It’s getting really weird

September 4th, 2014

Yes, we know, it’s WND, but still…… And Benghazi is back. Then there’s this sad story from a Nigerian daily. Wretchard discusses Ozymandias. Bonus fun: America becomes a country where it takes decades to do something simple, when it used to take mere months. Good luck to us all.

Question

September 3rd, 2014

WSJ:

we will defend our NATO allies, and that means every ally. In this alliance there are no old members or new members, no junior partners or senior partners. They’re just allies, pure and simple, and we will defend the territorial integrity of every single ally…We’ll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again.

Question: does this sort of happy talk, to use the WaPo’s phrase, make it more or less likely that Mr. Putin will take his provocations to a new level?

China’s productivity growth slows

September 2nd, 2014

WSJ:

“China is now at this critical juncture, and maybe has been for several years,” writes Harry X. Wu, a senior advisor to The Conference Board’s China Center and an economics professor at Japan’s Hitotsubashi University. “This explains the ongoing ‘soft fall’ slowdown in economic growth despite the government’s continued stimulus exercises and continuing high-levels of investment and supporting credit expansion.”

Mr. Wu argues in a Conference Board paper that China’s economic ascent may have been less miraculous than it appeared, with total factor productivity – a measure of an economy’s technological dynamism – badly lagging other Asian high-growth economies at a similar stage in their development.

China’s 1% average annual growth in total factor productivity between 1978 and 2012 – a period when average per capita annual incomes rose from $2,000 to $8,000 — compares with 4% annual gains for Japan during its comparable 1950-1970 high-growth period, 3% for Taiwan from 1966-1990 and 2% for South Korea from 1966-1990, he said, when purchasing power in the relative economies is taken into account.

“Our study shows that China’s spectacular growth in the reform period has been mainly investment-driven and quite inefficient,” Mr. Wu wrote.

A big problem, which often complicates efforts to assess the health of China’s economy, is the reliability of Chinese data. Using three measures of productivity, J.P. Morgan economist Haibin Zhu concludes in a research note that China’s total factor productivity grew 1.1% in 2013 from a 3.2% expansion in 2008. Mr. Wu draws on different methodology to argue that total factor productivity turned negative from 2007 to 2012.

China’s cooked books have been a problem for many years. Without explosive growth to cover up the issue, it’s going to be an interesting time shortly.

Wow

September 1st, 2014

Roger Simon lets loose. Wow. We think back a decade to George Bush holding hands with Saudi royals. 15 of the 19 9/11ers were Saudis. Where did they get their ideas? How about the textbooks they studied in school. Duh.

Update: a week has passed. PJ points it all out again. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Update 2: Geert Wilders states obvious things, but few want to listen, even now, guaranteeing that the ultimate price paid for willful blindness will be very high indeed.

Tiptoe through the Tulips

August 31st, 2014

A little talk:

if you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart. Now, let me say this: We are living through some extraordinarily challenging times. A lot of it has to do with changes that are taking place in the Middle East in which an old order that had been in place for 50 years, 60 years, 100 years was unsustainable, and was going to break up at some point. And now, what we are seeing is the old order not working, but the new order not being born yet — and it is a rocky road through that process, and a dangerous time through that process.

So we’ve seen the barbarity of an organization like ISIL that is building off what happened with al Qaeda and 9/11 — an extension of that same mentality that doesn’t reflect Islam, but rather just reflects savagery, and extremism, and intolerance. We’ve seen divisions within the Muslim community between the Shia and Sunni. We continue to see an unwillingness to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and its ability to defend itself. And we have seen, frankly, in this region, economies that don’t work. So you’ve got tons of young people who see no prospect and no hope for the future and are attracted to some of these ideologies.

All of that makes things pretty frightening. And then, you turn your eyes to Europe and you see the President of Russia making a decision to look backwards instead of forward, and encroaching on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their neighbors, and reasserting the notion that might means right. And I can see why a lot of folks are troubled.

But — and here’s the main message I have for you — the truth of the matter is, is that American military superiority has never been greater compared to other countries. Our men and women in uniform are more effective, better trained, better equipped than they have ever been. We have, since 9/11, built up the capacity to defend ourselves from terrorist attacks. It doesn’t mean the threat isn’t there and we can’t be — we don’t have to be vigilant, but it means that we are much less vulnerable than we were 10 or 12 or 15 years ago.

And the truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy. In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through. The good news is that American leadership has never been more necessary, and there’s really no competition out there for the ideas and the values that can create the sort of order that we need in this world.

I hear people sometimes saying, well, I don’t know, China is advancing. But I tell you what, if you look at our cards and you look at China’s cards, I promise you you’d rather have ours. People say that, I don’t know, Russia looks pretty aggressive right now — but Russia’s economy is going nowhere. Here’s a quick test for you: Are there long lines of people trying to emigrate into Russia? I don’t think so.

Yes, the Middle East is challenging, but the truth is it’s been challenging for quite a while. And our values, our leadership, our military power but also our diplomatic power, the power of our culture is one that means we will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past. And I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago. This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War. This is not comparable to the challenges that we faced when we had an entire block of Communist countries that were trying to do us in.

The WaPo is “alarmed“. As for us, somehow a vision of Tiny Tim singing appeared.

Cui bono?

August 30th, 2014

What’s Russia got going for it? Bad demographics but it is currently the largest oil producer in the world. Russia certainly knows how to act in its own interests, or those of Mr. Putin. Was it a surprise that Putin decided to strongly control the area around its only warm water naval base in moves that seemed to come out of nowhere? Similarly would it be a surprise to find some Russian money in ISIS, another thing that seemed to come out of nowhere? Iran and Qatar versus Saudi Arabia et al should be a good thing for the world’s largest oil producer. (Of course we understand that things cut all kinds of ways in the region; Russia relies on Syria for a large naval maintenance facility, for example.) In any event lowering the power of OPEC and being more of a global lynchpin in oil prices would seem to be an obvious Russian goal.

Hugh Hewitt regularly asks journalists a series of questions to see if they know anything at all. One of the questions is about Alger Hiss, and many times the reporters don’t know much about hisstory. We started wondering the other day: who are the current Russian spies in the US government? You’d be a fool to think that there aren’t quite a few. Along the same line, does Russia even have to funnel money to the nutty environmental groups that oppose vastly increasing US oil production? Many of these come by their anti-Americanism naturally, and think they are intellectually and morally superior to boot. How Putin must laugh at us!

Update to a five year old story

August 29th, 2014

Back then: Michael Tomasky in the Guardian:

About that “Allahu Akbar” — The fact that Hassan reportedly shouted the above is meant, I suppose, to imply that he was an extremist fanatic. I’m not sure that it does. My understanding is that it’s something Arab people often shout before doing something or other. It’s used in many different situations.

Update: “I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State,”Hasan says in the handwritten document addressed to “Ameer, Mujahid Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” “It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don’t compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers.” The two-page letter includes Hasan’s signature and the abbreviation SoA for Soldier of Allah.

Cause and effect plus one

August 28th, 2014

Back in ancient times, eight years ago, some generalizations were observed among a number of the young men who yearned to become warriors, and sometimes, mass killers. (Testosterone plus either primogeniture or polygamy figured into the mix fueling jihadis and conquistadors.) Cause and effect to some extent, or at least correlation. In the current iteration of this phenomenon, which has become worse by an order of magnitude, we see an extra element: barbarity as aggressive, celebratory advertising via the internet. Far more effective than placing a dozen heads on pikes for the occasional passers-by to encounter. We have mixed views about this. On the one hand, there’s a good case for censorship of these snuff films; oddly, we don’t hear very much about that. On the other hand, it would be great if these guys are able via their snuff ads to bring vast numbers of these 7th century barbarians together for an IS Woodstock. Perhaps we could introduce them to Fat Man and Little Boy. Are you saying that the world would not be a better place?

In case you hadn’t noticed

August 27th, 2014

The average person is both ill-informed and not too bright, at least if you poll the right campuses and industries where they prattle on about micro-aggressions and so forth. Add that to the college professor class, and oops! the high school history curriculum, and you have a formula for continued degeneration into a fantasy world until things get up close and personal. It’s all so obvious. Appeasement does not work. Unbelievably sad and pathetic and to no avail.

Update: if figures like this are true, this conflict could be a kind of an internecine hundred years’ war, except that with the armaments available today, there seems a pretty high probability that someone will choose to go out with a bang.

The wish is father to the thought

August 26th, 2014

American Interest:

On July 31, 2014, a group of left-leaning historians called “Historians Against the War” posted an open letter to President Obama denouncing Israel’s actions in the Gaza War and calling for a cut-off of American military assistance to Israel. On August 13, the letter was posted on the website of the History News Network. On August 31, the signers reported that “in less than twenty-four hours over two hundred US, based [sic] historians had signed the letter.” This remarkable turnout depended on the mobilization of an already existing network of an academic Left that emerged in opposition to the war in Iraq and that stays in touch via a website called “The Hawblog.” On August 14, the blog announced that more than a thousand historians had signed the statement, including a large number from Mexico and Brazil.

With a brief and unconvincing effort to sound balanced, the statement deplored “the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel” but then turned its fire on Israel for what it called “the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” The signers were “profoundly disturbed that Israeli forces are killing and wounding so many Palestinian children.” They found “unacceptable the failure of United States elected officials to hold Israel accountable for such an act” and demanded “a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a permanent end to the blockade so that its people can resume some semblance of normal life.” Further, they urged the President to suspend U.S. military aid to Israel until there is assurance that it will no longer be used for the commission of “war crimes.” “As historians,” they concluded, “we recognize this as a moment of acute moral crisis in which it is vitally important that United States policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict change direction.”

It is old news that an academic tenured Left has a foothold in departments of history in the United States, as well as in Latin America. Also familiar is the deception involved in presenting oneself as “against war,” as if those who disagree are “for” war, and as if the issue were one of war or peace rather than anything that has to do with the substance of the conflict. Nor is it surprising that left-of-center academics are largely hostile to Israel. Hostility to Israel became a defining element of what it means to be left-wing since the early 1950s in the Communist states, and since the late 1960s for the Left in Western Europe, the United States, and the Third World as well. Nor is it even surprising that the signers conclude, before they can possibly have access to the evidence needed to reach this judgment, that Israel has engaged in “war crimes.”

Depressing, but it will end. Reality is on its way to a village near you. Yes indeed. They’re all branches of the same tree.

The absurd and the serious

August 25th, 2014

Cause and effect? College am good. The miracle of solar and wind power. On a serious note, Angelo Codevilla considers what it will take to take down ISIS; there’s no way it’s going to happen until things get far worse, which they will.

700 words too long?

August 24th, 2014

We were going to critique this MoDo piece by observing it was about 700 words longer than the original. But on second thought, the droning on and on gets it just about right.

So simple that even a college professor should be able to understand

August 23rd, 2014

Jonah Goldberg responds to the professor who mocked him at CNN the other day:

I find it more than a little appalling to be lectured to about the evils of calling ISIS evil, particularly from a person who specializes in the issue of “human rights.” I understand that in our culture saying that “some people can’t be reasoned with” is seen as closed-minded. But sometimes you can be so open-minded your brain falls out. If the view of the human rights community is that it is simply useless to describe ISIS as evil, then what good is the human rights community?

Maybe I’m the fool here, but it just seems obvious to me that a group that crucifies its theological enemies, buries children alive, forces young girls into sexual slavery, and seeks global dominion isn’t a great candidate for reasonable conversation and compromise. Moreover understanding the “whys” behind their behavior strikes me as a moral dead end.

Let us recall once again the story of British general Charles James Napier. When assigned to British-run India, he was informed that he just didn’t understand Indian customs. He couldn’t ban the practice of wife-burning, he was told, because it was an ancient and valued tradition in India. He said he understood and appreciated that. “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

Really, this is so simple that even a college professor ought to be able to understand it.

They’re not all on horses

August 22nd, 2014

Both CNN and the NYT instruct us not to make “simplistic” moral judgments about ISIS. The pieces were penned by college professors. (What might they have written in August of 1939?) Bonus fun: don’t let ISIS know you’re sad or mad.

Some IS numbers

August 21st, 2014

USA Today:

Khalid Mahmood, a member of Parliament from an area with a high proportion of Muslim residents, said government estimates of the number of British Islamic State fighters currently in the Mideast is far too conservative. He told Newsweek magazine this week that at least 1,500 extremists are likely to have been recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria over the last three years. “There are an unacceptable number of Britons fighting for jihadist forces,” he said. Experts say the number of Americans fighting for the Islamic State is much lower. Joseph Young, a criminology professor at American University and expert on political violence, said simple geography and the complex cultural differences between the U.S. and Europe are primary reasons why. Young, who said common estimates put the number of American fighters for IS at 100 to 150, said just getting to Syria or Iraq is extremely complicated from North America. However, the Islamic State’s home region is practically next door for Europeans.

Points: (1) Isn’t IS a Zionist plot? (2) Haven’t these fellows heard that “the future is always won by those who build, not destroy?”

A Very Long River in Egypt

August 20th, 2014

Eleven years ago we looked in on denial in the UK. Speaking of the UK, the queen’s subjects are certainly keeping busy. Still the denial. Man caused disasters indeed.

The Happening

August 19th, 2014

WaPo:

On one corner of a battered stretch of West Florissant Avenue, the epicenter of ongoing protests, young men pull dark scarves up over their mouths and lob molotov cocktails at police from behind makeshift barricades built of bricks and wood planks. They call the gasoline-filled bottles “poor man’s bombs.” The young men yell expletives and, with a rebel’s bravado, speak about securing justice for Michael Brown, the black teen fatally shot Aug. 9 by a white police officer, “by any means necessary.” They are known here as “the militants” — a faction inhabiting the hard-core end of a spectrum that includes online organizers and opportunistic looters — and their numbers have been growing with the severity of their tactics since the shooting. Each evening, hundreds gather along West Florissant in what has become the most visible and perilous ritual of this St. Louis suburb’s days of frustration following Brown’s death. Dozens have been arrested, many injured by tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets fired by a police force dressed in riot gear and armed with assault rifles. But the demonstrators are as diverse as their grievances — and in their methods of addressing them. Some of the men are from the area — Ferguson or surrounding towns also defined in part by the gulf separating the mostly white law enforcement agencies from a mistrusting African American public. Many others — it is hard to quantify the percentage — have arrived by bus and by car from Chicago, Detroit, Brooklyn and elsewhere. They will not give their names. But their leaders say they are ready to fight, some with guns in their hands. “This is not the time for no peace,” said one man, a 27-year-old who made the trip here from Chicago.

Buzzfeed:

It was a little after 9 p.m., and I was in the McDonald’s parking lot, standing by my car. A police helicopter circled overhead, its spotlight sweeping back and forth. Then I heard the sound of shattering glass: A rubber bullet had been fired through a window of McDonald’s, which until then, had been one of the few sanctuaries on West Florissant Avenue. Now I didn’t feel safe anywhere…I saw a blonde white woman getting into a minivan. Something about her — the well-worn sweatsuit? the lack of makeup? — made me think she was a mother. I approached: “Can you please help us?” She didn’t even hesitate: “Get on in.” Her name is Stacy Graham. She and her three children — ages 14, 9, and 7 — live 35 miles away in Jerseyville, Ill. “So much for the curfew, bitches,” she joked when we got into the car. Stacy had come to Ferguson to visit her family and show her support for the Brown family. She was wearing a T-shirt that had Brown’s face on the front and the slogan “Murder is murder” on the back. Her support comes by blood: A black man, currently serving a nine-year prison sentence, is the father of her three children. “I worry that society has already deemed them doomed because of the color of their skin,” she said.

At the end of SVU Debt, Stabler kills a perp who has a gun to a girl’s head. Shortly thereafter, he hands his weapon to Fin as he sighs and resigns himself to deal with Internal Affairs and the endless questioning and paperwork he has to deal with. Points: (1) a cop would have to be evil, wildly reckless, or a lunatic to shoot somebody without cause; (2) if news outlets had embedded reporters with the Viet Cong in 1968, what would that have looked like?

Lessons for the future

August 18th, 2014

(1) When you’ve alienated key members of the Washington Post’s editorial board by marrying petulance and implausibility, the game’s up. VDH sees A Face in the Crowd playing out before our eyes, something we noted a couple of years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, this was all very predictable. When someone says things that reveal unhinged grandiosity, walk slowly away. Don’t get on the bandwagon.

(2) Beware when a minor story in the overall scheme of things (indeed) suddenly becomes, almost instantly, the lede at every media outlet. It’s as though they had the chosen narrative written in advance and were just waiting for some sad event to hang the narrative on. And in an election year. Hmmmm. Of course in many cases the chosen narrative does not stand up to scrutiny (here and here, for example), but by then great emotions have been aroused and great damage has been done.

If all the world’s a stage, why not use it?

August 17th, 2014

This is a little tongue in cheek, but not completely so, even though the matter is serious. Rick Perry’s statement on his ridiculous indictment was heavy on the gravitas and old man talk, blah, blah, blah. However, it included this howler: “It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics.”

Are you kidding? — theatrics is a weapon. Perry missed a great opportunity to expand his base and get the kids to watch. He should have said a couple of sentences about the indictment and then said “getta load of this,” playing this youtube video at about the 1 minute mark on a big screen in the background. The fadeout music should have been she’s once, twice, three times the limit (HT: DB). That sure would have beaten harumphing for impact, and would have appropriately treated a clown, however her vile and abusive of the judicial process, as a clown.

(For those of you who are interested in the serious elements of this, we recommend Patterico via Ace, where perfidy is put on enjoyable and ignominious public display.)

Update: Perry has caught on to the theater aspect of things.

As predicted, but far worse

August 16th, 2014

Eight years ago we took a look at some periods of relative calm, peace and prosperity, and how they often end with a bang, not a whimper. Wretchard has a nice list of today’s bangs. JOM too. Steyn notes nastiness on all sides in Missouri. IHTM has a joke about a massacre which is actually amusing, if such a thing is possible. KW has sober reflections on urban governance, which if anything seem out of place because of their, um, rationality. This isn’t a rational time, L&G, and the thing is, virtually all of the horrible situations referenced in the linked material can get far worse.