Magazine December 21, 2009, Issue

The Week

‐ Tiger is probably glad he didn’t give his wife any pointers on how to swing a 9-iron.

‐ On a party-line vote, the Senate decided to start debating Harry Reid’s health-care bill. It has all the essential features of the Democratic bills that came before it: fines on Americans who do not purchase the required type of insurance policies; big unfunded mandates for state governments; a new government-run insurance program; huge increases in spending financed partly by imaginary future cuts to entitlement spending and partly by real cuts in the most market-oriented segments of federal health-care programs. What Reid has added is a new increase in Medicare taxes. Several of the senators who voted to proceed to debate indicated reservations about the bill. The polls show rather stronger opposition on the part of the public. Republicans should call for starting over. They should also put the Democrats on notice that if this monstrosity passes they will campaign for its repeal in the next election, and the one after that.

‐ Liberals are pushing for a temporary surtax on the rich to fund the war in Afghanistan — and it is only to spare our readers eyestrain that we have omitted quotation marks around most of those qualifiers to indicate our disbelief. Keep in mind that we are still paying telephone taxes that were introduced as a temporary measure to get the rich to pay for the Spanish–American War. We should fund the wars by cutting domestic spending. Raising taxes on a weak economy would be masochism masquerading as virtue.

‐ His stimulus spend-a-palooza having failed, spectacularly, to produce the promised jobs — he has spent us to a 10.2 percent national unemployment rate, and remains disinclined to put away the taxpayer pocketbook — President Obama has convened a “jobs summit” to study the question. Government performs some useful functions, but it is by nature an economic parasite and cannot cause productive jobs to condense out of the vapors. There is a limited number of tools it can employ to encourage economic productivity — the real source of jobs and of wage growth — but the president and his coterie are not enthusiastic about them: reducing taxes on capital, on investment, on profits, and on labor. If businesses have to spend $1.40 to get $1 worth of labor, they will employ fewer workers and will do so at lower wages. The president seems incapable of considering any plan of economic action that does not allow him to play the savior.

The Metamorphosis 

If Franz Kafka were writing today, Gregor Samsa, the unfortunate man who awoke to find himself metamorphosed into a cockroach, would find instead that he had been awarded a job in Delaware’s 15,934th congressional district.  

The White House has justly received ample negative publicity from the verifiably false claims of jobs “created or saved” in districts that do not exist. But one important aspect of the data deception has gone unnoticed. 

Here is how it works. In order to gather data that can be used by the president to score political points, firms that receive stimulus dollars have to report back to the government how many jobs were created. It is hard to imagine a more coercive, sinister, and absurd system for collecting data. If a firm reports back that it has not created many jobs, then it might reasonably expect to be a low priority for future funds. If it reports that it has created a glorious number of jobs, then it might reasonably expect more handouts in the future.

Thus, the reported jobs numbers might be expected to be much higher than the real ones. There is a second problem as well. Obama-supporting businessmen might be tempted to assert that they have created a miraculous number of jobs, in order to convert more voters to the view that Obama is “the One.” Conversely, Obama’s opponents might want to lowball the number, although they would likely be disciplined by the realization that a low number would reduce the likelihood of receiving more funds in the future.

If the data collected from these forms were “unbiased,” then the errors in the data should be white noise, unrelated to any other variable. If the data are reported by individuals who are biased, then the errors should be correlated with political affiliation. The nearby chart reveals just such a bias.

The chart ranks the states by percentile according to the number of fake jobs “created” per capita, then compares these rankings with the percentage of state voters who went for Obama in 2008. The regression line through the data reveals the basic tendency of this relationship. That the line is upward sloping and statistically significant is damning evidence that the jobs numbers are politically motivated propaganda. The more pro-Obama a state was in 2008, the higher the number of fake jobs it reported in 2009.

This evidence of political corruption in the data-collection effort is truly scandalous. In the past, presidents of both parties recognized the importance of reliable and professional government statistics. If the Obama team is willing to countenance this scam, who knows where it will end? The person in charge of stimulus-job calculation may soon find himself working at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the government agency that assembles the national income accounts. 

If that happens, you can be sure that the largest measured boom in economic history will soon be in the government data. Of course, if you want to find the boom, you will have to ask Kafka where to find it.


‐ Plumbing uncharted personal depths, Obama dipped below 50 percent approval in a Gallup poll for the first time. He stood at 44 percent among independents in the late-November poll and at 39 percent among whites (his numbers among minorities are still sky-high). He dropped below 50 percent with every age group except the young, who apparently relish the idea of paying off debt for the rest of their working lives. Obama has clearly paid a price for the cataract of government spending he has unleashed. In another Gallup poll, a majority said for the first time that his policies have been “mostly liberal.” Obama’s approval rating matters because it determines how much clout he has on Capitol Hill and how steep an uphill climb congressional Democrats will have in the 2010 elections. Keep sinking, Mr. President.

‐ Ronald Reagan is said to have told his staff that “the person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20 percent traitor.” Some conservative activists have decided that it is time to add a corollary to Reagan’s dictum: Thirty percent traitors should be run out of the Republican party. These activists have devised a list of ten principles, and want the Republican National Committee to adopt a rule barring party funds from going to any candidate who agrees with fewer than eight of them. We agree with the activists’ principles, but not their tactics. The Arlen Specters of the Republican party have been a declining force within it for decades (which helps explain why Specter himself left). They had little to do with the party’s recent troubles, and they are not one of the most important obstacles to its resurgence. We have backed conservative primary challengers against the Specters when, in our judgment, doing so would pull Congress to the right. It cannot possibly serve that purpose to adopt a blanket rule that the RNC cannot spend a dollar to replace a Democrat who agrees with us 10 percent of the time with a Republican who agrees with us 60 percent of the time.

‐ That Maurice Clemmons — convicted multiple felon and lone suspect in the ambush and murder of four police officers in suburban Seattle — died a free man is due to a cascade of failures in the criminal justice systems of Washington State (where Clemmons was on bail pending child-rape charges) and Arkansas (where he was wanted as a fugitive). But the process began with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who in 2000 commuted Clemmons’s lengthy sentence for burglary and robbery, making the career criminal instantly eligible for parole. As with Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who raped and killed a woman just months after Huckabee helped secure his release in 1999, the governor did not offer direct pardons but rather worked directly and indirectly through Arkansas’s parole board, buffering himself from popular outrage. DuMond and Clemmons are but two of the 1,033 convicts whom Huckabee granted pardons or commutations during his decade as governor, more than double the clemencies granted by his three most recent predecessors combined. That record surely speaks to the ordained minister’s Christian compassion, but it is now tragically clear that it speaks as well to his poor judgment. The power to pardon is perhaps the most formidable the several states grant their executives, and one that requires an equally formidable wisdom to wield.

‐ Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D., R.I.) said that the Catholic bishops ought to speed the passage of health-care legislation by dropping their objection to abortion funding. After his bishop, Thomas Tobin of Providence, criticized him in return, Kennedy claimed that the bishop had ordered the priests in his diocese not to give him communion because of his support for abortion. The bishop then clarified that the letter he sent Kennedy in early 2007 included a request, not an order: “I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” Public commentary has predictably centered on the alleged church-state issues raised by the bishop’s action. But the bishop is of course not ordering Kennedy to vote a certain way, nor can he. He is explaining the spiritual consequences of certain political decisions, as is his duty. Complicity in injustice — including the denial of legal protection to the unborn — takes a Catholic out of communion with his church. Moved by the same principle, the archbishop of New Orleans in 1962 took the stronger step of formally excommunicating Catholic politicians who supported white supremacy. Meanwhile, everyone is missing the real story. John F. Kennedy, Patrick’s uncle, was elected president nearly 50 years ago. It is not too soon for the bishops to outgrow the family’s mystique.

‐ Quit a congressional race, endorse your Democratic opponent, call the cops on a reporter, and you too could be feted by the dons of the political press corps as the next great “moderate” Republican commentator. Dede Scozzafava, the liberal GOP nominee in November’s special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, did all of the above and now finds herself a media star. While Doug Hoffman, the Conservative-party challenger, licks his wounds upstate, and new Democratic representative Bill Owens garners little attention in Congress, Scozzafava has appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation, CNN’s American Morning, and many other programs. The interviews follow a similar script: Reporter grimaces, dips head, worries about the GOP’s “purge” of centrists. Scozzafava agrees. More knowing nods. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went so far as to apologize to Scozzafava for all of the “mean, personal things” said about her by talk-radio hosts. “Hopefully a lesson can be learned” from all of this, Scozzafava said on CNN. Yes indeed: Under the right circumstances, the Washington press isn’t hard on losers.

‐ We’re all guilty of jumping to conclusions from time to time, but the Left really went overboard in the case of a census worker who was found dead in rural Kentucky, hanged with the word “fed” written across his chest. Some suspicion of politically motivated violence was obviously warranted at this point, but many liberal commentators skipped the verification process entirely, speculating that prominent conservatives and the tea-party movement had incited murder. Andrew Sullivan titled a post “No Suicide,” addressing the “possibility” that “this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts.” “I Blame Bachmann,” a Daily Kos blogger added, helpfully noting the Minnesota congresswoman’s criticism of the census. The only problem was that the census worker had taken his own life and staged the scene to look like a murder, in the hopes that his family could collect on a life-insurance policy. He intended fraud; many on the Left were all too willing to be taken in.

‐ Rep. Artur Davis, a black Democrat running for governor of Alabama, voted against his party’s health-care legislation. This moved Jesse Jackson to say, “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.” Davis might have replied that you can’t obey the dictates of Jesse Jackson and call yourself a man.

‐ Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas) has had some recent success in his audit-the-Fed campaign, with legislation clearing the Financial Services Committee. But the Fed already is audited — redundantly, resplendently audited. The Federal Reserve System and its member banks are audited by the comptroller general and by the Government Accountability Office. The Fed has its internal audits, too, while its balance sheet, financial statements, and legal compliance are audited independently, the most recent round having been conducted by Deloitte & Touche. Which is to say that the Fed is audited, but not by Congress — and that is by design. Paul’s crusade invites politicians with two-year attention spans to meddle in the working of what is intended to be an independent central bank. We have had our complaints about Greenspan and Bernanke, but we do not relish the prospect of replacing their leadership with that of Frank and Dodd. Congress oversees the Fed, and if it feels the need to shorten Bernanke’s britches it can do so through legislation. But inviting naked politics into the day-to-day operations of the Fed would be an error. We suspect Paul knows as much: His agenda is not so much to audit the Fed as to dissolve it. However sympathetic one might be to that project, how about starting with the Department of Education or PBS and working our way up? When he succeeds, as when he fails, Paul reminds us that the libertarian tendency needs better spokesmen.

‐ The AmeriCorps scandal perks along like a slow-boiling stew. AmeriCorps, a federal community-service agency, gave $850,000 to St. Hope, a Sacramento school run by former Phoenix Suns star Kevin Johnson. Johnson was said to be spending money on personal errands and sexually harassing young female volunteers. Gerald Walpin, AmeriCorps’s inspector general, referred the matter to the local U.S. attorney in August 2008. But that fall Johnson, an Obama supporter, was elected mayor of Sacramento. He needed a clean bill of health to receive stimulus money, so St. Hope made a deal to pay back half of what it had received from AmeriCorps. When Walpin objected, the White House had him fired, smearing him as “confused” and “disoriented.” He was: He thought he was supposed to do his job, but his new job was to protect Friends of Obama.

‐ On the eve of the long Thanksgiving weekend, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel announced its view that executive-branch agencies should continue paying ACORN on existing contracts notwithstanding a congressional ban on government funding. ACORN, President Obama’s longtime ally, has been tied to serial voter-fraud schemes. More recently, an undercover investigation spectacularly showed ACORN officials offering to facilitate child-prostitution rings, illegal immigration, tax fraud, and other possible crimes. The resulting public outrage proved too much for even the Democratic Congress to ignore. But now Eric Holder’s department — see Andrew C. McCarthy’s article on page 30 for more sorry details about its politicization — has somehow concluded that a law barring public money from being “provided to” ACORN doesn’t really mean what it says. There was a time, not so long ago, when Justice understood its mission to be law enforcement.

‐ Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe, and Julio Huertas, three petty officers in the Navy SEALs, have requested a court-martial in the alleged mistreatment of Ahmed Hashim Abed, an Iraqi terror suspect they helped capture. Abed says he was punched in the gut while being held prisoner, and has a bloody lip to prove it. Terrorists are trained to lie — e.g., the bogus charges of Koran flushing at Gitmo. But the military, after Abu Ghraib, is understandably strict. The three SEALs insist they are innocent and have demanded a court-martial to clear their records. Abed had been on the lam for five years after masterminding the murder of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, whose bodies were burned and dragged through the city; two of the blackened corpses were hung from a bridge so newsmen could photograph them. Abed’s court-martial by the insurgents has not yet gotten under way. 

‐ Consent is the bedrock of international law in a Westphalian world order. A sovereign nation is not beholden to any international tribunal absent its assent to that tribunal’s jurisdiction. In the U.S., that assent is granted by the Constitution’s treaty-ratification process. Prudently, our nation has refrained from ratifying the “Rome Statute,” which founded the International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal for trying war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. President Bush, in fact, withdrew the signature of President Clinton, who never sought the Senate’s consent after helping midwife the pact. Transnational progressives, who use humanitarian law to advance their goal of a post-sovereign world order, seek to convert national-defense measures into actionable war crimes. Moreover, they arrogantly claim ICC jurisdiction over non-consenting nations. The Obama administration is rife with these tranzis, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who expresses “great regret” over her country’s recalcitrance. Thus, there has been nary a peep since the chief ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina, recently claimed jurisdiction over American soldiers in Afghanistan, announcing an investigation of allegations involving civilian bombing deaths and torture. If this escalates from posturing to actual charges, on which side will Obama be?

‐ Early on, the Obama administration signaled that it would not place much emphasis on human rights and democracy — that was simply too George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton was especially clear about the Chinese: Human rights would be on the back burner, if on the stove at all. President Obama was true to this promise on his recent trip to China. Even before he went, he refused to meet with the Dalai Lama. And, in China, he did nothing to discomfort the Chinese authorities. He did not meet with democrats, did not insist on a wide television audience, did not give evidence that he was a representative of freedom. George W. Bush did better in Beijing; Ronald Reagan did much better in Moscow. Obama essentially let the Chinese government stage-manage his visit. He even performed one of his bows, to Wen Jiabao. And what did he get for his “good manners”? Any concession on the currency, the environment, Iran, North Korea? Apparently not. There’s more to realism than abandoning our values.

‐ Are we approaching the endgame on Iran? After the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution censuring Iran for its clandestine nuclear site at Qom, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the regime would build ten more. Bluster, that — but Iran’s duplicity and intentions are now so undeniable that even Russia hints it will not stand in the way of new sanctions. There is no guarantee, though, that a sanctions resolution of consequence will escape the Security Council: Tehran has a friend in Beijing even if its relations with Moscow are chilling. And it is far from clear that unilateral U.S. sanctions, or sanctions imposed through a “coalition of the willing,” would be effective (to take one problem, many proposals target the gasoline imports on which Iran depends — but the regime, with Chinese help, is already boosting domestic refining capacity). The negotiate-and-sanction approach has been given more than six years to work, and has not. The worst outcome would be the testing of an Iranian atomic bomb while the West is still in “Let’s talk” mode; if there is not to be a bombing campaign against the nuclear sites — a course that may well be less costly than letting Iran go nuclear — our intellectual and material resources should be devoted to the formulation and execution of a containment strategy. President Obama should therefore make it his goal to bring the diplomatic game to a conclusion — and, by extension, to force the West’s leaders to confront hard realities, and a hard choice — more than to secure the passage of this or that sanctions resolution.  

‐ The Iranian government has done something curious, in regard to Shirin Ebadi. She is the lawyer and human-rights activist who, in 2003, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The government recently confiscated her Nobel medal and diploma. For good measure, according to reports, its goons beat up her husband and threatened close relatives. (Ebadi herself has been out of the country since June.) Ebadi has not been a particularly outspoken or troublesome critic of the regime. Indeed, some other activists have faulted her for her relative restraint. Yet the government has moved against her. Why? Ebadi has the shield of the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet the government felt it could move. Why? They are in a period of extreme boldness, Iran’s rulers. They believe they can do anything they like, without bringing the wrath of the “world community” down on them. What ever gave them that idea?

‐ The headline from the Associated Press read, “Hassan Nasrallah re-elected as Hezbollah leader.” We understand it was a real nail-biter: Nasrallah’s reelection wasn’t assured until the absentee ballots were counted.

‐ Dubai World, the glitzy emirate’s investment arm, is asking its creditors for an extension in repaying some of its debts. This is not so much a corporate failure as it is a sovereign default, inasmuch as the corporation and the state are one. It has sent a nauseating ripple through the financial markets, with investors fearing a round of similar defaults on the part of backward and undercapitalized regimes, such as the ones governing Ecuador, Vietnam, and California. Investors holding Dubai World’s sharia-compliant sukuk bonds are lawyered up and eyeing the firm’s hard assets — the QE2 ocean liner and Cirque du Soleil among them — but are in a delicate position, inasmuch as the emirate’s financial and legal system never has been tested in a comparable situation. There is something blackly amusing in the fact that Dubai, which still maintains debtors’ prisons — bad-news borrowers compose 40 percent of its jailed population — is going deadbeat on a national level. But Americans are in no position to laugh very loudly.

‐ Orson Welles’s putdown of Switzerland in The Third Man — 500 years of democracy and peace had produced only the cuckoo clock — incompletely described the place: He left out prickliness. Switzerland has rebuffed every conqueror, and stayed out of every war, since Napoleon. It keeps the peace among its traditional languages and religions by rigid federalism. Last month the Swiss held a referendum on one aspect of their newest religion, Islam, deciding, by a vote of 57.5 percent, to forbid the construction of new minarets. Over 300,000 Swiss, out of almost 7 million, are Muslim; four of their 150 prayer centers already have minarets, which may stay put. The anti-immigrant Swiss People’s party backed the referendum as a preemptive defense against honor killings, forced marriages, and burqas. Minarets per se do not bring such things, though radical Islam does. Better to fight the ideology, not the architecture.

‐ Under a new treaty coming into force, the European Union has acquired what it calls the “President of the Council,” in other words a head of state with attendant duties and privileges. (The EU also has a “President of the Commission,” and the working relationship of the two presidents remains to be discovered.) The only people allowed to have a say in the appointment of this lucky fellow were the heads of the 27 countries in the EU. Behind closed doors, they came up with one Herman Van Rompuy, a 62-year-old Belgian who for some months has been prime minister of that unhappy and divided country. Europeans in general had never heard of him, and even in Belgium his name drew a blank. Commentators, including many otherwise committed to the EU project, were far from kind. Accepting his unlikely elevation, Van Rompuy made a speech that was a downpour of clichés about unity and diversity. He mentioned taking steps “towards the global management of our planet.” From the prime minister of a land where the rival communities do not speak to one another in one quick step to global imperium! Several of those unkind commentators suddenly, but as it were unanimously, remembered a line of Horace learnt in schooldays: Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus — the mountains are in labor, and a ridiculous little mouse is born.

‐ It’s now official: Hugo Chávez’s bid to create a “Bolivarian” dictatorship in Honduras has failed. On November 29, Hondurans elected Porfirio Lobo of the center-right National party as their next president; Lobo will take office in January. At one time, the Obama administration said it would not consider the election legitimate unless deposed president Manuel Zelaya was first restored to his former office. The administration reversed its position after Honduran officials agreed to appoint an interim unity government and let the Honduran congress decide whether to reinstate Zelaya. Legislators wisely declined to put the Chávez disciple (who was removed from office in June for severe constitutional crimes) back in the presidential palace. Predictably, Zelaya denounced the November 29 election as fraudulent and urged Latin American leaders not to recognize its outcome. But it was clearly fair, and we hope that all governments in the region accept it — and the victory it constitutes for Honduran democracy.

‐ When a Wisconsin National Guard unit got sent to Iraq, its members were equipped to handle uprisings, invasions, and missile attacks, but not even Army trainers could prepare them for the fiendish revenge that would be exacted by some captured opposition fighters. In early November, a group of detainees overheard the guardsmen talking about Brett Favre, the longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback, and how he had led his new team, the Minnesota Vikings, to victory at the Packers’ home field. Ever since, the prisoners have been taunting the homesick Wisconsinites, whose camp is decorated in Packers green and gold, with pro-Favre and pro-Vikings slogans. The guardsmen’s response has been much more restrained than what the detainees would face if they pulled the same stunt at Lambeau Field (human-rights advocates, take note); and here’s hoping that wounded feelings are the worst injuries these soldiers will encounter during their deployment.

‐ Do you believe that the U.S. is a land of opportunity, in which anyone can rise to security and prosperity if willing to put forth the necessary effort? If so, best not aspire to be a schoolteacher in the Gopher State. The University of Minnesota College of Education is determined that the state’s future teachers must be cured of any attachment to the so-called American Dream. A report compiled last summer by the university’s Teacher Education Redesign Initiative urges that trainee teachers be disabused of the “myth of meritocracy in the United States,” instructed in the “history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values,” and torn from any attachment to “current colorblind ideology.” The goal, the initiative plainly declares, is to produce teachers aware of “notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” Such a program of cultural masochism would be easy to understand if funded by the sworn enemies of our country, but this is a public university, receiving 24 percent of its funds from Minnesota taxpayers. If they, or Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have anything to say about this indoctrination in “cultural competence,” let’s hear them speak up.

‐ For 20 years, they have put up a Christmas tree in the Orange County Superior Courthouse. (This is in California: Bob Dornan country. At least it used to be that.) The tree is part of “Operation Santa Claus,” which gives gifts to poor children. This year, a member of the public complained about the tree, and, on the basis of that one person’s complaint, the court ditched the tree. Said a spokeswoman, “It’s a public building and we have to serve the diversity of our community.” But other people were not willing to accept that view of American life and law. Court employees petitioned for the tree’s reinstatement; citizens at large gave the court an earful, too. Long story short: The court’s powers-that-be brought back the tree. Who said every one of these “War on Christmas” stories has to have an unhappy ending? And who said that, on hearing the word “diversity,” every Christmas tree must wilt?

‐ Boy Scouts have overcome many enemies over the years: mosquitoes, bears, anti-religious zealots, and gay-rights activists. Now the group has faced down its fiercest foe of all: the Service Employees International Union. After Kevin Anderson, a 17-year-old aspiring Eagle Scout in Allentown, Pa., cleared a new footpath in a public park, the local SEIU branch threatened to file a grievance, on the grounds that landscaping is union work. No great surprise there; the SEIU thinks government exists for the purpose of employing its members. But when word of the union’s power play got out, the outpouring of scorn from the public was merciless. The SEIU withdrew the complaint, its local officials resigned, and on Thanksgiving weekend, union members were among the 40 volunteers who performed repairs in Kimmets Rock Park — under Anderson’s supervision. However much the SEIU may like to throw its weight around, it’s no match for a Boy Scout with justice on his side. 

‐ H. C. Robbins Landon, always known as Robbie, was one of the world’s greatest musicologists. Born in Boston, he spent most of his life in Europe collecting and editing scores. Primarily a Haydn specialist, he also studied the development of musical instruments, and collected them too. One of his pianos had belonged to Beethoven. In a letter to his patron Prince Lichnowsky, Beethoven had written that Haydn was the best composer of the day, but he had the unfair advantage of possessing a Broadwood, the new English model and the first with pedals. Beethoven wanted one too. The cost was 80 pounds, a huge sum at the time, but the prince paid. From the archives, Robbie further worked out that this Broadwood was likely to be in an Austrian castle belonging to a Count Herberstein. Robbie duly found the piano in a part of the castle that had been shut up. Every bit as aristocratic as the purchasing prince, the count said that Robbie had traced the piano and could therefore have it. Robbie made a wonderful tale of it, and indeed of his whole life. Aged 83, he has just died at his home in France. R.I.P.

‐ The command “Fix bayonets!” is not much heard in modern warfare, though bayonet drill is still a component of infantry training in our armed forces. Perhaps the best-known bayonet charge by American troops in modern times took place on Feb. 7, 1951, near Soam-Ni, Korea. Capt. Lewis L. Millett led his unit, bayonets fixed, in an assault on a Communist position atop Hill 180. Captain Millett and his men, according to the Medal of Honor citation, “used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder.” The brave captain survived, though with wounds from grenade fragments, and went on to serve in Vietnam. When he retired with the rank of colonel in 1973, he could boast of having seen combat in two armies on three continents in three wars. (Before Korea, he had served with both Canadian and American forces in WWII.) Colonel Millett died on November 14, at age 88, and sleeps in glory. R.I.P.


Unhappy Warrior

Churchillian it was not. Obama’s long bout of leak-prone agonizing over his Afghanistan policy came to a limp end in his strange West Point speech. 

The speech was by turns defensive, graceless, intellectually mushy, and self-righteous. Most of what he said will soon be forgotten, and deserves to be. What will endure is the policy, and here — most important — Obama made basically the right call.

He gave Gen. Stanley McChrystal 30,000 troops and endorsed McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan. In so doing, despite all his explicit and implicit shots at his predecessor, Obama echoed in the context of Afghanistan the case Bush made for the surge in Iraq: To deny al-Qaeda a safe haven, we will deploy more troops to secure population centers and give the government breathing room to foster its own security forces.

In areas of Afghanistan where we have troops in sufficient numbers, we’ve rousted the Taliban. But it’s pointless to do this in one town if a shortage of manpower keeps us from doing in the next town over, which the enemy can use as a base for building bombs and launching attacks. The additional combat brigades will fill the gaps in our effort and make it possible for us to fight to truly secure the strategic gem of the Pashtun south, Kandahar, which will be to Obama’s Afghan surge what Baghdad was to Bush’s Iraq surge.

The most objectionable element of Obama’s speech was his pledge to start pulling out troops in 18 months. It’s foolish to give the enemy such an explicit timeline for the end of our maximum application of force. And it speaks to a worrisome impatience — and sensitivity to the political calendar — in an endeavor that requires time and an iron stomach. Obama said any withdrawal will be conditions-based, but here he contradicted himself: If the withdrawal is to based on (unspecified) conditions, why arbitrarily pick a date on the calendar at all? 

It’s obvious that Obama’s heart isn’t in the Afghan War and that he is therefore incapable of communicating the depth of commitment appropriate when sending men and women into harm’s way. His base turned on the war as soon as it lost its usefulness as a campaign talking point, and Obama never had any intention of becoming a war president. He cares most about his domestic project of making us a Western European–style social democracy. 

Whatever his inclinations, though, the evidence brought him back around to supporting the McChrystal strategy, which had been the Obama strategy until he lurched into his period of indecision. The premises of the so-called Biden plan, a limited counterterrorism approach, didn’t withstand serious scrutiny. No, the war couldn’t be waged by drones and Special Forces, and Afghanistan couldn’t be allowed to slide back into chaos without endangering the region and our national security. 

This left Obama no real choice but to make his awkward debut as a war president. He’s a reluctant warrior and a conflicted commander-in-chief, but for now he’s made the right decision.


Peer Pressure

The thing to understand about the scandal surrounding the e-mails leaked from Britain’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) is that it is actually three scandals. There is a scientific scandal, in which the leading lights of the climate-research cabal conspired to fudge data and silence skeptics. There is a media scandal, in which reporters and editors on the “climate beat” at the world’s most prominent news organizations acted as stenographers for the cabal and ignored the scandal when it broke. And there is a political scandal, in which officeholders here and abroad used the bunk science as a pretext for expanding their control of (and take from) the world’s energy markets.

The largest scandal is scientific. The e-mails show climate researchers at a handful of universities and think tanks engaged in unscrupulous and thuggish behavior. Phil Jones of CRU, Michael Mann of Penn State University, and other leaders of the climate cartel discussed the statistical tricks they used to “hide the decline” of atmospheric temperatures the way aging Hollywood starlets might swap plastic-surgery tips. Other data were fudged to cover up warm periods that did not fit the theory of anthropogenic global warming. 

But the most troubling aspect of the scientific scandal is the corruption of the peer-review process for academic papers and studies on global warming. Jones and Mann have historically dismissed out of hand any criticism of their work that appeared outside of peer-reviewed scientific journals. At the same time, the leaked e-mails reveal that these men were working behind the scenes to narrow the definition of “peer-reviewed journals” to include only those journals that refused to publish any papers or studies questioning their consensus. “We have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal,” Mann wrote after the journal published a skeptical study.  

Reconstructing historical climate data is such an inherently speculative endeavor that it barely qualifies as science. The same can be said for the piling of assumption upon assumption in order to create the dire scenarios that drive the political debate over global warming. The e-mails don’t discredit the basic idea of anthropogenic global warming — carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — but they remind us how much we do not know even as the Left rushes to action on the basis of an utterly false sense of certainty.

The biggest names in climate research manipulating data, evading the Freedom of Information Act, silencing critics: sounds newsworthy. But the second scandal is what the e-mails revealed about the watchdog reporters on the climate beat. They remind us of that old scary movie: When the phone rang at CRU with a reporter on the line, the call was usually coming from inside the house. The e-mails depict Andrew Revkin of the New York Times acting as a sort of communications director for the group. On one occasion, when a critic of Mann’s work exposed a problem with the cabal’s data, Revkin told Mann not to worry. “I’m going to blog on this as it relates to the value of the peer review process and not on the merits of the . . . attacks,” he wrote, because peer review is “where the herky-jerky process of knowledge building happens.” Mann replied that he couldn’t have said it better himself — and that’s the problem.

The final scandal is that the U.S. government came very close to turning the keys to the national energy sector over to these people, and still might. The cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House this summer has been stymied in the Senate, but the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency — emboldened by a mistaken Supreme Court decision — maintains that it can unilaterally regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Obama himself has announced he will attend a climate summit in Copenhagen, after rumors circulated that he planned to skip it — as if a rousing speech at the global-warming Super Bowl could save the fraudsters’ discredited ideology.

Liberals like to say that conservatives are at war with science. But the leaked CRU e-mails show a subset of the scientific community at war with the conservative temperament. Projects to transform society through radical changes to our way of life ought to be approached with the utmost skepticism, and any process that treats skeptics as blasphemers is the opposite of scientific inquiry. This has been the conservative position in the climate-change debate for some time; these scandals give the argument new resonance.


Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Trust Science

The ninth commandment is: trust science. By this we mean a true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof ...


Politics & Policy

Shifty Shifting

‘This,” said Eric Holder, “is almost a ‘Trust me’ thing.” The attorney general of the United States was trying to reassure Alice Hoagland, whose 31-year-old son, Mark Bingham, lost his ...
Politics & Policy

Lani’s Heir

  Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has called Eric Holder “the most destructive member of Barack Obama’s Cabinet.” The description is apt. The attorney general’s questionable judgment extends far beyond the ...
Politics & Policy

VAT Attack

The U.S. has a smaller government than most rich countries do, but we don’t have much lower corporate tax rates or top income-tax rates. That’s one conclusion to be drawn ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

One of Us

When Sarah Palin was announced to the world as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in summer 2008, she was almost completely unknown outside Alaska. She had made a few feisty ...


Politics & Policy


The Talented Mr. Moto Terry Teachout should be sorry! How can he discuss John P. Marquand and his works (“Be Careful What You Ask For,” November 23) without any mention of ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Tiger is probably glad he didn’t give his wife any pointers on how to swing a 9-iron. ‐ On a party-line vote, the Senate decided to start debating Harry Reid’s ...
Politics & Policy

The Long View

To: (undisclosedrecipients)@ From: Cardinal.Bianchi@ Date: Dec. 6, 1632 Subject: Housekeeping before the big Revolving Sun conference Guys: Please delete all e-mails you’ve got in re: the Sun’s revolution around the Earth and our ...
Politics & Policy


THE MEDAL Bear, would you like to see my purple heart? Terrified, I followed Uncle Eddie up the stairs, expecting to see—God knows, what hideous thing, what awful hidden wound from the Great War. He ...
Happy Warrior

Rising Tide

The Swiss minaret ban and the leaked climate e-mails are really the same story — or, more precisely, are symptoms of the same disease. In the Times of London, Oliver ...

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