.

Democrats are quick to lay claim to the mantle of intellect, at least in the more modern age: Jimmy Carter was said to be smarter than Gerald Ford, everyone was said to be smarter than Ronald Reagan, Michael Dukakis was said to be smarter than George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton said to be smarter than all except his wife, Hillary, and Al Gore and John Kerry much smarter than George W. Bush, whose SAT scores, the New York Times told us, had to be much, much lower than Kerry’s, until it was found they were not. …

 

 

Thomas Sowell wonders if thinking has become obsolete.

Some have said that we are living in a post-industrial era, while others have said that we are living in a post-racial era. But growing evidence suggests that we are living in a post-thinking era.

Many people in Europe and the Western Hemisphere are staging angry protests against Israel’s military action in Gaza. One of the talking points against Israel is that far more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli military attacks than the number of Israeli civilians killed by the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that started this latest military conflict.

Are these protesters aware that vastly more German civilians were killed by American bombers attacking Nazi Germany during World War II than American civilians killed in the United States by Hitler’s forces?

Talk show host Geraldo Rivera says that there is no way Israel is winning the battle for world opinion. But Israel is trying to win the battle for survival, while surrounded by enemies. Might that not be more important? …

 

 

NY Times article suggests running just 5 minutes a day has important benefits.

Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.

In recent years, moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, has been the focus of a great deal of exercise science and most exercise recommendations. The government’s formal 2008 exercise guidelines, for instance, suggest that people should engage in about 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. Almost as an afterthought, the recommendations point out that half as much, or about 15 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, should be equally beneficial.

But the science to support that number had been relatively paltry, with few substantial studies having carefully tracked how much vigorous exercise is needed to reduce disease risk and increase lifespan. Even fewer studies had looked at how small an amount of vigorous exercise might achieve that same result.

So for the new study, …

August 6, 2014

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Charles Krauthammer writes on John Kerry; Clueless in Gaza.

John Kerry is upset by heavy criticism from Israelis — left, right and center — of his recent cease-fire diplomacy. But that’s only half the story. More significant is the consternation of America’s Arab partners, starting with the president of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas was stunned that Kerry would fly off to Paris to negotiate with Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey in talks that excluded the PA and Egypt.

The talks also undermined Egypt’s cease-fire proposal, which Israel had accepted and Hamas rejected (and would have prevented the vast majority of the casualties on both sides). “Kerry tried through his latest plan to destroy the Egyptian bid,” charged a senior Palestinian official quoted in the Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat — a peace plan that the PA itself had supported.

It gets worse. Kerry did not just trample an Egyptian initiative. It was backed by the entire Arab League and specifically praised by Saudi Arabia. With the exception of Qatar — more a bank than a country — the Arabs are unanimous in wanting to see Hamas weakened, if not overthrown. The cease-fire-in-place they backed would have denied Hamas any reward for starting this war, while what Kerry brought back from Paris granted practically all of its demands.

Which is what provoked the severe criticism Kerry received at home. When as respected and scrupulously independent a national security expert as David Ignatius calls Kerry’s intervention a blunder, you know this is not partisan carping from the usual suspects. This is general amazement at Kerry’s cluelessness. …

… Whatever his intent, Kerry legitimized Hamas’s war criminality. Which makes his advocacy of Hamas’s terms not just a strategic blunder — enhancing a U.S.-designated terrorist group just when a wall-to-wall Arab front wants to see it gone — but a moral disgrace.

 

 

Andrew Malcolm analyzes President Part-timer bragging about last month’s job report.

… Take this June, for instance. Obama boasts the economy under his administration helped to create “about 300,000 new jobs.” (Actually, 288,000.)

OK. Let’s look inside those numbers. During that month the United States, in fact, lost 523,000 full-time jobs. They were replaced by 811,000 new jobs.

That might look good, until you realize that only 12,000 of those new jobs — 1.4% — were full-time. The other 799,000 “new jobs” — nearly 99% — that Obama’s claiming credit for were only part-time.

Apparently, in his remarks President Obama can’t find time to go into such detail. We’re pleased to help him out.

 

 

Nate Silver has an extensive analysis of the chances for the GOP to snag the Senate. This is worth reading carefully and bookmarking because on election night if you see Gardner in Colorado and Ernst in Iowa winning, then it will be a very good night for Republicans.

If Americans elected an entirely new set of senators every two years — as they elect members of the House of Representatives — this November’s Senate contest would look like a stalemate. President Obama remains unpopular; his approval ratings have ticked down a point or two over the past few months. But the Republican Party remains a poor alternative in the eyes of many voters, which means it may not be able to exploit Obama’s unpopularity as much as it otherwise might.

Generic Congressional ballot polls — probably the best indicator of the public’s overall mood toward the parties — suggest a relatively neutral partisan environment. Most of those polls show Democrats with a slight lead, but many of them are conducted among registered voters, meaning they can overstate Democrats’ standing as compared with polls of the people most likely to vote. Republicans usually have a turnout advantage, especially in midterm years, and their voters appear to be more enthusiastic about this November’s elections. Still, the gap is not as wide as it was in 2010.

The problem for Democrats is that this year’s Senate races aren’t being fought in neutral territory. Instead, the Class II senators on the ballot this year come from states that gave Obama an average of just 46 percent of the vote in 2012.

Democrats hold the majority of Class II seats now, but that’s because they were last contested in 2008, one of the best Democratic years of the past half-century. That year, Democrats won the popular vote for the U.S. House by almost 11 percentage points. Imagine if 2008 had been a neutral partisan environment instead. We can approximate this by applying a uniform swing of 11 percentage points toward Republicans in each Senate race. In that case, Democrats would have lost the races in Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon — and Republicans would already hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that we continue to see Republicans as slightly more likely than not to win a net of six seats this November and control of the Senate. A lot of it is simply reversion to the mean. This may not be a “wave” election as 2010 was, but Republicans don’t need a wave to take over the Senate. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin has a great idea. Why not “pull the plug on those phony Sunday talk shows?”

On the Sunday talk shows, American politicians come in three categories. The first are there to impart spin that neither the host nor the audience buys. The second are there to be the subject of ridicule by the mainstream media and thereby prove helpful to Democrats. The third are there for the media to test and prod potential candidates for something. (Obtaining information from pols or determining their position on an issue is a minor concern. With 24/7 news, social media and uber-partisanship, it is rare that a pol ever says something new, informative or surprising.) All three categories were on full display Sunday.

We’ve noted before that when it comes to laughable spin on an Obama administration scandal or political ploy, the White House often resorts to sending out Dan Pfeiffer, who seems incapable of being shamed and will gladly say anything. It has gotten to the point that when he appears, you know something laughably false is going to be said. We were not disappointed on ABC’s “This Week”: …

 

 

The Koch Bros. gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund. Armstrong Williams defends the fund against the leftists who have criticized the fund for accepting the gift. 

During the first week of June, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) received a generous $25 million donation from conservative/libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch.

At a time when historically black colleges and universities are struggling to obtain funding for hopeful African Americans students, you would think that the UNCF and other prominent African American leaders would rejoice over the fifth largest donation in UNCF history.

Instead, the reaction to the $25 million donation has been anything but thankful. Some individuals on twitter wrote “UNCF literally sells ‘their soul to the devil’ accepting checks from the Koch Brothers without knowing their evil history” or “Koch donation to UNCF tells children everywhere that money is first and integrity is unnecessary.”

Executive director of Color for Change, Rashad Robinson, said, “Charity is not justice. Giving someone a check at the end of spending years putting in laws to suppress them is not justice. It’s cover. It’s maybe allowing the Kochs to sleep well at night.” …