In which Keith Ellison uses me

Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison has blocked me on Twitter, so I am unable to follow him. Searching Twitter to take a look at his emissions, however, I found that Star Tribune political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger has posted an Ellison fundraising letter that she received in which Ellison draws on my Star Tribune op-ed column “Rep. Keith Ellison remembers to forget.” Ellison’s letter responds to these two paragraphs of my column summarizing, and quoting from, his book:

Ellison relates that he turned to Islam at age 19 as an undergraduate student at Wayne State University in Detroit. Those who wonder how Ellison reconciles his Muslim faith with the social liberalism of the Democratic Party platform, however, will not find much in the way of illumination here.

“If I were Jewish,” Ellison explains, “I would probably be a Reform Jew. If I were Christian, I would be one of those come-as-you-are nondenominational Christians. … Faith is not about expressing what I believe so that the world can see I’m faithful. I don’t believe in following a strict set of rules to prove my love for God or to prove my faith.” According to Ellison, “In Islam, your religion is what you make of it.” He doesn’t identify any sect that comports with his version of Islam.

Ellison purports to take issue with what I wrote, but he doesn’t really bother to respond or identify what I got wrong. In his memoir, which I explore in greater detail in the article “The Ellison elision,” Ellison actually describes the mystification of fellow Muslims with his social liberalism: “I get Muslims who come up to me and ask, ‘Brother Keith, how can you be in favor of gay marriage?’ ” Brother Keith explains: “I’m in favor of civil rights for all. I’m in favor of freedom.” As I say in the Weekly Standard article, Ellison seems to belong to the Ellison branch of Islam.

Ellison has never responded to my articles about him in the Weekly Standard and I don’t believe he has responded directly to my Star Tribune column. Nevertheless, Ellison has found my Star Tribune column of use in a letter to supporters. I thought some readers might find it of interest; this is how he rolls.

The Cuba appeasement and the latest detainee release — is there a connection?

Our restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the accompanying swap of prisoners have overshadowed the release of six terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay, after the government of Uruguay agreed to accept the six. On the face of things, the two stories seem unrelated. But if we are to believe the president of Uruguay, there is a connection. And the common thread may be President Obama’s laxity (to put it gently) — in one case towards Islamist terrorists; in the other towards Cuban Communists.

Here is what we know:

On December 17, President Obama announced that the U.S. would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. In addition, Cuba and the U.S. swapped prisoners. The United States sent back to Cuba three imprisoned spies who were captured in 1998. Cuba released Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years.

Finally, Cuba also released Alan Gross, an American whom the Castros arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. The release of Gross was said to be a “humanitarian” act separate from the rest of the deal, but it is difficult to take this claim seriously.

Eleven days earlier, on December 6 six terrorists whom the U.S. had detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade were flown to Uruguay for resettlement. This represented the largest group to be released collectively from Gitmo since 2009.

The deal was the product of negotiations between the U.S. and Uruguay’s outgoing president, Jose Mujica. President Mujica insisted that the six terrorists be free to leave Uruguay on day one, if that’s what they wanted. Normally, for what it’s worth, the host country agrees that freed Gitmo terrorists can’t leave for two years. But Mujica says this arrangement doesn’t apply here, and the U.S. government has not denied it.

This much is known.

Why do I believe there may be a connection between the detainee release to Uruguay and the release of the three Cuban spies? Because Mujica has publicly claimed, and indeed bragged, that at the request of the Castros he offered to receive the six Gitmo detainees if Obama agreed to release the three Cuban spies held in US jails.

Word of Mujica’s claim first came to me from a distinguished reader who learned about it from a friend who formerly held an important position in Uruguay’s government. This article confirms that Mujica is, in fact, bragging that he played a role in securing the release of the three Cuban spies.

The article quotes Mujica as follows:

This is a human rights issue. … I don’t do favors for free, I pass on the bill.

In other words, in exchange for doing Obama the favor of taking six Gitmo detainees (a move reportedly opposed by a majority of Uruguayans), Mujica insisted that U.S. release the Cuban spies. That was his “bill.” And, according to my source, Mujica has said he presented it at the request of the Castros (the article cited above says that Mujica consulted with Raul Castro on matter).

In Mujica’s telling, he was able to pry the Cuban spies loose because Obama desperately wanted Uruguay to take the Gitmo detainees. But it’s not clear how much “prying” was required.

Obama, I believe, wanted to accomplish two important leftist objectives: release terrorists from Gitmo and accommodate the Castros. His deal with Uruguay, as Mujica depicts it, furthers both purposes.

Although no one seems to dispute that Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla, urged that the Cuban spies be released, the U.S. denies that their release was ever part of the negotiations, which have been going on for many months. It would appear, then, that either Mujica or the Obama administration is lying.

However, the truth may be that Mujica asked for the release of the Cuban spies and the administration signaled that this would be taken care of as part of a larger deal with Cuba. In this scenario, the Obama administration could deny that the release of spies ever became part of the give-and-take of negotiations. Again, it seems likely that releasing the Cuban spies is something Obama wanted to do anyway, for purposes of accommodating the Castro regime.

If Obama’s recent transactions with Uruguay and Cuba are viewed collectively, here is the “bill” to the U.S.: (1) the release of six terrorists with no assurance (not even a paper one) that they won’t immediately return to the fight against the U.S., as so many have; (2) the release of three Cuban spies; and (3) the granting to Cuba’s Communist tyrants of as much legitimacy and economic help as Obama has the power to confer.

In exchange, we get the release from the Castros’ hell hole of one Cuban and one American.

That’s the kind of horse-trade you get when an American president’s interests largely align with those of a leftist South American president and a Communist Cuban regime.

NOTE: I initially linked to the wrong article from Mundo. The link has been corrected.

Earth’s Climate Shows 2,000-Year Cooling Trend

People who swallow global warming alarmism almost never know anything about the Earth’s climatic history. Next time one of your friends or relatives starts giving you the global warming routine, ask him or her to graph the temperature history of the last 500,000 years. Or 20,000 years. Or 2,000. Trust me: the supposed climate expert won’t be able to do it. Yet putting the modest temperature increase of the latter half of the 20th century into historical context is the first prerequisite of any intelligent evaluation.

From Watts Up With That? comes a report on a new tree-ring study that covers the last 2,000 years. Are tree-ring analyses valid? I don’t know, but the alarmists use them all the time, and they are certainly more reliable over a relatively reasonable time frame like 2,000 years. The study finds that global temperatures have been gradually declining over that time:

In a paper published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, Esper et al. (2014) write that tree-ring chronologies of maximum latewood density (MXD) “are most suitable to reconstruct annually resolved summer temperature variations of the late Holocene.”

The late Holocene is the geologic era in which we are living.

As the international team of researchers from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland describes it, this history depicts “a long-term cooling trend of -0.30°C per 1,000 years over the Common Era in northern Europe” (see figure below). Most important of all, however, they note that their temperature reconstruction “has centennial-scale variations superimposed on this trend,” which indicate that “conditions during Medieval and Roman times were probably warmer than in the late 20th century,” when the previously-rising post-Little Ice Age mean global air temperature hit a ceiling of sorts above which it has yet to penetrate.

This graph shows the long-term cooling trend as well as the relatively wide variations on smaller time scales. Click to enlarge:

esperetal2014b

This finding is consistent with other studies indicating that the Earth is currently cooler than it has been about 90% of the time since the end of the last Ice Age. So, could it get warmer? Yes, and with any luck, it will.

Media Alert

I will be guest hosting Laura Ingraham’s radio show tomorrow and Tuesday. Please tune in if you can; the show runs from 9 to 12 Eastern time, 8 to 11 Central. If Laura isn’t on the air where you live, or you don’t know where to find her show on the dial, you can listen online. Or you can use Laura’s radio station finder, or wait until later and listen to the podcast. We have a great lineup of guests, and it should be a lot of fun.

The Collapse of the Democratic Party In South Dakota: What Happened?

2014 was a terrible year for the Democrats nationally, but in South Dakota it was a catastrophe: Democrats hold only 20 out of 105 seats in the state’s legislature, all 13 officers and representatives elected statewide are Republicans, and in the race for Governor, the Democrats suffered the worst margin of defeat in the state’s history. This marked the nadir for a party that as recently as 1978 was riding high, with more registered voters than the GOP.

Last month, the University of South Dakota sponsored a panel discussion on the Democrats’ decline as part of the launch of the second volume of The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, co-edited by my friend Jon Lauck. The Rapid City Journal reports:

In the book and at the conference, three people offered theories to explain why South Dakota Democrats have fallen so far since their heyday in the late 1970s.

In the panel discussion, [Democrat Ted] Muenster said the Roe v. Wade abortion decision and the failure of the Oahe Irrigation Project, both in the 1970s, divided Democrats.

The Oahu project was supported by Democratic leaders like George McGovern, but was blocked by environmentalists.

Tony Venhuisen, now chief of staff to the state’s governor, pointed out that the number of farmers has fallen dramatically:

One of the themes he noticed during his research was the tendency of Democrats to make gains in gubernatorial politics during periods of “agrarian discontent.” That’s no longer the case, Venhuizen said, because farm numbers have declined so far that even a massive shift of farmers to the Democratic Party could no longer swing an election.

Venhuisen cited the 1986 election, won narrowly by Republican George Mickelson during a farm crisis, as a turning point that demonstrated that “the state’s urban centers were becoming larger and more immune to the agricultural economy.” It occurs to me that an analogous point could be made about the declining number of factory workers, even as factory production grows.

A third panelist emphasized the close connection between George McGovern, the dominant figure in South Dakota’s Democratic Party in the 1960s and 1970s, and liberal Protestantism:

Lempke asserts that McGovern built much of his political career on support from liberal, mainline Protestants. … McGovern identified strongly with the Social Gospel movement and its leaders among the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ traditions. …

Because of that worldview, McGovern spent much of his career trying to end the Vietnam War and feed hungry people, in concert with liberal Protestant church leaders. Those efforts eventually sparked a backlash among conservative churchgoers who recoiled from the increasingly liberal social movements of the 1970s. …

The results for Democrats like McGovern and for mainline Protestant churches were catastrophic.

McGovern was voted out of office in the Republican sweep of 1980, and mainline Protestant church membership declined dramatically.

It is interesting to contemplate the ways in which the recent political history of a small state like South Dakota parallels that of the United States as a whole. In particular, the centrality of the social issues, as identified by the U.S.D. panelists, is striking. But I would add this: while social issues may have helped Republicans to take control of the state’s government after the 1970s, what has cemented GOP control, and led to sweeps like the one this year, is South Dakota’s booming economy. Sioux Falls is one of the nation’s true boom towns, and my own home town, also in Eastern South Dakota, is 50% larger now than when I lived there. Having experienced the tangible benefits of a business-friendly, low-tax state government, it is hard to see why voters would take a chance on the Democrats.

This is one fundamental difference between the experience of South Dakota, or any other individual state, and the country as a whole. At the state level, voters are swinging decisively toward the Republican Party, as red states generally prosper and blue states, for the most part, fail. But at the national level, divided government has been the norm, and neither party has held sway for long enough to give its policies a sustained and definitive trial (although Republicans of my vintage generally consider the Carter/Reagan era to have been virtually a laboratory experiment). Still, one would think that the rest of the country would be perceptive enough to draw lessons from successful states like South Dakota.

Dr. Evil Versus the Norks

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Saturday Night Live had a better response to North Korea than President Obama did, starring Mike Myers as “Dr. Evil.”  I especially like the predictable “There’s already a GOP,” because—what took so long? (more…)

Oil, Oil, Toil and Trouble (Update 4)

There’s a mountain of economic research that suggests predatory pricing, the alleged sin of Standard Oil way back in the Rockefeller “robber baron” days more than a century ago, really doesn’t work, as the predator won’t recoup monopoly gains to make up the loss of profit during the period of predation—the more so the longer the period of price cutting takes. The Saudis likely know this, which suggests their decision to maintain production and let oil prices fall is being done for different motives (though if it squeezes and retards the American oil boom, that would be a bonus).

The very shrewd Conrad Black thinks the Saudis are collaborating in the crash of oil because this is their most effective way of fighting the weakness of the West in confronting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Saudi Arabia has resigned itself to the fact that neither its oft-demonstrated ability to play the periodic U.S. resolve to reduce its dependence on foreign oil like a yo-yo by price-cutting until the impulse of self-discipline passes, nor the agitation of the environmentalists for restrained oil production, will work again. . . a Saudi move on this scale, with the resulting self-inflicted reduction in their income, makes no sense for the marginal impact it will have on American future production and imports; it is a geopolitical move targeted much closer to home. . .

Saudi Arabia is trying to discourage the use of Iranian and Russian oil revenues to prop up the blood-stained and beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus, to finance Iran’s nuclear military program, and to incite the continuing outrages of Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories against Israel. The exotic community of interest that has suddenly arisen between the historically Jew-baiting Saudis and the Jewish state is because the countries in the area fear, with good reason as far as can be discerned, that the UN Security Council members, plus Germany, may be on the verge of acquiescing in Iran’s arrival as a threshold nuclear military power. The oil-price weapon, in the face of the terminal enfeeblement of the Obama administration, is the last recourse before the Saudis and Turks, whatever their autocues of racist rhetoric, invite Israel to smash the Iranian nuclear program from the air.

It is perfectly indicative of the scramble that ensues when a mighty power like the United States withdraws, fatigued but undefeated, from much of the world, that Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between the nomadic and medieval House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment that propagates jihadism with Saudi oil revenues, makes common cause with Israel in a way that inadvertently relieves much of the Russian pressure on Ukraine, which was not an objective in Saudi calculations at all. From the Western standpoint, this is a lucky bounce of the political football.

This is going to get more interesting before it’s over.