The cables of civilization 6


Brooklyn Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge, completed in 1883, spans the East River in New York. It was the brainchild of John A. Roebling

Here is an article by Michelle Malkin, titled Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge?:

How many times have you heard President Obama and his minions pat themselves on the back for their noble “investments” in “roads and bridges”? Without government infrastructure spending, we’re incessantly reminded, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our daily business.

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” Vice President Joe Biden infamously asserted. “Private enterprise,” he sneered, lags behind.

As always, the Beltway narcissists have it backward. Without private enterprise and free-market visionaries, public infrastructure wouldn’t exist.

Take the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which turned 132 years old this week. It’s not a government official whose vision built that. It’s a fierce capitalist who revolted against unimaginative command-and-control bureaucrats in his home country.

Before he went on to pioneer aqueducts and suspension bridges across America, culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge, John Roebling was a government engineer in the German province of Westphalia. A cog in the Prussian building machine, he chafed under autocratic rule. No decisions could be made, no actions taken, he complained in his diary, “without first having an army of government councilors, ministers, and other functionaries deliberate about it for ten years, make numerous expensive journeys by post, and write so many long reports about it, that for the amount expended for all this, reckoning compound interest for ten years, the work could have been completed”.

Fed up with innovation-stifling conformity, subordination and red tape, the ambitious 25-year-old Roebling set sail for the U.S. in 1831 aboard the American-built ship August Edward. During the 78-day journey, he wrote of his hopes and dreams “to found a new home in the western continent beyond the ocean, a new fatherland free from tyranny”.  Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he celebrated his adopted land’s free-market economy.

“The numerous hindrances, restrictions and obstacles, which are set up by timid governments and countless hosts of functionaries against every endeavor in Germany, are not to be found here,” he reflected in a letter to friends and family.

“The foreigner must be astounded at what the public spirit of these republicans has accomplished up to now and what it still accomplishes every day. All undertakings take place through the association of private persons. In these the principal aim is naturally the making of money.” The pursuit of self-interest was in of itself a source of public good, he concluded, “principally (as) a result of unrestricted intercourse in a concerted action of an enlightened, self-governing people.”

Roebling failed at silkworm-farming, fabric-dying, rape seed oil farming and canary-raising before embarking on his engineering career. He patented an improved boiler for steamships, a safety gauge for a steam-boiler flue and a steam-powered motorcycle. He traveled wherever he could utilize his skills – constructing dams on the Beaver River, consulting on hydraulics on the Croton River Aqueduct, knocking on doors for work across Pennsylvania.

With unbridled determination to build a lucrative family business, he patented and pioneered America’s first commercially successful wire rope company. Frugal and financially savvy, Roebling operated on saved capital and refused to borrow. Several of his new clients paid him in stock, and he soon had a thriving investment portfolio. Coal mining companies in the anthracite region snapped up his sturdy cables.

Did he have “help” along the way? Plenty – from other capitalists, that is.

Roebling purchased his wire from industrial pioneer Robert Townsend, who had founded the first iron wire mill west of the Allegheny Mountains in 1816. Townsend, who had learned the wire-making trade from Baltimore wire weaver Hugh Balderson, manufactured rivets, nails, fasteners and telegraph wire, in addition to supplying Roebling with wire for his early experiments and projects.

Samuel Wickersham’s Pittsburgh Wire Works also supplied wire as Roebling gained more project work. And Sligo Iron Works made charcoal “blooms” for Roebling’s wire: large blocks cast from molten iron and later steel, which were then “hot rolled” at high temperatures between two rotating cylinders into wire rods.

Later, Roebling’s sons Charles and Ferdinand built a 200-acre state-of-the-art manufacturing campus, steel plant and village outside Trenton, N.J. Employing 8,000 workers, Kinkora Works produced everything from chicken wire and telegraph wire to tramway and elevator cables.

The suspension cables on the Golden Gate and George Washington bridges were manufactured by the Roeblings. So were the control cables in the Spirit of St. Louis, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the tramway and construction cables used to build the Panama Canal. Even the wires used to stabilize the wings of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft used Roebling trusses.

Here’s the lesson White House progressives and Common Core historians won’t teach: Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge is a towering legacy of the countless pursuits of individual American innovators who benefited the public by benefiting themselves and their families. The wealth-shaming social engineers in Washington will never understand. Private profit is a public good.


John Augustus Roebling


(Hat-tip to our Facebook commenter Nadir H. Khan)

The president-whisperer 5

Discover the Networks is a superb resource, gifted to researchers by Front Page.

The “networks” are those of the Left. Together they constitute the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy.

We went there to read all about Valerie Jarrett, the decision maker who stands behind Barack Obama and speaks into his ear.

We know that Obama was raised a Communist, so it is not surprising that he picked a Communist to be his closest adviser.

We have extracted some of the most important facts from the Discover the Networks dossier on Jarrett – but urge our readers to see the whole account.

First we learn about her Communist roots.

Valerie Jarrett was born as Valerie Bowman on November 14, 1956 to American parents in Shiraz, Iran. Her late father — a physician named James Bowman — worked as a pathologist and geneticist at a children’s hospital in Shiraz as part of a U.S. aid program to assist developing countries.

Jarrett’s mother is the early-childhood-education author Barbara Taylor Bowman (born1928), who in 1966 co-founded a Chicago-based graduate school in child development known as the Erikson Institute, named after the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson; in 1950 Erikson became a hero to the left by choosing to resign from his professorship at the University of California rather than sign an anti-communist loyalty oath as the school required. Indicative of the Erikson Institute’s radical political orientation is the fact that its board of trustees has included, in addition to Mrs. Bowman, such figures as Tom Ayers (father of the formerWeather Underground terrorist and lifelong Marxist Bill Ayers) and Bernardine Dohrn (longtime wife of Bill Ayers) 

 … and leading member of the Weather Underground.

Jarrett’s maternal grandfather was a Chicagoan named Robert Taylor, the first African-American head of the Chicago Housing Authority. In the 1940s he was involved with such Communist fronts as the American Peace Mobilization and the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee. Also a member of these groups was Frank Marshall Davis, the communist journalist who in the 1970s would mentor a young Barack Obama.

Jarrett’s maternal grandmother, Dorothy Taylor, was a Berkeley, California native who was active with Planned Parenthood in its early years.

When Valerie Jarrett was five, her family relocated to London for one year before settling in Chicago’s elite Hyde Park neighborhood in 1963.

Jarrett earned a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University in 1978, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. From 1981-87 she practiced law at two Chicago-based private firms. In 1983 she married Dr. William Robert Jarrett, son of the Chicago Sun-Times reporter Vernon Jarrett.

Vernon Jarrett (Valerie Jarrett’s father-in-law) was a pioneering black journalist in the 1940s. He freelanced at Kansas City’s The Call from 1954-58, then returned to Chicago to become the first nationally syndicated black columnist for the communist-influenced Chicago Defender, where he wrote columns extolling the Communist poet Langston Hughes and lifelong Stalinists W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson. Also in the 1940s, Jarrett was a leaderof the Chicago chapter of American Youth for Democracy — youth wing of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Moreover, he served on a publicity committee for the Packinghouse Workers Union, a Chicago-based entity dominated by the CPUSA. In each of these endeavors, Vernon Jarrett had close contact with the Communist Frank Marshall Davis. When Jarrett died in 2004, he was saluted in the pages of People’s Weekly Worker, the house organ of the CPUSA.

As historian Paul Kengor summarized in 2014: “[Barack] Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, worked with the literal relatives of Valerie Jarrett — her grandfather and future father-in-law — in Chicago’s Communist Party circles in the 1940s.” In an earlier piece, Kengor put it this way:

So, imagine where we are today: Barack Obama, Frank Marshall Davis’s political godson, and Valerie Jarrett, daughter-in-law to Vernon Jarrett and granddaughter of Robert Taylor—men with links to pro-Stalinism—are the two dominant figures in the White House, the power center that battled the USSR throughout the Cold War.

Jarrett enters politics: 

Valerie Jarrett entered Chicago politics in 1987 as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development in the administration of Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor. Jarrett’s father-in-law, whom The Washington Post called “a key influence in [Harold] Washington’s decision to run for the Chicago mayoralty”, may have facilitated Valerie’s rise through Chicago’s political ranks.

After Mayor Washington’s death in 1987, Valerie Jarrett served as deputy chief of staff for the next mayor, Richard M. Daley. During her tenure in that post, Jarrett met and befriended a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson, (the future Michelle Obama), who at the time was engaged to Barack Obama. In 1991 Jarrett and her colleague Susan Sher recruited Michelle to Chicago’s City Hall, and Jarrett quickly became a trusted confidante of both the Obamas.

From 1992 through 1995, Jarrett served the Daley administration as commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. From 1995-2003, she chaired the Chicago Transit Board. Sometime in the early 1990s, Marilyn Katz, an activist/public-affairs consultant with close ties to City Hall — and a former Students for a Democratic Society radical — introduced Jarrett to Daniel Levin, a cousin of both Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan).

She has a lucrative career as a slum manager:

From 1995-2008 Jarrett worked for Daniel Levin’s real-estate firm, the Habitat Company. In 2007 Jarrett became Habitat’s president and CEO, drawing a $300,000 in salary plus $550,000 in deferred compensation.

From 2001-08, the Habitat Company managed Grove Parc Plaza, a federally subsidized, 504-unit public housing complex situated in a neighborhood that Barack Obama had represented for eight years as a state senator. But under Habitat’s management, Grove Parc fell into disrepair and became largely uninhabitable, plagued by a host of unaddressed problems such as collapsed roofs, fire damage, rodent infestation, and sewage backups. According to a 2008 Boston Globe report: “In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale — a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.” Eventually government inspectors seized control of the complex because of its horrid conditions.

Also under Jarrett’s stewardship, said the Globe, “Habitat … co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.”

But for Jarrett the news was not all bad. Indeed she became immensely wealthy while presiding over the aforementioned slum apartments. As of 2012 Jarrett owned an 11-percent equity interest in Kingsbury Plaza, a 46-story luxury apartment complex developed by the Habitat Company during 2005-07 at a cost exceeding $100 million. On her 2011 financial disclosure form, she valued that investment — which a Jarrett spokesman said was “a direct result of her 13 years working for Habitat” — at between $1 million and $5 million. According to a 2012 report in the Washington Free Beacon: “Cook County records show the Kingsbury property’s worth at approximately $27.2 million, but thanks to a series of legal appeals beginning in 2003, the land and building are assessed at a much lower value for tax purposes. Since 2008, the property has been designated a ‘special commercial structure’ and is taxed at a value of just $6.8 million, or 25 percent of the actual value. Asked how such a property could enjoy such a low taxable value, an official with the Cook County Assessor’s Office told the Free Beacon that the property’s owners ‘must have good attorneys’.” …

She becomes President Obama’s closest adviser:

Following Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election, Jarrett co-chaired the Obama-Biden Transition Project. After that, she was appointed to a prominent position in the Obama administration: Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. In this role, Jarrett was one of President Obama’s (and Mrs. Obama’s) closest and most trusted advisers.

Consider the following observations, by a variety of informed sources, about Jarrett’s importance as an Obama adviser:

  • An Obama 2008 campaign official told the New York Times, “If you want [Barack Obama] to do something, there are two people [he’s] not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.”
  • Also in 2008, the aforementioned Susan Sher, who had helped Jarrett recruit Michelle Obama to the Chicago mayor’s office in 1991, emphasized “how incredibly instrumental [Jarrett will] be in virtually everything” in the White House.
  • In July 2009, President Obama himself told New York Times reporter Robert Draper, “I trust her [Jarrett] completely … She is family.” Obama said also that he trusted Jarrett “to speak for me, particularly when we’re dealing with delicate issues”. When asked, the President admitted that he was in the habit of soliciting Jarrett’s input on his every decision.
  • The New York Times described Jarrett as Obama’s “closest friend in the White House”, his “envoy”, his “emissary”, his “all-purpose ambassador”, and the “ultimate Obama insider”.
  • Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank says that Jarrett’s connection to Obama is “deep and personal’, calling her “the real center of Obama’s inner circle”.  Milbank also describes Jarrett as Obama’s “longtime mentor and friend”,  and as someone in a “position of unparalleled influence over the president”.
  • Obama’s former White House communications director, Anita Dunn, says: “Her [Jarrett’s] role since she has been at the White House is one of the broadest and most expansive roles that I think has ever existed in the West Wing”.
  • Chicago tycoon Martin Nesbitt says that Jarrett establishes both Michelle and Barack Obama’s “whole notion of authenticity”.  According to Nesbitt, Jarrett channels the Obamas’ inner voice, telling them, for instance: “That’s not you. You wouldn’t say that. Somebody else is saying that. Barack Obama wouldn’t say that”.
  • According to a November 2014 New Republic report: “Jarrett holds a key vote on Cabinet picks … and has an outsize say on ambassadorships and judgeships. She helps determine who gets invited to the First Lady’s Box for the State of the Union, who attends state dinners and bill-signing ceremonies, and who sits where at any of the above. She has placed friends and former employees in important positions across the administration — ‘you can be my person over there’,  is a common refrain. And Jarrett has been known to enjoy the perks of high office herself. When administration aides plan ‘bilats’,  the term of art for meetings of two countries’ top officials, they realize that whatever size meeting they negotiate — nine by nine, eight by eight, etc. — our [the U.S.] side will typically include one less foreign policy hand, because Jarrett has a standing seat at any table that includes the president”.
  • Jarrett herself is wholy cognizant of the influence she wields with Obama. “We have kind of a mind meld,” she said in 2009. “And chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.” On another occasion Jarrett told Vogue magazine, “I kind of know what makes them [the Obamas] who they are.”

Jarrett is deeply concerned with racial issues. After the tape recordings of Jeremiah Wright’s racist, anti-American diatribes threatened to sink Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, it was Jarrett who encouraged Obama to give his “race speech” at Constitution Hall. African-American administration staffers have said that without Jarrett’s patronage, “their opinions and the often-legitimate concerns voiced by black leaders like [Al] Sharpton would have been thoroughly disregarded by the white-dominated senior staff”.

When future White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to downplay Obama’s assertion (during the 2008 presidential campaign) that Republicans were emphasizing the fact that Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills”,  Jarrett instructed white staffers: “You guys, you’re not getting this issue right.” After Jarrett’s intervention, candidate Obama told his white staffers that they were too “gun-shy on race issues”. According to a campaign source, “[M]oving forward, the candidate made it very clear to us that we were just a bunch of white people who didn’t get it — which, by the way, was true.”

After Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, Jarrett successfully pushed to loosen restrictions barring government officials from meeting with lobbyists, a rule enshrined in Obama’s executive memo on the Recovery Act [stimulus bill], for fear that other “legitimate” concerns — raised by “civil rights organizations whose directors happen to be registered lobbyists — will not be heard”.

In early 2009 Jarrett lobbied President Obama to create the office of Chief Diversity Officer within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a position filled soon thereafter byMark Lloyd, an Alinskyite and a former senior fellow at the [George Soros supported] Center for American Progress.

Jarrett also helped recruit Obama’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who supports the Fairness Doctrine and has argued that Americans should “celebrate tax day”.

Without Jarrett’s patronage, the self-identified communist revolutionary Van Jones would not have gotten his appointment as the Obama administration’s green jobs czar in March 2009. A White House official told Politico that Jones “did not go through the traditional vetting process”. Instead, Jarrett interviewed Jones, a signal that she pushed for his appointment. Indeed, Jarrett gushed to the Netroots Nation conference in August 2009: “We were so delighted to be able to recruit him [Van Jones] into the White House. We were watching him … for as long as he’s been active out in Oakland. And all the creative ideas he has. And so now, we have captured that, and we have all that energy in the White House.” …

Examples are given of how she brought persons with a variety of subversive and (Islamic) terrorist connections into contact with the president, and urged them to promote his agenda. 

She is a keen advocate for “green energy” at any cost:

In 2010-11 Jarrett promoted the California-based solar-power company Solyndra, where one of her wealthiest Chicago connections, billionaire George Kaiser — a leading Obama bundler — held a 35% share in the company. On Jarrett’s advice, President Obama famously visited and publicly extolled Solyndra in 2010, even though auditors were already warning about the abysmal state of its finances. In September 2011 the company declared bankruptcy, but not before it had received a $535 million government-backed loan.

In general, it is her political philosophy that prevails:

In September 2011, Jarrett said the following about what she viewed as the proper role of government:

We have to give people a livelihood so they can provide for their families…. His [President Obama’s] is a moral vision. It’s a vision based very deeply in values and taking care of “the least of these”. And making sure that we are creating a country that’s a country for everybody, not just for the very, very wealthy. We are working hard to lift people out of poverty and give them a better life, a footing, and that’s what government is supposed to do.

A neat summary that of the Left’s eternal pretext for extending government control over every aspect of lifeand the fail-safe recipe for keeping people in dependence and poverty.

There follows a story about her contact with illegal immigrants. In the light of all else that is revealed about her influence over Obama’s policies, a reasonable inference is that Jarrett has had much to do with Obama’s policy of amnesty for illegal aliens. And there is corroboration of this:

A September 2012 New York Times report identifies Jarrett as the person responsible for a number of controversial Obama Administration policy decisions, including …  the president’s decision to allow illegal immigrants to apply for work permits.

Then comes an outline of her influence on foreign policy:

…  Jarrett, prior to the May 2011 U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, repeatedly urged President Obama not to kill the al Qaeda leader, prompting Obama to cancel the mission on three separate occasions—in January, February, and March of 2011.  …

And she has a large share of responsibility for the administration’s policy towards Iran:

In October 2012 it was revealed that for several months, Jarrett, who had no experience in international negotiations, had been leading secret negotiations with representatives of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in an effort to develop normalized relations between the U.S. and Iran.

Obama is letting Iran become a nuclear power. When it is (and it may be so even now), it will very likely be the crowning achievement of Valerie Jarrett’s political career.

In sum, Valerie Jarrett, elected to no office, is governing the United States. And not without malice:        

A few days before the November 2012 presidential election, a representative from Jarrett’s office quoted Jarrett as having told several senior staffers the following:

After we win this election, it’s our turn. Payback time. Everyone not with us is against us and they better be ready because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded, the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay. Congress won’t be a problem for us this time. No election to worry about after this is over and we have two judges ready to go. 

There speaks the spirit of Communism! Of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro. Its gloating use of naked ruthless power. Its mean, petty, cruel drive for vengeance on its perceived enemies. Its contempt for the people and their representatives in government. Its determination to have its hands on all the wheels of power and use them to advance its totalitarian ends.

And there are almost two years still to go in which that spirit will be presiding over America.

The riches of ISIS 9

The Islamic State is a state, whether the world likes it or not (and its doesn’t). A state is populated territory governed by an authority which is able to enforce its will internally and hold off its enemies. IS/ISIS/ISIL is fully able to do that. It is doing it. (Though being at war, its borders are not yet firmly established.) It does not require recognition by other states, nor to be a member of the ludicrous United Nations.

What is more, it is a rich state.

From the Heritage Foundation:

The army of radical Islamists [IS/ISIS/ISIL] controls production of 30,000 barrels of oil a day in Iraq and 50,000 barrels in Syria. By selling the oil on the black market at a discounted price of $40 per barrel (compared to about $93 per barrel in the free market), ISIS takes in $3.2 million a day. …

The oil revenue, which amounts to nearly $100 million each month, allows ISIS to fund its military and terrorist attacks — and to attract more recruits from around the world, including America.

According to James Phillips, veteran expert in Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation:

ISIS sells oil to consumers in territory it controls, roughly the size of Maryland, inside Syria and Iraq. The terrorist group also sells oil to a network of smugglers that developed in the 1990s during Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule; that network smuggled oil out of Iraq into Turkey to avoid sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

ISIS also reportedly sells oil, through middlemen, to the Assad regime in Syria that is trying to quell rebellion there. When it comes to making a fast buck, the Middle East has no shortage of “strange bedfellows” willing to do business with each other.

[This is very likely to be true. It is the sort of thing that happens in the Arab Middle East. In Lebanon in the early 1980s, when war and civil war were raging there, I learnt that certain factions bought their weapons from other factions that they were fighting fiercely every day – JB]

Oil is only one of the sources of revenue for the Islamic State.

This is from Business Insider:

ISIS brings in nearly $12 million a month in revenues from extortion and other shady practices in the Iraqi city of Mosul alone in addition to $1 million to $3 million a day selling oil illegally. …

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Brookings Doha Center fellow Charles Lister explains how ISIS uses its control of food and water supplies to further its goals:

Money is key here. It is well-known that the IS is almost entirely self-financed. Its money comes from the control and illicit sale of oil and gas, agricultural products like wheat, the control of water and electricity and from imposing taxes within areas it controls. It is literally earning millions of dollars each week, and a great deal of this money is pumped into social services.

ISIS’s advance throughout northern Iraq has put vast quantities of prime farmland under the control of the militant organization. Large portions of five of Iraq’s most fertile provinces are currently under ISIS control.

These provinces are collectively responsible for producing 40% of the country’s wheat crop. The militants have also raided between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of grain from government silos in the north of the country.

Al Arabiya reported that ISIS has transported at least 700 tons of grain from western Iraq into Syria for milling and refining. ISIS then proceeded to sell the grain to the Iraqi government through third-parties in order to raise further funds.

ISIS has expanded this effort recently by making flour using the grain it stole from government mills throughout Mosul.

A source at Iraq’s Agricultural Ministry told Reuters that ISIS has placed close to 30% of Iraq’s entire farm production at risk.

This scarcity and food insecurity has driven up prices and increased the windfall that ISIS receives from its wheat trade.

Control of water resources and hydroelectric power stations provide further funding for ISIS. The control of massive pieces of infrastructure, such as the Tabqa Dam outside of ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqah, Syria, along with the group’s short-lived seizure of the Mosul Dam in Iraq, further demonstrates ISIS’s capabilities and ambitions. … The dam generates electricity for Aleppo and the surrounding region. ISIS fighters made sure that the dam’s staff was left relatively unmolested, in order to ensure that the dam remained operational.

ISIS collects taxes on a variety of commercial items, such as trucks and cellphone towers Raqqa’s Credit Bank has transformed into a functioning tax authority, with shop owners paying $20 every two months to ISIS in exchange for utilities and security.

ISIS [also engages] in extortion, carjacking, and kidnapping. Kidnappings have become an especially lucrative source of funding for the organization as the group targets foreigners, and attempts to ransom them.

If kidnappings have “become an especially lucrative source of funding” for the Islamic State, it must be because some of their attempts to ransom the captured foreigners have been successful.

ISIS also seized cash and gold from the banks it captured.

Hundreds of airstrikes by the US Air Force will not destroy the Islamic State. Words of condemnation at international summits will not defeat it. The West has allowed the growth of this savage force, has encouraged Islam to believe that it can conquer the Middle East, Europe, and eventually the world. Islam is crowing its triumphalism. It will take iron resolve, a huge commitment of military forces, persistence, and first and foremost the precise defining of the enemy as Islam, if IS/ISIS/ISIL is to be destroyed.

President Obama has poked the nasty thing with a tentative finger, and reluctantly sanctioned some attacking of it from a dizzy height. He will not call the engagement a war. He has sent a few hundred military personnel to Iraq to … what? Advise someone about something?

He’s hoping other nations will do any real fighting that might be necessary. His fervent wish that America will not be perceived (by whom? his political base? the Nobel Peace Prize Committee?) as leading a coalition of states using military force is so desperate that he includes China, and even Iran in his hopes.

Meanwhile the Islamic State is growing, strengthening, flourishing, mass-murdering, and drawing tides of men from all over the world to join its wild jihad.

One hundred years ago today World War One began 1

Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video. 

Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the  winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.

We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.

We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.


Obama’s tyrants, their hokum, and their corruption 4

Fifteen of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee members have received $180.8 million in EPA grants since 2000. One CASAC panelist (Ed Avol of USC) received $51.7 million!

Repeat: $51.7 million dollars. Whatever did the man do to deserve that much tax-payers’ money? What unique skill has he acquired and uses to the enormous benefit of America or all mankind?

Read on to find out.

This is from Townhall, by Paul Driessen:

The Obama Environmental Protection Agency recently slashed the maximum allowable sulfur content in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm. The agency claims its new “Tier 3” rule will bring $7 billion to $19 billion in annual health benefits by 2030. “These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment and a win for our pocketbooks,” EPA  Administrator Gina McCarthy insists.

Note that name. She is one of the most dangerous sub-tyrants in the Obama administration.

It’s all hokum. Like almost everything else emanating from EPA these days, the gasoline regulations are a case study in how America’s economy, jobs, living standards, health and welfare are being pummeled by secretive, deceptive, and indeed fraudulent and corrupt government practices.

Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, America’s cars have eliminated some 99% of pollutants that once came out of tailpipes, notes air quality expert Joel Schwartz. Since 2004, under Tier 2 rules, refiners have reduced sulfur in gasoline from an average of 300 ppm to 30 ppm – a 90% drop, on top of pre-2004 reductions. In addition, because newer cars start out cleaner and stay cleaner throughout their lives, fleet turnover is reducing emissions by 8 to10 percent per year, steadily improving air quality.

The net result, says a 2012 Environ International study, is that ground-level ozone concentrations will fall even more dramatically by 2022. Volatile organic pollutants will plummet by 62%, carbon monoxide by 51% and nitrous oxides by 80% – beyond reductions already achieved between 1970 and 2004.

EPA (which once promised to be ultra-transparent) claims its rules will add less than a penny per gallon to gasoline prices; but it won’t say how it arrived at that estimate. Industry sources say the Tier 3 rules will require $10 billion in upfront capital expenditures, an additional $2.4 billion in annual compliance expenses, significant increases in refinery energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, an extra 5-9 cents per gallon in manufacturing costs, which will certainly hit consumers at the pump.

But regardless of their ultimate cost, the rules will reduce monthly ozone levels by just 1.2 parts per billion during rush hour, says Environ. That’s equivalent to 12 cents out of $100 million or 1.2 seconds out of 32,000 years. These minuscule improvements could not even have been measured by equipment existing a couple decades ago.

Their contribution to improved human health will be essentially zero.

Not so, say the EPA, Sierra Club and American Lung Association (ALA). The rules will reduce asthma in “the children,” they insist. However, asthma incidences have been increasing, while air pollution has declined – demonstrating that the pollution-asthma connection is a red herring. The disease is caused by allergies, a failure to expose young children to sufficient allergens to cause their immune systems to build resistance to airborne allergens, and lack of sufficient exercise to keep lungs robust. Not surprisingly, a Southern California study found no association between asthma hospitalizations and air pollution levels.

Moreover, EPA paid the ALA $20 million between 2001 and 2010. No wonder it echoes agency claims about air quality and lung problems. The payments continue today, while EPA also funnels millions to various environmentalist pressure groups – and even to “independent” EPA scientific review panels – that likewise rubber stamp too many EPA pollution claims, studies and regulatory actions.

As Ron Arnold recently reported in The Washington Examiner, 15 of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee members have received $180.8 million in EPA grants since 2000. One CASAC panelist (Ed Avol of USC) received $51.7 million!

The seven CASAC executive committee members pocketed $80.2 million. Imagine Big Oil paying that kind of cash to an advisory group, and calling it “independent.” The news media, government and environmentalists would have a field day with that one.

The Clean Air Act, Information Quality Act, Executive Order 12866 and other laws require that agencies assess both the costs and benefits of proposed regulations, adopt them only if their benefits justify their costs, and even determine whether a regulation is worth implementing at all. However, EPA and other agencies systematically violate these rules, routinely inflate the alleged benefits of their rules, and habitually minimize or even ignore their energy, economic, health and social costs.

Reporting on a hearing held by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Arnold noted that CASAC members say they weren’t even aware that they are obligated to advise EPA on both benefits and costs. Former EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead testified, “As far as I know, CASAC never fulfilled this requirement as it relates to the ozone standard or any other” rule.

Former CASAC chairman Dr. Roger McClellan told Rep. Smith he did not think the panel “ever advised EPA to take account of the role of socioeconomic factors, unemployment or other risk factors” adversely affecting people’s health. Another former CASAC member testified that the advisory committee was not even “allowed to discuss any of the adverse consequences” associated with new rulemakings.

EPA regulations impose countless billions of dollars in annual impacts on the US economy, according to studies by the Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Government Accountability Office. Estimates of total compliance costs for all federal regulations range to nearly $2 trillion per year. Some may bring benefits, but many or most also inflict significant harm on human health.

They mean millions of layoffs, far fewer jobs created, and steadily declining quality of life for millions of Americans, who cannot heat and cool their homes properly, pay the rent and mortgage, or save for retirement. …

In another example, EPA justifies its onerous carbon dioxide regulations by asserting that Earth’s climate is highly sensitive to C02, hypothesizing every conceivable carbon cost, and imputing huge monetized damages from hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions ($36/ton of CO2 emitted). It completely ignores even the most obvious and enormous job, health and welfare benefits of using fossil fuels; even the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels for food crops, forests and grasslands; and even the harmful effects that these regulations are having on energy prices and reliability, and thus people’s jobs, health and welfare.

The EPA, ALA and CASAC likewise insist that new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards for coal-fired power plants will bring huge health benefits. However, the mercury risks were hugely overblown, the proclaimed dangers from fine particulates were contradicted by EPA’s own illegal experiments on human subjects – and the agency never assessed the health and welfare damage that the MATS rules will impose by causing the loss of 200,000 jobs and 23,000 megawatts of reliable, affordable electricity by 2015.

So who is Ed Avol, and what did he do to earn $51.7 million of your money?

He is Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, specializing in “respiratory health, air pollution and the public health impacts of traffic”.

Here he is.


And what did he do?

He rubber-stamped the tyrannous rulings of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Citoyons – is this not cause, and is it not time, to rebel?

Re-Volting waste 5

This is from Fox News:

A Michigan hybrid battery plant built with $150 million in taxpayer funds is putting workers on furlough before a single battery has been produced. …

Workers at the Compact Power manufacturing facilities in Holland, Mich., run by LG Chem, have been placed on rotating furloughs, working only three weeks per month based on lack of demand for lithium-ion cells.

The facility, which was opened in July 2010 with a groundbreaking attended by Obama, has yet to produce a single battery for the Chevrolet Volt, the troubled electric car from General Motors. The plant’s batteries also were intended to be used in Ford’s electric Focus.

Production of the taxpayer-subsidized Volt has been plagued by work stoppages, and the effect has trickled down to companies and plants that build parts for it – including the batteries.

“Considering the lack of demand for electric vehicles, despite billions of dollars from the Obama administration that were supposed to stimulate it, it’s not surprising what has happened with LG Chem. Just because a ton of money is poured into a product does not mean that people will buy it,” [said] Paul Chesser, an associate fellow with the National Legal and Policy Center.

Or, to put it another way - you can’t buck the market. As Friedrich Hayek says.

The 650,000-square-foot, $300 million facility was slated to produce 15,000 batteries per year, while creating hundreds of new jobs. But to date, only 200 workers are employed at the plant by by the South Korean company. Batteries for the Chevy Volts that have been produced have been made by an LG plant in South Korea.

The factory was partly funded by a $150 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. LG also received sizeable tax breaks from the local government, saving nearly $50 million in property taxes over 15 years and another $2.5 million annually in business taxes. Landing the factory was hailed as a coup when shovels first hit the ground.

“You are leading the way in showing how manufacturing jobs are coming right back here to the United States of America,” Obama told workers at the ground-breaking ceremony. …

Chesser said no amount of government subsidies can counter the practical problems posed by plug-in cars.

“Electric car batteries do not perform much better than they did 100 years ago,” he said. “Research has not conquered the battery storage issue, and therefore the electric transportation ‘stimulus’ did not boost the ‘technology of the future,’ but instead a century-old technology as far as performance and capability goes.”

He added that the LG Chem plant’s problems show that the unpopularity of electric cars despite heavy taxpayer subsidies has had more widespread negative effects than most realize.

“Billions of dollars were put into Volt research, and Ford received $5.9 billion in stimulus loans to retrofit plants to produce [electric vehicles],” Chesser said. “The battery companies like LG Chem that were supposed to service them have no customers to speak of. Their existence was solely based on access to taxpayer money.

“Had it been private investors rather than government bureaucrats making the decision, there either would have been a reality check about the industry, or only those who made individual decisions to invest would have lost their money, not taxpayers.”

Obama picks losers. As Mitt Romney says.


(Hat-tip for the Fox report, our reader and commenter Robert Yarber)


Preparing for dictatorship? 6

Food and water may from now on be allocated to or withheld from you on the decision of a single Obama deputy.

Very quietly on March 16 the President issued an Executive Order – the instrument by which he is increasingly inclined to govern – which gives him and his gang this power.

The EO grants the administration martial law powers in peacetime.

Drudge and Canada Free Press have carried this news. The mainstream media must know about it. If they choose not to report it, what are they allowing by their silence?

The issue of such an order in peacetime raises suspicion that Obama may be preparing to refuse to relinquish power if he is defeated in the November presidential election.

This is from Canada Free Press, by Alan Caruba:

An Executive Order posted on the White House website on Friday, March 16, 2012, has generated a wave of fear. It is officially about “National Defense Resources Preparedness” and its stated policy addresses “national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950.”

Its stated policy is that “The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.”  …

In effect, the EO allows the federal government, directed by the President, to commandeer and control all aspects of the economy and the lives of all Americans. It centralizes control to an astonishing and frightening degree. …

It parcels out control to the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources

The Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;

The Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;

The Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;

The Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and

 The Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.

The obvious question is why is this EO necessary in the absence of any threat of an invasion or even an attack? [And] why should the President of the United States, in the run-up to a national election, feel that this is the time to issue such an EO?

I have frankly been dismissive of widely expressed fears that Obama would or could carry off a coup d’etat to establish himself as an American dictator. The problem, however, is that Obama has surrounded himself with Cabinet Secretaries and a shadow government of “czars” that would likely support him if he were to attempt such an audacious move.

The “legality” of such a move would be rubber-stamped by the Attorney General whose regard for the Constitution and laws of the nation is dubious at best, elastic at worst. The President’s views about the Constitution are well known and he resents the limits it puts on his powers.

Would Congress stand by and allow its powers be usurped? Imagine yourself a Senator or Representative fearful of arrest and detention. Rounding up all 435 members would not be a difficult task.

The nation’s media, with exceptions, has “covered” for this President regarding the legitimacy of his right to hold office, his absurd energy policies, and his takeover of various segments of the nation’s economic base; the auto industry, the insurance industry, and Obamacare’s attempt to takeover the healthcare sector.

That is why this EO has evoked such fear and concern and that is why Congress has to assert its Constitutional powers before this President is permitted to overthrow the legislative branch of government and seize control through an EO that is so broad that it is a breathtaking seizure of power that could only be considered if the nation was, in fact, under attack.

This EO is about “preparedness”, but for whom?

Is this unwarranted scare-mongering? Or is it valid cause for fear?

Tyranny American-style 3

An inspector from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture raided the fish fry at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Rochester. He had been there for his annual inspection of the church’s kitchen, but … he espied an elderly parishioner unwrapping some pies.  He swooped. Would those by any chance be homemade pies?

They were. Four ladies had made each her favorite pie. They’d brought them to the church to sell at a dollar a slice. The inspector stopped them doing so, telling them that if they did they’d be committing a crime. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to bake a pie in a home kitchen for sale at a church fundraiser.

The inspector informed the ladies they could continue baking pies [for sale] at home if each paid a $35 dollar fee for him to come round to her home and certify her kitchen as state-compliant.

Mark Steyn tells the story in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. He also tells this one:

Seven-year-old Julie Murphy was selling lemonade in Portland, Oregon, when two officers demanded to see her “temporary restaurant license” which would have cost her $120. When she failed to produce it, they threatend her with a $500 fine, and also made her cry.

And this one:

For their morning customers the Collins family had been putting a coffee pot and doughnuts on the counter of their hardware store for fifteen years…

But in California that’s an illegal act. The permit mullahs told Randy Collins that he needed to install stainless steel sinks with hot and cold water and a prep kitchen to handle  the doughnuts.

Mr Collins was submissive.

“We want to be in compliance with the law” [he said].

Why?”  Mark Steyn asks.

When the law says it’s illegal for a storekeeper to offer his customer a cup of coffee, you should be proud to be in non-compliance. Otherwise, what the hell did you guys bother holding a revolution for?

This is the reality of small business in America today. You don’t make the rules, you don’t get to vote for people who make the rules. But you have to work harder, pay more taxes, buy more permits, fill in more paperwork, contribute to the growth of an ever less favorable business environment, and prostrate yourself before the Commissar of Community Services – all for the privilege of taking home less and less money.

Mark Steyn calls it tyranny. It is.

Another example from a different source:

When California’s elected officials come back from their month-long recess they face a mountain of proposed legislation (almost 900 bills are lined up and waiting), including a new law (SB432) that would require hotels to eliminate flat sheets. Not having fitted sheets on hotel beds would now be a crime in California. This is not a joke.

California, the state trying to deal with a massive $26 BILLION dollar debt, is considering a law that some hospitality industry experts claim would add an estimated $15 to $30 million dollars in costs to an already hurting hotel industry. The low-end estimate of fifteen million is the projected cost to purchase new fitted sheets for the 550,000hotel beds in the state. Of course the hospitality industry is claiming that these added costs will hurt their business and put jobs at risk.

The fitted-sheet bill is the brainchild of State Senator Kevin De Leon (a Democrat from Los Angeles), whose mother suffered back pains while working as a hotel maid. Kevin has been quoted as saying this was “an issue close to my heart.” It is also a bill that has the support of Big Labor. …

We are now going to make it a crime in California not to use a fitted sheet? Really?

The desirability or undesirability of something is not a good reason to legislate for or against it. There should be no more laws than are frugally necessary (administered as rigorously as possible). To make thousands of petty laws that are easy to break through ignorance, incapacity, or bewilderment is to bring the law into contempt.

It’s debatable whether there should be any regulatory laws whatsoever. They are inevitably oppressive. They establish a niggling, nagging, tyranny-of-interference.

Tyranny American-style.

It is communitarian, a sneaky form of collectivization. It is job-killing, impoverishing. Enlarging the reach and power of the state, it is dictatorial.

And it  is Obama’s preferred method of government. He is using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement his dictatorial will. The EPA is continually churning out thousands of regulations to complicate and hamper work in agriculture, animal farming, industry, construction … everything. With this Stasi-like agency, he by-passes Congress.

The only good point made by Jon Huntsman in a recent debate among GOP candidates for the presidency, was that the EPA must be abolished.

Russians blamed for Stuxnet, flee Iran 3

Which high-tech country might Iran turn to for help in ridding itself of the Stuxnet computer worm that is incapacitating its industrial-military complex? (See our posts A virus that might save us all, September 25, 2010, and Sound the trumpet, September 29, 2010.)

Germany? Siemens provided the systems that are under attack, but apparently will not or cannot come to the rescue.

Russia? Russians were employed to install the Siemens systems. But not only have they been unable to destroy the worm, they are now being accused of planting it, and are fleeing Iran as fast as they can.

Some of them say they hope to return when the trouble has blown over – which rather strongly indicates they were not responsible for causing it.

Here’s the latest Stuxnet-chaos news:

Dozens of Russian nuclear engineers, technicians and contractors are hurriedly departing Iran for home since local intelligence authorities began rounding up their compatriots as suspects of planting the Stuxnet malworm into their nuclear program.

Among them are the Russian personnel who built Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr which Tehran admits has been damaged by the virus.

One of the Russian nuclear staffers, questioned in Moscow Sunday, Oct. 3 by Western sources, confirmed that many of his Russian colleagues had decided to leave with their families after team members were detained for questioning at the beginning of last week. He refused to give his name because he and his colleagues intend to return to Iran if the trouble blows over and the detainees are quickly released after questioning.

Last Saturday, October 2, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi, “announced that nuclear spies had been captured”, accused of sending “electronic worms through the internet”.  [Which is not how the attack was initiated according to more credible sources – JB.]

This was the first high-level Iranian admission that the Stuxnet virus had been planted by foreign elements to sabotage their entire nuclear program – and not just the Bushehr reactor. The comprehensive scale of the damage is attested to by the detention of Russian nuclear experts also at Natanz, Isfahan and Tehran.

“Hundreds of Russian scientists, engineers and technicians were responsible for installing the Siemens control systems in Iran’s nuclear complex and other facilities which proved most vulnerable to the cyber attack”, and as they were “the only foreigners with access to these heavily guarded plants”, they are prime suspects.

If it was not the Russians who worked this most inventive and effective form of sabotage ever contrived (and we don’t believe it was), those who did can now enjoy, as an extra cause for celebration, the discomfiture of the Russians. The real saboteurs, we guess, are laughing out of sheer Schadenfreude. And while we’re well aware that Stuxnet could ultimately be a threat to ourselves – to friend as well as foe just as nuclear weapons are – for the present we’re reasonably happy that this humiliating blow has been struck at the insufferable Iranian regime.

In fact, we confess, we are laughing too, and hope our readers feel like joining in.

How the world really works 1

The free market is the engine of our civilization. It works. Works best if it is not interfered with by government. Works as a spontaneous system of co-operation and division of labor.

On which subject, here is part of a splendid short essay by Jonah Goldberg. He writes:

No one in the world knows how to make the newspaper you are holding (and, if you’re reading this on your phone, computer, iPad or Kindle, no one knows how to make those things either).

Even the best editor in the world has no clue how to make a printing press or the ink, or how to operate a communications satellite.

This is hardly a new insight. In 1958, Leonard Read wrote one of the most famous essays in the history of libertarianism, “I, Pencil.” It begins, “I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.” It is one of the most simple objects in human civilization. And yet, “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

The pencil tells the story of its own creation. The wood comes from Oregon, or perhaps California. The lead, which is really graphite, is mined in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The eraser, which is not rubber but something called “factice” is “made by reacting rape-seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride.”

To make a long story short, the simple act of collecting and combining the ingredients of a pencil involves the cooperation of thousands of experts in dozens of fields, from engineering and mining to chemistry and commodity trading. I suppose it’s possible for someone to master all of the knowledge and expertise to make a pencil all by themselves, but why would they?

The lessons one can draw from this fact are humbling. For starters, any healthy civilization, never mind any healthy economy, involves unfathomably vast amounts of harmonious cooperation.

These days there’s a lot of buzz about something called “cloud computing.” In brief, this is a new way of organizing computer technology so that most of the data storage and number crunching doesn’t actually take place in your own computer. Rather, everyone plugs into the computational equivalent of the electrical grid.

Do a Nexis search and you’ll find hundreds of articles insisting that this is a “revolutionary” advance in information organization. And in one sense, that’s obviously true. But in another this is simply an acceleration of how civilization has always worked. The information stored in an encyclopedia or textbook is a form of cloud computing. So is the expertise stored in your weatherman’s head. So are the intangible but no less real lessons accumulated over generations of trial and error and contained in everything from the alphabet to the U.S. Constitution

More relevant, the modern market economy is the greatest communal enterprise ever undertaken in the history of humanity. Friedrich Hayek did the heavy lifting on this point over half a century ago in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The efficient pricing of markets allows millions of independent actors to decide for themselves how to allocate resources. According to Hayek, no central planner or bureaucrat could ever have enough knowledge to consistently and successfully guide all of those economic actions in a more efficient manner.

According to progressives, the financial crisis discredited “market fundamentalism” and created a burning need for a more cooperative society where “we’re all in it together.” It’s an ancient argument, with many noble intentions behind it. But it rests on a misunderstanding of one simple, astounding, irrefutable fact. The market economy is cooperative, and more successfully so than any alternative system ever conceived of, never mind put into practice. Admittedly it doesn’t feel that way, which is why everyone wants to find a better replacement for it. But they never will, for the same reason no one can make a pencil.

Find Leonard Read’s classic essay I, Pencil here, either to refresh your memory and enjoy it anew, or to learn its lesson for the first time. It is essential to the proper education of every generation.

Posted under Commentary, Economics, Industry, liberty by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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