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Reality Check: Is an Ebola Flight Ban a Good Idea? Nate Silver Doesn’t Think So

editor-commen-deskIt’s exceedingly rare that I agree with an Obama administration decision (though the decision is infirm, and could be weaseled any way the wind blows over the next several weeks) but the increasing calls to impose an Africa travel ban strike me as reflexive, not founded on proven disease strategy. Unlike a lot of bellyaching conservatives, and a handful of election-panicked Democrats, I’m not convinced that declining to respond to pressure to impose a travel ban is a bad thing. And I don’t think it’s motivated purely by narrow political or economic interests. That said, I don’t claim to be informed enough to have a clear opinion either way. So this morning I saw this, and thought it might be useful reading.

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Nate Silver writes:

On Sept. 19, Thomas Eric Duncan boarded a flight in Monrovia, Liberia, possibly after having lied on a screening questionnaire about his contact with persons carrying the Ebola virus. The next day, Duncan arrived in Dallas to visit his fiancée and son. Initially complaining of a fever, Duncan would soon become the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola. Before dying of the disease on Oct. 8, Duncan would transmit it to two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who treated him at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital.

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Duncan’s case has sparked calls to ban flights to the United States from the countries hardest hit by the recent Ebola outbreak — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — possibly along with others in West Africa. While some of these APPROVED-non-stop-panicarguments have been measured, others seem to convey the impression there are thousands of passengers arriving in cities like Dallas each day from flights originating in these countries.

There aren’t. We searched on Kayak.comExpertFlyer.com and airline websites for direct flights from West African nations (as the United Nations defines the region) to destinations outside the African continent. Specifically, we looked for flights available for the week from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, 2015, a time period far enough in advance that such flights are unlikely to have sold out.

There are no regularly scheduled direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone — and very few from other countries in West Africa. There are far more flights from West Africa to Western Europe instead. Duncan’s case was typical. Before arriving in the United States, he connected through Brussels.

Here are all the routes we identified:

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Our search may be missing a few flights here and there, but it ought to be reasonably comprehensive, especially for travel to and from the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cheap Oil Pops the Green Policy Bubble

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Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Tesla, an electric-car company on which the political class has showered subsidies, rolled out its newest model last week, complete with high-tech safety features like lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring, collision avoidance and self-parking. Tesla’s stock promptly dropped 8%, though probably not because these mundane features long have been available in other luxury models.

At $2.99, the price to which gasoline had fallen at some California stations last week, electric cars becoming a mass-market taste and not just an item for wealthy hobbyists recedes from probability. If Democrats especially start to find it politically no longer saleable to subsidize a toy for the rich, the company may be in real trouble.

Since World War I, the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated in a band between $2 and $4 (using 2006 dollars as a benchmark). Since the 1970s, though, politicians have repeatedly wedded themselves to policies premised on the idea that oil prices can only go up, up, up, in prelude to oil running out altogether. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Al Arabia Reports on Ceylan Ozalp Story; Verification Remains Elusive

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The reports of her suicide, which follows the beheading of seven men and three women by ISIS in Kobane earlier this week, took social media by storm and appeared in several Turkish news websites such as the daily Radikal.

editor-commen-deskUPDATE: Readers familiar with our coverage of the Ceylan Ozalp story will note that while our efforts to find credible sources to confirm whether Ceylan is dead or alive have yet to produce any new information, we’ve begun to build up a list of references and links as the media’s interest in the story continues to develop momentum. We were among the first news sites to pick up the Ceylan Ozalp suicide story and stick with it, with the aim of verifying it.

Mostly it’s been an internet myth. The lack of good information is problematic. Some sites and social media outlets simply circulate the story as-is, noting that it’s not confirmed, and include a direct link to where they found it. Other sites are less skeptical. Some are opportunistic, with an agenda to promote, and understandably have less regard for facts or useful attribution. This ismusissue unfortunate. One site in particular undercut the effort to verify the Ceylan Ozalp story by posting text copied (from LIVELEAK) with a headline nearly identical to oursremoving the link to LIVELEAK’s original source (this site) then posting it, with uncorrected, misleading quote attribution, and no direct links anywhere. Their defense for a practice that’s closer to propaganda than journalism? Claiming it’s “reader submitted”.

Because it’s an advocacy (“educational purposes”) site run by self-described “human rights activists”, there’s a different standard at work. Disassociating content from sources, suggesting the content arrives to them as provided by “the public” (whatever that means) anything goes. Neglecting to make an effort to verify a rumor or credit sources happens frequently on advocacy sites, so this isn’t unusual. Since the internet is a global (mostly) open marketplace of ideas and information, readers are aware that false or incomplete information goes with the territory. Skeptical readers can take into consideration the nature of unconfirmed reports, and the chaotic and propagandistic reality of warfare, when they explore stories like this.

This story is unusual because a lot of readers are searching, and often finding the same incomplete information. Or perhaps misinformation? Since the majority of the traffic involves sites that aren’t in English, western readers have indirect or secondary exposure to the media storm.

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The question remains: Is the Ceylan Ozalp story true or false?

We don’t claim to know. We’re interested, but skeptical. If you see a site that unquestioningly promotes the image of Ceylan as a “brave fighter” and heroic martyr, (and there are many) you’re likely reading propaganda. Or if you see a site, or a tweet, that claims the story is false, you might also be seeing the flip side of a disinformation campaign. Or, it might simply be a healthy challenge to the current media slant, the unquestioned rumor of Ozalp’s suicide.

Legitimate news sites are uniformly guarded about the veracity of the alleged Ceylan Ozalp battlefield suicide report, as it makes its way from social media outlets to more mainstream news outlets. Which brings us to the most current crossover news story by Al Arabiya.

When we first reported last week the story was little more than an internet rumor circulating in social media. In the past several days, it’s been picked up in Germany’s BILD magazine, The International Business Times UK, and now, several hours ago, this appeared in Al Arabiya.

As described above, our view remains a skeptical one. Is Ceylan Ozalp a brave fighter who killed herself rather than fall into the hands of ISIS? Or is Ceylan’s merely an image that’s being used by unreliable or self-interested international actors as a fictional propaganda puppet?

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Some of the photos of Ozalp show her in fighting poses (like this one) or heroic, scenic poses that could be staged, or could be real. We simply don’t know yet.

As we see in the story below–like all legitimate mainstream media reports–responsibly include this important disclaimer:

“Al Arabiya News Channel could not independently verify the authenticity of the report on her suicide.”

Go here for the full text of the following news story.

By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Syrian Kurdish female combatant, who appeared on a BBC report in September, shot herself with a last bullet during fighting with militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last week, according to media reports.

Ceylan Ozalp, 19, was reportedly surrounded by ISIS fighters near the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane also known as Ain al-Arab. After she run out of ammunition Ozalp said “goodbye” over the radio and spent her last bullet on killing herself.

Also read: Biden apologizes to UAE for remarks about ISIS

The reports of her suicide, which follows the beheading of seven men and three women by ISIS in Kobane earlier this week, took social media by storm and appeared in several Turkish news websites such as the daily Radikal.

But other reports suggested Ozalp, also known as Diren –which means “resist” in Turkish, never left the northern Syrian town of Jezaa, which is still under the Kurdish control, according to International Business Times.

Al Arabiya News Channel could not independently verify the authenticity of the report on her suicide.

During her interview with the BBC last month, Ozalp said: “We’re not scared of anything…We’ll fight to the last. We’d rather blow ourselves up than be captured by IS (ISIS).”

“When they see a woman with a gun, they’re so afraid they begin to shake. They portray themselves as tough guys to the world. But when they see us with our guns they run away. They see a woman as just a small thing. But one of our women is worth a hundred of their men,” Ozalp told the BBC. Read the rest of this entry »


Is Hillary Clinton’s Messaging Strategy Straight from the 1988 Dukakis Campaign Playbook?

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Hillary Clinton: Dukakis in a Pantsuit? 

editor-commen-deskYes, I confess, this is mainly an excuse to use this really scary photo of Hillary. We already know what Mrs. Clinton looks like in a pantsuit. But how many of us know what it’s like to be that close to one of her eyeballs? Highlights from Jonah Goldberg’s weekly G-File. It includes a bonus excerpt from Jonah’s review of Piketty’s Marxist book (there’s no other thing to call it) and since it’s a book that even dedicated neo-Marxists only pretend they read all of, I imagine even some of them are taking Jonah’s word for it. See that full review, in Commentary, here.

For the article excerpted below, see the full text here.  (I suggest you read all of it, otherwise you’ll miss the joke about spoon-banging on a high chair). Anything else? Yes! Order Jonah’s book here.

…I have no doubt that Clinton likes data. When she was working on Hillarycare in the early 1990s she assembled hundreds of wonks collecting literally millions of pieces of data, filling filing cabinets like the warehouse in Indiana Jones. When a journalist asked her if she needed anything else, Clinton replied something like “just a little more data.” As if her entire Rube Goldberg machine would click into place and hum with perfection if she just got a few more columns of numbers on heart-bypass rates in Missoula.

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But just because Clinton likes data doesn’t mean this isn’t a crock. Oh, it’s savvy. But if her husband taught us anything, it’s that bullsh*tters can be savvy. First, all of this data talk is a brilliant way to exploit the “Big Data” fad in elite circles these days and subtly play lip-service to the liberal conceit that “facts have a liberal bias.” If she were running in the late 19th century she’d be talking about canals on Mars.tyranny-of-cliches

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

If she were running in the 1920s, she’d be saying “Engineering, Engineering, Engineering.” In the 1960s, she’d be saying “Plastics, Plastics, Plastics.” If she were running in 50,000 B.C. she’d be going around saying “Fire, Fire, Fire.” I talked about this a bit in my review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Marx-TVSimilarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)

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But the more important point is that Clinton’s messaging gambit is an entirely obvious indictment of Barack Obama. The need for “evidence-based optimism” isn’t a shot at Republicans. It’s a shot at the guy who beat her out for the nomination in 2008 by running as the Pope of Hope. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Bedard: Northeast Loses 40% of House Seats as People Flee High-Tax States

The Northeast, once the nation’s political engine that produced presidents, House speakers and Senate giants including the late Edward M. Kennedy, is losing clout in Washington as citizens flee the high-tax region, according to experts worried about the trend.

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“This result is one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in American history. This migration is shifting the power center of America right before our very eyes.”

The Census Bureau reports that population growth has shifted to the South and the result is that the 11 states that make up the Northeast are being bled dry of representation in Washington.

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“The movement isn’t random or even about weather or resources. Economic freedom is the magnet and states ignore this force at their own peril.”

Critics blame rising taxes in states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut for limiting population growth in the Northeast to just 15 percent from 1983 to 2013, while the rest of the nation grew more than 41 percent. Read the rest of this entry »


The Inequality Bed-Wetters are Misleading You

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The Gilded Gelded Age

editor-commen-deskI offer this for two reasons. One, because I’ve never read anything by Kevin D. Williamson that I didn’t like and want everyone to read. And two, because there’s this very disturbing photo of Paul Krugman that I’ve been dying to get off my desk. Now you can have nightmares about Krugman’s face, staring scoldingly into the abyss. And I can go back to my usual nightmares about Obama cutting a nuke deal with Iran in order to speed up the coming global apocalypse. Which reminds me. Do you have Williamson’s book yet? I think everyone should read that, too. See the full text of Williamson’s article here.

For National Review OnlineKevin D. Williamson writes: The inequality police are worried that we are living in a new Gilded Age. We should be so lucky: Between 1880 and 1890, the number of employed Americans increased by more than 13 percent, and wages increased by almost 50 percent.kevin-williamson

“…if your assumption here is that this is about redistribution, then you should want the billionaires’ incomes to go up, not down: The more money they make, the more taxes they pay, and the more money you have to give to the people you want to give money to, e.g., overpaid, lazy, porn-addicted bureaucrats…” 

I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the Barack Obama years will not match that record; the number of employed Americans is lower today than it was when he took office, and household income is down. Grover Cleveland is looking like a genius in comparison.

“…poor people are not poor because rich people are rich, nor vice versa. Very poor people are generally poor because they do not have jobs, and taking away Thurston Howell III’s second yacht is not going to secure work for them…”

The inequality-based critique of the American economy is a fundamentally dishonest one, for a half a dozen or so reasons at least. Claims that the (wicked, wicked) “1 percent” saw their incomes go up by such and such an amount over the past decade or two ignore the fact that different people compose the 1 percent every year, and that 75 percent of the super-rich households in 1995 were in a lower income group by 2005.

“The 3 million highest-paying jobs in America paid a lot more in 2005 than did the 3 million highest-paying jobs in 1995” is a very different and considerably less dramatic claim than “The top 1 percent of earners in 1995 saw their household incomes go up radically by 2005.” But the former claim is end-is-neartrue and the latter is not.

[If you haven't read Kevin D. Williamson's  "The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome"  then your Global Panic checklist is incomplete. Fear not, it's available at Amazon]

Paul Krugman, who persists in Dickensian poverty, barely making ends meet between six-figure sinecures, is a particularly energetic scourge of the rich, and he is worried about conspicuous consumption: “For many of the rich, flaunting is what it’s all about. Read the rest of this entry »


Glenn Reynolds: For Next Attorney General, Reach Across Aisle

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Eric Holder has announced that he will be stepping down as attorney general as soon as a replacement can be named. And already, National Journal notes that with Holder’s departure, President Obama will be losing one of his few friends in new-schoolWashington.

“…Holder’s role has been not so much law enforcement as ‘scandal-goalie,’ ensuring that whatever comes out in the news or in congressional investigations, no one in the government will go to jail…”

[Glenn Reynolds' book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]

As the article by George Condon notes, in choosing a friend, Obama was following in the footsteps of presidents going all the way back to George Washington, who named Revolutionary War comrades-in-arms to the slot.

“Writing in Above The Law, Tamara Tabo notes that Holder’s stonewalling, which led him to be the first attorney general ever found in contempt of Congress, has poisoned relations between the Justice Department and legislators, ensuring a rocky reception for whoever Obama names next.”

John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert to be attorney general, and Richard Nixon named his law partner, John Mitchell. In many ways, this makes sense: The attorney general of the United States is at the top of the law enforcement apparatus, and in that position, you want someone you can trust.

Read the rest of this entry »


Head Off a Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong

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“Two of the world’s powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong.”

Yang Jianli, president of Initiative for China, Teng Biao, a human-rights lawyer, and Hu Jia, winner of the Sakharov Prize, are former political prisoners of China. They write:

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators turned out in Hong Kong on Monday, defying a government crackdown over the weekend that saw riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. As demonstrations grow against Beijing’s violation of its promise to allow universal suffrage, there is a danger that the infamous 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square could be repeated in Hong Kong.

“Requiring voters to select leaders from two to three candidates selected by a committee controlled by Beijing is not meaningful “universal suffrage.'”

The crisis began in June, when Beijing released a white paper that reneged on the “One Country Two Systems” principle laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.

[Also see - Democracy in China: 'The struggle for Hong Kong,' or 'The Great Leap Sideways']

China had pledged that Hong Kong could rule itself on all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs, and voters could freely choose their own leader.

Instead, the white paper claimed that Beijing has complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, with the only autonomy being what the central government decides to grant. All aspects of local government are subject to oversight by Beijing, and even judges must meet its standard of patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »


Camille Paglia: The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

Originally posted on TIME:

The disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham two weeks ago is the latest in a long series of girls-gone-missing cases that often end tragically. A 32-year-old, 270-pound former football player who fled to Texas has been returned to Virginia and charged with “abduction with intent to defile.” At this date, Hannah’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

Colleges should stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives, an…

View original 582 more words


Inside the Plot Against the Middle Class

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For the  New York PostKyle Smith writes: Ever get the sense that the middle class is downwardly mobile, being pressed to the floor and squeezed to the limit? It’s not happening by accident. Someone is doing the squeezing: a new class of entertainment and tech plutocrats, cheered on and abetted by a priesthood of media, government and academic elites.

“Almost every institution of power, from government and large corporations to banks and Wall Street, suffers the lowest public esteem ever recorded.”

Joel Kotkin’s The New Class Conflict (Telos Press Publishing) paints a dire picture of the undeclared war on the middle book7class. What he calls the Oligarchy (Silicon Valley and Hollywood) and the Clerisy (the media, bureaucrats, universities and nonprofits) enrich themselves and gratify their own strange obsessions at the expense of the middle class.

[Order Joel Kotkin’s "The New Class Conflict" from Amazon.com]

This New Class, for instance, venerates the city and despises suburbia. They think you should feel the same way — and in innumerable magazine and newspaper pieces, they twist facts to make it sound as if America loves living in apartments and taking trains to work.

Though New York and a few other cities have seen population growth over the last 20 years, the real surges are out there, where the space is.

In 2012, nine of the 10 fastest growing metropolitan regions were in the Sun Belt, mainly in the Southwest. In 2013, lightly regulated Houston saw more housing starts than the entire state of California, writes Kotkin.

“With 12 percent of the nation’s population, California is home to about a third of its welfare recipients, while its 111 billionaires hold a collective $485 billion in wealth. The middle class is now an actual minority in the state.”

So, suburbanites are punished. In California, where the New Class reigns supreme, the middle class is being garroted by environmental and anti-sprawl strictures. Those who wish to live in houses are pushed farther and farther from their jobs, spending more and more on commuting and energy costs. Proposals being debated now would, for instance, allow only 3 percent more housing by 2035 in the exurban part of the Bay Area. Read the rest of this entry »


Is American Praise of the Female Pilot Who Bombed ISIS Sexist and Racist? VOX Thinks So

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ISIS Militants in Syria Bitch-Slapped Back to the Stone Age by UAE’s First Female Bomber

Vox complains: 

There are two sets of American misconceptions here. The first is to play up Mansouri as representative of the UAE as a champion of gender equality, when in fact the UAE is objectively quite bad on women’s rights, and the fact that we allow them such a lowered bar represents a soft bigotry of lowered expectations. The second is to repeatedly contrast the UAE with Saudi Arabia in a way that explicitly frames Saudi gender restrictions as the default for Arab and Muslim societies, when in fact Saudi mariam-al-mansouri-1restrictions are freakishly unique and widely reviled in the Muslim world.

“Much of the praise starts with the assumption that Arab societies are inherently backward”

What these misconceptions have in common is to endorse the idea, which originates with ultra-conservative Islamists and Islamophobic racists, that Muslim and Arab countries will naturally set a lower standard for women’s rights. It buys into the condescending assumption that there are Western women and there are Arab women and they should expect different tiers of liberation because the latter’s societies are inherently less advanced. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul A. Offit: The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic

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The pro-disease movement, championed by wealthy elites

Paul A. Offit writes: Almost 8,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, have been reported to California’s Public Health Department so far this year. More than 250 patients have been hospitalized, nearly all of them infants and young children, and 58 have required intensive care. Why is this preventable respiratory infection making a comeback? In no small part thanks to low vaccination rates, as a story earlier this month in the Hollywood Reporter pointed out.

“Who is choosing not to vaccinate? The answer is surprising. The area with the most cases of whooping cough in California is Los Angeles County, and no group within that county has lower immunization rates than residents living between Malibu and Marina Del Rey, home to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive suburbs in the country.”

The conversation about vaccination has changed. In the 1990s, when new vaccines were introduced, the news media were obsessed with the notion that vaccines might be doing more harm than good. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism, we were told. Thimerosal, an ethyl-mercury containing preservative in some vaccines, might cause developmental delays. Too many vaccines given too soon, the stories went, might overwhelm a child’s immune system.

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“These are the kind of immunization rates that can be found in Chad or South Sudan. But parents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica see vaccines as unnatural—something that conflicts with their healthy lifestyle. And they have no problem finding fringe pediatricians willing to cater to their irrational beliefs.”

Then those stories disappeared. One reason was that study after study showed that these concerns were ill-measlesfounded. Another was that the famous 1998 report claiming to show a link between vaccinations and autism was retracted by The Lancet, the medical journal that had published it.

With fewer vaccinations, is your childs school safe?

Remember When We Thought We Had Functionally Eradicated Measles and Mumps?

Study: More Affluent Stupid Parents Opt Out Of Whooping Cough Vaccine

The study was not only spectacularly wrong, as more than a dozen studies have shown, but also fraudulent. The author, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, has since been stripped of his medical license.

But the damage was done. Countless parents became afraid of vaccines. Read the rest of this entry »


Goldberg, Williamson on Ginsberg: ‘We Only Whisper It’, ‘Abort the Poor’

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Justice Ginsburg sings another verse of “Kill the Poor.”

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson writes: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, having decided for some inexplicable reason to do a long interview with a fashion magazine (maybe it is her celebrated collection of lace collars), reaffirmed the most important things we know about her: her partisanship, her elevation of politics over law, and her desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible.

“This is not her first time weighing in on the question of what by any intellectually honest standard must be described as eugenics.”

Speaking about such modest restrictions on abortion as have been enacted over the past several years, Justice Ginsburg lamented that “the impact of all these restrictions is on poor women.” Then she added: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.”

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This is not her first time weighing in on the question of what by any intellectually honest standard must be described as eugenics. In an earlier interview, she described the Roe v. Wade decision as being intended to control population growth, “particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” She was correct in her assessment of Roe; the co-counsel in that case, Ron Weddington, would later advise President Bill Clinton: “You can start dead-kennedys-kill-the-poor-1980immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” by making abortifacients cheap and universally available. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”

In 1980, the punk band the Dead Kennedys released a song called “Kill the Poor.” In it, singer Jello Biafra considers the many benefits to be had from the policy he is singing about…(read more)

Ginsburg: Abort the Poor

Jonah Goldbergpage_2014_200_goldberg_square writes: Let me offer three cheers for Kevin’s post on Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Let me also join the pile-on.

First, Ginsburg’s view that we don’t want more poor babies is perfectly consistent with a century-old progressive tradition as I explain at some length here. It is simply a restatement of Margaret Sanger’s “religion of birth control” which would “ease the financial load of caring for with public funds . . . children destined to become a burden to themselves, to their family, and ultimately to the nation.” Read the rest of this entry »


Free Speech My Ass: The Berkeley Charade

Jack Weinberg atop car by Steven Marcus

Sol Stern: The Unfree Speech Movement

How did this Orwellian inversion occur? It happened in part because the Free Speech Movement’s fight for free speech was always a charade. 

“I realized years later that this moment may have been the beginning of the 1960s radicals’ perversion of ordinary political language, like the spelling “Amerika” or seeing hope and progress in Third World dictatorships.”

Sol Stern writes: This fall the University of California at Berkeley is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, a student-led protest against campus restrictions on political activities that made headlines and inspired imitators around the country. I played a small part in the Free Speech Movement, and some of those returning for the reunion were once my friends, but I won’t be joining them.

Mario-Savio

“‘Tenured radicals,’ in New Criterion editor Roger Kimball’s phrase, now dominate most professional organizations in the humanities and social studies.”

Though the movement promised greater intellectual and political freedom on campus, the result has been the opposite. The great irony is that while Berkeley now honors the memory of the Free Speech Movement, it exercises more thought control over students than the hated institution that we rose up against half a century ago.

AYAAN - FEB28 - Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about her autobiography. tb (Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images) By: Tony Bock Collection: Toronto Star

“Unlike our old liberal professors, who dealt respectfully with the ideas advanced by my generation of New Left students, today’s radical professors insist on ideological conformity and don’t take kindly to dissent by conservative students.”

We early-1960s radicals believed ourselves anointed as a new “tell it like it is” generation. We promised to transcend the “smelly old orthodoxies” (in George Orwell’s phrase) of Cold War liberalism and class-based, authoritarian leftism.

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Leading students into the university administration building for the first mass protest, Mario Savio, the Free Speech Movement’s brilliant leader from Queens, New York, famously said: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. . . . . And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

The Berkeley "machine" now promotes Free Speech Movement kitsch.

The Berkeley “machine” now promotes Free Speech Movement kitsch.

“Visits by speakers who might not toe the liberal line—recently including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Islamism critic Aayan Hirsi Ali —spark protests and letter-writing campaigns by students in tandem with their professors until the speaker withdraws or the invitation is canceled.”

The Berkeley “machine” now promotes Free Speech Movement kitsch. The steps in front of Sproul Hall, the central administration building where more than 700 students were arrested on Dec. 2, 1964, have been renamed the Mario Savio Steps. One of the campus dining halls is called the Free Speech Movement Café, its walls covered with photographs and mementos of the glorious semester of struggle. The university requires freshmen to read an admiring biography of Savio, who died in 1996, written by New York University professor and Berkeley graduate Robert Cohen.

FSMAnita

“by contrast, one of the honored speakers at the Free Speech Movement anniversary rally on Sproul Plaza will be Bettina Aptheker, who is now a feminist-studies professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.”

Yet intellectual diversity is hardly embraced. Every undergraduate undergoes a form of indoctrination with a required course on the “theoretical or analytical issues relevant to understanding race, culture, and ethnicity in American society,” administered by the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion. Read the rest of this entry »


Jonah Goldberg: What ‘War on Women’?

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It ended a long time ago, and women won

page_2014_200_goldberg_squareJonah Goldberg writes: Last Friday, the White House announced its “It’s On Us” initiative aimed at combating sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m all in favor of combating sexual assault, but the first priority in combating a problem is understanding it.

That’s not the White House’s first priority. Roughly six weeks before Election Day, its chief concern is to translate an exciting social-media campaign into a get-out-woman-freakout-smthe-vote operation.

“Obviously, this isn’t all about elections. There’s a vast feminist-industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic. “

Accurate statistics are of limited use in that regard because rape and sexual assault have been declining for decades. So the Obama administration and its allied activist groups trot out the claim that there is a rape epidemic victimizing 1 in 5 women on college campuses. tyranny-of-cliches

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

This conveniently horrifying number is a classic example of being too terrible to check. If it were true, it would mean that rape would be more prevalent on elite campuses than in many of the most impoverished and crime-ridden communities.

 “To listen to pretty much anyone in the Democratic party these days, you’d think these are dark days for women. But by any objective measure, things have been going great for women for a long time, under Republicans and Democrats alike.”

It comes from tendentious Department of Justice surveys that count “attempted forced kissing” and other potentially caddish acts that even the DOJ admits “are not criminal.” Read the rest of this entry »


Angelo Codevilla: Washington’s Ruling Class Is Fooling Itself About The Islamic State

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Washington’s foolish approaches to the Islamic State will not destroy them or discourage others from following in their footsteps. Angelo Codevilla’s advice: Get Your Heads Out of  Your Ass The Sand

“As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem.”

 writes: The American people’s reaction to Muslim thugs of the “Islamic State” ritually knifing off the heads of people who look like you and me boils down to “let’s destroy these bastards”—which is common sense. But our ruling class, from President Obama on the Left to The Wall Street Journal on the Right, take the public’s pressure to do this as another occasion for further indulging their longtime preferences, prejudices, and proclivities for half-measures in foreign affairs—the very things that have invited people from all over the planet to join hunting season on Americans.220px-DuncanHunter

 “We need to crush ISIS and not work on arming more Islamic radicals. Just what would arming these people accomplish?” 

– Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran

This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will coevilla-bookdecrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.

[Check out Angelo Codevilla's book "To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations" at Amazon.com]

The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”

Irresponsibly Avoiding Debate

Our Constitution prescribes that war happens subsequent to votes by elected representatives. By debate and vote, presumably they reconcile the war’s ends with the means to be employed. But to reconcile ends and means is to banish illusions and pretenses. Read the rest of this entry »


Jonah Goldberg: Do-It-Yourself Jihadism

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The fact that ISIS focuses on beheadings rather than elaborate plots makes them that much harder to foil

Jonah Goldberg writes: On Thursday, Australian authorities claimed they thwarted a plot by supporters of the Islamic State to grab random people off the street and then behead the captured citizens on videotape. Australia’s attorney general said that the massive raid, the largest counterterrorism operation in the nation’s history, involving more than 800 police officers and raids of at least twelve properties, was necessary because, “If the . . . police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened.”

Al-Qaeda always had an odd obsession with destroying aircraft and committing dramatic acts of murder. This fixation had an advantage: Such elaborate plots were easier to be foiled by law enforcement and intelligence agencies…

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott confirmed that the raids were prompted by intercepted phone calls, from an Australian of Afghan descent believed to be Mohammad Ali Baryalei. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that he is suspected to be the “most senior Australian member of the terrorist group Islamic State, having traveled to Syria in April last year.” A proselytizer for the “Street Dawah Movement,” Barylei “was outspoken and wouldn’t shy from speaking the truth regardless,” a former fellow Dawah member told Fairfax Media. “He wasn’t pleased with living in Australian society and wanted to live in an Islamic society away from open alcoholism, homosexuality, fornication, drugs, and capitalism.”

“The Islamic State has discovered that beheadings — which are cheap and relatively easy to conduct — have a huge impact in the West…It takes homework to build an IED. Beheadings require very little instruction.”

Baryalei is credited with recruiting at least two fellow Australians to the cause. One, Khaled Sharrouf, infamously tweeted pictures of himself executing prisoners in Iraq and images of his seven-year-old son holding a severed head in Syria. Another fellow Australian, Mohamed Elomar, has also released images of himself holding the decapitated heads of his “enemies.”  Read the rest of this entry »


The Juicebox Mafia’s Utopian Excess

From Commentary (read the whole thing here) by the Washington Free Beacon‘s Matthew Continetti:

Charles Fourier, the utopian socialist who lived from 1772 to 1837, has been on my mind. Long ago, Fourier was considered a deep, monumental, visionary thinker.

“Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking.”

His theories of social organization inspired the establishment of a communal society, the North American Phalanx, in Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1843. It collapsed a little more than a decade later.

Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking. “His temperament was too ardent, his imagination too strong, and his acquaintance with the realities of life too slight to enable him justly to estimate the merits of his fantastic views,” wrote the Scottish philosopher Robert Adamson.

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As with Fourier’s North American Phalanx in the 19th century, so it is with the Juicebox Mafia Phalanx in the 21st. The Juicebox Mafia, of course, is the dismissive term assigned to the Beltway clique of twenty- and thirtysomething journalists known for their love of President Obama, their hatred of conservatives, their opposition to the war on terror, their quasi-religious faith in social science, and, juiceboxabove all, their earnestness.

“The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way.”

The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way. A larger government, universal health insurance, cuts in military spending, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization—bliss it should be in this dawn for these ardent temperaments, these possessors of strong imaginations, to be alive.

And yet, reading liberal websites and magazines over the last few months, one cannot help but think that their acquaintance with the realities of life is growing increasingly slight.

Someone is filling those juiceboxes with pink lemonade. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks at Yale

Womens-rights activist and Islamic critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at Yale University earlier this week, at the invitation of the university’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program for an event titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.” Ryan Lovelace covers the event for NRO

 


[VIDEO] Goldberg: ‘Muddled Nature’ of ISIS Strategy Driving Down Confidence in Obama

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Meanwhile…there’s this:

ABCNews.com reports: A British citizen captured in Syria two years ago has resurfaced today in a new ISIS propaganda video released on YouTube. But unlike the previous gruesome beheading videos of three westerners, journalist  Cantlie is seen alive, seated alone at a desk in a darkened room, delivering what he says is the first of a series of “messages” about ISIS.

Cantlie was abducted in November 2012 along with slain American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by his ISIS captors, according to a former law enforcement official and others familiar with the journalists’ kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »


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