Only Nixon could go to China

October 4, 2010

One advantage to having a Democratic president, according to Bob Woodward’s new book:

[Woodward] notes that the number of drone strikes under Bush was tiny, in large part on account of an enormous fear of the consequences of civilian casualties, even in numbers that the administration believed were entirely justifiable — fears, in other words, of accusations of atrocities, war crimes, etc., from the fear of a de-legitimizing activist campaign. The Obama administration, believing correctly that it was immune to such campaigns, did not have to worry about such repercussions.

Or you could view it as a disadvantage of having a feckless, inconsistent, and dishonest left. Either way.

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How not to improve education

October 4, 2010

Can we improve education by hiring more teachers? From this chart, courtesy of the Cato Institute, it sure doesn’t look like it:

More spending? We have ample evidence already that that doesn’t help. Still, a chart is illustrative:

The way to improve education is the strategy this administration is against, greater competition.


Blasphemy arrests in the UK

October 4, 2010

It’s sad to see the United Kingdom flushing its historic respect for free speech. In the latest, six men have been arrested for burning the Koran:

Six people have been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after videos emerged on the internet apparently showing copies of the Koran being burned.

Officers detained two men on September 15 and four more yesterday and all six were bailed pending further inquiries, Northumbria Police said. ”The arrests followed the burning of what are believed to have been two Korans in Gateshead on September 11,” the spokesman said. . .

Northumbria Police said the men were not arrested for watching or distributing the video, but on suspicion of burning the Koran.

The final point is key: the arrest was specifically for burning the Koran, not for some other activity that might actually have been criminal.

I fear Britain is doomed.

(Via the Corner.)


In which I defend Paul Krugman, et al.

October 4, 2010

Nassim Taleb, an author of whom I have not heard before, says that we should not listen to economists who failed to predict the financial crisis. The Atlantic has a sympathetic take on his remarks.

Well, I certainly agree that no one should pay attention to Paul Krugman or Thomas Friedman, and we should minimize the attention we pay to Timothy Geithner, but Taleb’s reason is bogus. A year ago, Robert Lucas rebutted this idea brilliantly.

Briefly, if there are people who can identify pricing bubbles, we cannot afford them. Certainly they wouldn’t be giving such information away for free.


Low standards at the Economist

October 4, 2010

The Economist contends that the GM bailout has been a success, despite:

Unions did win some special favours: when Chrysler was divided among its creditors, for example, a union health fund did far better than secured bondholders whose claims should have been senior. Congress has put pressure on GM to build new models in America rather than Asia, and to keep open dealerships in certain electoral districts. But by and large Mr Obama has not used his stakes in GM and Chrysler for political ends.

Oh yeah, except for that (and a few more items they didn’t mention), there’s been hardly any politics in the bailout at all.

They conclude:

Socialists don’t privatise . . .

The lesson for American voters is that their president, for all his flaws, has no desire to own the commanding heights of industry. A gambler, yes. An interventionist, yes. A socialist, no.

The Economist is a serious magazine, so I’ll take this argument seriously. Socialists don’t privatize? Well, that depends.

Socialism is about concentrating power in the right hands. If the socialists have confidence that they will be in power forever, then of course they prefer not to privatize. With most socialist governments that’s true. But it is different in America. In America, the Democrats are at the apex of their power. Sooner or later (probably sooner), Republicans will be in power, and Obama’s nationalized businesses will be privatized.

Given the inevitability of privatization, what would an intelligent socialist do? Wherever possible, he would turn over his nationalized businesses to interests that the socialists will control forever. To wit: the unions. And that’s exactly what have seen. President Obama has taken GM and Chrysler away from their shareholders and creditors and has turned them over to the unions.

Obama is a socialist, but no one ever accused him of being a stupid one.


Audit pans red-light cameras

October 4, 2010

An audit by the Los Angeles controller finds that red-light cameras do not improve safety. And there’s this:

Meanwhile, it appears that the locations of some of the cameras were chosen based more on political and cost concerns than on safety.

Really? Well knock me over with a feather!


US court declines to embrace fraud

October 4, 2010

In the fraudulent legal action by Ecuadorean plantiffs against Chevron, the plaintiffs argue that fraud is simply the way things are done. Fortunately for Chevron, they have no assets in Ecuador, so the plaintiffs have to seek damages in US court, which does not agree:

While this court is unfamiliar with the practices of the Ecuadorian judicial system, the court must believe that the concept of fraud is universal, and that what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court. If such conduct does not amount to fraud in a particular country, then that country has larger problems than an oil spill.

(Previous post.)


UC Irvine hecklers busted

October 4, 2010

Last February, Muslim students at UC Irvine successfully used sustained, concerted heckling to prevent Israeli ambassador Michael Oren from giving a talk at their university. Proving that they know nothing at all about America, they had the chutzpah to argue that their actions, preventing Oren from speaking, were an exercise of free speech.

It was obvious at the time that the disruptions were organized, but it seemed impossible to pin the organization on any particular group, even though the perpetrators were all members of UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union. The group repeatedly denied any involvement. But it turns out they organized the effort by email and the emails leaked.

The group has now been suspended, which seems like the minimum penalty for organizing to block a speech and lying about it. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Something is rotten at UC Irvine, and there’s little evidence that the university has the will, or even the desire, to do anything about it.


Aggressive ignorance

October 3, 2010

How clueless is the New York Times? Here’s a hint:

Movement of the Moment Looks to Long-Ago Texts

The Tea Party is a thoroughly modern movement, organizing on Twitter and Facebook to become the most dynamic force of the midterm elections.

But when it comes to ideology, it has reached back to dusty bookshelves for long-dormant ideas. It has resurrected once-obscure texts by dead writers — in some cases elevating them to best-seller status — to form a kind of Tea Party canon.

(Emphasis mine, of course.)

What obscure text is the NYT’s Kate Zernike referring to? Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

John Miller notes a few facts about this little-known book:

She is of course referring to Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom was excerpted in Reader’s Digest and never has been out of print, whose Nobel Prize for economics in 1974 celebrated the importance and mainstream acceptance of his thinking, and whose death in 1992 isn’t exactly ancient history.

To Zernike and her editors, this book is obscure. They really, really don’t understand us at all.

UPDATE: There’s more here to mock:

[blah blah blah] . . . “the rule of law,” Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”

So the rule of law is another outlandish notion, deserving of scare quotes. (Plus, the notion is due to Hayek! Take that, Samuel Rutherford!) Jonah Goldberg adds:

Everything about this is hilarious. The rule of law is an “unwritten code”? Really? I thought the rule of law was the code. The rule of law is not “Hayek’s term” (it’s A.V. Dicey’s). But the idea stretches back to the earliest days of Western civilization. So on the one hand Hayek is obscure, but on the other hand he’s ecclipsed Aristotle, Locke, Montesquieu, and the gang. Way to go Hayek!

If I had said a day ago that your typical New York Times reporter doesn’t have the vaguest sense of what the rule of law means, I would have heard from all sorts of earnest liberal readers — and probably some conservative ones too — about how I was setting up a straw man. But now we know it’s true. It’s not just that she doesn’t know what it is, it’s that even after (presumably) looking it up, she still couldn’t describe it and none of her editors raised an eyebrow when she buttered it.

Okay, let me be serious for a second. If the New York Times, which fancies itself “the paper of record”, doesn’t have a single reporter or editor who is even aware of (let alone understands) the basic tenets of what used to be called liberalism (and still is, in other parts of the world), they really might want to hire one.


J Street

October 3, 2010

J Street is revealed to have promoted the Goldstone report, the UN’s libelous report on the Gaza conflict that has been condemned throughout the Israeli political spectrum and by American Jews. J Street markets itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, and claims to be pro-Israel as well as pro-peace, while — in fact — they have sided with anti-Israeli elements:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of a U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Colette Avital — a former member of Israel’s parliament, from the center-left Labor Party and until recently J Street’s liaison in Israel — told The Washington Times that her decision to resign her post with J Street earlier this year was a result in part of the group’s “connection to Judge Goldstone.” . . .

The Goldstone Report is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel. It accuses the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians in the ground and air war in Gaza, which resulted in at least 1,000 Palestinian deaths. The White House also has criticized the report. . .

The report instantly made the judge political poison in some quarters in Israel. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, famously said last year that Israel faces three major threats — “the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our civilians, and Goldstone” — while its president, Shimon Peres, said that the report “gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself.”

J Street also falsely denied any involvement in the meetings.

(Via Volokh.)

POSTSCRIPT: While I’m trashing J Street, it’s also worthwhile to note that, despite J Street’s denials, they receive funding from unrepentant Nazi collaborator George Soros.


Your government: hard at work on the serious problems

October 3, 2010

. . . like the fonts on street signs:

The city will change the lettering on every single street sign – at an estimated cost of about $27.5 million – because the feds don’t like the font.

Street names will change from all capital letters to a combination of upper and lower case on roads across the country thanks to the pricey federal regulation, officials said Wednesday.


Another near million to lose their health insurance

October 3, 2010

Another firm has left the health insurance market due to health care nationalization:

The Principal Financial Group announced on Thursday that it planned to stop selling health insurance, another sign of upheaval emerging among insurers as the new federal health law starts to take effect.

The company, based in Iowa, provides coverage to about 840,000 people who receive their insurance through an employer.

Don’t forget: the Obama administration knew this would happen. When they said you could keep your health insurance if you like it, that was a lie.

(Via the Corner.)


Rick Sanchez self-destructs

October 2, 2010

CNN’s Rick Sanchez is not only an idiot and a liar, he is also an anti-Semite. Okay, those three things often do go together.

In an interview with Pete Dominick (of whom I have not heard before), Rick Sanchez called Jon Stewart (who is Jewish) a bigot. When Dominick pushed back, asking how Stewart was a bigot, Sanchez could not produce any examples and described Stewart’s background instead, apparently implying that anyone from Stewart’s background was necessarily bigoted.

Then Sanchez added that Jews run CNN and all the other networks.

UPDATE: Fired already. That was quick.


No pressure

October 2, 2010

Here’s a delightful little piece of propaganda from the “10:10 movement”, which wants you to cut your carbon emissions:

If you don’t want to participate, that’s your choice. No pressure. But if you don’t, we’ll kill you.

10:10 has now belatedly discovered that some people are a mite bothered by the threat to murder them if they don’t toe the line. They are trying to pull the film, and have issued the standard, weaselly, non-apology apology:

Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

The really worrisome thing here is the insight this gives into these people’s mindset. They thought this movie was funny! They were surprised when “some” people didn’t!

As James Delingpole puts it,

With No Pressure, the environmental movement has revealed the snarling, wicked, homicidal misanthropy beneath its cloak of gentle, bunny-hugging righteousness.

Glenn Reynolds adds:

It always ends up as mass murder, real or fantasized, with these people. That’s what they do. Treat them with all the respect they deserve.

POSTSCRIPT: The 10:10 project is sponsored by the British government, and the Guardian.

UPDATE: Iowahawk imagines the process by which this film was commissioned and made. His story concludes:

And somehow, throughout this entire process, not one of the hundreds of people involved seemed to have questioned the wisdom of an advertising message advocating the violent, sudden death of people who disagree with it.

UPDATE: In hole, digging:

Franny Armstrong, 10:10 founder, said the shock tactics were justified. “We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change.”

UPDATE: To underline Iowahawk’s point, the film required “50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras and who gave their time and equipment to the film for free.” So at least a hundred people who saw no problem with the film’s message.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey agrees:

What makes this fascinating is that the people who produce this dreck have no clue as to just how far removed they have become from normal human sensibilities, or at least they didn’t until the video began provoking the fully-predictable reaction. They have become so wrapped up in Gaia that they seem to have little connection to humanity.


Georgia rising

October 1, 2010

The Economist has an encouraging article on the progress Georgia has made since the fall of communism, particularly in attitude. It’s a pity more former communist states don’t follow their example.


Mosque imam’s partner is a truther

October 1, 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf says his mosque project at Ground Zero is supposed to improve interfaith relations. Another reason not to believe him: his longtime partner is a “truther”.

(Previous post.)


John Kerry: stupid voters

October 1, 2010

John Kerry shows more of the brilliance that defined his presidential campaign:

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation.

“We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters.

The Massachusetts Democratic chairman, trying to walk back the remark, said:

“I’ve known John Kerry for 35 years and he doesn’t look down on people.”

Oh really?

“Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”


We must help the poor; you go first

October 1, 2010

New studies confirm that liberals give less to charity than conservatives:

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals. . .

The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans — the ones who try to cut health insurance for children.

I’ve noted this fact before, but this is interesting because the piece above was written by Nicholas Kristof, a liberal NYT columnist. (As you might guess from the final phrase in the above quote.)

In fact, it’s worse than this, because Democrats are trying the change the rules to discourage private philanthropy. So perhaps low-giving liberals are just being consistent. Perhaps they feel that all philanthropy should be controlled by the government.


iPS cells without retroviruses

October 1, 2010

A team of scientists has invented a technique to convert adult cells to stem cells without using retroviruses. Previous iPS techniques used retroviruses, which make them dangerous for medical use, and scientists have been looking for alternatives. The new technique uses messenger RNA instead and seems to have no down side. And if that weren’t enough, it’s twice as fast and up to 100 times as efficient.

iPS cells are superior to embryonic stem cells because they don’t require the destruction of embryos, and because they can be acquired from the patient, thereby eliminating the risk of rejection.

(Via the Corner.)


McDonald’s employees to lose their health care

October 1, 2010

McDonald’s employees are likely to lose their health care as a result of the health care nationalization law. McDonald’s says the high rate of turnover among its employees make it impossible for it to keep administrative costs as low as required by the new law. McDonald’s says it may be forced to discontinue the plan if it doesn’t receive a waiver of the medical-loss-ratio requirement.

The requirement is the result of Democratic geniuses who thought they could dictate how business works by governmental fiat:

Democrats who drafted the health law wanted the requirement to prevent insurers from spending too much on executive salaries, marketing and other costs that they said don’t directly help patients.

No doubt the left will pillory McDonald’s for this, even though most restaurants don’t offer health care in the first place, and even though it’s not clear how McDonald’s can wave a magic wand and make its administrative costs go away. But even if we suppose that this is somehow purely greed, greed is foreseeable. Democrats cannot blame the foreseeable consequences of their policies on others.

When President Obama said if you like your health care you could keep it? That was a lie.


Fire this man

October 1, 2010

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) is a disgrace. He has produced two of the most dishonest campaign commercials ever, both in the space of a week. The first ad claimed that his opponent, Daniel Webster, is a draft dodger. He’s not. He reported for duty, and failed the physical. Grayson also explicitly attacked Webster’s patriotism. (Myths aside, pretty much only Democrats do this.)

The second ad edits remarks Webster made at a Christian conference to make them sound like the exact opposite of what he said. At the conference, Webster was making the point (correctly, in my opinion) that the bible’s exhortation to wives in Ephesians 5 is exactly that, an exhortation to wives, not a demand to be placed by husbands. But Grayson’s editing made it sounds as though Webster was saying just the opposite. Grayson used those remarks (that Webster never made) to brand Webster “Taliban Dan”.

For example, Webster said “Don’t pick the [bible verses] that say, ‘She should submit to me.'” Grayson edited that to “Should should submit to me.” When you edit out a negative, you’re nearly always telling a lie.

The Annenberg Fact Check summarizes:

We thought Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida reached a low point when he falsely accused his opponent of being a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, and of not loving his country. But now Grayson has lowered the bar even further. He’s using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said.

Florida voters need to fire this disgrace of a Congressman. Fortunately, it appears they will.