Scientists Are Wrong All the Time, and That’s Fantastic

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Marcus Woo writes: On February 28, 1998, the eminent medical journal The Lancet published an observational study of 12 children: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children. It might not sound sexy, but once the media read beyond the title, into the study’s descriptions of how those nasty-sounding symptoms appeared just after the kids got vaccinated, the impact was clear: The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine can cause autism.

“All of the incentives in science are aligned against publishing negative results or failures to replicate.” 

This was the famous study by Andrew Wakefield, the one that many credit with launching the current hyper-virulent form of anti-vaccination sentiment. Wakefield is maybe the most prominent modern scientist who got it wrong—majorly wrong, dangerously wrong, barred-from-medical-practice wrong.

“People are forced to claim significance, or something new, extravagant, unusual, and positive.”

But scientists are wrong all the time, in far more innocuous ways. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s great.

When a researcher gets proved wrong, that means the scientific method is working. Scientists make progress by re-doing each other’s experiments—replicating them to see if they can get the same result. More often than not, they can’t. “Failure to reproduce is a good thing,” says Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch. “It happens a lot more than we know about.” That could be because the research was outright fraudulent, like Wakefield’s. But there are plenty of other ways to get a bum result—as the Public Libary of Science’s new collection of negative results, launched this week, will highlight in excruciating detail.

You might have a particularly loosey-goosey postdoc doing your pipetting. You might have picked a weird patient population that shows a one-time spike in drug efficacy. Or you might have just gotten a weird statistical fluke. No matter how an experiment got screwed up, “negative results can be extremely exciting and useful—sometimes even more useful than positive results,” says John Ioannidis, a biologist at Stanford who published a now-famous papersuggesting that most scientific studies are wrong.

The problem with science isn’t that scientists can be wrong: It’s that when they’re proven wrong, it’s way too hard for people to find out. Read the rest of this entry »


HEADS UP: This Neuroscientist Says He’ll Do a Human Head Transplant Very Soon

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Surgeon Sergio Canavero will be embarking on a project to implement the world’s first human head transplant

ZhangSarah Zhang reports: An Italian neuroscientist who has been advocating for head transplants now wants to make one actually happen. He’ll be announcing a project at a surgical conference later this year. Here’s how the proposed human head transplant will work—supposedly.currentcover

“Canavero’s plan sounds pretty absurd, but the science of head transplants—at least in animals—is not as sparse as you might first think. The first head transplant in monkeys was done back in the 1970s, and the monkey lived for nine days…”

In 2013, Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group proposed that human head transplants could soon be possible. Since then, he’s heard from several transplant volunteers, and New Scientist reports that Canavero will make a call to arms to find other interested surgeons at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting this June.

Canavero’s plan sounds pretty absurd, but the science of head transplants—at least in animals—is not as sparse as you might first think. The first head transplant in monkeys was done back in the 1970s, and the monkey lived for nine days. Its immune system eventually rejected the transplanted head, which is a major problem with such large transplants.

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An even bigger problem, though, is how to fuse the spinal cords so brain and body are actually connected. (The monkey with a transplanted body—or was it a transplanted head?—couldn’t move.) Canavero recently published more details what he calls the GEMINI spinal cord fusion protocol. Here’s how New Scientist summarizes it:

The tissue around the neck is dissected and the major blood vessels are linked using tiny tubes, before the spinal cords of each person are cut. Cleanly severing the cords is key, says Canavero.

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The recipient’s head is then moved onto the donor body and the two ends of the spinal cord – which resemble two densely packed bundles of spaghetti – are fused together. To achieve this, Canavero intends to flush the area with a chemical called polyethylene glycol, and follow up with several hours of injections of the same stuff. Just like hot water makes dry spaghetti stick together, polyethylene glycol encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh…(read more)

Of course, this protocol is mostly theoretical. (A Chinese neuroscientist will be attempting it for the first time in mice and monkeys.) Even Canavero’s paper states that only 10 to 15 percent of the neurons will likely fuse. Yet he tells New Scientist that people could walk again a year after the procedure.

Read the rest of this entry »


AEI Ideas: Reaganomics 2.0?

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Yes, Reaganomics Needs a 21st Century Update

Pethokoukis writes:

“The GOP is debating whether Reaganomics needs an update” is a must-read piece by Washington Post reporter Jim Tankersley. One side answers the “What would Reagan do?” question by offering a nostalgic return to the 1980s Reagan agenda. Another prefers to apply the Reagan principles — a dynamic private sector, strong families and neighborhoods, upward mobility, work — to modern economic reality with different conservative policy results. Tankersley:

Leading Republicans are clashing over a signature issue the party has treated as gospel for nearly 40 years: the idea that sharply lower taxes and smaller government are enough by themselves to drive a more prosperous middle class — and win national elections. That simple philosophy has been the foundation of every GOP platform since the days of Ronald Reagan. Now, some of the party’s presidential hopefuls — along with some top conservative economists and strategists — are sending strong signals that they believe today’s beleaguered workers need more targeted help, even if growth speeds up.

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For some context, here are a few then-and-now stats:

1.) When Reagan was elected president in 1980, the top income tax rate was 70%. Today, the top income tax rate is 40%.

2.) When Reagan was elected, the top 1% paid about a fifth of federal income taxesToday it’s about a third.

3.) When Reagan was elected, the bottom 90% paid just over half of all federal income taxes. Today it’s around 30% with 40% of households paying no federal income taxes.

5.) When Reagan was elected, 8% of national income went to the top 1%. Today, it’s nearly 20%.

6.) When Reagan was elected, inflation had averaged nearly 9% over the previous eight years. Today, inflation is less than 2% and has averaged around 2% the past 15 years.

7.) When Reagan was elected, US publicly held debt was 26% of GDP. Today, it’s 74% of GDP with a whole lot of entitlement spending quickly headed our way.

8.) When Reagan was elected, more than 19 million Americans worked in manufacturing. Today, just under 12 million Americans work in manufacturing.

9.) When Reagan was elected, health care spending was 10% of GDP. Today, it’s 17% of GDP.

10.) When Reagan was elected, China’s GDP, in nominal terms, was 3% of America’s. Today, China’s GDP is over half of America’s and about the same based on purchasing power.

Let me also add (a) there is good reason to believe that faster GDP growth is not lifting all boats, (b) upward mobility is stagnant, (c) slowing labor force growth and productivity suggest it will be harder to generate fast growth in the future than in the past,  (d) automation has taken a toll on middle-class income and jobs,  (e) labor force participation by high school-only graduates has fallen by 10 percentage points over the past 25 years, and (f) inflation-adjusted market income for the top 1% has risen by 174% since 1979 vs. 16% for the bottom 80%. Read the rest of this entry »


Captain America Won’t Save Us

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Republicans look like they’re obsessed with finding a superhero

Daniel Henningerrenocol_DanHenninger writes: You have to feel sorry for the Democrats. In a world warming to presidential politics, what do they talk to each other about? Nearly two years from the election, they’ve already got their launch vehicle in place, former everything Hillary Clinton . Fire and forget.

The one-time First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State pumped up a political crowd in Silicon Valley this week by vowing, presumably as president, to “crack every last glass ceiling.” As a political issue, the “glass ceiling” dates back to . . . 1984. It may be older than “income inequality.”

“The U.S. just tried electing a rookie president and had six years of amateur hour. It doesn’t work.”

But anywhere else two people gather who aren’t Democrats, you will fall into the same intense political conversation with a one-word question: Whoduyalike? Who do you like among the names floating in GOP circles for the 2016 nomination? Walker, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, Perry, Cruz, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Santorum, Pence. I kind of like…

“And it won’t work again if the next president, whether rookie or former governor, shows up in the Oval Office in January 2017 with not much more than his victory cape and some political pals.”

Two significant meetings of conservative groups take place today through Saturday, and some of these people will pitch themselves at both the CPAC conference just outside Washington, and to the Club for Growth in Palm Beach. Mike Huckabee will preach on his own behalf Thursday evening to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.

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It’s all great fun. But there’s something a little off about the Republican presidential conversation right now. It doesn’t come close to reflecting the seriousness of the task facing voters in 2016: Elect a successor to the most catastrophic American presidency in over 80 years. And it ain’t over yet.

“Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?”

Instead of offering an anxious electorate a recognizable alternative to this status quo, the Republicans look like they’re obsessed with discovering Captain America.

Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?

It is hard to overstate what one-man-shows these presidential candidates have become—one guy, some political pros they’ve hired, their donors and whatever thoughts are running through their or their pollsters’ heads.

In normal times, it might not matter much that a CPAC conference with its gauntlet of speeches and straw polls looks a lot like the NFL Scouting Combine. Chris Christie has no vertical leap, but man can he lift.

The task that Barack Obama is dumping on the next U.S. president, of either party, is overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »


Kevin D. Williamson: Exposing Intellectual Dishonesty Among the ‘Fact-Checkers’

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Politifact and Me

National Review‘s Kevin D. Williamson Responds to Polifact

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson writes: Politifact, which is published under the flag of the Tampa Bay Times, the chief executive of which, Paul Tash, is the chairman of the Poynter Institute, a member of the Pulitzer prize committee, and a disgrace to his trade, recently decided to “fact-check” my colleague Jonah Goldberg, but it was really fact-checking me, as Jonah was citing a claim in a column of mine.

The claim is a straightforward one: That under the so-called Affordable Care Act, the federal government will recognize and subsidize a great deal of hokum, things like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture that have no scientific basis, that have been clinically shown to be useless or worse, and that are rooted in rank mysticism, from the “qi” energy that acupuncturists claim to manipulate—and which does not, technically speaking, exist—to the “innate intelligence” underpinning chiropractic theory—which does not, in fact, exist, either. As endless peer-reviewed scientific studies document, this stuff is pure quackery, but it is, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the focused exertions of former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin—one of those Democrats who really love science we’re always hearing about—it is hokum with increasing official status.

[Kevin D. Williamson’s book  “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome”  is available at Amazon]

Senator Harkin successfully campaigned for ACA provisions that would forbid “discrimination” against any practitioner of purported healing arts who is licensed. Many states, California prominent among them (quelle surprise!) license practitioners of superstitious hokum, including naturopathic “doctors” and acupuncturists.

[read the full text here, at National Review Online]

[follow Kevin D.Williamson on Twitter]

There are many reasons for this: One is that superstitious hokum is extraordinarily popular, and the state desires to keep an eye on its practitioners; a second is that California is, as advertised, full of lunatics and the entrepreneurs who service their lunacy; the third is that reasons Nos. 1 and 2 combine to generate revenue for the state, which will—in what must be the most perfect example of progressivism in practice—yank your license to practice medically null but voguish Eastern mysticism in the state of California for failure to pay your crushing California taxes. I once encountered a Whole Foods with a yoga studio inside it, and thought that if one could only get Chris Hayes to broadcast from there (there’s still time, Chris!) it would have constituted a turducken of lifestyle liberalism upon which there would be no improving, but losing your California acupuncturist’s license to the Sacramento taxman surely surpasses that.

If you are wondering where the fact-checking comes in for all of that, you’re going to keep wondering. Politifact doubly embarrassed itself on the issue, first with the risibly sloppy and shockingly (if you don’t know very many reporters) lazy reporting habits of Louis Jacobson, who wrote that neither Jonah nor I had “returned inquiries,” by which he means to say responded to them. He tried to contact Jonah by sending a single email to a rarely used public account, and me he tried to contact—if you can call it that—by tweeting that he was fact-checking something. I do not follow him on Twitter, having been contentedly unaware of his existence, and I do not follow Politifact, for that matter. I am not sure that what Jacobson did constituted an “inquiry” at all, but I am sure that it does not constitute “inquiries.”

“This is one of those ‘context’ things that people who do not wish to admit the truth like to talk about. The point is that you could be sure that if similar concessions were made to pseudoscientific hokum less popular among Democrats–intelligent design, for example, or various kinds of gay-conversion therapies–the response would be loud, long, and heavy on the theme of Republicans’ hating and distrusting science.”

When I pointed this out—and noted that National Review is in the telephone directory and has been since the Eisenhower administration, that we employ an energetic young man to answer the telephones, that my email address is obtainable from the web site, that National Review retains the services of various publicists and whatnot for the purpose of connecting its writers with media figures, etc.—“pick up the goddamned telephone,” in short—Jacobson responded in an odd way: by sending the same email again to Jonah the next morning, long after the piece had been published. His editor, the feckless, gormless, and in any intelligent world unemployable Angie Holan, noting the general mockery and merriment that my complaints about Politifact’s practices produced on Twitter and elsewhere, very quickly found a way to get in touch with me—turns out that it’s not that hard!—and asked for a telephone conversation, which I declined, having nothing to say to the intellectually dishonest, the cretinous, or the servile, except in those cases in which I am matched with such on cable-news panels. (Hello, Sally.)

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Politifact later apologized for Jacobson’s reportorial slobbery—though not for the fact that he lied about it; “inquiries,” indeed—but stood by its rating of the piece in question: “half true.”

Why half? Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] George Will: There Is a Culture Clash Between the Obama Administration and Israel

George Will said he thinks the disagreement between the Obama administration and Israel is representative of a personal dispute between President Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have a community organizer dealing with a commando; they’re not on the same wavelength. There’s a kind of culture clash between this administration and the administration of a country that lives in a dangerous neighborhood.” 

Will said the Obama administration….(read more)

National Review


Charles Murray: The Trouble Isn’t Liberals. It’s Progressives.

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Not everyone on the left wants to quash dissent or indulge President Obama’s abuses of executive power

Charles Murray writes: Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely conservative. They are on different political planes. They usually have just enough in common to vote for the same candidate.

 “To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.”

Why then do we still talk about the left in terms of a continuum from moderately liberal to extremely liberal? Divisions have been occurring on the left that mirror the divisions on the right. Different segments of the left are now on different planes.

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 “That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.”

A few weeks ago, I was thrown into a situation where I shared drinks and dinner with two men who have held high positions in Democratic administrations. Both men are lifelong liberals. There’s nothing “moderate” about their liberalism. But as the pleasant evening wore on (we knew that there was no pointliberal-fascism in trying to change anyone’s opinion on anything), I was struck by how little their politics have to do with other elements of the left.

[Jonah Goldberg‘s classic “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change” is available at Amazon]

Their liberalism has nothing in common with the political mind-set that wants right-of-center speakers kept off college campuses, rationalizes the forced resignation of a CEO who opposes gay marriage, or thinks George F. Will should be fired for writing a column disagreeable to that mind-set. It has nothing to do with executive orders unilaterally disregarding large chunks of legislation signed into law or with using the IRS as a political weapon. My companions are on a different political plane from those on the left with that outlook—the progressive mind-set.

“It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power.”

Wait, doesn’t “progressive” today reflect the spirit of the Progressive Era a century ago, when the country benefited from the righteous efforts of muckrakers and others who fought big-city political bosses, attacked business monopolies and promoted Good Government?

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“As a libertarian, I am reluctant to give up the word “liberal.” It used to refer to laissez-faire economics and limited government.”

The era was partly about that. But philosophically, the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century had roots in German philosophy ( Hegel and Nietzsche were big favorites) and German public Obama-incandescentadministration ( Woodrow Wilson’s open reverence for Bismarck was typical among progressives).

“Making a clear distinction between liberals and progressives will help break down a Manichaean view of politics that afflicts the nation.”

To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.

That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.

[read the full text of Charles Murray‘s article here, at the Wall Street Journal]

[Speaking of abuses of executive power, read Charles C.W.Cooke‘s “Obama Defies the Will of the Senate” at National Review Online]

[Also see Fred Siegel’s book “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class at Amazon]

[Jonah Goldberg‘s “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change” at Amazon]

[And Jonah’s other popular book, The Tyranny of Cliches, also available at Amazon]

It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power. If you want substantiation for what I’m saying, read Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book “Liberal Fascism,” an erudite and closely argued exposition of American progressivism and its subsequent effects on liberalism. The title is all too accurate.

“Too many of us see those on the other side as not just misguided but evil. The solution is not a generalized ‘Can’t we all just get along’ non-judgmentalism. Some political differences are too great for that. But liberalism as I want to use the term encompasses a set of views that can be held by people who care as much about America’s exceptional heritage as I do.

Here, I want to make a simple point about millions of people—like my liberal-minded dinner companions—who regularly vote Democratic and who are caught between a rock and a hard place. Read the rest of this entry »


When Islamic State Starts Hitting Ships

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Radical Islamists may soon gain a foothold on the Mediterranean. The U.S. Navy must be ready

Mr. Cropsey, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Seth Cropsey writes: The slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State militants on Feb. 15 took place on the Libyan shore of the Mediterranean. Former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan recently told the Times of London that unless order is restored in his country, ISIS will secure territory on Libya’s Mediterranean coast within two months. This would increase its potential for attacks in Italy, Greece and elsewhere in Europe. An October ISIS publication pictured St. Peter’s Square under a black flag, and ISIS’s sentiments about Christians are clear.

Greater ISIS access to the Mediterranean would be deeply troubling to the region and a large strategic advance for the terrorist group. ISIS’s prospects for significant naval power are remote. But small boats, fishing vessels, smugglers, and merchant craft that carry concealed weapons could hijack, sink, or rake commercial shipping including cruise liners in the central Mediterranean. This would divide the eastern part of the inland sea from its west and expose Europe’s southern littoral to attacks and kidnappings.

[read the full text here, at WSJ]

Tehran today wields considerable power over two landlocked capitals of the region, Baghdad and Damascus. Its sea control is more expansive. Besides Iran’s border on the Persian Gulf it is now the major power in Beirut on the Mediterranean and San’a, the capital of Yemen, on the Bab El-Mandeb, the narrow strait that sits astride the southern gateway to and from the Suez Canal.

Turkish naval combatants’ current incursion in the Eastern Mediterranean—to escort a natural gas exploration vessel operating without permission in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone—has ended the stability that existed in the region since the Cold War standoff between U.S. and Soviet naval forces. And in 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to establish a permanent squadron in the Mediterranean. Read the rest of this entry »


A Simple Cure for ObamaCare: Freedom

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The GOP needs a politically defensible alternative if the Supreme Court overturns federal-exchange subsidies

Phil Gramm writes: On March 4 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected in late June. If the court strikes down the payment of government subsidies to those obamacare-design-250who bought health insurance on the federal exchange, Republicans will at last have a real opportunity to amend ObamaCare. Doing so, however, will be politically perilous.

“Of all potential Republican proposals, the freedom option seems the most likely to garner the six Democratic votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster, pass the bill and put it on the president’s desk.”

The language of the Affordable Care Act states that subsidies should only be paid through state exchanges. The bill’s authors perhaps believed that pressure from citizens and the health-care providers who would benefit would entice states to set up exchanges. But, faced with mounting technical problems in setting up the exchanges, the Obama administration decided—legally or illegally—to allow subsidies to be paid through a federally run exchange. Therefore, political pressure that might have convinced states to set up exchanges never developed.

“The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.”

The political pressures to set up state exchanges if federal subsidies are now struck down will be enormous. The Kaiser Family Foundation used Congressional Budget Office data to estimate that 13 million people will receive subsidies in 2016 through the federal exchange. If the Supreme Court strikes down these subsidies, 13 million people would lose an average of $4,700 a year, and health-care providers would certainly fight to protect some $60 billion a year in subsidies.

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The president’s most likely response to an adverse court decision would be to refuse to work with Congress to fix ObamaCare. Instead he will likely mount an effort to force the 37 states now using the federal exchange to set up state exchanges to qualify for the subsidies. His administration could make it easy for states to continue to use the federal exchange while nominally taking ownership through a shell state entity. Ten states already have some form of partnership with the federal exchange.

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Absent a strong Republican alternative, the president’s strategy would unleash powerful political pressure on Republican governors and legislators and force them to establish state exchanges. Such a result would saddle Republicans with a partial ownership of ObamaCare, alienating their political base and producing substantial fallout in the 2016 elections.

Republicans need a strategy that is easy to understand, broadly popular and difficult to oppose. Read the rest of this entry »


Richard Fernandez: A Question of Personality

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A charismatic leader derives authority from himself; from an astounding life story, from attributes possessed by no other man.

Richard Fernandez writes: One of the minor casualties of the Obama administration has been the reputation of genuine “community organizers”.  Before going any further, might the reader please try this test.  Please name one other “community organizer”  besides Barack Obama.

“The Obama phenomenon is founded so completely on his legend that to attack the legend is to undermine the very foundations of the tower on which he stands.”

Most people will not be able to name a single one and for  good reason.  The overarching ethos of a “community organizer”, especially one trained in the Alinsky method, is to plant ideas in people’s minds, let them run with it and  fade away.  But as the New York Times recalled, the young Obama did not want to toil in obscurity and finish up like all those community organizers whose names you can’t remember — the kind who live out their old age with a cupful of money and barrel full of war stories.  He wanted fame; position, to be on center stage.

Be Like Barack The Pros and Cons of a Career in Community Organizing

[Read the full text of Richard Fernandez’s essay here, at Belmont Club]

Mr. Obama had risen to executive director of the Developing Communities group, but the demanding hours, small victories and low pay took a toll on him, and he decided to leave.

“‘We are not making large-scale change, and I want to be involved in doing that,’ ” Mr. Kellman said Mr. Obama had told him. … Mr. Obama had mused to friends in Chicago about one day working for unions or becoming a preacher, a journalist or even a fiction writer. While there, he wrote short stories based on people he had encountered. “The stories were beautifully crafted and evocative,” said Mr. Kruglik.

But Mr. Obama decided on law school instead. Shortly before Mr. Obama left for Harvard, about 60 people attended a farewell reception for him at Altgeld Gardens. He told associates that he intended to return to Chicago once he earned his law degree to pursue a career “in public life.”

This was the moment of clear departure from the community organizing road.  But let us pause for a moment and fix in our mind the existence of these beautiful, evocative short stories  which Kellman describes for we will return to it later. The purpose of this digression into Obama’s “community organizing” past is to identify the leadership model he chose which was  the complete the opposite of the anonymous behind the scenes community organizer.  Obama’s BW-Obamachosen model for greatness was to become a charismatic leader.

“Obama’s vulnerability is America’s vulnerability…American credibility — and that of its cultural elite — now rests on a single point of failure: the narrative life history of the least vetted person in recent presidential politics.  No republic, especially one as great as the United States, should ever be based on the such a fragile thing as the biography of a single man.”

A charismatic leader derives authority from himself;  from an astounding life story, from attributes possessed by no other man. The approach has become common and we know the sort; the Native American who became a law professor and then Senator; the single mother who wanted to be a governor.  The life-story is now standard, but Obama was clearly special. From the very beginning of his career Obama argued that his unique biography — his bi-racial parentage, foreign upbringing, his literary skills etc — made him a special person.  By virtue of these gifts he could heal racial divisions; reach out to the Muslim world; bridge the gap between rich and poor and serve as a link between the generations.

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“What Giuliani had done was undermine Obama’s legitimacy.  Because so much of Obama’s “power” comes from his special-ness that to question his patriotism is to strike at the basis for his governance.  It was, as in a monarchy, tantamount to rebellion.”

By contrast most American presidents derived their greatness from the position, many simply political hacks who we remember today simply because they occupied the Oval Office. Obama marks the first time in recent memory when the office is deemed uplifted by the man and not the other way round.
Charismatic leadership has its advantages, which is why it occurs repeatedly in history. It permits the charismatic person to “be bigger than the job” and do great things.  Men with this attribute, like Alexander, Caesar or Napoleon seem to rise above the rules and constraints that bind mere human beings.  It’s natural that Obama would prefer to be a ‘special’ president rather than an ordinary one.obama-BW

“Disrespect America, even attack it if you want, and you will not receive a tenth such voltage as did Netanyahu. The torrent of hostility poured upon Netanyahu was so out of proportion to any conceivable offense, that he probably felt obliged to persist in coming, reasoning that he must be on to something.”

Yet as someone said to a student who aspired to drop out of college “like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs”, you have to first be sure you can walk that walk before casting your academic career to the winds. Because charismatic leadership has some drawbacks.  The most obvious being that since power flows from the person himself then when Rudy Giuliani publicly questioned Obama’s patriotism he was attacking the wellsprings of the administration.

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When Giuliani told an audience ”I do not believe – and I know this is a horrible thing to say – but I do not believe that the President loves America,” he was inadvertently doing more than criticizing a president; he was in a manner of speaking, committing treason. The unprecedented firestorm of opprobrium that greeted Giuliani suggested that he had somehow hit a switch.  It was like pushing an ordinary button in the wall and watching the skyscrapers out the window suddenly crumble in dust down into the ground.

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What Giuliani had done was undermine Obama’s legitimacy.  Because so much of Obama’s “power” comes from his special-ness that to question his patriotism is to strike at the basis for his governance.  It was, as in a monarchy, tantamount to rebellion. The reason that similar remarks by Obama about George Bush’s patriotism evoked simple shrugs was because Bush was just an ordinary president, the latest in a line of politicians to occupy the office since George Washington. Read the rest of this entry »


[REWIND] The Roots of Obama’s Ideology: The Chosen One, by Angelo M. Codevilla

The Chosen One

This article appeared in: Vol. XI, Number 3 – Summer 2011

Books discussed in this essay:

The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family, by Peter Firstbrook

A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, by Janny Scott

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, by James T. Kloppenberg

Radical-In-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American To the Manner BornSocialism, by Stanley Kurtzthe-prince-west-side

“Only [the popes] have states, and they do not defend them; subjects, and they do not govern them; and the states are not taken from them though undefended, and the subjects though not governed, do not concern themselves about it…. But since they are upheld by superior cause, to which the human mind does not reach, I will leave off speaking of them; since because they are exalted and maintained by God, discussing them would be the doing of a presumptuous and daring man. Nonetheless, if someone were to inquire of me….”

Niccolò MachiavelliThe Prince

Angelo M. Codevilla writes: Presumptuous and daring, flouting politically correct prohibitions against looking too closely at his time’s Establishment, Niccolò Machiavelli went on to detail who did what to whom to establish the papacy’s temporal power. Cesare Borgia’s cruel triangulation between Rome’s Orsini and Colonnesi factions, not miracles, had made the papal states into a major power.

[Read the full text hereCRB – The Chosen One, by Angelo M. Codevilla]

In our time, asking how a young man of scarce achievement got into position to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president courts the contemporary synonyms for “impious”: “birther,” “conspiracy theorist,” and, of course, “racist.” Granted, to inquire into what formed a president is not as important as to understand what he does. Nevertheless, because fully to know where anyone is going requires grasping whence he comes, let us open ourselves to wonder how, minus miracles, a 10-year-old boy without obvious talent who had lived in Indonesia since age six ends up with an eight-year scholarship to Hawaii’s most exclusive school; a scholarship to Occidental College; a transfer into Columbia University; acceptance into Harvard Law School, and editorship of its law review; and how he goes from job to prestigious job without apparently mastering any of the previous ones. No wonder some of Barack Obama’s supporters treat him as if he were anointed by an extraterrestrial power.

Obamacares-Hierarchy-of-Privilege

No less an object of awe and curiosity is the seamlessness of Obama’s mentality. Without marbling or inconsistency, it is serviceable as a definition of contemporary American leftism, and leads one to wonder what earthly environment could have produced such a pure specimen.

[Also see – Obama Loves America. His America – by ]

Intellectually, Obama has always been a consumer, having left no record of formulating new ideas or of penetrating old ones. Politically, he is a follower and figurehead: having grown up in the ever branching stream of socialist voluntary organizations, he surfed its leftward eddies, never forming or leading a faction. He was handed a safe seat in the Illinois state senate, a nearly safe one in the U.S. Senate, and was surprised when Harry Reid informed him that influential Democrats wanted to run him for president. The Democratic campaign of 2008 pushed against an open door. As president, he rides his party’s center of gravity.

In short, Barack Obama himself is not that remarkable. He can give a rousing political speech, of course, but that is usually not sufficient to get oneself elected president. So, since he seems to have been reading from a teleprompter all his life, and since words certifiably his own are both few and opaque, it is most fruitful as NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Imageswell as relevant for us to focus on whom and what he has been following.

What accounts for his smooth, unlikely ascent? Both his advancement and his character seem most likely attributable to the network into which he was born, and out of which he never stepped for an instant. That network’s privileges, wealth, and intellectual-social proclivities always depended to some extent—and nowadays depend more than ever—on its connection with the U.S. government. Its intellectual and moral character, like that of modern government itself, has always been on the left side of American life and, as such, has undergone splits and transmogrifications surely the most important of which in our time combines upscale social norms with radical disdain for the rest of America. Barack Obama came of age through these.

Unfortunately, that liberal Establishment has placed key facts about itself beyond public scrutiny—more in the fashion of Chicago Sicilians than of Roman pontiffs. Here we examine some of the books and otherresearch that shed light on Obama’s obama_black_and_white-2839origins, note at least as many questions as answers, and try to distinguish between facts and spin. The results are necessarily conjectural, because of the nature of the available evidence.

At the White House, on April 27, 2011, Barack Obama announced the release of a “long form” birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii’s Kapiolani hospital. There seems to be no reason to question its validity any more than that of any dollar bill—except that Obama has played an as yet unexplained shell game with this bill since 2008. Obama had refused to release not only the birth certificate but his academic and medical records. He indirectly, and his partisans most directly, vilified as “birthers” those who asked for this personal information (a term made-to-order, implying racism, stupidity, and lower-class odors).

Nonetheless, by the spring of 2011, several state legislatures, including Indiana’s and Louisiana’s, had passed or were about to pass bills requiring any candidate for federal office to show the original or original copy of his birth certificate, and providing for forensic analyses of the documents. Obama’s April 27 release amounts to what John Ehrlichman called a “modified limited hang out”—some information let out to relieve pressure for the release of more. Had Obama done nothing he might have been banned from the ballot in any number of states; had he delayed too long, any certificate he produced would have been subject to close scrutiny. After the disclosure, however, Democrats argued that any and all requests for Obama’s personal information had now been shown to be, in the president’s words, “a silly distraction.”

But there was never anything silly, nor light-hearted, nor casual, about Barack Obama’s efforts to keep the public’s eyes from the basic facts of his life, from birth to his candidacy for president. On the contrary, this opacity is a deliberate policy. Why? The presumptive answer, absent testimony from those involved, is to ensure that real facts interfere as little as possible with the image and narrative that he and his associates have carefully crafted for him. Distinguishing between reality and that narrative would require above all a skeptical attitude, sure to be characterized by Democrats and the media in the most derogatory terms.

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According to hagiography, Barack Obama was born to a hippy girl from an insignificant family and raised in poor circumstances, out of which he rose through brilliance. Yet his haughty demeanor, his stilted language when off the teleprompter, his cultural likes and dislikes, bespeak an upbringing in an environment at once so upscale and so leftist that it makes him almost a foreigner to ordinary Americans. No one raised in ordinary American circumstances, much less straitened ones, would cite with a straight face, as Obama did, the price of arugula at Whole Foods, the yuppie boutique, as an example of the cost of living. No one at home in American culture could refer to a U.S. Marine medical corpsman as a “corpse-man.” Nor do ordinary folk talk about (or even understand) the need to “change the rules of power” in America. “Rules of power” belongs to the argot of doctrinaire nouveau socialists. How many American college kids would describe, as did Obama, his studying with Marxist professors as an attempt not to look like a “sell out”? No. Obama’s official story is counterintuitive.

Obama-On-The-Barf-Couch-looking-stoned

Consistent with the Barack Obama we know, however, are his real family, his real upbringing, and his real choices of profession and associates. His mother’s parents, who raised him, seem to have been cogs in the U.S. government’s well-heeled, well-connected machine for influencing the world, whether openly (“gray influence”) or covertly (“black operations”). His mother spent her life and marriages, and birthed her children, working in that machine. For paradigms of young Barack’s demeanor, proclivities, opinions, language, and attitudes one need look no further than the persons who ran the institutions that his mother stoned-obamaand grandparents served—e.g., the Ford Foundation, the United States Information Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency—as well as his chosen mentors and colleagues. It is here, with these people and institutions, that one should begin to unravel the unknowns surrounding him.

Connected

Two new books deal with Barack Obama’s paternal and maternal families. British journalist Peter Firstbrook’s The Obamas takes us all the way from the origins of East Africa’s Luo tribe to Barack’s father’s relationship with Barack’s mother. Generally fact-filled, it gives vivid portraits especially of Barack, Sr.’s, father, Onyango, who tried to raise a son as upright as he and was deadly disappointed when that son turned out to be a wastrel in the train of Tom Mboya, political leader of Kenya’s Luo. The closer the book gets to the present, however, the less trustworthy it becomes. For example, it tells us that Mboya organized the 1959 airlift of 280 Africans to study in America, bypassing the U.S. State Department. Nonsense. This was high U.S. policy and touted as such at the time. The CIA considered Mboya one of its most important covert action agents. The people chosen by him and the CIA to go to America were his flunkies. But the book is irrelevant to understanding the current president of the United States because his African family had only a biological influence on him. Indeed, Barack Obama’s African-ness is, as we shall see, strictly the product of his imagination.

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The maternal family that raised Barack Obama, which is highly relevant to our understanding, is the subject of New York Times reporter Janny Scott’s . But though this book tells us that grandmother Madelyn Dunham’s favorite color was beige, that Stanley Dunham and daughter Ann (Barack, Jr.’s, mother) shared a certain impulsiveness, and contains interviews with and personal information on countless of Ann’s high school friends, it sheds no light on what the Dunhams were doing with their lives that led their daughter to take a practical interest in international affairs. Magically, Ann Dunham goes from peeking her shy 17-year-old head out of Mercer Island, Washington (“a young virgin,” writes Janny Scott), to intimacy with a very foreign person, and a few years later with another, and then to work in one of the Cold War’s key battlegrounds. Meanwhile her mother, about whose professional activities the book says nothing, becomes a bank executive. Did Ann speak any foreign language? Had the Dunhams ever taken any trips abroad? The book does not say. A Singular Woman gives the impression that Ann’s Indonesian husband, Lolo Soetoro, was just a geographer drafted into the army, a minor, unwitting part of the bloody campaign that wrested Indonesia from the Communists; and that Ann’s work in that country was anthropological-humanitarian, as if for her U.S. policy were irrelevant. It certainly was not for her employers—the U.S. government and contractors thereof.

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Self-styled investigative journalist Wayne Madsen reports that Madelyn Dunham, the mother of Barack’s mother, Ann Dunham, who became vice president of the Bank of Hawaii soon after her arrival there, was in charge of escrow accounts. Madsen’s credibility is certainly checkered. But if he is correct about which department she headed, Madelyn Dunham must have supervised the accounts that the U.S. government used to funnel money to its “gray” and “black” activities throughout Asia. Among the conduits of the CIA money through these accounts to secret CIA proprietaries was a company—Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham & Wong—some of whose officers were serving CIA officers. This is a company whose 1983 IRS audit the CIA stopped. Vice President Madelyn Dunham, in charge of these very matters and hence necessarily “witting” (as they say at Langley), would have had to be more than a small cog in the machine. People do not rise to such stations from one day to the next. Read the rest of this entry »


Jonah Goldberg: Progressives’ Peculiar Sense of Patriotism

Sheer naked panic, from which there may be no return

The best thing Obama can seem to say about the country is that it elected him into office

Jonah Goldberg writes:

…Patriotism for progressives has always been deeply bound up in the role of government and the cause of reform. That’s fine, to a certain extent. But underlying it is the assumption that America as it exists is a problem that needs to be fixed, if not “fundamentally transformed.” And, let’s be honest about it, there were times when progressives had the better part of the argument.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s newsletter here, at National Review Online]

But, culturally and psychologically, what endures is the pious progressive conviction that the government is better than the people it serves, at least when the right people are running it — and that the job of progressives is to bring the bitter clingers up to the government’s ideals, as best they can. The Left and the cultural elite of a hundred years ago were fairly honest about this point of view. From The Tyranny of Clichés:

The Nation ran a whole series of articles under the heading “In These United States” purporting to reveal that Manhattan was an island of sophistication in a vast wasteland of American tyranny-of-clichesbackwardness.

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

This was the era when it became an article of faith that the artist must hate the society in which he lives, that he must be “a public enemy” in the words of H. L. Mencken, and that the “vox populi is, to him, the bray of an ass.” The writers for the Nation ridiculed what is today called “fly-over country”—which back then was really “train-through country” or perhaps “cruise around country”—with relentless condescension. Chronicling his impressions of Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis lamented that the “Scandinavians Americanize only too quickly!” Perhaps not surprisingly, the South was an object of particular scorn. One writer believed that Mississippi could only be saved by an invasion of civilizing, cultured, missionaries from the North. Another scratched his head to ask what, if anything, Alabama had ever contributed to humanity . . .

All in all, the cultural elite of the 1920s had firmly convinced itself that they were, in Christopher Lasch’s words, “a civilized minority in a nation of Babbitts, Rotarians, and rednecks.”Revolt-Masss

This theme, by the way, is the thesis of Fred Siegel’s Revolt Against the Masses.

[Check out Fred Siegel’s book “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class at Amazon]

The attitude has evolved since then. Today’s progressives aren’t adherents to the Social Gospel for the most part, and they certainly aren’t eugenicists — but they’re also a lot less honest than their predecessors. Occasionally, someone will let it slip that they don’t believe in, say, the “private ownership of children” or will claim that the only reason liberal politicians don’t do better is because the voters are racists and sexists. Sometimes, they feel free to barf up their condescending bigotry for the South and paint it on the wall. Even the president of the United States has hinted that he favors increased immigration for its deleterious effects on his political opponents. And, once in a blue moon, you get the Democratic Senate majority leader explaining how displeasing he finds the musk of the little people. But for the most part, liberals have to lie about how much they believe they’re better than the country they serve.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s newsletter here, at National Review Online]

colbert-fingers

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO, GOT TO DO, WITH IT?

Simply put, there’s a tension between the desire to change something and loving something for what it is. As I’ve said many times, if you desire something solely for your ability to have your way with it, that is not love; it’s lust.

And for generations, American reformers have argued that there’s nothing wrong with America that being more like Europe wouldn’t fix. Countless leading liberals hate — and I mean hate — the suggestion that America is the best country in the world. Just two weeks ago, I think, I linked to this progressive mind-porn from the opening scene of HBO’s The Newsroom. Stephen Colbert’s whole shtick for the last nine years has been to mock people who love this country too much. Indeed, for eight years under Bush we heard that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” — a profoundly stupid and self-serving bumper sticker of a notion. It’s a very strange understanding of love — and that’s all patriotism is; love of country — that its greatest expression is biting criticism, regardless of said criticism’s merit. For eight years, every calumny and slander imaginable was hurled at Bush and the United States, and whenever anyone pushed back on it, we were told that it was patriotic. We just love our country! Dissent is the highest form of patriotism! Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Economics: A Price Is a Signal Wrapped up in an Incentive

Join Professor Tabarrok in exploring the mystery and marvel of prices. We take a look at how oil prices signal the scarcity of oil and the value of its alternative uses. Following up on our previous video, “I, Rose,” we show how the price system allows for people with dispersed knowledge and information about rose production to coordinate global economic activity. This global production of roses reveals how the price system is emergent, and not the product of human design. Read the rest of this entry »


Number of People Dying Fom Malnutrition – 3.1 million; Number of People Who died from GMO? Zero


Kevin D. Williamson: Rudy is Right

Barack Obama

Barack Obama Doesn’t Even Like America

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson writes: Rudy Giuliani is in the stocks for saying that he does not believe that President Barack Obama “loves America.” He said this at a small, private dinner for Scott Walker, who probably will not be inviting Giuliani to very many events in the near future.

Giuliani went on to say that he wasn’t questioning the president’s patriotism — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — only noting that the president’s rhetoric is decidedly low-cal on the American exceptionalism but full-fat when it comes to criticism.rev-wright-obama

“For the progressive, there is very little to love about the United States…”

It may be the case that the president is a practitioner of the Smokey Robinson school of patriotism: “I don’t like you, but I love you.” Something’s really got a hold on this guy, and it is not an excessive fervor for the American order.

“…Washington, Jefferson, Madison? A bunch of rotten slaveholders, hypocrites, and cowards even when their hearts were in the right places. The Declaration of Independence? A manifesto for the propertied classes. The Constitution? An artifact of sexism and white supremacy…”

[Read the full text here, at National Review Online]

Questions about patriotism and love of country are, according to our self-appointed referees, out of bounds, déclassé, boob bait for bubbas, etc. Those are questions that we are not allowed to ask in polite society. Why? holden_caulfield__finished_by_westwolf270Because polite society does not want to hear the answers.

“There is a personality type common among the Left’s partisans, and it has a name: Holden Caulfield. He is adolescent, perpetually disappointed, and ever on the lookout for phoniness and hypocrisy.”

Does Barack Obama like America? The people around him certainly seem to have their reservations. Michelle Obama said — twice, at separate campaign a-kornacki-rudyevents — that her husband’s ascending to the presidency meant that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.” She was in her mid 40s at the time, her “adult lifetime” having spanned decades during which she could not be “really proud” of her country. Barack Obama spent years in the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church as the churchman fulminated: “God Damn America!” The Reverend Wright’s infamous “God Damn America!” sermon charges the country with a litany of abuses: slavery, mistreatment of the Indians, “treating citizens as less than human,” etc. A less raving version of the same indictment can be found in the president’s own speeches and books. His social circle includes such figures as Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, who expressed their love of country by participating in a murderous terrorist campaign against it.

[Also see – Lunatic,’ ‘Repugnant’ Rudy Giuliani says Obama doesn’t ‘love America'; Media hits the ‘fainting couches’ – punditfromanotherplanet.com]

Does Barack Obama love his country? Call me a rube for saying so, but it’s a fair question. Read the rest of this entry »


Peggy Noonan: Why Won’t the President Think Clearly About the Nature of the Islamic State?

gothard

An Administration Adrift on Denial

It isn’t about getting a job. They have a job: waging jihad.

Peggy NoonanTime for an Intervention - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ writes: Great essays tell big truths. A deeply reported piece in next month’s Atlantic magazine does precisely that, and in a way devastating to the Obama administration’s thinking on ISIS.

What ISIS Really Wants,” by contributing editor Graeme Wood, is going to change the debate. (It ought to become a book.)

Mr. Wood describes a dynamic, savage and so far successful organization whose members mean business. Their mettle should not be doubted. ISIS controls an area larger than the United Kingdom and intends to restore, and expand, the caliphate. Mr. Wood interviewed Anjem Choudary of the banned London-based Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, who characterized ISIS’ laws of war as policies of mercy, not brutality. “He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies,” Mr. Wood writes, “because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.”

[See the full text of Peggy Noonan’s article in WSJ]

ISIS has allure: Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are believed to have joined. The organization is clear in its objectives: “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change . . . that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. . . . The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”

“The scale of the savagery is difficult to comprehend and not precisely known. Regional social media posts “suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks.” Most, not all, of the victims are Muslims.”

The West, Mr. Wood argues, has been misled “by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. . . . The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers,” drawn largely from the disaffected. “But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” Its actions reflect “a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bring about the apocalypse.”

Mr. Wood acknowledges that ISIS reflects only one, minority strain within Islam. “Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

He quotes Princeton’s Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on ISIS’ theology. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Dr. Krauthammer: Christians Being Wiped Out Abroad…and the White House’s Number One Priority is to Assuage the Feelings and Anxieties of the Muslim Community?

White House Bizarrely Focuses on Muslim Anxieties

From The Corner: What was missing from the just-ended three-day “Countering Violent Extremism” summit held by the White House? “Anything of any importance,” says Charles Krauthammer.

“The idea behind it is the president wanted to assuage the feelings and the anxieties of the Muslim community here and around the world… is this the number one priority of this administration…? I find it extremely bizarre.”

said Krauthammer on Thursday’s  Special Report. “This is a good thing to do.”

But, Krauthammer continued, “at a time when Christians are under savage attack throughout the Middle East, where this is the biggest ethnic cleansing since at least the Balkan wars, where communities who have lived in the Middle East longer than Islam has existed, for 2,000 years, are being wiped out, enslaved, executed, crucified…(read more)

National Review Online


Left-Wing Realpolitik Has No Interest in the World Beyond America’s Borders

Barack Obama, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel

Obama’s Brutal Foreign Policy

The Democratic left’s worldview was defined forever by the Vietnam War. LBJ’s budget got caught between guns for Vietnam and butter for the Great Society. Barack Obama is refusing to be trapped by this dilemma. The Obama legacy will be about butter…

Daniel Henningerrenocol_DanHenninger writes: Conventional explanations for Barack Obama’s foreign policy need an update. Mr. Obama’s famous indecision or antipathy to America’s traditional postwar role in the world all have had their moment. They inform an understanding of this president’s worldview—up to a point.

We have reached that point. They are not enough.

In just the past few weeks, the following events have happened. They are a blur of chaos and brutality.

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Islamic State videotaped its beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and Egypt’s bombed Islamic State camps in retaliation. An ISIS sympathizer sprayed bullets into a free-speech meeting in Copenhagen. A 4,000-man army post in Yemen was overrun by fighters from al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Russian-supported rebels in Ukraine commenced an artillery barrage on Kiev’s forces inside the city of Debaltseve after the grand cease-fire brokered by Germany and France.

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Jordan’s King Abdullah asked the U.S. to send aircraft parts and munitions after ISIS immolated a caged Jordanian pilot. Nigeria’s homicidal Islamic jihadist group, Boko Haram, extended its assaults into Niger and Chad. Both Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi separately called on the United Nations, of all things, to organize a coalition to clean up Libya. A Jewish cemetery in France was smashed to pieces.

The reaction of the U.S. government to all this?

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The White House this week assembled a “summit” on “countering violent extremism,” where on Wednesday Mr. Obama restated the difference between Islam and the perversion of Islam.

Ukraine’s embattled army, encircled in the strategic railway city of Debaltseve by rebels using Russian artillery and tanks, desperately needed defensive military equipment from the U.S. They didn’t get it. On Tuesday Vladimir Putin said they should surrender. On Wednesday, hours before Mr. Obama spoke to the extremism summit, they gave up.

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“Before I go through the elements of this strategy, I want to note how our approach may differ from what others may recommend. We believe in the importance of economic growth, but we insist upon investing in the foundations of American power: education and health care; clean energy and basic research.”

– National Security Adviser Susan Rice

Islamic State’s videotaped barbarism expands, but the U.S. commitment against them in Iraq and Syria will not move beyond limited airstrikes.

Nigeria, like Libya and Iraq, is a nation of vast oil revenue for whoever controls it. Nigeria’s chance of getting support from the Obama administration before it falls into chaos is zero, no matter how many girls Boko Haram kidnaps.

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“Leftist realpolitik—melting guns so it can churn more butter—may survive a pullout from the world in normal times. But it’s not going to hold for the next two years, not at this pace, not with Islam’s jihadists using social media to make all of us party to the de-civilizing of the world.”

It is a mistake to think that Mr. Obama’s passivity or indecision are sufficient explanation. What is on offer here is the American left’s version of realpolitik. The decision by the Obama White House not to deploy American resources is thought-out, brutal and unapologetic.

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“Eventually Barack Obama will be forced to act, or his presidency will erode politically, taking many Democrats with him.”

President Obama in his Feb. 6 national-security statement explained what he is doing—or not doing. He was precise and clear:

“We have to make hard choices among many competing priorities and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.”

Short version: He’s not spending real money on any of this. Get over it. Read the rest of this entry »


The Ideological Islamist Threat

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President Obama opened this week’s White House Conference on Violent Extremism with a speech about community-based counter-radicalization efforts, and his Administration is being roundly mocked for its refusal to use terms like “Muslim terrorism” or “Islamism.” The mockery is deserved. Foreign policy is not a Harry Potter tale of good versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And war cannot be won against an enemy we refuse to describe except in meaningless generalities.

“Their version of jihad is gaining adherents precisely because it is motivated by an idea that challenges the values and beliefs of moderate Islam, the West and modernity. The free and non-fanatic world won’t win this deeper struggle if the Obama Administration refuses even to acknowledge its nature.”

But there is a deeper problem with the Administration’s semantic dodges. Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram and other jihadist groups are waging more than a military conflict. They are also waging an increasingly successful ideological war for the soul of Islam and its 1.6 billion followers.

“Qutb argued that humans can choose only between Islam and jahilyya….No middle ground exists…All Muslims—as he defined them—therefore must take up arms in this fight. Any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction.”

Their version of jihad is gaining adherents precisely because it is motivated by an idea that challenges the values and beliefs of moderate Islam, the West and modernity. The free and non-fanatic world won’t win this deeper struggle if the Obama Administration refuses even to acknowledge its nature.

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[Also see – What Isis Really Wants — The Atlantic]

“Communist ideology lost its appeal when it was seen to fail against the prosperity and freedom of the West. Islamic State will lose its allure when it is defeated and humiliated in the arena it cares about most, which is the battlefield.”

The 9/11 Commission Report put this front and center. Its second chapter, “The Foundation of the New Terrorism,” traces what it calls “ Bin Ladin ’s Appeal in the Islamic World.” It discusses the late al Qaeda leader’s faith in “a return to observance of the literal teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith.” It underscores bin Laden’s reliance on Muslim theologians, from Ibn Taimiyyah in the 14th century to Sayyid Qutb in the 20th. And it explains how bin Laden turned Islam into a licence for murder. Read the rest of this entry »


The Republican Party Is Not Your Friend

GOP-not-your-friehd-Federalist-Jay-Cost

The Roots of the Republican Party’s Conservative-Establishment Divide, Revealed

Cost_Jay.SENT_.bio_Jay Cost writes: I had a bad dream the other night that I still cannot get out of my head. It’s January 20, 2017. Inauguration Day. The Republican candidate for president has triumphed over Hillary Clinton, ushering in the largest Republican majority since 1929. The inaugural balls are finished, the parties over.

[Read the full text here, at The Federalist]

The new president retires to the Oval Office, and sits down with the top leaders of Congress to ask: “Okay. We have the largest majority we’re ever going to see again. What do we do with it?”

“Let’s accelerate depreciation!” somebody says

“Let’s repeal the inheritance tax!” another chimes in.

The new president, nodding solemnly, responds, “Okay, okay. These are good. But what we really need to do is quadruple our guest-worker visas.”

Joker-billionaire-burning-money

“The last time the GOP had complete control over the government, 2003-07, it massively expanded Medicare and enacted more pork-barrel spending than any prior Congress in history.”

Nightmarish? Yes. Fanciful? Maybe a little (bad dreams are like that), but it still derives from a stark truth: the Republican Party, while far preferable to the unchecked liberalism of the Democrats, is not all that conservative.

Sure, it has conservative members, important ones who cannot be ignored. And it talks a good game about small government; just about every Republican candidate 510xdRr8ICL._SL250_for every office is duty-bound to aver his fidelity to Ronald Reagan’s brand of conservatism.

[Check out Jay Cost’s book “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption” at Amazon]

However, if we understand conservatism as advocating smaller government that treats people impartially, many in the party struggle mightily not to act on those principles. Instead, the recent history of “conservative” governance has been one of ever-larger government, and an expansion of the cronyism and corruption built into the system. The last time the GOP had complete control over the government, 2003-07, it massively expanded Medicare and enacted more pork-barrel spending than any prior Congress in history.

Franklin Roosevelt

“Conservatism really began to develop as a political force in the wake of the New Deal, which effectively inverted the constitutional schema. Previously, the federal government was only allowed to do what the Constitution expressly authorized…”

Political parties are not coterminous with ideologies. They are big, broad, unwieldy coalitions that contain lots of factions and varying traditions. Oftentimes, these forces are in direct conflict with one another.

William F. Buckley Holding Book

“…From the New Deal onwards, the government could more or less do anything that the Constitution did not expressly forbid. This inversion gave birth to the conservative movement.”

Conservatives are part of the Republican Party, but so are other forces that—while they might call themselves “conservative”—are actually something quite different.douglas

From Slavery Defeaters to Business Defenders

Conservatism as we know it today did not really exist before the twentieth century. Prior to that, it was just the way things were done. The powers of the federal government were limited, states and localities were dominant, and people did not look to Washington DC to solve every last problem. Granted, the scope of federal power increased during the nineteenth century—for example, during the Civil War—but conservatives today are wont to celebrate those expansions.

Conservatism as we know it today did not really exist before the twentieth century. Prior to that, it was just the way things were done. Read the rest of this entry »

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