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.

isolate30n-3-web

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:

silver-west-africa-flight-map

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 »


The New York Times Endorsed a Secretive Trade Agreement that the Public Can’t Read

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For The Washington PostAndrea Peterson reports: The Obama administration is secretly negotiating a treaty that could have significant effects on domestic law. Officially, it’s a “free trade” treaty among Pacific rim countries, but a section of the draft agreement leaked in 2011 suggested that it will require signers, including the United States, to make significant changes to copyright law and enforcement measures.

 “…it seems strange for the Times to be opining on a treaty the public hasn’t gotten to see yet. If the Times has gotten a leaked copy of the report, it should publish it so the public can make up its own mind.”

Strangely, the administration seems to be encouraging the public to have a debate on the treaty before they know what’s in it. The Office of the United States Trade Representative has solicited comments about the treaty on its Web site, but there is no particularly detailed information about the content of the agreement, or a draft of the current version of the proposal. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hammer: ‘Crisis of Competence’ at White House Exposes a ‘Presidency Falling Apart’

“Abroad, in the vacuum that we created by Obama’s retreat, more aggressive, more wicked, in fact some of the worst people on earth have filled it in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq. Putin’s on the march in eastern Europe. Everybody senses America is not there.”

From The Corner, a clip from this evening’s Special Report. Harsh words from long-time Washington D.C. insider Dr. Krauthammer:

“Domestically, the great idea of expansion of government and new entitlements and all this — this is a crisis of competence. The IRS, the VA, the Secret Service… all of these agencies that we had trust in, under this administration are showing how badly government is run.”

There “is a sense in the country,” says Charles Krauthammer, “that we have a presidency that is falling thingsapart” — call it a “crisis of competence.”

[Charles Krauthammer’s bestselling book “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” is available at Amazon.com]

On Special Report, the panelist explained how chaos abroad and at home — much of it caused by the decisions of the current administration — is giving Americans reason to worry.

 “You combine them, and you get a sense that things are out of control.”

National Review Online


ISIS Video Claims Third Beheading

 David-Haines

David Haines Murdered by Islamic Death Cult

BAGHDAD —The Islamic State militant group released a video late Saturday that it said showed the beheading of David Haines, a British aid worker.

“The United States vows to avenge strongly condemns the act of pure evil barbaric murder of U.K. citizen David Haines by Islamic Muslim the terrorist group ISIL.”

— U.S. President Barack Obama

Islamic State militants had previously released videos showing the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

“This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil.”

— U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron

The video released Saturday showed what a masked person said was Mr. Haines’s beheading before proposing that Alan Henning, another Briton, might face the same fate if British forces didn’t stop their aggression against the militant group. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Hammer: John Kerry’s Proposal to Work with Iran Is ‘Preposterous’

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“[The U.S.] will work with Iranians so long as they respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq.”

— Secretary of State John Kerry

The U.S. cannot partner with Iran to fight Islamist insurgents in Iraq, because Iran has supported whatever it takes to gain influence in Iran, Charles Krauthammer contended.

”…preposterous…the worst thing we could possibly do.”

— Charles Krauthammer

Secretary of State John Kerry’s said today that the U.S. “will work with Iranians so long as they respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq.” Krauthammer called this idea ”preposterous.” Iran will not respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and Kerry’s military plan is “the worst thing we could possibly do,” he said on Special Report….(read more)

National Review Online


[VIDEO] Jeffrey Toobin: Obama Clearly Broke the Law with Bergdahl Exchange

“…the president is taking power for himself that the law didn’t give him — he’s explicitly contradicting it.”

— CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

For NROAndrew Johnson: The Obama administration’s failure to notify Congress of the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees ahead of his exchanging them for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl is a direct violation of the law, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

“It matters whether people follow the law or not…I think he clearly broke the law.”

“I think he clearly broke the law,” Toobin said on Monday, adding that the president’s signing statement in which he called the law unconstitutional does not automatically make it so…(read more)

National Review Online


How Obama Became the Superhero of Excuses

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In this photo taken by a government photographer for Halloween 2012, President Obama pretends to be caught in Spider-Man’s web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3.   (Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

For National Journal  writes: You helped elect an untested presidential candidate, a man almost as liberal as you. He promised to heal the oceans, make health care an inalienable right, and transform Washington’s toxic culture. You mocked Republicans, independents, and squishy Democrats who had the audacity to criticize your guy, much less doubt the inevitability of his victory. President Obama won—twice—and then didn’t live up to anybody’s expectations, including his own.

“There it is, the straw man…”

What do you do? Well, if you’re Ezra Klein and a coterie of inflexibly progressive pundits, you repurpose an attack used against President George W. Bush’s bombastic approach to geopolitics. You call anybody who questions Obama’s leadership style a Green Lanternist. In apost for Vox stretching beyond 2,500 words, Klein makes his case against Obama critics.

“…Rather than conduct the important debate about the balance of powers and the structure of government in the 21st century, some liberals prefer to distort views that don’t affirm their own.”

“Presidents consistently overpromise and underdeliver,” he begins, a fair start. Surely, the editor-in-chief of Vox is going to make the obvious point that presidents and presidential candidates should know enough about the political process (including the limits on the executive branch) to avoid such a breach of trust.

Read the rest of this entry »


Marc Thiessen: Where was Obama During Benghazi? Ask the White House Diarist

Obamacares-Hierarchy-of-Privilege

What was President Obama doing during the eight hours that the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was under attack? Amazingly, we still do not know 20 months later.

For The Washington Post, Marc Thiessen writes:

But there is an easy way to find out — just ask the White House diarist. When trying to keep track of the president’s time, most observers look at “WAVE records” (the White House visitors log listing everyone who enters the White House complex) and the “President’s Public Schedule” (which selectively lists the president’s public activities). But there is another document that meticulously records all the president’s activities, public and private, every second of every day. It is called the “President’s Daily Diary.”

[See also: The Day Obama’s Presidency Died]

Just outside the Oval Office is a room called the Outer Oval, where the president’s secretary and personal aide sit and through which all visitors coming to see the president pass. Staff members in the Outer Oval keep track of the president’s location at all times. They carefully record the names of all individuals who walk into the Oval Office — when they entered, how long they stayed, what the topic of discussion was. They keep a record of all calls made and received by the president, including the topic, participants and duration. They even record the president’s bathroom breaks (they write “evacuating” into the log).

[See Sharyl Attkisson’s book: Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington at Amazon.com]

The new congressional select committee on Benghazi should subpoena the “President’s Daily Diary” and call the White House diarist to testify before the committee. There is precedent for doing so. In 1998, the grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair questioned White House diarist Ellen McCathran. Moreover, the “President’s Daily Diary” is not a classified document. It eventually becomes a publicly available record. There is no reason to withhold it from Congress. Read the rest of this entry »


Analysis: Why Government Doesn’t—and Can’t—Manage Resources Like a Private Business

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Government versus Private Resource Management: The Theory

Robert P. Murphy writes: According to a common but naïve worldview, there are objective, well-known techniques for producing various goods and services, and the consumer preferences regarding these outputs are also common knowledge. In such a worldview—which even many professional economists, in discussing policy, seem to hold—it seems only natural to conclude that government officials could improve upon the decentralized market outcome. After all, the government has access to the same “production function” as private firms, and if it decides to be the monopoly producer of a good or service, it can avoid wasteful advertising expenses and other redundancies. Such arguments were behind the proposals for outright “market socialism” in the era between World Wars I and II, and, to this day, they guide recommendations for heavy government regulation of “natural monopolies” such as utilities.

However, more-practical economists recognize the limits of their textbook diagrams with elegant marginal revenue and marginal cost curves. In reality, we operate in a world of uncertainty. The “least cost” method of producing a good or service is never obvious, nor is what consumers will be willing to pay for various items. In a famous lecture, “Competition as a Discovery Procedure,” Friedrich Hayek explained how markets in the real world stumble upon this hidden knowledge. Various people with access to different information make piecemeal discoveries and constantly modify their operations accordingly; they receive feedback from market prices in the form of profit or loss. Firms mimic particularly profitable innovations, and if a firm does not adapt quickly enough, it will go out of business. Hayek thus viewed competition as a process rather than a condition or end-state. The state of “perfect competition” described in the textbooks—which includes the property that all firms in an industry use the identical “least-cost” method of production—is actually something that would emerge over time onlybecause of the competitive rivalry between the firms, and only if the conditions in the real world remained static long enough for all firms to fully adapt.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I Am an Anarcho-Capitalist

LewRockwell2011Llewellyn H. Rockwell writes: A great many people – more than ever, probably – describe themselves as supporters of the free market today, in spite of the unrelenting propaganda against it. And that’s great. Those statements of support, however, are followed by the inevitable but: but we need government to provide physical security and dispute resolution, the most critical services of all.

Almost without a thought, people who otherwise support the market want to assign to government the production of the most important goods and services. Many favor a government or government-delegated monopoly on the production of money, and all support a government monopoly on the production of law and protection services.

This isn’t to say these folks are stupid or doltish. Nearly all of us passed through a limited-government – or “minarchist” – period, and it simply never occurred to us to examine our premises closely.state-vs-market-graphic

To begin with, a few basic economic principles ought to give us pause before we assume government activity is advisable:

  • Monopolies (of which government itself is a prime example) lead to higher prices and poorer service over time.
  • The free market’s price system is constantly directing resources into such a pattern that the desires of the consumers are served in a least-cost way in terms of opportunities foregone.
  • Government, by contrast, cannot be “run like a business,” as Ludwig von Mises explained in Bureaucracy. Without the profit-and-loss test, by which society ratifies allocation decisions, a government agency has no idea what to produce, in what quantities, in what location, using what methods. Their every decision is arbitrary, in a way directly analogous to the problem facing the socialist planning board (as Mises also discussed, this time in his famous essay “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth“).

In other words, when it comes to government provision of anything, we have good reason to expect poor quality, high prices, and arbitrary and wasteful resource allocation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why China Wants to Dump the Dollar

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Chriss W. Street writes:  China’s Dagong credit rating agency on October 17th downgraded its United States sovereign credit rating to A- and maintained its negative outlook on America’s solvency. Dagong warned that despite Washington’s last-minute resolution of the debt ceiling deadlock, “The fundamental situation that the debt growth rate significantly outpaces that of fiscal income and gross domestic product remains unchanged.”

China’s official state-run news agency, Xinhua, reiterated its statements that because of the continuing risk of a U.S. debt default, it is “a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.” This language is code for China wanting to abandon the U.S. dollar as the world’s “reserve currency” and move international financial transactions to the renminbi, the currency of the People’s Republic of China.

Read the rest of this entry »


When Wealth Disappears

LONDON — As bad as things in Washington are — the federal government shutdown since Tuesday, the slim but real potential for a debt default, a political system that seems increasingly ungovernable — they are going to get much worse, for the United States and other advanced economies, in the years ahead.

From the end of World War II to the brief interlude of prosperity after the cold war, politicians could console themselves with the thought that rapid economic growth would eventually rescue them from short-term fiscal transgressions. The miracle of rising living standards encouraged rich countries increasingly to live beyond their means, happy in the belief that healthy returns on their real estate and investment portfolios would let them pay off debts, educate their children and pay for their medical care and retirement. This was, it seemed, the postwar generations’ collective destiny.

But the numbers no longer add up. Even before the Great Recession, rich countries were seeing their tax revenues weaken, social expenditures rise, government debts accumulate and creditors fret thanks to lower economic growth rates.

We are reaching end times for Western affluence. Read the rest of this entry »


6 Whopping Government Misstatements About NSA Spying

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is among many government officials uttering misstatements in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is among many government officials uttering misstatements in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying have set off a fierce global debate about security and privacy in the internet age.

The revelations of the United States performing mass surveillance on an international scale have also unleashed an avalanche of government misstatements aimed at defending, or even denying, the NSA’s dragnet surveillance. We’ve gone through them and picked out some of the biggest whoppers. Read the rest of this entry »


What If Obama Cant Lead?

Why the president’s defenders are wrong when they argue Obama is impotent.

by 

(AP)

Two New York Times reporters recently posited for President Obama this grim scenario: Low growth, high unemployment, and growing income inequality become “the new normal” in the nation he leads. “Do you worry,” the journalists asked him, “that that could end up being your legacy simply because of the obstruction … and the gridlock that doesn’t seem to end?”

Obama’s reply was telling. “I think if I’m arguing for entirely different policies and Congress ends up pursuing policies that I think don’t make sense and we get a bad result,” he said, “it’s hard to argue that’d be my legacy.”

Actually, it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t be his legacy. History judges U.S. presidents based upon what they did and did not accomplish. The obstinacy of their rivals and the severity of their circumstances is little mitigation. Great presidents overcome great hurdles.

In Obama’s case, the modern GOP is an obstructionist, rudderless party often held hostage by extremists. So … get over it. His response to The New York Times is another illustration that Obama and his liberal allies have a limited—and limiting—definition of presidential leadership.

I call it the White Flag Syndrome.

Read the rest of this entry »


By Hook, Crook, or Comic Book

Mexico continues to encourage its citizens to migrate to the U.S., even though it doesn’t need to.

By  Victor Davis Hanson

“If the United States were to treat Mexican nationals in the same way that Mexico treats Central American nationals, there would be humanitarian outrage.”

There are many strange elements in the current debate over illegal immigration, but none stranger than the general failure to discuss the role of Mexico.

Are millions of Mexican citizens still trying to cross the U.S. border illegally because there is dismal economic growth and a shortage of jobs in Mexico?

Not any more. In terms of the economy, Mexico has rarely done better, and the United States rarely worse.

The Mexican unemployment rate is currently below 5 percent. North of the border, it remains stuck at over 7 percent for the 53rd consecutive month of the Obama presidency. The American gross domestic product has been growing at a rate of less than 2 percent annually. In contrast, a boomingMexico almost doubled that in 2012, with its GDP growing at a robust clip of nearly 4 percent.

Is elemental hunger forcing millions of Mexicans to flee north, as it may have in the past?

Not necessarily. According to a recent United Nations study, an estimated 70 percent of Mexico’s citizens are overweight and suffer from the same health problems caused by poor diet and lack of exercise shared by those in other, more affluent Western societies.

Mexico is a severe critic of U.S. immigration policy, often damning Americans as ruthlessly insensitive for trying to close our border. The Mexican government has gone so far as to join lawsuits against individual American states to force relaxation of our border enforcement. Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón sharply criticized the United States for trying to “criminalize migration.”

Is Mexico, then, a model of immigration tolerance?

Far from it.

Until 2011, when it passed reforms, Mexico had among the most draconian immigration laws in the world. Guatemala has criticized Mexico for initiating construction of a fence along its southern border.

Mexico has zero tolerance for illegal immigrants who seek to work in Mexico, happen to break Mexican law, or go on public assistance — and zero tolerance for any citizens who aid them.

In Mexico, legal immigration is aimed at privileging new arrivals who have skill sets that will aid the Mexican economy and, according to the country’s immigration law, who have the “necessary funds for their sustenance” — while denying entry to those who are not healthy or would upset the “equilibrium of the national demographics.” Translated, this apparently means that Mexico tries to withhold legal residency from those who do not look like Mexicans or do not have the skills needed to make money.

If the United States were to treat Mexican nationals in the same way that Mexico treats Central American nationals, there would be humanitarian outrage.

In 2005, the Mexican government published a Guide for the Mexican Migrant — in comic-book form. The pictographic manual instructed the country’s own citizens on how best to cross illegally into, and stay within, the United States. Did Mexico assume that its departing citizens were both largely illiterate and unworried about violating the laws of a foreign country?

Yet Mexico counts on these expatriate poor to send back well over $20 billion in remittances annually – currently the third-largest source of foreign exchange for Mexico.

Read the rest of this entry »


Reports: IRS Spared Liberal Groups as Tea Party Languished, More Conservative Orgs Targeted Than First Thought

Remember what we were told when this explosive story first broke less than a week ago?  The IRS official in charge of tax exemptions for organizations said the improper methods employed within her division were executed by “low level workers” in Cincinnati who weren’t motivated by “political bias,” and impacted roughly 75 organizations?  Wrong, wrong and wrong:

“Low Level” – Officials within the highest echelons of the agency were aware of the inappropriate targeting, including the last two commissioners — at least one of whom appears to have misled Congress on this very question.  Now Politicoreports that Lerner herself sent at least one of the probing letters to an Ohio-based conservative group.

The director of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire for singling out conservative groups sent a 2012 letter under her name to one such group, POLITICO has learned. The March 2012 letter was sent to the Ohio-based American Patriots Against Government Excess (American PAGE) under the name of Lois Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division…at the time of the letter, the group was in the midst of the application process for tax-exempt nonprofit status — a process that would stretch for nearly three years and involve queries for detailed information on its social media activity, its organizational set-up, bylaws, membership and interactions with political officials. The letter threatened to close American PAGE’s case file unless additional information was received within 60 days.

These burdensome requests were apparently designed to bury the victimized groups in paperwork.  Carol reported last night that some 58 percent of these applicants were asked for unnecessary information and data, according to the Inspector General’s review.  Some inquiries asked for screenshots of organizations’ Facebook posts and even lists of what books (!) its members were reading.

“No Political Bias” – This claim was laughable on its face from the start, in light of the agency’s surreal criteria for added scrutiny and the “red flag” words and phrases that triggered investigations.  Now add to the mix this scoop from USA Today:

In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows. As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.

Lerner also reportedly fast-tracked an approval for a foundation operated by President Obama’s half brother, taking the extraordinary step of granting it retroactive tax-free status.

“Seventy-five organizations effected” – That number almost immediately swelled to 300.  Now it’s closer to 500

More >> Via  Guy Benson


Who Flunks Constitution Quiz? Elected Officials

I found this in my Evernote archive, when browsing my collection of items from last year, this is a good time to revisit it.

The people we entrust with public office, and who swear an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, know less than the average American about what’s in it. 

I’m reminded of this William F. Buckley quote:

“I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

Turns out, he wasn’t speaking figuratively.

Then of course, there’s this [VIDEO]

–The Butcher

Elected Officials Flunk Constitution Quiz

By Richard Brake

Jan 14, 2011 – 6:00 AM

When the Republican House leadership decided to start the 112th Congress with a reading of the U.S. Constitution, the decision raised complaints in some quarters that it was little more than a political stunt. The New York Times even called it a “presumptuous and self-righteous act.”

That might be true, if you could be sure that elected officials actually know something about the Constitution. But it turns out that many don’t.

In fact, elected officials tend to know even less about key provisions of the Constitution than the general public.

For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We’ve surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.

Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been “successfully elected to government office at least once in their life” — which can include federal, state or local offices.

The survey asks 33 basic civics questions, many taken from other nationally recognized instruments like the U.S. Citizenship Exam. It also asks 10 questions related to the U.S. Constitution.

So what did we find? Well, to put it simply, the results are not pretty.

Elected officials at many levels of government, not just the federal government, swear an oath to “uphold and protect” the U.S. Constitution.

But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question…

More

via Constitution Quiz