December 4, 2014

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Two weeks ago Rolling Stone dropped a bombshell on the Commonwealth of Virginia in a story about fraternity gang rape. The story is being challenged as we learn from Erik Wemple in the Washington Post.

For the sake of Rolling Stone’s reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country’s greatest judge of character. On Nov. 19, the magazine published Erdely’s story about a ghastly alleged gang rape at the stately Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The victim, Jackie, was taken into a dark Phi Kappa Psi room in the early weeks of the 2012 school year and raped by seven men while her date, the pseudonymous “Drew,” and one other man provided “instruction and encouragement,” the story claims. …

… When asked repeatedly on that Slate podcast whether she’d interviewed the accused, Erdely sounded evasive. Here’s a rough transcript of the back-and-forth:

Slate DoubleX Podcast: Did they respond about this, did they deny it? What was their response to the allegations?

Erdely: There was never a need for a response until I stepped in apparently because it wasn’t until I started asking questions that the university put them under some kind of investigation or so they said. It was unclear to me whether there was actually an investigation. The university said that they were under investigation but when I spoke to the Phi Psi chapter and also to the Phi Psi national representative, both of them said that they were not aware of any kind of university investigation….

Slate: But did the boys say anything to you? The thing about it is that everybody in the story seems to know who they are…

Erdely: There’s no doubt that — people seem to know who these people are….I would speculate that life inside a frat house is a probably, you know, you have this kind of communal life where everybody is sort of sharing information…People are living lives closely with one another and it seems impossible to imagine that people didn’t know about this.

Slate: Did they try to contact you? Did you try and call them. Was there any communication between you and them?

Erdely: Yeah, I reached out to them in multiple ways. They were kind of hard to get in touch with because their contact page was pretty outdated, but I wound up speaking…with their local president who sent me an email and then I talked with their national guy who’s kind of like their national crisis manager –

Slate: But not the actual boys –

Erdely: They were both helpful in their own way, I guess. All they really said was, they both claim to have been really shocked by the allegations when they were told by the university. And they both said that this is a really tragic thing and if only we had more information we could look into it and that’s the end of that.

Those answers look bad for Rolling Stone. Perhaps Erdely didn’t understand what she was being asked — that is, whether she spoke with the actual alleged perpetrators themselves. She answers only the much different question of whether she spoke to fraternity management, a much less central matter.

This lapse is inexcusable: Even if the accused aren’t named in the story, Erdely herself acknowledges that “people seem to know who these people are.” …

 

 

Bret Stephens refers to the story in his column this week.

… Ms. Erdely tells the story of an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, identified only as “Jackie,” who claims to have been gang-raped by seven young men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity over the course of three hours. The account is graphic and stomach-turning. No less disturbing is the article’s description of UVA as a campus saturated with institutional misogyny and governed by a de facto law of omerta when it comes to sexual assault.

The article has stirred a national outcry. The university has shut down Greek life through January. Congressional Democrats are calling for hearings. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is using the UVA case as an opportunity to push a campus sex-crime bill.

All of this may do a great deal of good. With apologies to Bluto, there’s not a lot to be said in favor of Greek life, much less of the toxic blend of partying, drinking and hooking up. Nor is there much doubt that rape is a serious problem on college campuses, all the more so because an astonishing number of young men do not seem to understand that coerced sex is rape.

But using the Rolling Stone story as an opportunity to promote a worthy cause should not acquit the media from looking closely at the details of the story itself. And here there are some serious reasons to exercise caution. …

 

 

So, if this is all true, Megan McArdle says UVA can find out who the perps are and bring them to justice.

… For starters, there are two people whom the university can surely identify right now.  First is “Drew,” the boy who worked as a lifeguard at the university pool with her, invited her to the party, and handed her over to his brothers to be raped.  There are about 80 brothers in this fraternity; the odds that more than one of them was an upperclassman lifeguard in 2012 seem pretty small, unless this happens to be the swim team frat. 

Second is the kid who raped her with a beer bottle when he found himself unable to maintain an erection; she says she recognized him as a classmate from a small anthropology discussion group.  The story strongly implies that the rape was an initiation ritual for the fraternity, and since fraternity rush takes place in the second half of freshman year at UVA, this boy was almost certainly a sophomore, or maybe an upperclassman who transferred in.  At any rate, it’s very unlikely that there is more than one young man who was a new member of Phi Kappa Psi in 2012, and also a member of lower-level anthropology class.  The university ought to be able to identify these two young men in a matter of a few hours.

But the university may well be able to identify everyone, because the story strongly suggests that an entire new class of Phi Kappa Psi brothers participated in a gang rape, …

 

 

 

Here’s the Richard Bradley piece noted by both Bret Stephens and Megan McArdle.

Some years ago, when I was an editor at George magazine, I was unfortunate enough to work with the writer Stephen Glass on a number of articles. They proved to be fake, filled with fabrications, as was pretty much all of his work. The experience was painful but educational; it forced me to examine how easily I had been duped. Why did I believe those insinuations about Bill Clinton-friend VernonJordan being a lech? About the dubious ethics of uber-fundraiser (now Virginia governor) Terry McAuliffe?

The answer, I had to admit, was because they corroborated my pre-existing biases. I was well on the way to believing that Vernon Jordan was a philanderer, for example—everyone seemed to think so, back in the ’90s, during the Monica Lewinsky time.

So Stephen wrote what he knew I was inclined to believe. And because I was inclined to believe it, I abandoned my critical judgment. I lowered my guard.

The lesson I learned: One must be most critical, in the best sense of that word, about what one is already inclined to believe. So when, say, the Duke lacrosse scandal erupted, I applied that lesson. The story was so sensational! Believing it required indulging one’s biases: A southern school…rich white preppy boys…a privileged sports team…lower class African-American women…rape. It read like a Tom Wolfe novel.

And of course it never happened. …

 

 

Sorry to have closed our week with such a bleak topic. To make amends we close with David Harsanyi telling us “we are never going to run out of oil.”

In a chilling 2010 column, Paul Krugman declared: “peak oil has arrived.”

So it’s really not surprising that the national average for a gallon of gas has fallen to $2.77 this week – in 10 states it was under $2.60 – and analysts predict we’re going to dip below the two-dollar mark soon. U.S. oil is down to $75 a barrel, a drop of more than $30 from the 52-week high.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Energy Research estimates that we have enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet electricity needs for around 575 years at current fuel demand and to fuel homes heated by natural gas for 857 years or so – because we have more gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia combined.

With prices returning to ordinary levels and a few centuries’ worth of fossil fuels on tap, this is a good time to remind ourselves that nearly every warning the Left has peddled about an impending energy crisis over the past 30 to 40 years has turned out to be wrong. And none of them are more wrong than the Malthusian idea that says we’re running out of oil.

Each time there’s a  temporary spike in gas prices, science-centric liberals allow themselves a purely ideological indulgence, claiming – as Krugman, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren and countless others have – that we’re rapidly approaching a point when producers will hit the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum. Peak oil. With emerging demand, fossil fuels will become prohibitive. And unless we have our in solar panels in order, Armageddon is near. …

 

And some comedic looks at Thanksgiving instead of the normal cartoons.

December 3, 2014

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John Fund makes a point about the choice of a new director of the Congressional Budget Office.

It was 20 years ago this month that the Republican Revolution roiled Washington by securing the first unified GOP control of Congress in four decades. That control lasted just over six years and brought both successes (welfare reform, capital-gains-tax cuts) and failures (no major entitlement or tax reform). When a decade ago I interviewed key Republicans in Congress about why the GOP didn’t achieve more during that period, they were in nearly universal agreement: People are policy, and reforming institutions matters. “We didn’t do enough to change the culture of Capitol Hill, from dropping the ball on implementing dynamic scoring of tax bills to not always putting in place the right personnel,” John Kasich, the former Budget Committee chairman who is now governor of Ohio, told me.

The GOP is now in danger of repeating those mistakes as it prepares to once again take control of both houses of Congress this January. Right now, there is a fierce behind-the-scenes battle over who will head the Congressional Budget Office, an influential agency of 200 analysts that provides estimates on the cost and societal impact of legislation.

CBO’s analysis can make or break bills in Congress, and its estimates on economic growth and the budget serve as the benchmark for much of what the Federal government does. Republicans say they will promote a wholesale overhaul of both the tax code and entitlements, planning for the day in 2017 when a GOP president may sign them into law. But will they be able to overhaul anything if they don’t have in place the right people who understand their vision? …

 

 

Now and then a liberal can see truth. In the New Republic there was a surprising article about Ferguson.

Susan Sontag once famously commented that one could have learned much more about the Soviet Union from 1950 to 1970 from reading the Readers’ Digest than from reading The Nation. I think you might be able to say something similar, though not identical, about the grand jury decision not indicting Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing suspect Michael Brown, namely that one could have had as much difficulty forming a fair and accurate opinion of the decision from watching Fox News as you would from watching MSNBC, which, at least when I was viewing it, devoted one interview after another to discrediting the prosecutors’ statement and the grand jury decision. …

… The physical evidence ruled out that Wilson had shot Brown in the back while running away, as Brown’s companion Dorian Johnson initially had claimed. And it was not conclusive one way or the other on whether Brown had, after he turned around to face Wilson, tried to surrender. In all, the forensic evidence did not prove Wilson innocent of killing Brown when he was trying to surrender, but it also did not give the grand Jury “probable cause” to indict him on that basis. Other evidence may surface, but from what the grand jury learned, I think it did the right thing, and that it’s also unlikely—given this evidence—that the federal government, which must meet an even higher evidentiary standard, will choose to indict Wilson. …

 

 

Jonathan Tobin with the first of a few posts on the president’s bad instincts.

… how is it that the man who was elected president in no small measure to heal the country’s historic racial divide has not only failed to advance that cause but has found himself sidelined by race baiters.(?) As with so much else that has happened in this failed presidency, Obama’s inability to act decisively or courageously caused him to miss opportunities to help a nation that looked to him for leadership.

To recall Barack Obama’s rise to prominence and then to the presidency is to think of a figure who attempted to both embody the progress the country had made in resolving its historic racial issues and to rise above the issue. Both his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and his 2008 Philadelphia speech about race were, despite the anodyne nature of their texts, considered watershed events because of the president’s ability to articulate the nation’s aspirations for both post-partisan and post-racial healing.

But once in the presidency, Obama not only embarked on a rabidly ideological agenda that further divided an already polarized country but also used his bully pulpit to sermonize on race in ways that only made things worse. His dubious extra-legal intervention in the controversy over Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates showed how unsure his instincts were on the one topic that most Americans would have looked to him for guidance. …

… By spending so much of his presidency posing as a victim, Obama helped create a reality in which most blacks believe the country is less free of bias than it was when he was elected. Instead of a healer, Obama has become a passenger in a bus driven by men like Dyson or White House friend Al Sharpton. …

 

 

More from Tobin.

… It is true that many African-Americans don’t trust the police and that racism isn’t dead. But by accepting the premise of the Ferguson rioters that somehow the lack of an indictment is proof that the system isn’t working, Obama wasn’t advancing the cause of healing. Even more to the point, by focusing all of his attention on alleged police misbehavior, the president was ignoring the fact that what African-Americans trapped in poor neighborhoods need most is more policing, not less.

As for the president’s suggestions, they speak volumes about how insubstantial the White House’s approach has become. The president said he would seek to impose more restrictions on the transfer of military-style equipment—like the ones deployed in Ferguson when the trouble began this summer—as well as spending money on body cameras for police, presumably to ensure that those wearing the devices would be caught red-handed if they mistreated civilians. …

… But let’s not pretend that this is about better policing or bridging the racial divide. The president could cite no studies pointing to the need for any of his measures nor could he argue credibly that a White House photo op was anything but what he denied it to be: a dog and pony show intended only to demonstrate a faux interest in an issue that would soon be forgotten as soon as the media and left-wing demonstrators move on from Ferguson to whatever the next media feeding frenzy turns out to be. …

 

 

Heather Mac Donald finds the meaning of Ferguson.

The New York Times has now pronounced on the “meaning of the Ferguson riots.” A more perfect example of what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy down” would be hard to find. The Times’ editorial encapsulates the elite narrative around the fatal police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown last August, and the mayhem that twice followed that shooting. Unfortunately, the editorial is also a harbinger of the poisonous anti-police ideology that will drive law-enforcement policy under the remainder of the Obama administration.

The Times cannot bring itself to say one word of condemnation against the savages who self-indulgently destroyed the livelihoods of struggling Ferguson, Mo., entrepreneurs and their employees last week. The real culprit behind the riots, in the Times’ view, is not the actual arsonists and looters but county prosecutor Robert McCulloch. McCulloch presented the shooting of 18-year-old Brown by Officer Darren Wilson to a St. Louis county grand jury; after hearing three months of testimony, the grand jury decided last Monday not to bring criminal charges against Wilson. The Times trots out the by now de rigueur and entirely ad hoc list of McCulloch’s alleged improprieties, turning the virtues of this grand jury — such as its thoroughness — into flaws. If the jurors had indicted Wilson, none of the riot apologists would have complained about the length of the process or the range of evidence presented. …

 

 

Jonathan Tobin was on a roll. Here he posts on yet more Affordable Healthcare Act lies.

Two weeks after the country first digested the revelation that one of the architects of ObamaCare confessed that its passage was largely the product of a series of deceptions aimed at deceiving the Congressional Budget Office, Congress, and an American public that was too “stupid” to grasp what was going on, it turned out the falsehoods haven’t ended. As open enrollment began for a new year of ObamaCare policies, it was revealed that some of the numbers promoted by the administration as proof of the Affordable Care Act’s success were falsified. While in and of itself this latest problem is not proof that the ACA is doomed, with the law’s existing credibility gap growing and more problems looming ahead in the coming year in which the balance between those who gain from the law may be matched by those who lose from it, perhaps its time for the administration to stop pretending this isn’t a pattern. …

December 2, 2014

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The Conversation has a post suggesting traditional teaching methods may be the most successful.

Seventy teachers from the UK were sent to Shanghai to study classroom methods to investigate why Chinese students perform so well. Upon their return, the teachers reported that much of China’s success came from teaching methods the UK has been moving away from for the past 40 years.

The Chinese favour a “chalk and talk” approach, whereas countries such as the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand have been moving away from this direct form of teaching to a more collaborative form of learning where students take greater control.

Given China’s success in international tests such as PISATIMSS and PIRLS, it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities.

Debates about direct instruction versus inquiry learning have been ongoing for many years. Traditionally, classrooms have been organised with children sitting in rows with the teacher at the front of the room, directing learning and ensuring a disciplined classroom environment. This is known as direct instruction. …

 

 

Wired reports on a diesel powered airplane that may be produced in China.

If you’re the kind of person that tends to notice these things, a fair weather weekend stroll in any Chinese city or town lacks a distinct sound: the buzzing of light propeller aircraft in the sky. Outside the commercial and military realms, aviation is strictly limited, and private citizens who just want to take to the air have few options. That’s problematic, since booming growth in the country’s airline industry has generated a need for pilots, and it’s easier to recruit when you’ve got a population of men and women who already know how to fly.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that the majority of Chinese airspace is controlled by the military, and thus hard to access. Any fix on that front would come from the government (and rumor has it an overhaul is in the works), but a new plane from American-Chinese company Mooney could help address the other problems that are holding back Chinese aviation.

One problem is that airplane fuel is not only in limited supply, it’s extremely expensive—about double what it costs in the US. That makes training pilots costly and impractical (many learn to fly outside the country) in a place where flying even with a license is tricky. The Mooney M10, announced at China’s Zhuhai Airshow earlier this month, gets around that problem: It’s a diesel.

“Avgas is really hard to find in Asia” and it’s very expensive, says Peter Claeys, Mooney’s head of sales and marketing for China and a longtime champion of general aviation (the official term for civilian, non-commercial flight) in the region. Only one refinery in mainland China makes high octane low lead avgas, and delivery needs to be arranged ahead of time. It can cost more than $4 per kilogram (about $15 a gallon). Prices in the US—where fuel is also a cinch to find—fluctuate, but are often about half of what the Chinese pay.

Diesel engines have been around for more than a century but are a recent addition to the light airplane world. …

 

 

WSJ with a discussion of the efficacy of electric cars.

Electric cars have been the future of transportation for nearly a century, and despite a flock of new entries, the battery-powered segment of the auto market remains a narrow niche.

Few transportation technologies provoke as much debate as electric vehicles. Fans love them for performance—a well-designed electric car can accelerate faster from a stop than many a muscle car—as much as for cleanliness. Skeptics ask why they should pay a premium or subsidize tax breaks for cars with limited range and utility.

In the discussion that follows, Andrew Tomko, Alex Venz and Margaret Burgoon make the case for EVs. Mr. Tomko, 52, an English professor at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J., owns an electric Fit subcompact from Honda Motor Co. Mr. Venz, 29, and Ms. Burgoon, 28, who are married, bought a Nissan Motor Co. Leaf two years ago. She’s an electrical engineer, he’s a technology consultant and photographer. They live in Lancaster, Calif.

University of Michigan Prof. John DeCicco presents the skeptic’s view. Prof. De Cicco developed an environmental scorecard and was a senior fellow for automotive strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund from 2001-2009.

Prof. DeCicco says at best he foresees a future market for electric vehicles as small, automated cars in densely populated urban areas. But even that is “pretty far away,” he says. …

 

 

And Real Clear Politics has an item on the future of cars with or without batteries.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, has done what GM couldn’t when, 20 years ago, EV1 was introduced as the first (failed) mainstream, all-electric car. Tesla has moved electric vehicles (EVs) from cult to elite status. Seductively designed and impressively engineered, the nearly $100,000 Tesla is a must-own for one-percenters.

Could Tesla, in particular, with its to-be-released cheaper plug-in sedan, along with the other dozen major EV manufacturers, be the portent of an automotive revolution that finally displaces the vilified internal combustion engine? Or has Musk created—no small feat—a modern Maserati? (The latter celebrates its centennial on December 1, 2014.) At present, the wisdom of the stock market gives Tesla a value approaching that of GM, which produces as many cars in a week as Tesla does in a year.

One thing is certain about the future of personal transportation: People like it. So, in two decades, there will be 1 billion more cars on the road, up from today’s 800 million. Even in America there will be more cars. It turns out that the notion that bicycle-loving millennials eschew cars is wrong; the downturn in auto ownership breathlessly flagged by New Economy mavens turns out to have, instead, been about money. As the Great Recession slowly recedes, millennials are buying cars and surveys show they want them roughly as much as their boomer parents did. (Different styles to be sure, but there’s no evidence they’d prefer to bike, hitchhike, take the bus or walk.)

For Tesla’s aspirational acolytes, however, the future is obviously one where most cars will depend on batteries of electricity, not barrels of oil. Is this likely? …

 

 

From Discovery we learn about Nicaragua’s new cash crop – tarantulas.

His corn and bean fields ravaged by drought, Nicaraguan farmer Leonel Sanchez Hernandez grudgingly found a new harvest: tarantulas.

He gets a little over a dollar for each of the hairy critters, which breeders sell overseas as pets.

His take may not be much, but in Nicaragua, a dollar buys a kilo of rice or a liter (quart) of milk. And in just two weeks, Sanchez Hernandez, his aunt Sonia and cousin Juan caught more than 400 of the spiders.

The hunt is playing out in northern Nicaragua, which suffered severe drought from May to September. Sanchez Hernandez’s fields were a total loss.

The 27-year-old was skittish at first about poking around in underground nests, under rocks and in tree trunks in search of the feisty arachnids.

But he donned thick gloves and mustered up the courage, because the alternative was to see his family go hungry.

“It is the first time we have gone out to look for tarantulas. We were a bit afraid, but we sucked it up and did it because of the drought,” … 

 

 

Late Night Humor from Andrew Malcolm.

Conan: Justin Bieber has reportedly met with a rabbi to explore Judaism. After confering with Justin Bieber, the rabbi is exploring atheism.

Meyers: Justin Bieber will reportedly spend the next two weeks with a pastor to learn how to spread the word of God. “It won’t be easy, but I think it will make me a better person,” said the pastor.

December 1, 2014

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Heather Mac Donald in City Journal has more on the president’s irresponsible comments over the violence in Ferguson.

President Obama betrayed the nation last night. Even as he went on national television to respond to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, the vicious violence that would destroy businesses and livelihoods over the next several hours was underway. Obama had one job and one job only last night: to defend the workings of the criminal-justice system and the rule of law. Instead, he turned his talk into a primer on police racism and criminal-justice bias. In so doing, he perverted his role as the leader of all Americans and as the country’s most visible symbol of the primacy of the law.

Obama gestured wanly toward the need to respect the grand jury’s decision and to protest peacefully. “We are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said. But his tone of voice and body language unmistakably conveyed his disagreement, if not disgust, with that decision. “There are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction,” he said. Understandable, so long as one ignores the evidence presented to the grand jury. The testimony of a half-dozen black observers at the scene demolished the early incendiary reports that Wilson attacked Brown in cold blood and shot Brown in his back when his hands were up. Those early witnesses who had claimed gratuitous brutality on Wilson’s part contradicted themselves and were in turn contradicted by the physical evidence and by other witnesses, who corroborated Wilson’s testimony that Brown had attacked him and had tried to grab his gun. (Minutes before, the nearly 300-pound Brown had thuggishly robbed a shopkeeper of a box of cigars; Wilson had received a report of that robbery and a description of Brown before stopping him.) Obama should have briefly reiterated the grounds for not indicting Wilson and applauded the decision as the product of a scrupulously thorough and fair process. He should have praised the jurors for their service and courage in following the evidence where it led them. And he should have concluded by noting that there is no fairer criminal justice system in the world than the one we have in the United States. …

… This misinformation about the criminal-justice system and the police will increase hatred of the police. That hatred, in turn, will heighten the chances of more Michael Browns attacking officers and getting shot themselves. Police officers in the tensest areas may back off of assertive policing. Such de-policing will leave thousands of law-abiding minority residents who fervently support the police ever more vulnerable to thugs.

Obama couldn’t have stopped the violence last night with his address to the nation. But in casting his lot with those who speciously impugn our criminal-justice system, he has increased the likelihood of more such violence in the future.

 

 

Naomi Schaefer Riley writes on the lies of CNN.

Here’s a quiz for you folks in the media: What happens if you’re out doing “man on the street” interviews but none of the men on the street fit your “narrative”?

If you’re CNN, you stop interviewing them.

It has been remarkable to watch the last few days as America’s self-styled “most trusted news network” has sent out teams of reporters to various areas of Ferguson, Mo., ostensibly to cover the protests there. While their cameramen are watching cars on fire and stores being looted, the reporters ramble on about how “most people here” are “peaceful protesters.” …

… From day one, CNN has twisted the Ferguson story. The network decided early on that an injustice had been done, contrary facts aside. When the grand jury decided not to indict, CNN was primed for outrage, because there was no way officer Darren Wilson could have acted appropriately.

The network helped stir up a nation to the point of violence. Yet, since the protesters must always be on the side of angels, CNN lies about the destruction that follows.

It’s rare you see the liberal media’s dishonesty in such stark terms, but CNN can’t control the pictures. If you wanted to know what was really happening this week, all you had to do was press the mute button.

 

 

Editors of the San Diego Union-Tribune mock the “team of rivals” trope.

… Hagel’s defenders say the primary sin of the former Nebraska senator was to question the president’s shifting strategies in dealing with the Islamic State terrorist group and the chaos in Iraq and Syria. Though he earned a reputation as a dove in the Senate, Hagel was among the first officials to warn of the seriousness of the Islamic State threat, undercutting the narrative then being offered by the White House. The first combat veteran to run the Pentagon also told former Senate colleagues that he has long felt shut out of decision-making.

Both of Hagel’s predecessors as defense secretary — Robert Gates and Leon Panetta — have offered similar critiques. They said Obama listened too much to staffers with little national security experience — aides focused on short-term domestic politics and tending to the president’s image.

This is utterly at odds with the narrative offered in Obama’s first term. Then we were told that like Abraham Lincoln, the president had brought in a “Team of Rivals” to serve as his key advisers — able, headstrong men and women who weren’t afraid to disagree with the president.

The departure of Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made that thesis seem dubious. The treatment of Hagel makes it seem absurd. …

 

 

Kim Strassel has more on Hagel’s exit.

Vice President Joe Biden lamented earlier this year that there were too many Americans stuck in a “dead-end job.” If only he had noted how many work near his office.

Of all the reputations Barack Obama has built over these years, the one that may figure most into his struggling presidency is the one that has received the least attention: He is a lousy boss. Every administration has its share of power struggles, dysfunction and churn. Rarely, if ever, has there been one that has driven more competent people from its orbit—or chewed up more professional reputations.

The focus this week is on Chuck Hagel, and the difficulty the White House is having finding the next secretary of defense. The charitable explanation is that lame-duck executives always have a challenge finding a short-termer to mop up the end of a presidency. The more honest appraisal came from a former Defense official who told Politico that Michèle Flournoy—a leading contender who removed herself from consideration—didn’t “want to be a doormat” in an administration that likes its failed foreign policy, and is keeping it.

“Doormat” has been the job description for pretty much every Obama employee. …

 

 

Washington Post gives us a behind the scenes look at an appearance by the Queen.

When officials at the University of California at Los Angeles began negotiating a $300,000 speech appearance by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the school had one request: Could we get a reduced rate for public universities?

The answer from Clinton’s representatives: $300,000 is the “special university rate.”

That e-mail exchange and other internal communications, obtained this week by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request, provide a rare glimpse into the complex and meticulous backstage efforts to manage the likely 2016 presidential candidate’s lucrative speaking career.

At UCLA, efforts to book Clinton and then prepare for her visit were all-consuming, beginning almost immediately after she left her job as secretary of state on Feb. 1, 2013, until she delivered her Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership speech on March 5, 2014.

The documents show that Clinton’s representatives at the Harry Walker Agency exerted considerable control over her appearance and managed even the smallest details — from requesting lemon wedges and water on stage to a computer, scanner, and a spread of hummus and crudité in the green room backstage. …

… By contract, Clinton’s approval was needed for any promotional materials. Clinton gave permission for the university to record the event, but “for archival purposes only.” For public distribution, Clinton’s speaking agency approved only a two-minute highlight video to upload to YouTube. “Please make sure it is available only for one (1) year from the date of posting,” a HarryWalkerAgency official added.

Clinton posed for individual photos with 100 VIPS, or 50 couples — “We get a total of 50 clicks,” one university official explained — as well as two group photos. Lippert wrote to colleagues that Clinton’s representatives wanted the group shots “prestaged,” with participants assembled and ready to take the photographs before Clinton arrived “so the secretary isn’t waiting for these folks to get their act together.” Reiterating the request, Lippert added, “She doesn’t like to stand around waiting for people.”

Like many major universities, UCLA regularly pays high-profile speakers to visit campus. Many of the visits are funded through a private endowment and not with tuition or public dollars. Clinton’s appearance was privately funded as part of a lecture series endowed by Meyer Luskin, an investor and president of Scope Industries, a food waste recycling company.

In 2012, former president Bill Clinton delivered the inaugural Luskin lecture at UCLA for $250,000. Upon learning that Hillary Clinton’s fee would be $300,000, Guy Wheatley, a UCLA development official, wrote in an e-mail: “Wow! She get’s $50K more than hubby!” …

November 30, 2014

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Roger Simon on the Ferguson Hall of Shame which include the NY Times, Al Sharpton, and others. 

That the photograph of Walter Duranty — the New York Times Moscow correspondent who deliberately whitewashed Stalin’s 1930s forced starvation of millions of Ukrainians and won the Pulitzer for it — still is on the newspaper’s wall of fame with their other prize winners is apparently no aberration. The New York Times has no moral center. In fact, it’s despicable. On November 24, they published the home address of Officer Darren Wilson.

By now most of America knows who Wilson is — the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer exonerated for the murder of Michael Brown, the supposed 6′ 6″, three-hundred-pound “gentle giant” who was reportedly on his way to college, but it turns out was holding up convenience stores and trying to grab Wilson’s gun and bashing him in the face all while the officer was sitting in his police car. …

… But the real top of the Ferguson Hall of Shame goes to the people who brought us Ferguson from the beginning. I mean the real beginning. I mean… what happened to black America in the post-civil rights era? Why has such a wonderful group of people who fought so hard against a racist society and won, who brought so much to American (and world) culture had the guts torn out of their community? Why is what was once one of our most family-oriented groups now virtually without family, seventy percent of their babies born out of wedlock? That was unheard of when I was a young civil rights worker in the sixties. And the endless black on black crime? Where did that come from? What caused that? Forget Brown. Forget Wilson. They’re trivial by comparison. Those are the real questions.

I submit that some of the answer is above — it’s part Al Sharpton (and his ilk) and part the New York Times. When I say the Times, I mean the liberal ideology for which they remain the standard bearer, even in their weakened state. They lead the way for the dependent welfare state that has pushed generation after generation of black people deeper and deeper into self hatred and shame, the inevitable psychological result of the welfare state, culminating on the streets of Ferguson and across the country today. …

 

 

Ann Coulter has Ferguson thoughts.

The riot in Ferguson reminds me, I hate criminals, but I hate liberals more. They planned this riot. They stoked the fire, lied about the evidence and produced a made-to-order riot.

Every other riot I’ve ever heard of was touched off by some spontaneous event that exploded into mob violence long before any media trucks arrived. This time, the networks gave us a countdown to the riot, as if it were a Super Bowl kickoff.

From the beginning, Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown wasn’t reported like news. It was reported like a cause.

The media are in a huff about the prosecutor being “biased” because his father was a cop, who was shot and killed by an African-American.

Evidently, the sum-total of what every idiot on TV knows about the law is Judge Sol Wachtler’s 20-year-old joke that a prosecutor could “indict a ham sandwich.” We’re supposed to be outraged that this prosecutor didn’t indict the ham sandwich of Darren Wilson.

Liberals seem not to understand that they don’t have a divine right to ruin someone’s life and bankrupt him with a criminal trial, just so they’re satisfied. …

 

 

Robert Merry in the National Interest posts on the president’s big Ferguson failure.

… One crucial question here is whether Michael Brown’s fate was sealed by an underlying problem in American society or was the result, in significant measure, of his own actions. Another is whether the grand-jury decision was further evidence of racist sentiments lingering in the American body politic or a measured, conclusive examination of the evidence.

If the latter, then there is no reason to use those events as a springboard for a discussion of American racism. If the former, then there is every reason to use the Ferguson events not only as a broader discussion point, but also to question the entire justice system in Ferguson and St. Louis County.

That’s what Obama did. “We need to recognize,”  he said, “that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America.” He said the Ferguson events “speak to broader challenges that we face as a nation” and noted  “a deep distrust” between law enforcement and communities of color.

Obama emphasized that “there’s never an excuse for violence, particularly when here are a lot of people of goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues.” Then he added:

“On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here and we shouldn’t try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America’s isn’t everything that it could be.”

That was the crux of the Obama statement. If you don’t recognize problems in race relations and if those problems aren’t addressed effectively, then black people are going to get angry when events happen such as those in Ferguson, and those angers are going to erupt into violence. Thus did the president seek to put the onus on the country for any violence that erupted in Ferguson. In doing that, he actually placed some of the onus on himself. …

 

 

Robert Tracinski on how the media should not screw up the next Ferguson.

I hate to say, “I told you so.” No, really, I hate it. The city of Ferguson, Missouri, is in flames yet again as angry mobs—largely composed of outside agitators—vent their rage against “the system” after a grand jury refused to indict a white police officer for shooting a young black man. All of that destruction could have been prevented if the media knew its own business and didn’t need constant reminders from people like me about how to report on the use of deadly force.

Specifically, I warned them about Zimmerman Amnesia, the dogged failure to learn from the media’s mistakes in reporting previous cases.

“[H]ere we go making all of the same mistakes we made in the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case, where reporters did their usual bang-up job of writing the story first and then gathering the facts—only to see much of the early narrative about the shooting dissolve before the case even reached trial. Everyone was shocked when a supposedly open-and-shut case ended with an acquittal, even though it was clear that many of the details were ambiguous and left room for reasonable doubt. Which made that case little different from hundreds of others involving the use of deadly force….

We ought to know from past experience how horribly inaccurate early reports about violent incidents can be. We ought to know how much can be distorted, misrepresented, and misunderstood by seemingly official or sympathetic sources on all sides, how long it can take for accurate information to come out, and how equivocal the results can be, with the evidence so evenly balanced as to convince partisans on both sides that they are right. But when every new politically charged shooting comes along, we forget what we should have learned, and there we all go, back to making confident pronouncements about who we think did what, who is the villain, and what is the remedy.”

That’s exactly what happened. The early reports were very clear that Michael Brown was a good, kind-hearted young man bound for college, that the shooting was totally unprovoked, that he was shot multiple times in the back, that he was executed in cold blood. Then the evidence, as it emerged, knocked down each of these claims one by one. …

 

 

Car and Driver has the list of cars in the massive 7 million car Takata air bag recall; a few Ford and GM products and lots of Chrysler and Japanese brands.

The automotive world and beyond is buzzing about the massive airbag recall covering many millions of vehicles in the U.S. from nearly two dozen brands. Here’s what you need to know about the problem; which vehicles may have the defective, shrapnel-shooting inflator parts from Japanese supplier Takata; and what to do if your vehicle is one of them.

The issue involves defective inflator and propellent devices that may deploy improperly in the event of a crash, shooting metal fragments into vehicle occupants. More than 7 million vehicles are potentially affected in the United States.

Initially, only six makes were involved when Takata announced the fault in April 2013, but a Toyota recall in June this year—along with new admissions from Takata that it had little clue as to which cars used its defective inflators, or even what the root cause was—prompted more automakers to issue identical recalls. In July, NHTSA forced additional regional recalls in high-humidity areas including Florida, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to gather removed parts and send them to Takata for review.

Another major recall issued on October 20 expanded the affected vehicles across several brands. For its part, Toyota said it would begin to replace defective passenger-side inflators starting October 25; if parts are unavailable, however, it has advised its dealers to disable the airbags and affix “Do Not Sit Here” messages to the dashboard.

November 27, 2014

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The recent House Benghazi committee report prompted Walter Russell Mead to retail the idea we need more congressional involvement in our foreign policy.

… At the same time, with our Libyan policy, like the country itself, in ruins, one has the sense that the Benghazi investigation missed the larger point. The United States participated in the overthrow of the Qaddafi government, largely on humanitarian grounds, but we were utterly unprepared for the aftermath. Libya is in chaos today, radical jihadi groups have proliferated in the ruins, Qaddafi’s arms and fighters have fanned out across North Africa and the Middle East, and arguably more Libyans have died as the result of the intervention than would have perished had we stayed home. On top of this, there are credible allegations that the U.S. had guaranteed Qaddafi’s safety when he gave up his WMD program. Did our intervention in Libya break a pledge, or did it reduce our ability to persuade other countries to abstain from WMD programs? Did the decision to intervene in Libya also mean that the U.S. was less ready and able to respond appropriately to the much greater humanitarian and strategic crisis that holds Syria in its grip?

Benghazi was one consequence of a much larger and more serious policy failure, and the costs of that failure are still mounting up. By focusing narrowly on Benghazi, Congress missed the bigger question and the more consequential failure. Again, the question is less one of partisan politics than of the national interest: what can we learn from policies that go awry so that in future we can make better choices?

A review of our policy failure in Libya (or earlier ones in Iraq and elsewhere) isn’t just about second guessing and assigning blame. It is about making sure that the nation’s foreign policy infrastructure is up to the tasks that our turbulent century has set for us.

This is the investigation we needed after the Libya fiasco. Unfortunately, unless something changes we are unlikely to get it.

What we need to do at this point is begin to rethink the role of the Congress in American foreign policy. If there is one thing that has become clear since the end of the Cold War, it is that the United States needs to raise its game in foreign policy. …

 

 

Seth Mandel posts on Susan Rice’s part in Hagel’s failure. 

Chuck Hagel’s unceremonious dismissal as secretary of defense has refocused attention, once again, on the insularity of President Obama’s inner circle, its suspicion of outside voices, and its distaste for dissent. But it has changed in one way: this time, the concerns about secrecy, enforced groupthink, and high school clique behavior don’t center on Valerie Jarrett. Instead, the name that keeps surfacing is that of National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

It’s true that this isn’t the first time we’re hearing of the toxic atmosphere and mismanagement at Rice’s National Security Council. But it’s striking how clearly the battle lines appear to be drawn in the steady stream of bitter leaks aimed at Hagel, designed to kick him while he’s down. The cruelty with which the Obama insiders are behaving right now is unsettling, to be sure. But more relevant to the formation of national-security policy is the question of whether Susan Rice’s incompetence and pride are playing a role in the constant stream of Obama foreign-policy failures. …

 

 

Debra Saunders has more on Hagel.

… In one sense, Hagel’s forced exit is reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the disastrous 2006 midterm elections. Except the difference here, Hoover Institution fellow Kori Schake pointed out, is that in terminating Rumsfeld, Bush “was announcing a change in approach. Obama fired Hagel while insisting there would be no change in approach.”

“They needed a dead body in the hallway,” Schake continued, and “Hagel was the most expendable” because he was not part of the president’s very tightknit and very like-minded inner circle.

If that wasn’t clear, look who was sitting in the front row during Hagel’s 15-minute goodbye: national security adviser Susan Rice. In October, Hagel sent Rice a two-page memo about his concerns that the administration’s Syrian strategy might strengthen the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Now Hagel, the administration critic, is gone, and Rice, the administration enforcer, remains in power.

Schake was no fan of Hagel’s leadership at the Pentagon. She can’t get over the fact that in heat of the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, Hagel actually proposed the idea of banning smoking in the military. (“Really? That’s where you’re going to put your effort?”) Still, Schake believes that the president threw Hagel under the bus for something Hagel did right — his warning that military strategy in Syria needs to change. …

 

 

It was not widely reported, but FOX beat everybody, even the networks, in the election coverage. David Zuriwak of the Baltimore Sun has the story.

… But there are three ratings stories the last two weeks that taken together show Fox News rising to a new and remarkable level of dominance – and they have been underreported in the mainstream media.

First, Fox News beat not just CNN and MSNBC, but also ABC, NBC and CBS on Nov. 4, the night of the mid-term elections.  It did so in both total viewers and the key news demographic: viewers 25 to 54 years of age.Fox more than tripled the audiences of MSNBC and CNN in total viewers, while beating ABC, NBC and CBS by more than 3 million, 2 million and 1 million viewers respectively. (See figures at end of post.)

On a watershed political night, more Americans tuned to Fox for information about the vote than anywhere else.

I have been covering media long enough to remember when CBS, NBC or ABC was the big story on election night in the 1970s and ‘80s.

And, as a critic, as late as 2008, I was thinking no channel mattered more than CNN. This year, for all the reporters it had on the ground election night, CNN barely did better than the we-lost-our-credibility-in-our-slavish-devotion-to-Obama MSNBC. That’s pathetic.Second, buoyed by its election-night juggernaut,  Fox was the highest-rated cable channel of the week of Nov. 3, beating such ratings engines as Nickelodeon and ESPN.  That’s not the highest-rated cable news channel, the universe it used to live in. That’s highest-rated period – beating all the entertainment channels like AMC and TNT. …

 

 

In keeping with their devotion to this president, NBC and ABC have yet to report on GruberGate. Ricochet post suggests the RNC stop allowing those networks to be part of the election campaign.

… The GOP cannot control who NBC, ABC and CBS put into executive news editorial positions or the stories they choose to report, or not report. However, they can choose if they participate any longer with conglomerates whose clear goal is to protect an unpopular President and elevate a future Presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton. It is time to stop complaining about media bias and do something about it. Something bold.

ABC and NBC have instituted a three-week blackout — on network broadcasts, websites and social media pages — of the devastating admissions of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. The ACA architect repeatedly boasted of deceiving the American public about legislation that cost six million people their family doctor. This should be the final straw in any relationship the GOP and RNC leadership has with these networks, period. No more debates, no more appearances on “Meet The Press,” “Morning Joe,” or “This Week” on ABC.

Boycott both NBC and ABC over failing to report on Gruber’s revelations and put CBS on final notice over the revelations that they coordinated with the Obama administration to tank Sharyl Attkisson’s Benghazi reporting. …

 

 

Noemie Emery reminds us what a lot of fools like, Chris Buckley and David Brooks said about the man who proved to be an awful president.

… “Having a first class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama … has in him the potential to be a good, perhaps even a great leader,” said Christopher Buckley.

“What struck me is how incredibly even … and how reassuring he is,” David Brooks told us. “Obama is just the mountain. He’s there. He’s always the same. … His steadiness, his temperament has been the dramatic theme of this … campaign.”

Reagan appointee Kenneth Adelman slammed John McCain (and Sarah Palin) while praising the Democrat’s judgment and temperament.

Former Reagan chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein followed suit, saying the Palin pick (like Obama, she had served only a part of her first term in state office) “had very much undermined the whole question of John McCain’s judgment.” His endorsement came a few days after those of his friend Colin Powell, whose career had been made by the Reagans and Bushes.

What these brains helped to give us was the worst presidential temperament since Richard M. Nixon, an under-experienced brittle narcissist, lacking in all the political skills save those of campaigning, whose main legacies will be an unworkable healthcare “reform” and a wholly avoidable Middle Eastern crisis. Obama’s lack of political sense has gotten him into many disasters, which his lack of political temperament only makes worse.

 

 

A story from The Hill shows there is nothing the president won’t lie about. Billy Joel kicked the cigarette habit until recently when The One invited him out to the North Portico for a smoke.

… Joel had received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song earlier that evening at a star-studded gala at DAR Constitution Hall. With “no entourage” around, our source — who counts themselves among Joel’s “biggest fans” — struck up a conversation with the “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” singer.

Joel described the day’s events, mentioning that he went over to Capitol Hill to Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office. Our tipster says that Joel recalled the Speaker, well-known for his nicotine habit, opened up a drawer, then “pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered me one. And I said, ‘No thanks, I quit.’ ”

A photo posted on Boehner’s Instagram page Wednesday shows the pair chatting in the lawmaker’s office at the Capitol.

Then, Joel remembered another tobacco offer from a high-profile politician. According to our tipster, the 65-year-old entertainer said, “I was at the White House recently, and President Obama did the same thing. He said, ‘I’m going out on the North Portico to have a smoke. Do you want to come with me?”

Joel said he replied, “Well, I haven’t smoked in a long time,” but indicated that he ultimately couldn’t turn down a cigarette offer from the president. …

 

 

Is there nothing statins can’t do? Scientific American says they may protect people from air pollution.

One of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States may have an extra benefit: protecting people from air pollution.

Statins, prescribed to lower cholesterol and reduce risks of heart attacks and strokes, seem to diminish inflammation that occurs after people breathe airborne particles.

“Health impacts from spikes in particulates in the air are substantial. Statins seem to protect not only lungs from these impacts but the heart, too,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, the American Lung Association’s senior medical advisor.

About one in four Americans over the age of 45 takes statins, including Lipitor, Zocor and other brand names.

Although drugs cannot be prescribed to protect people from air pollution, several studies show that people who take statins have fewer proteins in their blood that indicate inflammation of tissues, said Dr. Stephan van Eeden, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in lung health. This inflammation may aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Most recently, a study of 1,923 U.S. women found that those taking statins are less likely to have signs of inflammation, said Bart Ostro, an epidemiologist with California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment who led the study. …

November 26, 2014

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Kevin Williamson writes on the small man in the big office.

… In an elected official, patriotism means, among other things, elevating the interests of the country above the interests of party and career. President Obama has failed to do that, seems personally incapable of doing that, and in fact has done the opposite. He might be reminded, at the very least, that his presidential duty is to the citizens of the United States, not to citizens of other countries, regardless of where they happen to be located at any given moment. But the very idea of taking that seriously seems foreign to him.

We already knew that Barack Obama is a coward – a man who, to take one obvious example, pronounced himself opposed to gay marriage right up until the millisecond that political calculation demanded he do otherwise, and who now believes that it is mandated by the Constitution. His putting off his amnesty announcement until after the election – and his dishonest refusal to acknowledge that it is an amnesty – is another example. We already knew that he is a liar (“If you like your coverage . . . ”) and have some reason to suspect that he is a fool. But the fundamental problem is that he is a lawyer, one without the intellectual or moral equipment to be anything more than a litigator of the picayune. For President Obama and his enablers, the law is a species of magic: He is entitled to do whatever he pleases, even when it plainly violates both the national interest and our longstanding habits of government, if he can simply think of a way to say the right words in the right order as he acts. That isn’t governance – that’s alchemical hokum, transforming the dross of Democratic political ambition into pure gold.

There are many defects with that model of government, but the largest one is that the words “illegal” and “legal” no longer have any meaning. If a sufficiently powerful person or faction demands that the illegal should be the legal, then it is so. Never mind the law – and certainly never mind the lawmakers, who are increasingly irrelevant in our emerging Gaullist, strongman form of government. Charles de Gaulle and his supporters at least had the intellectual honesty to call that form of government what it is: rule by decree.

And he may yet get away with it. But a wiser and better man would not try to.

 

 

John Fund suggests the president will have as much trouble in the courts as he did at Saturday Night Live.

… Saturday Night Live ran a wicked parody of his moves, turning inside out the old 1970s Schoolhouse Rock skit on how a bill becomes a law. “There’s actually an even easier way to get things done around here, and it’s called an executive order,” Obama (played by Jay Pharoah) proclaims as he shoves cast member Kenan Thompson, who is dressed as a Bill, down the Capitol Steps. Actor Bobby Moynihan then shows up smoking a cigarette and dressed as an Executive Order. He sings, “I’m an executive order, and I pretty much just happen.” The “little boy” who is there to learn how government works then asks, “Wait a second, don’t you have to go through Congress at some point?” “Aw, that’s adorable, you still think that’s how government works,” Executive Order responds, as “President Obama” smirks nearby. The Bill (Thompson) climbs back up the stairs to warn: “Look at the midterm elections. People clearly don’t want this.” Obama kicks him down the stairs again. It’s Obama as a bully, unwilling to listen to others. …

… During the height of the Korean War, President Harry Truman acted to block a potential strike of America’s steel mills by ordering his secretary of Commerce to seize control of the mills. The Supreme Court ruled, in a 6–3 decision, that the president’s actions had violated the Constitution. The Court held that a president may use the limited powers granted him in the Constitution but that his “power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker.”

President Obama may indeed see himself as a modern-day Lincoln, acting boldly to address a national “emergency” of immigration — conveniently timed to fall just days after the midterm elections. But it is far more likely that the public and eventually the courts will see him as closer to the figure that Saturday Night Live portrayed: an overreaching bully whose own previous statements undermine his brand-new assertions.

 

 

Streetwise Professor posts on more slights of our allies.

The Marines have a saying: “No better friend. No worse enemy.” Obama is hell-bent on reversing that formulation.

One leg of his foreign policy could be dubbed FOF: F’ Our Friends. I’ve discussed one example of that recently: Obama’s inveterate opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, and his fact free defense of his indefensible position. In adhering to this position, Obama is giving Canada the back of his hand.

The Australian reports of another example. Obama spurned the advice of the US ambassador to Australia, and delivered a truculent speech that directly attacked the Australian government’s climate change policies: …

… Maybe it’s something about the Anglosphere. Obama’s animus against the UK (which has also fought shoulder-to-shoulder with America in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and now against ISIS) is well-known.

And for what is Obama slagging our allies? A farcical war on CO2.

While the FOF campaign is in full swing, Obama continues his Ahab-like pursuit of a deal with a nation that has been assiduously killing Americans for 25 years.

That’s Obama’s America. No worse friend. No better enemy. Two years cannot pass quickly enough.

 

 

Back to GruberGate just so we can highlight this from Howie Carr.

Do you realize that every last one of the many disasters that has befallen this nation in the last half-century can be traced right back here to the banks of the Charles River?

C’mon down, Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at MIT. He’s the moonbat who, after engineering the ongoing fiasco that is Obamacare, then took a nationwide victory lap in which he repeatedly described the American people as “too stupid” to realize the Democrats were destroying their health care.

Maybe he’s right about our stupidity. After all, he cashed in $392,000 worth of federal no-bid contracts to wreck the best health care system in the world, plus another $1.6 million or so in various state wrecking-ball contracts.

This goober, I mean Gruber, now says that when he sneered about how stupid Americans are, he made a mistake. Oddly, he made the same “mistake” five times (and counting). When you say something publicly five times, it’s part of your stump speech.

The Unaffordable Care Act — from the same Beautiful People who gave you Vietnam, the War on Poverty, the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, global warming, SSI, busing, gay marriage and gender reassignment.

 

 

Matthew Continetti calls the far left Dems the “De Blasio Democrats.”

… The movement that launched a 50-state strategy has been reduced to a 50-enclaves strategy. Democrats are limited to the majority-minority districts, cities, and coastal bastions of the liberal coalition. This is a somewhat surprising outcome for a party that trumpets its populism and democratic heritage. What has surprised me most, however, is the brazenness with which the president and his allies declare their apathy toward public sentiment as expressed in elections that Democrats lose. Who cares about the Americans who bothered to vote on November 4, they say. They’re not our people.

“To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too,” Obama said at his post-election press conference. How can he hear these voters? Dental fillings? By what means does he divine their hopes, fears, and needs? A Ouija board?

I have a test to determine the lunacy of a Democratic talking point: If E.J. Dionne is the only reporter who parrots it, then it’s too crazy for most journalists. Sure enough, writes Dionne, by issuing his unconstitutional executive order, Obama “is paying close attention to the feelings of a very important group of voters—the tens of millions who supported him two years ago but were so dispirited that they stayed away from the polls on November 4.” It’s the silent majority—so silent it does not even vote.

This is too much for the press corps but not for liberal politicians. Asked during his trip to D.C. about a recent poll showing a stark racial divide in his approval rating, Bill de Blasio said, “I question whether they are getting the totality of the citizens of the city.” He must have forgotten that he too won an election with record low turnout. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the de Blasio Democrats: extremists who gratify special interests while disregarding public opinion. It is a vanishing breed. At this rate, soon only E.J. will be left.

 

 

The progressives are waging war on suburbia according to Joel Kotkin.

… You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that  you have deemed is best for them?   

This gap between party ideology and demographic reality has led to a disconnect that not only devastated the Democrats this year, but could hurt them in the decades to come. University of Washington demographer Richard Morrill notes that the vast majority of the 153 million Americans who live in  metropolitan areas with populations of more than 500,000  live in the lower-density suburban places Democrats think they should not. Only 60 million live in core cities.      

Despite these realities, the Democratic Party under Barack Obama has increasingly allied itself with its relatively small core urban base. Simply put, the party cannot win—certainly not in off-year elections—if it doesn’t score well with suburbanites. Indeed, Democrats, as they retreat to their coastal redoubts, have become ever more aggressively anti-suburban, particularly in deep blue states such as California.  “To minimize sprawl” has become a bedrock catchphrase of the core political ideology.

As will become even more obvious in the lame duck years, the political obsessions of the Obama Democrats largely mirror those of the cities: climate change, gay marriage, feminism, amnesty for the undocumented, and racial redress. These may sometimes be worthy causes, but they don’t address basic issues that effect suburbanites, such as stagnant middle class wages, poor roads, high housing prices, or underperforming schools. None of these concerns elicit much passion among the party’s true believers.

The miscalculation is deep-rooted, and has already cost the Democrats numerous House and Senate seats and at least two governorships. Nationwide, in areas as disparate as east Texas and Maine or Colorado and Maryland, suburban voters deserted the Democrats in droves. …

November 25, 2014

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Walter Russell Mead on the president’s big miscalculation.

President Obama’s new initiative is unlikely to succeed politically—in part because Democrats are overconfident that rising Hispanic immigration will deliver them a permanent, left-leaning majority.

Frank Fukuyama, no howling partisan, has tagged President Obama’s decision to circumvent Congress on immigration as a “bad call,” and while the President’s limited offer of a three-year temporary work authorization for people in the country illegally was not the worst or the most radical step he could have taken, Frank is right. This was the wrong step at the wrong time. At the very minimum, the President should have given the new Congress ninety days to act before going it alone. Failing to do so isn’t just a slap in the face of his Republican opponents; it is a slap in the face of the voters who no longer trust the President and his party on the big issues of national life.

If the new Congress proved unable or unwilling to act, the President’s step would have had at least an element of political legitimacy to it. As it is, this half-hearted, hobbled amnesty will likely join President Obama’s flawed health care law as a toxic legacy that will haunt the Democratic Party for years to come. Just as the President’s poor reputation was a millstone around the neck of many Democratic candidates in 2014, future Democratic candidates are going to run away from Obama’s memory, and their opponents will work to tag them with the heavy burden of a presidency that most Americans will want to forget. As a political brand, the name “Barack Obama” now risks drifting into Jimmy Carter territory and becoming  a label that blights the prospects of the Democratic party and its candidates for years. …

 

 

An example of how badly the move was miscalculated, the opening skit on last week’s Saturday Night Live made fun of the president. Huffington Post has the story and next we’ll have a link so you can see the skit.

“Saturday Night Live” transported everyone back to their childhoods last night when it took on the classic educational program “Schoolhouse Rock!” for its cold open.

The show spoofed the favorite “I’m Just A Bill” segment (because who doesn’t love that song?) to comment on President Obama’s immigration reform. Keenan Thompson played the titular bill and explained that he’s an immigration bill that “one day might become a law.” But then Obama showed up and shoved poor Bill down the steps of Capital Hill. In walked a new part of the kids’ segment: the Executive Order.

Bobby Moynihan’s Executive Order, or as Obama says, an “easier way to get things done around here,” had no idea that he’s granting “legal status” to five million immigrants. “Oh my god, I didn’t have time to read myself!” Moynihan said in shock. …

 

Click here to see the video.

 

 

And David Harsanyi says obama put the republic out of its misery. 

“This is how democracy works,” Barack Obama lectured the country before giving everyone the specifics of his expansive one-man executive overreach on immigration. If you enjoy platitudinous straw men but are turned off by open debate and constitutional order, this speech was for you.

Modern Democrats aren’t the first political party to abuse power – far from it. Obama isn’t the first president to abuse executive power – not by a longshot. But he has to be the first president in American history to overtly and consistently argue that he’s empowered to legislate if Congress doesn’t pass the laws he favors. It’s an argument that’s been mainstreamed by partisans and cheered on by those in media desperate to find a morsel of triumph in this presidency.

Obama acknowledges his overreach openly every time he argues that he intends to do the job of an obstinate Republican congress. In his speech, Obama scolded those who question whether he has the authority to change the legal status of millions of people, offering this: “I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

Pass a bill?

1) Congress has no obligation to pass a bill. Ever. Who knows? Maybe immigration ranks 50th on the GOP’s to-do list. Maybe the GOP is dysfunctional and incapable of pulling together comprehensive legislation. Maybe the Republicans are nothing more than irrational nativists. And maybe all of that threatens the GOP’s future. That’s why we have elections for presidents to ignore.

2) If Congress passed a bill, Obama would veto it, anyway. So what Obama meant to say was, “I have one answer: Pass a bill I like.”  No bill will pass, especially after this cynical ploy to prod clumsy GOPers into reactions that might benefit him politically. …

 

 

Joel Kotkin writes on the dire economic consequences of the immigration moves.

With his questionably Constitutional move to protect America’s vast undocumented population, President Obama has provided at least five million immigrants, and likely many more, with new hope for the future. But at the same time, his economic policies, and those of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, may guarantee that many of these newly legalized Americans will face huge obstacles trying to move up in a society creating too few opportunities already for its own citizens, much less millions of the largely ill-educated and unskilled newcomers.

Democratic Party operatives, and their media allies, no doubt see in the legalization move a step not only to address legitimate human needs, but their own political future. With the bulk of the country’s white population migrating rapidly to the GOP, arguably the best insurance for the Democrats is to accelerate the racial polarization of the electorate. It might be good politics but we need to ask: what is the fate awaiting these new, and prospective, Americans?

In previous waves of immigration, particularly during the early 20th Century, there were clear benefits for both newcomers and the economy. A nation rapidly industrializing needed labor, including the relatively unskilled, and, with the help of the New Deal and the growth of unions, many of these newcomers (including my own maternal grandparents) achieved a standard of living, which, if hardly affluent, was at least comfortable and moderately secure.

Demand for labor remained strong during the big immigrant wave of the 1980s until the Great Recession. The country was building houses at a rapid clip, which required a large amount of immigrant labor. Service industries, particularly before the onset of digital systems, such as ipads for ordering, that replace human staff in fast-food restaurants, tend to hotels and provide personal services, although often at low wages.

More recently, this wave of undocumented migration has diminished, as economic prospects, particularly for the low-skilled, have weakened. Yet the undocumented population remains upwards eleven million. Largely unskilled and undereducated, roughly half of adults 25 to 64 in this population have less than a high-school education compared to only 8 percent of the native born. Barely ten percent have any college, one third the national rate. …

 

 

Instapundit highlights Deroy Murdock’s post on the NAACP. Proof the NAACP is just a race based arm of the Dems. 

“Voters on Election Day chose Tim Scott as South Carolina’s U.S. senator. They also sent Utah’s Mia Love and Texas’ Will Hurd to the U.S. House of Representatives. Thus, the 114th Congress will include three black Republicans. This is a new high-water mark for black Americans.

Too bad the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People couldn’t care less. (America’s oldest civil-rights organization still plasters that retrograde expression all over its logo and website.)

NAACP has yet to congratulate, acknowledge, or even attack Scott, Love, and Hurd — now America’s three most powerful elected black Republicans. What you hear is the silence of the Colored People. Despite 10 separate requests for comment on this “advancement of colored people,” I could not squeeze a consonant out of NAACP’s Baltimore headquarters, its Washington, D.C. office, or even its Hollywood bureau. . . .

NAACP did issue a November 14 press release expressing its “strong support of the new Qualified Residential Mortgage rule” under the behemoth Dodd-Frank financial services law. The group praised the rejection of new down-payment rules for home loans. Who needs strong credit standards? What could go wrong?

NAACP has offered communiqués praising Obama’s new draconian carbon-dioxide regulations and even applauding LaJune Montgomery Tabron for becoming president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As for three black Republicans getting elected to Congress? Crickets.”

November 24, 2014

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NPR StoryCorps brings one that will warm your heart. 

When an assisted living home in California shut down last fall, many of its residents were left behind, with nowhere to go.

The staff at the Valley Springs Manor left when they stopped getting paid — except for cook Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez, the janitor.

“There was about 16 residents left behind, and we had a conversation in the kitchen, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” Rowland says.

“If we left, they wouldn’t have nobody,” the 34-year-old Alvarez says. …

 

 

From time to time Pickings has had items on the Air France airliner that disappeared over the South Atlantic, caused in part by the degrading of the pilots’ skill sets because of all the systems that fly the plane. The WSJ Weekend Essay explores ways automation can make us dumb and how that might be avoided.

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down. …

… Even a slight decay in manual flying ability can risk tragedy. A rusty pilot is more likely to make a mistake in an emergency. Automation-related pilot errors have been implicated in several recent air disasters, including the 2009 crashes of Continental Flight 3407 in Buffalo and Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, and the botched landing of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013.

Late last year, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration task force on cockpit technology documented a growing link between crashes and an overreliance on automation. Pilots have become “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive,” the panel warned. The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to spend more time flying by hand. …

… In “human-centered automation,” the talents of people take precedence. Systems are designed to keep the human operator in what engineers call “the decision loop”—the continuing process of action, feedback and judgment-making. That keeps workers attentive and engaged and promotes the kind of challenging practice that strengthens skills.

In this model, software plays an essential but secondary role. It takes over routine functions that a human operator has already mastered, issues alerts when unexpected situations arise, provides fresh information that expands the operator’s perspective and counters the biases that often distort human thinking. The technology becomes the expert’s partner, not the expert’s replacement. …

… We are amazed by our computers, and we should be. But we shouldn’t let our enthusiasm lead us to underestimate our own talents. Even the smartest software lacks the common sense, ingenuity and verve of the skilled professional. In cockpits, offices or examination rooms, human experts remain indispensable. Their insight, ingenuity and intuition, honed through hard work and seasoned real-world judgment, can’t be replicated by algorithms or robots. …

 

 

Sink holes in Florida have been swallowing people, now a sand dune along Lake Michigan in Indiana is getting in on the act. Smithsonian Magazine has the story of the hungry dune.

Erin Argyilan was wrapping up a scientific study of wind speeds on MountBaldy last year when she saw a circle of beachgoers on their knees halfway up the hulking sand dune. They appeared to be digging frantically.

It had been a gorgeous afternoon: sunny, mid-70s. All day, a breeze had rolled off Lake Michigan and up the dune’s rumpled face. Rising 126 feet off the beach, MountBaldy is one of the tallest lakefront dunes in the world and the most popular attraction at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a national park that straggles for 15 miles along the industrial southern shore of Lake Michigan, between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana.

For many of the park’s two million yearly visitors, the grueling hike up Baldy’s slip-sliding slope—and the dead run down—is a rite of passage. But on that July afternoon, Argyilan, an athletic 38-year-old geoscientist at Indiana University Northwest, who was then seven months pregnant with her first child, sensed that something was amiss. She strode up to the site of the commotion and saw a man in swim trunks clawing at the sand. “He’s here,” the man kept saying. “He’s right here.” His wife, who appeared to be in shock, was calling out to God. Their 6-year-old son, they said, had vanished down a hole.

Argyilan saw no sign of an opening or even upturned sand, which you’d expect if someone had dug a hole. As for natural cavities, dunes aren’t supposed to have any. Unlike hard rock, which can dissolve to form caverns and sinkholes, dunes are just big piles of sand formed as wind stacks one grain atop the next. …

… MountBaldy began to take shape 4,500 years ago, when the water level in Lake Michigan dropped about 20 feet, exposing vast fields of sand to the will of the wind. Before last year’s incident, the dune had intrigued scientists not because it defied any principles of windblown sand, but because it followed them all too enthusiastically. Most dunes on the Indiana lakeshore are forested. But Baldy is a “blowout”: a victim of some ancient force—a violent storm, a dramatic change in wind direction—that scalped the dune of the plants and trees whose roots once held it in place. And like an animal freed from its cage, Baldy began to roam. 

Combining painstaking physical measurements with an analysis of aerial photographs, Zoran Kilibarda, a colleague of Argyilan’s at IU Northwest, discovered that the dune had rolled nearly 440 feet inland between 1938 and 2007. It had buried trails and a staircase, and stands of black oak, 60- to 80-feet tall, that had long stood between Baldy’s bottom edge and the parking lot. In March 2007, as the first of Kilibarda’s figures came in, stunned park officials called Baldy’s pace “alarming,” warning that it could bury its own parking lot within seven years. They banned the public from its steep inland side, or slipface; footfalls were thought to be accelerating its advance. But Baldy refused to be tamed. …

 

 

Four years ago after Wal-Mart doubled the price of eyeglasses, Pickerhead tried an on-line start-up that was manufacturing glasses in, of all places, Manhattan. Warby Parker was located on the fifth floor of an old needle trade high rise in SoHo. The purchase was a resounding success and the glasses are still in great shape four years later. The Wall Street Journal reports they have added store fronts to their operation with great success.

Warby Parker has made a name for itself by selling affordable, hipster-chic eyeglasses through a website, avoiding costly store expenses and licensing fees.

While that business has thrived, the startup’s promising next act is taking shape in a chain of storefronts dotting trendy retail neighborhoods from Boston’s Newbury Street to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Warby Parker’s eight brick-and-mortar stores are now collectively turning a profit, says Dave Gilboa, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive. The stores sell an average of $3,000 a square foot annually, higher than most retailers not named Apple Inc.

It is quite a feat for a one-off experiment that began in April 2013, with Warby Parker’s first physical retail showroom in Manhattan’s SoHo district, where the company is based. Later this month, Warby Parker plans to open its first San Francisco and Chicago stores. …

 

 

Steve Hayward of Power Line spots an admission from Google of the failure of some of their green initiatives.

… two Googlers have written a worthy article for the IEEE Spectrum website (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) on “What Would It Really Take to Reverse Climate Change?”. The subtitle tells the story: “Today’s Renewable Technologies Won’t Save Us.”

I know one of the authors, Ross Koningstein, slightly, and kudos to him and his co-author David Fork for admitting forthrightly that Google’s RE<C (“renewable energy cheaper than coal”) initiative was largely a bust. I’m pretty sure we noted here at the time that Google had pulled the plug on this much-hyped project a couple years ago.  As Koningstein and Fork admit:

“At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope . . . even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach. …

November 23, 2014

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While attention is focused on the immigration edicts, we should not overlook problems in the Middle East. Roger Simon posts on last week’s attacks in Jerusalem.

What to say about the latest round of Islamo-carnage in Jerusalem that hasn’t been said thousands of times before? Golda Meir made it all clear in her famous 1957 speech at the National Press Club in DC: “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”

In other words, basically never. The hate culture of the Palestinians — and almost all Arabs — is so deeply imbued it’s hard to imagine it ever changing. After this recent incident, they danced in the street with hatchets and gave each other candy.

Lots of people have tried to make peace with them. The supposed war-monger Ariel Sharon uprooted his own people and gave the Palestinians Gaza. We all know what happened. Then prime minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians the peace deal of the century. They walked away.

The reason is obvious. The Palestinians don’t want a two-state solution and never have. And not just Hamas with their infamous charter urging the death of all Jews, even Jewish trees (whatever that means) — all of them. …

  

 

Mark Steyn says ISIS are “fast track” Nazis.

… ISIS are fast-track Nazis. No messing about with a few property restrictions and intermarriage laws as a little light warm-up: They’re only in the business of “final solutions”, and they start on Day One and don’t quit until the last Christian and Yazidi is dead or fled. As I’ve often remarked about today’s exhaustively cleansed Maghreb, Levant and Araby, Islam is king on a field of corpses. But pikers like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Baathists, the House of Saud take their time. ISIS are shooting for the Guinness Book of Records.

Fortunately, progressive opinion in the west hates Jews more than it loves Christians or Yazidi or Shia or Kurds, so ISIS can get on with killing everyone they want to kill. George Packer reports in The New Yorker:

Karim couldn’t help expressing bitterness about this. “I don’t see any attention from the rest of the world,” he said. “In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, ‘Save Gaza, save Gaza.’ ”

Indeed. But you have to pick your causes. To put pressure on Netanyahu, you fly in John Kerry to bore him to death. To put pressure on ISIS would require a commitment the west is not willing to make. So Christians will vanish from the region, and the Yazidi will vanish from the world. …

 

Jonathan Tobin reacts to NY Times suggesting moral equivalence in the Palestinian conflicts.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s terror attack in Jerusalem in which two Palestinian terrorists slaughtered four Jews in a synagogue, the international media was forced to change, at least for a day or two, their consistent narrative about the Middle East conflict which centered on alleged Israeli misbehavior rather than the reality of Palestinian intransigence, incitement, and violence. But even under these egregious circumstances, mainstream journalists sought to establish a flimsy moral equivalence between this atrocity and what they sought to claim were comparable Israeli outrages conducted against Muslims. An example of this came in the analysis by the New York Times’s Jodi Rudoren who asserted, “Jewish vandalism against mosques is a regular occurrence.” But while such regrettable instances have occurred, they are not “regular” and pale in comparison to the toll of Arab terrorism directed at Jewish targets. …

… Palestinian society embraced the two synagogue murderers as heroes this week. Their act of barbarism was celebrated in the streets of Palestinian cities and endorsed by members of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party (though, forced by Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas issued a condemnation) as well as their Hamas rivals. This is hardly surprising since Abbas had praised recent terror attacks on Jews by Palestinians and even said one who attempted to murder a Jewish activist was a “martyr” who went straight to heaven. …

 

 

George Friedman of Stratfor comments on the foreign policy of a failed presidency.

… Therefore, if we follow historical patterns, Obama will now proceed slowly and ineffectively to increase military operations in Syria and Iraq, while raising non-military pressure on Russia, or potentially initiating some low-level military activities in Ukraine. The actions will be designed to achieve a rapid negotiating process that will not happen. The presidency will shift to the other party, as it did with Truman, Johnson and George W. Bush. Thus, if patterns hold true, the Republicans will retake the presidency. This is not a pattern unknown to Congress, which means that the Democrats in the legislature will focus on running their own campaigns as far away from Obama and the next Democratic presidential candidate as possible.

The period of a failed presidency is therefore not a quiet time. The president is actively trying to save his legacy in the face of enormous domestic weakness. Other countries, particularly adversaries, see little reason to make concessions to failed presidents, preferring to deal with the next president instead. These adversaries then use military and political oppositions abroad to help shape the next U.S. presidential campaign in directions that are in their interests.

It is against this backdrop that all domestic activities take place. The president retains the veto, and if the president is careful he will be able to sustain it. Obama will engage in limited domestic politics, under heavy pressure from Congressional Democrats, confining himself to one or two things. His major activity will be coping with Syria, Iraq and Russia, both because of crises and the desire for a legacy. The last two years of a failed presidency are mostly about foreign policy and are not very pleasant to watch.