The Associated Press is running with a rather tendentious headline at the moment, "AP FACT CHECK: On climate science, most GOP candidates fail." For their fact check, the AP asked a group of Ph.D. scientists to grade presidential candidates based on their statements about global warming. To keep this supposedly unbiased, they didn't tell the scientists which statements were from which candidate. I suppose the thinking is that if these scientists had any preexisting and unrelated political biases it would be hard to tell Republican rhetoric on global warming from Democratic rhetoric, which is laughable. The end result is that Hillary Clinton gets rated an "A" and all the GOP candidates flunk, and it's presented as some kind of unassailable scientific judgment.
"This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner," Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor, wrote of Cruz's statements. "That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president."
For anyone following the debates over climate change, the fact AP would highlight Michael Mann's opinions tells you everything you need to know. Mann's currently suing a number of conservative critics, including National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mark Steyn, and a handful of individuals for pointing out that Mann's own climate science has been far fromreliable. A number of people and organizations who are neither conservative nor necessarily disagree with Mann on climate science think his lawsuit is both friviolous and an attack on free speech. Even if that weren't the case, Mann's obvious hostility and ridiculous hyperbole are discrediting as it is. Cruz's opinions on global warming mean that he knows less about science in general than a kindergartner? Please.
It's insulting that the Associated Press would use someone as obnoxious and biased as Mann as a blatant appeal to authority. In fact, when challenged on this point by The Federalist's David Harsanyi, the AP's Seth Borenstein responded with a somewhat snotty and transparently fallacious dismissal about expertise:
@davidharsanyi If you read, the 8 scientists were chosen by professional scientific societies. What's your science phD in?
Coming up on his final year in office, the president’s mind is doubtless on his legacy. More, perhaps, than other presidents had been when they were running out the string. Obama is something of a literary man, after all, having published a best-selling memoir before his election. He is accustomed to shaping his own story.
So, he does long interviews with a friendly journalist in which he compares himself to the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback. Same coolness and composure under stress:
“Rodgers in the pocket, in the sense of you can't be distracted by what's around you, you've got to be looking downfield. And I think that's a quality that I have — not getting flustered in what's around me.”
But the president lost his cool, in public, after the terrorist attack in Paris, at a press conference where he answered questions about his strategy in coping with ISIS impatiently and sarcastically. He was plainly flustered. And angry.
“[W]hat I do not do,” he said, in answer to one question, “is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.
“We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.”
Well, presidential self-pity is unattractive even if the president isn’t beguiled by his own coolness. But the president had been known to answer questions with a bit of snark and to set up straw men for demolition and to let us all know that he works hard and bears a heavy burden of responsibility.
This press conference, however, showed more pique than Obama had previously displayed. It was not so much out of character as a distillation of it. Pure Obama. Perhaps he was stressed by a sense that his legacy was slipping out of his control. That events were in the saddle and he was in for a hard ride. He had said to an interviewer, just a few hours before the Paris massacre, that ISIS had been “contained.” His aides quickly discovered nuance in the President’s words. He was talking about “territory,” not influence, don’t you see. But it seems he is stuck with “contained,” in the same way he has never been able to shake off, Aaron Rodgers style, his crack about how ISIS was the “jayvee” team in the terrorism league.
We have yet to find a term for the student protests going on across the country that beats Mona Charen’s “snowflake fascists” and last week the precious little Maoists at Princeton got the biggest scalp since Tim Wolfe: They brought down Woodrow Wilson himself.
A group of fifteen Princeton students occupied the office of the university president last week with a list of “demands.” Their word, not mine. They wanted racial/cultural indoctrination—sorry, re-education—courses for all college staff and faculty. They wanted “a cultural space on campus dedicated specifically to Black students.” (A commenter at the Daily Princetonian wondered if this space would come with its own water fountain.) But most of all, they wanted Woodrow Wilson expunged from the school.
Wilson is the most famous president in Princeton’s history and the school has a program (the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) and a residential college (Wilson College) named after him. Wilson College features, among other tributes, a giant mural of the man in the dining area.
Care to guess how long this group of fifteen students had to protest before the school’s current president agreed to do his best to disappear Wilson? Twenty hours.
Here’s what Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber acceded to: He agreed to push to get rid of the Wilson mural and to have the school’s trustees take up the question of scrubbing Wilson’s name from the public policy school and the residential college.
On the one hand, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. As David Harsanyi argued last week, Wilson really was the worst. A racist and a prig and a rotten human being. Not to mention a horrible president whose political legacy has harmed the country for a century. (If you want even more evidence on Wilson, read Christopher Caldwell’s blistering indictment of the man in the Claremont Review of Books.)
But this isn’t really about Wilson, of course. Like everything else in the modern university, it’s about power. It’s about the questions, Who? Whom? And it’s a sterling piece of education—maybe the most striking lesson any of the students at Princeton will learn in their undergraduate years.
If you can get a dozen of your friends together and sit in the president’s office for almost a full day, you can get college administrators to agree to just about anything.
A new ad from the Republican National Committee goes after Democrats on foreign policy. The ad--titled "Can Leaders Like These Keep Us Safe?"--includes voiceovers from Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and John Kerry.
In the ad, the RNC plays a clip of Clinton saying the fight against ISIS "cannot be an American fight," and avoiding use of the term "radical Islam." President Obama says ISIS isn't gaining strength.
The ad ends with the question, "Can leaders like these keep us safe?"
The latest epside of Conversations With Bill Kristol, featuring Larry Summers:
"In this conversation, Summers describes key moments from his time in government, including responses to the Mexican Peso Crisis of 1994 and the financial crisis of 2008. He also explains how he got involved in public policy and government, and offers some thoughts on tensions between the world of theoretical policy-making and the practice of politics. Finally, Summers discusses the differences between the two presidents he has served, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama," writes the Foundation for Constitutional Government, the sponsor of the series.
As you may have heard, the denizens of Princeton University are in a tizzy over the fact that the school's most famous alum, former president Woodrow Wilson, was a racist. This hasn't exactly been a secret all these years, but college students have apparently run out of more relevant things to be indignant about. Late last week the university said it was ready to begin having conversations about possibly removing his name from a cafeteria as well as the name of its esteemed school of public affairs.
While the specter of a major institution of higher learning caving in to an irrational and juvenile demand may seem absurd, I need to disagree: Should Princeton follow through on its implicit promise to its protesters and remove the name of the racist President Wilson from the campus it will prove to be the greatest university fundraising maneuver of the century.
If they prove themselves willing to take off the name of a president of the United States from campus buildings for his perceived sins, no benefactor is safe. It's a good bet that any building named before the 1970s honors someone with some modicum of racist thought that can be easily discovered from diligent research. The college won't even have to pay for that research; there will be hundreds of students dreaming of being the ones who launch a new round of righteous indignation amongst their classmates.
For any newer building we may not find any overt racists, but it's likely that the person harbored some homophobic attitudes. Again, diligent research ought to be able to uncover any untoward attitudes these men and women might have harbored towards gays, and given the achievements of anyone who has managed to accumulate enough money or influence to have Princeton name a building after them there should be a decent written record to work with.
Once this is done and the campus' buildings are utterly bereft of names, they can begin the process of renaming the buildings on campus—after the highest bidders, of course.
The only complication with this scheme is that the aggrieved may come to demand that a certain proportion of buildings be named for women or minorities. It's best that they begin thinking about the renaming process at once so that they can have the naming ceremony before the student body catches on and demands that their heroes be honored on the buildings. If they move quickly enough they can finish the renaming before students catch on with their new indignation—and they can start again—removing those benefactors whose checks already cleared.
Ike Brannon is president of Capital Policy Analytics, a consulting firm in Washington.
Barack Obama and John Kerry have yet to comment on the death of an American murdered last week by Palestinian terrorists. Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Sharon, Massachusetts, was spending a year in Israel when terrorists fatally attacked him last Thursday, not far from Jerusalem.
President Obama has commented on the murder of Nohemi Gonzalez, an American murdered in the Paris terror attack, and Anita Datar, an American murdered in the Mali hotel attack.
Obama offered this yesterday in Malaysia:
Today, families in too many nations are grieving the senseless loss of their loved ones in the attacks in France and in Mali. As Americans, we remember Nohemi Gonzalez, who was just 23 years old, a design major from California State University. She was in Paris to pursue her dream of designing innovations that would improve the lives of people around the world. And we remember Anita Datar of Maryland. She’s a veteran of the Peace Corps, a mother to her young son, who devoted her life to helping the world’s poor, including women and girls in Mali, lift themselves up with health and education.
Nohemi and Anita embodied the values of service and compassion that no terrorist can extinguish. Their legacy will endure in the family and friends who carry on their work. They remind me of my daughters, or my mother, who, on the one hand, had their whole life ahead of them, and on the other hand, had devoted their lives to helping other people. And it is worth us remembering when we look at the statistics that there are beautiful, wonderful lives behind the terrible death tolls that we see in these places.
At least State Department spokesman John Kirby, when asked about the murder of the American in Israel, commented on Schwartz's death. "Yeah, thanks. This is what I was looking for. Yeah, thank you for prompting. We do believe the – about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts, who was murdered in a terrorist attack on Thursday while in Israel to pursue his studies. Again, we extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and community as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events. The Secretary is also concerned about the five other American citizens who are victims of the attacks and wishes each of them a full and complete recovery," Kirby told reporters Friday.
"We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks. These tragic incidents underscore the importance of taking affirmative steps to restore calm."
Nonetheless, neither the president of the secretary of state and former senator Massachusetts have said anything about the death of this young American victim of terror.
The Washington Examiner's Jim Antle has written a comprehensive piece about the Democrats' war on youth. Antle notes that politicians and pundits on the right have been pointing out ways in which Democrats' policies hurt young people.
Jeb Bush, for example, told the Washington Examiner on the campaign trail in New Hampshire that leaders need to "make sure the next generation isn't saddled with all of our contingent liabilities on their backs."
Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has talked about the need for generational change. "The world is different than it was five years ago, not to mention 50 or 60 years ago," when programs such as Medicare and Social Security were designed, he said in Iowa.
Antle also notes the ages of leaders of each parties, and that Republican leaders from Rubio to Speaker Paul Ryan are substantially younger than their Democratic counterparts.
Furthermore, Democrats' advantage with youth vote seems to be slipping, and their advantage might be attributable to factors other than age.
Yet already there's been noticeable slippage. Obama's margin among the millennials shrank in 2012. An April poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 55 percent of 18-29-year-olds (five points fewer than in 2012) want a Democrat to win the White House in 2016, compared to 40 percent who prefer Republicans.
Some of the generation gap appears attributable to factors other than age. The Harvard poll found that 87 percent of young African-Americans and 68 percent of young Hispanics wanted a Democratic president, while whites in this age group picked a Republican by 53-31 percent, though it's worth noting that younger voter are also less likely to be white. Obama carried young white voters 54-44 percent in 2008 and lost them 44-51 percent in 2012.
Antle breaks down how different issues, including entitlements, Obamacare, and Democrats' economic policies, adversely effect young people, and how these issues poll with young people.
President Barack Obama is beginning to use tougher rhetoric when discussing ISIS. The leader of the free world, today at a press conference at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, vowed to destory ISIS and to take the land they are currently occupying.
"Prejudice and discrimination helps ISIL and undermines our national security. And so, even as we destroy ISIL on the battlefield -- and we will destroy them -- we will take back land that they are currently in. We will cut off their financing. We will hunt down their leadership. We will dismantle their networks and their supply lines, and we will ultimately destroy them. Even as we are in the process of doing that, we want to make sure that we don't lose our own values and our own principles. And we can all do our part by upholding the values of tolerance and diversity and equality that help keep America strong," Obama said.
"The United States will continue to lead this global coalition. We are intensifying our strategy on all fronts, with local partners on the ground. We are going to keep on rolling back ISIL in Iraq and in Syria, and take out more of their leaders and commanders so that they do not threaten us. And we will destroy this terrorist organization.
"And we’ll keep working with our allies and partners for the opportunity and justice that helps defeat violent extremism. We’ll keep standing up for the human rights and dignity of all people -- because that is contrary to what these terrorists believe. That's part of how we defeat them. And I'm confident we will succeed. The hateful vision of an organization like ISIL is no match for the strength of nations and people around the world who are united to live in security and peace and in harmony."
The remarks came at the top of the press conference -- before questions were asked -- as part of the president's prepared remarks.
At a press conference today at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, President Obama warned the media not to empower terrorists. The terrorists, he said, are just "a bunch of killers with good social media."
"[T]he message I have is that those of us who are charged with protecting the American people are going to do everything we can to destroy this particular network. Once this network is destroyed -- and it will be -- there may be others that pop up in different parts of the world, and so we're going to have to continue to take seriously how we maintain the infrastructure that we’ve built to prevent this. But it doesn't have to change the fundamental trajectory of the American people. And that we should feel confident about," Obama said in response to a question about whether Americans should feel scared about ISIS.
"And the media needs to help in this. I just want to say -- during the course of this week, a very difficult week, it is understandable that this has been a primary focus. But one of the things that has to happen is how we report on this has to maintain perspective, and not empower in any way these terrorist organizations or elevate them in ways that make it easier for them to recruit or make them stronger.
"They're a bunch of killers with good social media. And they are dangerous, and they’ve caused great hardship to people. But the overwhelming majority of people who go about their business every day, the Americans who are building things, and making things, and teaching, and saving lives as firefighters and as police officers -- they're stronger. Our way of life is stronger. We have more to offer -- we represent 99.9 percent of humanity. And that's why we should be confident that we’ll win."
It is not for an economist to adjudicate between the president of the United States, who feels he is appealing to our better angels by asking our blessing for his plan to grant 10,000 refugees from the Syrian wars entry into our country, and his critics who fear that the wave might include immigrants coming not for refuge but to do us harm, not here to assimilate but to retain the customs and laws that have brought their homelands chaos and penury. The dispute, in short, is between Barack Obama who contends he is following a long-standing, humane American tradition of accepting the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses, and equally well-intentioned congressmen and governors who respond that he is ignoring his first obligation – to keep America and its citizens safe from harm. They add that it is inappropriate to argue that America must not repeat the moral error of turning away Jews who sought to escape Hitler’s death camps by turning away Syrians, among them some pledged to destroy the values fleeing Jews were attempting to come here to enjoy.
But an economist can contribute two things to the debate. The first is a self-evident bit of arithmetic. If the vetting process is as robust as we are led to believe by the president, ignoring the contrary view of its likely effectiveness by the head of the FBI, we can concede that it will be, say 99% effective. Not bad for government work. That means that only 1% of the 10,000 entrants, or 100 applicants, will have slipped through the vetting net. It is estimated that the units that attacked France consisted of somewhere between eight and twenty Islamic terrorists. So even with a robust, almost-but-not-quite fool-proof vetting procedure, we will have admitted between five and eight terrorist units capable of doing to one of our cities what they have done to Paris.
And of course the vetting procedure is unlikely to come close to 99% perfection. One need not be a racist or insensitive to the plight of many refugees to believe that serious jihadis, with their access to stolen and forged documents, will slip through the net. The New York Times says vetting will include review of the applicants’ “histories, family origins, and law enforcement and past travel and immigration records,” information that it just might be difficult to obtain in bomb- and war-ravaged Syria. Or to refuse to give weight to the president’s argument that the bulk of the refugees are harmless women, children and men over the age of sixty. A women was blown up when French police raided the apartment in which the mastermind of the Paris assault was engaged in a shoot-out with the police, women in burkas have attempted to stab Israelis and served as suicide bombers in many of the world’s troubled regions, and very young children have proved dangerous suicide bombers and knife wielders. Men over sixty have not exactly acted as “wiser heads” to restrain inflammatory talk, deter travel of younger men to Syria for training, or provide the cooperation that many police forces have been requesting.
Retailers are having difficulty moving apparel these days. One analyst attributes the groaning shelves and racks to two successive years of warm weather. So retailers’ worries will soon be over: the world’s leaders are about to assemble in Paris to end the trend to global warming, a bigger threat than terror, says Barack Obama. He has as much chance of being believed in the stricken French capital as do retailers who blame their woes on the weather.
The nervousness in the retail sector began when both Macy’s and Nordstrom’s reported less-than-stellar results. Mighty Macy’s, with about 850 stores including the Bloomingdale brand, and one of the best-regarded CEOs in the business, Terry Lundgren, announced that revenues for the quarter ending in October had fallen by 5.2 percent compared with the same period last year, that net income had been cut nearly in half, and that bloated inventories were prompting price cuts. Shares, which since have recovered a bit, plunged 40 percent. The strong dollar that confronted overseas shoppers in Macy’s famous flagship store on Herald Square in New York didn’t make life any cheerier for Mr. Lundgren. The next day, Nordstrom’s, a high-end department store chain, reported a third-quarter slow-down in sales of all categories of goods, in all regions and on online, in both its swanky and off-price chains, with no improvement in sight. The chain’s executives could offer no explanation except that fewer people were buying clothes. Merchandise has been marked down, as have shares, which dropped more than 20 percent in response to a fall of about 40 percent in profits and a reduction in the company’s forecast for full year growth. Dillard’s 330-store chain (third-quarter profit down 17 percent) fared no better.
Walmart did manage a bit of growth in sales, thanks to its new, small-format stores. But operating income fell by 8.8 percent in the third quarter and the company is warning that profits next year will fall as a result of a perfect storm of price cuts; higher wages and benefit costs; increased investment in store up-grades; the strong dollar, which reduces the value of overseas earnings; and belated investments in its online business so that it can compete more successfully with Amazon.
A clue to what is going on in the retail sector is provided by the reports of two very different retailers. TJX, which operates the off-price retail chain T.J. Maxx, a seller of discounted name-brand clothing and home furnishings, reported third-quarter sales and earnings increases that exceeded analysts’ expectations. The discounter’s annual sales are about the same as Macy’s, but its market cap is almost four times that of the Macy’s. And Home Depot chimed in with a report that sales in stores open more than a year rose a healthy 7.3 percent in the third quarter, and that profit for the year would increase in line with the high-end of its forecasts. Some 20 percent of Home Depot’s sales are now made online.
An audience member at a Memphis rally for Hillary Clinton Friday fainted during the Democrat's speech. After Clinton asked for someone to help the supporter, she joked, "I thought it was the talk of Republicans that might have done it."