Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The campus and utopian fascism

Greens gone wild on college campuses

If you want to understand how thick the bubble around higher education is, try this experiment: Ask the parent of a 12-year-old if they think higher education is “sustainable.”
Most likely, they will think you’re referring to college costs, as in, “Is it sustainable for Fordham to continue to charge $65,000 a year? And will it be forced to stop before my child starts his freshman year?”
If you ask a college professor or administrator about whether his school is sustainable, he will most likely launch into a diatribe about the size of a university’s carbon footprint.
The sustainability movement on campus is really environmentalism gone wild.
As the authors of a new report from the National Association of Scholars explain, sustainability’s goals “go far beyond ensuring clean air and water and protecting vulnerable plants and animals. As an ideology, sustainability takes aim at economic and political liberty.”
Using language to obfuscate is nothing new for the ivory tower, of course.
As Ohio University economist Richard Vedder points out, university campuses are the only places where an hour actually consists of 50 minutes. But the word sustainability seems to mean nothing and everything at the same time.
As a result, the campus sustainability movement has been able to infiltrate university life in a way environmentalism never could.
The NAS authors trace the launch of the movement to the “American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” which, among other things, required school leaders to promise to reduce their use of fossil fuels by 80 percent over a decade.
Not only was this not feasible, but it also meant that college presidents were acting far beyond their mandates, ignoring the interests of faculty, students and even oversight from the board of trustees.
Sure, the starting point is reducing climate change. But it quickly goes off the rails. Take a class at Cornell called “The Ethics of Eating.”
As one student explained: “This class demands one of two things: 1. That you defend the way you eat, or 2. That you change it. And in early February, I stopped eating meat because of what I’ve read, watched and learned in this class.” This is one of 403 courses Cornell has put under the rubric of “sustainability.” The others sound even sillier.
The NAS cites more: “Earthquake!” “Microbes, the Earth, and Everything;” “Race Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Justice and Urban Reform;” and “Magnifying Small Spaces Studio,” which teaches students how best to live in mini-spaces and answers the question, “In reducing one’s carbon footprint, how small is too small?”
That’s a question that really gets to the heart of the sustainability movement, which is really about reducing the impact — indeed, the presence — of humans on Earth.
Proponents not only suggest eating less and consuming less energy, they want us to reproduce less, too. Because, well, fewer people use fewer things.
The NAS authors point out the “apocalyptic” tone of the movement, which uses the imminent demise of the planet as an excuse to restrict freedom.
As one of the movement’s proponents, Professor David Sherman, explains:
“Ecological services have little chance of surviving without tight control by law of human activity affecting the environment. This option would be thought of as totalitarian by today’s free societies, but this may be the only solution for us . . . The institution of liberal democracy fails to adequately address the challenges of the environmental crisis.”
What professor won’t rise to that bait?
The movement has spawned 50,000 books and 200,000 articles. There are now more than 100 formal organizations to advance sustainability on campus and 50 professional bodies for its experts.
There are more than 1,400 academic programs in sustainability at 475 campuses.
And none of that comes cheap, notes Vedder, who heads the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “The costs of sustainability are very high compared to its benefits,” he notes: “Colleges are just doing a lot of this to feel warm and fuzzy.”
The NAS authors found the US government is spending an average of $465 million a year on sustainability research, mostly at colleges, and it’s been going up each year.
Not only are the costs being borne by taxpayers, colleges are also hiking student fees. NAS offers a case study of Middlebury College, which is spending almost $5 million a year on sustainability projects.
Sure, that’s only a little more than 1 percent of its annual budget, but in an era when the cost of college is already through the roof, is this really sustainable?
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Onions and garlic, oh my.

1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA

Bald's Leechbook
An eye salve from Anglo-Saxon manuscript Bald's Leechbook was found to kill MRSA
A 1,000-year-old treatment for eye infections could hold the key to killing antibiotic-resistant superbugs, experts have said.
Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA. 
Their findings will be presented at a national microbiology conference.
The remedy was found in Bald's Leechbook - an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments held in the British Library.
Anglo-Saxon expert Dr Christina Lee, from the University of Nottingham, translated the recipe for an "eye salve", which includes garlic, onion or leeks, wine and cow bile.
Experts from the university's microbiology team recreated the remedy and then tested it on large cultures of MRSA.
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MRSA

Analysis

Tom Feilden, science editor Today Programme
The leechbook is one of the earliest examples of what might loosely be called a medical textbook
It seems Anglo-Saxon physicians may actually have practised something pretty close to the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on observation and experimentation.
Bald's Leechbook could hold some important lessons for our modern day battle with anti-microbial resistance.
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In each case, they tested the individual ingredients against the bacteria, as well as the remedy and a control solution.
They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
Dr Freya Harrison said the team thought the eye salve might show a "small amount of antibiotic activity".
"But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was," she said.
Dr Lee said there are many similar medieval books with treatments for what appear to be bacterial infections.
She said this could suggest people were carrying out detailed scientific studies centuries before bacteria were discovered. 
The team's findings will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology, in Birmingham. 
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Bald's eye salve

Bald's eyesalve
Equal amounts of garlic and another allium (onion or leek), finely chopped and crushed in a mortar for two minutes.
Add 25ml (0.87 fl oz) of English wine - taken from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury.
Dissolve bovine salts in distilled water, add and then keep chilled for nine days at 4C.

Monday, March 30, 2015

To deify Ted Kennedy is to deify the obsession with power

Obama: Politicians should carry themselves more like Kennedy


BOSTON (AP) — President Barack Obama summoned today's quarrelsome political leaders on Monday to emulate the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the pursuit of compromise, and said a new institute that bears the longtime Massachusetts senator's name can be as much an antidote to political cynicism as the man once was.
"What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy? What if we were to follow his example a little bit harder?" the president asked a crowd of family, former aides and political dignitaries of both parties under a tent in raw weather just outside the doors of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.
"To his harshest critics who saw him as nothing more than a partisan lightning rod, that might sound foolish," the president added. "But there are Republicans here for a reason."
Among them were former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, who is on the institute's board of directors, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who said he recalled how much he enjoyed fighting with the Massachusetts colleague in the Senate.
"It's getting harder to find someone who loves a good fight as much as he did," said McCain, who has spoken less highly of tea party-aligned members of his own party with whom he has had differences. "The place hasn't been the same without him."
The $79 million institute stands next to the John F. Kennedy presidential library on Boston's Columbia Point. The late senator envisioned the facility before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. He died in 2009.
The centerpiece of the new facility is a replica of the Senate floor where Kennedy had a desk for 47 years.
Envisioning children visiting the institute and playing the role of senator, Obama said the institute can help change the cynicism that permeates politics. "Imagine a gaggle of school kids clutching tablets, turning cloakrooms into classrooms. Imagine their moral universe expanding as they hear about the great battles" that have been waged in the Senate.
Kennedy was known during his career as a liberal partisan, but the president said Republicans also knew him as "someone who was willing to take half a loaf" and then endure the anger of supporters who had wanted him to hold out for more.
Vice President Joe Biden said Kennedy "treated me like a little brother" when Biden first arrived in 1973, helping him land choice committee assignments not generally available to freshmen senators. He said Kennedy introduced him around the Senate and was a master at generating trust and mutual respect.
"All politics is personal," Biden said. "No one in my life understood that better than Ted Kennedy."
Trent Lott noted the irony of his inclusion on the institute's board of directors, along with former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. "Yes, a Republican from Mississippi," said Lott, to laughter and applause, "is proud to be here today."
Lott said although the two disagreed and had "some fiery discussions," they came together sometimes in a bipartisan way. Lott recalled after he worked with Kennedy on an immigration bill that lost on a procedural vote in 2007, he told him, "Ted, every time I work with you I get in trouble, man."
"But just think how different things would be now if we passed immigration reform in 2007," he added to applause.
Kennedy's widow, Victoria Kennedy, said her late husband hoped the institute would honor the nearly 2,000 who have served there and inspire future senators. She said he wanted visitors to feel the awe of walking into the chamber.
Guests, including student groups, will be able to role-play as senators and debate some of the major issues of the day. The facility also includes a re-creation of Kennedy's Senate office, virtually unchanged from how it appeared when he died.
"He believed in the majesty of the place and its ability to inspire," she said. She said he wanted visitors to feel "politics is a noble profession, even if it's messy, even if it's hard."
___
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report. Pickler reported from Washington.

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L’Affaire Bergdahl Is the Quintessential Obama Fiasco

L’Affaire Bergdahl Is the Quintessential Obama Fiasco

From the made-up facts to the disingenuous invocation of high-minded principle, this one has it all. EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news” letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (including our new partners in peace in Tehran), I’m writing this from sunny southern California. Though if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be writing it at all. It’s just that I took last Friday off and if I skip two Fridays in a row, I’m afraid Jack Fowler (National Review’s publisher) will start cutting himself again.The great thing about my job — save for the TV part of it — is I can pretty much do it from anywhere. Conversely, the terrible thing about my job is I can do it from anywhere. So, it’s both liberating and constricting — which sounds a bit like the tagline for an S&M bondage retreat: “Set Yourself Free in Our All Leather Dungeon!” Anyway, like the Senate under Harry Reid, I’ve been trying to keep my workload to a bear minimum. Or is it bare minimum? I can never keep those straight. A bear minimum seems like what they try to maintain around the picnic tables at Yellowstone, while a bare minimum sounds like the new FCC standard for Superbowl halftime shows in the wake of the Janet Jackson and Miley Cyrus fiascos. The point of all this throat-clearing is that I haven’t been following the news too closely because I’ve been on vacation. Unfortunately, the first half of my trip was a long-planned ski trip in Northern California, but given my grievous back injury I couldn’t ski. This sounds a bit like a twist on the old vaudeville joke about the guy who goes to the doctor with a banged-up elbow and asks, “Will I be able to play the violin?” The doctor says “of course.” The guy responds, “Funny, I couldn’t play the violin before.” TODAY ON NATIONAL REVIEW • John Fund: Hillary: The Democrats’ Nixon • Jonah Goldberg: L’Affaire Bergdahl Is The Quintessential Obama Fiasco • NR Editorial: Liberals Against Religious Liberty In Indiana • Josh Blackman: Is Indiana Protecting Discrimination? Speaking of old jokes, you ever hear the old Borscht Belt routine about the old Jewish man who gets hit by a car? The paramedic arrives on the scene, props his head up, and asks, “Are you comfortable?” The elderly man replies, “I make a living.” Thanks, you’ve been a great audience. Try the veal. ANATOMY OF AN OBAMA FAILURE I did catch the news that the Army is going to prosecute Bowe Bergdahl for desertion. Given what we already knew, it’s no surprise that Bergdahl was up to no good. But given the politics, the fact that the Army is prosecuting him suggests that the evidence is pretty overwhelming. What I find interesting about the Bergdahl story is that it is the quintessential Obama fiasco. If you were compiling a checklist of all the things that drive conservatives crazy — and by conservatives I basically mean people who are (a) paying attention and (b) not enthralled in the Obama cult of personality — the Bergdahl story would achieve a near-perfect score. The Obama M.O. remains remarkably consistent. He announces some initiative, policy, or presidential action. The public rationale for the move is always rhetorically grounded in some deep, universally shared principle, even if the real agenda is something far more ideological or partisan. The facts driving the decision are never as the White House presents them. Indeed, the more confident the White House appears to be about the facts, the more likely it is they’re playing games with them. Sometimes the facts are simply made up. There are millions of “shovel ready jobs” right around the corner! “You can keep your doctor!” The Benghazi attack was “about a video!” “One in five women are raped!” “The Islamic State isn’t Islamic!” “These exclamation points are totally necessary!” At other times, the facts are selectively deployed. “Something something tax breaks for corporate jets mumble mumble poor Warren Buffet’s secretary’s tax bill blah blah Spain is winning the future with solar panels” and, course, “core al-Qaeda has been decimated” (in which “core al-Qaeda” is defined as “the bits of al-Qaeda that have been decimated”). The Obama response to all opposition is to either attack the motives of his critics or to dismiss the objections as mere politics or ideology. When Obama met with congressional leaders back in 2009, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan made substantive critiques of Obamacare, and Obama responded by waving away their objections as mere “talking points” — as if any facts written on a sheet of paper suddenly become untrue if you can call them “talking points.” Republican 1: “It is unsafe to smoke cigarettes around the propane tank.” Republican 2: “Mass collectivization of agriculture has not worked well in the past.” Republican 3: “You should not feed salmon to grizzly bears using your lap as a plate.” Obama: “Those are just talking points…..Ahhhhh! Get this bear off of me!” When Senate Democrats, led by Bob Menendez (now conveniently under the Department of Justice’s thumb), expressed concerns about Obama’s overtures to Iran, Obama reportedly sympathized, saying he understood their plight, what with the pressure from “donors.” The insinuation, obviously, is that Obama is doing the right thing, while those opposed were motivated by fear of nefarious unnamed “donors” cracking their whips (between servings of lox and bagels, no doubt). Only Obama’s motivations are pure, noble, and fact-driven. Only his opponents are ideologues incapable of “putting politics aside for the good of the American people,” as he likes to say. There are other anatomical features of an Obama outrage. A few come to mind: He has a tendency to frame issues in such a way that America is the villain and America’s enemies have a point. He has an outsized faith — fueled equally by ego and the media’s eagerness to take his side — in his ability to persuade the public not to believe their lying eyes. Since Obama sees himself as the People’s Tribune and the sole champion of what is right and good, he has little to no use for Congress or legal or constitutional requirements to work with it. And, of course, there’s the incompetence factor — amplified by groupthink in the White House bunker. They may think Obama is the smartest guy in the room, but they also all think they’re geniuses who just happen to agree with each other. This creates a near total blindness to facts, data, and opinions that don’t line up with their worldview. ENTER BERGDAHL Using the above criteria, the Bergdahl story is quintessential Obama. Invoking high-minded principle? Check! Really motivated by partisan and ideological agenda? Check! Made-up facts? Check! Critics denounced as partisan ideologues opposed to high-minded principle? Check! Group-think-driven White House’s failure to anticipate the political downsides? Check! Flagrant contempt for Congress and its laws? Check! Václav Havel? Czech! The high-minded-principle part is obvious. We leave no one behind. Who can disagree with that? But it was obvious long ago that Obama had other priorities in mind. “It could be a huge win if Obama could bring him home,” a senior administration official told Rolling Stone in a 2012 piece on Bergdahl. “Especially in an election year, if it’s handled properly.” The other major priority was to use the marching band and fireworks celebration of Bergdahl’s return to hasten the shuttering of Gitmo. Dump the worst of the worst anywhere you can and the political rationale for keeping the place open evaporates. So trading five hardened Taliban commanders for one deserter was a win-win. Then there’s the thumbless grasp of political reality. Maybe the president didn’t think going AWOL was that big a deal. Maybe he thought it was understandable. Maybe he assumed everyone shared his take on things. Maybe he thought he could just bluster through because the American people are idiots. Who knows? The fact remains they knew Bergdahl had been AWOL and yet still thought this would be a clear-cut “huge win,” particularly in the context of winding down the War in Afghanistan. They had no idea this fiasco would blow up in their faces, though I like to think some of the savvier political operatives on the Obama team had at least a moment of doubt when they saw Bergdahl’s dad show up with his Johnny Taliban beard. When the elder Bergdahl started speaking Arabic and Pashto in the Rose Garden, I like to imagine that David Axelrod’s bowels stewed just a little bit. (Every political pro I know who watched that announcement responded pretty much the same way you or I would if we saw a polar bear pooping a live hamster on a bus made of graham crackers; “What the Hell am I looking at?”) Caught off guard by their own incompetence and arrogance, they immediately responded by attacking the motives of the critics. This is a very human reaction. If you think you’ve thought through all of the legitimate responses to your actions, it’s natural to assume the critical responses you didn’t anticipate are illegitimate. On background they started claiming that Bergdahl was being “swiftboated.” This spin was a pas de deux of asininity since “swiftboating” itself is a b.s. term for telling embarrassing and inconvenient truths. Much like John Kerry’s old comrades, it was members of Bergdahl’s own unit who blew the whistle on him. Blindsided by this utterly predictable reaction, the White House doubled down by marrying arrogant invocation of principle to made-up facts, which is pretty much Susan Rice’s métier. So they sent her out to the Sunday shows to insist that Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction” — words that actually have quite a bit of meaning to people who, you know, served with honor and distinction. On Twitter, Iowahawk had the pithiest summation of the Obama team’s assault: “What kind of scum would slander this fine brave patriotic US soldier!” “His platoon mates.” “And you actually believe those baby killers?” HACKY PSAKI Jen Psaki, bless her heart, is sticking with the party line. Asked by  Megyn Kelly whether the trade was worth it, Psaki responded: “We have a commitment to our men and women serving overseas, or in our military, defending our national security every day, that we will do everything we can to bring them home, and that’s what we did in this case.” I agree with that entirely, in principle. But the key phrase there is “everything we can.” It implies that there is a limiting principle to what we can do. It’s a bit like the ten-guilty-men fallacy. What if the Taliban asked for ten, 20 or 100 Gitmo detainees in exchange for Bergdahl? Would Obama have agreed to that? What if the Taliban demanded all of the detainees, the state of Ohio, and the left thumbs of the starting line-up of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Without a limiting principle, our answer would have to be “Yes.” But once sweet reason tags into the ring, we understand that such demands are ridiculous even if Bergdahl were the greatest and most patriotic soldier who ever lived. FREE FALL I was just about to get all various and sundry on your ass when my friend Shannen Coffin — recently catapulted by National Review and Megyn Kelly into the role of America’s foremost expert on State Department paperwork — forwarded me this spectacularly depressing piece by Politico’s Michael Crowley. The whole thing is worth reading, but I have a couple quick observations. Crowley writes: “If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is actually about us, which is a hard reality to accept,” said a senior State Department official. Not everyone is so forgiving. “We’re in a goddamn free fall here,” said James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House. First, free fall sounds like a perfect term for the mess we’re in.  Second, it’s hard to make out exactly what this senior State Department official is trying to say with his head so far past his sphincter. In the abstract, I’m fine with the notion that nothing happens in the region in a linear way. I’m also fine with the idea that not everything that happens in the Middle East is about us. But taken in the context of the last SIX years, the takeaway is that Obama simply never had any idea what he was doing, and as a result he rationalizes doing little to nothing as hard-won wisdom. It’s not him, it’s them. Here’s the thing to remember: Beyond ending the Iraq War by any means necessary and closing Gitmo, Obama’s Cairo speech was Obama’s Middle East foreign policy. He thought his middle name, a few apologies, and not being George W. Bush, combined with the awesome awesomeness of his awesomosity, would be enough to transform the region. Then there’s this: For years, members of the Obama team have grappled with the chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring. But of late they have been repeatedly caught off-guard, raising new questions about America’s ability to manage the dangerous region. What the what? Again, I think the piece on the whole is good. But did you catch the sudden change in subject here? The Obama team has been grappling and was caught off guard, and this raises new questions about America’s ability to manage the region? Why America’s? These are Team Obama’s foul-ups. Shouldn’t they raise new questions about Team Obama’s abilities? Maybe I’m still high on airplane glue, but I’m pretty sure that when the Bush team was grappling and getting caught off guard, it “raised questions” about Bush, not America. This is a microscopic example of one of my longstanding beefs. Whenever things are going bad for liberalism, the blame falls on either America or conservatives, never on liberals. As I wrote in Liberal Fascism: In the liberal telling of America’s story, there are only two perpetrators of official misdeeds: conservatives and “America” writ large. Progressives, or modern liberals, are never bigots or tyrants, but conservatives often are. For example, one will virtually never hear that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, or American eugenics were thoroughly progressive phenomena. These are sins America itself must atone for. Meanwhile, real or alleged “conservative” misdeeds — say, McCarthyism — are always the exclusive fault of conservatives and a sign of the policies they would repeat if given power. The only culpable mistake that liberals make is failing to fight “hard enough” for their principles. Liberals are never responsible for historic misdeeds, because they feel no compulsion to defend the inherent goodness of America. Conservatives, meanwhile, not only take the blame for events not of their own making that they often worked the most assiduously against, but find themselves defending liberal misdeeds in order to defend America herself. Then there’s this: Obama officials were surprised earlier this month, for instance, when the Iraqi government joined with Iranian-backed militias to mount a sudden offensive aimed at freeing the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Nor did they foresee the swift rise of the Iranian-backed rebels who toppled Yemen’s U.S.-friendly government and disrupted a crucial U.S. counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda there. Wait a second. I was with you on the whole “the Middle East isn’t linear” thing. But if this White House was caught off guard by Iran’s backing of Houthi (and blowfish) militias and coziness with the Shiite government in Baghdad, that’s not proof of the region’s non-linear inscrutability, it’s further proof that the Obama foreign-policy team drives to work in a clown car. It’s like the s*** has been hitting the fan for so long over there, they think that’s just the best way to paint the walls of the situation room an earthy brown. ALL IS DWELL Finally, there’s the final paragraph, which is a quote from the same State Department official who wears his own ass like a hat: “The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” the official said. Sigh. Where to begin? Remember all that stuff earlier about groupthink and the inability to anticipate or even recognize inconvenient data and facts? Well, here’s this guy saying: Don’t dwell on Yemen’s disintegration or on America’s hasty withdrawal from it. Don’t dwell on the fact this administration touted it — and continues to tout it! — as a model of a successful counter-terror strategy. Don’t dwell on the fact that it is now the frontline of a regional sectarian war between Arab Sunnis and Iran and Iranian client Shiites. Don’t dwell on the fact that Yemen is in fact just the latest piece of concrete evidence that the whole region is going tits-up, with total bloody chaos in Libya, Syria, and much of Iraq, thanks in large part to Iran’s decades-long ambition to become a regional hegemon by any means necessary — including terrorism. No, don’t dwell on any of that stuff, because we’re going to get a piece of paper that will probably put Iran on a path to getting a bomb rather than prevent it. But even if the terms are exactly as the White House will spin them, the agreement will still depend entirely on the good faith and trustworthiness of Iran’s rulers, who’ve been violating every international law you can think of and who chant, every week, “death to America.” I mean, what could go wrong? VARIOUS & SUNDRY So, first of all, no Zoë update because she’s back in D.C. with the dog-sitter. However, one of my Twitter friends alerted me to the news that the late, great, Cosmo the Wonderdog had a cameo, or at least a relative, in Beastmaster. Second, in case you missed it, here’s my conversation with Bill Bennett on his new book, Going to Pot. Third, also in case you missed it, here’s the most recent GLoP podcast. Fourth, here’s a minor disagreement I had with Charlie Cooke over “McCarthyism.” My first column of the week, written entirely on the drive from Tahoe to LA (By the way, never take I-5 when you can drive 395 and 14 — so much prettier!), was on Obama the Superhero with the incredible power to ignore whatever he wants to ignore. My second column this week is on liberal American Jews. Oh, I’ll be on Special Report on Monday and Thursday, which probably means Steve Hayes was arrested for mopery again. I want to apologize for the excessive bawdiness of today’s “news”letter. Sometimes, it’s worth using colorful language when it carries the freight of mirth or substance. And sometimes, it’s just a sign of laziness and low character. I leave it to you to decide which explanation is more at work in today’s missive. I was writing this out of protest. Perhaps when I return home I can live up to the standards set by Jack Fowler who, I am told, is the East Coast’s greatest expert on WeatherDong sleuthing. 

Middle East fretful and the American media's disinterest and misdirection.

Free Fall in the Middle East
As bombs fall on Yemen and a sectarian war between the Middle East’s leading powers becomes more likely by the day, the Obama Administration seems to feel it might have some spinning to do about the success of its Middle East policy. But as President Ahab glances around his deck, few of his shipmates are manning their posts—in fact, most seem to be scrambling for the lifeboats. Oh well, there’s always that trusty tar, Unnamed State Department Official, to rely on for a friendly quote in Politico:
“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view. […] We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this. The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”
But among those who are willing to give their names, there is less philosophizing. James Jeffrey, Obama’s former Ambassador to Iraq, cuts through the commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a certain pithiness:
“We’re in a goddamn free fall here.”
Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, writers are doing their tortured best to say something other than that a catastrophic breakdown of the President’s foreign policy is taking place in the Middle East—but the defense is less than effective. What can you do, the world is just a mess, seems to be their take:
Few disagree that the continuing tumult in the Middle East has scrambled American priorities there. This has led many to argue that the Obama administration’s policy for the region is adrift — without core principles to anchor it.
But amid the confusion, some experts said that there cannot be an overarching American policy in the Middle East at the moment. The best the White House can do, they said, is tailor policies according to individual crises as they flare up.
If we had a Republican President and the Middle East were in this much of a mess, and the Administration had been repeatedly exposed as having fundamentally misjudged major developments (calling ISIS the “jayvee team,” Yemen a success, Erdogan a reliable partner, etc. etc.), the NYT would be calling for impeachment and howling about the end of the world. As it is, the newspaper of record reflects philosophically on the complexity of the world, and suggests that nobody could really do anything given the problems around us.
Nobody should be surprised by this, but nobody should miss the most important point here: even the President’s ideological fellow travelers can no longer mount a cogent defense of his Middle East policy. The MSM will still do all it can to avoid connecting the dots or drawing attention to the stark isolation in which the White House now finds itself as ally after ally drops away. It still doesn’t want to admit that the “smart diplomacy” crowd has been about as effective at making a foreign policy as the famous emperor’s smooth-talking tailors were at making a new suit of clothes. But it’s getting harder and harder to find anybody willing to gush about how snazzy the President looks in the sharp foreign policy outfit that he’s sporting around town. The shocked silence of the foreign policy establishment, the absence of any statements of support from European or Asian allies about our Middle East course, the evidence that the President and the “senior officials” whom he trusts continue to be blindsided by major developments they didn’t expect and haven’t provided for: all of this tells us that our Middle East policy is indeed in free fall.

More moral rot on campus.

Catholic university officials caught on secret video approving student club devoted to raising money for ISIS, saying: 'We're here to get that done.'


  • Honors student set to receive communications award at Barry University in Miami told college officials she wanted to start a club to support ISIS

  • Student organizations chief told her she could get funding for group called 'Sympathetic Students in Support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'

  • 'They are terrorists,' she told him, 'but we're trying to help them, we're trying to educate them and give them funding'

  • 'We're not here to limit people,' the university administrator replied, and agreed with her request to 'pass out Islamic State flags' at a school event

  • The VP for student affairs told Daily Mail Online, 'Barry University would not approve any group supporting a terrorist organization'

  • Project Veritas, a conservative group run by guerilla filmmaker James O'Keefe, made the startling video

  • Group previously filmed a Cornell University dean saying an ISIS 'freedom fighter' could host a training camp at the Ivy League school 


  • Sunday, March 29, 2015

    Deranged Leftist Pleads Guilty to Tweeting Violent Threats to Gov. Scott Walker’s Son...aren't they all deranged and self absorbed?


    robert peffer
    In this July 7, 2014, photo provided by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office is Robert C. Peffer, 31, of Milwaukee. Peffer, 31, charged in a July criminal complaint, is accused of sending dozens of threatening and obscene tweets to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s adult son. Peffer told investigators he was angry at the governor, and that Walker’s son was just an “innocent bystander,” according to a criminal complaint. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff)
    Robert Peffer, using the twitter handle @RepublicPrince2,  made 419 tweets, 36 of which were threats against Matthew Walker, son of Governor Scott Walker. Peffer says he posted the tweets from his mother’s house and a friend’s house.
    Matthew Walker began receiving threatening tweets on his birthday last year in June.
    JS Online reported:
    A Milwaukee man has pleaded guilty to threatening Gov. Scott Walker’s adult son on Twitter.
    Online court records show Robert Peffer pleaded guilty Friday to four misdemeanor counts of using a computer to send threatening or obscene messages.
    Judge Dennis Flynn sentenced him to 90 days in jail and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine on the first count. He stayed 90-day jail stints on the other three counts in lieu of probation. The judge also banned Peffer from using social media for anything besides looking for work.
    Prosecutors have said the tweets were sent to Matthew Walker, a Marquette University student, in June 2014. Over a span of six days, Peffer sent 36 tweets threatening violence to Matthew Walker or making lewd sexual references about him and his family.

    Dinner, With a Side of Self-Righteousness

    Back when I was a vegan, there was a joke I heard a lot, and which nonetheless always made me laugh. "I'm a Level 5 Vegan," they'd say. "I don't eat anything that casts a shadow." It's an all-too-telling poke at a tendency among vegans to suggest their lofty superiority over other mere mortals because whatever your dietary restrictions are, theirs are even more stringent.
    I'm not against restricting your diet for moral reasons. Obviously, the fact that I was a vegan suggests that I think eschewing animal products is a perfectly swell way to live. I still buy certified humane eggs whenever possible, and get our meat from the sort of twee hippy CSA that my commenters think is no end of funny. I fast for Lent every year, and have friends who keep kosher. I'm not against applying moral principles to food. What I'm against is thinking that what you eat makes you a better class of person, and smugly lecturing those who don't follow your lead -- a phenomenon that, as Phoebe Malz Bovy points out, is hardly restricted to vegans.
    Elite food writers aren’t just out of touch with the working and middle classes. They are out of touch with people who aren’t elite food writers. They’re oblivious not just to those who struggle to put food on the table, but to those whose jobs don’t send them on tours of Paris’s finest restaurants
    The true villain for the food movement isn’t someone who buys fast food when they should be eating lentils. It’s someone who, despite having the resources to do so, hasn’t researched where his or her food comes from. Grocery shoppers’ desire to purchase fruits and vegetables -- a seemingly admirable, or at least innocuous, one -- is recast as consumer demand for out-of-season produce -- the height of decadence.
    As Bovy notes, asking people to "eat local" who live in northern climes where "local" means "nothing green" for six or seven months out of the year, and do not get to spend a few months each winter in Sicily teaching a cooking class, is pretty rich. A food writer who is telling other people how they could eat, if they wanted to, is doing a great public service. A food writer who is telling other people how they should eat (just like me, except without my access to ingredients) is just obnoxious. You can't possibly know how they should eat, unless you have spent some time living their lives.
    It is well to remember that people who spend time professionally writing about food have quite a bit more time in their day for acquiring and cooking food than most people. They also have more resources and recipes at their disposal. And you know, they can move to California to enjoy the produce.
    Nor is it just the tyranny of localism; it is the list of ingredients that you ought to like, and the list of ingredients that you shouldn't, and what the hell is wrong with you troglodytes and your Twinkies? Now, personally, I hated Twinkies before Hostess went bankrupt, and I'm sure I'd hate them now, along with Hostess cupcakes, Ho Hos, Devil Dogs, Snowballs, and whatever other tasteless cake substance they've filled with that disgusting white goo that tastes like rubberized confectioner's sugar. I also despise anything made with canned cream-of-whatever soup, detest marshmallows in any form, and would rather eat paste than Cool Whip. You know what these are? Personal preferences. They are not signs that I have achieved a higher level of food consciousness. There is no such thing as a higher level of food consciousness. There is stuff you like to eat, and stuff you do not like to eat.
    And if I may insert a personal plea: could the bittermongers please knock it off with the sneers? Somehow, in the collective cocktail consciousness of America's hipsters, "bitter" has become synonymous with "sophisticated". Bitter beer is good beer, bitter cocktails are good cocktails, and the louts who like things thin or sweet deserve what they get, which is everyone else at the bar struggling to conceal their bemused smile. Yet there are many of us who hate, hate, hate bitter flavors not because we haven't been exposed to them, nor because we're unadventurous slobs who would really rather be hooked up to a glucose IV. Personally, I find bitter flavors like Campari so strong that even a sip is on the verge of being physically aversive, as if you were punching me in the tongue. That's not a matter of sophistication, but a matter of personal chemistry. There are people who can taste bitter compounds in broccoli and soapy-tasting substances in cilantro that make it completely unpalatable, while the rest of us dig into our veggies and say they don't know what they're missing. In fact, we've got it exactly backwards: we don't know what we're missing -- and we're moralizing our deficits.
    The most maddening example of this is, of course, the case of thin people, or folks who could really stand to lose ten pounds, lecturing the obese on how stupid they are for letting themselves get fat. A recent passage from a Vox article on obesity showcases what I'm talking about:
    Keeping your weight down requires daily consideration. It requires planning and thought to choose foods carefully and make time for exercise. This indeed takes up "mental real estate."
    But I would ask Brown: does being obese require any less mental energy?
    Is it really more mentally freeing to feel tired when you walk up a flight of stairs, to have to buy two seats on an airplane because one won't do, to not be able to play with your children because you're too unfit, to continually worry about whether your clothes are going to fit in the morning ... the list goes on.
    As a friend who really struggles with his weight points out, the author seems not to understand that for people with a weight problem, weight loss often involves both: you're tired and miserable and overweight, and also, you're spending a huge amount of mental energy counting calories and making time for exercise.
    Moreover, this really underplays the amount of mental energy we're talking about. When you talk to people who have successfully lost really large amounts of weight as adults -- amounts that bring them from the really risky "super-obese" category into something more normal -- you find two things. First, that most of them don't keep it off, unless they have bariatric surgery, in which case, 50 percent of them keep it off. And second, that the people who are keeping the weight off without surgery are going to extreme lengths to maintain their weight loss, lengths that most of us would probably find difficult to fit into our lives: weighing every ounce of food they consume, counting calories obsessively, exercising for long periods every day, and constantly battling "intrusive thoughts of food." 
    It's not quite fair to say that most of the public health experts I've seen talking about obesity are thin people brightly telling fat people that "Everything would be fine if you'd just be more like me!" But it's not really that far off the mark, either. In the words of another friend who struggled with his weight, and got quite testy when I suggested weight loss was easy, "You've hit the pick six in the genetic lottery, and you think you earned it."
    I spent much of my life being really skinny, and now I'm a middle aged person who is still in the normal range but wishes she could fit into the clothes she wore when she was twenty five -- and probably could, if she would spend more time eating salad, and less time making elaborate meals for her family. I am, in other words, exactly the sort of person who often lectures obese folks on their weight.
    But here's the thing: in neither situation have I felt anything like the struggles my overweight friends describe, where getting their weight down to anything approaching doctor-approved levels, and keeping it there, requires an ironclad will and monotonous focus on never eating anything you want. I doubt that I'd do better in their situation -- but more importantly, I recognize that I'm not in their situation, and won't be if I lose fifteen pounds, either. Obese people who have lost weight are not like thin people; they are like people whose bodies want to be much heavier, and constantly cry out for food (also known as: "intrusive thoughts"). Hunger is an imperative biological signal on par with pain, and overriding it is a titanic act of willpower, which luckily many of us don't have to exert. Moralizing that difference would be daft.
    And so is moralizing the food you had the time and resources to put on your table this evening. Of course, we could all do better with our eating: our meals could be thriftier, or tastier, or more scrupulously in line with our conscience. These are all goals worth striving for. But we shouldn't chide other people for failing to reach our goals. Especially when we got to start the race miles ahead.
    1. Except for what the soy did to my thyroid, I mean. 

    Harry Reid and the Democrat culture of corruption. Don't let him off the hook

    THE REAL REASON HARRY REID IS RETIRING


    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) explains his shocking decision to not seek re-election and retire when his term ends in 2016 by telling the New York Times, “he was worried his race would consume campaign money that would be needed in other competitive states as Democrats try to regain control of the Senate.”

    “I think it is unfair for me to be soaking up all the money to be re-elected with what we are doing in Maryland, in Pennsylvania, in Missouri, in Florida,” Reid told the Times.
    Reid said neither his recent eye injury nor concern over his chances of winning played a factor in his decision.
    But the real reason Reid is retiring may have nothing to do with any of these excuses and everything to do with his concerns that a possible Republican Presidential victory in 2016 would lead to the appointment of a Republican Attorney General in January 2017.
    A Republican Attorney General would be almost certain to initiate a criminal investigation into Reid’s abuse of his political power in a brazen intervention in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) issuance of EB-5 visas to investors in a Las Vegas casino and hotel that was represented by his son, Rory Reid, as was highlighted in a report released by the Inspector General of DHS last week.
    “I think Harry Reid’s getting out of town ahead of the posse,” former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova tells Breitbart News.
    On Thursday, the non-profit group Cause of Action called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a criminal investigation of Reid. Citing the specific federal statutes that were violated, the group said Reid “participat[ed] in unlawful political activity, possible coercion and fraud related to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.”
    The DOJ under President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is so highly politicized it would never launch a criminal investigation into the many scandals in which Harry Reid is at the center.
    But, as diGenova told Breitbart News on Friday, “[t]here is no doubt in my mind that an independent Department of Justice or an independent U.S. Attorney would open a preliminary criminal investigation into Harry Reid’s intervention into the expediting of EB-5 visas and would in addition convene a grand jury.” (emphasis added)
    Reid announced his surprising decision to retire just days after the DHS Inspector General released a report that concluded: “Reid pressured a compliant DHS official to override normal departmental procedures and rush through 230 EB-5 foreign visa applications, thereby freeing up $115 million the applicants invested in the SLS Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.”
    As Breitbart News reported, “the owner of that casino project had hired Reid’s son, Rory Reid, to provide legal representation for the project.”
    Then there’s Reid’s complicity in Senator Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) abuse of his political office by intervening in an ongoing Department of Health and Human Services adjudicatory process involving $8.9 million in Medicare overbilling by his friend and campaign funds donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
    As Breitbart News reported, Reid “hosted a meeting between Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. At the meeting, Menendez made the case for his friend and donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, who was at the time embroiled in what was supposed to be an independent adjudicatory process at HHS involving $8.9 million the department said he overbilled Medicare.”
    Reid’s intervention came “immediately after Melgen donated $300,000 to the Senate Majority PAC, a Super PAC that has close ties to Reid. By the end of 2012, Melgen’s donations to the Senate Majority PAC totaled $700,000.”
    For his part in that intervention, Senator Menendez has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the DOJ. Press reports indicate that Menedez is expected to be indicted on charges of public corruption very soon, though last minute negotiation efforts by his attorneys may delay or possibly forestall such action.
    The damaging information an independent DOJ investigation could turn up with the exercise of subpoena power on hundreds of investors and business associates involved in the numerous Harry Reid scandals could be substantial.
    A recent report by ABC News indicates the kinds of embarrassing information likely to turn up when DOJ investigators start turning over the rocks in Reid’s landscape of insider deals.
    One of the 230 foreign investors who obtained a visa in return for investing in the SLS Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas, the company represented by Rory Reid, was linked to child pornography in China. Two others, ABC reported, had knowingly submitted false documentation to the DHS as part of their visa application process.
    According to the DHS Inspector General’s report, Reid pressured DHS official Alejandro Mayorkas, (then the head of the department’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, now Deputy Secretary at DHS) to expedite these questionable visa applications and rush them through without the normal rigorous review.
    Given the improper level of scrutiny given these three foreign investors in the casino deal by DHS, it is unclear if the remaining 227 foreign investors in this casino deal are equally suspect.
    More ominously, this lack of scrutiny may have allowed foreign investors who pose a national security threat to the country to obtain visas and a path to citizenship.
    Reid’s retirement announcement was a sudden and dramatic reversal of even his most recent statements about his plans.
    To hear Reid tell it, he was planning to stay in the Senate for many years to come. As recently as two months ago, Reid emphatically declared he was running in 2016.
    “We have quite an operation in Nevada that hasn’t lost a step, and we’re off and running. At this stage, I’m fully intending to run,” he told the New York Times on January 22.
    Reid’s response to the DHS report has been to double-down with impunity in defense of his potentially criminal conduct.
    “If it had it to do over again, I’d try even harder,” he told a Nevada public radio station on Friday about his role in pressuring the DHS to expedite the E5-5 visas for the Las Vegas casino his son represented.
    Reid went even further and besmirched the integrity of the Inspector General of the DHS, the author of the report.
    “The Homeland Security report came from a bunch of whiners at the Department of Homeland Security,” he asserted brazenly.
    (You can hear the full interview at the 13:04 mark here.)
    With Barack Obama serving in the White House and Eric Holder as Attorney General, Harry Reid can get away with flaunting the law and attacking the integrity of the “whiner” Inspector General at DHS whose report documents how Reid abused his political power to benefit his political allies and family.
    But if a Republican is elected President in 2016, there will be a new sheriff in town. Harry Reid knows the posse assembled by this newly appointed Attorney General is unlikely to consider Reid’s critics at DHS to be “whiners.” In fact, they are likely to be part of the posse.
    I think it time to review the entire tax structure for not for profits. The Democrats hidy-hole.