Obama’s Iranian fantasia

In a good column on Barack Obama’s nascent alliance with Iran, Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti reports:

Deputy National Security Adviser and MFA in creative writing Ben Rhodes likened an Iranian nuclear deal to Obamacare in a talk to progressive activists last January, according to audio obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The remarks, made at a since-discontinued regular meeting of White House personnel and representatives of liberal interest groups, reveal the importance of a rapprochement with Iran to President Obama, who is looking to establish his legacy as his presidency enters its lame-duck phase.

“Bottom line is, this is the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically, certainly since President Obama came to office, and probably since the beginning of the Iraq war,” Rhodes said. “So no small opportunity, it’s a big deal. This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context.”

*****

Rhodes also said the White House wants to avoid congressional scrutiny of any deal.

“We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away,” Rhodes said. “And there are ways to do that.”

That is similar to what an unnamed senior administration official told David Sanger of the New York Times last week for a piece headlined “Obama Sees an Iran Deal That Could Avoid Congress”: “We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years.”

Continetti posted the audio (below) with his column.

David Sanger reports in today’s New York Times: “UN says Iran is silent on efforts fora bomb.” Now why would that be? You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.

Reminder: Iran remains an avowed enemy of the United States and the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the whole wide world.

The case of the mystery virus, cont’d

Twin Cities internist Chris Foley is a faithful reader whom I know in his professional capacity. In mid-September he wrote us to address the case of the mystery virus. Accordintgto ABC News (at the linked story), the cause of the virus was “unidentified.” Dr. Foley commented:

It might be worth a short commentary re the connection between the sudden “mystery” virus that is hospitalizing children all over the US and the indiscriminate distribution of illegal alien kids “all over the US.” To wit: “Human rhinoviruses and enteroviruses in influenza-like illness in Latin America.”

‘Tis anything but a mystery, yet the MSM appears utterly blinded.

In a follow-up message, Dr. Foley added:

This is basically the same virus commonly seen in the equatorial Americas and South America. The very odd emergence of this virus at this time – especially just prior to the new school year and now fueled by the congregation of children in schools – demands an explanation. The only plausible one is that this has been brought here from south of the – now non-existent – border.

Although there will be a good deal of epidemiological work to be done before this can be scientifically associated, there is a deafening silence on the part of public health officials and the mainstream media in even speculating about this association. This is not simply a case of being politically selective about the news, it is downright dangerous and could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the emergence of diseases long absent from daily life in America now suddenly popping up “inexplicably.” By the way the article from the Journal that I cited [linked above] likely represents gross underreporting which is typical in South America.

We posted Dr. Foley’s messages here.

Today Neil Munro reports at the Daily Caller: “Obama’s border policy fueled epidemic, evidence shows.” In a long article that doesn’t go quite as far as the headline suggests, Munro demonstrates that Dr. Foley treads where public authorities fear to go. Munro sets out in search of evidence that would absolve the influx of illegal alien minors and runs head-on into a wall of silence:

A series of government researchers, health experts and academics refused to comment, or else urged self-censorship, when they were pressed by TheDC for statistical and scientific data that would exonerate Obama and his deputies.

“I would just steer away from that— it is not helpful, so why bring it up,” said Lone Simonsen, a professor at George Washington University’s Department of Global Health and the research director of the university’s Global Epidemiology Program. “A better angle [is] ‘We’re just learning what this outbreak is all about,’” she told TheDC.

Columbia University researcher Rafal Tokarz, one of the nation’s top experts on the EV-D68 virus, declined to comment to TheDC about the impact of Obama’s border policies. “I cannot comment… and at this time it would not be appropriate for me to do so… I would really rather not comment,” he said in email conversations.

The issue is dangerous for scientists because it could spike existing public opposition to the unpopular effort by Obama, Democrats and business-backed Republicans to increase the migration of foreign nationals — including many foreign scientists — into the United States. That inflow is a top priority for the Democratic leaders, who have the power to make life difficult for grant-dependent American scientists who discover politically damaging information.

Munro then traces the outbreak of the virus, reporting that “the big epidemic arrived in August 2014.” On October 24, he notes, the number of confirmed infections reached 998. That’s 300 times the infection rate seen in the 33-year period from 1970 to 2003. Insofar as it is possible, Munro dredges up the related data documenting the influx of illegals. He posits that “a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that 9,000 Central American kids aged 12 and younger arrived by September 2013, and 40,000 more arrived by August 2014.”

Munro notes the distribution of previously resettled Central American minors in Missouri, Colorado and Illinois while conceding the difficulty of tracing the distribution of the new wave of illegal minors. The difficulty derives from the federal authorities’ refusal to disclose where this year’s wave of illegal Central American minors has been distributed. He observes that the “EV-D68 epidemic suddenly appeared in Missouri, Colorado and Chicago in the second week of August, sometimes even before schools opened.”

Munro then explores the nature of the outbreak:

There are three genetically distinct subtypes of EV-D68. These subtypes are technically called “clades” and all three are apparently contributing to the 2014 epidemic.

TheDC asked Oberste — the top CDC official — if all three clades are involved in the epidemic.

“In the current outbreak, there is one major group/clade which contains the vast majority of viruses, a minor group/clade that is related to the major group, and an outlier group/clade that has only a few viruses in it,” the CDC replied.

That’s critical information, because viral epidemics are usually powered by one new variety of a familiar virus. For example, the annual flu epidemics usually consist of a new mutation of an older flu virus. Because it is new, it bypasses immune responses that people acquired during prior flu waves, and then quickly jumps from person to person across the United States.

If confirmed, the presence of many strains would be further evidence that a population movement triggered the outbreaks, said Eden Wells, an assistant epidemiology professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

And then there is this:

When CDC officials were asked by TheDC to explain this multi-city, multi-strain anomaly, they waffled: “There is no evidence that unaccompanied children brought EV-D68 to the United States; we are not aware of any of these children testing positive for the virus,” Oberste replied.

Munro concludes:

here’s plenty of evidence from government agencies and from doctors that the epidemic suddenly appeared in many places after the arrival of the 40,000 young migrants in the summer of 2014, and that it included many strains of EV-D68.

Scientists likely can use gene-sequencing technology to disprove or prove any genetic link with the EV-D68 samples found in Latin America, or differences to viruses found in the United States before 2009.

“It is early to draw conclusion or to make associations, certainty about causation…[although] I totally understand why people are trying to reach for associations,“ Wells said.

But that’s not a priority for the government-funded researchers. “The interest right now is to understand the behavior of the virus and whether or not this virus has changed its infectiousness or its virulence, its severity, since the previous years… that’s No. 1,” said Wells.

“Our issue is not to say ’It came from here or there or wherever.’”

Munro concedes the difficulty of arriving at a definitive conclusion, but I trust that the truth will out some time after Obama issues his royal decree regularizing illegals after next Tuesday’s midterm elections. In the meantime, don’t miss Munro’s valiant effort to sort out the facts.

Happy Halloween From the Would-Be Monarch!

Some dressed-up kids came by our house tonight, trick or treating. That’s all in good fun, but, sadly, we have a dressed-up middle-aged cipher in the White House, pretending to be a president. Or a king. Or something; someone who doesn’t have to worry about a troublesome Constitution, in any event. Government is so much simpler when you can just issue orders and amend statutes by decree. Michael Ramirez comments; click to enlarge:

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Note the words in the border around the rug in the Oval Office. They express, if I am not mistaken, the Peter Principle.

Mayday Explains: When We Say “Money,” We Mean Conservative Money!

Two left-wing groups, MoveOn and Mayday.US, sponsored a video contest to highlight the “problem” of money in politics. They published the videos that were submitted on a web site, and encouraged viewers to vote for the best one. Sadly, their effort was nowhere near as successful as the Power Line Prize competition of a couple of years ago. They got one really good entrant, produced by American Commitment, which focused on the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer, the number one funder of the 2014 election cycle. Here it is, “America’s Biggest Hypocrite”:

We and others urged our readers to vote for the Steyer video, and many did: it garnered more than 20 times as many votes as the second-place vote-getter. So it won the competition, right? No! The lefty panel of judges awarded the prize to a lame liberal production. We noted the seeming injustice here. A disappointed Phil Kerpen, head of American Commitment–well, he probably wasn’t all that disappointed–said:

The leaders of “pro-democracy” groups chose a video that got 99 votes over a video that got 7,590 votes — because the latter was about liberal Tom Steyer and the former was against fossil fuels. It speaks for itself.

Still, many wondered whether democracy had been served. Reader John Simutis voted for “America’s Biggest Hypocrite.” To do so, he had to submit his email address. So he got this email from Mayday, announcing the contest’s winners:

Friend —

Thanks for voting in the #MAYDAYin30 video contest! Before we tell you who the winners are (unless you scroll down before reading this!) we wanted to tell you a bit about MAYDAY.US.

We’re a people-powered movement to reduce the corrupting influence of big money on politics. More than 50,000 of us came together to crowd-fund nearly $11M, making us the SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs – we embrace the irony! …

And now to the main announcement. After nearly 100 video submissions and 11,000 votes cast, we are so excited to announce the winners of the #MAYDAYin30 video contest! Drum roll please…

Winner, Category #1: General money in politics ad
“This is your country”

Winner, Category #2: Candidate specific ad
“William the K St. Lobbyist vs. Iowa”

Both of these ads were insightful and creative, and they emphasized the MAYDAY message of getting big money out of politics. We feel so grateful to have a community that puts everything they have into supporting our cause. Your vote was key in bringing the best videos forward, videos that our celebrity judges really enjoyed watching. …

- The MAYDAY Team

John didn’t see how this explained the upset victory by a liberal ad, so he emailed Mayday:

And, you didn’t choose the video that actually received the most votes – 10 times the votes of your selection.

How very … “people-powered.”

Heh. That provoked an explanation of sorts from Mayday:

Hi John,

Thank you for writing to share your thoughts. Here’s why the Steyer video did not win the contest overall:

In the contest rules, we stated that the video had to fit into one of two categories:

Category 1: Ads that address the general issue of money in politics.
Category 2: Ads about a MAYDAY race (either for a MAYDAY candidate or against a MAYDAY candidate’s opponent).

The Steyer video received the most votes and was evaluated by the judges in Category 1 as ads for Category 2 had to be in support of a specific MAYDAY candidate. The judge panel reviewed it along with the other winning entrants, but did not consider it the best entry.

From the beginning, we announced that we would take the top vote earners in each category and pass them on to our judges. Our judges would then use their expertise to select a winner. This is exactly what happened.

We continue to feature the video on our website for being the top vote earner. MAYDAY.US has treated this video respectfully and fairly. We stand by the integrity of the #Maydayin30 Contest.

-rachel

rachel perkins
MAYDAY.US

I added the emphasis to highlight the key language. The judges “did not consider [the American Commitment video] the best entry,” based on their “expertise.” But why wasn’t it the best entry? Certainly not because of its production values, which were obviously superior. Rather, because of its content: it focused on Tom Steyer, who contributed more money to the current electoral cycle than anyone else. So why didn’t it satisfy the contest’s alleged purpose of opposing “the corrupting influence of big money on politics”? Obviously, because Steyer is a liberal.

This MoveOn/Mayday video contest, lame though it was, was revealing. When liberals say they want to get money out of politics, they aren’t serious. What they mean is, they want to get conservative money out of politics.

Why is that? The answer is simple: liberals command the culture. They control virtually all universities, virtually all public schools, virtually all newspapers, virtually all of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, almost the entire apparatus of the news. That control, added to the corruption of crony government, gives liberals access to enormous amounts of money, so that in almost every contested election, the liberal candidate has more money than the conservative candidate.

And yet…liberals have a problem. Their arguments are terrible, and their theories are contradicted at nearly every turn by the facts. Which means that they can’t withstand criticism. They can’t take competition; they need a monopoly. Which, in turn, means that they must prevent voters from hearing conservative ideas and arguments. They can do that in the schools and in the culture, and they don’t have to worry about newspapers or broadcast television. But there is a loophole of sorts: during election seasons, conservatives can buy time on television and on the radio to broadcast messages that liberals are otherwise able to blockade. This is intolerable! Because when people hear conservative ideas, unfiltered by the liberal press, they tend to find them persuasive.

So “money in politics” must be denounced. Most money in politics is liberal, from labor unions, crony billionaires like Tom Steyer, and so on. But that isn’t the money the Democrats mean: they want to silence conservative voices, so their monopoly can be preserved and threats to their rule–democracy, one might say–can be eliminated. The MoveOn/Mayday contest was a microcosm of one of the central political conflicts of our time.

The Power Line 100: The Commanding Haidt

PowerlineProfessors copy

I tended to let the Power Line 100 Best Professors in America series go dormant last academic year while I served out my time as an inmate at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and it is past time to bring it back.

HaidtAnd who better to inaugurate the revival of this series than NYU’s Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind. He is not only tall, but his name is in fact pronounced “height.”

Jon is no stranger to Power Line—we wrote about him here in 2012 for instance—and nearby is the sunset photo I took of Jon a few weeks ago at the gonzo conference on political polarization we both attended at the Esalen Institute.

I think Jon still considers himself to be a moderate liberal. I say “still” because his interesting survey research has led him to conclude conservatives have a broader field of moral vision than liberals do, and he has come to take conservative thought more seriously. It is timely to take him up this week because The New Yorker has a feature article on Jon that takes up the subject of our post two years ago: is social psychology biased against conservatives? I know intellectual news is very slow to reach The New Yorker, but they’re just now getting around to this story?

Social psychology, Haidt went on, had an obvious problem: a lack of political diversity that was every bit as dangerous as a lack of, say, racial or religious or gender diversity. It discouraged conservative students from joining the field, and it discouraged conservative members from pursuing certain lines of argument. It also introduced bias into research questions, methodology, and, ultimately, publications. The topics that social psychologists chose to study and how they chose to study them, he argued, suffered from homogeneity. The effect was limited, Haidt was quick to point out, to areas that concerned political ideology and politicized notions, like race, gender, stereotyping, and power and inequality. “It’s not like the whole field is undercut, but when it comes to research on controversial topics, the effect is most pronounced,” he later told me. (Haidt has now put his remarks in more formal terms, complete with data, in a paper forthcoming this winter in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.)

From here, the article appeared to be moving on to all the liberals who wanted to dispute Haidt in the usual way, nit-picking his methodology or torturing a different data set to get a contrary result. But instead the piece ends up not only validating Haidt but suggesting the problem of academic bias against conservatives is widespread and serious.

And yet the evidence for more substantial bias, against both individuals and research topics and directions, is hard to dismiss—and the hostility that some social psychologists have expressed toward the data suggests that self-correction may not be an adequate remedy.

Good for The New Yorker. And keep your eye on Haidt.

The Catcall Video, and Rape Culture

I may have been the last person on Earth to watch the “catcall” video that has now been viewed more than 25 million times on YouTube, and seen by many more on news shows, etc. Just in case you haven’t seen it either, here it is. It is two minutes long. Basically, a pretty young woman walked around Manhattan for ten hours while being filmed, and a number of guys spoke to her in ways that were friendly, flattering, inappropriate, or, in one two instances, creepy, although never threatening:

The video was produced by a group called Hollaback!, which is “dedicated to ending street harassment.” Good luck with that. The organization is also dedicated to raising money, at which its prospects are better.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the catcall video. To me, it illustrates the principle that the less significant a problem is–here, the “oppression” of women–the more hysterical people tend to get about it. Or maybe it’s just the people who have a financial stake in the problem not going away.

There is an obvious connection, I think, between the attention paid to the catcall video and the current controversy over “sexual assault” on college campuses–sexual assault being defined to include trying to kiss a girl who prefers just to hold hands. There is obviously no epidemic of rape on college campuses. If there were, people like me wouldn’t be helping their 12th grade daughters with college applications. The rare instances where rapes actually occur tend to be significant news stories.

Why is the hysteria industry, aided and abetted by the federal government, in overdrive for no apparent reason? Feminists say there is a “rape culture” in America that must be combatted. But is that true? In fact, the incidence of rape, like all other serious crimes, has been declining sharply for years. This graphic comes from Mark Perry, on Twitter:

The rapid decline of violent crime of all sorts across the United States is something of a mystery. Several factors no doubt are at work: demographic changes, aggressive incarceration of violent criminals in many jurisdictions, and the prevalence of firearms in the general population. But rather than being celebrated, the decline of violence in the U.S. is generally obscured and even lied about. Why? Mostly, I think, because a lot of money and power are riding on the perpetuation of misinformation of the sort that feeds hysteria.

What’s the Matter With Oregon?

A long time ago, I went to college in Oregon, at the fine little undergraduate institution that I now lovingly refer to as Lewinski and Clark College, since Ms. Monica of the Immaculate Stain left her mark there too. Back in those days, Oregon voted Republican in most presidential elections, and had a Republican governor. Little was I to know at the time that Vic Atiyah was to be the last Republican governor.

It has now been 30 years since Oregon elected a Republican governor, and it is a sign of the weakness of the Oregon Republican party that it is struggling to run competitively against a boring and scandal-plagued incumbent, John Kitzhaber, who has presided over perhaps the worst state rollout of Obamacare in the nation. Right now it looks like Kitzhaber will be re-elected. It doesn’t help that the Republicans’ once highly touted Senate candidate, Monica Wehby, has run a mistake-riddled campaign against the equally mediocre incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. As Casey Stengel said of the 1962 Mets, “Can anyone here play this game?”

Forget, pace Thomas Frank, Kansas: what’s the matter with Oregon? Even aside from the Obamacare fiasco and Kitzhaber’s ethical problems, the state has been in relative economic decline for more than two decades, with an unemployment rate consistently above the national average and income growth lagging the national average. Its public school performance is dismal, without the usual excuses of a large low income or minority population. Yet no one seems to connect any of these difficulties to the dominance of one political party.   Perhaps you’ve taken in an episode of Portlandia? Believe me, as a frequent visitor to Portland (the city where young people go to retire), it is indeed a documentary.

An old pal, Rob Kremer, has together with some pals produced a sharp 30-minute video exploring these and other aspects of Oregon’s sorry story entitled “The Oregon Myth.” Below is the first two-minute segment of the whole thing. If you have time and it piques your interest, you can watch the whole 30-minute version here, or check out the home page for TheOregonMyth. (P.S. I’ll be visiting Portland the week after the election to find out how it all shook out.)