A new scientific study from Oxford University examines 12 ways that civilization could end in the next 100 years and applies probabilities to each one where possible.
This isn’t a bunch of sci-fi writers sitting at a bar, knocking back shots, and coming up with the most creative way the world will end. The study was conducted by the Future of Humanity Institute, which is described as “a multidisciplinary research institute at the University of Oxford” that “enables a select set of leading intellects to bring the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science to bear on big-picture questions about humanity and its prospects.”
The report itself says: “This is a scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion, certainly, but even more it is a call for action based on the assumption that humanity is able to rise to challenges and turn them into opportunities. We are confronted with possibly the greatest challenge ever and our response needs to match this through global collaboration in new and innovative ways.”
There is, of course, room for debate about risks that are included or left out of the list. I would have added an intense blast of radiation from space, either a super-eruption from the sun or a gamma-ray burst from an exploding star in our region of the galaxy. And I would have included a sci-fi-style threat from an alien civilisation either invading or, more likely, sending a catastrophically destabilising message from an extrasolar planet. Both are, I suspect, more probable than a supervolcano.
The choice of end times scenarios is interesting:
A few of the existential threats are “exogenic”, arising from events beyond our control, such as asteroid impact. Most emerge from human economic and technological development. Three (synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence) result from dual-use technologies, which promise great benefits for society, including reducing other risks such as climate change and pandemics — but could go horribly wrong.
Do scientists at the institute believe we are more likely to destroy ourselves than Doomsday occurring as the result of phenomena from space? I might take issue with that theory simply because, if anything, we have proven over the last 75 years or so that we are capable of managing the man-made threats to our existence. With clean air and clean water regulations fairly common the world over, it doesn’t appear that we’re going to poison ourselves. And the nuclear war scenario has — so far — been offset by self-preservation among nuclear powers. No one has been stupid enough to launch a nuclear weapon thinking someone wouldn’t launch one back at them.
Are we smart enough to manage these threats?
AI is the most discussed apocalyptic threat at the moment. But no one knows whether there is a real risk of extreme machine intelligence taking over the world and sweeping humans out of their way. The study team therefore gives a very wide probability estimate.
Bad global governance
This category covers mismanagement of global affairs so serious that it is the primary cause of civilisation collapse (rather than a secondary response to other disasters). One example would be the emergence of an utterly incompetent and corrupt global dictatorship. The probability is impossible to estimate.
Extreme climate change
Conventional modelling of climate change induced by human activity (adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) has focused on the most likely outcome: global warming by up to 4C. But there is a risk that feedback loops, such as the release of methane from Arctic permafrost, could produce an increase of 6C or more. Mass deaths through starvation and social unrest could then lead to a collapse of civilisation.
Probability: 0.01%Synthetic biologyGenetic engineering of new super-organisms could be enormously beneficial for humanity. But it might go horribly wrong, with the emergence and release, accidentally or through an act of war, of an engineered pathogen targeting humans or a crucial part of the global ecosystem. The impact could be even worse than any conceivable natural pandemic.
Ultra-precise manufacturing on an atomic scale could create materials with wonderful new properties but they could also be used in frightening new weapons. There is also the “grey goo” scenario of self-replicating nanomachines taking over the planet.
Quick — someone tell Al Gore, and Drs. Mann and Hanson that there’s a 0.001% chance of us all dying as a result of global warming. Not that it would matter to them.
Reality is always more difficult to predict than it might appear. “Bad global governance” includes governments building up astronomical amounts of debt to fund their welfare states and then — collapse. Money wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on and the resulting social unrest would destroy civilization. Some would put the likelihood of that scenario at better than 50-50. Governments have shown so far that they are completely incapable of addressing their debt problems, even when catastrophe stares them in the face. Greece is just the tip of the iceberg.
As for the concern over artificial intelligence and other technological threats, I agree that they are extremely unlikely to come about. Those who believe the threat is significant fail to take into account the “boiling frog” fallacy where we just sit and do nothing as the machines get smarter and smarter. AI that evolves to the point that could threaten humanity will not be a bolt from the blue; it is far more likely to be a gradual improvement of computer capabilities that we will be able to manage just fine.
I agree with the author that the scientists should have included the alien invasion scenario. After all, what’s a list of possible Doomsday events without the prospect of little green men coming to earth to kill us all? The list just doesn’t seem complete without it.
The new radical left government of Greece is making a habit of tweaking the Germans in one way or another. As part of the deal they’re proposing to get the rest of Europe to fund their welfare state, they want “reparations” from Germany for their actions during World War II.
They also constantly mock and insult German Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to her derisively as the “austerity queen.”
But the ruling party in Greece may have taken things a bit too far. A newspaper closely identified with Syriza, the party that came to power on a platform to end the bailout and the austerity measures that went with it, published a cartoon of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi uniform “making comments that invoke the Holocaust.”
Germany condemned on Friday a cartoon published in a Greek leftist newspaper close to the new ruling party in Athens that depicts Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi uniform making comments that invoke the Holocaust.
In the cartoon, carried in the daily Avgi (The Dawn), mouthpiece of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party, Schaeuble says “we insist on soap from your fat” and “we are discussing fertilizer from your ashes”, references to the fate of Jews in the Nazi death camps of World War Two.
“I always uphold the principle of free speech but on a very personal level I find this caricature offensive and the cartoonist should be ashamed,” German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a regular news conference.
Relations between Germany, Europe’s paymaster, and debt-ridden Greece have become particularly strained since the Jan. 25 election that swept the anti-austerity Syriza to power.
Earlier this week, during a visit to Berlin, Greece’s new foreign minister pressed his government’s claim for World War Two reparations over Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation of his country. Germany says all reparation issues have been settled.
During Greece’s years-long debt crisis, anti-austerity protesters have often depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform or with a Hitler moustache. Schaeuble has long been a leading advocate of the tough austerity program.
Avgi captioned the cartoon on the back page of its Feb. 8 edition “Negotiations have begun”, in a nod to talks held in Brussels over how Greece can shift to a new support program.
Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has already had a humiliating climb down. After swearing not to talk to the hated “troika” of the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, he had to agree — at the point of a financial gun held to Greece’s head by the ECB — to talk to the creditors this weekend. In return for speaking to the troika, the ECB will keep the Greek banks from folding by supplying them with $5 billion in Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) — a direct shot of cash into the Greek banking system. Another tranche is scheduled for February 18 — after the Greek government meets with EU finance ministers on Monday.
Clearly, the ECB wants to keep Greece on a short leash.
The swagger is gone from the leftists, who believed the rest of the EU was terrified of a Greek exit from the eurozone. Their silly demands that the rest of Europe keep funding its out of control welfare state aren’t even being considered. How gently the finance ministers will let the Greek government down next week is an open question, but given their behavior since being elected, they are likely to get a stern lecture from the grown ups and a demand to pay back the money they owe.
A pretty remarkable story of survival from Hackensack, New Jersey. An SUV swerved to avoid another car on a bridge, climbed up a snowbank, and was catapulted 60 feet to the pavement below.
It not only landed upright, but the two passengers survived with only minor injuries.
From the Associated Press:
An SUV driver swerving to avoid striking another vehicle on a highway Friday hit a snowbank along a guardrail and catapulted 60 feet off a bridge. Incredibly, authorities say, the two occupants suffered only minor injuries, and the vehicle landed upright.
The Toyota Rav4 was headed east on Interstate 80 when the accident occurred at around 7:15 a.m. in Hackensack, police said.
The driver, 25-year-old Elizabeth Wolthoff of Bergenfield, veered sideways after her vehicle was cut off, officials said. The SUV then hit a snowbank that formed after plows had pushed excess snow up against the guardrail.
The SUV flew off the bridge and landed upright beneath the Hackensack River bridge, missing the river by about 40 feet. Wolthoff and her passenger, 25-year-old Rebecca Winslow, also of Bergenfield, called 911.
“The snowbank served almost as a ramp,” Hackensack Police Director Michael Mordaga told The Record newspaper. “They’re very lucky the way the vehicle landed.”
State Police Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Williams said both women were wearing their seat belts.
Firefighter Michael Thomasey, one of about 20 firefighters who responded to the accident, told the newspaper that Winslow asked where she was and remembered the crash.
“I told her: ‘You’re in Hackensack. Don’t worry. We’re here. We’ll get you out of the car,’” he said. “‘Just sit tight. We’re going to work for a few minutes. It’s going to be noisy. We’re going to get you out of here.’”
It’s amazing that both women were conscious after falling that far. The SUV, however, won’t be taking the kids to soccer practice anytime soon.
(The photo is of the car after the Jaws of Life go through with it.)
If I were to interview those women, I’d ask what went through their minds in the few seconds it took to drop 60 feet. What would go through your mind?
Not exactly Fight Club, that’s for sure. But these two Ukrainian politicians from fringe parties fight with just about as much skill and enthusiasm as you would expect from members of parliament.
Samopomich (“Self Reliance”) party deputy Yegor Sobolev and Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland”) party deputy Vadim Ivchenko demonstrate pretty good form, but my grandmother could have taken either one.
The gentlemen were suspended for 5 days, presumably because neither one could punch their way out of a paper bag.
You almost wish we had such excitement in our own legislature. In fact, we once did. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, there were several notable brawls, including one involving about 30 members of Congress in 1858:
The most infamous floor brawl in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives erupted as Members debated the Kansas Territory’s pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution late into the night of February 5-6. Shortly before 2 a.m., Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow and South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt exchanged insults, then blows. “In an instant the House was in the greatest possible confusion,” the Congressional Globe reported. More than 30 Members joined the melee. Northern Republicans and Free Soilers joined ranks against Southern Democrats. Speaker James Orr, a South Carolina Democrat, gaveled furiously for order and then instructed Sergeant-at-Arms Adam J. Glossbrenner to arrest noncompliant Members. Wading into the “combatants,” Glossbrenner held the House Mace high to restore order. Wisconsin Republicans John “Bowie Knife” Potter and Cadwallader Washburn ripped the hairpiece from the head of William Barksdale, a Democrat from Mississippi. The melee dissolved into a chorus of laughs and jeers, but the sectional nature of the fight powerfully symbolized the nation’s divisions.
Members routinely came armed to the House chamber, giving life to the saying “An armed populace is a polite populace.”
Of course, the most notorious incident of violence that occurred during that time was the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Rep. Preston Brooks. Sumner had insulted Brooks’ kinsman and the South Carolina hot head caught the Massachusetts senator sitting at his chair in the Senate chamber with his back turned. Sumner, a leading light of the nascent GOP, was never the same after the beating. The writing was on the wall that a civil war was in the offing when hundreds of southerners sent Brooks canes, many of them saying “hit him again.”
The last reference to a House or Senate brawl I could find comes to us courtesy of the Senate historian:
On February 22, 1902, John McLaurin, South Carolina’s junior senator, raced into the Senate Chamber and pronounced that state’s senior senator, Ben Tillman, guilty of “a willful, malicious, and deliberate lie.” Standing nearby, Tillman spun around and punched McLaurin squarely in the jaw. The chamber exploded in pandemonium as members struggled to separate both members of the South Carolina delegation. In a long moment, it was over, but not without stinging bruises both to bystanders and to the Senate’s sense of decorum.
Although Tillman and McLaurin had once been political allies, the relationship had recently cooled. Both were Democrats, but McLaurin had moved closer to the Republicans, who then controlled Congress, the White House, and a lot of South Carolina patronage. When McLaurin changed his position to support Republicans on a controversial treaty, Tillman’s rage erupted. With McLaurin away from the chamber, he had charged that his colleague had succumbed to “improper influences.”
On February 28, 1902, the Senate censured both men and added to its rules the provision that survives today as part of Rule XIX: “No senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
As for possible matches today, Ted Cruz vs. Chuck Schumer might draw some interest. Both are feisty sorts and probably hate each other anyway. In the House, it wouldn’t be GOP vs. Dem. It would be Tea Party vs. Establishment Republicans. How about Justin Amash vs. Boehner? The speaker is getting along in years but is a fairly big man and could probably handle himself.
Who do you think would match up well in the House and Senate? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
I don’t think it’s true anymore, but when I was a kid, just about every child on the block had a butterfly net and a mounting board. Butterfly collecting — like hula hoops before that time — was all the rage and I don’t think anyone could quite figure out why. The parents were pleased because it got the kid out of the house every day during the summer for a few hours. And it was a safe, fun way to learn about the natural world.
In Illinois, there were Sulfurs, Whites, the beautiful and rare Yellow Swallowtail, Skippers and the biggest prize of all; the Monarch. The Monarch was most sought after because first, it was so beautiful, and second, it was so hard to catch. A seven or eight year old kid doesn’t run very fast and once the Monarch knew you were stalking it, it would spread those big wings and head for the hills. It took guile and cunning to sneak up on a Monarch and catching one was always a thrill.
That’s why this story about nearly a billion Monarch butterflies dying off since 1990 as a result of pesticides and a dwindling habitat hit me a little harder than most extinction stories. And the Monarch is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire class of insects that faithfully pollinate our flowers and plants is disappearing at an alarming rate. The die-off of honeybees threatens not only our flowers, but also the thousands of products that use honey as an ingredient. Wasps are also under pressure, as are most species of beetle.
The Monarch is a “keystone” species and losing it would set off a chain reaction that would severely damage the eco-system. Beyond the practical, there are esthetic reasons for trying to save the insect.
Monarch butterflies are a keystone species that once fluttered throughout the United States by the billions. They alighted from Mexico to Canada each spring on a trek that required six generations of the insect to complete. Afterward, young monarchs about the quarter of the weight of a dime, that know nothing about the flight pattern through the United States, not to mention Mexico, fly back, resting, birthing and dining on milkweed. Only about 30 million remain.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has started a crash program to grow more milkweed — the plant the Monarch depends on for food and a home. Farmers and homeowners have drastically reduced the numbers of milkweed plants which, in turn has catastrophically affected the Monarch.
Fish and Wildlife is reviewing a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to list monarch butterflies as an endangered species that requires special protection to survive. The agency is studying whether that’s necessary and also trying to do more to help restore the population.
The agency is providing $2 million for on the ground conservation projects. As part of an agreement, the federation will help raise awareness about the need for milkweed, provide seeds to anyone willing to plant it and to plant the seeds in open space — roadsides, parks, forests and patio flower boxes, to name a few places. Another $1.2 million will go to the foundation as seed money to generate a larger fundraising match from private organizations.
Fish and Wildlife will chip in to plant milkweed seeds in refuges and other areas it controls to create 200,000 acres of habitat along the Interstate 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, where 50 percent of monarchs migrate. Fish and Wildlife will encourage other federal and state agencies to do the same on public lands and is working with the governments of Mexico and Canada to help restore the iconic butterfly.
The monarch butterfly’s round trip to and from Mexico takes it past a killing field of agriculture. But farmers aren’t entirely to blame for the insect’s decline, said Dan Ashe, director of Fish and Wildlife. “We’ve all been responsible. We are the consumers of agricultural products. I eat corn. American farmers are not the enemy. Can they be part of the solution? Yes,” Ashe said.
Some readers of this site may cast a jaundiced eye at such conservation efforts. Indeed, the EPA can be overbearing and arbitrary about saving some species. But saving the pollinators from our own folly benefits everyone. And a good first step is to stave off extinction for the Monarch.
This is one of those stories that you just kind of shake your head and wonder if some politicians have anything between their ears at all.
The Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards (EBT) given out by the government in place of the old paper food stamps has many advantages both for users and businesses. They’ve actually helped cut down on fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and they make record keeping a lot easier for retailers who accept them.
But you are not supposed to be able to buy beer, wine, or liquor with them. Accordingly, Cash machines located in liquor stores cannot dispense cash via an EBT card. You can, however, use them to get the cash portion of your benefits — even if an ATM machine is located in a marijuana shop.
Republicans want to change this. Democrats apparently don’t see anything wrong with it.
Everyone in Colorado from Republicans to marijuana moguls wants to stop welfare cash from being used to buy recreational pot, but standing in their way are the state’s formidable legislative Democrats.
Despite mounting evidence that “welfare for weed” is more than an urban myth, Democratic legislators are balking at a bill that would add marijuana dispensaries and strip clubs to the list of places, along with casinos and liquor stores, where debit-style benefits cards cannot be used to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines, or ATMs.
Democrats killed a similar bill last year, but now the stakes are higher. States had two years to align their statutes with a 2012 federal law banning the use of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards at gambling and adult-entertainment venues.
As of this year, states that fail to take action risk having their federal grants under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program reduced by 5 percent.
While pot shops aren’t on the federal list, Colorado officials are concerned that failing to disable ATMs at marijuana dispensaries for EBT cards would violate the spirit of the law and provoke the ire of the Justice Department, which is keeping the legalized pot industry in states like Colorado and Washington on a short leash.
“Even though it’s not part of that ban requirement, marijuana is illegal at the federal level, and we just want to be proactive and ahead of that,” said Levetta Love, director of Office of Economic Security for the Colorado Department of Human Services, in testimony last week in support of the bill before a Senate committee.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble, noted that President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, New York federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch, took a hard line on states that legalize marijuana at last month’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.
Beyond the question of federal benefits being used to purchase a product illegal in almost the entire country, you have to ask how much intelligence it takes to give access to people receiving nutritional assistance to a drug that even proponents agree alters consciousness, impairs motor skills, and with chronic use, leads to lethargy and a lowering of ambition.
Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing marijuana use any more than they should be subsidizing the use of alcohol. But Democrats aren’t convinced there’s a problem:
Last year, Democrats said they were worried about limiting access for welfare recipients, many of whom don’t have bank accounts and may find it difficult to locate nearby ATMs in their neighborhoods. Democrats were also dubious about whether EBT cardholders were really blowing public dollars on pot.
Those arguments were raised once again at last week’s Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee hearing, where the bill passed 3-2 on a party-line vote.
“My county still expresses concerns about this bill, and they don’t know how big a problem it is as far as people using this money for the activities listed here, so I’m going to be a no,” said Democratic state Sen. Matt Jones.
Liberals in Colorado and elsewhere have mocked concerns about welfare recipients getting high on the taxpayers’ dime, exemplified by a headline in September from Media Matters, which said, “Right-Wing Media’s Mythological ‘Welfare for Weed’ Campaign Has Resulted in Actual GOP Legislation.”
A TV investigative report concluded that 17 pounds of marijuana was purchased using EBT cards last year. That’s a small percentage of the total amount of marijuana sold in the state. But it kind of blows up the notion that “welfare for weed” is a myth.
This bill is a no brainer to support given the ubiquitousness of ATM machines these days. The notion there’s some kind of “ATM desert” in Colorado cities is absurd. The bottom line is it’s crazy to give people who need federal assistance to survive access to a mind-altering drug.
Has Secretary of State John Kerry and the administration suddenly seen the light? Has the wool been pulled from their eyes and are they now seeing clearly?
Well, not really.
Kerry told Meet the Press today that an extension of the nuclear talks, scheduled to run through June, is “impossible.”
But there’s a huge caveat,as The Hill reports:
“The only chance I can see of an extension at this point in time would be you really have the outlines of the agreement,” Kerry said in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“But if we’re not able to make the fundamental decisions that have to be made over the next weeks, literally, I think it would be impossible to extend,” he said.
“I don’t think we would want to extend at that point. Either you make the decisions to prove your program is a peaceful one or, if you’re unable to do that, it may tell a story that none of us want to hear,” he added.
And how far down are they going to dumb “the outlines of the agreement”? Basically, agreement outlines can be anything the administrations says. They can be as nebulous or specific as the president decides.
But it’s possible that Iran is tiring of the game and wants to pick up it’s nukes and go home, as the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested:
“I do not think another extension is in the interest of anyone, as I do not believe this extension was either necessary or useful,” Zarif told a global security conference, meeting in the southern German city of Munich.
“In my view extension is not useful, not conducive to an agreement, and all my energy and focus and that of my colleagues and I’m sure my negotiating partners …. are all focused on reaching an agreement as early as possible.”
Iran will continue to talk as long as the US and western powers continue to give in to their demands. If Kerry wants to declare that an “outline” of a deal has been achieved in order to continue the talks indefinitely — even though the “outline” is largely imaginary — no doubt the Iranians will agree. They have absolutely nothing to lose. And the longer they negotiate, the more desperate the west becomes to avoid a confrontation over their nuclear program.
Iran can afford to be patient. If they wait long enough, they should get everything they need to continue to develop their enrichment program in order to build a nuclear bomb. For those stakes, Supreme Leader Khamenei may be willing to wait until hell freezes over.
You would think after more than 6 years of listening to speeches by President Obama, that most intelligent people would have figured out that, more than any recent chief executive, Obama’s rhetoric rarely appeals to the better angels of our nature. Rather, we are constantly taken to task for our failings and shortcomings, as he reminds us of the dark places we’ve been in our history.
It’s not that what Obama says is necessarily false, although his interpretation of history can raise some eyebrows. It’s that he defeats the purpose of his speech when he believes he’s giving us “hard truths” about our past before spouting insincere platitudes about how we can become greater if we only acknowledge our sins and, presumably, feel as guilty about them as he does.
This may be an overgeneralization of the president’s rhetorical style, but it’s striking how often President Obama feels the need to remind us of our less than perfect past. Liberals listening in cheer him on because they agree with his worldview, and frankly, don’t think we deserve to be lifted out of ourselves. You must feel guilt about our past or you’re just a mindless patriot with no soul.
David Brooks apparently subscribes to this philosophy. His appearance on Meet the Press this morning was notable for his clarifying exactly what it is about Obama’s speeches that so enthralls the left.
“I’m totally pro-Obama on this,” Brooks said.
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I think he said the right thing. Listen, it was a gospel of humility. What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility, people in Washington, pundits, religious believers, I happen to be all three of those things. And so we’re told to we’re told to walk humbly in the path of the Lord, the Lord’s ways are mysterious and so you’re saying we’re prone to zealotry as John said we’re fallen. And that’s useful in Washington today, that’s useful always…
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: You do sit here and you say, the president himself, David, and you’ve spent a lot of time with him off the record, he wants to have more conversations like this. But, perhaps presidents can’t? You can’t do it until after you leave office? Imean is that, is that where we’re at?
BROOKS: No, I think he was right. He gave the race speech. It was a beautiful speech. He’s given a whole series of great speeches, Trayvon Martin. This was really fine. This is exactly the moment you want to say this. We’re at most the moral danger to ourselves when we’re caught up in a righteous fervor against an evil foe which is what we have. And while we exercise hard power we have to take morally hazardous action or we’re going to be prone to get caught up in our own self-righteousness. This is exactly the moment we needed this.
Was making ridiculous comparisons between Christian knights who fought in the crusades and Islamic State terrorists designed to make us more humble? If so, why was this a good thing?
Putting aside the president’s dubious grasp of the complexities surrounding the reasons for the crusades, the atrocities committed by Christian knights were not done solely because they were filled with religious “zealotry.” The kind of religious fanaticism found in the Islamic State camp was missing among most crusaders, who were only acting in the same, brutal manner that conquering armies of the time acted. Islamic State fighters believes Allah is commanding them to chop off heads. Christian knights did it because it was a normal part of warfare at the time.
But why is it a good thing that the president seeks to humble us in our fight against IS? This is a bizarre notion that only someone besotted with guilt could possibly agree with. Can you imagine FDR trying to humble us in our fight against the Nazis by reminding us how evil parts of our past has been?
The only conclusion you can draw is that both Brooks and Obama don’t believe we hold a morally ascendant position over Islamic State because of events that occurred 900 years ago. While a prayer breakfast may not have been the proper venue for a rousing, martial speech — a call to arms to defeat a threat to our civilization — neither was it a place to tell us that our shortcomings make us no better than terrorists. Only a president confident in the ultimate goodness of our cause can inspire us to support a war that will probably last a decade or more. Calls to check our self-righteousness at the door are not going to fill the bill.
The Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is warning that the new regulations governing the internet, which will be voted on later this month, will grant government control of the net, increase taxes, and require hidden fees that will make the internet less free, more expensive, and less innovative.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement on Friday that highlighted some of the changes in the internet being sought by the government. Indeed, some of the details are alarming. The FCC’s plan regarding “net neutrality” may not even be legal, considering that the last two efforts to regulate the internet have resulted in court decisions that threw them out.
“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”
In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.
“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”
n an op-ed detailing the core aspects of his net neutrality plan published earlier this week, Wheeler described lumping ISPs under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — which based its authority on that used to regulate telephone monopolies at the dawn of the communication age — as the cornerstone.
“Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC,” Wheeler wrote Wednesday. “These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.”
The plan described by Wheeler would ban wired and wireless ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable from establishing tiered lanes of service speeds with varying prices for content creators like Netflix, Google, YouTube, Facebook and others based on speed and bandwidth use. It would also prevent ISPs from throttling, segregating or blocking traffic.
“Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation,” Pai said recalling the lawsuit that struck down the FCC’s Internet authority last year, setting off the year-long debate. “There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.”
Treating the internet as a utility so that the government can use the Telecommunications Act to regulate it would be a disaster for consumers and businesses alike. While it is desirable that companies not be allowed to charge big broadband customers more for faster internet access (thus slowing down the net for the rest of us), any plan that dictates rates, or the way the internet is configured would make service more expensive and the internet less competitive. This would stifle innovation in an industry that thrives on it.
Is there a better example of the adage “If it ain’t broke, dont’ fix it”? Going forward, one can agree that intelligent regulation is needed to keep the internet vibrant and free. But the kinds of regulations being proposed by the FCC aren’t necessary to achieve that goal, and will only serve to empower government to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong.
That noise you hear is the sound of the wind going out of the sails of an entire news network. MSNBC had wall to wall coverage for weeks at a time of the investigation into the closing of the George Washington bridge by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie supposedly to retaliate against a Democrat who wouldn’t support his re-election. Every rumor, every dubious claim was given loving and extensive coverage.
On Thursday, a former county prosecutor told the media that he had been talking to the New Jersey US attorney’s office about an incident in 2010 where he was fired for complaining that several Christie supporters weren’t indicted for wrong doing.
Bennett Barlyn alleges that he was fired from his job as a Hunterdon County prosecutor in 2010 after objecting to the dismissal of indictments against a number of Christie supporters.
Barlyn said he had spoken with federal investigators on Wednesday about his claims, the International Business Times first reported on Thursday.
According to Barlyn, the prosecutor’s office secured indictments against a sheriff and other officials before the Christie administration took over the investigation and got the indictments overturned, saying they were not based on strong evidence.
Barlyn has also filed a whistleblower lawsuit that remains open. He told ABC News he was unsure if investigators had spoken to others about the case.
Christie’s office has denied the allegations of wrongdoing, previously calling the allegations “conspiratorial nonsense,” according to ABC.
The federal probe reportedly is focused on why New Jersey’s then-Attorney General Paula Dow dismissed the indictments.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey dismissed media reports that it has launched a new criminal investigation into Gov. Chris Christie (R) as “a tremendous leap forward” in a statement provided Friday to MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
At issue is an allegation that Christie’s office helped scuttle indictments against the governor’s allies and that a former county prosecutor who tried to blow the whistle was fired. An International Business Times report from Thursday claimed that prosecutors launched a formal investigation into the matter.
Ben Barlyn, the former county prosecutor who says he was fired for pushing back on the indictments, told the news organization that he met with members of the Attorney’s office this week. He added that he spoke for more than an hour about his accusations and gave them what he referred to as “critical evidence.”
But while the Attorney’s office didn’t confirm or deny that it spoke to Barlyn, it characterized such conversations as not necessarily indicative of a full investigation.
“We talk to people all of the time,” a spokesman told MSNBC.
“It doesn’t mean we’re investigating anybody. Any characterization that we are investigating the governor about this is just not true.”
Barlyn also told the network that he “never characterized this as a full-blown investigation.”
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, emailed quotes from Maddow’s segment on Saturday to news organizations, in an effort to push back on various reports that had picked up on the IBT story, including one from The Hill. He said in an email that while the reports gave “the false appearance” of a new investigation, “new reports clearly debunk that allegation.”
Christie is reportedly considering a presidential bid in 2016, but he has been enmeshed in ethical controversy in the recent past.
The network clearly has a vendetta against Christie — as have most New Jersey Democrats. All of this scandal churning has had the effect of raising questions in Republicans’ minds about Christie’s fitness for high office — even though there has never been any evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
If you can’t beat ‘em, smear ‘em.
Embattled NBC anchor Brian Williams will take a leave of absence from his job at the network for “several days,” according to several sources.
Brian Williams said on Saturday that he will step aside as anchor of his nightly NBC News broadcast for “several days” as a result of the controversy generated by his comments about his reporting during the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina.
In a memo to NBC News staff made public by the network, Williams wrote, “As managing editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.”
Meanwhile, NBC President Deborah Turness sent out a staff memo, informing NBC employees of the investigation into Williams’ statements:
This has been a difficult few days for all of us at NBC News.
Yesterday, Brian and I spoke to the Nightly News team. And this morning at the Editorial Exchange, we both addressed the wider group. Brian apologized once again and specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.
As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired. We’re working on what the best next steps are — and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you.
Since joining NBC News, I’ve seen great strength and resilience. We are a close-knit family, and your response this week has made that even clearer.
As a relentless news agenda marches on, thank you again for continuing to do what we do best — bring the most important stories of the day to our audience.
“Make sense of all that has transpired”? What has transpired is that the face of your news network is on record admitting he made up a story and pushed it as part of his bio for 12 years.
Rumors are running wild that Williams will be out by sometime next week. The leave of absence would seem to confirm that rumor. By letting Williams soften the blow by exiting temporarily, they at least allow the anchor to maintain some dignity, rather than abruptly firing him.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal scored some points against President Obama yesterday when he released a statement taking the president to task for his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast comparing the atrocities of Islamic State to the Crusades.
Jindal accused the president of not facing the “reality” of Islamic extremism and mocked his reference to the crusades by joking that “the Medieval Christian threat is under control.”
“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast,” said the likely presidential candidate, according to a statement first reported by National Review. “We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”
The president’s critics were incensed after Obama cited the Crusades and the Inquisition in his remarks, noting – clumsily, his opponents argue – that religion can be corrupted and inspire “terrible deeds.”
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” Obama told the group. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
Those remarks have caused an uproar among some Republicans who feel the president’s comments undercut the spirit of the service.
Jindal also seized the moment to accuse the president of failing to deal with terrorism abroad.
“Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives,” he said.
White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters Friday that he has not spoken with Obama about the criticism that followed his prayer breakfast remarks, but said the detractors include “a failed presidential candidate, an RNC chairman from the past who have criticized us.” Schultz said the remarks were “well-suited” for the setting.
Some historians object to the president’s simple-minded comparison, pointing out that the atrocities committed by Christian knights were hardly unusual on either side in the 12th century and that the initial goal of the Crusades was to take back the Holy Land from Muslims who had conquered Jerusalem:
“I don’t think the president knows very much about the crusades,” Thomas Madden, a historian at the University of St. Louis, told ABC News.
“He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS,” Madden said. “The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that been conquered, due to Muslim conquests.”
The Crusades, which began in 1095 with the call of Pope Urban II to recover Jerusalem from Muslim rule, were a series of wars that lasted nearly two centuries. Although no reliable estimate of casualties caused by Crusaders exists, the massacre of over 2,700 Muslim prisoners by Richard the Lionheart outside Acre during the Third Crusade has been well documented and is remembered in the Middle East to this day.
Thomas Asbridge, a historian at the University of London, said in a statement to ABC News, “It is true to say, that by modern standards, atrocities were committed by crusaders, as they were by their Muslim opponents, it is however, far less certain that, by medieval standards, crusading violence could be categorized as distinctly extreme in all instances.”
Asbridge said he doesn’t have a problem with the president reminding the world that the Christian Church “advocated violence, and at times even encouraged its adherents to engage in warfare” but to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the distant medieval phenomenon of the Crusades is “grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence.”
It’s the president’s pathological need to absolve Islam of the horrific sins of its more radical followers that leads him to the “manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence.” It is a tremendous hindrance to carrying the fight to the enemy in that, as in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is pulling its punches, partly over an unwarranted sensitivity to Muslims who refuse to acknowledge that the extremists have millions of sympathizers and supporters around the world.
Bending over backwards to assuage the feelings of people who refuse to face uncomfortable truths is not a path to victory. The sooner we have a president who realizes that, the more effective we will be in combating Islamic extremism.
Brian Williams is not long for the NBC anchor chair. The network has initiated two different investigations into some of the claims made on air by Williams over the past years.
One investigation, headed up by Richard Esposito, chief of the network’s investigative reporting unit, will look at the journalist’s claims of being shot down in Iraq in 2003. And there will be a task force that examines other statements made on air by Williams that have been called into question since he admitted “misremembering” what happened in Iraq.
The scandal has left the reporters and producers who work with Williams “shocked, furious and sad.” And they fear that the reputation of an anchor many considered “the most trusted name in news” has been wrecked, the sources said.
“Williams has no friends at the network,” one source said. “He has no one defending him. There’s so much internal anger at NBC over what he has done and how it all went done.”
Williams made no mention of the swirling controversy in his Friday newscast and sources said he continues to man the chair because NBC has not groomed anyone to succeed him.
Lester Holt is considered “more of a cable guy,” they said. And the other option would be replacing him on an interim basis with “Today” show hosts Matt Lauer or Savannah Guthrie.
n a statement released Friday after The News broke the story about the investigation, NBC News honcho Deborah Turness said Williams has apologized again to staffers and “specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.”
While Turness appears to be standing behind the $10 million-a-year star, media watchers said it could be anchor away if the fibbing fallout continues to tarnish the company brand.
“This could be a career-killer for him,” said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, which covers the news media and talk radio. “Here’s another highly exalted public figure being brought down and exposed as human.”
This goes beyond just Williams’ fables about his experience in the Iraq War. The New Orleans Advocate is reporting on some of the statements made by Williams over the years about what conditions were like during Hurrican Katrina — including his contention that he got dysentery from accidentally ingesting flood waters and that gangs overran his hotel.
The latest questions surround Williams’ story of rescuing one or two puppies from a burning house when he was serving as a volunteer firefighter in his youth:
As attention now centers on the many things Brian Williams has reported over his years at NBC, a new story just emerged that stretches the bounds of believability. Writing in USA Today in 2011, the anchor of “Nightly News,” talked about his days as a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey. And shares one episode of modest heroism:
My firehouse was a modest engine company — three engines, three garage doors and about 30 of the best men I’ve ever known. We fought all the usual fires that break out in the suburbs: brush fires, car fires, dumpsters, dryers, light fixtures — and worst of all, the occasional house, already in flames when we arrived. I remember one such house fire — the structure was fully involved with flames and smoke. I was wearing a breathing apparatus, conducting a search on my hands and knees, when I felt something warm, squishy and furry on the floor of a closet. I instinctively tucked it in my coat. When I got outside, I saw two small eyes staring up at me, and I returned the 3-week-old (and very scared) puppy to its grateful owners.
Is that standard protocol for firefighters? To just aimlessly crawl around the floor of a home burning up in flames, in the off-chance you might stumble upon something? He “instinctively” grabbed the “warm, squishy and furry” object despite not knowing what it was?
Even more curious is his earlier version of this same story. Talking to Esquire in 2005, Williams boasted, “All I ever did as a volunteer fireman was once save two puppies.” Note that he didn’t say “save two puppies,” which could have meant saving an individual puppy on two occasions. He clearly says this happened “once.”
Which has us wondering if it ever happened at all.
How heroic! Too bad he can’t keep his story straight.
We all embellish or exaggerate stories we tell. But Williams has to be cognizant of his unique — and highly paid – role as a public figure. He can’t have been oblivious to the impact these falsehoods would have on his reputation as a trusted newsman. In his supreme arrogance, he apparently just didn’t care.
Dan Rather, the fabulous fabulist who helped propel the blogosphere into the national limelight, is coming to the defense of NBC’s embattled semi-news anchor Brian Williams.
Williams is hanging by a thread at NBC following the revelation that his war story about being shot down in Iraq was a lie. Rather, who was eventually let go by CBS because his hit piece against President George Bush was found to be a fabrication, came to the anchor’s defense with stirring words of support: He said of Williams that he was”an honest, decent man, an excellent reporter and anchor–and a brave one.”
Forgive me, but isn’t this sort of like Bonnie and Clyde coming to the defense of Willie Sutton? Or Saddam Hussein getting a shout-out by Bashar Assad?
Rather’s note of support comes after the revelation that Williams falsely claimed to have been aboard a helicopter that was shot down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Williams admitted Wednesday that he was on a different helicopter, and apologized to viewers and crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment.
Like Williams, Rather has been the subject of public controversy. In 2004, he was forced to retract a report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service after the authenticity of his source documents were called into question. Rather retired from CBS News the following year, ending a 24-year run as anchor of the Evening News. He now anchors “Dan Rather Reports” on the cable channel AXS.
“I don’t know the particulars about that day in Iraq,” Rather told POLITICO. “I do know Brian. He’s a longtime friend and we have been in a number of war zones and on the same battlefields, competing but together. Brian is an honest, decent man, an excellent reporter and anchor–and a brave one. I can attest that — like his predecessor Tom Brokaw — he is a superb pro, and a gutsy one.”
Williams’ error has led to much news coverage — from The New York Times to Fox News and CNN — and much industry speculation about the newsman’s future. Many believe Williams is due to meet Rather’s fate, while others argue that he will survive the scandal, albeit with a tainted legacy. Williams has served as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News” since 2004, and is one of broadcast’s most charismatic and beloved personalities.
“[I]t all depends on how much is mobilized against him and how contrite and forthcoming he is in response to it,” Andrew Tyndall, the television news analyst, told The Daily Beast this week. “This is not fatal, but it’s really bad.”
Not fatal, huh? Williams, who still implies that he hasn’t been lying for 12 years about the incident but that he just recently misremembered what happened, needs to have a sit-down with someone of impeccable credentials — at least among liberals.
And I can think of no better interviewer to get Williams’ butt out of the wringer than that hybrid journalist/gossip monger Barbara Walters. Walters will bring out the kleenex and both of them can have a good cry about it. They can weep for the soldiers. They can bawl about how much Williams is sorry for his “mistake.” The can blubber over how awful it is that this one, teensy, tiny thing might ruin the career of the greatest journalist since…since…Barbara Walters?
But the truth? Not in a million years. Williams can’t get in front of a TV audience and say he made the whole thing up because he wanted to be thought of as a he-man, or a guts-and-glory war correspondent, or maybe simply because he desperately wanted people to love and admire him.
Williams can’t afford to do that because then it would make him look impossibly ordinary. And TV news anchors cannot be seen as ordinary. They are the popes of the airwaves. They sit in judgment on the affairs of state and the state of the world and when they speak, it is the voice of supreme authority. Vox populi, vox news anchor.
The guy makes a reported $10 million a year because…because…well, just because. There is nothing ordinary about that sum, nor can their be anything ordinary about the man who makes it.
At this point, every time Williams opens his mouth, he damages himself further. No doubt NBC wants to keep him. But my guess is negotiations are already underway to pay him off and let him ride into the sunset.
Is there a “Dan and Brian” show in the cards? Stay tuned.
Fox News has posted a 22 minute video made by Islamic State showing the execution of Jordanian air force pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh.
It is the only American media outlet to host the video.
In a statement, the network justified posting the video by saying, “After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FoxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video.” Fox points out that playing the video online is entirely up to the viewer.
Is Fox playing into the hands of the terrorists who want the video to be seen by as many people as possible? Some terrorism experts think so.
Malcolm Nance, the executive director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology thinktank and an expert on counter-terrorism and radical extremism told the Guardian that by posting the video Fox News was propagating “exactly what Isis wants to propagate”.
“The whole value of terror is using the media to spread terror,” he said.
Rick Nelson, a senior associate in homeland security and terrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that posting the video actually empowers Isis.
“They’re a terror organisation,” he said. “They seek to strike terror in the hearts and minds of people globally, and by perpetuating these videos and putting them out there into the internet, it certainly expands the audience and potential effects.”
“These groups need a platform, and this gives them a platform,” he added.
Nance told the Guardian that showing the video would also further endanger other hostages, including the 26-year-old American aid worker currently held by the militant group.
“[Fox News] are literally – literally – working for al-Qaida and Isis’s media arm,” he added.
“They might as well start sending them royalty checks.”
PJ Media will not embed the video on our site, but I have linked to it here. WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC VIDEO.
I’m sure that many will not want to click through and watch the video. Shep Smith of Fox News watched it and described it in minute detail for viewers.
Smith explains why he thinks it important that viewers be informed about the video:
We’re not going to show you the video, obviously. It’s 23 minutes, plus that video and it shows the terrorists burning a Jordanian military hero alive. I’m going to tell you about it, all of it, every bit of it. I watched it over the last hour, not because I wanted to. I absolutely did not. I watched it because I felt like those of you who want to know what’s going on, but don’t want to watch it or be subjected to some sort of gruesome descriptive adjectives, can get the information.
I was expecting some sort of amateur-hour production like al-Qaeda used to produce — static, bad sound, blurry picture, and laughably amateurish graphics. Instead, the video is Hollywood worthy. Every aspect of it is professional. Impressive graphics, quick cut edits that build pace, and sophisticated sound combine to make a frighteningly slick video.
The execution is only about a third of the video. The rest of the Arabic language production contains stills of wounded men, women, and children, and an indictment of sorts of President Obama and other Middle East leaders.
The execution was stage-managed expertly. The sequence opens with Kasebeh walking alone through some ruins, looking bewildered as he approaches IS fighters in two lines, in uniform, with their faces identically wrapped and standing stock still. It is an impressive sight.
The scene cuts to Kasebeh in a cage, his orange prison jumpsuit drenched in some liquid — presumably gasoline. The Islamic State executioner lights a torch and applies it to a gasoline fuse that slowly makes its way to the cage.
Kasebeh experienced 27 seconds of horrific anguish and pain before falling to his knees.
Are those experts above right? Does posting the video actually help the terrorists? Or by showing the unthinkable death of Mr. Kasebeh, is there propaganda value for our side, too?
It’s hard to put into words how barbaric these people are. But watching a few minutes of this video says more about the enemy than a thousand blog posts or newspaper articles. If the price we have to pay for informing the American people and bringing home the kind of war we are fighting and the kind of animals we are fighting against is the price of a few IS recruits being swayed by the propaganda, it very well may be worth it.
Once upon a time, not too very long ago, monsters roamed unchecked across the land, ravaging towns and villages, leaving death and agonizing heartbreak in their wake.
They were pestilence incarnate. Mumps, measles, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and varicella (chickenpox)
They attacked without warning and without mercy. Unseen, they stalked their victims with piteous and relentless ferocity. There was no discrimination in their attacks. Rich or poor, farmer or factory worker, master or servant, black, white, brown, red, yellow — all were equally targeted.
What made the monsters especially hideous was that the bulk of their victims were small children. Parents despaired of their child’s health. Every cough or sniffle brought agonizing questions: Is it polio? A low grade fever forced the demons of the imagination to conjure up visions of their loved one suffering from measles, mumps, rubella, or any of the other childhood killers from which humans were not immune and for which we had no protection.
The monsters were eventually cornered and neutralized. And it took legions of dedicated scientists, researchers and volunteers to work the miracle and virtually remove the scourge of childhood disease from much of the planet.
Vaccinations can seem like magic, which is perhaps one reason the anti-vaccination crowd distrusts them so. But the proof of their success is beyond any doubt, as this article in Reason Magazine shows:
Vaccines are among the most effective health care innovations ever devised. A November 2013 New England Journal of Medicine article, drawing on the University of Pittsburgh’s Project Tycho database of infectious disease statistics since 1888, concluded that vaccinations since 1924 have prevented 103 million cases of polio, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and pertussis. They have played a substantial role in greatly reducing death and hospitalization rates, as well as the sheer unpleasantness of being hobbled by disease.
A 2007 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the annual average number of cases and resulting deaths of various diseases before the advent of vaccines to those occurring in 2006. Before an effective diphtheria vaccine was developed in the 1930s, for example, the disease infected about 21,000 people in the United States each year, killing 1,800. By 2006 both numbers were zero. Polio, too, went from deadly (16,000 cases, 1,900 deaths) to non-existent after vaccines were rolled out in the 1950s and 1960s. Chickenpox used to infect 4 million kids a year, hospitalize 11,000, and kill 105; within a decade of a vaccine being rolled out in the mid-1990s, infections had dropped to 600,000, resulting in 1,276 hospitalizations and 19 deaths. Similar dramatic results can be found with whooping cough, measles, rubella, and more.
And deaths don’t tell the whole story. In the case of rubella, which went from infecting 48,000 people and killing 17 per year, to infecting just 17 and killing zero, there were damaging pass-on effects that no longer exist. Some 2,160 infants born to mothers infected by others were afflicted with congenital rubella syndrome-causing deafness, cloudy corneas, damaged hearts, and stunted intellects-as late as 1965. In 2006 that number was one.
It is certainly true that much of the decline in infectious disease mortality has occurred as a result of improved sanitation and water chlorination. A 2004 study by the Harvard University economist David Cutler and the National Bureau of Economic Research economist Grant Miller estimated that the provision of clean water “was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction.” Providing clean water and pasteurized milk resulted in a steep decline in deadly waterborne infectious diseases. Improved nutrition also reduced mortality rates, enabling infants, children, and adults to fight off diseases that would have more likely killed their malnourished ancestors. But it is a simple fact that vaccines are the most effective tool yet devised for preventing contagious airborne diseases.
Those born after vaccinations became a routine part of a child’s health may find it difficult to grasp the panic and anxiety that afflicted parents prior to a mass immunization program. The fear was palpable when word of mouth news would reach them of a neighbor child struck down with polio. My mother told stories of her nightmares about her children catching the disease and routinely thanked God for Jonas Salk, who developed the first effective polio vaccine in 1956 (the more effective oral vaccine was created by Albert Sabin in 1962). Perhaps more than anything else, vaccines gave parents a peace of mind that was unheard of prior to the development of immunizations.
Vaccinations virtually wiped out these diseases — until paranoid quack science advocates, who fear science as the ancients feared dragons and magic, began their insidious campaign to convince gullible parents that their children were more at risk from vaccinations than they were from the diseases the vaccines were created to destroy. Of their arguments, all that should be said is that they have been debunked several times over by government and university scientists, while no credible research from the other side has been able to dent their findings. Vaccines are not 100% safe and effective. But a child’s risk of dying from measles or mumps is several times higher than the risk of that child becoming ill or dying as a result of being immunized.
I hasten to add that there is a developing debate over whether all vaccines should be given to all children. This is an entirely separate issue from “opting out” of the vaccination program entirely. But the debate should be informed by science, not the rantings of paranoids who see conspiracy in the work debunking their theories — the hidden hand of Big Pharma and Big Government conspiring to line the pockets of giant corporations while putting their children at unnecessary risk. There are legitimate questions about the efficacy of all mandated vaccines and parents should take care to weigh all considerations — as they should do with all health issues relating to their children — before going ahead.
But I am despairing of those taken in by the anti-vax charlatans. I put them in the same category as 9/11 truthers and other conspiracy nuts — people who substitute facts for fancy, the truth for the comfortable lie. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of parents don’t listen to them and get their children vaccinated anyway. Those vaccinated aren’t 100% protected, as some immune-deficiency diseases make the vaccines ineffective. But given the fact that 99% of those immunized are protected, the small risk of an untoward reaction to the vaccine seems reasonable and acceptable.
To those who don’t immunize their children, I would devoutly wish you never have to see how much your paranoid fantasies have cost your own child.
He’s nothing if not consistent.
President Obama will release his ten year budget projection tomorrow that envisions budget deficits rising to $687 billion by 2025 while adding $6 trillion to the national debt. The White House will project a budget deficit of $474 billion for this fiscal year which is 2.5% of GDP. The deficit is supposed to increase but the percentage of the deficit relative to GDP is predicted to remain fairly stable.
This is a political document, not a serious economic statement. The Congressional Budget Office, which is not usually given to flights of political fancy, had an entirely different outlook on the next ten years of budgeting:
In CBO’s projections, outlays rise from a little more than 20 percent of GDP this year (which is about what federal spending has averaged over the past 50 years) to a little more than 22 percent in 2025. Four key factors underlie that increase:
The retirement of the baby-boom generation,
The expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance,
Increasing health care costs per beneficiary, and
Rising interest rates on federal debt.
Consequently, under current law, spending will grow faster than the economy for Social Security; the major health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies offered through insurance exchanges; and net interest costs. In contrast, mandatory spending other than that for Social Security and health care, as well as both defense and nondefense discretionary spending, will shrink relative to the size of the economy. By 2019, outlays in those three categories taken together will fall below the percentage of GDP they were from 1998 through 2001, when such spending was the lowest since at least 1940 (the earliest year for which comparable data have been reported).
Where the White House sees deficits rising gently through 2025, the CBO sees a massive increase in the deficit by 2025 with red ink climbing to more than $1 trillion.
The budget outlook by CBO envisions more than a trillion dollars in increased revenue by 2025 — every single dime spent by government and then some.
The New York Times explains why we needn’t worry about deficits or the national debt; they aren’t as important as income inequality:
The central question Mr. Obama’s budget will pose to Congress is this: Should Washington worry about what may be the defining economic issue of the era — the rising gap between the rich and everyone else — or should policy makers primarily seek to address a mountain of debt that the White House hopes to control but only marginally reduce as a share of the economy?
The president’s budget — thicker than a phone book in multiple volumes — will be just the starting point for that discussion with the newly elected Republican Congress, a document representing Mr. Obama’s aspirations, not the final word. Criticism of the president’s intentions arrived even before the budget was presented.
“We’re six years into the Obama economic policies, and he’s proposing more of the same, more tax increases that kill investment and jobs, and policies which are hardly aspirational,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in an interview this weekend.
The idea that these pinpricks will reduce the gap between rich and poor is a study in delusional thinking. It’s political chicanery. The gap is so massive that only out and out confiscation of wealth would make a dent in the gap. The president and liberals know this, which is why they don’t dare suggest it. Instead, they demagogue the issue and propose miniscule “solutions” that don’t even move a decimal point on the balance sheet.
And that’s if you believe income inequality is “the defining economic issue of the era” as the Times suggests. Rather than confiscate property, perhaps the president could concentrate on creating lots of high paying jobs so the Middle Class can recover the ground they’ve lost in the economy over these last three decades. Creating wealth is always preferable to stealing it, and the reason that liberals blanch at the thought of actually helping the Middle Class in ways that would empower them and give them dignity is that they have no faith in the capitalist system. The faith of their fathers and grandfathers in that system created the most astonishing engine for wealth and job creation in the history of human civilization. But that faith has been tossed aside by their offspring in favor of a redistributive philosophy that creates nothing, secures nothing, and cynically exploits class differences for political and financial gain.
The CBO’s projections take into account a modest rise in interest rates that the Fed is promising to begin later this year. But what if the increase in interest rates isn’t “modest”? What if inflation becomes a problem? Then both the CBO and Obama administration estimates for budget deficits go out the window and the cost to service the debt on a yearly basis will skyrocket.
No entitlement reform, no serious attempt to balance the budget, no end in sight to an ever-rising national debt — this is not serious governance. The president has prioritized the wrong issue and we will probably pay for it before too long.
The tease for this article by Emily Shire in the Daily Beast headlined “The Five Most Sexist Super Bowl Ads Ever” is revealing:
Sexism, misogyny, burgers and boobs. These Super Bowl ads are some of the worst in history.
Actually, no. And this becomes apparent early in the article as Shire tears into the “objectification” of women:
Super Bowl commercials generally serve as an irritating reminder to Americans feminists that somewhere on the to-do list below ensuring girls in Third World countries can safely get an education, we need to get corporations to stop depicting women as only sex objects, out-of-touch morons, or shrill mothers.
While the NFL’s disturbing and commendably nuanced domestic violence PSA encourages viewers to protect and support women, the commercials that fill the most coveted timeslot on the television calendar have historically objectified them and reinforced negative stereotypes. It’s unclear whether 2015’s full crop of Super Bowl commercials will be a welcome departure—could we possibly see a woman who doesn’t seem irrationally judgmental of her husband/boyfriend, doesn’t have Kate Upton’s body or a sexually obsequious demeanor?
There’s more than sufficient evidence to make even milquetoast feminists throw their hands in the air, but below are some of most egregious examples.
Are the ads “egregious” examples of female objectification? Or are they so over-the-top in portraying women as sex objects that they mock and parody that notion?
Or maybe, they do both.
There is oversensitivity to the issue of female objectification. A pretty face (or body) is sometimes exactly as it appears — a pretty face. There is nothing subtle about using sex to sell ads, but why does showing a scantily clad beautiful woman necessarily mean objectification? With that logic, we should put women in burqas and ban bikinis at the beach.
Sorry ladies, but if you can’t see how the raunch in this ad for Carl’s Jr. to be shown at this year’s Super Bowl doesn’t hilariously skewer how women are, indeed, sometimes objectified in our culture, then you are so besotted with ideological fanaticism that you’ve completely lost your sense of humor.
Similarly, this Miller Lite “Tastes Good/Less Filling” catfight commercial from 2003 takes male fantasies about two women going at it to ridiculous — and clever — lengths.
Other ads mentioned by Shire include the Danica Patrick/Jillian Michaels ad for GoDaddy.com where the PR flunkies convince both to do the ad naked. Not too obviously an objectification parody, huh?
And there’s a somewhat misogynistic ad for Chrysler — “Man’s Last Stand” — where a voice-over lists all the things the husband will do for his wife (put up the toilet seat, pick up underwear, etc.) in exchange for being able to buy a Charger.
Shire believes this is “stereotyping” women as “demanding, cruel, shrill creatures who suck the joy out of men’s lives—all for the purpose of selling cars.” Again, the listing of every cliched complaint by women against men is not meant as a serious critique of male cuckholdness. In fact, the list is so long and so obviously cliched that anyone who believes there is any kind of message in the spot — subliminal or otherwise — probably doesn’t laugh at anything even when they inhale nitrous oxide.
The last ad features Victoria’s Secret angel Adriana Lima getting all dolled up for Valentine’s Day date and suggesting flowers from Teleflora will lead to sex that night. Duh. Men have been giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and yachts to women for centuries hoping to get some that night. This one comes closest to objectifying Ms. Lima because of the suggestive way she got dressed for the date. But compared to porn magazines? Really, now.
Shire and her fanatical feminist sisters take these ads far too seriously. But that’s one of the problems with seeing the world through a prism of extreme ideology — you end up having the sense of humor of a marmoset.
There are clearly more subtle ads that objectify women. Most Calvin Klein ads fit that bill, as do those ridiculous Axe male beauty products commercials.
But there’s nothing subtle about the examples above. Perhaps Ms. Shire should relax, have a beer, and enjoy the game. I’m sure there are other issues far more pressing and important to women than complaining that advertisers use sex to sell their products.
I would love to play poker with this president. He’s predictable, he can’t bluff, and he’s got a major league tell; you know he’s lying when his mouth moves.
The president used his weekly radio address to tout his new spending package for FY 2016. To do so, he channeled Obi-Wan Kenobi:
You don’t need to look at our $18 Trillion national debt.
This isn’t the deficit you’re looking for.
You can go about your business without worrying about the deficit.
Move along. Move along.
Indeed, the president said we can “afford” that extra spending — despite the deficit still hovering at well over $400 billion.
It’s a Jedi mind trick. He’s not serious in a policy way about this proposal. He knows there isn’t a ghost of a chance in passing it. His purpose is to pick a fight with Republicans — not very ennobling of our president, but then, who ever accused the president of being anything close to noble?
“We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets,” Mr. Obama said Saturday, previewing his budget. “We can afford to make these investments. Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds — the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II.”
Deficits have indeed dropped considerably over the past several years, but the national debt continues to rise. It stood at $10.6 trillion when Mr. Obama came into office.
It now is over $18 trillion.
Meanwhile, Republicans are countering Mr. Obama’s message of so-called “middle-class economics” by pushing their own measures aimed at helping working families. House GOP leaders have proposed a plan to expand the 529 college savings accounts, which allow families to save for college and withdraw the money tax free.
The White House had sought to tax 529s but withdrew the plan after heavy public criticism and private pressure from prominent Democrats.
“It was a terribly misguided idea, but it took a public outcry for the president to realize it … But with hardworking families struggling, abandoning his proposal is not enough,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Kansas Republican, said in the weekly GOP address. “First, the president should put his full weight behind our plan to expand and strengthen 529 accounts. We can remove common paperwork problems, empower students to use the money to pay for computers, and make it easier for families to send their kids to the college of their choice. Because we should be rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules — not punishing them.”
Ms. Jenkins also urged the president to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. A measure approving the project cleared the Senate this week but Mr. Obama has vowed to veto it.
It should be noted that just about all of the reduction in the deficit has come about because of increased economic activity over the last 2 years. The American economy is quite resilient and even with the regulatory and fiscal burdens placed on it by this administration, the recovery has added tens of billions in revenue to federal coffers.
Of course, this only encourages liberals to spend the windfall. If the president truly wanted to help the Middle Class, he would cut spending to pay for his tax schemes, rather than raise taxes for some in order to cut taxes for others.
With the 529 tax proposal removed from the spending package, there is no way the White House can claim that the spending will be revenue neutral. This is reason enough to ignore the president’s proposals while the GOP advances a few of their own ideas.
A Japanese man held by Islamic State has been executed, according to an online video release from a media source that terrorists have used in the past.
The headless body of journalist Kenji Goto was displayed in a short video which was accompanied by English language commentary from “Jihadi John,” a British terrorist who has appeared in several of the execution videos.
The Japanese had been locked in desperate negotiations with the terrorists, hoping that they would accept a prisoner exchange of an Iraqi female terrorist held by Jordan for Goto and a Jordanian air force pilot shot down in December. But the Jordanians wouldn’t release the woman until they had proof of life for their pilot and a guarantee that he and Goto would be released. They received neither from Islamic State.
“We are deeply saddened by this despicable and horrendous act of terrorism and we denounce it in the strongest terms,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo, according to broadcaster NHK. “To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act.”
He said that Japan will continue to provide monetary aid to countries affected by the bloody fight against ISIS.
The video opens with a black slate that reads, “A Message to Japan.” The video then shows a kneeling Goto wearing an orange outfit. The man known as “Jihadi John” is standing behind him.
The terrorist speaks while holding a knife in his left hand.
“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin,” the man says.
The video cuts to black as the militant puts the knife to Goto’s throat. It then shows the apparent result of the decapitation. It’s not clear who conducted the apparent killing.
The knife-wielding masked man with a London accent, nicknamed “Jihadi John,” has issued threats and overseen the beheadings of other captives. He has appeared in at least six videos with hostages.
The fate of a Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS in Syria, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, was unclear. He is not mentioned in the video.
ISIS had been demanding that Jordan exchange a convicted terrorist, Sajida al-Rishawi, for the pilot. If there was no swap, ISIS said it would kill al-Kaseasbeh first, then Goto.
There was a lot of self restraint shown in Japanese media during the hostage crisis, which is typical in a society that values other people’s feelings so highly:
The restraint shown by broadcasters and other media during the unfolding hostage drama has spilled over into politics as opposition lawmakers, mindful of the crisis, toned down their criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team. When dozens of lawmakers appeared in their traditional kimonos this week to mark the opening of the annual session, they were attacked on blogs and social networks for looking too festive and insensitive.
The hostage crisis broke out on Jan. 20, with the release of an online video showing the two hostages with a black masked man wielding a knife, demanding $200 million ransom in exchange for their lives.
Not wanting to be seen as insensitive — a huge faux pas in a society that holds consideration for others in high esteem — Japanese broadcasters quickly screened out any buzzwords and related images, all in the name of “jishuku,” or self-imposed control.
In the latest example of self-censorship, a production team for an animation comedy “Detective Opera Milky Holmes TD” said Friday that it has decided to suspend its fifth episode for being “inappropriate.” The episode was entitled “Carol’s ransom.”
The popular male pop group KAT-TUN was supposed to sing its new song “Dead or Alive” on TV Asahi’s Music Station show on Jan. 23, but instead performed “White Lovers.” Another band, “Ling tosite sigure,” altered lyrics that included the words “knife” and “blood.”
Would that western media outlets were at least partly as restrained.
No one knows how many more hostages are held by Islamic State, but it’s a safe bet that future execution dramas will be even more drawn out and agonizing. IS has developed a taste for teasing the western media with the possibility that the hostage will return home safe and sound, only to brutally behead them. The end result is giving the terrorist exactly what they want: a platform to recruit new members while making the western powers look impotent.
Fearing outrage on the part of taxpayers who are flummoxed by the Obamacare tax rules, the Obama administration will once again seek to change the law to protect their political arses.
Up to 20 million taxpayers are already exempt from the Obamacare penalty for not carrying mandated health insurance. They include low-income taxpayers living in states that did not expand Medicaid and those with hardship exemptions like a death in the family or divorce.
But for the estimated 8 million taxpayers who are expected to be charged the penalty, there is no relief. These are the people who are likely to get an unwelcome communication from the IRS in the mail informing them that the penalty will be deducted from their refund or that they owe the IRS.
There are also expected to be 3-4.5 million taxpayers who owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies. This explanation from Timothy Jost, health care expert, is the stuff of nightmares:
Timothy S. Jost, an expert on health law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who supports the Affordable Care Act, said: “It will be very easy to find people who are unhappy with the new tax obligations — people who have to pay a penalty, who have to wait forever to get through to somebody at the I.R.S. or have to pay back a lot of money because of overpayments of premium tax credits.”
Taxpayers normally report income and compute taxes annually. But the health care law is different. Consumers may be subject to tax penalties for any month in which they had neither insurance coverage nor an exemption.
The calculations will be relatively simple if all members of a household had coverage for every month of 2014. They can simply check a box on their tax return. But lower-income people often have changes in employment, income and insurance. If any members of a household were uninsured in 2014, they must fill out a work sheet showing coverage month by month, and they may owe penalties.
To claim tax credits, consumers need to fill out I.R.S. Form 8962, which includes a matrix with 12 rows and six columns — a total of 72 boxes, to compute subsidies for each month of the year.
Federal officials have authorized more than 30 types of exemptions from the penalty for not having insurance. One is available to low-income people who live in states that did not expand Medicaid. Another is available to people who would have to pay premiums amounting to more than 8 percent of their household income. The government will also allow a variety of hardship exemptions and in most cases will require taxpayers to send in documents as evidence of hardship.
And getting that exemption to avoid paying the penalty will be no picnic either:
Health plans are classified in five categories, such as gold, silver and bronze, based on how comprehensive the coverage is. To calculate their tax credits, consumers need to know the cost of their own health insurance policies, but must also know the cost of a benchmark plan, the second-lowest-cost silver plan. To claim an exemption if the available coverage was unaffordable, they also need to know the premium for the lowest-cost bronze plan in the area in 2014.
The only way to fix this is to scrap all 20,000 pages of IRS Obamacare regulations and start over using someone who has to fill out their own tax forms to write new ones. What a godsend to the tax prep companies! Millions of people will be unable to figure out what they owe or if they owe money to the IRS, driving them into the warm embrace of H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and other tax preparation companies.
How can anyone defend this? The complexity, the unilateral and capricious changes to the law in order to avoid political blowback, and the simple unfairness to all Americans who are subjected to this nightmare — what will it take to get people so enraged at this law that they demand that most of it be scrapped and the rest radically altered?
I am reminded, after watching the excellent, but flawed mini-series Sons of Liberty this past week, of something Sam Adams once wrote:
If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.
There was another green on blue attack in Afghanistan on Friday as a terrorist dressed in the uniform of the Afghan security forces gunned down three American civilian contractors and wounded one. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that the gunman was “martyred by return fire.”
An open and shut case of terrorism committed against Americans? Not according to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki:
The Obama administration continues to play verbal gymnastics by refusing to call the Taliban the terrorist organization it is, insisting it’s merely an “armed insurgency.”
And yet a 2002 executive order including the Taliban on a list of “specially designated global terrorists” is still in effect, Fox News reported.
After the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing three U.S. civilians Thursday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki shied away from calling their deaths the result of terrorism.
“Obviously, any attack that kills contractors, that kills individuals who are working there in harm’s way, is horrific and a tragedy, but I’m not going to put new labels on it today,” Psaki told CNS News.
It didn’t help the administration that the attack came one day after White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz insisted yet again that the Taliban is a not a terrorist group.
“I’m just not sure why you wouldn’t just say, ‘Of course, it’s a terrorist attack,’” Associated Press reporter Matt Lee told Psaki, according to CNS News.
“It’s an act of terror when American citizens are, individuals are killed, like contractors, absolutely,” she replied.
Can this dodge get any more painfully awkward?
As National Review points out, we are currently engaged in on-again, off-again peace talks with the Afghan Taliban — the “good” Taliban, as the administration coyly calls them. It just wouldn’t do for the US to be seen negotiating with terrorists. So we play a game of “pretend” and reject reality in favor of the semantic fig leaf of “armed insurgency.”
A serious question is who are we fooling with this nonsense? Certainly not the Taliban, who might not like being called “terrorists” but are smart enough to know our definition. They’re not fooling the Afghan government, who has to deal with these murderous thugs, and the aftermath of their suicide attacks that have killed hundreds. They’re not fooling the American people who know a terrorist when they see one.
It appears that the only ones being fooled by refusing to call a spade a spade and a terrorist a terrorist is the administration itself. If they can kid themselves into believing terrorists aren’t terrorists, they will believe anything, including the Muslim Brotherhood are “moderates,” Iran can bring stability to the Middle East, and Israel is an oppressor state.
Another example of our “smart” foreign policy in action.
With Mitt Romney out of the 2016 Republican presidential race, the left has switched targets and is now going full bore after the presumed front runner, Jeb Bush.
The line of attack hasn’t changed much since the 1950′s; the Republican frontrunner is always portrayed as stupid, or a hypocrite, or a rich dilettante, or unfit to be president in some other way. Every wart, every indiscretion — no matter how long ago it occurred — is resurrected in order to “explain” why a current candidate is too dangerous, or too unstable to occupy the highest office in the land.
Oppo research is one thing; all campaigns on both sides have extensive files on the opposition candidate. But in recent election cycles, we’ve seen a highly coordinated effort to define the Republican candidate early in the race by left wing pundits, publications, and columnists. First, it was the notorious “JournoList” email list that linked more than 150 liberal writers and politicos in efforts to smear the opposition and develop coherent themes and narratives to use in defense of their causes.
Today, “JournoList 2.0″ is apparently much smaller, more secretive, but apparently even more effective. Immediately following Mitt Romney’s withdrawal from the race, two articles appeared taking a bite out of Jeb Bush. First, from the Boston Globe, a profile of Jeb from his years at the exclusive boys boarding school, Phillips Academy in Andover, MA just outside of Boston:
“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.” As the rock group’s signature song, Magic Carpet Ride, blared from the speakers, Tibbetts said he smoked hash with Bush. He said he once bought hashish from Bush but stressed, in a follow-up e-mail, “Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash, it wasn’t as if he was a dealer; though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that 1st joint.”
Bush previously has acknowledged what he called his “stupid” and “wrong” use of marijuana. In the years since, he has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.
Tibbetts, who was eventually forced to leave Andover in the spring of 1970 after school officials accused him of using drugs, said his one regret about his relationship with Bush is that he agreed to participate with him in the bullying of a student in the dormitory. Their target was a short classmate whom they taunted, and then sewed his pajama bottoms so that they were impossible to put on. The act was particularly embarrassing, said Tibbetts, who said he felt remorse for joining in with “kids being cruel.”
Bush said in the interview that he has no recollection of this or other bullying incidents raised by classmates. He said he never viewed himself as a bully. “I don’t believe that is true,” he said, referring to classmates’ recollections of specific incidents. “It was 44 years ago and it is not possible for me to remember.”
Bush, who would eventually grow to nearly 6-foot-4, stood out as one of the tallest boys on campus, which made him admired by some and feared by others, according to Gregg Hamilton, who was at Pemberton Cottage with Bush. To Hamilton, who would weigh 98 pounds on graduation day, Bush was initially not a friendly presence.
“Jeb Bush was large, physically imposing, and traveled in a crowd that was I guess somewhat threatening to an outsider like myself. I saw him as a cigarette smoker and ‘toker’ and someone that was comfortable being in charge of a group,” Hamilton said. “I was small physically, and small at an all-male boarding school [that], at that time, was a bit of a hostile environment for the kids — sort of a ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation, at least as I saw it.”
Jeb, the pot smoking, hash toking, big, bad, savage bully. Oh, and he was a stuck up rich boy too:
Sylvester said “the thing that really struck me about Jeb more than anyone I ever met, is he understood that he was from the world that really counted and the rest of us weren’t. It really was quite a waste of his time to engage us. This was kind of his family high school. There wasn’t anything he could do to be kicked out so he was relaxed about rules, doing the work. This was just his family’s place.”
Not to be outdone, Politico is running a hit piece that tells the Terry Schiavo drama through the eyes of her husband Michael. The tag line for the article is revealing: “Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.”
Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.
“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”
“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”
And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”
What follows is about 7,000 words of anti-Jeb copy that portrays him as a power hungry, vindictive man who would obviously be a danger to liberty if he were elected president. But a lot of Bush’s actions in the Schiavo case were taken because of the unprecedented interference of outside groups looking to either pull the plug on the comatose woman, or save her life. It was impossible for Bush to remain on the sidelines and, after taking the side of the parents who believed Terry Schiavo should not be starved to death, he was committed to use all the powers of his office to protect the helpless.
Even many conservatives believed Bush went too far. Indeed, the autopsy revealed that Terry Schiavo’s brain damage was so extensive, that there was never a chance she would recover. But to describe his actions as “grasping for power” is to wildly overstate the case. And Michael Schiavo, one of the least lovable characters in this drama who clearly had an interest in seeing his wife dead, is hardly the best subject to use to comment on the behavior of the Florida governor.
We can expect many more of these hit pieces as the left seeks to tear down a dangerous opponent.
WOULD YOU BUY A USED CAR FROM THIS MAN?
Considering that he has given our enemy Iran 80% of what they want in negotiations that were supposed to curtail their nuclear enrichment program, you bet I would. The guy is a pushover and if I played my cards right, I might end up walking off the lot with a free car.
According to Channel 10 in Israel, Israeli officials believe that the American president is so desperate for a deal, he will give away the store — and American and Israeli security — in his quest to “make history” with the Iranians.
Israeli officials told Channel 10 on Friday that they are convinced the Obama administration has already agreed to most of Iran’s demands in the P5+1 negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
According to unnamed officials, Washington “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want” out of the negotiations, Channel 10 is reporting.
Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a “breakout capacity” of months during which it can gallop toward a nuclear bomb.
The practical significance of the American compromises in the talks is that Iran will be permitted to keep over 7,000 centrifuges, enough for the Iranians to produce enough enriched material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sense of urgency in traveling to Washington and addressing Congress in hopes of lobbying American lawmakers to pass tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu spoke to a number of Democratic lawmakers in Congress. The premier sought to assuage their concerns that the Israeli leader was using his speech before a joint session of the house in order to undermine Obama’s foreign policy.
Netanyahu’s scheduled speech sparked an uproar in Washington, with Democrats accusing House speaker John Boehner of inviting the premier to speak before Congress as a means of whipping up opposition to the Obama administration’s talks with Iran.
Sources in Jerusalem told Channel 10 that the prime minister views the Iranian nuclear issue as one of paramount importance for Israel’s security. The urgency of the matter – and not partisan politics – is what motivated Netanyahu to violate diplomatic protocol and accept the Republican leadership’s invitation to address the Congress on the need for more sanctions against Iran, Channel 10 quotes officials as saying.
After expressing due skepticism at the claim that the administration has tanked the negotiations and given the Iranians almost everything they want, we should look very closely at that 7,000 centrifuge number and understand exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is so concerned about.
As a courtesy, the administration has been updating the Israeli government on certain aspects of the negotiations. This is not to give the Israelis a veto, but rather allow them a heads up if they feel they have to respond to a changed situation.
The centrifuge question is of critical importance because Iran is on the verge of modernizing those machines that separate the U-238 and create low enriched uranium. The modernization program is what most concerns Netanyahu.
From an article on the Arms Control Association website:
This article therefore suggests that, during the next five years, Iran should modernize its enrichment facilities and in doing so, keep its operating capacity at about the current level rather than begin to operate the many thousands of first-generation machines that it already has installed and continue setting up more. During this period, Iran could phase out its first-generation machines in favor of the second-generation centrifuges it already has installed but has not yet operated. At the same time, it could develop, produce, and store components for a future generation of centrifuges that would be suitable for commercial-scale deployment. These later-generation centrifuges would not need to be assembled, except for test machines, until at least 2019.
To maintain the confidence of the international community that there will be no diversion of centrifuge components to a secret enrichment plant, the current transparency measures that Iran has undertaken for its centrifuge program would continue. These transparency measures should become the standard for transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.
Iran currently operates about 20,000 of these first generation centrifuges, which are relatively inefficient and unreliable. But the next generation machines would probably double the production capacity of their program — even with only 7,000 machines. As the Israelis point out, this would telescope the time frame for Iran to gear up to produce bomb grade uranium.
Netanyahu is hearing a lot of criticism from both US and Israeli officials for his planned speech to Congress in March. But perhaps he’s willing to sacrifice his standing because he knows instinctively that only a direct, emotional appeal to Israel’s friends in the US can avoid the catastrophic outcome of these one-sided negotiations.
The deadline has passed for the hostage exchange deal that would have seen a Jordanian air force pilot and Japanese hostage exchanged for an Iraqi female terrorist jailed in Jordan who Islamic State says they want freed.
The Jordanians have adopted a unique negotiating position — a position that puts the “hard” in “hard ball.”
Jordan has threatened to fast-track the execution of a would-be suicide bomber the Islamic State is trying to free if the terror group kills its captured pilot, it was reported today.
The government has apparently warned that Sajida al-Rishawi and other jailed ISIS commanders would be ‘quickly judged and sentenced’ in revenge for Muath al-Kaseasbeh’s death.
It comes after a deadline for a possible prisoner swap allegedly set by ISIS passed yesterday with no clue over the fate of al-Kaseasbeh or fellow Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.
Intelligence sources said ISIS’s refusal to prove that al-Kaseasbeh was alive meant any deal with the militants was doomed.
Now Jordan has reportedly stepped up its rhetoric by warning of its intent to retaliate if the negotiations end in bloodshed.
Elijah Magnier, chief international correspondent for Kuwait’s Al Rai newspaper, told MailOnline: ‘I have reliable contact in the Jordanian government who says a message has been passed to ISIS.
‘It warns that if they kill the pilot they will implement the death sentences for Sajida and other ISIS prisoners as soon as possible.
‘There are other prisoners in Jordan that ISIS would like to free.’
MailOnline has attempted to contact the Jordanian government for comment, but a spokesman has not yet responded.
Shortly after reports of the ultimatum emerged, Jordan issued a statement saying they were still waiting for proof that the captured F-16 pilot was still alive.
Jordan had agreed to an ISIS demand to free al-Rishawi who failed to fulfil her Al Qaeda mission as a suicide bomber.
In return, ISIS said it would not execute the 26-year-old pilot, who was seized in December after crashing near its HQ in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
In its latest audio recording, ISIS threatened to kill al-Kaseasbeh if a deadline was not kept for the release of al-Rishawi by dusk Iraq time yesterday – around 5.30pm (2.30pm GMT).
But it appeared to make no promises to release him, another condition the Jordanian government is demanding.
It was not clear from the recording what would happen to Mr Goto if the deadline was missed.
Jordan was correct in asking for proof of life before releasing a terrorist. But what about the threat to execute en masse IS terrorists if their pilot is, as expected, beheaded?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how a group that places such little value on human life caring about their comrades, who they have probably already given up for dead. Islamic State is dragging the situation out, getting maximum terror and maximum publicity for their miserable cause. If that cause can be served by asking for more concessions from Jordan or Japan, they will do it. If the cause can be served by making the Jordanian government appear to dance to their tune, they will continue to play the music.
But as soon as the hostages have no more value to them, they will make their gruesome execution video and laugh as the world is outraged at their barbarity once again.
Jordan may get emotional satisfaction in executing their IS prisoners. But as a negotiating strategy with Islamic State, nothing they do really matters.
Every year since 1995, the Heritage Foundation has published an Index of Economic Freedom that ranks every country in the world by how free their economy is.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The index measures commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating policies related to the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and market openness.”
The US ranking has been dropping since 2005, when we stood at #5 in the rankings and our score was high enough that we were designated a “free” economy. Since then — and especially in the 5 years of the Obama administration, the US has tumbled out of the top ten and our overall score has us designated as a “mostly free” economy. Our current ranking is 12th — same as it was last year.
This year, we saw a slight uptick in 7 of 10 indices, making this the first year since 2009 we haven’t lost any ground in economic freedom.
Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government. Continuing to trail such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, America has been ranked “mostly free” since 2010.
The anemic post-recession recovery has been characterized by slow growth, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of Americans seeking work, and great uncertainty that has held back investment. Increased tax and regulatory burdens, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, have undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth.
Part of the reason for the slight rise in our numbers is attributed by Heritage to the Republican Congress:
President Barack Obama’s second-term efforts to expand government spending and regulation have been thwarted to some extent by Republican Party opposition in Congress. Economic policy leadership has devolved by default to the Federal Reserve, whose attempts to use monetary policy to stimulate economic activity have not restored robust growth. Implementation of the 2010 health care law, which has reduced competition in most health insurance markets, remains a drag on job creation and full-time employment. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, despite a private sector–led energy boom that has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. The weak economic recovery and uncertain responses to foreign policy challenges, particularly in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and along the southern U.S. border, have contributed to a loss of support for the President and his party and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress as a result of 2014 midterm elections.
Compare the “Limited Government” index between the US and Hong Kong, who is ranked #1 in economic freedom:
The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent, and the top corporate tax rate remains among the world’s highest at 35 percent. Other taxes include a capital gains tax and excise taxes. Tax revenue is equal to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product, and government spending is well over one-third of GDP. Public debt exceeds the value of the economy’s annual production.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a low personal and business tax rates:
The standard income tax rate is 15 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 16.5 percent. The overall tax burden equals 13.7 percent of domestic income. Government expenditures amount to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product. Public debt is low, and a budget surplus has been maintained, but population aging and greater spending on social programs have increased fiscal pressures.
Here are the top ten most free and least free countries according to the Index:
1, Hong Kong
3. New Zealand
178. North Korea
173. Equatorial Guinea
170. Republic of Congo
Note the countries ahead of the US, including Estonia (?), Chile, Switzerland, and #11 Denmark. When democratic socialist peoples like the Swiss and Danes are freer economically than the US, you know something is radically out of kilter.
The rankings are a useful guide to approximating economic freedom. But there is not always a strong correlation between economic liberty and personal liberty. Hong Kong and Singapore are considered “partly free” by the Freedom House “Freedom in the World” rankings, with restrictions on the press and some draconian laws, like receiving lashes in Singapore for spitting.
Heritage points out that there have been 145 major regulations issued by the Obama administration, adding $70 billion to the economy’s regulatory tab — burdening business, reducing job creation, and slowing growth. It appears business growth will continue to be stifled until President Obama exits his office – two long years from now.
Miss USA, Nia Sanchez, came in second at the Miss Universe Pageant to the lovely Miss Colombia, and you have to wonder if her response to the question from judge Manny Pacquiao — a world class boxer who apparently absorbed a few too many blows to his head — had something to do with her failure to capture the top spot.
In this face-off between Pacquiao and Sanchez, it’s hard to figure out who gets the prize for having fewer working brain cells — the brain-damaged boxer or the empty-headed beauty queen.
Sanchez was asked by boxer Manny Pacquiao what her message to terrorists might be (admittedly a strange question), and Sanchez replied:
“I know as Miss USA I can always spread a message of hope and love and peace, and I would do my very best to spread that message to them and everyone else in the world.”
There must have been an audience full of punchy boxers and air-headed beauty contestants considering all the whooping and hollering they did after that weird and wonderful question and answer.
It is not sexist in the slightest to say that as beautiful as Miss USA truly is, she comes up a little short in intellectual gifts. After all, you can say the exact same thing about Matt Damon, once named by People as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”
Actors and beauty queens don’t have to rely on their intellectual prowess to succeed in life. Especially Miss Sanchez, who will make a gazillion dollars modelling clothes, perfume, and, we hope, swim suits.
As for her answer, spreading peace, love, and goodness even to terrorists is perfectly in keeping with liberal thinking on the terrorism problem. It’s not that these thugs are psychopathic, sadistic murderous cretins; it’s that they’re misunderstood. Give them good schools, Obamacare, and and a pocketful of coin, and they’d be just like you and me.
After all, we wiped out hunger in Africa by singing about it:
And look how peaceful the world got after we bought it a Coke:
All we have to do is “Imagine” a world without problems and it can happen.
The one constant in the universe is that no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary about the goodness in our fellow men, liberals will come up with some treacly, idiotic response that has rational people shaking their head in wonder.
President Obama was caught on camera chewing gum again. It’s either the president has this “man of the people,” working-class hero thing going, showing us what a regular guy he is (net worth: $12.2 million), or he gets major-league nic fits and can’t wait an hour or two until he can find a little more private space to either light up or chew his Nicorette.
Is Barack Obama a pack-a-day smoker? My expert analysis (I’ve been smoking for 45 years) of the president’s behavior indicates someone who is not “nicotine free” as his spokesman claims. If he was, he wouldn’t need a smoking-cessation aid at this point.
Obama emerged from his car chomping away on the gum. Couldn’t he have grabbed a quick butt in his armored car? That would have carried him over until the parade was over. Of course, he may be smoking on the sly, trying to keep his wife from knowing about his backsliding. But any non-smoker who lives with a smoker knows if their spouse has smoked in the last 24 hours. That smell just doesn’t go away.
So why try to fool the rest of us?
American media in past has commented about Obama’s habit of chewing gum while referring to his medical report, according to which the US president was in excellent health except for a minor problem of “history of smoking”.
But Obama was now “tobacco free” buoyed by the “occasional use” of “nicotine gum”, said a report in Washington Post.
I call bullcrap on that. Anyone who can’t go 2 or 3 hours without a nicotine crutch is still smoking. I guess we wouldn’t expect Obama to pull out a pack of Marlboro’s and light up in the middle of a formal ceremony — especially after he’s told the world he’s an ex-smoker. Besides, the last president to light up at formal gettogethers was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was never photographed without his elegant cigarette holder jammed between his teeth. LBJ smoked like a chimney but was rarely photographed doing so. Kennedy smoked cigarettes in private, but didn’t mind being photographed smoking a good cigar. There were several presidents who quit cigarette smoking before becoming president, including Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush.
So the question isn’t whether or not President Obama should light up in public. No one would approve of that. The question most of us are asking is, it any better to be seen chomping away on gum to assuage the pangs of nicotine withdrawal?
Some in India are asking the same question:
In an ungainly sight, cameras caught US President Brack Obama chewing gum during the Republic Day parade on Monday.
In the picture captured by cameras and posted on Twitter by some users, Obama was spotted removing his chewing gum while PM Modi was seen trying to explain something to the US president.
However, this is not the first time that Obama has been spotted chewing gum during an important function. Though there was a lot of commentary on social media on his chewing gum at a formal ceremony.
Comments on Twitter included remarks by author Shobhaa De, who said, “Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn’t gutka. But seriously – gum during a formal parade?”.
“Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?,” was how noted film-maker Shekhar Kapur reacted.
I sympathize with the president. Long airplane flights can be agony for me, so I feel his pain. But really, this is the president of the United States. He’s supposed to be better than the rest of us. It is a mystery to me why he can’t forgo the nicotine gum for a few hours while representing the majesty and dignity of his office, as well as the people of the U.S.
Otherwise, he demeans the presidency and makes the rest of us look like a bunch of ill-mannered louts.
The logic of the Greek voter escapes me. Their economy and debt spun out of control because of their reliance on runaway socialism. So, in order to fix it, they elect a party that promises…runaway socialism.
The radical socialist party Syriza has won a decisive victory in Greece today. They ran on a platform promising to end responsible spending, renege on their debt, and give all citizens the “dignity” of a free ride once again.
The adults have been overthrown and the children have been put back in charge.
Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza brushed aside Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s party to record a decisive victory in Greece’s elections, after riding a public backlash against years of budget cuts demanded by international creditors.
Tsipras’s Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its Greek acronym, took 36.5 percent compared with 27.7 percent for Samaras’s New Democracy in Sunday’s election, according to official projections. The far-right Golden Dawn placed third with 6.3 percent followed by To Potami, a potential Syriza coalition partner, with 5.9 percent.
While the projected victory was by a wider margin than polls predicted, it remains unclear whether Syriza will be able to govern alone. Even with a razor-thin majority or in a fragile coalition, the result still hands Tsipras, 40, a clear mandate to confront Greece’s program of austerity imposed in return for pledges of 240 billion euros ($269 billion) in aid since May 2010. The challenge for him now is to strike a balance between keeping his election pledges including a writedown of Greek debt and avoiding what Samaras repeatedly warned was the risk of an accidental exit from the euro.
“The Greek people punished New Democracy for governing in the petty manner of the old regime’s political parties,” Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, said by phone. “Most Greeks voting Syriza don’t expect a spectacular change but a marginal one. A marginal one would be significant for them.”
European policy makers including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Dutch counterpart, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warned Greece against diverting from its agreed bailout program. Finance ministers from the 19 countries that share the euro are due to discuss Greece when they meet in Brussels on Monday. Germany’s Finance Ministry said in a statement that Schaeuble’s position was unchanged after the result and “the agreements reached with Greece remain valid.”
How badly does the rest of Europe want Greece to remain in the eurozone? Not as much as 4 years ago when dire predictions of Armageddon were made if Greece defaulted. This time, the dominoes aren’t lined up so neatly. Spain, Portugal, and Ireland are doing better, and Italy is also on sounder fiscal footing.
The problem for Greece and her EU creditors is that any alteration through negotiations in the terms of the bailout will draw instant whines from Ireland, Spain, and Portugal for a similar restructuring. No doubt there would be a willingness to alter the bailout terms at the margins, but wholesale changes would be out of the question.
This is what Samaras meant when he spoke of an “accidental” exit from the EU for Greece. Tsipras’s actions may initiate another financial crisis that would see bond holders flee and ordinary Greeks running for the banks.
The markets assume that the risk of Greece exiting the euro is small, but officials close to the situation are not complacent. Some fear that the compromises required on both sides may prove too difficult.
These people believe that debt relief for Greece is now a political necessity. They argue that the eurozone can’t demand that Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras abandon his campaign promises and respect Greece’s existing commitments without offering something in return.
Indeed, some officials fear that the eurozone poses the bigger risk to a deal. It is not just rich Northern European countries such as Germany and Finland that are opposed to debt relief for Greece; so too are Eastern countries such as Slovakia and Estonia, whose citizens are less well off than those of Greece, and the governments of crisis countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland, whose leaders are paying a high political price for complying with the terms of their bailout programs.
There are risks whatever the eurozone does. Policy makers are privately in little doubt that failure to agree a deal with Greece would catastrophically destabilize the eurozone, playing into the hands of anti-EU fringe parties. But a deal that delivers Mr. Tsipras a big dividend for his years of opposition to reform and fiscal discipline in Greece risks sowing the seeds for future instability by undermining support for pro-reform governments.
Syriza’s victory is a warning for the rest of the EU. It is painfully obvious that the free citizens of Europe, when given the choice of doing what is right, but at a painful cost, and doing what is easy by listening to politicians who play on their emotions, will choose easy every time. It’s always more fun to be an irresponsible teenager than a responsible adult and the adolescents who will be running Greece will now be able to deliver their “radical” reform — a return to the good old days when no one cared about the budget deficit or how much debt they were piling up.
Always appearing on the verge of breaking up, the idea of a United Europe has survived every attempt to kill it over the last few decades. The next few months will show just how bulletproof the EU really is.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to the end of the world.
The clock now stands at three minutes to midnight — the closest it’s been to doomsday since 1984.
“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a news release. “These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board looks at global issues on a regular basis and decides whether to move the minute hand of the clock, with particular stress on the status of nuclear arms and reaction to climate issues.
In recent years, the clock has moved the wrong direction for humanity. After standing at 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 — the furthest it’s ever been from the end of the world — it’s gotten closer each time it’s been changed since, with the exception of 2010, when it was pushed back by one minute to 11:54 p.m.
The last time the clock was moved was in 2012, when it was moved up one minute to 11:55.
The scientists expressed disappointment at the latest developments.
Noting that nuclear trends are moving backwards, the Science and Security Board’s Sharon Squassoni pointed out that weapons modernization programs and disarmament have “ground to a halt.”
And action on climate change? “Efforts at reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient to prevent unacceptable climate disruption,” said the Bulletin’s Richard Somerville. “We all need to respond now, while there is still time.”
The Doomsday Clock was first put out in 1947. The closest the clock has been to midnight was in 1953, when it was set at 11:58 p.m.
Left unmentioned by the scientists is that the leadership of the United States is in the hands of a weak, bumbling, naive president whose policies over the last six years have led to a more dangerous, more unstable world. That might be worth a minute closer to doomsday alone.
In fact, smart, patient, and consistent leadership is far more important to the safety of the world than superficial agreements to cut nuclear arsenals. Few could argue that Vladimir Putin or any European leaders, much less President Obama, fits that profile of a steady, capable leader.
And climate change? Human civilization could end in an hour if there’s a significant nuclear exchange. But it will be a hundred years before global warming is at its peak, if you accept the modeling. The idea that we have to drastically alter our economy and civilization now in order to save ourselves is a guess and shouldn’t have any bearing on where the hands of the Doomsday Clock are positioned.
But what fun is that — especially when the competition for non-profit dollars is intense. Including global warming in calculations for the Doomsday Clock is political, not scientific.
But then, the scientists have always been political. In 1984, they made this assessment of the relationship between the U.S. and Soviet Union:
In 1984, as the United States began a major defense build-up that included the pursuit of a potentially destabilizing ballistic missile defense system, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union reached an icy nadir. “Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda,” the Bulletin wrote then, in explaining why the hands of the Doomsday Clock had been moved to three minutes to midnight, the closest they had been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing.
The U.S. did not “begin” a defense buildup in 1984. By that time, it was well underway, having begun under Jimmy Carter in FY 1978.
And the reason arms-control negotiations were going nowhere was because the Soviet Union walked out of SALT talks because the U.S. would not agree to shelve its plans to deploy Pershing missiles in Europe. All the “propaganda” was coming from the Soviets.
The Doomsday Clock has always been a useful tool for the left to hit Republican administrations with. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, today with the clock sitting at the closest to midnight in 30 years, that there wouldn’t be a whisper of criticism directed at President Obama.
Islamic State has apparently executed one of the Japanese hostages the terror group was holding, according to a video posted online showing the second hostage holding a picture of the other prisoner’s severed head.
ISIS is now demanding an exchange of prisoners for the other hostages life — a Jordanian woman who was convicted of assisting in a terrorist attack against several hotels in 2005.
The static image, shown in a video file posted by a known ISIS supporter, shows surviving Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, alone, in handcuffs and dressed in orange, holding a photo of what appears to be beheaded compatriot Haruna Yukawa.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that the video is “highly credible.” U.S. authorities said they had no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the killing was “abominable” and “unforgivable,” demanding the immediate release of Goto.
NHK also reported comments from Yukawa’s father.
“I still don’t want to believe it,” Shoichi Yukawa said, his face not shown in the report. “If I can see him again, I’d like to hold him in my arms.”
Saturday’s posting, came four days after an ISIS video demanded that the Japanese government pay $200 million within 72 hours for the two hostages’ release.
In the video released Saturday, the voice of a person claiming to be Goto says in English that Abe is to blame for Yukawa’s death.
“You were given a deadline,” he says.
The voice then relays the apparent new demand from ISIS — the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman arrested in Jordan in 2005 on suspicion of trying to take part in an attack in which others killed dozens at Jordanian hotels.
“They no longer want money, so you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists,” the voice says. “They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abe talked by phone on Saturday, according Jordanian state news agency Petra.
The news agency did not detail what the two discussed beyond saying they “reviewed the latest developments in the Middle East.”
Will Abdullah help? It appears that ISIS carefully chose the subject for its prisoner swap. Sajida al-Rishaw is a failed suicide bomber who took part in a horrific series of attacks on 3 major hotels in Amman, Jordan in 2005. Her husband was one of the attackers killed when his explosives belt blew up.
Most significantly, according to Jordanian authorities, she is also thought to be a sister of a close aide to the deceased leader of the forerunner to ISIS, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed during the war but many of his aides survived to create Islamic State.
The 2005 attacks in Amman killed 60 people, so it’s doubtful King Abdullah would let such a dangerous person go. There was no deadline set in this latest message, but if Abdullah, as expected, denies the request of ISIS for the swap, Mr. Goto’s days will be numbered.
Mediaite has an account of a segment on Bill Maher’s Real Time where the film American Sniper was discussed. Maher complained of a lack of nuance in the film:
The controversy over American Sniper made its way into tonight’s Real Time, where Bill Maher took issue mainly with the real Chris Kyle being framed as some kind of “psychopath patriot” that everyone can easily get behind. Maher brought up Kyle’s quote about killing “savages” over in Iraq and getting a kick out of it, and Maher couldn’t help but ask why a decent Christian person would speak of anyone in that way.
Maher felt American Sniper painted a very easy black-and-white picture of good versus evil instead of presenting a more complex story. Bret Stephens shot back that Maher missed the point of the film, which was about what soldiers and veterans go through, and that the “savages” line was not about all Iraqis, but about the horrid, murderous ones.
Comedian Bill Burr also told Maher, “You can’t sum up a man by one quote taken out of context.”
Maher still thought the lack of subtlety and the very obvious “we’re good, they’re bad” message was troubling. He did admit, though, there is slightly more ambiguity in the movie than there was in Kyle’s book.
Note that Howard Dean actually believes that the only people seeing the film are Tea Party members. And I felt sorry for Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal columnist and author of the book America in Retreat. He kept trying to shed some light on the subtlety of the film, an effort that fell on deaf ears for the most part.
It’s clear that the film has touched something deep within the American psyche and that this scares the hell out of liberals. Tapping into a wellspring of patriotism and American exceptionalism threatens the left like no other cultural or political phenomena has in recent memory. It cancels most of their narrative that belittles America and taints anyone who demonstrates any outward manifestation of patriotism.
Because, of course — you have to be a psychopath to be a patriot.
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has fueled speculation that she is seriously considering a run for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Palin told the Washington Post, “You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested” in running for president. She also told ABC News earlier in the week, “Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested.”
When asked about the familiar names already popping up in the potential GOP primary, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, neither of whom will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee quipped, “I can’t wait for new energy.” She added there had “better be a competition and not a coronation,” making it clear she thinks that’s the only way Republicans can beat Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state emerges as the Democratic nominee.
“Big competition, and that competition in the GOP … will surface that candidate who can take on Hillary, be ready for Hillary and show the nation what it is going to take to get the country back on the right track — because we can’t afford status quo, because status quo lately has been Latin for, ‘We are getting screwed,’ and status quo has got to go,” she said.
As for who she wants to see as that “right candidate,” she described the person as someone who will “turn things around, someone who will, in some respects, I don’t know, maybe be considered a bit avant garde, to the establishment anyway, because this next person has got to realize this is war, this is war for our hunters’ future.
“I want to help find that candidate that realizes that [their standing in the next election is] not what matters, that’s not what is at stake,” Palin said. “What’s at stake is our children and our grandchildren’s future.”
Palin sounds like a candidate to me. And she’s teeing off on Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, implying that their establishmentarianism is no better than the status quo — a potent theme that will resonate with the conservative base.
She also implies that Bush/Romney aren’t strong enough to get in the trenches with Hillary and the Clinton machine to duke it out. She certainly describes herself when she says she thinks the GOP candidate should be “considered a bit avante garde.” In fact, the way she describes the ideal candidate is like she’s looking in a mirror.
There is no GOP candidate with a more enthusiastic, loyal base of supporters. But there is also no GOP candidate whose numbers are more underwater and who carries as much baggage as Sarah Palin.
A recent CBS Poll told the story. Even Chris Christie’s numbers are better.
Only 29 percent say they’d like to see Christie launch a bid, while 44 percent say otherwise. (Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.)
Allahpundit recently penned an interesting post at Hot Air regarding the path to the nomination open for Marco Rubio. He suggested the odds favoring Rubio are long and there didn’t appear to be a viable road that the Florida senator could take to win the GOP nomination.
The same might be said of Palin. Enthusiastic as her supporters may be, there simply aren’t enough of them. She has improved her standing within the Republican Party thanks to her high-profile support of several successful candidates, but her numbers are still lousy with independents. And while a wide open field suggests someone with support in the low to high teens may be able to compete for the nomination for a while, once the field is winnowed out, it’s hard to see where Palin would get additional support.
But Palin may have other reasons for running, including denying Romney and Bush a cakewalk to the nomination. Her favorability ratings may be a liability, but her name recognition is far better than any other conservative candidate. Her entrance in the race would be a wild card that could peel off support from both establishment and conservative candidates alike.
If Palin was floating a trial balloon to gauge reaction to her possible candidacy, it was certainly a success with her supporters. However, motivating her base is the easy part. Lining up donors, creating an organization, and fielding a staff is the hard part. And that has yet to come.
I went to college 40 years too early.
If you peruse the syllabi of many college courses today, you could easily load up on classes where you were guaranteed an “A” as long as you showed up fairly often and had the proper “attitude” toward the white, male “patriarchy.”
In other words, if you are even halfway creative at trashing white people — white males in particular — your chances of acing a course are excellent.
If they offered some of these courses when I was in college, I’d have graduated summa cum laude.
Today’s outrageous violation of common sense and high educational standards comes to us via Campus Reform, which discovered a course on the “problem of whiteness” at Arizona State University.
At Arizona State University (ASU), students can now learn about the “problem of whiteness” in America.
The public university is offering an English class to its students this semester called “Studies in American Literature/Culture: U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness.”
According to the class description on ASU’s website, students will be reading The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, Critical Race Theory, Everyday Language of White Racism, Playing in the Dark, and The Alchemy of Race and Rights.
At time of publication, 18 students were enrolled in the course offered at ASU’s Tempe campus. Students can receive three credits for successfully completing the course.
The class syllabus is not available online.
“I think it shows the significant double standard of higher education institutions,” James Malone, a junior economics major, told Campus Reform. “They would never allow a class talking about the problem of ‘blackness.’ And if they did, there would be an uproar about it. But you can certainly harass people for their apparent whiteness.”
The course, first reported by the Pundit Press, is taught by Lee Bebout, an assistant professor of English at ASU. According to his faculty page, critical race theory is one of his research interests.
Bebout, who is white, has previously taught classes titled “Transborder Chicano Literature,” “Adv Studies Theory/Criticism,” and “American Ethnic Literature,” among others.
I would recommend, if you were to take this course, not to bring your critical thinking skills into the classroom with you. Your head might explode from all the contradictions.
I will note that Arizona State is not known for its academic achievement or list of scholars. It is, however, known as one of the top ten party schools in America.
So, before you start knocking back those Jagermeister jello shots, just remember to check your whiteness at the door. How can you have a good time unless you realize the “problem” with your whiteness? You might also leave your gonads with someone you trust. Wouldn’t want to accidentally be accused of sexual harassment — or worse — by asking some comely lass where she got that lovely sweater. Not only would you be hauled into court for your insensitivity to members of the female persuasion, but your whiteness would no doubt be thrown in your face as your conduct identifies you as a member of the white patriarchy, for which you should be sentenced to a million hours of community service — and no jello shots.
Legendary film director Martin Scorsese is a big Bill Clinton fan. In a 2012 statement announcing his intention to film a documentary on the 42nd president, Scorsese gushed that the film would “provide greater insight into this transcendent figure.”
Two years ago, he started to follow Clinton’s globetrotting, filming the ex-president in Africa and elsewhere doing good works, and representing the Clinton Foundation.
But after two years of work, Scorsese has shelved the project because of some outrageous demands by Bill Clinton. It seems that Clinton wanted to be able to approve interview questions in advance as well as have some control over the final cut of the film. This was too much even for a Clinton worshiper like Scorsese, who not only turned Clinton down, but has shut down production for the time being.
The New York Times explains why Clinton wanted so much control:
Clearly, the film carried the risk that an unflattering camera angle, unwelcome question or even an obvious omission by Mr. Scorsese would become a blemish to Mr. Clinton’s legacy or provide fodder for Clinton critics as the 2016 campaign approaches. Apparently to avoid such problems, people close to Mr. Clinton sought to approve questions he would be asked in the film, and went so far as to demand final cut, a privilege generally reserved for directors of Mr. Scorsese’s stature.
Mr. Scorsese’s camp rejected those suggestions and the project was shelved. The film now appears to be years away from completion.
Chelsea Clinton, who left her lucrative NBC News job in August and works closely with her father, was expected to figure in the documentary in some way, and some in the Clinton circle had speculated that she would be credited as a producer. But a spokesman for Ms. Clinton said any notion that she had sought to join the production was “categorically false.”
In recent months, Mr. Clinton’s team has shown increased discipline in keeping the former president on message ahead of his wife’s likely 2016 presidential campaign. Mrs. Clinton is expected to declare her candidacy sometime this spring.
The former president is often a strong asset for his wife, but Mr. Clinton also proved to be a liability during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary when he made comments about then-Senator Barack Obama that many interpreted as racially insensitive.
Other entertainment projects with the Clinton’s as subject matter are also mostly hung up or canceled:
While “Clinton the Musical,” a stage satire focused on Clinton administration scandals, is now set for an Off Broadway run beginning in March, other Clinton-themed entertainment projects have faltered.
In the fall of 2013, CNN scrapped a documentary about Mrs. Clinton in the face of pushback from Clinton aides and the Republican National Committee; NBC dropped a planned mini-series in which Diane Lane would have portrayed her.
Also, “Rodham,” a planned feature film about the romance between a young Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, has been struggling through Hollywood’s development process since Lionsgate acquired rights to it in 2013.
The Clintons are not shy about exercising power, as the effort to release to video the TV mini-series The Path to 9/11 illustrates. The controversial film is still not available for public viewing either via streaming or on DVD. The Walt Disney Company, parent of ABC, refuses to release the film and has never shown it since its original airing more than eight years ago.
That kind of power is not to be tampered with, as Scorsese no doubt realizes. So rather than compromise his integrity, Scorsese decided to cut his losses and shelve the film.
Even a revered director like Martin Scorsese must kneel and pay homage to the Clinton gang. Adoring them is not enough; you are required to sell your soul for them if asked.
Scorsese passed on the Faustian bargain and is a lot wiser for the effort.