March 21, 2016 – SCIENCE & STUFF

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According to Smithsonian Magazine, Twitter may be faster than FEMA for tracking disaster damage. They report on studies by a data scientist in Australia. Of course, since FEMA is part of the government, you already knew it would be poorly run.

… Rapid response in areas hardest hit by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters can save lives and help first responders best allocate limited resources to places that are most in need. But traditional means used to identify high priority locales are surprisingly clumsy and expensive, often requiring personal visits to sites or aerial surveys.

Suspecting that social media could do a better job, Kryvasheyeu and his colleagues homed in on 2012′s Hurricane Sandy as a case study. They accumulated more than 55 million geo-tagged tweets posted one week preceding and three weeks following the storm. The tweets included keywords such as “sandy”, “frankenstorm”, “flooding” and “damage”.

The team standardized the data using demographic figures of neighborhood populations, which allowed them to directly compare the number of tweets from places that are heavily populated, like Manhattan, with places that are less densely packed. Finally, they consulted as many sources as possible on actual damage caused by the storm, including insurance claims and FEMA data.

As the researchers report today in Science Advances, combining the social media findings and the damage assessments on a map revealed significant overlap, with hardest hit areas also producing the most chatter on Twitter.

“For me, the biggest surprise was that this actually works so well, and that the signal is so strong,” Kryvasheyeu says. …



Two hundred years ago three years of cold weather came from the eruption of one volcano. NY Times has the story.

In April 1815, the most powerful volcanic blast in recorded history shook the planet in a catastrophe so vast that 200 years later, investigators are still struggling to grasp its repercussions. It played a role, they now understand, in icy weather, agricultural collapse and global pandemics — and even gave rise to celebrated monsters.

Around the lush isles of the Dutch East Indies — modern-day Indonesia — the eruption of Mount Tambora killed tens of thousands of people. They were burned alive or killed by flying rocks, or they died later of starvation because the heavy ash smothered crops.

More surprising, investigators have found that the giant cloud of minuscule particles spread around the globe, blocked sunlight and produced three years of planetary cooling. In June 1816, a blizzard pummeled upstate New York. That July and August, killer frosts in New England ravaged farms. Hailstones pounded London all summer.

A recent history of the disaster, “Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World,” by Gillen D’Arcy Wood, shows planetary effects so extreme that many nations and communities sustained waves of famine, disease, civil unrest and economic decline. Crops failed globally.

“The year without a summer,” as 1816 came to be known, …



Haikai Magazine on the importance of whale poop. (More proof Pickerhead will read anything)

In the Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica, blue whales were nearly wiped out by industrial whaling from the 1920s to 1940s. But now, with whaling curtailed, the whales are surging back: their population growing by 7.3 percent per year. By 2066, blue whale numbers could be back to historic levels. For conservationists, this last-minute rescue of the largest animals on Earth is a good news story. For others, the blue whale’s return is a daunting prospect. As conventional thinking suggests, the resurgence of these massive creatures—with their equally massive appetites—is creating an ever-greater competition for the commercial krill fishery.

These worries are not entirely unfounded. In the Southern Ocean, shrimp-like krill sit near the base of the food web. Estimates place the total krill biomass in the sea at 379 million tonnes. Each year, commercial trawlers pull in up to 5.6 million tonnes, and during peak feeding season a blue whale can eat nearly four tonnes of krill a day. With a pre-whaling population of 239,000 in the Southern Ocean, blue whales will soon be consuming a decent chunk of the total krill. That would leave the commercial trawl fleet—mostly from Norway, South Korea, and China—with fewer krill to use in fish meal for aquaculture and aquarium feeds, in vitamins or pharmaceuticals, or as bait for sport fishing.

Countering this conventional thinking, a study headed by marine biologist Trish Lavery suggests that blue whales are not exploitive gluttons that will ruin the commercial krill fishery. Instead, the mammals are actually an important and previously overlooked contributor to marine productivity. Blue whales don’t decimate krill populations, they bolster them.

The Southern Ocean is short of iron, an essential nutrient for photosynthesizing phytoplankton. Blue whale feces, however, has an iron concentration more than a million times higher than the background seawater.

Since whales defecate near the ocean’s surface, most of this iron enters the water in the photic zone, where light can reach it. Each whale deposit, then, kicks off a burst of photosynthetic activity and triggers a phytoplankton bloom. In turn, these phytoplankton are the main food source for krill. …



From whale poop to British Columbian mud; more tales of dirt and its uses. The story from Popular Science.

… The researchers incubated various strains of pathogens with clay samples or only with water as a control and found that 16 strains of the bacteria samples died when incubated with clay.

The clay, known as Kisomeet, came from a deposit northwest of Vancouver, and has been used by aboriginal Canadians for several centuries to treat ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, arthritis, and skin irritations, according to anecdotal reports.

The researchers suggest that the clay could eventually be an option for treating bacterial infections from ESKAPE pathogens in hospitals, especially in “last-resort situations.”




Rousseau’s idea of the “noble savage” has been one of the most destructive philosophies. You can see a modern version in socialist campaigns such as Bernie’s that tell us all would be well if only the 1% was brought to heel. has a post on digs in Africa that suggest Hobbesian views of life with nature as “nasty brutish and short” are more on the mark.

Scientists have pieced together an early human habitat for the first time, and life was no organic picnic 1.8 million years ago. Nature was out to kill us and the struggle our ancestors face, as all creatures do, is survival. Rather than the myth of ecological balance, if you were going to survive, you got there earlier and were more fit to last. 
To accomplish that, our human ancestors, who looked like a cross between apes and modern humans, created stone tools with sharp edges and made sure they had ready access to food, water and shady shelter, according to remnants at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.  

But it was tough living, she said. “It was a very stressful life because they were in continual competition with carnivores for their food,”  said Gail M. Ashley, anthropologist at Rutgers University. …



For a change of pace we have a NY Times profile of Jessica Mendoza an ESPN baseball analyst. She’ll be working one of the mikes Thursday night in an ESPN broadcast of a spring training game between the Cubs and Giants. Pickerhead first heard her last summer when Jake Arietta threw a no hitter against the Dodgers.

Well before Jessica Mendoza was analyzing the batting performances of major leaguers on Sunday nights for ESPN, her father was using videotape to break down her at-bats in softball.

If she stepped into the bucket or didn’t rotate her hips, Gil Mendoza’s video showed it. If she didn’t pay attention to her stride, the video made his admonitions more pointed.

“His tripod was out all the time,” she said, smiling at the memory. “I wanted to get some swings in, and he wanted to videotape us.”

Gil Mendoza, who has coached football, softball and baseball for decades in this area, knew how much video augmented what he told his hitters, whether they were in high school or college, or were his daughters, Jessica and Alana. “I started with them when they were 5 or 6,” he said. “I videotaped everything: their soccer, basketball and track.” …


Nice group of non-political cartoons.

March 11, 2016 – VOTE FOR TRUMP

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These pages have not been friendly to the Trump campaign. We started June 22, 2015, then again July 29th, Aug 18th, and for half the post of Sept. 15th. So, we have anti-Trump bona fides. But, a self-serving speech by the foolish Mitt Romney made it plain Pickings was wrong. Listening to Mitt, one wanted to ask, “Where was this passion four years ago?”  

For decades Donald Trump has made himself into a caricature of our expectations. But long exposure makes plain there is substance to the man. First off, we have his children. If the private man was truly the bombastic creep we see so often, his children would be emotional basket cases. That they are squared away people gives us a view behind the curtain. And he has enough success in business to provide belief that out of the public’s view the business operating Trump is rational and able to secure the loyalty of qualified competent senior and middle managers. If not, these people would not hang around. 

It is not too much of a stretch to think a Trump presidency could perform with Trumanesque results. Certainly, he could not do worse than the folks with sterling résumés that are the empty suits in our present Cabinet. Compare them to the giants in the Truman Cabinet.


Today we have a round up of the last two weeks of columns and cartoons, from every point of view, on the Trump phenomenon. And we’ll start with Camille Paglia’s mea culpa; “I was wrong about Donald Trump.”  (Puts Pickerhead in good company.)

… Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude.  He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal.  He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra.  But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women.  As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices. …



Molly Ball in The Atlantic writes on how Trump happened.

… How did Trump happen? The theories abound. It was the other candidates’ fault, for failing to take him seriously, for thinking he would fade. It was the party’s fault, for making the nomination rules more frontrunner-friendly, and believing it could get Trump’s supporters without his baggage—without him. It was the media’s fault, for eating up the spectacle and giving him unlimited free airtime. It was the talk-radio hosts who ignored his ideological transgressions to applaud the way he was smashing the system. It was the Internet, which allowed him to broadcast his message to 6.5 million Twitter followers.

It was the establishment, which pushed an unappealing agenda and never kept its promises. It was the political scientists and pundits, who lulled people into believing this couldn’t happen. It was Larger Sociocultural Forces, globalization and rapid social change that left the working class in the dust, disoriented in a world they didn’t recognize. …

… But people love to be with a winner. And Trump is giving people something they can’t get anywhere else.

His rallies have turned into concertlike festivals that shut down the little towns he lands in for miles around. People by the tens of thousands park far away and stand in line for hours to get in, flanked by vendors hawking an amazing variety of wares. There are T-shirts with Trump as Superman and bright-pink ladies’ hats that say “Trumpette.” There are baby onesies and tie-dyed dresses. There are “Make America Great Again” scarves. In the parking lot of a football stadium in Huntsville, Alabama, on Sunday, a Girl Scout troop was selling cookies. Outside a college arena in Valdosta, Georgia, on Monday, a vendor was selling Trump-themed condoms.

The Alabama rally began with an endorsement of Trump by Jeff Sessions, the state’s junior senator, a staunch opponent of immigration who was once denied a federal judgeship over allegations he had opposed civil rights. In what has now become a signature ritual of such events, Trump’s speech was interrupted several times by protestors, who would yell something inaudible and be gently escorted out by security. “Tell me,” Trump said after one such eruption, as a group of African Americans filed out with fists in the air, “isn’t it fun to be at a Trump rally?”

It’s all part of the show that people have come to expect. You meet all kinds of people at Trump rallies, and they do not hesitate to speak their minds. “It’s about the white middle class—we have not been represented, and the only way we are going to get representation is if Donald Trump is our next president,” Ginger Barbee, a retired criminal-defense attorney from Trussville, Alabama, told me. Not being afraid to say such things—being heard—is the whole point of Trump, whose flouting of “political correctness” resonates deeply with people who feel they’ve been silenced.

“We’re treated like the minority, even though there are more of us,” Barbee complained. A descendant of Confederate soldiers, she lamented the recent removal of Confederate flags and monuments. “I do not want any more Republican establishment people running the country any more than I want the Marxist Democrats,” she added. “Write that down.” …

… People see whatever they want to see in Trump, and then they refuse to see anything else. He has won the moderate, secular, independent voters of New Hampshire, the archconservative, devoutly religious Southerners of South Carolina, and the rugged, gun-toting, government-loathing individualists of Nevada. If Trump is stopped now, what will happen to all these people? Are they really all going to vote for someone who got half as many delegates as Trump and got handed the nomination by a convention-floor establishment conspiracy?

“I expect he’ll get the Republican nomination, unless they Shanghai him,” Randy Lawson told me as we walked to Trump’s rally in Alabama, along with his 11-year-old son, who had made a poster that said, “WE NEED…the TRUMP, the whole TRUMP, and nothing but the TRUMP.” Lawson continued, “If they take it away from him, I think that would ruin the Republican Party.”

I asked if that prospect bothered him. “No,” he said. “It wouldn’t break my heart.”



And Tom Nichols in the Daily Beast says it’s the PC police that created Trump.

The American left created Donald Trump.

When I say “the left,” I do not mean the Democratic Party—or, solely the Democratic Party. Rather, the pestilence that is the Trump campaign is the result of a conglomeration of political, academic, media, and cultural elites who for decades have tried to act as the arbiters of acceptable public debate and shut down any political expression from Americans with whom they disagree. They, more than anyone else, created Donald Trump’s candidacy and the increasingly hideous movement he now leads. …

… It’s pointless to try to explain Trump in terms of political platforms because Trump himself is too stupid and too incoherent to have any kind of consistent political views about anything beyond hating minorities and immigrants. Nuclear weapons? “With nuclear, the power, the devastation is very important to me.” Drugs? “That whole heroin thing, I tell you what, we gotta get that whole thing under control.” A random word generation program could do better.

To understand Trump’s seemingly effortless seizure of the public spotlight, forget about programs, and instead zero in on the one complaint that seems to unite all of the disparate angry factions gravitating to him: political correctness. This, more than anything, is how the left created Trump. …

… When The New York Times tells the rubes that it’s time to hand in their guns, when The Washington Post suggests that Jesus is ashamed of them for not welcoming Syrian refugees the week after a terrorist attack, people react not because they love guns or hate Syrians, but because their natural urge to being told by coastal liberals that they’re awful people and that they should just obey and shut up is to issue a certain Anglo-Saxon verb and pronoun combination with all the vigor they can muster. And if they can’t say it themselves, they’ll find someone who will, even if it’s a crude jerk from Queens who can’t make a point without raising his pinky like a Mafia goon explaining the vig to you after you’ve had a bad day at the track.

These brutish leftist tactics radicalized otherwise more centrist people toward Trump not because they care so much about gay marriage or guns or refugees any other issue, but because they’re terrified that they’re losing the basic right to express themselves. Many of these people are not nearly as conservative or extreme as the white supremacists, nativists, and other assorted fringe nuts who are riding along on Trump’s ego trip. But they are cheering on Trump because they feel they have nowhere else to go. And for that, liberals—especially those who have politely looked away as such methods were employed in the public square—must directly shoulder the blame.

The great mistake made by both liberals and their most extreme wing on the American left is to assume that ordinary people, once corrected forcefully enough, will comply with their new orders. This is, of course, ridiculous: Americans do not magically become complacent and accepting multiculturalists just because they’ve been bullied out of the public debate. They will find a new vessel for their views, and will become more extreme with each attempt to shut them down as the issue moves from particular social positions to the far more encompassing problem of who has the right to tell whom to shut up, and to make it stick. Nixon’s “Silent Majority” increasingly feels itself to be a silenced majority, and Trump is their solution.

Note, for example, how Trump turned the incident in which Black Lives Matter activists humiliated Sen. Bernie Sanders to his own advantage. He didn’t bother drawing partisan lines or going after Sanders. Trump and his supporters couldn’t care less about any of that, and Trump until that point almost had almost never mentioned Sanders.

Instead, he made it clear that he’d never allow himself to be shut down by a mob. That, for his loyalists, was the money shot, especially when Trump pretty much dared BLM to disrupt a Trump event, in effect inviting them for an ass-kicking. A lot of people loved that shtick, because they want to see someone—literally, anyone—stand up to groups like BLM, even if it’s in defense of poor Bernie, because they worry that they’re next for that kind of treatment. …



Zero Hedge weighs in with quotes from an article in the Guardian. UK.

… I’m a liberal-left college professor in the social sciences. I’m going to vote for Trump but I won’t tell hardly anybody.

My main reason is anger at the two-party system and the horrible presidencies of Obama and Bush. But I’m also furious at political correctness on campus and in the media.

I’m angry at forced diversity and constant, frequently unjustified complaints about racism/sexism/homophobia/lack of trans rights. I’m particularly angry at social justice warriors and my main reason to vote Trump is to see the looks on your faces when he wins.

It’s not that I like Trump. It’s that I hate those who can’t stand him. …



Scott Adams of the Dilbert Blog with an interesting post from an African-American Trump fan.

… You are defending America from our enemies within, and it’s an AMAZING thing to watch.

Last night, you also did something else. You became the Man that helped me see fear for what it is: an illusion of power, a powerful teacher, and the path to winning if used properly. There is no reason, regardless of the enormity of the task, to lose to fear if you prepare well, are disciplined in your execution, and have the faith necessary, in God, yourself, and in others…that leads to victory.

Winning is always possible, but becomes probable if you never back down, never quit, and become your dominant self. Once the battle is won, treat the vanquished with kindness and respect. Be the bigger man.

You taught me how to Win. …



Michael Goodwin says Romney is too much of a coward to say what’s on his mind.

… His failure to endorse either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz is most revealing. Romney’s only hope for stealing the nomination is a brokered GOP convention where nobody has a majority of delegates on the first ballot and he emerges as a compromise. And the only way for that to happen is for both Rubio and Cruz to collect enough delegates so that Trump can’t reach the magic number of 1,237.

If Romney really wanted to stop Trump now, he would have backed one of the two main rivals and urged the other, as well as John Kasich, to get out. A total consolidation of all others against Trump is the only plausible way to deny him the nomination.

But even that might spell disaster for the party. With Trump averaging 35 percent support in the first 15 contests, and with his voters the most committed and enthusiastic, any too-clever-by-half maneuvers that take the nomination from Trump could cause a revolt.

Suppose a furious Trump runs as an independent. Or suppose the bulk of his voters sit on their hands on Election Day. Either way, Clinton probably waltzes into the White House.

Any way you slice it, Romney offers no solution to the GOP’s dilemma. The fears that the party cannot win with Trump are legitimate, but they won’t be resolved by an insider deal or turning to a failed retread. …



For another point of view; Thomas Sowell provides an apocalyptic view of Trump’s rise.  

The “Super Tuesday” primaries may be a turning point for America — and quite possibly a turn for the worse. After seven long years of domestic disasters and increasing international dangers, the next President of the United States will need extraordinary wisdom, maturity, depth of knowledge and personal character to rescue America.

Instead, if the polls are an indication, what we may get is someone with the opposite of all these things, a glib egomaniac with a checkered record in business and no track record at all in government — Donald Trump….

… On the campaign trail, Donald Trump’s theatrical talents, including his bluster and bombast, may be enough to conceal his shallow understanding of very deep problems. But that will not cut it in the White House, where you cannot clown or con your way out of problems, and where the stakes are matters of life and death.

Trump’s acting like a bull in a china shop may appeal to some voters but, in the world as it is, he may well cost us our last chance to recover from the great dangers into which the Obama administration has gotten this nation.

We already have an ego-driven, know-it-all president who will not listen to military or intelligence agency experts. Do we need to tempt fate by having two in a row?

Despite Donald Trump’s string of primary vote victories, he has not yet gotten a majority of the Republican votes anywhere. But although most Republican votes are being cast against him, the scattering of that vote among so many other candidates leaves Trump with a good chance to get the nomination. …



More apocalypse from Angelo Codevilla writing in The Federalist.

The Obama years have brought America to the brink of transformation from constitutional republic into an empire ruled by secret deals promulgated by edicts. Civics classes used to teach: “Congress makes the laws, the president carries them out, judges decide controversies, and we citizens may be penalized only by a jury of our peers.”

Nobody believes that anymore, because no part of it has been true for a long time. Barack Obama stopped pretending that it is. During the twentieth century’s second half, both parties and all branches of government made a mockery of the Constitution of 1789. Today’s effective constitution is: “The president can do whatever he wants so long as one-third of the Senate will sustain his vetoes and prevent his conviction upon impeachment.”

Obama has been our first emperor. A Donald Trump presidency, far from reversing the ruling class’s unaccountable hold over American life, would seal it. Because Trump would act as our second emperor, he would render well-nigh impossible our return to republicanism.

Today, nearly all the rules under which we live are made, executed, and adjudicated by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and countless boards and commissions. Congress no longer passes real laws. Instead, it passes broad grants of authority, the substance of the president’s bureaucracy decides in cooperation with interest groups.

Nancy Pelosi’s remark that we would know Obamacare’s contents only after it passed was true, and applicable to nearly all modern legislation. …



Are we tired yet of Chris Christie? How about this hilarity from Olivia Nuzzi in the Daily Beast.

… Christie has long been mocked for his heft, but behind Trump, he looked puny and unremarkable, a hotel end-table of a human being.

He shifted his weight from foot to foot and periodically looked down. When his eyes rose to meet the scene again, disappointment spread across his face.

It was real. He really had done this to himself.

The end of Christie’s presidential campaign was always going to be the end of his political career. Any casual observer could’ve told you as much. Maybe he would become a high-priced securities and appellate lawyer afterward, like he was before his time as the U.S. Attorney and then governor. Or maybe he would pivot to punditry on one of the many cable networks he frequently appeared on as a guest. But with his endorsement of Trump, it seems possible that Christie never thought that far ahead. Maybe, after dropping out, he panicked at the idea that he would never again control a media cycle, never again be met by a sea of cameras and recorders shoved in his face. …



For a bonus we have late night humor from Andy Malcolm.

Conan: A Saudi Arabia official says a Trump presidency would “set the world back centuries.” The Saudi added, “Which is why Trump has our full support.”

Meyers: During his recent victory speech, Donald Trump said he is a “unifier.” Then he turned to Chris Christie and said, “Right, idiot?”

Fallon: Bernie Sanders is getting the support of students at Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, Wellesley College. So now of course, Hillary is trying to get the support of Bernie’s alma mater, Jurassic Park.



The cartoonists have a blast.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



More from Kyle Smith on president petulant. 

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The U.S. response? Words. …



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 29, 2016 – HILLARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s only one little problem with this. …



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

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

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

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



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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

February 22, 2016 – CHEVY BOLT

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


Wired Magazine has our first item on the Chevy Bolt.

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

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

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

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


The Wall Street Journal reviews the Bolt.

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

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

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

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

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

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


And the LA Times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2016 – BERNIE SANDERS

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Cartoonists have Bernie Fun

February 1, 2016 – TED CRUZ

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

January 29, 2016 – CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

January 24, 2016 – WEATHER

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Three of the top 10 blizzards occurred in this century!

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

Now what is with the sudden big snows in Washington?

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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