Speaker pro-tem is way over her head
Speaker pro-tem is way over her head
WikiLeaks did some inadvertent good by exposing, once and for all, that Iran is an incipient nuclear threat that plenty of nations, who pretend otherwise, fear and want stopped.
If Israel blew up Iran’s nuclear facilities tomorrow, there would be public condemnations and private cheers from the “international community,” just as there was when they took out Saddam’s nukes.
Iran makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions.
So how was it that in late 2007, a US National Intelligence Estimate declared that Iran had halted its nuclear arms program in 2003, and was years away from a nuclear bomb?
Does anyone believe that now? Or then?
President Bush noted in his memoir that this NIE gave our weak-kneed allies the excuse they needed to go easy on Iran.
In December 2007, Time ran an unconvincing column by Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, speculating that Bush had green-lighted the NIE in order to give himself cover for doing nothing.
WikiLeaks proved his assessment wrong at least in terms of the Arab nations.
Then there are the Gulf Arabs. For the last year and a half, ever since the Bush Administration started to hint that it might hit Iran, they have been sending emissaries to Tehran to assure the Iranians they’re not going to help the United States.But in private, the Gulf Arabs have been reminding Washington that Iran is a rabid dog: Don’t even think about kicking it, the Arabs tell us. If you have to do something, shoot it dead. Which is something the United States can’t do.So how far is Iran from a nuke? The new NIE says 10 to 15 years, maybe. But that’s a wild guess. The truth is that Iran is a black hole, and it’s entirely conceivable Iran could build a bomb and we wouldn’t know until they tested it.
Ross Douthat makes an excellent point.
Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been president when the Transportation Security Administration decided to let Thanksgiving travelers choose between exposing their nether regions to a body scanner or enduring a private security massage. Democrats would have been outraged at yet another Bush-era assault on civil liberties. Liberal pundits would have outdone one another comparing the T.S.A. to this or that police state. (“In an outrage worthy of Enver Hoxha’s Albania …”) And Republicans would have leaped to the Bush administration’s defense, while accusing liberals of going soft on terrorism.
But Barack Obama is our president instead, so the body-scanner debate played out rather differently. True, some conservatives invoked 9/11 to defend the T.S.A., and some liberals denounced the measures as an affront to American liberties. Such ideological consistency, though, was the exception; mostly, the Bush-era script was read in reverse. It was the populist right that raged against body scans, and the Republican Party that moved briskly to exploit the furor. It was a Democratic administration that labored to justify the intrusive procedures, and the liberal commentariat that leaped to their defense.
This role reversal is a case study in the awesome power of the partisan mindset. Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely — whether voters, activists or pundits — are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.
As far as the TSA kerfuffle, I think Drudge whipped up a lot of the hysteria. Radiation fears? Sounds a lot like the lefties getting upset over irradiated food.
True, Americans are annoyed by the stupidity of political correctness (no profiling) that affects the system. But the PC was there under Bush, too.
Not everything is ideological.
This is the flip side of jocks thanking God for winning a game. As if God cares
It was God.
“I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!” the 24-year-old tweeted from his iPad at around 5:15 Sunday after the Steelers’ 19-16 overtime victory. “AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…”
Johnson had a perfect pass in his hands that would have given his team an overtime victory over the heavily favored Steelers.
The New York Times is participating in the dissemination of the stolen State Department cables that have been made available to it in one way or another via WikiLeaks. My friend Steve Hayward recalls that only last year the New York Times ostentatiously declined to publish or post any of the Climategate emails because they had been illegally obtained. Surely readers will recall Times reporter Andrew Revkin’s inspiring statement of principle: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”
Interested readers may want to compare and contrast Revkin’s statement of principle with the editorial note posted by the Times on the WikiLeaks documents this afternoon. Today the Times cites the availability of the documents elsewhere and the pubic interest in their revelations as supporting their publication by the Times. Both factors applied in roughly equal measure to the Climategate emails.
Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable. Perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work then, or are at work now. Given the Times’s outrageous behavior during the Bush administration, the same observation applies to the Times’s protestations of good faith.
In ObamaWorld, when the contest is between labor and capital, it’s no contest at all.
General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union.
Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.
The boon for the union fits the pattern established when the White House pushed GM into bankruptcy and steered it through the courts in a way that consistently put the interests of the union ahead of many suppliers, dealers and investors — stakeholders that ordinarily would have fared as well or better under the bankruptcy laws.
“Priority one was serving the interests of the UAW” when the White House’s auto task force engineered the bankruptcy, said Glenn Reynolds, an analyst at CreditSights. The stock offering served to show once again how the White House has handsomely rewarded its political allies, he said.
It’s heartwarming to see youth of all races and genders banding together in common idiocy.
In these dark times, any sign of social progress is welcome. By social progress we mean, of course, equality between the races and sexes, or—as we must now call them—the genders.
The good news comes from Lyon, the second or third city of France, where last month a group of youths, generously outraged by the prospect that their elders and betters will not now be able to retire at 60, but will have to work until they’re 62, decided to throw stones through storefront windows and overturn parked cars as a gesture of intergenerational solidarity. Who says that youth are inconstant? They did it three nights running.
According to reports, mobile telephones and social-networking sites enabled them to coordinate their efforts. But what was really heartening was that, for the first time in the recent history of French rioting, la racaille (the scum), to use the president of the Republic’s judicious term, was racially very mixed, at least if the photographs published in the newspapers were anything to go by (which, of course, they might not be). Furthermore, again for the first time, members of the female gender participated fully and—according to reports—just as violently as the males.
There’s progress for you, and on two fronts—race and gender—simultaneously! What is more, to judge again from appearances, social justice is fun. The strugglers for justice were enjoying themselves immensely. Now all that’s needed is that the transsexuals should join in.
However, progress in Lyon is not necessarily indicative of progress elsewhere. As Napoleon said in another context, a cold in Paris is more worrying than an epidemic in the provinces. Perhaps that’s why hardly anyone noticed that, when Algeria qualified for the World Cup Finals of soccer last November, 40 cars were burnt in the streets of Lyon: though whether it was by descendants of Algerian immigrants in celebration, or by members of the National Front in protest, I cannot say. Perhaps it was some combination of the two—for we all know that international sporting events powerfully promote understanding between nations and cultures.
It is widely reported (at least by the BBC and The Daily Mail and the New Statesman) that a 15-year-old girl has been arrested on suspicion of ‘inciting religious hatred’ for burning a copy of the Qur’an.
Yes, a 15-year-old girl: a child.
Contrast the response of the police over this girl’s decision to burn a copy of the Qur’an with their complete indifference to the decision taken by Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art to desecrate the Bible.
The response to that ‘exhibit’ was measured, but the offence to many Christians was no less palpable.
Yet the state permits freedom of artistic expression, and the Bible is considered fair game. One cannot coerce the non-believer to revere that to which he or she is completely indifferent and, in an increasingly post-Christian and secular context, the Bible is perhaps no different to the Conservative Party’s last manifesto.
They vie equally in a public library for the bottom shelf.
But Cathrerine Heseltine of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee reminds us that the burning of the Qur’an is one of the most offensive acts to Muslims that she could imagine. She said: “The Qur’an is the most sacred thing to over a billion Muslims worldwide. You can see that in the way Muslims treat the Qur’an – washing before touching it and in many Muslim homes you will find it on the top shelf above all other books. We will never destroy the quranic texts. We believe it is the word of God. God’s guidance for us in this life.”
And so in public libraries it must sit on the top shelf.
Even though not everyone agrees that it is ‘God’s guidance’ on any matter whatsoever.
His Grace has said many times that he is not one to condone the burning of books; that is, unless he is cold and has run out of logs. And he certainly would never condone causing gratuitous offence.
But there is an emerging state coercion here which is moving perilously close to the need for an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment: not, in any sense, to cause offence to Muslims; but to stick two fingers up to the ubiquitous, illiberal totalitarianism which denies freedom of expression by negating the right to offend against the supposed sensibilities of minorities. The doctrine of the state is compelling respect and enforcing reverence for that which the majority may consider profane. That is not only an offence against democracy: it is an offence against the conscience and a negation of the religious liberties for which (inter alia) His Grace laid down his life.
Remember when the terror threat was just some exaggerated nonsense by Bush to take away our civil liberties?
Lib haven Portland was fully on board with that idea.
In 2005, leaders in Portland, Oregon, angry at the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror, voted not to allow city law enforcement officers to participate in a key anti-terror initiative, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. On Friday, that task force helped prevent what could have been a horrific terrorist attack in Portland. Now city officials say they might re-think their participation in the task force — because Barack Obama is in the White House.
Reading the FBI affidavit describing Islamist terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s plan to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square is a chilling experience.
Mohamud, a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen who attended Oregon State University, told undercover FBI agents he dreamed of performing acts of jihad in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans would die. “Do you remember when 9/11 happened when those people were jumping from skyscrapers?” Mohamud asked the agents, according to the affidavit. “I thought that was awesome.”
Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.
That’s the concluding paragraph of George Will’s column on the Puritanism of progressives. Read it all here.
Michael Gerson writes about the narrative the Left has invented to explain its rejection at the polls — GOP sabotage.
…So Matt Yglesias warns the White House to be prepared for “deliberate economic sabotage” from the GOP – as though Chamber of Commerce SWAT teams, no doubt funded by foreigners, are preparing attacks on the electrical grid. Paul Krugman contends that “Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House.” Steve Benen explains, “We’re talking about a major political party . . . possibly undermining the strength of the country – on purpose, in public, without apology or shame – for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012.” Benen’s posting was titled “None Dare Call it Sabotage.”
So what is the proof of this charge? It seems to have something to do with Republicans criticizing quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. And opposing federal spending. And, according to Benen, creating “massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system.”
One is tempted to respond that it is $1 trillion in new debt, the prospect of higher taxes and a complicated, disruptive health-reform law that have created “massive economic uncertainty.” For the purposes of this argument, however, it is sufficient to say that all these economic policy debates have two sides.
Yet this is precisely what the sabotage theorists must deny. They must assert that the case for liberal policies is so self-evident that all opposition is malevolent. But given the recent record of liberal economics, policies that seem self-evident to them now seem questionable to many. Objective conditions call for alternatives. And Republicans are advocating the conservative alternatives – monetary restraint, lower spending, lower taxes – they have embraced for 30 years.
It is difficult to overstate how offensive elected Republicans find the sabotage accusation, which Obama himself has come very close to making. During the run-up to the midterm election, the president said at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wis.: “Before I was even inaugurated, there were leaders on the other side of the aisle who got together and they made the calculation that if Obama fails, then we win.” Some Republican leaders naturally took this as an attack on their motives. Was the president really contending that Republican representatives want their constituents to be unemployed in order to gain a political benefit for themselves? No charge from the campaign more effectively undermined the possibility of future cooperation.
The sabotage accusation, once implicit, is now direct among panicked progressives. Part of the intention seems to be strategic – to discourage Obama from considering Clintonian ideological triangulation. No centrist concessions, the argument goes, will appease Republicans who hate the president more than they love the country. So Obama should double down on liberalism, once again.
From Sara Jerome of the Hill:
The investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department appears to be shutting down websites that facilitate copyright infringement.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seized dozens of domain names over the past few days, according to TorrentFreak.
ICE appears to be targeting sites that help Internet users download copyrighted music, as well as sites that sell bootleg goods, such as fake designer handbags.
What the devil are these idiots doing?
This administration refuses to shut down illegal aliens (something the Bush administration also refused to do) but the
Immigration and Customs Enforcement can go after Legal Americans to protect Hollywood and the recording industry from a few people who pass around their music.
I suppose next the Department of Defense will send drones after people who record music off the radio.
This is a case for the music industry’s lawyers — not the $35 billion-a-year Department of Homeland Security.
But then again, look at all the millions the entertainment industry gave Barack Obama.
On a whole, I thought it was a wonderful election. It wasn’t just that I astonished myself with my prognostications, which consisted of predicting a pick-up of seven seats in the Senate and 65 in the House, but that a couple of candidates I truly despised went down in ignominious defeat. Even if, God forbid, I were a Democrat, I like to think I would have cheered the departure of Florida’s Charley Crist and Alan Grayson from the political landscape.
Now that they are unemployed, Grayson will have time to seek some much-needed professional help, while Crist can continue working on his tan and devoting himself to the career he was born to pursue; namely, squiring rich, elderly, widows across a dance floor.
I was so elated with the election results, I even managed to spot the silver lining in Harry Reid’s victory, keeping in mind that even if he had lost, the Democrats were going to maintain control of the Senate. The way I see it, Reid, who owes his political success to the unions and Nevada’s gambling interests, is one of the most despised people in politics. So, if Obama doesn’t object to the old pickle puss being the high-profile promoter of his policies, I certainly don’t. Making my joy complete is the fact that Reid’s re-election means that Charley Schumer’s dream of ascending to the position of Senate majority leader is now placed on hold, probably forever.
Some people, as happens during and after every election, bemoan negative campaigning. To which I say, some people should have to sit and eat at the children’s table. So far as I’m concerned, if you don’t have bad things to say about your opponent, you not only shouldn’t be running, you should probably stay home and vote for him!
It’s been a lot of fun watching the liberals fulminating about the ignorance, not to mention bigotry, of the American voter. Isn’t it amazing how dumb and racist those voters became since 2008?
Some liberals even went so far as to accuse Republicans, along with those Independents who abandoned them, of being crazy. I find it fascinating that they’ll label 70 million reasonable, responsible, tax-paying Americans as crazy, but these politically correct loons will turn right around and have a gigantic hissy fit if you refer to actual paranoiacs and schizophrenics as crazy people.
Speaking of those knotholes on the left, in spite of their loudly proclaimed munificence, it’s worth noting this holiday season that socialists and communists make up the majority of Americans who subscribe to the belief that it is better to receive than to give.
Lest the GOP misread the election results, they should keep in mind that Obama, Pelosi and Reid, America’s axis of evil, made it very easy to vote against the party of stimulus bills, ObamaCare, card checks, Cap & Tax, and kowtowing to our sworn enemies. In short, this wasn’t a coronation, but merely a stay of execution for a party that arrogantly blew off conservatives from 2001-2007.
Finally, speaking for Glenn Beck and myself, the best news of all was that Woodrow Wilson wasn’t re-elected.
Sarah Palin sure keeps things fun. This is from her Facebook page, ridiculing the news media for double standards on gaffes.
My fellow Americans in all 57 states, the time has changed for come. With our country founded more than 20 centuries ago, we have much to celebrate – from the FBI’s 100 days to the reforms that bring greater inefficiencies to our health care system. We know that countries like Europe are willing to stand with us in our fight to halt the rise of privacy, and Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. And let’s face it, everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma and they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs, when, if you, they just gave, you gave them treatment early, and they got some treatment, and ah, a breathalyzer, or an inhalator. I mean, not a breathalyzer, ah, I don’t know what the term is in Austrian for that…
Of course, the paragraph above is based on a series of misstatements and verbal gaffes made by Barack Obama (I didn’t have enough time to do one for Joe Biden). YouTube links are provided just in case you doubt the accuracy of these all too human slips-of-the-tongue. If you can’t remember hearing about them, that’s because for the most part the media didn’t consider them newsworthy. I have no complaint about that. Everybody makes the occasional verbal gaffe – even news anchors.
Obviously, I would have been even more impressed if the media showed some consistency on this issue. Unfortunately, it seems they couldn’t resist the temptation to turn a simple one word slip-of-the-tongue of mine into a major political headline. The one word slip occurred yesterday during one of my seven back-to-back interviews wherein I was privileged to speak to the American public about the important, world-changing issues before us.
Blunt and scathing, from MEP Nigel Farage. Whew!
America’s budget problem boils down to a simple question: How much will we let programs for the elderly displace other government functions — national defense, education, transportation and many others — and raise taxes to levels that would, almost certainly, reduce economic growth? What’s depressing is that this question has been obvious for decades but our political leaders have consistently evaded it. This includes and indicts Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals and every president since Jimmy Carter, particularly Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who clearly understood the problem.
Our political culture prefers delusion to candor. Liberals would solve the budget problem by taxing the rich and cutting defense. Think again. The richest 5 percent already pay about 45 percent of federal taxes; they may pay more but not enough to balance the budget. Defense spending constitutes a fifth of federal spending; projected deficits over the next decade are similar. We won’t shut the Pentagon. Republicans and tea partiers think that eliminating “wasteful spending” would allow more tax cuts. Dream on. The major spending programs, Social Security and Medicare, are wildly popular with roughly 50 million beneficiaries.
Now come Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, with a plan. It would freeze government salaries for three years, increase the gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon, and slowly raise Social Security’s eligibility ages for early retirement and full benefits. These ages are now 62 and 66; they would go to 64 and 69 around 2075. Sensibly, changes wouldn’t start until 2012 to avoid threatening the economic recovery.
Unfortunately, the plan has much wishful thinking. It would cap federal spending at 22 percent of the economy (gross domestic product) and taxes at 21 percent of GDP. These targets represent modest increases over averages for 1970 to 2009: 20.7 percent of GDP for spending; 18.1 percent for taxes. But maintaining the targets assumes that health care costs — the largest factor expanding spending — slow significantly. Bowles-Simpson has few proposals to make that happen.
We need something more powerful: budget changes that redefine government to reflect today’s social and economic realities. Longer life expectancies justify raising eligibility ages for Social Security faster than Bowles-Simpson suggests. Wealthier retirees should pay more for Medicare. Somehow we need to control health spending. We should eliminate programs that are ineffective or serve narrow interests: farm subsidies, Amtrak and others.
To understand our predicament, glance at the table below (which I’ve used before). It shows federal taxes and spending as a share of GDP for 2006 (the last “normal” year before the slump) and projections for 2020 and 2035. The Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid forecasts — reflecting current benefits — come from the Congressional Budget Office. Other spending categories are held constant as a share of GDP. There’s no room for big emergencies or new programs. Though crude, the resulting numbers capture the mounting pressures.
It’s scary. From 2006 to 2035, federal spending goes from 20 percent of GDP to almost 29 percent. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (including Obamacare) account for all the increase. The reasons: More elderly people and climbing health costs. In 2035, the 65-plus population will be 93 percent larger than in 2010. Paying for bigger government would require a tax increase of about 50 percent. If we want to avoid a tax increase — while honoring existing Social Security and health care benefits — we’d have to cut all other programs by about 80 percent. (And these figures are likely optimistic, because interest on government debt is assumed to remain low.)
John Stossel on the collectivist Pilgrims. What he does not note is that the collectivism was imposed on them by the financiers of their endeavor.
Had today’s political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow’s holiday would have been called “Starvation Day” instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn’t be alive to celebrate it.
Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.
Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.
The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.
That’s why they nearly all starved.
When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.
“So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented,” wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, “began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land.”
In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.
“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many.”
Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.
What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.”
If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.
What private property does — as the Pilgrims discovered — is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.
Here’s the biggest irony of all: The U.S. government has yet to apply the lesson to its first conquest, Native Americans. The U.S. government has held most Indian land in trust since the 19th century. This discourages initiative and risk-taking because, among other reasons, it can’t be used as collateral for loans. On Indian reservations, “private land is 40 to 90 percent more productive than land owned through the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” says economist Terry Anderson, executive director of PERC. “If you drive through western reservations, you will see on one side cultivated fields, irrigation, and on the other side, overgrazed pasture, run-down pastures and homes. One is a simple commons; the other side is private property. You have Indians on both sides. The important thing is someone owns one side.”
Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.
That’s the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.
Too often, Americans punish politicians for reversing their previous and sometimes obviously wrong positions on policy. They label such politicians as flip-floppers, and even when these officeholders switch to their preferred policy, some continue to castigate them and warn of their unreliability.
But sometimes, well, those reversals can seem just a little too convenient — especially when the politician in question admits that he took the first stance just to curry votes. Al Gore makes the obvious just a little too explicit in his sudden reversal on ethanol subsidies:
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was “not a good policy”, weeks before tax credits are up for renewal. …
“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.
“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.["]
So far, so good. Ethanol as a replacement or supplement for gasoline was a mistake, especially in the massive government subsidies spent on the effort. Ethanol only has two-thirds of the potential energy as gasoline, is harder to transport, and winds up being more expensive. Worse, as Gore admits now, the subsidies for ethanol have sparked a price war for a food staple as we shove legitimate food into our gas tanks. It makes starvation worse by making food too expensive, and Gore now admits that “the competition with food prices is real.”
Why, then, did Gore spend most of the last two decades pushing for ethanol subsidies? It wasn’t because he was trying to help humanity:
“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”
In other words, Gore wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about ethanol; he was just particularly enthusiastic about Gore. Thanks to pressure from Gore and others with “a certain fondness” for playing prairie politics over common sense, the US spent almost $8 billion subsidizing ethanol in just the last year.
Meanwhile, the poorest Americans, who spend 40% of their income on food, now are seeing food prices rising.
It’s as if there were only two eras in Irish history: the Middle Ages and the housing bubble.
This actually isn’t a bad way of thinking about Ireland’s 20th century. The island spent decade after decade isolated, premodern and rural — and then in just a few short years, boom, modernity! The Irish sometimes say that their 1960s didn’t happen until the 1990s, when secularization and the sexual revolution finally began in earnest in what had been one of the most conservative and Catholic countries in the world. But Ireland caught up fast: the kind of social and economic change that took 50 years or more in many places was compressed into a single revolutionary burst.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when everyone wanted to take credit for this transformation. Free-market conservatives hailed Ireland’s rapid growth as an example of the miracles that free trade, tax cuts and deregulation can accomplish. (In 1990, Ireland ranked near the bottom of European Union nations in G.D.P. per capita. In 2005, it ranked second.)
Progressives and secularists suggested that Ireland was thriving because it had finally escaped the Catholic Church’s repressive grip, which kept horizons narrow and families large, and limited female economic opportunity. (An academic paper on this theme, “Contraception and the Celtic Tiger,” earned the Malcolm Gladwell treatment in the pages of The New Yorker.) The European elite regarded Ireland as a case study in the benefits of E.U. integration, since the more tightly the Irish bound themselves to Continental institutions, the faster their gross domestic product rose.
Nobody tells those kinds of stories anymore. The Celtic housing bubble was more inflated than America’s (a lot of those McMansions are half-finished and abandoned), the Celtic banking industry was more reckless in its bets, and Ireland’s debts, private and public, make our budget woes look manageable by comparison. The Irish economy is on everybody’s mind again these days, but that’s because the government has just been forced to apply for a bailout from the E.U., lest Ireland become the green thread that unravels the European quilt…
To the utopians of capitalism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the biggest booms can produce the biggest busts, and that debt and ruin always shadow prosperity and growth. To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,” Christopher Caldwell noted, but now “we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”)…
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.
But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”
Is there a problem to be fixed? Do we want the government regulating the ‘net?
The intelligence of “a man’s best friend” has evolved at a greater rate than the less social cat over millions of years, scientists at Oxford University have claimed.
It was often thought that the feline pet was smarter than its canine counterpart because it needed less attention but researchers have discovered that cat’s brains are smaller because they are less social.
For the first time scientists have charted the evolutionary history of the brain across different groups of mammals over 60 million years and identified huge variations in how their brains have changed.
They found that there was a link between the size of an animal’s brain in relation to the rest of its body and how socially active it was.
The study analysed available data on the brain and body size of over 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. The brains of monkeys grew the most over time followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs.
It found that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tended to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.
Previous research had suggested that the growth rate of the brain relative to body size followed a general trend across all animal groups.
Never before or since had a series of photograph been this throughly analyzed. From the day they were discovered as the police raided Lee Harvey Oswald’s home, the photos of Oswald posing with a rifle and two communist newspapers were subjected to intense scrutiny and subsequently provided enough fodder for conspiracy theorists.
The photos, taken by Oswald’s wife Marina in the spring of 1963, were highly important because the rifle Oswald was holding appeared to be the one used to assassinate President Kennedy. It was made public in late February 1964, when it appeared on the covers of many publications, but the most notably, on the cover of Life magazine. To enhance the image’s quality, the photo had been retouched in several areas — a common practice in the magazine world. Many readers noticed some details of photo differed from publication to publication, and a controversy arose.
In particular, the readers noted that on the cover of Life (top) Oswald’s rifle had a sniper scope, but on the cover of the Detroit Free Press and Newsweek, there was no sniper scope. It later transpired that a copy editor accidentally erased the scope while altering the image’s contrast, but it was too late. On seeing the photo from inside the jail, Oswald insisted he had never seen it before and that someone had superimposed his head onto another body. Skeptics — including those geniuses behind the movie J.F.K. — pointed at the strange line across Oswald’s chin suggesting the head may have been pasted into the photo (This line was later determined to be a water spot).
To reassure the restless public, the C.B.S. asked a professional photographer to reproduce the photos as part of an ambitious four-part CBS documentary called “The Warren Report”. The photographer, Lawrence Schiller recreated the picture at the same address, 214 Neeley Street, on the same date and time in March, using a model, and discovered that a straight nose shadow corresponded with an angular body shadow, just as in the disputed picture. Unsatisfied, the House Select Committee on Assassination commissioned a further panel of photographic experts to study the photo. After a meticulous examination that involved microscopic analysis and photogrammetric comparison of Oswald’s face to other photos of him, the experts answered twenty-two points raised by skeptics, and concluded the photos were genuine.
ANDREW RAMOS always believed it made him more charming, an endearing characteristic integral to his identity. But, finally, after too many people mocked him, he began seeing a therapist.
Patrick Mullin had the same problem. “People were complaining,” he said. He started weekly therapy sessions 11 years ago and still goes about once a month.
Lauren LoGiudice sought help for similar symptoms. “I would have sessions and I started to cry,” she said.
In all three cases, therapists reached the same discomfiting conclusion.
“I was diagnosed with a New York accent,” Mr. Ramos said.
The classic New York accent is not as distinct or as prevalent as it once was, but there are plenty of native “New Yawkers” who not only have it but consider it a curse.
“It humbled me,” Mr. Ramos, a television reporter at WPIX-TV, said of his diagnosis.
Those who seek professional help to conquer their accents make similar complaints, like, “ ‘People don’t understand what I’m saying,’ ” said Sam Chwat, who is considered the dean of speech therapists. “ ‘I’m stigmatized by the way I speak.’ ‘I’m tired of people imitating or ridiculing the way I speak, or saying I sound “cute.” ’ ‘My accent seems to imply negative characteristics.’ ”
…is a dead terrorist.
A senior Al Qaeda leader, Mufti Ali Muhammad, has reportedly been killed along with two of his accomplices in a US drone strike Friday in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district along the Afghan border.
The pilotless drone fired four missiles at a vehicle, in which Mufti was travelling along with three other militants near Mir Ali village of Miranshah in the restive tribal area.
At least three suspected militants, including Mufti, were killed on the spot while one was injured, a report said.
Save the rain forest: emit more CO2. The New York Times:
Once again, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have published a thought-provoking paper highlighting how little is understood about how climate change will affect tropical rain forests.
Several years ago, one of the institute’s staff scientists, Joe Wright, set off a firestorm when he suggested that the loss of tropical rain forest wasn’t as bad as some models predicted, because it was regrowing on farmland in the developing world that had been abandoned as rural residents moved to cities.
Last week, a group of scientists from the institute, based in Panama, proposed in an article in the journal Science that warming temperatures could mean a proliferation of jungle species instead of species loss. Many scientific models, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict a wave of extinctions because of climate change.
Analyzing pollen in rock cores, the geologist and botanist Carlos Jaramillo focused on a period called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which occurred about 56 million years ago. It was an age in which temperatures suddenly jumped by three to five degrees and carbon dioxide levels doubled.
Faced with those temperature and atmospheric stresses, the rain forests of the time actually thrived, the scientists found, with a rapid increase in plant diversity and the emergence of new species. New plant species — including plants from the passionflower and chocolate families — appeared. New species evolved much faster than old species became extinct.
Seattle police say a group of self-described superheroes have been patrolling the streets at night trying to save people from crime. They call themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement and say they’re part of a nationwide movement of real-life crime fighters.
The national website — cited in a police bulletin sent to Seattle officers Wednesday — states “a Real Life Superhero is whoever chooses to embody the values presented in super heroic comic books, not only by donning a mask/costume, but also performing good deeds for the communitarian place whom he inhabits.”
Police say the “costume-wearing complainants” are lucky they haven’t been hurt.
In one instance, police say a caped crusader dressed in black was nearly shot when he came running out of a dark park. In another case, a witness on Capitol Hill saw the crusaders wearing ski masks in a car parked at a Shell station and thought they were going to rob the place.