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“The Loneliest President Since Nixon”

November 14th, 2014 - 1:02 pm

ALONE

That’s what Peggy Noonan thinks about Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom:

I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone. He’s got no one with him now. The Republicans don’t like him, for reasons both usual and particular: They have had no good experiences with him. The Democrats don’t like him, for their own reasons plus the election loss. Before his post-election lunch with congressional leaders, he told the press that he will judiciously consider any legislation, whoever sends it to him, Republicans or Democrats. His words implied that in this he was less partisan and more public-spirited than the hacks arrayed around him. It is for these grace notes that he is loved. No one at the table looked at him with colder, beadier eyes than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , who clearly doesn’t like him at all. The press doesn’t especially like the president; in conversation they evince no residual warmth. This week at the Beijing summit there was no sign the leaders of the world had any particular regard for him. They can read election returns. They respect power and see it leaking out of him. If Mr. Obama had won the election they would have faked respect and affection.

Except for the impersonal love he gets and receives while campaigning, I can’t remember seeing Obama show much enjoyment from the company of others — have you? As others have noted before and for many years now, he’s that very curious politician who doesn’t actually like people. Certainly, his relations with Capitol Hill have been strained from the get-go, even when his own party enjoyed supermajorities in both houses. Obama would press the flesh on his way too or from the podium, but could rarely be bothered to pick up the phone and schmooze with a Congressman whose support he needed.

And now that he’s a loser, people don’t seem to like him back.

Given the requirements of the job, this was probably inevitable. Given the content of his character, I can’t muster any pity.

But beyond that, Noonan reminds us, somewhat ominously, that “Nixon’s isolation didn’t end well.”

Sign “O” the Times

November 14th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

PROGRESS

Um… progress?

White supremacist organisation, the Ku Klux Klan is rebranding as the “new Klan” by trying to increase membership to Jews, black people, gays and those of Hispanic origin.

However, all those wanting to join the ultra-right wing society will have to wear the white robes, masks and conical hats. The Klan is estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members according to figures released in 2012.

The Ku Klux Klan is notorious for racist violence, including lynchings of black people. It is classified as a hate group by the anti-semitism organistion Anti-Defamation League and the civil rights law firm Southern Poverty Law Center.

The requirements for joining the new KKK group, called the Rocky Mountain Knights, are to be aged 18 and live in the Pacific Northwest.

This doesn’t happen even once in a blue moon, but I got nothin’.

Help a brother out?

The Enemy Within NATO

November 14th, 2014 - 11:22 am

NATO AND FRIENDS

Ted Galen Carpenter says the biggest threat to NATO isn’t Russia, but some increasingly authoritarian regimes within the western alliance:

Another development that has received less media attention, but could prove extremely disruptive to NATO is the emergence of ugly authoritarian trends in some members, especially Romania, Hungary and Turkey.

The rising tide of domestic authoritarianism in NATO countries is not a small concern. True, the Alliance has previously tolerated illiberal regimes and even outright dictatorships as members. Founding member Portugal was a quasifascist country under Antonio Salazar. Throughout the Cold War, the military was the decisive power broker in Turkey’s political system, and on occasion the country even lapsed into outright military rule. Greece groaned under a brutal military dictatorship in the late 1960s and early 1970s without forfeiting its NATO membership.

But it would be far more difficult in the twenty-first century for the Alliance to look the other way if a member succumbed to dictatorial impulses.

Greece and Turkey represented NATO’s southern flank, with the ability to deny the Soviets access to the Mediterranean and the Middle East — we had to give them leeway, or risk inciting Moscow to throw the dice. Furthermore, Turkey’s occasional military governments were a feature (built into the system by Ataturk) and not a bug. The Turkish Army (since neutered by its Islamic government) was the guarantor of Ataturk’s western reforms, against backwards elements in Turkish politics and culture.

But that is just an aside.

25 years ago, NATO should have thrown itself one hell of a victory party, then dissolved in the afterglow. The core states of northern and western Europe and the US could have enjoyed a less formal éntente cordiale , and non-core, non-democratic states could have gone on their merry ways. Should a big enough threat emerge (or re-emerge), the threatened states could always form a new alliance. But absent a real threat, a defensive alliance is a contradiction in terms.

Instead of happy dissolution, NATO chose expansion — right up to the borders of the old USSR. And NATO made promises, and held out the carrot of potential membership, to former Soviet Republics like Ukraine and Georgia. So while it may be true that Vladimir Putin is paranoid, but it’s certainly true that NATO has fed his paranoias. Just as bad, or worse if Carpenter has it right, we’ve invited in, or kept on, states with no democratic traditions, whose democracies are unraveling.

What was a defensive alliance of (mostly) likeminded westernized nations became an expansive alliance of… well, let’s just say some not-so-likeminded nations were shown the blue carpet.

And now the contradiction, as contradictions must eventually do, has come back to bite us on the ass.

♡bamaCare!!! Killing Rural Hospitals

November 14th, 2014 - 10:20 am

The Law of Intended Consequences bumbles on:

Since the beginning of 2010, 43 rural hospitals — with a total of more than 1,500 beds — have closed, according to data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. The pace of closures has quickened: from 3 in 2010 to 13 in 2013, and 12 already this year. Georgia alone has lost five rural hospitals since 2012, and at least six more are teetering on the brink of collapse. Each of the state’s closed hospitals served about 10,000 people — a lot for remaining area hospitals to absorb.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to improve access to health care for all Americans and will give them another chance at getting health insurance during open enrollment starting this Saturday. But critics say the ACA is also accelerating the demise of rural outposts that cater to many of society’s most vulnerable. These hospitals treat some of the sickest and poorest patients — those least aware of how to stay healthy. Hospital officials contend that the law’s penalties for having to re-admit patients soon after they’re released are impossible to avoid and create a crushing burden.

“The stand-alone, community hospital is going the way of the dinosaur,” says Angela Mattie, chairwoman of the health care management and organizational leadership department at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, known for its public opinion surveys on issues including public health.

Read the whole thing for the awful story of what ♡bamaCare!!! is doing to those bitter clingers out in the sticks.

Thought for the Day

November 14th, 2014 - 9:20 am

The Phantom Penance

November 14th, 2014 - 9:11 am

Wall Street doesn’t seem too worried about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s promotion to the make-work, just-made-up job of “strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.” Read:

James Ballentine, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association — a bank lobbying group that represents small and large banks – said he would hardly use the word “worried” to describe the industry’s reaction to the news.

“We’ll certainly be watchful,” he said.

If Warren’s promotion isn’t sounding alarm bells on Wall Street – at least not yet – it’s nevertheless a significant move for Democrats coming off their Election Day thumping. Elevating Warren within the party signals a political calculation that there remains a huge public appetite for attacks against Wall Street, particularly at a time when populist issues like income inequality and the wealth gap have become increasingly salient.

Warren has gotten quite rich pretending to be against Wall Street, as has much of the rest of the so-called People’s Party. She’s about as likely to punish Wall Street as I am to get really quite seriously mad at the makers of Ketel One.

There’s a reason most people have tuned out President Goldman-Sachs and his party’s attacks on Big Finance, and that’s it.

Magic Bus

November 14th, 2014 - 8:02 am

Actually, there’s nothing magic about it — it has a F-4 Phantom jet engine in it and goes 367 miles per hour.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

November 14th, 2014 - 7:31 am

Lifetime Colorado Democratic activist Burke Beu has had enough:

ObamaCare is a failure. For anyone who thinks this is a misprint because no Democratic activist would make such a comment, let me add that it is too big, too complicated and too expensive. Without a public option within its network of exchanges, ObamaCare is a giant blank check to the insurance companies that pushed it through Congress. It punishes responsible consumers like me and treats younger individuals as fools who are expected to pay the bills while not paying attention.

Now we learn in videos that came to light this week that Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and a key architect of the Affordable Care Act, proudly relied on his perceived “stupidity of the American voter” as the basis for designing ObamaCare. Such comments, along with the program’s notoriously dysfunctional website and false assurances that people can keep their previous health plans, are insults to every citizen regardless of party.

Gruber made it safe for anti-♡bamaCare!!! Democrats to come out of the closet.

Ed Schultz.

November 14th, 2014 - 6:32 am

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Professional Left.

Required Reading

November 14th, 2014 - 5:05 am

Pejman Yousefzadeh on Jon Gruber’s “self-immolation and its policy consequences.” Read:

Of course, most liberals don’t appear to be angry as a result of Gruber’s comments. To be sure, they would be angry if the comments came from the starboard side of the political divide, but since it comes from their side . . . well . . . outrage takes a back seat to trying to bury the story by not talking about it.

Read the whole thing — Pej has collected some good links that I’d missed during the week. But mostly know two things about this escapade:

• The Left is playing by its usual playbook.

• The usual playbook doesn’t work when the architect of an unloved law is captured on video, more than once, unsheepishly disdaining the victims of the very law he helped promulgate.

The second point hasn’t yet dawned on the Democrats, at least not fully. When it does, the long knives come out — and it’s going to be brutal.

I know I already did a Trifecta segment on Gruber, but the story hasn’t even begun to really get going.

Make no mistake — this is huge.

Justice Has Been Served, Over

November 13th, 2014 - 3:10 pm

LANDING

Here’s an entire page of actual exchanges between pilots and air traffic controllers, but the one above was too good not to share with you right away.

The Electronic Threat from the North

November 13th, 2014 - 2:33 pm

It seems North Korean hacker groups are real, and not the paranoid fantasies of South Korean intelligence:

In late October South Korean intelligence reported that between May and September North Korea managed to distribute over 20,000 to South Korean smart phone users games containing spy software. The North Korean “spyware” was seeking information from banks as well as documents relating to reunification plans and defense matters. The spyware allowed the North Koreans to transfer data from the infected smart phone and secretly turn on the camera. The government reported that this effort has since been blocked. North Korea denied any involvement in this, as it usually does. But over the past few year the evidence has been piling up of increasing North Korean Internet based espionage via the Internet.

In late 2013 South Korea came up with a number (over $800 million) for the cost of dealing with North Korean cyber attacks since 2007.

Theft is the only way for thoroughly progressive governments like North Korea’s to stay in business. The trick is figuring out the best place to cut them off from their ill-gotten gains.

Another Climate Hoax

November 13th, 2014 - 1:24 pm

BEIJING SMOG

Fear not! Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s “climate deal” with China is just another do-nothing feel-good measure to temporarily soothe his deluded progressive base. That’s according to Senator James Inhofe, whom I’m inclined to believe on the matter:

This reminds me of 1998, when President Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol knowing full well that it would never be ratified by the Senate.

China is taking a page from the Clinton playbook. There is nothing binding about President Xi’s agreement, and China will face zero consequences if it does not live up to its word.

And we should have no such expectation. This is a non-binding charade because as China’s economy grows, so will its demand for electricity. China is the largest consumer and importer of coal in the world, accounting for 50% of global consumption.

Over the next decade, China is expected to bring a new coal-fired power plant online every 10 days to give its hungry economy the electricity it demands, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Unlike the United States, China does not have other inexpensive energy resources. China has not had a shale revolution, and it has no known natural gas reserves.

To continue to support the world’s largest economy, China will have no choice but to break its promise of hitting its emissions peak by 2030.

Huh. It’s almost as if Beijing is in on the charade.

There’s (Nearly) an App for That

November 13th, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Incredible:

Early Warning Labs, a California-based startup, has teamed up with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an earthquake early warning system called QuakeAlert over the next 3 years. The system, based on cloud technology, includes a smartphone app and and in-home alarms that will notify users moments before the shaking occurs in their location, and warn them how intense it will be.

The company explains that a network of seismic sensors detects the first energy to emerge from a quake before the ground shaking begins; then QuakeAlert can use that data to warn those in the affected area before they feel the impact.

Every second counts.

Mapping the Future

November 13th, 2014 - 11:04 am

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Michael Barone explains what some are calling the political map of the future

Of course it’s misleading. Congressional districts are of basically equal population, and Democrats tend to roll up big margins in densely populated areas. So while voters have elected at least 244 Republican congressmen and probably will end up with at least 247 — more than in any election since 1928 — the map overstates their dominance.

But it does tell us something about the geographic and cultural isolation of the core groups of the Democratic Party: gentry liberals and blacks.

These were the two groups gathered together when Barack Obama had the opportunity to draw the new lines of his state Senate district after the 2000 census. He combined the heavily black South Side of Chicago with Gold Coast gentry liberals north of the Loop.

Together, they provided him with an overwhelmingly Democratic voter base and with access to the upper financial and intellectual reaches of the Democratic Party — and, in short time, the presidency of the United States.

But blacks and gentry liberals by themselves are not a national majority, as the map suggests.

Add Hispanics and Single Women and Millennials to the mix, and you have the Obama Coalition. But as we learned in 2010 and 2014 (and as the White House admitted this week), the Obama Coalition and the Democratic Coalition is not a Venn Diagram of a single circle. Without Obama on the ticket, the Democrats are left with the core constituencies of blacks and gentry liberals. They can hold on to a sizable minorities on Capitol Hill, but only urban dominance in a double handful of states keeps them competitive in holding the White House.

The key then for the GOP is to find wedge issues to keep separate the Obama Coalition from the Democratic Coalition, and perhaps most importantly, to fight-fight-fight for the black vote.

Now that would make a real political map of the future.

Jovian Tempest in a Teapot

November 13th, 2014 - 10:10 am

JUPITER

I have another science story for you, but I promise this one is much more enjoyable than the one about the peanut butter. Travel with me now past Mars, past the asteroid belt, and straight into the heart of Jupiter’s mysterious Great Red Spot:

Scientists in Pasadena, Calif., came to the conclusion after re-creating the effects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They were able to get a Spot-like red effect by directing ultraviolet light at ammonia and acetylene, gases that are both found on the planet.

Their new theory: “Most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” says a researcher.

“Under the reddish ‘sunburn’ the clouds are probably whitish or grayish.” So why is it confined to just one spot? “The Great Red Spot … reaches much higher altitudes than clouds elsewhere on Jupiter,” the expert notes.

The Spot is actually a storm with winds of up to hundreds of miles per hour, the Daily Mail reports. Wind in the area brings ammonia particles closer to the sun, and a vortex keeps them there, the researchers say.

We don’t know how many centuries — millennia? — old that storm is, but it has been fading in recent years. While an exact cause has yet to be determined, it probably has to do with evil carbon emissions here on Earth.

On an unrelated note, the asteroid belt needs a better name. I like “Solar Rhinestones.”

News You Can Use

November 13th, 2014 - 9:54 am

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I’m not sure exactly how to lead you into this story, so without any further ado

Diamonds are typically created more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) below Earth’s surface when temperatures over 2200 degrees Celsius (4000 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure 1.3 million times greater than the atmosphere combine and crystallize carbon into the clear white stone we all know. Synthetic diamonds can replicate the process in a few short days, creating diamonds that are less politically-charged for use in jewelry, electronics, manufacturing, and more.

Dan Frost of Germany’s Bayerisches Geoinstitut has been creating diamonds out of a rather unlikely source of carbon: peanut butter.

Do you have any idea how many potential diamonds my kids have pooped in the last nine years?

Sign “O” the Times

November 13th, 2014 - 8:46 am

HEAT

True story:

Cloud&Heat is a cloud infrastructure company that has started distributing its servers to people who want to store them in exchange for free heat in their homes or offices. Since servers generate so much excess heat and cloud companies have to spend a lot to cool them, the idea to repurpose the waste heat isn’t new. In fact, Qarnot, a French cloud company, is working on a similar program to Cloud&Heat’s. But as Datacenter Dynamics reports, Cloud&Heat is ahead in terms of implementing the idea.

Customers pay to have a Cloud&Heat fire-proof cabinet installed in their homes or offices (the cost is comparable to installing a standard heating system). Then Cloud&Heat pays for the electricity and Internet service the cabinet needs and the owner gets to enjoy free heat and hot water.

Such a deal.

Thought for the Day

November 13th, 2014 - 7:27 am

Required Reading

November 13th, 2014 - 6:25 am

My colleague Richard Fernandez sums up nearly five years of ♡bamaCare!!! fails in one must-read column.

I can’t excerpt. You simply must read.

Trifecta vs The FCC vs The Internet

November 13th, 2014 - 5:23 am

Schaden, Meet Freude

November 12th, 2014 - 2:09 pm

facelift

Ashe Schow has the good stuff for you today:

Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claimed that even though Democrats lost control of the Senate; lost governorships of even liberal states like Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland; and are expected to occupy the fewest seats in Congress in nearly 80 years, last Tuesday’s midterms were no wave for the GOP.

“I do not believe what happened the other night is a wave,” Pelosi told Politico. “There was no wave of approval for the Republicans. I wish them congratulations, they won the election, but there was no wave of approval for anybody. There was an ebbing, an ebb tide, for us.”

That was an effing big ebbing, Nancy.

Climate Change Made Simple

November 12th, 2014 - 12:16 pm
The Phantom Menace?

Wampas: The Phantom Menace?

“Weather isn’t climate.”

Now that we’re once again in the grips of Polar Vortex or Arctic Blast or whatever we’re calling it this time, you’re going to hear that refrain a lot.

“Weather isn’t climate.”

And that’s true, of course — until it isn’t. Over a long enough timespan, weather IS the climate. If your tropical beachfront property has had a century of temperate seasonal weather, complete with snowstorms and summer dry spells, it would probably be a mistake to keep calling it tropical. Things change. Climate typically changes slowly, but it does change. There are ancient tropical ferns and palm trees buried under the ice of Antarctica. So of course the climate changes, and expecting stasis on a planet where the continents move around is insanity. Even our sun is somewhat variable, going through periods where it emits more light and heat, and periods of less.

So before we go around signing bad deals with bad men (oops — too late!) a few questions need to be answered, in order.

• Is the change detrimental or beneficial to the human habitat?

• Do we understand the how and the why of climate change?

• Do we have the technical means and knowhow to make things better instead of worse.

If climate change is beneficial, you can skip the rest, pop open a beer, and plan how to make a killing growing oranges in Alaska.

Republican and early Imperial Rome flourished during a warmer period, able to bring in enough crops from Tunis and Egypt to feed one million inhabitants. A cooler period brought smaller harvests — and Germanic invaders from the north, seeking warmer climes because Germania had cooled, too. There was a period in the Middle Ages when Rome’s population had declined to a scant 10,000 — one one-hundredth of its imperial peak. The reasons for that had to do much more with politics than with the climate, but many of Rome’s bad policies were the direct and indirect results of global cooling. So it would seem that warming — to a point — would be beneficial to humanity, and that cooling would be bad. But this is still a question in need of answers.

If we’re just going to jack up energy prices to make ourselves feel good in the name of “doing something,” fuggidaboudit. Cheap energy promotes production, it promotes trade, it promotes mobility — three of the keys to American prosperity. Any permanent “skyrocketing” of energy prices would condemn millions, perhaps billions of people to lives of continued poverty. Or condemn them to death.

Assuming we can safely determine that the coming climate change would be bad for us, we then move on to the question of how and why the change is coming. Is it due to sun cycles? Carbon emissions? Hyperintelligent Wampa terraformers from ice planet Hoth? Some combination of factors? This is a vital question, and the models only provide answers based on the untested assumptions of the programers.

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Thought for the Day

November 12th, 2014 - 11:26 am

Sign “O” the Times

November 12th, 2014 - 9:14 am

20141112_who_0

Tyler Durden explains:

Wholesales Inventories and Sales beat expectations (+0.3% and +0.2% respectively) but, thanks to significant downward revisions in August, hope for a Q3 GDP boost are dashed. Sales growth remains near 2014 lows and inventory growth hovers near 14 month lows. Inventories-to-Sales ratios were flat in September at 1.19 months. Petroleum inventories plunged 5.3% MoM and down 13.2% YoY – the largest since Jul 2009.

Let’s hope the election results restore some confidence before this whole mess unravels.

Net Neutrality Isn’t

November 12th, 2014 - 8:28 am

It’s all about power, it always is:

Most things are not public policy issues, yet get turned into such. Obama’s letter is purely about taking a thriving enterprise — our wild and wonderful Internet — and turning it into a public utility (the legalistic details behind the scenes involve a “reclassification” of up-until-now free Internet services as a public utility).

Google, Yahoo, and the world of media are synergistic with service providers, and each is moving into the other’s territory in ways that foretell that none will escape this new regulatory regime. ISPs will holler today, but they’d all best beware.

It is irksome when politicians take credit for the creations of others, and set “rules” for the future that assure political involvement in what should be liberalized, non-politicized industries.

Microsoft spent the ’90s being proud of the fact that they never “paid to play” with Washington — and got whacked with an antitrust suit from which the company never recovered.

Now it’s the internet’s turn.

We’re Landing on a Comet

November 12th, 2014 - 8:22 am

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Saying it out loud makes it even cooler. Try it.

“We’re landing on a comet.”

More:

A miniature spacecraft cast off from its mother ship Wednesday to start a lonely, nerve-wracking descent to the rugged terrain of a comet.

The European Space Agency’s washing-machine-sized spaceship, named Philae, detached from its carrier just after 3:30 a.m. ET. It faced a seven-hour trip to the comet’s boulder-strewn surface, with no way to steer or turn back.

If it touches down safely, Philae will enter the record books as the first craft to make a safe landing on a comet.

It took ten years to get there, and what we learn will make it all worthwhile — if they can stick the landing.

Fingers crossed…

Own Goal Me Much (Again)

November 12th, 2014 - 7:11 am

Only this time it isn’t so funny:

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Obama struck a deal Wednesday to limit greenhouse gases, with China committing for the first time to cap carbon emissions and Obama unveiling a plan for deeper U.S. emissions reductions through 2025.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged in the far-reaching agreement to cap its rapidly growing carbon emissions by 2030, or earlier if possible. It also set a daunting goal of increasing the share of non-fossil fuels to 20 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

Obama announced a target to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the first time the president has set a goal beyond the existing 17 percent target by 2020.

Obama just put hobbles on our economy in exchange for a promise from China to do the same to theirs — 15 years from now.

If you think that’s bad, Obama has put us on the fast track to even higher energy prices, at a time when wages are stagnant or shrinking.

I can’t wait to see what deal he strikes with Iran, can you?

Trifecta vs Gruber vs The American People

November 12th, 2014 - 6:25 am

How’s it feel being the Democrats’ useful idiot?

Sign “O” the Times

November 12th, 2014 - 5:25 am

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36%? Ouch.

I’m a little surprised that the GOP’s number is up over 50%, even if by not much, given the party’s track record over the last eight years. But seeing Obama drop below what I had assumed was a floor of around 40%, that was a big shock.