August 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Noemie Emery writes on the “genius” president.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Thomas Sowell wonders if thinking has become obsolete.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

So for the new study, …

August 6, 2014

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Charles Krauthammer writes on John Kerry; Clueless in Gaza.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2014

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Richard Epstein, once of U. of Chicago Law, and now of the Hoover Institution, and Mario Loyola penned a look at the federal takeover of state governments.

The tug of war between the president and Congress is steadily escalating. The most recent sign of incipient institutional breakdown is House Speaker John Boehner’s suit against President Obama for rewriting laws and stepping on Congress’s turf.

But lurking in the wings is a second separation-of-powers issue, just as important, that Americans have mostly overlooked—the separation between federal and state government. In many areas, that vital divide is fast disappearing, owing to a relentless expansion of federal power. And both political parties share the blame.

Programs like Medicaid, Common Core, the Clean Air Act, and the federal highway system enjoy popular support because they appear to allow the federal government to accomplish things all Americans want, at least in the short run. But those programs often turn states into mere field offices of the federal government, often against their will, in turn creating a  host of structural problems.

Federal officials exert enormous influence over state budgets and state regulators, often behind the scenes. The new federalism replaces the “laboratories of democracy” with heavy-handed, once-size-fits-all solutions. Uniformity wins but diversity loses, along with innovation, local choice, and the Constitution’s necessary limits on government power. 

Take Medicaid. …

 

 

The impeachment wish continues to get critical media attention. This time from Ross Douthat of the NY Times.

… in political terms, there is a sordid sort of genius to the Obama strategy. The threat of a unilateral amnesty contributes to internal G.O.P. chaos on immigration strategy, chaos which can then be invoked (as the president did in a Friday news conference) to justify unilateral action. The impeachment predictions, meanwhile, help box Republicans in: If they howl — justifiably! — at executive overreach, the White House gets to say “look at the crazies — we told you they were out for blood.”

It’s only genius, however, if the nonconservative media — honorable liberals and evenhanded moderates alike — continue to accept the claim that immigration reform by fiat would just be politics as usual, and to analyze the idea strictly in terms of its political effects (on Latino turnout, Democratic fund-raising, G.O.P. internal strife).

This is the tone of the media coverage right now: The president may get the occasional rebuke for impeachment-baiting, but what the White House wants to do on immigration is assumed to be reasonable, legitimate, within normal political bounds.

It is not: It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.

And an American political class that lets this Rubicon be crossed without demurral will deserve to live with the consequences for the republic, in what remains of this presidency and in presidencies yet to come.

 

 

John Fund thinks censure is an appropriate remedy.

… It is important for our overall political health that we focus our criticism on President Obama’s unconstitutional acts and omissions rather than on the president himself. Lawmakers can word a censure resolution carefully to do this. Impeachment, on the other hand, would inevitably be viewed by many as a personal attack on President Obama.

But while impeachment isn’t appropriate, Congress must not simply acquiesce to President Obama’s numerous violations of the first Article of the Constitution, which is: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” In the 1830s, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky offered a Senate resolution denouncing as unconstitutional President Andrew Jackson’s actions against the Bank of the United States. He warned his fellow Senators: “The premonitory symptoms of despotism are upon us; and if Congress does not apply an instantaneous and effective remedy, the fatal collapse will soon come on.”

A resolution of censure would serve as a warning, a sort of constitutional yellow card, that Congress and the American people will not tolerate abuses of power indefinitely and that presidents who so overreach risk having a permanent blot on their record. President Obama should not be removed from office, but we will need more than mere criticism or even a lawsuit to remind him that his first duty is to uphold the laws, and that he is falling short.

 

 

WSJ OpEd on sailing making a comeback with commercial shipping.

As the shipping industry struggles with high fuel costs and tepid demand, some innovators say that high-tech sails may hold the secret to cheaper and cleaner fuel.

Chief among them is a group of maritime veterans whose company, Windship Technology, is working to revive the wind-powered merchant ship with sails made from metal alloys and carbon fibers.

A few companies have tried harnessing wind energy for shipping, though the technology is still largely in its initial development phase. Concepts have ranged from giant parachutes to towering cylindrical rotors. Rolls Royce and U.K.-based B9 Shipping are jointly developing a sail-natural gas hybrid system for small cargo ships.

London-based Windship is unique in moving into a higher weight class of long-haul cargo vessels—larger than 40,000 tons, and up to a quarter-mile long. …

August 4, 2014

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John Fund has more on the Dems impeachment dreams.

The simplest explanation for the bizarre spectacle of President Obama’s allies practically begging for Republicans to impeach him is that it’s a sign of political weakness, not of strength.

“Dems Fear A Debacle on Turnout,” read the front-page headline of the Capitol Hill newspaper the Hill this week. Turnout in this year’s congressional primaries hit record lows in a majority of states, with Democratic turnout lagging most. “A Pew poll out last week showed 45 percent who said they planned to vote Republican reported being more enthusiastic about voting this year than in years prior, while only 37 percent of those who supported a Democratic candidate said the same,” the Hill reported.

While the parties are roughly even in polls where voters are asked to choose between a generic Democratic or Republican candidate, that is cold comfort for those Democrats who remember they enjoyed a six-point lead in the Gallup poll on that question in early August 2010. Three months later they lost six Senate seats, control of the House, and a slew of governorships.

One way for Democrats to boost turnout is to rile up their base voters with horror stories that Republicans are planning to impeach President Obama. …

 

 

Ed Morrissey says the GAO review of the building of the healthcare website is more proof of the incompetence of the obama command economy.

Prepare yourselves for a shock –- federal government bureaucracies produce incompetence. These days, the evidence of this is almost impossible to ignore, whether it’s the Department of Veterans Affairs and its wait-list fraud, or the IRS and its epidemic of hard drive failures that was curiously confined to those targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. One would be hard put to find evidence of government-produced excellence at any level, and most of us would be satisfied to discover a modicum of competence.

In this case, though, the government itself has confirmed its own bureaucratic incompetence. The Government Accountability Office has concluded its investigation into the debacle of HHS’ federal exchange for health insurance, Healthcare.gov, and the overall rollout of Obamacare last October. No one will faint from shock to learn that the GAO’s independent review confirms that management failures and a lack of accountability led to the disastrous rollout of the central marketplace to service the command economy created by the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

With more on government incompetence, Virginia Postrel writes on the lack of full time jobs in President Part-Time’s economy. She explores the effects on the labor forced to work part-time.

The worst thing about being on jury duty isn’t actually serving on a jury. It’s having to check in every day — possibly several times a day, depending on your local system — to see whether you’ll be needed. You can’t plan either your work or your personal life. Your schedule is unpredictable and completely out of your control.

For many part-time workers in the post-crash economy, life has become like endless jury duty. Scheduling software now lets employers constantly optimize who’s working, better balancing labor costs and likely demand. The process demands enormous flexibility from part-time workers, sometimes requiring them to be on call all the time without knowing when they’ll work or how much they’ll earn. That puts the kibosh on the age-old strategy of working two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet. As my colleague Megan McArdle writes, “No matter how hard you are willing to work, stringing together anything approaching a minimum income becomes impossible.”

The problem, she concludes, is the weak job market: “As long as the demand for low-skilled labor significantly lags the supply, workers will continue to struggle.” It’s an obvious conclusion. But it’s missing something important. …

 

 

Howard Kurtz updates us on the Lois Lerner emails just discovered and the lack of interest in much of the media. 

The new batch of Lois Lerner emails may or may not be a smoking gun. But they’re something of a Rorschach test for the media.

For the former IRS official to be branding conservative commentators as “crazies” and “a–holes” is a telling moment in this scandal—but some in the media could care less.

To be sure, this investigation has dragged on a long time without proving a link between the White House and the Cincinnati office’s targeting of advocacy groups, especially on the right, for special scrutiny of their tax-exempt status. Critics say that conservative outlets such as Fox have tried to keep the story alive.

But the administration has done a decent job of bringing the story back to the headlines. The IRS acknowledged that it could not find two years’ worth of lost emails written or received by Lerner, who pleaded the Fifth when summoned by Congress. And the commissioner, William Koskinen, sounded downright arrogant when he showed up on the Hill.

Now the Republicans have found three emails in which Lerner disparaged conservatives.

What did the New York Times give the story? One measly paragraph, written by the AP, in a roundup column. …

 

 

As a reminder that our country does not always send such disgusting people to electoral success, Max Boot reviews a new book about the Reagan era.

Rick Perlstein has established himself as one of our foremost chroniclers of the rise of the modern conservative movement. It’s an unexpected niche for a card-carrying liberal. But if he’s occasionally tart in his comments about conservatives, he is not entirely unsympathetic either. In fact, he reserves some of his most cutting barbs (and there are many in his well-crafted if slightly over-caffeinated works) for clueless establishment liberals who all too readily dismissed the significance of conservative champions such as Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. …

 

… “In the years between 1973 and 1976, America suffered more wounds to its ideal of itself than at just about any other time in its history,” he claims. And he provides ample evidence to back up that assertion.

First and foremost, of course, was the defeat in Vietnam. Then, too, there was the first-ever resignation of a president and the Arab oil embargo, which led to nationwide shortages and rationing. Along with, as Mr. Perlstein writes, “A recession that saw hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers idled during Christmastime [of 1974]; crime at a volume and ghastliness greater, according to one observer, ‘than at any time since the fifteenth century.’ Senate and House hearings on the Central Intelligence Agency that accused American presidents since Dwight Eisenhower of commanding squads of lawless assassins.”

These were just a few of the headline events. An assiduous researcher, Mr. Perlstein has unearthed numerous “smaller traumas,” too, such as “the near doubling of meat prices in the spring of 1973, when the president’s consumer advisor went on TV and informed viewers that ‘liver, kidney, brains and heart can be made into gourmet meals with seasoning, imagination, and more cooking time.’ ”

Mr. Perlstein suggests that this accumulation of crises had the potential to remake the U.S. into a very different kind of country. He quotes, for example, the editor of Intellectual Digest magazine writing in 1973: “For the first time, Americans have had at least a partial loss in the fundamental belief in ourselves. We’ve always believed we were the new men, the new people, the new society. The ‘last best hope on earth,’ in Lincoln’s terms. For the first time, we’ve really begun to doubt it.”

Liberals hoped to harness such self-doubt to redefine what it truly meant to “believe in America.” They wanted to displace wave-the-flag patriotism with a supposedly higher form of loyalty rooted in the freedom “to criticize, to interrogate, to analyze, to dissent,” and to replace boundless belief in America’s potential with a conviction that, as Jerry Brown (then, as now, governor of California) put it during his 1976 presidential campaign: “We have fiscal limits, we have ecological limits, we even have human limits.”

Mr. Perlstein argues that this revolution in American thought was effectively thwarted by the ascent of that perpetual optimist Ronald Reagan, who insisted on seeing even the most traumatic events in his own life (such as his father’s alcoholism or his own divorce) as being part of a providential design for the greater good. Reagan made no concessions to the self-critical weltanschauung of the 1970s.

August 3, 2014

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Caroline Glick writes on this administration’s disastrous Mid East policy.

When US President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night, in the middle of a security cabinet meeting, he ended any remaining doubt regarding his policy toward Israel and Hamas.

Obama called Netanyahu while the premier was conferring with his senior ministers about how to proceed in Gaza. Some ministers counseled that Israel should continue to limit our forces to specific pinpoint operations aimed at destroying the tunnels of death that Hamas has dug throughout Gaza and into Israeli territory.

Others argued that the only way to truly destroy the tunnels, and keep them destroyed, is for Israel to retake control over the Gaza Strip.

No ministers were recommending that Israel end its operations in Gaza completely. The longer our soldiers fight, the more we learn about the vast dimensions of the Hamas’s terror arsenal, and about the Muslim Brotherhood group’s plans and strategy for using it to destabilize, demoralize and ultimately destroy Israeli society.

The IDF’s discovery of Hamas’s Rosh Hashana plot was the last straw for any Israeli leftists still harboring fantasies about picking up our marbles and going home. Hamas’s plan to use its tunnels to send hundreds of terrorists into multiple Israeli border communities simultaneously and carry out a massacre of unprecedented scope, replete with the abduction of hostages to Gaza, was the rude awakening the Left had avoided since it pushed for Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

In other words, in their discussion Sunday night, Netanyahu and his ministers were without illusions about the gravity of the situation and the imperative of winning – however defined.

But then the telephone rang. And Obama told Netanyahu that Israel must lose. He wants an unconditional “humanitarian” cease-fire that will lead to a permanent one.

And he wants it now. …

… The problem is that in every war, in every conflict and in every contest of wills that has occurred in the Middle East since Obama took office, he has sided with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, against America’s allies.

Under Obama, America has switched sides.

 

 

More from Jennifer Rubin.

There is growing bipartisan awareness that the entire President Obama/Hillary Clinton/John Kerry foreign policy, not simply in Gaza or even Israel generally, is a disaster. The public realizes this. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 59 percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign policy (“U.S. role in world affairs”), with only 39 percent approving. In handling relations with other countries, 43 percent approve, 55 percent don’t; on Ukraine, 41 percent approve, 57 percent don’t; on Israel, 37 percent approve, 60 percent do not; on Iraq, 41 percent approve and 57 percent don’t; and on Afghanistan, 38 percent approve and 60 percent do not. Obama has managed to hand the advantage on national security back to the GOP, as voters favor Republicans to protect the country over Democrats (33 to 18 percent). On maintaining the United States’ image (27 to 24 percent) and handling international crises (29 to 20 percent), Republicans also best Democrats. …

… It is therefore a mistake to treat the Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy debacle as a series of discrete errors. Rather, it is their entire worldview that has been flawed from the start. The chickens are only now coming home to roost. To fix what is wrong will require new people, a new outlook and new resources. Those who counseled retreat, retrenchment and reduction in our armed forces should not be entrusted with fixing what they wrecked.

 

 

Obama and his minions are so hoping for impeachment that even the mainstream media have noticed. Here’s Time’s Joe Klein on the administration’s transparently disgraceful wish.

… So, this is smart strategy on the part of the Obama political operation, right? Well, grudgingly, yes. But it’s also cynical as hell. The White House is playing with fire, raising the heat in a country that is already brain-fried by partisan frenzy. There is something unseemly, and unprecedented, about an administration saying “Bring it on” when it comes to impeachment. Clinton’s White House certainly never did publicly, even though it was clear from polling that the spectacle would be a disaster for Republicans. Of course, President Clinton had done something immoral, if not impeachable, and Obama has not. Another impeachment ordeal would be terrible for the country.

Also terrible for the country, if all too common, is the DCCC’s impeachment begging—and the President’s constant fat-cat fundraising in a summer of trouble. What if he simply said, “I’m done with fundraising. This is an important election, but there’s just too much going on in the world right now”? His political folks would hate it, but I suspect it might be more effective, and presidential, than sending out tin-cup emails.

 

 

Ben Domenech at The Federalist says the president will not be impeached but he will be disgraced.

There’s nothing that President Obama’s current distasteful impeachment trolling resembles so much as Alex Rodriguez in 2004. The slumping hitter, frustrated after a difficult season, triggered a bench-clearing brawl in Boston after being hit by a pitch from Bronson Arroyo. Rodriguez threw down his bat, glared, and started cussing at the pitcher. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek rushed into his path, and as A-Rod cursed the pitcher and accused him of hitting him on purpose, legend has it Varitek shot back, “We don’t throw at .260 hitters!” …

… So Republicans and Independents keep dropping jaws and cracking monocles, but it’s not going to do any good, and there’s no referee to throw the flag or umpire to call out the president for slapping the glove (well, there is that god-awful record at the Supreme Court, but that works on a delay). Paul Ryan has said that the GOP’s current political differences with the president don’t add up to high crimes and misdemeanors. But even if Obama does this (mass amnesty), and even if the base concludes this is a step too far, there’s really nothing Republicans can do other than to laugh at how much of a failed presidency this has become, at the sheer absurdity and elitism of engaging in mass amnesty at a time when the working class is struggling so much, and get back to winning the argument with the people.

Don’t throw at .260 hitters. Impeachment won’t stop disrespect of the rule of law from this crew. Only crafting a new governing majority will. …

 

 

Paul Mirengoff thinks crying impeachment might be a Dem mistake.

The Democrats have been fundraising like crazy based on claims that President Obama is in danger of being impeached by House Republicans. Last night, John wondered whether it’s good idea to tell your party’s members repeatedly that the leader of their party is in danger of being impeached.

The answer, I think, is that it is a good idea to the extent the message is heard only by party members. Few Democrats will be able to conceive of a rationale for impeaching their leader and nearly all will view the alleged threat of impeachment as confirmation that House Republicans are evil.

And the money will pour in.

But money isn’t the key to saving endangered Democrat-held Senate seats and making inroads into the House Republicans majority. Only the votes of independents and true moderates can accomplish these goals.

The Democrats can’t keep the “news” of possible impeachment to themselves. The question thus becomes whether it is a good idea for Democrats to cause independents and moderates to believe that President Obama is in danger of being impeached.

I don’t think so. …

 

 

Ordinarily we concentrate on the criminal miscreants in DC, but today Kevin Williamson turns our attention to Illinois and New York. Of course, here in Virginia we have our own problems. Our last GOP governor is on trial for corruption and our present governor is a former Clinton bagman. 

There must be something in the DNA of Democratic governors that gives them a very specific sort of superpower — the ability to endure doses of irony that would disable an ordinary mortal, or at least cause him to blush. In my recent jaunt through Illinois (National Review subscribers can read about my adventures here), I frequently was reminded of the intensity of the violent crime plaguing its cities — not only in murder-happy Chicago (“Gangsterville”) but also in the bedeviled city of East St. Louis, where the incidence of criminal violence is five times Chicago’s rate. Illinois is of course a wildly corrupt state — its prisons function as pension homes for its politicians — and Governor Pat Quinn, either through sheer fecklessness or with malice aforethought, allowed his signature antiviolence program to be converted into a political slush fund, currently being investigated by federal criminal authorities. Which is to say, Governor Quinn’s main anticrime measure is being investigated as a criminal enterprise.

I have a writer’s superstition that the fundamental truth about a politician can be revealed through anagrams, though the best I can do for Governor Pat Quinn is “porn-quoting raven,” which sounds like it ought to be a literary motif from the poems of Edgar Allan Hoe. Andrew Cuomo’s anagram — “Owed ACORN . . . Um?” — is probably more fitting. And Cuomo the Lesser is having some troubles quite similar to those of the flighty Quinn, having empaneled an inquisition into corruption in New YorkState government, known as the Moreland Commission. The Moreland Commission was supposed to be independent, but it wasn’t, and Governor Cuomo is accused of having “interfered” with it, the usage of that word in the context of Albany bringing to mind the ancient euphemism “interfering with children.” According to the New York Times, the executive director of the commission, Regina Calcaterra acted as Governor Cuomo’s spy on the panel and as his factotum, notably by blocking subpoenas directed at the state real-estate board. Real-estate interests have been among Governor Cuomo’s most reliable financial supporters. …

July 31, 2014

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Before we get to other subjects, one more item on Israel and Hamas. This from David Harsanyi asking what in the world John Kerry is doing? 

… It seems like a rather big deal that Egypt, Israel, Fatah, Jordan, Saudi Arabia—ostensibly, all allies of ours—agree on anything. This development, one imagines, might be something the United States would be interested in fostering rather than destroying. Certainly, the idea that Hamas’ power should be neutralized and the influence of the “moderate” Palestinian authority expanded, sounds like a plan worth pursuing.

Or so you would think. But instead, it looks like Kerry ignored an Egyptian-led ceasefire effort and handed Israelis a document that offered them this:

Rather than empowering Fatah, it recognizes Hamas as the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip, although it’s considered a terrorist organization by the Justice Department and an entity that’s founding principle and driving purpose is to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.

Rather than choking off this organization’s lifeline, the agreement would have allowed them to collect billions in ‘charity’ that would be been able to use to rearm, retrench, and re-engage in hostilities.

And all the while, it would have made no demands on Hamas to purge itself of rockets, or tunnels, or other weaponry that destabilizes the area—while at the same, the ceasefire would have limited Israel’s ability to take them out. (Update: This final point is disputed by U.S. officials.)

Hamas would have conceded nothing. No nation would have accepted such terms, not after what’s transpired, and naturally it was rejected unanimously by an Israeli cabinet that includes the ideological left, center, and right. Not only did the proposal irritate Israel—a nation often accused of warmongering for kicks—but it also upset Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson points out what a disaster liberal government is for the middle class.

… there exists a spectrum of possible configurations of government, and the fundamental political debate of our time is whether we’re on the right side of that spectrum or the wrong side. Conservatives want to prune back the vines, and progressives want them to grow thicker.

How’s that working out in the laboratories of the Left?

Progressives argue that we need deeper government involvement in the economy in order to assuage the ill effects of economic inequality. But, as Joel Kotkin points out, inequality is the most pronounced in places where progressives dominate: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago. The more egalitarian cities are embedded in considerably more conservative metropolitan areas in conservative states. “Part of the difference,” Mr. Kotkin writes, “is the strong growth of higher-paid, blue-collar jobs in places like Houston, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, and Dallas compared to rapidly de-industrializing locales such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Even Richard Florida, the guru of the ‘creative class,’ has admitted that the strongest growth in mid-income jobs has been concentrated in red-state metros such as Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Nashville. Some of this reflects a history of later industrialization but other policies — often mandated by the state — encourage mid-income growth, for example, by not imposing high energy prices with subsidies for renewables, or restricting housing growth in the periphery. Cities like Houston may seem blue in many ways but follow local policies largely indistinguishable from mainstream Republicans elsewhere.” In Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, African Americans earn barely half of what whites earn —  and in San Francisco, African Americans earn less than half of what whites earn. Hispanics in Boston earn 50 percent of what whites make; but it is 84 percent in Riverside County, Calif., a traditional Republican stronghold (it holds the distinction of being one of only two West Coast counties to have gone for Hoover over FDR and is Duncan Hunter’s turf), and the figures are comparable in places such as Phoenix and Miami.

Progressivism is a luxury good for college-educated white people. It is the Hermes sneaker of political tendencies. California is not an especially wealthy state — its median income is right between Wyoming’s and Nebraska’s — but it is a state in which one needs to be pretty well off to live decently. …

… Public-school teachers are insistent on maintaining their monopoly status, but in big cities such as Chicago they are unusually likely to send their own children to private schools. Similarly, Barack Obama thinks that school choice is great — for his daughters, but not for yours. They can make a mess of your schools, your neighborhoods, your community — they don’t live there.

That, too, is why conservatives favor government on the modest, manageable, local level. And that is why progressives want to centralize political power in Washington, and why they have more success in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York: If you were screwing the poor and the struggling while alleging to act on their behalf, would you be able to look them in the eye? Would you want to?

 

 

A WSJ OpEd with good examples of how the 1% gains and the great middle suffers this time at the hands of the Fed. 

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said the central bank’s goal is “to help Main Street not Wall Street,” and many liberal commentators seem convinced that she is advancing that goal. But talk to anyone on Wall Street. If they are being frank, they’ll admit that the Fed’s loose monetary policy has been one of the biggest contributors to their returns over the past five years. Unwittingly, it seems, liberals who support the Fed are defending policies that boost the wealth of the wealthy but do nothing to reduce inequality. …

… Over the past decade, easy-money policies also have fueled the rise of an industry that transforms raw commodities—from soybeans to steel and oil—into financial products, such as exchange-traded funds, that can be traded like stocks. Hundreds of billions of dollars have poured into these products. In many cases, large investors hold the commodities in storage, driving up demand and the price.

On average, prices for commodities from oil to coffee to eggs are up 40% since 2009, double the typical commodity-price rebound in postwar recoveries. Though rising prices for staples such as these are inconsequential expenses to the rich, they are burdens for the poor, who spend about 10% of their income on energy and a third of it on food. Meanwhile, since bottoming in 2011, median house prices have risen four times faster than incomes, putting homes out of reach for many first-time buyers.

Leading Wall Street figures such as Stanley Druckenmiller and Seth Klarman are warning that the Fed is blowing dangerous asset-price bubbles. These warnings—given political suspicion of the financial community—seem only to confirm liberal faith in the Fed. Economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Brad DeLong cling to the hope that at least some of the easy money helps to create growth and jobs. Yet the abnormally low cost of capital is giving companies another incentive to invest in technologies that replace workers, rather than hiring more workers. …

 

 

Laura Ingraham is profiled in The Times, UK by Toby Harnden.

SHE has adopted a daughter from Guate­mala and was a speechwriter under President Reagan, who introduced an “amnesty” for three million illegal immigrants in the 1980s.

With her striking good looks and her status as the most listened-to woman on American radio talk programmes, she might have seemed the ideal person to deliver a softer Republican message, as the party hopes to appeal to Hispanic voters.

Laura Ingraham is having none of it, however. Instead, she is fast becoming the most powerful conser­vative voice denouncing any compromise on immigration and call­ing for the deportation of the Latin American children who are amassing on the southern border of the United  States.

At a raucous campaign event in Nashville last week, Ingraham accused President Barack Obama of “fomenting a crisis at our border that seeks to undermine the very fabric of American rule of law, our sovereignty, our national identity”.

Her most withering contempt was aimed at her own party’s estab­lish­ment — the “good old boys” and “go along to get along Republican politicians doing backroom backslapping” with Democrats, being as eff­ective as “beige wallpaper”.

Ingraham has already claimed the scalp of Representative Eric Cantor, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, by headlining a massive rally that helped to propel his obscure opponent to a shock victory in a party primary last month.

Her appearance in Nashville was on behalf of Joe Carr, a rough-edged candidate from Tennessee who has support from the grassroots Tea Party movement. He is standing on a “no amnesty” platform to oust Senator Lamar Alexander, a genteel deal-maker on Capitol Hill, in an August 7th primary. …

 

 

Turning our attention to another race in the South, an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on the most recent stumble of the Michelle Nunn campaign.

A hallmark of the primary season on the Democratic side was Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s studied determination not to define herself. As of today, that’s no longer possible for her — and it’s her own campaign’s fault.

A series of internal campaign memos, totaling 144 pages and covering everything from fund-raising goals and targets to staffing needs, was leaked to National Review, which published it today. The campaign itself reportedly uploaded the plan to the Internet back in December, before quickly taking it back down. But someone found it during that brief period and — this is the impressive part — had the patience to sit on it until after the GOP run-off was over.

While much of the plan details the mundane minutia of planning a year-long, statewide campaign, other parts of it are damaging to the Nunn campaign. National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who wrote the publication’s story about the memo, puts some of those problems right at the top: …

 

 

Here is the aforementioned Eliana Johnson piece.

Michelle Nunn can come across as a “lightweight,” “too liberal,” not a “real Georgian.” While she served as CEO for the Points of Light Foundation, the organization gave grants to “inmates” and “terrorists.” And her Senate campaign must feature images of her and her family “in rural settings with rural-oriented imagery” because the Atlanta-based candidate will struggle to connect with rural voters

These may sound like attacks from the Senate candidate’s Republican rival, but in fact, those are a few of the concerns expressed in her own campaign plan, which sources say was posted online briefly in December and appears to have been drafted earlier that month. Drawing on the insights of Democratic pollsters, strategists, fundraisers, and consultants, the document contains a series of memos addressed to Nunn and her senior advisers.

From all appearances, the document was intended to remain confidential. It outlines the challenges inherent in getting Nunn, who grew up mostly in Bethesda, Md., elected to the Senate in a state with a large rural population. Her father, Sam Nunn, was elected to the Senate when she was six, and Michelle Nunn attended Washington’s prestigious National Cathedral School and then the University of Virginia and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before returning to Georgia to do nonprofit work and, now, to seek higher office. …

 

Power Line has more on Nunn and we end where we started today; with Hamas.

… The Nunn campaign is concerned, as it should be, about the political implications of Points of Light’s financial contribution to Islamic Relief, USA. Eliana reports that an internal campaign strategy memo that was posted online (inadvertently, I assume) cites the contribution as a vulnerability.

One would hope so. Apart from being Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michelle Nunn’s tenure as CEO of Points of Light is just about her only credential for political office.

Nor has candidate Nunn been willing to take a stand on certain key issues, including Obamacare. For this, she has been criticized by the likes of Mika Brzezinski, Chuck Todd, and Stuart Rothenberg.

The fact that Points of Light, Nunn’s only substantive calling card, has funneled money to an organization with ties to Hamas should certainly tarnish her reputation and harm her campaign, which probably has little margin for error.

 

 

Late Night Humor from Andy Malcolm.

Meyers: A Japanese artist is launching a bonsai tree into space. Now if only he could think of something to yell during the launch.

Conan: New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of ethics violations. If the charges prove true, the Governor of New York would be forced to step down and become the Governor of New Jersey.

Fallon: So, Montana Sen John Walsh – who’s up for re-election – plagiarized his thesis. Even worse, it’s mostly TRIPLE-spaced and he REALLY went in on the margins.

July 30, 2014

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The Jerusalem Post examines European anti-Semitism.

The acclaimed British novelist Howard Jacobson opened his speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem last October with piercing sarcasm: “The question is rhetorical. When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust? Never.”

However, there has been a shift in the underpinnings of anti-Semitism. Israel has become the collective Jew among the nations, as the late French historian Léon Poliakov said about the new metamorphosis of Jew-hatred.

Jacobson was piggy-backing on the eye-popping insight of the Israel psychoanalyst Zvi Rex, who reportedly said: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”

The anti-Semitic logic at work here is Europe’s pathologically guilt-filled response to the Holocaust, which, in short, is to shift the onus of blame to the Jews to cleanse one’s conscience. Two German-Jewish Marxist philosophers – Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno – coined an esoteric sociological term for what unfolded in post-Shoah Germany: Guilt-defensiveness anti-Semitism.

On the one hand, Adorno and Horkheimer may come across as kitchen-sink psychology. On the other hand, the explanatory power behind anti-Semitic guilt animating hatred of Jews and Israel can provide a window into Europe’s peculiar obsession with the Jewish state. …

 

 

Evelyn Gordon explains why the short-lived FAA ban on air travel to Israel was a big mistake.

… Whether the FAA’s decision was actually political I don’t know. Perhaps the agency was merely spooked by the previous week’s downing of a commercial airliner over Ukraine. Yet the fact that the ban was reversed two days later even though the security situation hadn’t changed, combined with the fact that major airlines like British Airways never suspended flights to begin with, support the contention that the decision, as Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel put it, “had no substantive professional basis,” and was intended primarily to browbeat Israel into accepting Secretary of State John Kerry’s completely unacceptable cease-fire proposal. 

If so, to quote Harel again, it reflected “a fundamental lack of understanding of the Israeli mindset”–and not just about the cease-fire. That single FAA decision did more than any political argument ever could to ensure that Israel won’t be leaving the West Bank anytime soon. 

Having long argued that such a withdrawal would be untenably dangerous, I’m certainly not sorry. But for the Obama administration, it was definitely an old goal.

 

 

Matthew Continetti thinks Israel can prevail as long as Hamas is not saved by this administration.

… And yet the immediate danger to the success of this necessary war does not come from the electronic intifada. It does not come from resurgent anti-Semitism, or the United Nations Human Rights Council, or the failure of so many Western elites to recognize the causes of this war, their inability to distinguish between a democratic country struggling to protect its people and a terror state using children as hostages. Hate, law-fare, decadence—they are all challenges for Israel. But Israel can endure them for now. Israel is used to it.

What Israel should not endure is the premature conclusion of hostilities. Disarming Hamas—seizing its rocket caches, collapsing its tunnels, killing and capturing its forces—is vital to Israeli security. And an artificial ceasefire imposed by outside powers, a ceasefire written in terms favorable to Hamas, would undermine the security gains Israel has made to date. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have given no sign that they recognize this fact. Or maybe they understand it all too well: The Obama administration’s top priority is imposing a ceasefire at exactly the moment when Israel’s military success is becoming clear.

Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo earlier this week. No one wanted him there. Egypt’s ruler, General Sisi, has no interest in saving Hamas through international diplomacy: The Muslim Brotherhood is his mortal enemy. Kerry then went from Cairo to Jerusalem, where he met with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who flew to the meeting on a plane chartered by Qatar, Hamas’ primary source of cash. Kerry also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is too gracious to tell the secretary to go back to Boston. (Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has said publicly what the Israeli government will not: Kerry is an unwelcome guest.) Next up was Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who honored Kerry’s presence by endorsing Hamas’s call for a “Day of Rage” in the West Bank. Kerry “will soon decide if Hamas and Israel are willing to agree on a Gaza ceasefire,” Reuters says.

Kerry will decide? Who died and made him king? …

 

 

Bret Stephens says Palestine can make you dumb. But, Pickerhead says bringing dumb to this administration is like bring coals to Newcastle. 

Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties.

“I think you can always do more,” Mr. Rhodes replied. “The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan.”

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat.

Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way.  ….

 

 

Roger Simon wants to know how much the UN knew about the Hamas tunnels.

… How much did the UN workers actually know about the secret tunnels? Many of them have been living in Gaza pretty much full time since the Israelis vacated Gaza voluntarily in 2005. Those of us who have been paying even partial attention to the situation remember the UN workers’ frequent complaints — augmented by the naifs in Israeli peace groups like B’Tselem – that the poor Gazans weren’t getting sufficient concrete to build their society.

Now that we know Gaza had more than enough concrete to build Olympic stadiums and chose to build terror tunnels instead, was that innocence or just a flat-out lie — and an evil one at that? We will see soon enough the proximity of tunnel entrances to UN facilities. (The Israelis have been taking pictures.)

If the UN is going to investigate the behavior of Israel, as Alan Dershowitz points out, it should investigate Hamas and the Palestinians as well. Beyond that, however, someone (Congress?) should investigate the UN. Of course, it’s possible all those UN workers were wearing ear plugs for those nine years of digging, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it. Occam’s Razor tells us there’s treachery afoot. It’s one thing, as is generally accepted, that the United Nations is one of the world’s centers of corruption and money laundering, but something else again if it’s an accessory to mass murder. …

 

 

In spite of all the facts on Israel’s side, Ron Fournier says Netanyahu should be worried.

… Every nation has a story. Israel’s is that Arabs have long been unwilling to negotiate with the Jewish state, and that terrorists among the Palestinians want to destroy it. For decades, three significant factors helped make this the dominant Middle East narrative. First, it’s correct, at least when applied to the dangerous minority of Palestinians. Second, elite opinion-makers, including journalists and politicians in the West, embraced and amplified the Israeli case. Finally, public opinion in the West, and particularly in the United States, firmly supported Israel.   

The first factor still holds. The United States would not hesitate to respond fiercely to attacks like those of Hamas. No country would. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself, and Netanyahu stood on firm ground as he described to Wallace the motives and tactics of Hamas.

The danger lies with the last two factors, starting with the near-monopoly Israel once enjoyed over the mind share of public-opinion elites. Israel must learn to act in a world of democratized media, where tweets and posts and pictures about Gazan casualties reach the global community instantaneously and without filter.

The newly interconnected world includes mainstream journalists, whose coverage of a decades-old story now includes an expanded array of sources who don’t work for a government, a lobby, or an activist group. The past few weeks have exposed a subtle but significant shift in coverage—a more empathic view of the plight of Gazans, and a greater focus on the consequences of Israel’s actions. …

Here’s a music video on the Mid-East titled Maximum Restraint. You’ll like.

July 28, 2014

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Mark Steyn posts on the president who never calls.

There was an odd moment during Tuesday’s White House press briefing when Ed Henry of Fox News noted that the President was spending three out of five days this week fundraising for his party, and wondered, in effect, whether he still did any work. Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded:

“Well, I will hazard a guess that a significant portion of the President’s time each of those days will be dedicated to participating in the presidential daily briefing, getting updates from his national security team about the situation on the ground, making phone calls to world leaders, consulting with his national security officials who are traveling across the world…”

Well, I will “hazard a guess” that he’s actually making very few “phone calls to world leaders”. Bush may have been loathed by large numbers of Europeans and Arabs, but he had very cordial relationships with their leaders, from Blair and Merkel to the brace of Abdullahs in Jordan and Saudi. Obama’s too cool to work the phones. Which helps explain that photograph above. With regard to what’s happening in Gaza, the US president has no relationships with anybody in the region who matters. To define American “allies” as broadly as possible, name one who has any reason to trust Obama or his emissaries. In Cairo, General Sisi regards Obama as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer; in Riyadh, King Abdullah regards him as the enabler of the Shia Persian nuclear program; and in Amman, the other King Abdullah regards him as the feckless bungler who’s left the Jordanians with the world’s wealthiest terrorist group on their eastern border.

Shuttle diplomacy, of the kind the vainglorious Kerry is attempting, only works if you already have a relationship. …

 

 

Charles Krauthammer defends President Vacant. Sort of. 

The president’s demeanor is worrying a lot of people. From the immigration crisis on the Mexican border to the Islamic State rising in Mesopotamia, Barack Obama seems totally detached from the world’s convulsions. When he does interrupt his endless rounds of golf, fundraising and photo ops, it’s for some affectless, mechanical, almost forced public statement.

Regarding Ukraine, his detachment — the rote, impassive voice — borders on dissociation. His U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, delivers an impassioned denunciation of Russia. Obama cautions that we not “get out ahead of the facts,” as if the facts of this case — Vladimir Putin’s proxies shooting down a civilian airliner — are in doubt.

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.

Perhaps.

But I’d propose an alternate theory, less psychological than intellectual, that gives him more credit: …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin posts on the tiresome passive-aggressive behavior of the administration towards Israel. Perhaps that is Valerie Jarrett’s specialty.

Chalk up a win for former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Both attacked the Obama administration for the Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights to Israel, Bloomberg by flying there himself and proclaiming it perfectly safe to fly into Ben Gurion and Cruz from the Senate floor in labeling it an economic boycott of Israel and demanding details about the FAA’s action. AIPAC, which is becoming increasingly vocal in its objections to U.S. policy on Gaza and on the Iran nuclear talks, went public as well, releasing a statement that called the ban “overly harsh and excessive.” The statement argued that the ban “could have the unintended effect of encouraging terrorists to become even more committed to make civil aviation a target.”

The administration bristled at the suggestion that it was, as was widely perceived, using the ban as a means of pressuring Israel. In any event, by quickly pulling the ban just hours after it was announced and the backlash ensued, the administration wound up reinforcing the conclusion that this had been a strong-arm maneuver. An administration now infamous for its passive-aggressive behavior once again was left looking feckless. …

 

 

Ed Klein, author of Blood Feud, writes on the disintegration of our foreign policy.

Wherever we look today—from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East to the post-Cold War frontier in Ukraine to the South China Sea to our border with Mexico— our world appears to be falling apart.

This naturally raises a serious question in the minds of many people: If America, the indispensable nation, had been doing its job of holding the global system together, couldn’t this chaos and anarchy have been avoided?

The simple answer is, yes.

But if you listen to Hillary Clinton, the unraveling of the international order was inevitable under the leadership—or lack of leadership—of Barack Obama. As I reported in my book “Blood Feud,” Hillary places the blame for the sorry state of the world squarely on the man in the Oval Office.

“The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered, and there is no hand on the tiller half the time,” she complained to a group of friends shortly after she left her post as secretary of state. “That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f******g tiller.” …

… Just before Caroline Kennedy took up her post as ambassador to Japan, she invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to lunch at her Park Avenue apartment in New York City. Caroline wanted to know from Hillary, the former secretary of state, what she could expect from the Obama administration.

“Don’t expect to get your real marching orders from State,” Hillary said. “The way the Obama government works, everything important in foreign policy comes from the White House. And Valerie [Jarrett] pretty much runs the show down there. You’ll feel Valerie breathing down your neck all the way to Tokyo. She’s going to have a lot to say about how you represent our country in Japan, and believe me, she won’t be shy about it.”

According to the Clintons, who later described their lunch with friends, Caroline was stunned by this news.

It should come as a sobering wakeup call to the rest of us.

 

 

John Hinderaker says even the left in Israel sees our president as an enemy.

Haaretz is Israel’s establishment, liberal newspaper. Scott once described it to me in shorthand as the New York Times of Israel. So the paper is a natural ally of a Democratic U.S. administration.

That is what makes this article by Barak Ravid remarkable. It is titled Kerry’s latest cease-fire plan: What was he thinking? …

… Hamas alone is responsible for the bloodshed, and it was never realistic to think that the Obama administration could end the fighting; not as long as Netanyahu remains determined to secure his people’s safety. Nevertheless, it is newsworthy that even Israelis on the left have come to see Obama’s foreign policy as coming from outer space.

 

 

Telegraph, UK says obama “has already checked out of his job.”

President Obama has emotionally checked out of his job a couple of years early, it seems. How can one tell?

Candidates for president who brazenly assume they are the inevitable victor are sometimes accused of “measuring the drapes” for the White House.

Obama, conversely, seems to be prematurely packing his bags in hopes for an early departure.

Just last week, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that “The First Family is believed to be in escrow on a contemporary home in a gated community where entertainers Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby once maintained estates”. George Santayana observed that “Americans don’t solve problems, they leave them behind”. Perhaps the president is taking this to heart.

For rumours to catch fire, an element of truth must typically be involved.

The fact that the press would find relevance in speculating on Obama’s post-White House residence – and identify California as the kind of scene the future ex-president would want to hang out in when he leaves office – is perhaps telling. …

July 27, 2014

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Tunku Varadajan says if the world community wants to punish Putin, they could yank the 2018 Soccer world cup from Russia and award it to the Netherlands.

In the wake of the MH17 disaster, the world needs to make Vladimir Putin’s pride—not the Russian people—pay. And a good first step would be to stop pretending sport is politically neutral.

Days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all passengers and crew aboard, the world is contending with a fiendishly difficult question: What is the appropriate punitive response to this atrocity?

The civilian airliner was destroyed with a ground-to-air missile of Russian provenance, fired either by Russia-backed separatists or by the Russian military. Moral and political responsibility for the slaughter must lie, ultimately, with Moscow, even as we investigate the forensic sequence of a commander’s chilling order—“Fire!”—and an underling’s deadly compliance.

Three hundred people, 189 of them Dutch, are dead at the hands of forces who owe their loyalty to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, the man who has thrown his weight behind the armed rebellion in Ukraine. He is in every way the separatists’ godfather. The dismemberment of Ukraine is as much his cause as theirs. So any response has to make him hurt, personally; it has to puncture his ego, his pride. And one certain way to hurt him would be to strip from Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup. …

 

 

Michael Barone writes on the problems governments have purchasing information technology (IT).

Government don’t do IT good. Not just here in the United States, but in Britain, as this Telegraph blogpost argues. “Most nations — but especially the USA — have a woeful record when it comes to IT procurement,” writes blogger Willard Foxton, with a link to a subject that is familiar to American readers, the debacle of the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov.

Foxton goes on to say that it’s not only governments that have problems procuring information technology. So do private sector firms, he writes, citing a McKinsey & Co. report that half of large IT projects “go wildly over budget.”

There’s a difference here, though, between the private and public sectors. The private sector is held accountable in the marketplace. If IT doesn’t work, or if cost overruns raise prices to uncompetitive levels, consumers have alternatives. When government IT fails, however, the citizen doesn’t have any alternative. You stare at your computer, wondering if it might work if you hit it with a hammer.

All of which suggests that centralized command-and-control government is an unsuitable means of delivering services in the information age. …

 

 

Barone mentioned Willard Foxton’s post in a Telegraph, UK Blog. Here that is.

While I was phoning around this morning for an explanation to why the Government’s latest big IT project has ended with £350 million being flushed down the lavatory, one respected contractor told me: “I just don’t think the UK government should be allowed to buy IT at all. Maybe give them abacuses, but they could still get those wrong.”

It’s not just a problem for the UK either. Most nations – but especially the USA – have a woeful record when it comes to IT procurement. Here’s a list of the seven most expensive IT failures in US government history – and that was written before the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov debacle.

It’s not just government projects that go wrong, though. Private sector organisations, especially ones on the scale of government (like banks) have giant IT disasters all the time. According to this 2012 report by McKinsey, over half of all large IT projects go wildly over budget. 17 per cent go so badly that they threaten the commissioning company’s existence, and more than 40 per cent of them fail absolutely. In another study, Computer World found that only 6.4 per cent of high budget IT projects succeeded in their own terms.

So one reason that large-scale IT projects fail is because they are incredibly hard, public or private. However, there are unique things about government projects that make the chances of success even lower. …

 

 

A blog named Refreshing News has a post on berry good cancer fighting fruits.

For disease prevention and health maintenance, berries of all colors have “emerged as champions.” Research has focused mainly on cancer prevention and treatment. Studies show that the anticancer effects of berries are partially mediated through their abilities to counteract, reduce, and also repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries may also have many other positive effects, such as boosting detoxifying enzymes. …

 

 

NY Post article on the bullet from the sun we dodged a couple of years ago.

Two years ago, we were all going about our daily business, blissfully unaware that our planet almost plunged into global catastrophe.

A recent revelation by NASA explains how on July 23, 2012, Earth had a near miss with a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME), from the most powerful storm on the sun in over 150 years, but nobody decided to mention it.

Err, what? Well, that’s a sobering bit of news.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

We managed to just avoid the event through lucky timing as the sun’s aim narrowly turned away from Earth. Had it occurred a week earlier, when it was pointing at us, the result could have been frighteningly different. …

 

 

The New Scientist, apropos of Kevin Williamson’s article on the importance of property, says if you want to preserve forests give them to people who will value them.

The best way to protect rainforests is to keep people out, right? Absolutely not. The best way to keep the trees, and prevent the carbon in them from entering the atmosphere, is by letting people into the forests: local people with the legal right to control what happens there.

Given the chance, most communities protect rather than plunder their forests, says a new study by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative, both in WashingtonDC. The forests provide food, water, shelter, medicines and much else.

The report, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change collates many existing studies. It concludes that forest communities only have legal control over one-eighth of the world’s forests. The rest is mostly controlled by governments or leased for logging or mining, often in defiance of community claims.

But community-owned forests are often the best-protected. In the Amazon rainforest, deforestation rates in community-owned areas are far lower than outside. …

 

 

Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of Gen. George Patton’s summer of 1944.

Nearly 70 years ago, on Aug. 1, 1944, Lieutenant General George S. Patton took command of the American Third Army in France. For the next 30 days they rolled straight toward the German border.

Patton almost did not get a chance at his summer of glory. After brilliant service in North Africa and Sicily, fellow officers — and his German enemies — considered him the most gifted American field general of his generation. …

 

… When Patton’s Third Army finally became operational seven weeks after D-Day, it was supposed to play only a secondary role — guarding the southern flank of the armies of General Bradley and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery while securing the Atlantic ports.

Despite having the longest route to the German border, Patton headed east. The Third Army took off in a type of American blitzkrieg not seen since Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s rapid marches through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War.

Throughout August 1944, Patton won back over the press. He was foul-mouthed, loud, and uncouth, and he led from the front in flamboyant style with a polished helmet and ivory-handled pistols.

In fact, his theatrics masked a deeply learned and analytical military mind. Patton sought to avoid casualties by encircling German armies. In innovative fashion, he partnered with American tactical air forces to cover his flanks as his armored columns raced around static German formations.

Naturally rambunctious American GIs fought best, Patton insisted, when “rolling” forward, especially in summertime. Only then, for a brief moment, might the clear skies facilitate overwhelming American air support. In August his soldiers could camp outside, while his speeding tanks still had dry roads.

In just 30 days, Patton finished his sweep across France and neared Germany. The Third Army had exhausted its fuel supplies and ground to a halt near the border in early September. …

 

 

Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.

Fallon: A British firm is developing a new veggie — Brussel-Kale. It’s a combination of Brussels sprouts and kale. They got the idea from a child’s nightmare.

Conan: Amazon has introduced its own smartphone. You can tell it’s from Amazon because after you hang up with someone, the Amazon phone suggests other people you may want to call.

July 24, 2014

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As a rule, items about foreign affairs are posted first, but today Kevin Williamson has written a great piece on the importance of property. Not just to our prosperity, but also to peace.

There is not very much good to say about the life and career of Vladimir Lenin, but give the pickled old monster this much: He cut through more than two centuries’ worth of bull and straight to the heart of all politics with his simple question: “Who? Whom?” Which is to say: Who acts? Who is acted upon? Even here in the land of the free, meditating upon that question can be an uncomfortable exercise.

The foundation of classical liberalism, and of the American order, is not the rule of law, a written constitution, freedom of speech and worship, one-man/one-vote democracy, or the Christian moral tradition — necessary as those things are. The irreplaceable basis for a prosperous, decent, liberal, stable society is property. Forget Thomas Jefferson’s epicurean flourish — John Locke and the First Continental Congress had it right on the first go-round: “Life, liberty, and property.” …

… But we do not have any property.

The governments of these United States, from the federal to the local level, have managed to insinuate themselves between citizens and their property at every point of significance. In that, our governments are very much like most other governments, liberal and illiberal, democratic and undemocratic. We have allowed ourselves to be in effect converted from a nation of owners to a nation of renters. But while medieval serfs had only the one landlord, we have a rogue’s gallery of them: the local school board, the criminals at the IRS, the vehicle-registry office, etc. Never-ending property taxes ensure that as a matter of economic function, you never really own your house — you rent it from the government. Vehicle registration fees and, in some jurisdiction, outright taxes on automobile ownership ensure in precisely the same way that you never really own your car: You rent it from the government. Stock portfolio? Held at the sufferance of politicians. A profitable business? You’ll keep what income they decide you can keep. Your own body? Not yours — not if you use it for profitable labor.

A Who down in Whoville? You should be so lucky: Welcome to Whomville, peon. …

… You want a less polarized politics? Consider that the God of the Old Testament asked only for 10 percent, and had Ten Commandments, not ten thousand.

 

 

Mark Steyn connects the dots between the downing of the Malaysian plane and the present fighting in Gaza and Israel.

The two big international headlines of the moment are the downing of the Malaysian jet over Ukraine and Israel’s incursion into Gaza. On the face of it, these two stories don’t have much in common, but they are in fact part of the same story. To know Israel it helps to know Ukraine, and to know Ukraine it helps to know Israel. …

 

… In the Sixties and Seventies, many anti-colonial movements used terrorism to advance their nationalist goals. Hamas uses nationalism to advance its terrorist goals.

Likewise, the forces Putin has loosed in eastern Ukraine: They’re a terrorist movement masquerading as “separatists”. And Putin is to these guys as Iran is to Hamas. That’s to say, he could make the desecration of the MH17 site end – with one phone call.

And yet he chose not to. Because whatever misgivings he had about what his killers had done were quickly allayed by the feeble passivity of Obama’s response, and the mulligans and do-overs President Fundraiser has had to take in the days since. …

 

… Were Obama willing to accept the role, he would have spoken to Putin as “the leader of the free world” and said that, having conferred with the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom, etc, he wanted to let him know an investigatory team representing the countries of those murdered was en route and expected full access to a properly preserved debris scene.

But Obama doesn’t believe in “the free world” and certainly not in America as “leader” of it. And so Putin took his wretched passivity at face value, and figured there was no need to stop his ghouls from mugging the dead.

In Ukraine as in the Holy Land, civilization sits precariously on a field sodden in blood. Israel understands this. Obama and Kerry never will.

 

 

Bret Stephens reviews the Putin record.

Vladimir Putin‘s first major act in power had been to lay waste to the city of Grozny in a manner reminiscent of Tamerlane. Next he went after his domestic opponents in show trials that recalled the methods of Andrey Vyshinsky. Soon he linked hands with Jacques Chirac of France and Gerhard Schröder of Germany to try to stop the Iraq war—which is to say, to keep Saddam Hussein in power. Then he supplied Iran with its first nuclear reactor.

In 2005 Mr. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. In 2006 a mysterious pipeline explosion left Georgia without gas in the dead of winter, a tactic used against several of Russia’s neighbors. Later that year came the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, a muckraking journalist, and Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence officer who had defected to Britain and was dispatched with a dose of polonium. A few months later Estonia, another free-world thorn in Russia’s side, was subjected to a massive cyberattack.

This is only a partial list of the evidence available at the time of the debate. But it suggested a definite trend. The invasions of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine still lay in the future. So did the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the prison sentences for Pussy Riot, the legal harassment of Alexei Navalny, the asylum granted to Ed Snowden, the cheating on the IMF Treaty.

And now the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the murder of its 298 passengers and crew, followed by the coverup. How do you “reset” that? …

 

 

Speaking of “reset,” Jennifer Rubin wants to know how non-intervention and “smart diplomacy” have worked.

… Russia is especially illuminating. There are few people who have been wrong about Russia as Hillary Clinton. She was the champion of the Russian reset. She repeatedly went to Russia looking for help with Syria’s civil war (the naïveté is stunning). She championed START, with which the Russians may not be complying, and admission of Russia into WTO. (She was still cheerleading about that in 2012.) Also as late as April 2012, she was insisting Mitt Romney was delusional about Russia, insisting, “In many of the areas where we are working to solve problems, Russia has been an ally.” At the State Department she opposed the Magnitsky Act until its passage was inevitable. All of this was entirely misguided — with the results playing out to this day. Along with prematurely celebrating the decline of al-Qaeda (and taking her eye off the ball in North Africa and elsewhere) her wrong-headedness about Russia was expressed in too many places in too many contexts to entirely extricate her from responsibility for the fiasco that is/was our Russia policy. She can rewrite just so much history. (In her infamous 60 Minutes softball interview with the president she cooed, “I mean [our relationship is] very warm, close. I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at the core of our relationship over the last four years.”) …

 

 

It’s time for a look at what the elections might bring in four months. Jay Cost from The Weekly Standard is first.

Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) has released a new poll of the North Carolina Senate race, featuring Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan squaring off against Republican state house speaker Thom Tillis, with ostensibly good news for the Democrat: She’s up seven points and expanded on her lead. Their headline: “Hagan continues to grow lead.”

But dig a little deeper and the story is mixed for the Democrat. Hagan’s seven-point lead is due largely to the libertarian candidate, who is polling 8 percent. In no cycle since 1986 has the libertarian pulled more than 3.4 percent in North Carolina; on average the libertarian has won 2.1 percent of the vote. And a deeper dive into PPP’s cross-tabs suggests that a large portion of the libertarian support is actually Republican.

In the head to head match-up, excluding the libertarian, Hagan’s lead is 3 points, which is less than the 4 point lead she posted in their last head-to-head poll. Moreover, she pulls just 42 percent of the vote, a bad spot for any candidate with 90%+ name recognition.

Another complication worth noting: PPP has a peculiar method in the spring and summer months, when they poll “voters.” I do not mean registered voters or likely voters, but people who voted in previous cycles, including presidential ones. This means that they are inevitably sampling an electorate that is much broader than what we will see in November. Turnout in 2012 was 60.2 percent of the voting age population in North Carolina; in 2010 it was 36.4 percent. I know of no other pollster that uses this methodology.

I think the bottom line is that North Carolina joins a list of nearly a dozen states where the real world state of the race is within spitting distance of a tie, with 15 to 20 percent of the electorate still undecided. That is how I would characterize the Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina, as well as Republican-held seats in Georgia and Kentucky. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin says it’s good news the GOP is competitive in Colorado and Iowa.

… the most surprising factor in these two races is candidate quality. Democrats had high hopes for Rep. Braley, but his non-stop gaffes on farmers and abrasive personality have sent voters fleeing. Ernst has had a few rocky moments but has capitalized on Braley’s slips and radiates a positive, populist message. She was able to unite both tea party and establishment Republicans in her big primary win. Colorado Republicans got a high-quality candidate when Garner not only decided to run but cleared out other Republican opposition. He’s been on the offensive — battering Udall on Obamacare and on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Now remember, Republicans thought they had a clear path to the six Senate seats needed for a victory even without these states. Most pollsters have relatively easy pickups for the GOP in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Throw in hobbled incumbents running in states Mitt Romney won in 2012 (Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas) and it’s hard to see how the Democrats could hold the Senate if they lose either — and surely if they lose both — Iowa and Colorado. …