March 18, 2015

The Charade Is Over

It's no secret that relations between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense at times.  It began at the start of his presidency when Barack Obama pledged that without pre-conditions he would open negotiations with the Islamic leaders of Iran.  He believed then, and believes now, that those negotiations will lay the foundation for a lasting peace in the Middle East including, eventually, a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, sees negotiating with Iran as an exercise in futility, and because of it he represents something of an impediment to Obama's diplomatic aspirations.  It has always been up to Israel to meet some demand or other before any peace talks can start, and these days Netanyahu is not willing to cede anything.  Furthermore, the prime minister isn't alone in his opposition to, and skepticism of, the nuclear agreement Obama is trying to reach with Iran.  There is also bipartisan opposition in the U.S. Congress to any deal with Iran that is not subject to congressional approval. 

However, with the Israeli elections looming, the possibility presented itself for at least one obstacle to be cleared from Obama's path to a grand agreement with Iran.  Netanyahu.

The American nonprofit OneVoice Movement – under scrutiny by a U.S. Senate panel over possible links to a campaign to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – quietly filed paperwork that would allow it to engage in political activism after two leading Republican lawmakers questioned its use of government funds, FoxNews.com has learned.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., sent a letter Jan. 29 to Secretary of State John Kerry asking whether the group ­– as a recipient of almost $350,000 in recent grants from the Obama administration’s State Department – had violated its tax-exempt status when it began backing the virulently anti-Netanyahu Victory 15 campaign in Israel earlier that month.

Cruz also publicly asked whether Obama – who’s had a well-documented adversarial relationship with Netanyahu – had “launched a political campaign against” the Israeli leader in the run-up to the election which was held on Tuesday.

For Obama to meddle in Israeli politics in such a manner seems in character, just as it's in character for him to accuse Republicans of the very same thing.  Earlier this month Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a Joint Session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner and against the wishes of President Obama.  Obama, who did not attend or even listen to the speech, claimed that Republicans were helping the Israeli prime minister by giving him the U.S. House of Representatives as an election campaign forum. 

Maybe both sides were guilty.  In any case when the Israeli votes were tallied, Netanyahu's speech won out over Obama's get-out-the-Israeli-vote efforts.  The speech was actually a rousing success, with standing ovations left and right.  But in the days leading up to Tuesday's pivotal election, a mysterious late surge in the popularity of the Zionist Union had Netanyahu and Likud trailing in pre-election opinion polls.  It wasn't until early Wednesday morning that we learned how Netanyahu and Likud had won a convincing victory.  The Jerusalem Post published election return updates in real time.  Live-blogged, actually, with most recent entries at the top.

Wednesday

7:07 a.m. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement early Wednesday morning inviting potential coalition partners to immediately enter talks for the swift formation of what is expected to be a religious-nationalist government in Jerusalem.

"The reality isn't waiting on us," Netanyahu said just hours after it became clear that his Likud party had scored a decisive victory over Zionist Union in Tuesday's poll. "Reality isn't taking a break. The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for the sake of the country's security, economy, and society as we promised to do, and that is what I will do."

The premier said that he had already spoken with the heads of parties that he plans to invite into his coalition, including Bayit Yehudi chief Naftali Bennett, Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, Shas leader Aryeh Deri, and United Torah Judaism representatives Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni.

"The prime minister plans to immediately begin forming a government in order to complete the task within two to three weeks," he said.

...

4:58 a.m. With nearly 95 percent of precincts reporting before dawn on Wednesday, the Likud has emerged as the clear, undisputed victor in the elections.

According to the official up-to-the-minute tally, Likud wins 29 seats while Zionist Union comes in second at 24 seats.

The parties that follow are Joint Arab List (14); Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); Shas (7); United Torah Judaism (7); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).

Netanyahu's victory is more bad news for Obama's foreign affairs legacy.  In the final days leading up to his re-election, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised that if he is elected there would be no creation of a Palestinian state.  The two-state solution has been the favored framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for decades.  Israeli prime ministers have at least given lip service to the concept, seemingly as the price for continued U.S. and international support.  But the Middle East peace process has been a farce from the word go. 

The Palestinians do not want peace.  They want Israel off the map.  Peace negotiations are simply periods of respite between rocket attacks.  They are opportunities for Palestinians to re-arm.  Writing in the Washington Post in 2009, Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University professor of government and international affairs, described what happened when Israel unilaterally and completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005.  More rocket attacks.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in the hope that the Palestinians would use the opportunity to prepare for an eventual agreement and a two-state solution in which they would live side by side in peace with Israel. Since then, there have been more than 3,500 such attacks aimed at areas of southern Israel, including over 200 launches since Dec. 19, after Hamas chose not to extend a six-month truce. The expanding range of these missiles now covers an area populated by as many as 700,000 Israelis.

Professor Lieber went on to express his doubt that Palestinians would ever agree to peace with Israel unless something convinces them that terrorism and violence will never work.

Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, not because they embraced the ideas of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, but because they concluded that the effort to destroy the Jewish state had failed and that refusing to come to terms with it was harmful to their national interests. Ultimately, peace will be possible only if most Palestinians and their leaders become convinced that terrorism and violence are a dead end and that they cannot under any circumstances prevail over Israel through the use of force.

So Netanyahu will remain in power, and he has ditched the charade of the two-state solution.  At least for now.  I don't doubt that he would pick up it again if he thought doing so would lead to the establishment of real peace in the region and real security for the nation of Israel.  But for that to happen the prime minister would have to be convinced that Iran and the Palestinians are acting in good faith.  How likely is that?

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations committed to the destruction of Israel, and both get substantial support from Iran.  Iran itself is committed to the destruction of Israel, as well as that of the United States.  Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad will never see the futility of terrorism and violence while Iran is willing and able to pay them for it.  And from what we know about the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran, tougher sanctions are not part of the deal, so Iran won't be strapped for terrorist cash.  President Obama will no doubt pursue his fantasy of a grand bargain, but don't expect the deal to convince Palestinians of the futility of their terrorism. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to be the player of consequence now.  Especially since his rejection of the two-state framework has just been endorsed by Israeli voters.  After decades the charade is finally over, and that, ironically, may be the real key to peace in the Middle East.  As they say, step one is to quit kidding yourself and admit that you have a problem.

Update 3/19/2015:  Today the Wall Street Journal reports that the charade is not necessarily over.

TEL AVIV—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew his pledge to block the creation of a Palestinian state, saying he only believed the conditions for one “today aren't achievable.”

In an interview with Fox News, the prime minister said that he believed a Palestinian state could exist if it were demilitarized and recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. But he said he couldn’t support such a state now because of the threat that Islamic State or militant groups backed by Iran would gain control there.

As reported it sounds like an immediate flip-flop on Netanyahu's part.  But how different is that WSJ quote above from this that I said yesterday?  "I don't doubt that he would pick up it [the two-state solution] again if he thought doing so would lead to the establishment of real peace in the region and real security for the nation of Israel.  But for that to happen the prime minister would have to be convinced that Iran and the Palestinians are acting in good faith.  How likely is that?"

The real question is are we going to see a Palestinian state while Netanyahu is Prime Minister?  I think the answer is still no.

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March 16, 2015

Maureen! Is That Really You?

I don't ordinarily read Maureen Dowd.  She's so reflexively Democrat.  So you can imagine how stunned I was to read in her latest column what an unflattering opinion she had of Hillary, and her dread at the thought of another Clinton presidency.  She didn't have much to say that was good, which is not what I expect from one so partisan as Maureen.

WASHINGTON — SINCE open letters to secretive and duplicitous regimes are in fashion, we would like to post an Open Letter to the Leaders of the Clinton Republic of Chappaqua:

It has come to our attention while observing your machinations during your attempted restoration that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our democracy: The importance of preserving historical records and the ill-advised gluttony of an American feminist icon wallowing in regressive Middle Eastern states’ payola.

You should seriously consider these characteristics of our nation as the Campaign-That-Must-Not-Be-Named progresses.

If you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, are willing to cite your mother’s funeral to get sympathy for ill-advisedly deleting 30,000 emails, it just makes us want to sigh: O.K., just take it. If you want it that bad, go ahead and be president and leave us in peace. (Or war, if you have your hawkish way.) You’re still idling on the runway, but we’re already jet-lagged. It’s all so drearily familiar that I know we’re only moments away from James Carville writing a column in David Brock’s Media Matters, headlined, “In Private, Hillary’s Really a Hoot.”

Turns out we weren't "only moments away" from that Carville column.  It was already there on the Real Clear Politics page.

But I digress.  There I was, agreeing with Maureen Dowd.  You might say, I could feel her pain:

Instead of raising us up by behaving like exemplary, sterling people, you bring us down to your own level, a place of blurred lines and fungible ethics and sleazy associates. Your family’s foundation gobbles tens of millions from Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes, whose unspoken message is: “We’re going to give you money to go improve the world. Now leave us alone to go persecute women.”

That’s an uncomfortable echo of a Clintonian trade-off, which goes: “We’re going to give you the first woman president who will improve the country. Now leave us alone to break any rules we please.”

Well, maybe I couldn't feel her pain.  It was really more like, "So it took you some twenty years to figure this out?  Aren't you the clever one."  But no, that's not really it.  Maureen has always known Bill and Hill for what they are: sleazy politicians who consider themselves exempt from the rules the rest of us have to live by.  The real reason for Maureen's depression is that she feels she's stuck with the Clintons and all of their baggage.  If Hillary is going to "improve the country," as Maureen imagines she will, then there is no choice but to shut up and like it.

Suffused with paranoia and pre-emptive defensiveness, you shrugged off The One’s high-minded call for the Most Transparent Administration in History.

It depends upon what the meaning of @ is.

The subtext of your news conference cut through the flimsy rationales like a dagger: “You can have the first woman president. You can get rid of those epically awful Republicans who have vandalized Congress, marginalized the president and jeopardized our Iran policy. You can get a more progressive American society. But, in return, you must accept our foibles and protect us.”

On second thought, we can't really expect Maureen to shut up.  After all, she makes her living by sounding off on things political, and she's a Democrat.  If Hillary can make through the primaries, Maureen's on board.  She'll protect them as she understands them to demand it, and while she can't say much that's nice about Hillary, she can make up for it by hating Republicans.  That's really the only truly unifying issue among Democrats, anyway.  They hate Republicans.  And progressive warrior that she is, Maureen will do her part.

Notice her very first sentence:  "Since open letters to secretive and duplicitous regimes are in fashion, we would like to post an Open Letter to the Leaders of the Clinton Republic of Chappaqua."  How cleverly Maureen draws the equivalence between the Islamic leaders of Iran and the Clintons.  Duplicitous.  Secretive.  Sounds awful.

But she prefers the Clintons to those "epically awful Republicans."  The open letter to which she alludes is the one that Republican Senators sent to the leaders of Iran explaining how a treaty must be ratified by Congress before it carries the weight of law.  You might think such a letter would come in handy, as leverage by a president interested in driving a hard bargain.  You might also think a journalist would see that, as well.  But not President Obama, and not Maureen.  They see Iran as a partner, not an enemy.  Republicans, on the other hand, are not partners.  Obama never negotiates with Republicans.

So Maureen stokes progressive fears, blaming Republicans for seeking to damage to our Iran policy.  Could she be so delusional to suppose that we have an Iran policy, and that it can be damaged?  Iran is a rogue nation that isn't about to abide by any agreement that stands between them and a nuclear weapons program.  It seems beyond belief that Maureen and Obama both see it as important for Obama to make a deal (the details of which are secret) with Iran (the secretive and duplicitous Iran), even as she implies that that the Iranians can't be trusted to live up to it.  She knows they can't. 

If Obama makes a deal with Iran on his own, it will be one in which only appearances matter.  It will be a deal the ayatollahs will break the moment it suits them.  You might say the Iranians will cross that red line when they come to it.   Yet Maureen seems not at all worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons, which they might also make available to the terrorist groups they support.  For Maureen, it's more important to secure Obama's legacy, and in her view those awful Republicans, whose fears of a nuclear Iran and their terrorist proxies, threaten the deal and thus threaten the legacy.  

So Maureen is on board with the Clintons and all of their baggage.  She is on board with a Hillary presidency and all of its duplicity, secrecy, and intrigue that will go with it.  And she's apparently OK with Iran eventually getting nukes.  But Maureen's real fear?  The horror of a Republican in the White House.

Yes, Maureen, I guess that really is you.

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March 05, 2015

Global Warming and the Climate Models

Richard S. Lindzen, professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at MIT, is pushing back against The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics.  There seems to be an inverse relationship.  As the evidence for catastrophic global warming disintegrates, attacks against those who question it escalate, in both frequency and intensity.

Individuals and organizations highly vested in disaster scenarios have relentlessly attacked scientists and others who do not share their beliefs. The attacks have taken a threatening turn.

As to the science itself, it’s worth noting that all predictions of warming since the onset of the last warming episode of 1978-98—which is the only period that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to attribute to carbon-dioxide emissions—have greatly exceeded what has been observed. These observations support a much reduced and essentially harmless climate response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In addition, there is experimental support for the increased importance of variations in solar radiation on climate and a renewed awareness of the importance of natural unforced climate variability that is largely absent in current climate models. There also is observational evidence from several independent studies that the so-called “water vapor feedback,” essential to amplifying the relatively weak impact of carbon dioxide alone on Earth temperatures, is canceled by cloud processes.

Ah, the climate models!  Anyone out there familiar with computer programming and software development practices?  

In the business world, there is usually a sponsor who makes a business case for the development of a new system of programs.  Will we make money?  Will we save money?  Will we improve ease of use, and thus improve client retention?  Will we satisfy a regulatory requirement?  There can be lots of justifications for embarking on what can be a long and costly effort, but one way or another they all come down to the bottom line.  If the sponsor is able to win approval, development begins, usually with the writing of detailed specifications.

Programs are written according to those specifications, and of course, when you write a computer program, you are expected to test it.  Unit testing typically follows a plan that describes the steps taken to prove a program behaves as described in the spec.  Among other things a test plan will indicate what inputs will result in what outputs.  

You test and retest, running the program with various inputs and confirming that outputs are what the plan said they should be.  When you've finished all that you send it off to Quality Assurance where they have a go at it with their own set of tests.  After QA there may need to be client acceptance testing before the new system is put into production.  When it goes into production, it had better work, and it better be right, or there will be hell to pay.

Climate models are computer programs, or perhaps, suites of computer programs.  I have written computer programs, none so complex as Earth with its various inputs and outputs.  I can't even imagine what a complete list of inputs might be, never mind what to expect for outputs.

How would you account for it all?  For instance, last August a scientific article described a new theory:  The current pause in Global Warming is the result of heat sinks deep in the Atlantic and Southern oceans.  Since most climate models had already predicted the extinction of the polar bear due to an absence of the Arctic ice, obviously they had not accounted for those heat sinks.

But how would you program for such heat sinks, even if you could predict them, which they obviously did not?  And then having added the code to account for the heat sinks, how do you then confirm your program reflects their impact accurately?

Well, it turns out that two months after the article came out with the heat sink theory, another set of scientists said they found no appreciable ocean warming since 2005.  That brings us back to the question of what should be specified in climate model specifications?  Apparently no one really knows.  The climate models were wrong, but why?

I suspect software development in the academic world is not quite the same as it is in the business world.  If the sponsors of climate model software systems have to make a case to justify development, it would probably be in the application for a federal grant.  I've never written anything like that, but I imagine the grant application would say what knowledge would be gained and how the system would help in the research.  One thing we do know is that global warming is a hot topic (pun intended).  The federal government is eager to hand out money to study it.  Lots of money.  

[Michael] Mann [director of Pennsylvania State’s Earth System Science Center] is typical of pro-warming scientists who have taken millions from government agencies. The federal government — which will gain unprecedented regulatory power if climate legislation is passed — has funded scientific research to the tune of $32.5 billion since 1989, according the Science and Public Policy Institute. That is an amount that dwarfs research contributions from oil companies and utilities, which have historically funded both sides of the debate.

Mann, for example, has received some $6 million, mostly in government grants — according to a study by The American Spectator — including $500,000 in federal stimulus money while he was under investigation for his Climategate e-mails.

With the billions of dollars in federal grant money just waiting to be plucked, there is really only one thing a climate model needs to do:  Always predict that global temperatures are going to rise as the level of CO2 in the atmosphere rises.  It's beautiful!  It simplifies the specification and it simplifies testing by eliminating a lot of useless variables.  If the model always predicts that global temperatures are going to rise in some proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2, the expected results are always achieved.  And doesn't that make it an easy program to write!

The only problem comes when you have to compare your climate model output to what happens in the real world.  But as we've seen, that takes years.  By that time, the climate model will have paid for itself a hundred times over.  And it goes without saying, the money's well spent on scientific research.

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February 21, 2015

Stonewalled -- The Information War

Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington
By Sharyl Attkisson

In her best selling book, Stonewalled, former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson spells out in riveting detail what conservatives have known for years about mainstream news reporting.  Outlets such as CBS News fashion their coverage with an eye towards electing their preferred candidates.  Nowadays that means favorable reporting on Barack Obama and his administration and negative stories for his critics.

Stonewalled opens with Attkisson's discovery that her personal computer, another computer that she used for work, and quite possibly the CBS News internal network had all been hacked.  Attkisson's activities were being monitored by persons unknown.  She brought in cyber security experts to analyze her hardware.  They confirmed it:  Her computers had been breached.  But that wasn't the worst of the news.  Since there are so few organizations capable of such a thorough a penetration, analysts suspected that the hackers most likely belonged to one of our government's three-letter agencies.   The experts found more.

They're also worried about my home phone.  It's practically unusable now.  Often when I call home, it only rings once on the receiving end.  But on my end it keeps ringing, and then connects somewhere else.  Nobody's there.  Other times, it disconnects in the middle of calls.  There are clicks and buzzes.  My friends who call hear the strange noises and ask about them.  I get used to the routine of callers suggesting, half-jokingly, "Is your phone tapped?"

...

On top of that, my home alarm system has begun chirping a nightly warning that my phone line is having "trouble" of an unidentified nature.

An agency of the federal government was secretly monitoring Attkisson.  The time was October, 2012, and Attkisson was digging into the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  Hackers were trying to find out what Attkisson knew and how she knew it

Benghazi had the Obama administration in cover up mode.  Questions posed by reporters about the attack and the apparent lack of an administration response to it were deflected or dismissed by White House spokesmen as partisan witch-hunting.  While some in the news media were satisfied with the White House version of events, Sharyl Attkisson was not, and because of it she got a close up look at the administration's methods for dealing with reporters who ask tough questions. 

"Know your enemy"
PR officials get to know the reporters on the story and their supervisors.  Research them.  Lobby them.  Look for their weak spots.  If they don't adopt the preferred PR viewpoint, the PR officials launch a campaign to controversialize and discredit them.

"Mine and Pump Strategy"
When ask to provide interviews and information for a story, the PR officials stall, claim ignorance of the known facts, and mine and pump the reporter for what information he has.

"Controversialize"
...The officials controversialize the reporter and any whistle blowers or critics to tru to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence...

It's a scripted process.  The Obama PR machine works to discredit the reporter, while at the same time it tries to spin the story in a way that puts Obama in more a favorable light.  If the story can't be spun, the next step is to delay.  Spokesmen plead ignorance.  Questions are brushed aside.  Eventually, officials respond to the repeated questions with something like, "Why are you still asking about this?  It's old news, we've already answered all that.  Can't we move on?"  Throughout the process the administration puts pressure on reporters, producers, and news executives:  Be reasonable, it's tough enough without your badgering.

It's not as if Obama hasn't got his allies in the media.  The relationship between corporate CBS and the Obama administration tends to be cooperative, which means that many of the obstacles confronting Attkisson came from her own management.  It is this that Attkisson devotes much of Stonewalled.

In example after example — Fast and Furious and the illegal transfer of guns to Mexican drug dealers; the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov and the lies told to the public; the deaths of four Americans at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the administrations cover up of what happened; green energy subsidies and the associated corruption — Attkisson reveals how CBS News management would at first be enthusiastic about her stories, then would try to get Attkisson to agree to a softening of impact, and finally would just refuse to let her stories go on the air.

In her concluding chapter, Attkisson relates an anecdote that strengthens a suspicion I've had for some time now.  She tells of a phone call she received from a White House official that she chooses not to name.  It came a few days before the second presidential debate between Obama and Mitt Romney.

The White House official and I chatted casually about unrelated topics and then he introduced a non sequitur:  "The president called Benghazi a 'terrorist attack' the day after in the Rose Garden," he told me.

At the time, I hadn't given any thought to whether the president had or hadn't termed the Benghazi assaults "terrorism."  The debate on that point hadn't widely emerged and I was still focused on the State Department's denial of security requests from Americans in Libya prior to the attacks.

Since I really didn't know what the president had said in the Rose Garden the day after, I didn't offer a comment to the White House official on the other end of the phone.  He repeated himself as if to elicit some sort of reaction.

"He did call it a terrorist attack.  In the Rose Garden. On September twelfth."   

If you watched that second debate you may recall how Obama stunned Romney and nearly everyone else with the statement,

"The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened.  That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those committed this crime."

A flabbergasted Romney replied,

"You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?  It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?"

Romney and the audience were further shocked when moderator Candy Crowley took the opportunity to jump into the debate on Obama's side. 

CROWLEY  It—it—it—he did in fact, sir.  So let me—let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA  Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY  He—he did call it an act of terror.

Is there any chance that Crowley had not been prepped for Obama's surprise announcement.  A review of that Rose Garden speech transcript shows that Obama made no such connection between Benghazi and terrorism.  On the contrary, on the day Obama was speaking in the Rose Garden, Susan Rice had still not yet made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to state the administration's position:  The attacks were a spontaneous reaction to an insulting internet video.  Officials up and down the administration had pushed the spontaneous demonstration narrative for weeks, but here was Candy Crowley, now corroborating Obama's new claim that he had immediately called it a "an act of terror."

Attkisson's revelation, that the White House also passed this nugget to her, convinces me that Crowley knew going into the debate what Obama was going to say about his "day after" Rose Garden speech.  She knew she could expect to hear him say it during the debate, and she knew what she was supposed to do about it.  It was her job to jump in in support of Obama's lie, and then immediately steer the debate to another topic.

A left-wing ideological slant to news coverage is not a recent phenomenon, and it's by no means rare.  In the 1930s the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reports by Walter Duranty that glorified Josef Stalin and his Sovie regime, while ignoring the starvation of millions in the Ukraine.   But what was possible then is not so easy now.  In the 1930s, newspapers could be secure in the knowledge that their stories would go largely unchallenged.  Even into the 1960s and 1970s, newspapers and network news organizations had the power to dictate what was news and what wasn't, and they enjoyed the trust of the American public.  Contradictions had almost no chance of being heard.

Today the internet makes vast stores of information available to anybody with a computer who wants to go looking, and once the information is out there it almost never goes away.  On top of that, anybody can publish on the internet and potentially reach an audience of millions.  This calls for a different set of strategies, and the Obama PR machine has mastered them as Attkisson describes in detail in Stonewalled

It's hard to overstate the importance of this book.  In bygone days there was at least the semblance of an adversarial relationship between the press and the White House.  Some times more antagonistic than others.  With the election of Barack Obama, the most left-wing president ever, our already left-leaning media has tilted even further left and has pretty much abdicated the traditional role of the press.  Adversary has become ally.  We are in an information war.  Never before has news reporting been so blatantly dishonest, with entire media organizations working to promote the progressive, left-wing agenda. 

Fortunately, there are still the few courageous individuals like Sharyl Attkisson who are willing to report the truth in spite of concerted efforts to suppress it. 

Update:  With regard to the cooperative nature of the CBS News/Obama White House relationship, I should have included this information:

Here’s the crux. The Rhodes brothers.

Ben Rhodes, David Rhodes.

Ben is a deputy national security advisor to Obama and writes speeches for him. In September 2012, Ben was “instrumental,” according to ABC News, in changing the White House talking points (the story) on what happened in Benghazi.

Ben’s brother, David, is president of CBS News. Attkisson was working for David. She was investigating all the changes (12) in the Benghazi talking points. She was shut down.

[Emphasis above is mine.]

"Changing the White House talking points" refers to removing all reverences to terrorism and blaming a YouTube video for the violence in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.

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February 18, 2015

Attkisson's Top Ten Astroturfers

What, you may ask, is an astroturfer?  Astroturfers are large special interest entities who self promote by pretending to be grassroots movements.  Some of the ways they do this is by publishing blogs, writing letters to the editor, and by writing and commenting via social media, but always posing as independent voices.  Here are Attkisson's top ten:

1. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown

2. Media Matters for America

3. University of California Hastings Professor Dorit Rubenstein Reiss and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit

4. “Science” Blogs such as: Skeptic.com, Skepchick.org, Scienceblogs.com (Respectful Insolence), Popsci.com and SkepticalRaptors.com

5. Mother Jones

6. Salon.com and Vox.com

7. White House press briefings and press secretary Josh Earnest

8. Daily Kos and The Huffington Post

9. CNN, NBC, New York Times, Politico and Talking Points Memo (TPM)

10. MSNBC, Slate.com, Los Angeles Times and Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and Jon Stewart.

We're in an information war with the left.  Read the whole thing.

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February 13, 2015

One Sided Conversations On Huffington Post

I've recently taken to dropping comments on articles that I read on the web.  Yesterday, I couldn't resist sounding off on this Huffington Post article, Republican Rhetoric vs Reality, by Charles Schumer, Senator from New York.  Said Senator Schumer,

Democrats are encouraged to hear Republicans co-opting our rhetoric on the economy and we stand at the ready to work with Republicans to get things done for the middle class. But only when Republican policy proposals catch up to their rhetoric will we have an opportunity for real solutions.

So, what qualifies as a real solution in the mind of the Chuck Schumer?

Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage and lower the cost of tuition. The President was right to think boldly in proposing the goal of free community college.

Raising the minimum wage, and proposing yet another government subsidy.  How bold.  The cost of a college education has never been higher thanks to the various subsidies and student loan programs.  So now the idea is to put community colleges out of reach too.  Great ideas.

I clicked on the comments to this article.  They are in a default sequence which is by "Social Ranking," and at the top of the list is one by "Top Commenter" Mark Cohen.

Mark Cohen · Top Commenter · St Leo University

Teapublican economic and tax policies have never worked historically and certainly not for anyone other than the already wealthy. However, Conservatives approach it just like many of them approach religion ...it is "faith based" and no empirical facts are required and to say otherwise is "heresy" ...just look at the latest example in Kansas ...

"Teapublican."  And Mark Cohen is rated as a "Top Commenter."  We have a clue into the philosophical leanings at the Huffington Post.  Not that we needed one. 

It's a pretty typical left-wing argument.  Broad generalities.  No mention of which policies and how it is they never worked.  Never in history, mind you.  And alas, with no "empirical facts" in support of of what he said.  I thought I'd respond by bringing up an inconvenient fact about a favorite policy of the Democrats, so I posted this in reply:

Tom Bowler · Works at Retired

Mark Cohen, speaking of economic and tax policies, have you checked with the employees of Borderland Books in San Francisco to see how that minimum wage hike is working out? http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/borderlands-books-in-sf-announces-closure-cites-minimum-wage-increase/Content?oid=2918723

According to the story linked in my comment, Borderlan Books, a local San Francisco book store, announced that it would close after San Francisco voters approved a minimum wage increase from $11.05 to $15.00.  Borderland was already struggling against competition from online book sales and the trend towards ebooks.  The minimum wage boost was the final straw.  Borderland's owner, Alan Beatts, said the store would have to increase sales by at least 20 percent just to stay afloat.  He considered it an unrealistic target.

Later on I went back to see if there was a reply to my reply and found that Mr. Cohen had posted this :

Mark Cohen · Top Commenter · St Leo University

Tom Bowler They may blame the minimum wage but the real reason is ,sadly, local bookstores have had serious problems for years mostly from the huge chains and online.

Show where historically when we have raised the minimum wage it has actually hurt employment...hint: it doesn't. Since the 1930's employers have poor mouthed about it and making threatening noises but the fact is more money in more hands creates more aggregate demand and boosts the economy. Whereas more in the hands of a tiny few does nothing of substance. Of course, that is where Conservatives then throw up "trickle down" but ,once again, that has never worked unless regulations or unions force it...

Show where raising the minimum wage hurt employment?  That's what I just did. 

I composed a reply, which took a while, since it was a long comment that needed proof reading and corrections.  I used Open Office Writer rather than trying to compose on the web site, then I copied what I wrote from Writer and pasted it into the Huffington comment box.  When I posted it, I noticed that only the first part of it was shown along with a "more" link to reveal the rest of it.  I clicked on the "more" link to confirm that the full comment made it in there.  It did.   I clicked on the X to close the Writer window, and when it asked "Save," "Discard" or "Cancel" I thought, oh what the hell, I'll save it.

This morning I got up to see what Mr. Cohen had to say about it.  Guess what!  My comment is gone!  I thought, well maybe it got misplaced somehow, so I tried exploding all sub-threads to make sure all of the comments were shown on the screen. I tried listing the comments in chronological sequence.  I couldn't find it.  I used CTRL-F to search for my name.  My original comment was there, but my final comment was still nowhere to be found.

What could I have said to so offend the folks at Huffington Post?  Well, here it is, essentially.  It's not verbatim because I did some final editing on the Huffington Post web site that I didn't transfer to may saved version

Mark, there is always a combination of factors that cause a business to go under. To simply dismiss the effect of the minimum wage hike because there are other factors is to ignore reality.

Policy makers have learned over the decades that price supports and price ceilings have rather nasty unintended consequences. The memory of gas lines in the 70s convinced policy makers in subsequent administrations, both Bush and Obama, that imposing price ceilings on gasoline creates shortages. So they didn't do it and the market took care of itself. Price supports on wheat in the 50s caused so much surplus wheat to be grown that they were abandoned in favor of direct payments to farmers not to grow the wheat. (We could argue the effectiveness of subsidies but that's another story.)

A price support on labor (minimum wage) is still a favorite with Democrats, even though its effect is to encourage a labor surplus (unemployment) in those jobs. There are union contracts that use the minimum wage as a trigger for higher union wages, and we know that higher union wages means more union dues and more campaign money for the Democratic party, so Democrats are always pushing for a minimum wage hike. It's always about the money, you know.

If things worked the way you think they do, we should be in an era of unprecedented prosperity, what with all the new regulations and that aggregate demand that the trillion dollar deficits and stimuli were supposed to create. But somehow we're not. In fact, we've got these rosy unemployment numbers only because the BLS unemployment calculation ignores people who have completely given up on finding a job. And there are a lot of them.

You can't regulate our way to prosperity any more than unions are going to force it. The way that wages go up is when employers have to compete for workers. In a rapidly expanding economy there is higher demand for labor and employers are forced to pay more for it.

That has not been the state of the economy for the last six years, due to Obama's fixation on higher taxes and more regulations for employers. Which brings us back to the topic of other factors that cause a business to go under. Regulations and taxes are part of that list. They contribute to the drag on economic growth, which is a drag on employment, all of which contribute to the drag on wage growth. Jobs have been scarce and employers have been under no pressure to offer good wages to retain workers.

When Democrats tell you that raising the minimum wage is going to bring prosperity through a boost in demand, it really means a boost in their own prosperity through a boost in campaign contributions. It's really all about the money, you know.

I thought I had a really good argument.  Apparently the Huffington Post did too.

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February 11, 2015

Obama Signals Opposition to Ground War Against ISIS

President Obama is reportedly ready to ask congress for authorization to use military force against ISIS.  The authorization will include strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces that can be deployed, according to congressional sources.

President Barack Obama will soon give Congress his proposal for a new authorization for the use of military force against Islamic State fighters, and it will place strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces that can be deployed, according to congressional sources.

Almost six months after the president began using force against the Islamic State advance in Iraq and then in Syria, the White House is ready to ask Congress for formal permission to continue the effort.  Until now, the administration has maintained it has enough authority to wage war through the 2001 AUMF on al-Qaeda, the 2002 AUMF regarding Iraq and Article II of the Constitution. But under pressure from Capitol Hill, the White House has now completed the text of a new authorization and could send it to lawmakers as early as Wednesday.

Usually Obama is only too happy to declare that with his pen and his phone he is prepared to act unilaterally.  In fact, he never asks congress for authorization unless it's for something he doesn't really want to do.  Recall back in 2013 when Obama waffled on his Syrian red line, that was not really his red line but the world's red line, which then turned out to be no line at all.

Mr. Obama said that the world needed to show the Syrian regime that they could not use chemical weapons with impunity.

And he defended his assertion that "a red line" would be crossed by the use of such weapons, arguing that he was simply emphasising accepted international laws.

"First of all, I didn’t set a red line," he said. "The world set a red line.

"So when I said that my calculus would be altered by chemical weapons, which the overall consensus of humanity says is wrong – that’s not something I just made up. I didn’t pluck it out of thin air.

"My credibility isn't on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line."

So, having declared that the red line was crossed, Obama backed off.  He decided he needed congressional approval for action against Syria.  Not everyone agreed that he needed it.

President Obama said Saturday the United States should take military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians but also turned to Congress for approval -- dealing a potential setback to America's foreign policy and setting up what will likely be a hard-fought Washington debate on the issue.

“This menace must be confronted,” Obama said of the Assad regime’s alleged chemical attack, speaking from the Rose Garden.

However, the announcement also raised the question about whether the president put the burden on Congress to act.

"President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents," said New York Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "The president doesn't need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line."

A tough talking Obama announced that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad had to go.  But that was 2013 and here we are a year and a half later with Bashar al Assad still in power in Syria, more secure than ever.  Based on Obama's past performance and this new AUMF proposal, we should expect ISIS to be more firmly entrenched than ever two years from now.

That could be the ultimate effect of Obama's proposal for a new AUMF which places strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces to be deployed.  (My emphasis below.)

If enacted, the president's AUMF could effectively constrain the next president from waging a ground war against the Islamic State group until at least 2018. Aides warned that the White House may tweak the final details before releasing the document publicly. 

In advance of the release, top White House and State Department officials have been briefing lawmakers and Congressional staffers about their proposed legislation. Two senior Congressional aides relayed the details to me. 

The president’s AUMF for the fight against Islamic State would restrict the use of ground troops through a prohibition on “enduring offensive ground operations," but provide several exemptions. First, all existing ground troops, including the 3,000 U.S. military personnel now on the ground in Iraq, would be explicitly excluded from the restrictions. After that, the president would be allowed to deploy new military personnel in several specific roles: advisers, special operations forces, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to assist U.S. air strikes and Combat Search and Rescue personnel.

It isn't war that Obama, or the rest of the anti-war crowd, opposes.  They seem quite supportive, for example, of the Palestinian's perpetual war against Israel.  Has anyone in the anti-war movement ever suggested the slightest opposition or disapproval of Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel? 

By the look of it, this new AUMF proposal would set the conditions for a new perpetual war between radical Islam — whether we call them ISIS or al Qaeda — and the west.  And that will do nicely for Obama and his anti-war constituents who are opposed only to America winning such a war.

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February 10, 2015

Statement of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

I've taken the liberty of posting Commissioner Pai's statement in its entirety.  It can also be found here on the FCC website.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       CONTACT:
February 6, 2015                                                                                   Matthew Berry (202) 418-2005
                                                                                                               Email: Matthew.Berry@fcc.gov
  STATEMENT OF FCC COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI  
  ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PLAN TO REGULATE THE INTERNET  

 

            Last night, Chairman Wheeler provided his fellow Commissioners with President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I am disappointed that the plan will not be released publicly. The FCC should be as open and transparent as the Internet itself and post the entire document on its website.

            Instead, it looks like the FCC will have to pass the President’s plan before the American people will be able to find out what’s really in it.

            In the coming days, I look forward to continuing to study the plan in detail. Based on my initial examination, however, several points are apparent.

            First, President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works.  It’s an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world. It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet.” For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan. 

            Second, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will increase consumers’ monthly broadband bills. The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband.  Indeed, states have already begun discussions on how they will spend the extra money. These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.

            Third, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will mean slower broadband for American consumers. The plan contains a host of new regulations that will reduce investment in broadband networks. That means slower Internet speeds. It also means that many rural Americans will have to wait longer for access to quality broadband.

            Fourth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt competition and innovation and move us toward a broadband monopoly. The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market. As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get. We shouldn’t bring Ma Bell back to life in this dynamic, digital age.

            Fifth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet is an unlawful power grab. Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation. There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.

            And sixth, the American people are being misled about what is in President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet. The rollout earlier in the week was obviously intended to downplay the plan’s massive intrusion into the Internet economy. Beginning next week, I look forward to sharing with the public key aspects of what this plan will actually do.

Obama is determined to leave his mark on America, and if there is anything that will transform it in the way he has in mind putting a regulatory choke hold on the internet is it. There is no doubt that the intent of this regulatory power grab is to provide future progressive elites with the tools needed to stifle dissent. The internet continues to be a thorn in the side of Obama and his allies in the legacy media. It should come as no surprise that the network news outlets haven't bothered to cover this development

The internet has been crucial in raising awareness of the craven dishonesty of the corporate news establishment, from Dan Rather and his fraudulent 60 Minutes piece on the Texas Air National Guard to Brian Williams and his false pretenses of bravery under fire in Iraq.  The likes of ABC, CBS, and NBC would like nothing better than to shut down the outlets that reveal network news for what it is:  a strutting flock of sycophants for Barack Obama and anything labeled progressive.

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February 04, 2015

Jobs and the Minimum Wage

In the news today via Instapundit we have this story:

An independent San Francisco bookstore says it will be closing its doors by March 31, despite having its best year ever in 2014. And it’s pointing at San Francisco’s newly enacted minimum wage law as the reason.

Borderland Books, which specializes in science fiction and horror, says it has withstood a host of challenges since it opened in 1997, including the rise of Amazon.com and e-books, a landlord who supposedly doubled their rent while dotcoms were first booming, and a deep recession that the owners say “hit us very hard.” A higher minimum wage, though, would take the business from being modestly profitable to being a money loser, the owner says.

I couldn't resist Googling "minimum wage and unemployment" to find where "studies show" that the minimum wage has no impact on employment.  Sure enough, this turned up from Business for a Fair Minimum Wage .

Research Shows Minimum Wage Increases Do Not Cause Job Loss

Extensive research refutes the claim that increasing the minimum wage causes increased unemployment and business closures. (See list below.)

...

In a 2013 report, Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?, the Center for Economic and Policy Research spotlights two recent meta-studies analyzing the extensive research conducted since the early 1990s; they conclude that "the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers.

No doubt, Borderland Books' employees understand the impact that the minimum wage hike has had on their job prospects, in spite of all the studies that claim there isn't one.  

Speculating here, but I suspect the same people who lament the demise of the mom and pop retailers also support a minimum wage level that will drive them out of business.  I wouldn't necessarily count the folks at Business for a Fair Minimum Wage in that group.  It's my guess they've already calculated that a boost in the minimum wage will hurt their competition more than it will hurt them.

And of course the Democratic party is always on board, since a higher minimum wage means contractually higher union wages, which translates to more union money for the Democratic party.  Meanwhile, killing off mom and pop businesses will dry up sources of money for the Republican party.

The minimum wage.  It's all about compassion and fairness, you know.

While we're speaking of jobs, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton took a look at the official 5.6% current unemployment rate and says it's total BS.

Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment.

There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

We should not overlook that the unemployment number is a creation of the US Department of Labor.

Meet the Secretary of Labor

Nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn in on July 23, 2013, Thomas E. Perez is the nation's 26th secretary of labor. He has committed to making good on the promise of opportunity for all, giving every working family a chance to get ahead, and putting a middle-class life within reach of everyone willing to work for it. To accomplish this, Perez's priorities for the department include ensuring a fair day's pay for a fair day's work; connecting ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs, through skills programs like Registered Apprenticeship and on-the-job training; promoting gender equality in the workplace; ensuring that people with disabilities and veterans have access to equal employment opportunity; and insisting on a safe and level playing field for all American workers.

Yes, "opportunity for all," and by their own measure, DOL is doing a great job.  And we owe it all to Obama.

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February 02, 2015

“He’s a white guy!”

Recently Jonathan Chait penned an article in New York Magazine that generated a lot of comment on the web.  He complained about the excesses of the progressivism's politically correct and how the language police are perverting liberalism.  What we have here is one of PC's chief practitioners, Chait, suddenly worried about the PC war on free speech. 

It comes in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo.  Immediately after the French cartoonists were gunned down, there was near universal outrage over such a violent attack on freedom of expression.  However, it soon gave way, as discerning leftists declared, no we are not Charlie.

Were the slain satirists martyrs at the hands of religious fanaticism, or bullying spokesmen of privilege?

Bullying spokesmen of the politically correct pushing back against the bullying spokesmen of privilege.  The social justice industry has discovered another root cause.  It's the original sin of privilege.  For the eternal question, "Mommy, how come he has more than me?!" progressives have the answer:  White male privilege.

As progressives see it, it takes brilliance and sophistication to recognize that kernel of truth amidst the noise and chatter of our complex world.  But it implies that their complex world doesn't extend far beyond the proverbial backyard where an eternal Mommy adjudicates, and everybody's dish of ice cream holds exactly the same amount.

With the Charlie Hebdo attack Jonathan Chait has apparently come grips with the violent world that exists beyond the backyard fence.  Journalists were murdered.  I wonder if the terrorists had gunned down a random group of French Jews, would anyone have paid the slightest attention?  Would Chait?   But journalists were attacked, so lefty journalists did take notice. 

But then, surprise!  It turns out that free speech is a bone of contention over which the politically correct have taken sides.

The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.

Jonah Goldberg hilariously pointed out in what might be considered a rebuttal article to Chait's, that the new left have now even turned on Marx.  It turns out he was privileged.  These are the very same who adhere to Marxist theory and promote Marxist solutions to everything from income inequality to race and gender inequality.

My buddy James Lileks writes about how left-wing students at Berkeley (sort of redundant, I know) are starting to turn on Marx, not because of his potted theories of the dialectic, his crude reductionism of man to homo economicus, or even the fact that he set the foundation for turning the 20th century into an abattoir. No, Marx is bad because he’s just another dead white guy. The students write in the school paper:

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

...Anyway, they go on to gripe that Marx worked from the assumption that there are — or were — differences between men and women. The madman! The professor’s statement in defense of Marx, that “women give birth while men do not,” was enough to make some students flee the room, no doubt in search of a gender-neutral fainting couch.

Maybe these kids just have too much time on their hands, but it's evidently not enough time for them to construct a coherent argument.  Quips Goldberg:

It’s amazing. We spent a century trying to explain to the Left why Marx was wrong. It just never occurred to us to try “He’s a white guy!” It should have been obvious.

I'm not sure about the "obvious" part, and I doubt even Goldberg would expect lefties to be persuaded, but it's hilarious to watch.  The PC police have long ago thrown in the towel on making a persuasive case.  They only argue among themselves, anyway.  They're about preventing any arguments from being heard that might be counter to theirs. 

By recognizing that the PC police represent liberal abandonment of the very principles for which they say they fight, maybe Jonathan Chait is coming around. 

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

Bludgeoning by the politically correct is not a perversion of liberalism.  It is liberalism.  There's a conservative strain to Chait's faith that "democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you."  I doubt that Chait sees it.  I suspect he's still stuck on liberal=good and conservative=bad.

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January 31, 2015

Staying Home

On Friday Mitt Romney announced that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination.

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democratic nominee,” Mr. Romney said. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

There's not the slightest doubt that putting Romney in the White House would be a vast improvement over our last dismal eight years under Obama, but as I've said before, Obama won't be a tough act to follow.  Romney would assuredly be a better president than Obama, but is that really good enough?  There is damage that must be undone, and I'm not at all confident that Romney is the man who will do it.  As Mr. Romney said, it's time to look to the next generation of Republican leaders.

Thank you, Mitt.

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January 25, 2015

Obama and the Homeless

If there was anything notable about the latest Obama State of the Union, it was that once again he trotted out the same old class warfare rhetoric with calls for higher taxes on the rich.  Once again he bragged, to almost everyone's disbelief, how well his policies have worked, while throwing in the absurd line about the "shadow of crisis" having passed.  People are having a hard time buying it.  Consider this story from the LA Times about the spread of homeless camps in Los Angeles.  

Over the last two years, street encampments have jumped their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles, lining freeways and filling underpasses from Echo Park to South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency, received 767 calls about street encampments in 2014, up 60% from the 479 in 2013.

Some residents believe the city is exporting its downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn't that simple. They say that although downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps are filled with locals.

No matter what Obama says, you can't help but notice there are more homeless in our midst, and that Obama's policies are not helping them.  And now that folks in the LA area are voicing there concerns about the growth in homeless camps, the LA Times finds that it is also obliged to notice as well.  

Still, it's downright shocking to see a story like this from a mainstream newspaper when a Democrat sits in the White House.  Could it be that the mainstream news outlets are finally catching up with the rest of America?  Are they finally recognizing that Obama's tax-the-rich policies are really hurting the people that he likes to take credit for helping.  

It's not rocket science, says Larry Kudlow.

First, you can't create a new business or sustain an existing one without the seed corn and nourishment of capital investment.

Second, only businesses create jobs. You can't have a job without a business.

Third, jobs create all incomes, including middle-class incomes.

Fourth, incomes create family and consumer spending.

OK? This is not complicated. It's common economic sense.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan states this in a simpler way: Growth starts with investment and ends with consumer spending.

Alas, for some it is rocket science.  In his State of the Union, class warrior Obama proposed another hike in the capital gains tax.  It was at 15 percent when he came into office.  He pushed it to to 20 percent, and then Obamacare took it to 23.8.  Now he's proposing to push it to 28 percent.  At the same time the U.S. workforce participation rate has gone from just under 66 percent to just under 62 percent.  A surge, in the millions, of people who have given up looking for work has occurred on Obama's watch, which has translated into a surge in the number of homeless.

Sadly though, the plight of the homeless is not a popular news feature until it can be traced back to the policies of a Republican president, at which point we are inundated with stories about them.  Perhaps MSM is just warming up in anticipation of things that might come in 2016.  After all, Republicans did just take over Congress.

In any event it's a stark break with tradition for an outlet like the LA Times to notice that the poor are suffering at exactly the same time that Obama's grand Democratic policies are supposed to be helping them.  One can't help but wonder what drives Times reporter Gale Holland to such an egregious breach of good taste.

It's hard to say, but it doesn't seem to arise from any rage at the unfairness of Obama's policies.  She obviously hasn't made the connection between higher taxes and lower job growth.  Ms. Holland can't even be sure there are any more homeless this year than there were two years ago.  Maybe they're are just spreading out.

Whether homeless people are more numerous or simply more visible could be answered by the biennial tally taking place this week.

As many as 6,000 volunteers will go out Tuesday through Thursday searching for homeless people living in alleys, riverbeds, cars and RVs. For the first time, homeless people will be asked about their gender identity, domestic violence and prison histories, and years of military service — information that could better track where they came from and why.

Ms. Holland's uncertainty will most likely disappear with the next Republican administration, when greater visibility of the homeless will be reflexively reported as evidence of a more widespread and growing problem.  In the next Republican administration there will be no need for her to ponder where the homeless come from or why they are homeless.  The causes will be obvious — Republican policies that favor the rich.

The simple logic that there are more homeless because there really aren't enough jobs to be had, and there aren't enough jobs to be had because of punitive and arbitrary tax policy, seems to escape Ms. Holland along with the the rest of the mainstream press.  For them, homelessness remains a mystery whose causes can't be ascertained with a certainty for at least another two years.

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January 14, 2015

Stay Home, Mitt

It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed when Mitt Romney came up short in 2012.  2012 should have been a layup, a chip shot for Mitt Romney.  Barack Obama's combination of incompetence, arrogance, and intense partisanship has put him out in front of Jimmy Carter in the race for worst president in modern times.  But Mitt managed to blow it.

Mr. Romney’s campaign team was notable for its mediocrities, led by a strategist whose theory of the race was that voters had already rejected Mr. Obama so the challenger merely needed to seem like a safe alternative. He thus never laid out an economic narrative to counter Mr. Obama’s claim that he had saved the country from a GOP Depression and needed more time for his solutions to work.

And don’t forget the management calamity of Mr. Romney’s voter turnout operation, code-named Orca. Mr. Romney likes to say he reveres “data,” but Mr. Obama’s campaign was years ahead of Mr. Romney’s in using Big Data and social media to boost turnout. The Romney campaign was so clueless on voter mobilization that well into Election Night the candidate still thought he would win. He lost a winnable race 51%-47%, including every closely contested state save North Carolina.

There is no question that Mitt would have been a vastly better president than Barack Obama, but that's not setting the bar very high.  Obama said he intended to transform America.  He wants us to be a socialist democracy, one that elects progressive leaders on the promise that they will maintain the various federal entitlements upon which we are intended to become dependent.  We are well on our way if ObamaCare is allowed to stand. 

But a Romney presidency starting in 2016 will move America only slightly back toward the center.  Meanwhile Obama's encroachments on our freedoms, the politicization of the federal bureaucracy, including the Justice Department, the EPA, and the IRS will remain in place.  Obama put them there, the tools he uses against his enemies and the American people, hoping to establish lasting progressive majorities.  Should Romney run and win in 2016, there they'll stay, awaiting the next progressive "visionary" who will pick them up and use them to rebuild Obama's totalitarian apparatus when Romney's term is done.

Obama had to be stopped in 2012.  Romney's first step towards halting and rolling back the Obama transformation was winning that election.  He didn't do it.  He couldn't stop the transformation then, and we can't expect that he'll stop it now.  I wonder if he even knows that that is what needs to be done.

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January 05, 2015

A Stunning New Insight

How about a "Marxist view of liberalism as a single-minded defense of capitalism."  Now there's a stunning new theory.  It comes to us from Edmund Fawcett's new book, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea as reviewed by Katrina Forrester.

It must be something about the start of a new year that has the left is scrambling to explain six years of horrendous policy failure.  Had these last six years not culminated in the resounding rejection of liberalism in the November midterms I'm sure there would be no such soul searching.  As it turned out, even on the left the failures can't be ignored, so liberals, or progressives, as they so like to be called, are out with the explanations.  This latest is a doozy, though.  Marxism was really all about rescuing capitalism.  Who knew!

Naturally, the basis of this new interpretation is an untruth.

For the defenders of Lockean liberalism, why liberals accommodated empire is a central puzzle: How could defenders of liberty defend colonial exploitation?  ...Fawcett dissolves the puzzle. Exploiting the riches of empire abroad was one way for states to resolve political conflict and economic turmoil at home. Much of the time, debates about empire were just an extension of the question of how to pay for liberal capitalism. 

It's not just that progressives are still talking about colonialism, long after colonial empires have ceased to exist.  There is also the deliberate misrepresentation, about the nature of wealth.  Progressives insist that economics is a zero-sum game.  They reason that somebody, somewhere, has to have gotten poorer in order for anyone, like, oh let's say Warren Buffett, to get richer.  It's a lie, really.  But it's a crucial principle, without which this wonderful new theory makes absolutely no sense.  Here's Ms. Forrester explaining Fawcett's supposed epiphany about who "pays for" capitalism.

It was in the 1930s that the question of how to rescue capitalism from itself was brought into sharpest relief. Fawcett looks to three economists who had different ideas about who would pay for the rescue: John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and Irving Fisher. Each provided answers that would shape the future of economic thought and practice. Keynes’s focus on high wages was equivalent to earlier liberals’ concessions to demands for universal suffrage; his economic program was an example of liberalism’s economic compromise with democracy. Hayek’s willingness to belittle politics and look to the market for solutions harked back to an imaginary nineteenth-century laissez-faire liberalism and set the stage for the neoliberalism that followed. Fisher stressed the dangers of falling prices and the role of government monetary policy in preventing booms and busts. Though their recommendations were different, Fawcett emphasizes their similarities: all wanted to “limit capitalism’s disruptive instabilities” while protecting liberal principles. For Hayek (who worried least about capitalism’s disruptive potential), labor would bear the costs of saving capitalism. For Keynes and Fisher, because government paid for the rescue, in effect everyone played their part.

It's BS, of course.  It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that capitalism, or the fruits of it to be more precise, pays for everything else.  What Forrester and perhaps Fawcett don't get is that it isn't capitalism that needs to be paid for, it's those grubby little politicians who line their own pockets with taxpayer money by promising to fix the supposed problems of capitalism.  Here's one:  "the gap between the rich and the poor."  It's a non-existent problem really.  Nervertheless, taxing "the rich" and regulating everything else was supposed to fix it.  But six years of such disastrous progressive policy under Obama have made the rich richer (those connected to the Democrats and Obama), the poor poorer, and progressives a bit desparate.  And so the explanations come.

Or maybe sales pitch would be a better way to describe the progressive philosophy.  In actuality, progressives are the new entrepreneurs.  Their product is "fairness" which they deliver through expanded government, which at this point can fairly be described as bloated.  Under Obama progressives have realized massive profits through government delivered fairness.  Take Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects.  He pulled in an estimated $4 million by helping to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage.

The beauty of making your money through government sponsored fairness is that you're not constrained by the same rules that might apply to car dealer, or a loan officer, or anybody else who might be involved in the unpardonable sin of making a profit.  No.  Champions of "social justice" can say whatever they like.  "You can keep your doctor, period," comes to mind. 

We know how that worked out.  In spite of that there are still legions who favor centrally planned solutions like ObamaCare, who can disregard the actual fruits of it, who can pardon the lies that sold it.  And in case you're wondering why, just remember this.  There's a huge amount of money to be made in central planning.  It's a wonderful thing — for everybody except the ones in whose names the wonderful plans are made.

Progressive policies don't work very well in the real world, and after a while people get it, and they push back against it.  The 2014 midterms for instance.  When that happens progressives fight for market share with new strategies, new messages, and brilliant new insights.  Like how Marxism is really all about defending capitalism.

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December 30, 2014

The Progressive Case for Fracking?

Progressives may be starting a painful march back toward the political center, if an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by James Bloodworth is any indication.  In it Mr. Bloodworth makes The Progressive Case for Fracking.  It's quite an inventive work of fiction, implying that there could be such a thing as progressive support for fracking.

Christmas came early for the world’s liberal democracies this year, with news in mid-December that repressive regimes from Russia to Venezuela and from Iran to Belarus are tumbling down an economic spiral. Who or what should we thank for this geopolitical yuletide? The neocons? Pro-democracy protesters? George W. Bush and Tony Blair ?

No. Thank instead American shale producers. The shale-gas and hydraulic-fracking revolution is lighting a figurative bonfire under the world’s petrocracies. Dictatorships that for years blackmailed the West in the knowledge that we would come crawling back for the black stuff are now catching a glimpse of a bleak future.

...

This ought to put a smile not only on the faces of free-market economists, but liberals and progressives, too. As America becomes a net exporter of energy, shale could help topple some of the world’s worst regimes.

Alas. Progressives have never demonstrated any interest in toppling the world's worst regimes.  On the contrary, progressives are really envious of the world's worst regimes for the control they have over their peoples.  It's a degree of control that progressives wish they could have.  Then there would be "social justice" — once and for all.

Could Mr. Bloodworth be rewriting progressive history in hopes of rescuing the progressive brand?  It now suffers the cumulative effects of decades of policy failure, both domestic and international.  Good luck with that. The increase in shale oil production in the face of progressive opposition is yet another progressive defeat.  Progressives do not applaud. 

Instead we can expect them to rework their talking points so as to explain how this boost in oil production is really due to their own visionary policy preferences.  It has begun.  Mr. Bloodworth's editorial might represent the first salvo in a progressive counter-attack in their war to regain credibility. 

James Bloodworth is the editor for the blog Left Foot Forward.

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December 05, 2014

America's Suicide -- A Misdiagnosis

America's Suicide
By Michael H. Davison
246 pages. Dapa Publishing, LLC

In his introduction to America's Suicide, Michael H. Davison discloses that the title for his original manuscript was The American Neurosis. He explains:

“One of the more salient features of neurosis is a wholesale flight from responsibility. The neurotic faults inner compulsions, spouse, government, society or whatever for his unhappiness.”

He goes on to explain that he was told by a respected clinical psychologist that the word “neurosis” is “fading from professional use,” so he changed his title “to the more attention grabbing,” America's Suicide. In any case, it is the flight from responsibility that has America on what Michael H. Davison believes is an inescapable path to suicide.

“The overarching theme of this book suggests that we do not know ourselves very well. Most political, social and personal conflicts to a major degree arise from this single fact and are not resolvable with methods that we commonly rely on to resolve them.

We must for the first time in history find ourselves before we permanently lose ourselves. We do not know who or what we are or what motivates us to dream, create, build, destroy or kill.”

In the end he offers a prescription of sorts. To America's citizens he says, grow up!  Sound advice to be sure, and if more Americans would take it to heart the country will be the richer for it. But Mr. Davison is quite pessimistic about that actually ever happening.

“Americans are losing their freedom in part for failing to identify their enemy. When the United States finally reaches the dictatorship toward which we plunge, a great part of that tragedy will be the public's denial that they brought that catastrophe upon themselves.”

Mr. Davison concedes that setting more people onto the path of individual responsibility is not something that will happen automatically, yet he offers no concrete steps to encourage it.

He argues that the central conflict on the American political landscape is the tension between the collectivists and the individualists. Or to put it another way, it is the tension between those who favor more government and those who favor less. While the divide generally puts Democrats on the collectivist side and Republicans on the individualist side, Mr. Davison notes that Republicans can be collectivists, too.

Mr. Davison pronounces America's problem as psychological in nature, but the side one takes, collectivist vs. individualist, is ultimately decided based on what one thinks is in one's best interest.  It is not neurosis for leftist politicians in the Democratic party, who also happen to be proponents of big government, to find that their interests are served by encouraging dependence upon government. And when, as a result, Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder are faced with the decision to accept government assistance and the dependency that goes with it, or to endure added hardship for the sake of their pride in independence, the choice is a rationale decision, not neurotic behavior. It is one in which differences are weighed and a choice is made that reflects what one believes is in his or her best interest insofar as he or she is able to tell.

We have now come to the point where many of today's “entrepreneurs” see big government as the vehicle for making their fortunes. Recently Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects, made his own small fortune in this way. First, he helped to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage. Then he raked in the consulting fees from several blue states as they implemented their state run health care exchanges. All to the tune of about $4 million.

So while self interest seems to be part of our problem, it is also the solution. Our American system of government was designed around the central fact that people do what they believe is in their best interest. Ours is a system of Checks and Balances in which the pursuit of self interest in one branch of government acts as a deterrent to it in the other branches. In that way government power is intended to be limited.  What I would hope for in a book about America's dire circumstances, are some ideas about how we can re-stack the incentives in such a way that it is not in anybody's best interest to claim the mantle of public service while in reality soaking the taxpayer for millions. 

While America's Suicide offers countless valid examples of where America is going off track, it never touches on the heart of it: how it works out that a select group of governing and connected elites can profit at the expense of America.  It offers no specifics for averting the inevitable disaster that is predicted in its title, perhaps because Mr. Davison has thrown up his hands in despair. The best he offers are what I consider some rather dubious principles of a Rational and Responsible American Party. For example, Mr. Davison believes that Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of legislation should be subject to override by two thirds vote of both houses of congress.  Third parties are rarely successful and one that offers that as a principle is unlikely to gain much support in my view.

I do not share Mr. Davison's pessimism, and I find America's Suicide something of a misdiagnosis.

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November 06, 2014

An Agile Legislative Process?

Mike Lee, U.S. Senator from Utah, has a plan for the Republican Congress that convenes in January. 

Republican leaders should embrace a more open-source strategy development model that includes everyone on the front end to avoid confusion, suspicion, and division on the back end. The last four years have repeatedly shown the folly of excluding anti-establishment conservatives from strategy formation—bills pulled from the floor, intra-Conference chaos, and back-biting in the press.

...

Inclusive legislative and strategy processes will come with tradeoffs, of course. Leaders will have to surrender some of their institutional power. Conservatives will have to be prepared to accept defeat, fair and square, if our ideas cannot carry the day. Members will have to expose themselves to inconvenient amendment votes. The results of some votes and the fates of certain bills may prove unpredictable. But the costs of an open-source, transparent process are worth it for the benefits of greater inclusion of more diverse voices and views, and for the opportunity such a process would offer to rebuild the internal and external trust necessary to govern.

Senator Lee's approach has some elements of the Agile Development Process, also known as Scrum.  Agile is a software development process that relies on diverse, self-organizing teams.  Development occurs in sprints of two or three weeks in duration.  The team decides at the start of each sprint how many and which required features it can finish by the end of the sprint.  Finish means that feature is ready for production.  

If Republicans can find a way to apply Agile principles to the legislative process — a tall order — they can get some impressive and worthwhile results.  Read all of Senator Lee's column.  It's a good plan, and I think they can do it.  But like Agile, it will require discipline.  

Note:  The author is a certified Agile Scrum Master.

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November 03, 2014

Vote New Hampshire

Something to think about on your way to the polls:

Vote the Republican ticket!

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Despair at Duke

A sure sign that the Democrats are in for a really rough day tomorrow is when stalwart lefties say we ought to cancel the election.

There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.

The excerpt above comes from a New York Times column, Cancel the Midterms, penned by Duke Professor David Schanzer and Duke junior, Jay Sullivan — presumably one of the professor's students.  Curious combination, to say the least, a professor and a junior.  Maybe Jay Sullivan is really connected, politically speaking. 

But I digress.  Up to now our friends on the left have been harping non-stop about the importance of the vote.  Anything that might remotely be construed as an impediment to voting, such as having to show an ID to prove who you are when you vote, is a civil rights violation.  Everybody ought to vote.  On the left they even want people who are not U.S. citizens to vote.  Actually, I think they especially want non-citizens to be able vote, and the less they know about America, its freedoms, and its issues, the better.

When it comes to voting, more is better.  Except for now?  Here we are down to the wire, but the polls continue to show that Republicans are probably going to win control of the Senate from Obama's Democrats.  So, now lefties are saying never mind all that stuff about voting.  Why do we have to have all these elections anyway?  It's just way too much.

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Tomorrow

Peter Ingemi, a pro-life Massachusetts blogger, has sound advice for New Hampshire Republicans of all persuasions:  Get out and vote for Scott Brown.

So I urge you , if you are a New Hampshire Tea Party voter, a second amendment defender or even like me, a strong pro-life voter and considered staying home or even voting 3rd party reconsider, because choosing to elect Scott Brown may do more for your cause than you can possibly imagine.

Imagine the depressing effect a Brown victory will have as left wing voters consider heading out to the polls in western states.

This year I plan to vote the Republican ticket, top to bottom.  I urge all undecided voters to do the same. 

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