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At Large

Death of a Janus-Faced Prime Minister

By 3.24.15

Malcolm Fraser, the strange, bewildering ex-Conservative Prime Minister of Australia, has died aged 84.

Fraser will be remembered favorably by the right sort of people for four things.

He rid Australia of the terrible Whitlam Labor Government, when that government had, for the first time in history, put Australia’s democracy into real danger; he reduced inflation which under Whitlam had reached 19 percent; reversed Whitlam’s wicked recognition of the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States; and his own government, particularly Immigration Minister Michael McKellar, generously and rightly accepted large numbers of Vietnamese boat refugees in the face of a disgusting campaign by the left to leave them to drown or be forcibly repatriated to Communist Vietnam’s labor camps and firing squads.

The Obama Watch

Bibi Beat Barack at His Own Game

By 3.23.15

President Obama is very good at one thing — winning elections.

So when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a snap election earlier this year, Obama figured he could win one more. After all, it was Obama who once complained to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy over a hot mic that he had to deal with Bibi every day. Getting Netanyahu out of the political picture would have been a bigger cause for celebration at the White House than when Osama bin Laden was killed.

How else does one explain the presence of Jeremy Bird in Israel during the election? Bird was Obama’s Deputy National Field Director during the 2008 campaign and was promoted to National Field Director in the 2012 campaign. Bird wasn’t in Israel to take in the sights. He was there to oust Netanyahu from office.

And it very nearly worked. In the final days of the campaign, the Zionist Camp alliance led by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah Party leader Tzipi Livni were leading in the polls. It appeared that Bibi’s political career was over. But the people of Israel had other plans. The mood of the Obama White House went from victorious to vitriolic. 

Political Hay

The Texas Reagan Announces for President

By 3.23.15

You could call him the Texas Reagan.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is announcing today that he is a candidate for president.

The announcement will come in a speech at Liberty University, the famous Virginia school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. There will be no “exploratory committee,” with Cruz moving straight to an announcement of candidacy. This will make the Texas son of a Cuban immigrant and one-time star of Harvard Law School the first officially declared candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The Right Prescription

Obamacare’s Amazing Wayback Clause

By 3.23.15

Obamacare’s boosters have made so many implausible assertions about its supposed successes that it’s difficult to single out one as the most preposterous. But any list of their most comical claims would have to include those involving the law’s “wayback clause.” Haven’t heard of that one? Well, like the provision authorizing the IRS to issue subsidies via federal exchanges, it’s absent from PPACA’s text. Nonetheless, its efficacy is routinely touted by Obamacare’s proponents as proof that “reform” works.

The most celebrated effect of this amazing provision is its retroactive reduction of medical inflation during the years preceding the law’s implementation. Obamacare was passed in 2010. However, except for a few minor provisions, it didn’t go into effect until 2014. Yet the law’s wayback clause is such a powerful cost control tool that it has been able to traverse the time-space continuum and slow the rate of health care inflation, as the President himself has phrased it, “every single year since the law passed.”

Special Report

Starbucks and USA Today Can #RaceTogether By Themselves

By 3.23.15

Rarely has there been such condemnation of a still-gestating corporate policy as the past week’s kerfuffle over Starbucks’ “Race Together” initiative. Rather than instigate a “national conversation about race” — as if race-weary Americans need more of that right now — news of the plan united critics and comics on the right and the left in going after Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz’s plan to have baristas write “#RaceTogether” on patron’s cups of hot liquid in order to goad us into talking about an important issue.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg and liberal PBS television anchor Gwen Ifill don’t agree on much, but they agreed on this.

Goldberg: “If I don’t have my coffee in the morning, I get a headache that feels like a Hell’s Angel is trying to press his meaty thumb through my forehead. This is not the most propitious moment to engage me in a conversation about my ‘race journey.’”

Letter From San Francisco

Old Enough to Vote, Old Enough to Drink?

By 3.23.15

San Francisco’s board of supervisors is considering a proposal to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in some city elections, showing how desperate the left wing of the city’s left wing is to retain their ebbing power in City Hall. Clearly Supervisor John Avalos and ally Supervisor Eric Mar fear they need to register minors to win elections.

Of course, I don’t like the idea. I think only adults — who presumably assume responsibilities — should vote. Registering teenagers, who for the most part don’t really understand money, is a recipe for folly. Avalos thinks the board of supervisors will pass his measure and put it before the voters. I think San Francisco voters are too grounded to fall for this trap.

The San Francisco Youth Commission resolution that spawned the Avalos measure argues that 16-year-olds can drive, work, pay taxes and may be charged as adults for certain crimes. Young people have a special interest in city government, Avalos argues, as they attend public schools or use other city services.

Another Perspective

The Hearing Sheldon Adelson Bought?

By 3.23.15

So what is the purpose of a congressional hearing? To increase understanding or buttress a political case the majority always intended to make?

As always, it depends on who is paying. In the case of a hearing now tentatively set for March 25 before the House Crime Subcommittee on Judiciary, Sheldon Adelson is the payer, and the witness list — for now — has been constructed to elucidate Adelson’s views to the exclusion of all others.

Adelson is a Las Vegas casino magnate and the world’s eighth-richest man. He used to be a Democrat until the Democratic Party “left me.” Now, he is one of the largest funders of Republican candidates.

He doesn’t agree with Republicans on everything — he says he is “liberal on several social issues” — but he says he is with them on the big stuff.

But the truth is, when it threatens his business interests, he remains with the Democrats on some of the big stuff and with conservatives on some of the social issues.

A Further Perspective

The Tea Party and the Sunshine Boys

By 3.22.15

It’s not easy giving sunshine a bad name — especially in the Northeast after this winter. But the solar energy industry, its lobbyists, and its leftist enablers in the environmental movement have come close to accomplishing this. 

Solyndra, and all those little Solyndras across the country, have demonstrated to alert observers how a generator of small amounts of pricy and unreliable energy can turn into a honey-pot for the well connected. Using global warming (aka climate change) and fossil fuels as the bug-bears, solarists, and those whooping up equally expensive and unproductive “renewable” energy sources, have managed to drain billions from various government treasuries while producing very little in the way of kilowatt hours.

Flick Story

Well Above and Far Beyond

By 3.20.15

Scribbling for my supper in middle age, the scariest prospect is being deemed out of touch. The last thing I want to be telling my readers is that the best film they may see this year is a documentary.

Well, actually that is the antepenultimate thing. The last thing I want to be telling my readers is that the best film they may see this year is a Spielberg film by a producer whose first name is not Steven.

No, actually that is the penultimate thing. The last thing I want to be telling my readers is that the best film they may see this year features a bunch of ninety-year-old guys reminiscing about their roaring twenties. Now, that is really the last thing: ultimo! Carry me off and drop my columns on the remainder table…

Some of you actually stayed? Your loyalty is touching, your trust is ennobling. Now get out of here to your local theater to see Above and Beyond, the wonderful documentary film by Nancy Spielberg. I promise you will be entertained and edified.

Hot and Bothered

Why I’m a Climate Change Skeptic

By 3.20.15

Despite being a moderately intelligent and relatively well-educated person, I find it hard not to be skeptical of the popular theory of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change or global warming.

I’m not a scientist, but I have no difficulty accepting the doctrines of this or that science provided a consensus exists among scientists in a particular field. Thus I have no difficulty accepting the periodic table of the elements, or the idea that later biological species descend from earlier species, or the notion that our physical universe is 13 or 14 billion years old. And so on.

So why do I find it difficult to believe in global warming when I’m told every day that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that human behavior makes a significant contribution to climate change? Let me list the reasons.

Please note, however, that I’m not claiming that the anthropogenic theory is wrong. I am simply saying: “Here is one not-entirely-stupid man who has his doubts.” I offer myself as a case study. Perhaps global-warming folks can, by studying my sorry example, figure out how to make their arguments more effective.