The Idiot’s Guide to Smart People: Malcom Gladwell Edition

If I have made any contribution to following Orwell’s advice to banish all clichés from our writing (because clichés usually represent sloppy thinking) it is my occasional use of “a perfect storm of tipping points!”  (Usually in reference to climate hysterics, since they are awash in “tipping points” and “perfect storms.”)  This two-minute video cutting Malcolm Gladwell, whose genius lies in inventing one-word clichés, down to size is so awesome I nearly had to replace my computer keyboard because I was drinking my morning coffee at the time:

(Hat tip to Charles Murray for flagging this for us.)

Ball’s bombshell: Tom Cotton digs Publius!

When Atlantic political reporter Molly Ball called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me about Rep. Tom Cotton, now opposing Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor in the election for the Arkansas seat that is on the ballot this November, my guard was up. I think Tom is a man of great courage and conviction. I support his election. I wanted not to say anything that could be used against Tom, which is what I was quite sure Ball wanted. I may be slow, but I’m not stupid. I asked Ball to let me sleep on her question overnight and email her my response, which I posted in “A personal note on Tom Cotton.”

Ball’s article on Tom is now up at the Atlantic under the heading “The making of a conservative superstar.” It seems to me a work of almost self-parodic liberal hostility seeking to transform an admirable man into a fearful monster.

Ball leads off with her big bombshell: a look at Tom’s 92-page senior thesis on the Federalist Papers. Ball labors mightily to make something of “[t]he thesis, whose contents are revealed here for the first time[.]” She writes:

A cogent and tightly argued document, it reveals the depth and intellectual roots of his reverence for American traditions. It also reveals a contrarian devotion to some ideals that seem out of date today. Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive.

“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

Cotton was only summarizing the views of Publius, the collective pseudonym used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in the Papers. His reading is neither outré nor revisionist. Yet it seems significant that, out of all the ideas outlined in the Papers, these were the concepts Cotton chose to focus on and to defend forcefully against what he saw as more modish, inclusive ideas.

Ball’s bombshell: Tom concurs with Publius’s defense of the Constitution as set forth in the Federalist Papers. What next? He also loves his mother? Ball and her article roll downhill from here.

Tom has so far withstood a barrage of lies thrown at him by Harry Reid et al. in advertisements whose falsity would shame average Americans, so I trust he will withstand Ball’s unremitting hostility. As for the barrage of lies directed at Tom, they are of no interest to Ball. There are limits to the depth of her curiosity. Fred Barnes took a look at them in the Weekly Standard article “Democrats take the low road.”

You can support Tom and annoy Ball by contributing to Tom’s campaign here.

Rumors of terrorism

Have individuals with known terrorist ties been apprehended trying to cross illegally into the United States through Texas? It seems like a straightforward question to address to the Secretary of Homeland Security. Asked the question by Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a House Homeland Security hearing yesterday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson took the phlegmatic approach and vaguely denied awareness of such a case.

Asked directly if he was aware of four such individuals who were apprehended trying to cross into Texas on 9/10 last week, Johnson gave the question the full Obama kissoff, scratching his nose with his middle finger while conceding he has “heard reports to that effect.” However, according to Johnson, he doesn’t know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them. Observing his demeanor and affect, one might conclude that the whole business is somebody else’s job. Why bother him?

But, alas, the man is Secretary of Homeland Security. We want to know, whom did you hear the reports from, Secretary Johnson, and what would it take to have you get on top of them? Why do you give the appearance of evasion and deceit? What is going on here?

Megyn Kelly explored the questions with Chaffetz yesterday on her FOX News Kelly File show (video below).

According to Chaffetz, 466,000 people have been captured crossing the border over the past 351 days, and Homeland Security says (according to the FOX News Insider report linked below) 157,000 got away. Those apprehended, however, represent a beautifully diverse rainbow of illegals from 143 different countries including Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Via Fox News Insider.

Hamas’ famous victory

Hamas claims that it won a famous victory over Israel in the recent war in Gaza. But what are the fruits of that “victory”?

According to the U.N., as reported in the Washington Post, they are: (1) approximately 108,000 residents of Gaza left homeless, (2) more than 60,000 displaced residents living at schools run by the U.N., and (3) almost half a million residents without access to municipal water.

Even before the war, there was a significant housing shortage in Gaza. With the destruction of an estimated of 18,000 housing units, that shortage has become all the more acute. Rents, accordingly, have doubled, according to the Post.

This, then, is a typical Palestinian victory. As Edward Luttwak shows, “great Palestinian victories” have always been “worse than defeats.”

Will the misery Gaza residents must now endure thanks to Hamas’ victory finally topple this terrorist outfit or, alternatively, cause it to choose a more peaceful path? The answer to the first question is, probably not. Hamas can count on foreign support to make sure it has the force needed to maintain power.

As to the second question, I’ll defer to Luttwak who concludes:

[J]ust as Arafat kept sacrificing the living Palestinians for the sake of his own idea of Palestine as he jetted around the world, Hamas leaders will ruthlessly sacrifice the people of Gaza for Islam, not without rewards for themselves (Gulf money is pouring in) to assuage the pain.

Thus, Gazans can look forward to more victories, and the steady dose of death, destruction, and misery that accompanies them.

Elizabeth Warren: It’s “Fair” to Compare Israel to Nazis

Elizabeth Warren is a heroine to many liberals, who hope she will challenge Hillary Clinton from the left. Even apart from the concept of anyone being to Hillary’s left, this seems bizarre to me. Warren parlayed the false claim that she is an Indian into academic success as an alleged bankruptcy expert. (I am sure that I have several partners who know more about bankruptcy law than Warren does.) Now, having won exactly one election in her life, in deep-blue Massachusetts, Warren is being touted as presidential material.

What does it take to be a left-wing icon in today’s America? There are multiple elements, but one requirement is a visceral hostility to Israel. That hostility was on display when Warren appeared at Tufts, I believe earlier today. A member of the audience said:

Eva Moseley, I’m not a student, I’m not an alumnae, but was in faculty life. I was also a Holocaust refugee and I’m extremely concerned that Jews don’t do to another people what was done to them.

This received thunderous applause, in the midst of which Warren responded, “I think that’s fair.” You have to see the clip to fully appreciate the exchange:

So it is “fair” to compare Netanyahu to Hitler, to equate Israel’s effort to defend itself against genocidal attacks with the Nazis’ extermination of six million. Sure, I get that. I get that you are nuts.

To our Democratic Party friends: please, please nominate Elizabeth Warren for president.

Is Obamacare Collapsing In Minnesota?

Obamacare in Minnesota is called MNSure. The state had the usual problems (worse, I believe, than in most states) getting its system and its web site up and running. Once the enrollment period got underway, the dominant insurer turned out to be PreferredOne. Reportedly offering the lowest premiums in the nation, PreferredOne signed up nearly 60% of all MNSure participants. So it was a bombshell when PreferredOne announced earlier this week that it will no longer participate in the state’s exchange, saying that “continuing to provide this coverage through MNsure is not sustainable.”

It seems a foregone conclusion that this will lead to higher premiums, at a minimum. PreferredOne’s decision also calls into question the economic viability of the Obamacare model. State officials tried to downplay the significance of the dominant carrier’s exiting the market:

A day after a key insurance player announced its exit from MNsure, leaders of the state’s insurance exchange called the move a normal evolution of a competitive marketplace and laid out plans to improve the upcoming enrollment period for both consumers and brokers. …

[MNSure CEO Scott Leitz] reiterated that he “fully anticipated” that plans would change from year to year.

“It is a competitive marketplace,” he told the board, “and we don’t pick winners and losers.”

Under Obamacare, you could say that the government only picks winners. Through 2016, taxpayers will subsidize insurance companies’ losses. Such subsidies were considered necessary to induce carriers to participate in the government-sponsored exchanges, despite the likelihood that the risk pool on the exchanges would be unfavorable. The fact that a company with 60% of the Obamacare exchange market considers the business unsustainable, even with federal subsidies, is ominous.

In Minnesota, PreferredOne’s decision will probably continue to reverberate. Individuals with PreferredOne policies purchased on the exchange will see those policies automatically renewed, unless they do something different. The catch is that, with PreferredOne no longer participating in MNSure, those people will no longer be eligible for Obamacare subsidies, so they will see premium increases–in many cases, huge ones.

This sort of thing will keep happening for years to come. Democrats are smugly telling reporters that Obamacare is now an established fact and we should all get used to it. In reality, the law is like a series of bombs timed to go off as various deadlines kick in. Ultimately, the awful economics of the law can’t be denied. Premiums and deductibles will rise, and coverages will shrink, insofar as they are able to given the law’s expansive and sometimes irrational mandates. By 2017, when the federal government will stop reimbursing insurance companies’ losses, premiums will be far higher than when Obamacare went into effect. The Democrats apparently hope that no one will notice. To me, that seems unlikely.

The Minnesota PreferredOne story doesn’t appear to have gotten any national attention, which makes me wonder whether similar developments are occurring around the country, each one only a local news story. Obamacare may be crumbling, one state at a time.

This day in baseball history

On September 17, 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to stretch their lead over the idle St. Louis Cardinals to six and a half games. The Cincinnati Reds, 7-5 winners over the Chicago Cubs, remained seven and a half games behind.

The Phillies won the game in the ninth inning when Ruben Amaro scored from third as the Dodgers tried unsuccessfully to complete a double play on a Richie Allen grounder. Bobby Shantz, days shy of his 39th birthday, pitched seven and two-thirds innings of three-hit relief to pick up the win. It was a performance reminiscent of his heroic long-relief outing in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series.

The Phillies were sitting pretty with only 15 games left for them to play. But they would lose 12 of their next 13.

In the American League, the New York Yankees pulled into a three-way tie for first place via a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The other two contenders, Chicago and Baltimore, both had the day off.

Mickey Mantle supplied the Yankees offense with a double and a two-run home run. Mel Stottlemyre was the winning picture.

The Yanks had brought Stottlemyre up from their Richmond farm team in August. By September 17, his record was 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA (which he would go on to lower).

When pressed, the Yankees of that era always seemed to pull a rabbit out their hat. In 1964, they pulled out two — Stottlemyre and journeyman pitcher Pete Ramos, who saved 7 games, with a 1.25 ERA, after being acquired from Cleveland on September 5 for two players to be named later.

Though their teams were tied for first place, I suspect that optimism was in short supply among White Sox and Orioles fans.