October 16th, 2014

It’s not all fun and games for the mosquito, either

As a response to my recent mosquito post, commenter “cornflour” has sent in a link to the article “Cosmic Karma: Mosquitoes Have Flying, Blood-Sucking Parasites of Their Own”:

Although it’s oh-so-satisfying to hear mosquitoes have their own blood-sucking winged pests (though ponder for a moment that, scaled to our size, their parasites would be about the size of dinner plates, and unlike us, mosquitoes have nothing to whack them with), we may ultimately be losers in the business as well. The host range of C. anophelis, like its geographic range, is enormous. It has been found to parasitize at least 19 species of mosquito, but it has also been collected sucking blood directly from buffaloes and cattle.

Culicoides midges are known carriers of bluetongue virus, Oropouche virus and Schmallenburg virus while mosquitoes they parasitize carry Dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. If mosquitoes are flying dirty syringes that spread disease among humans, parasitic midges may further scramble the disease load, introduce new viruses to new vectors, and generally add another order of magnitude to disease transmission calculus. But no one really knows. The studies, as authors of this paper point out, have yet to be done.

Well, well, well.

The news should remind us all that life imitates art. This sort of thing was imagined quite some time ago:

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

Which has a provenance that goes back almost three hundred years, to Jonathan Swift, no less:

The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

October 16th, 2014

It’s the idiocracy, stupid

Commenter “Mrs Whatsit” notes that “We are witnessing a spectacle of incompetence on multiple levels of government not quite like anything I recall before,” and asks whether there are any competent adults left.

A few, but I think they might be mostly older, relics from another age, when competence was rewarded (at least, much of the time) and incompetence penalized. I have come to the conclusion that “Idiocracy” has arrived, and this statement of mine isn’t just the usual whining of the older generation towards the younger.

Of course, some of what passes for incompetence is deliberate sabotage. But most is not, IMHO. For one thing, it’s too enormously widespread. Something is going on, and it’s much bigger than just the government. I encounter remarkable incompetence over and over in everyday life, to an extent I can never recall—on the phone, in the stores, on the street, on TV, everywhere.

Is it the decline of the educational system? Affirmative action hiring? Too many drugs taken in childhood? Drugs taken by parents? Is it computer-driven? Entertainment-driven? The decline of family and parental involvement? Cultural devaluation of thought and learning? For too many people, is English a poorly-learned second language?

If you look at the list I’ve given in above paragraph, there’s little question that much (although not all) of it has been a result of leftist policies and dominance of our educational and cultural life. The effects have been extremely pervasive, though, and have transcended political affiliation.

October 16th, 2014

Obama and the failure to protect

One of the most glaring hallmarks of the Obama administration is its failure to protect the American people and their representatives. I don’t mean a failure to protect perfectly and completely—that can never be accomplished. I mean the failure to even attempt certain of the basics of protection, and the eagerness to withdraw protection where it once existed.

The motives for this come down to the old “fool/knave” question, although the answer is almost certainly “knave.” What particular sort of knave is Obama in this regard? Is it his leftism, or his anger at America and desire to humble it, or PC considerations, or a drive to increase Democratic power (i.e. encouraging illegal immigration) that is the driving force behind the failure to protect? Or some or all of the above?

If you look at this entire administration and its history, you can view many if not most of Obama’s initiatives in the light of failure to protect. He was elected in a time a great economic peril, and early on promised to “focus like a laser” on the economy and to keep “pivoting” towards it, but that never happened. In fact, he seemed instead to spearhead legislation and policies that actually would harm the economy (Obamacare, cap and trade, anti-coal programs). Regarding Obamacare itself, he promised to protect Americans’ relationships with their doctors, hospitals, and health insurance policies, and instead began to destroy all of that. In 2011 he failed to negotiate or even try to negotiate a deal with the Iraqi government that would leave some American forces there to protect our hard-won investment of blood and treasure, as well as our interests in the region. Right before the 2012 election, the Benghazi killings reflected his refusal to protect the embassy and its people.

After 2012, the problem accelerated, if such a thing were possible. The Bergdahl swap freed five important and dangerous Taliban in exchange for a deserter. The rescue of James Foley was botched or not even really attempted, and Foley’s beheading gave a ghastly and human graphic to Obama’s failure to protect. The rise of ISIS, likewise, in an escalating horror show. And then there’s ebola. Need I say more?

Americans will forgive a lot, and in the case of Obama they have forgiven way too much. He should never have been re-elected, but he was, in part because of this tendency to forgive. I keep thinking (or at least hoping) that the American people may have passed the point of forgiving him and I’ve been disappointed before, but this time it feels different. It feels as though many more people (including many former supporters) are disgusted with, and much alarmed by, Obama’s behavior.

Too little, too late. And unfortunately, much of this feeling is specific to their view of Obama himself, who is increasingly seen as being “in over his head” rather than mistaken in a deeper way or actively malevolent. Nor do they extend their judgment to the left in general, whom they probably will be only to happy to vote for in 2016.

October 15th, 2014

Is anyone competent in charge these days?

Or, alternatively, is anyone in charge competent these days?

For example:

Dallas Ebola patient Amber Vinson contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before boarding a commercial flight Monday because she had a slight fever, a federal government spokesperson told NBC News Wednesday.

“Vinson was not told that she could not fly,” the government spokesperson told NBC News.

Note, please, the double negative.

Vinson had been self-monitoring and was reporting her temperature to CDC epidemiology teams routinely…

According to the government spokesperson, when Vinson called in, the staff she talked with looked on the CDC website for guidance. At the time, the category for “uncertain risk” had guidance saying that a person could fly commercially if they did not meet the threshold of a temperature of 100.4.

So, Vinson was reporting back to people at the CDC who had to look at a website.

I’ve looked at that website within the past few days, too. I’m not going to even bother to check it again right now, because I’m pretty sure I recall that it discusses symptoms and risk level and that Vinson, as a person who took care of a known ebola patient in the final stages of his illness (or, actually, at any stage of illness), ought to be considered high risk, not “unknown risk.” And if I’m wrong about what the website actually says about that, it’s hard to believe the website is correct. After all, what could be higher risk than nursing a critically ill ebola patient? Nursing him with no protective garments at all?

Then there’s also that borderline fever thing that I’ve been screeching about for over a week, saying that lower fevers should be considered evidence of ebola infection in a person who has had close contact with an ebola patient. I guess the CDC begs to differ.

Again, though, it is probable that Ms. Vinson was not especially contagious yet when she flew on the plane. But no one should have advised her that she could take the risk of doing so (or “not told her she could not fly”).

This is beyond upsetting.

[ADDENDUM: The commenters at Ace's manage to find some humor in the situation.]

October 15th, 2014

We all know what this feels like

But it’s a lot funnier—and sweeter, and more touching—when this adorable baby does it:

October 15th, 2014

Correcting the record on the Iraq War: why it’s preaching to the choir

Gabriel Malor at Ace’s has written a post attempting to correct the NY Times‘ latest fable about the Iraq War, the lead-up to it, and what Bush’s argument for the commencement of the war was based on.

Malor does an excellent job and my hat is off to him. But I have a problem with his post, one that’s not in the least his fault.

Who is motivated to read it? People who know these things already. Who else would even try to read it? No one I know except the already-convinced. Even if others were to urge them to read it, I doubt they would, if my liberal friends and acquaintances are typical (and I believe they are).

Malor points out that although the NY Times is flat-out lying about what Bush said before the war, intelligent people who ought to know better are swallowing that lie hook line and sinker:

I am flabbergasted at the number of people who immediately repeated this lie on Twitter who I know were alive and well and watching the run-up to the Iraq War, just like me.

So, why don’t people remember the facts? I can think of plenty of reasons. They reject facts that don’t conform with their political viewpoints. And/or they probably didn’t follow the details closely in the first place: BOR-ING. Or, if they did follow them closely at the time, they don’t remember much, like the content of a course they took years ago. Maybe they even crammed for the final, but they forgot almost all of it when the final was over and they didn’t need to know it anymore. And then, ever since that final, imagine that they’ve also been crammed full of information that contradicted what they originally had learned for the test. Then they would be even less likely to remember correctly. In fact, the later information would probably crowd out the earlier.

This happens very frequently. That’s why the press is so extraordinarily important. Most people tend to read it receptively rather than critically. That’s why the press is such an excellent vehicle for propaganda. That’s why a commitment to honesty and truth in the press is essential for a free and informed citizenry.

Because most people will make the minimum effort at informing themselves. Life just contains too much else that’s more fun, or that gives them more rewards, or that is a time-consuming and necessary obligation, or that tires them out. Learning the details of Bush’s speeches and his rationale for the Iraq War just isn’t one of the most compelling things for most people, nor is remembering what they’ve learned, and it won’t ever be.

That’s not to say that efforts such as Malor’s should not be undertaken. They should, and must. But bridging that attention gap is much harder than a mere presentation of facts, however convincing they might be.

October 15th, 2014

Second Dallas health worker diagnosed with ebola

It is crystal clear that we were woefully unprepared for the inevitable first case of ebola coming to our shores.

Some fatal combination of arrogance, ignorance, negligence, recklessness, stupidity, political correctness (some would add “evil intent”), and irresponsibility has led to hospital workers being exposed to, and contracting, the disease.

This news will make it more difficult to continue to blame the workers (although, where there’s a will there’s a way):

A bleary-eyed Dr. Daniel Varga, the hospital’s chief clinical officer, called the second worker’s infection “an unprecedented crisis” at an early monrning news conference.

The woman was among 76 hospital workers who cared for Duncan, a Liberian citizen who died from Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian a week ago…

It wasn’t immediately known how the second worker contracted the disease, but Varga said, “It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in their treatment of Mr. Duncan.”

“We’re a hospital that may have done some things different with the benefit of what we know today,” he said. “Make no mistake, no one wants to get this right more than our hospital.”

May have done things different”?

The way health care workers in Dallas were instructed on handling the first ebola patient diagnosed in the US appears to have been an absolute outrage. Read the whole thing; it’s too lengthy, and the allegations of problems too numerous, to fully appreciate through excerpts.

But the problems are hardly limited to the hospital. The administration has failed to put in place the very first line of defense by refusing to halt commercial travel of non-citizens, to at least buy us a little time. The CDC has been inadequate in its directives, training, and preparedness as well. The hospital, faced with a terrible crises, should have acknowledged its own inability to deal with it and either demanded that Duncan be flown in strict isolation to a more specialized facility that cared for patients such as Dr. Kent Brantly (in my opinion, the best way to have dealt with it), or gone into 24-hour-a-day war mode figuring out how best to immediately mobilize so that every required safety precaution was fully in place.

Note the order of my list. The hospital comes last; the others are more culpable. But hospitals are the bottom line here, and that is true of every hospital in the US. I doubt that more that a couple (if that) would have dealt with Duncan’s care all that much better, although I think (and sincerely hope) that many would have done much better with his initial diagnosis.

The entire system of dealing with this is deeply deeply flawed, and based on false premises. And those false premises were in turn based on a significant amount of hubris, among other problems. Things to question (besides the very obvious, the lack of travel restrictions): just about everything, including mode and place of diagnosis (mobile diagnostic unit? special centers? educating the public better?) and of course the protocols for protective suits and their removal, disposal of waste, and number of workers seeing patients.

Meanwhile, at least until now, the stance of public officials has been to blandly reassure in order to allay fear. But the only effect this has had has been a growing and justified distrust of the authorities.

[ADDENDUM: The fact that Amber Vinson, the second nurse in the US to contract ebola, got on a commercial flight knowing she had a temperature of about 100 is astounding under the circumstances. Was it, once again, the idea that a fever under 101.5 doesn’t matter---when in fact it’s been demonstrated over and over recently that in someone who’s been exposed to ebola a lower fever is very meaningful as well?

That said, I actually don’t think it very likely that anyone on the plane, or anyone who was in merely casual contact with Ms. Vinson prior to her isolation, will contract ebola. Of course, if I’d been on that plane, I’d be terrified right now. But in reality, I don’t think anyone will catch it, for the simple reason that when someone has ebola but has a low-grade fever as their only symptom, I think that their contagiousness, although not zero, is still very very low. The contagiousness of the disease rises exponentially as symptoms develop. Once the victim is vomiting and has diarrhea and/or bleeding, he/she is becoming very dangerous indeed. Till then, much less so.

The fact that (so far, at least---and I fervently hope it stays that way) none of Duncan’s pre-hospital contacts have come down with the disease is pretty much the only good news in this whole sorry mess.]

October 14th, 2014

Ebola and the great forgetting: the best of times, the worst of times

WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”

On the one hand, I’m happy that WHO is taking the outbreak very seriously. On the other hand, the statement puzzles me. It either indicates a problem that’s merely semantic and involves a disagreement over the definition of a historical term, “modern times,” or it could mean that Chan is ignorant of the history of one of the greatest pandemics the world has ever known, the 1918-1919 influenza strain.

If the problem is just a disagreement between Chan and me on what the term “modern times” means, than no harm, no foul, no problem. But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.

An early post I wrote on this blog was called “The tsunami and the forgetting.” It pointed out the tendency of humans to forget and ignore—or to only vaguely learn about—extremely cataclysmic events. The event I described the world as having “forgotten” was that 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, and I quoted the transcript of an NPR show that dealt with the forgetting and how it worked for that event. Whatever is the case with Dr. Chan, it makes sense right now to take another look, in light of ebola and what we fear it might do:

William Sardo: People didn’t want to believe that they could be healthy in the morning and dead by nightfall, they didn’t want to believe that.

Narrator: It was the worst epidemic this country has ever known. It killed more Americans than all the wars this century — combined.

Lee Reay: It was a phantom. We didn’t know where it was.

William Maxwell: In a gradual remorseless way, it kept moving closer and closer.

Daniel Tonkel: You never knew from day to day who was going to be next on the death list.

Dr. Shirley Fannin, Epidemiologist: There were so many people dying that you ran out of things that you’d never considered running out of before — caskets.

Narrator: Before it was over, it almost broke America apart….

Read the whole thing. I’m not recommending it because I think ebola is exactly like that or will be quite like that, either in its mechanism of spread or its ultimate death toll (although, worst case scenario, by the time ebola is through it could conceivably rival it or even surpass it). I’m recommending it because 1918-1919 is by almost any historical definition “modern times,” and because the pandemic represented an overwhelmingly “severe, acute health emergency”—more so than ebola, at least so far.

On the forgetting:

Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The first reaction of the authorities was, for many of the most important ones was just flat-out denial. They didn’t know what was happening, they didn’t know what to do and, therefore, they did the human thing which is to say it’s not happening.

Narrator: With the war escalating, federal officials continued to put Americans at risk. One September day, they called 13 million young men to register for the draft. The men jammed together in school houses, city halls, post offices.

Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: There were two enormously important things going on at once and they were at right angles to each other. One, of course, was the influenza epidemic, which dictated that you should sort of shut everything down and the war which demanded that everything should speed up, that certainly the factories should continue operating, you should continue to have bond drives, soldiers should be put on boats and sent off to France. It’s as if we could, as a society, only contain one big idea at a time and the big idea was the war…

The epidemic was now a national crisis: something had to be done. In many places, officials rushed through laws requiring people to wear masks in public. All of America, it seemed, put on masks. At last, many thought, they were safe. But masks didn’t help. They were thin and porous — no serious restraint to tiny microbes. It was like trying to keep out dust with chicken wire.

In Washington, D.C., Commissioner Louis Brownlow banned all public gatherings. He closed the city’s schools, theaters and bars. He quarantined the sick. He did everything he had the power to do. But the death rate in Washington kept rising…

Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: Science knew next to nothing about viruses at this time. The optical microscopes they had couldn’t show you a virus, virus is much too small for them. Nobody would ever see virus until the electron microscope came along and that was decades after that. These poor scientists were looking for a needle in a haystack, when they didn’t know it was a needle they were looking for and the needle was too small for them to see. No wonder they didn’t find it…

Narrator: In 31 shocking days, the flu would kill over 195,000 Americans. It was the deadliest month in this nation’s history. Coffins were in such demand that they were often stolen. Undertakers had to place armed guards around their prized boxes. The orderly life of America began to break down. All over the country, farms and factories shut down — schools and churches closed. Homeless children wandered the streets, their parents vanished…

Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.

Narrator: As soon as the dying stopped, the forgetting began.

Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: It is in the individual memory of a great many of us, but it’s not in our collective memory. That for me is the greatest mystery: how we could have forgotten anything so horrendous, so massively horrendous, as this, this epidemic which killed so many of us, killed us so fast and our reaction was to forget it.

Dr. Shirley Fannin, Epidemiologist: Why? Why wasn’t that part of our memory? Or of our history? I think it’s probably because it was so awful while it was happening, so frightening, that people just got rid of the memory. But it always lingers there. As a kind of an uneasiness. If it happened once before, what’s to say it’s not going to happen again. The more we find out about influenza virus, the more real that fear becomes.

The NPR show’s description of the horror wreaked by the flu was mostly limited to its effects in this country. But in many other areas it was even worse. To get an idea of the scope of the 1918-1919 pandemic’s global “severity” and “acuteness,” here are some figures:

Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million people in its first 25 weeks. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people, while current estimates say 50–100 million people worldwide were killed.

This pandemic has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history” and may have killed more people than the Black Death. It is said that this flu killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.

The disease killed in every corner of the globe. As many as 17 million died in India, about 5% of the population. The death toll in India’s British-ruled districts alone was 13.88 million. In Japan, 23 million people were affected, and 390,000 died. In the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), 1.5 million were assumed to have died from 30 million inhabitants. In Tahiti, 14% of the population died during only two months. Similarly, in Samoa in November 1918, 20% of the population of 38,000 died within two months. In the U.S., about 28% of the population suffered, and 500,000 to 675,000 died. Native American tribes were particularly hard hit. In the Four Corners area alone, 3,293 deaths were registered among Native Americans. Entire villages perished in Alaska. In Canada 50,000 died. In Brazil 300,000 died, including president Rodrigues Alves. In Britain, as many as 250,000 died; in France, more than 400,000. In West Africa, an influenza epidemic killed at least 100,000 people in Ghana. Tafari Makonnen (the future Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia) was one of the first Ethiopians who contracted influenza but survived, although many of his subjects did not; estimates for the fatalities in the capital city, Addis Ababa, range from 5,000 to 10,000, or higher. In British Somaliland one official estimated that 7% of the native population died.

Severe and acute, indeed.

And what of quarantines? Even then, it was hard to make them effective, because the world was “modern” enough that travel was common, especially with the war. But:

…in Japan, 257,363 deaths were attributed to influenza by July 1919, giving an estimated 0.425% mortality rate, much lower than nearly all other Asian countries for which data are available. The Japanese government severely restricted maritime travel to and from the home islands when the pandemic struck.

In the Pacific, American Samoa and the French colony of New Caledonia also succeeded in preventing even a single death from influenza through effective quarantines.

No man may be an island—but some countries are, and it can help.

[ADDENDUM: I've long heard that historians consider WWI the beginning of modern times (see this), but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there's disagreement on that. Wiki seems to agree, however:

Our most recent era—Modern Times—begins with the end of these revolutions in the 19th century, and includes the World Wars era (encompassing World War I and World War II) and the emergence of socialist countries that led to the Cold War.

More recent events seem to be considered the contemporary era.]

October 14th, 2014

Claptrap from the CDC director Tom Frieden on travel bans

Absolute claptrap from the director of the CDC.

And it’s not even difficult to tell that it’s claptrap. The application of any sort of logic or common sense would reveal it as such.

Luckily, most Americans are not as stupid/illogical/manipulative/ill-informed/PC/mealy-mouthed/mendacious (take your pick, or combine several) as Dr. Tom Frieden; they support a travel ban from West AFrica 3 to 1. But they don’t get a say-so, do they? They just get to be potential sacrifices on the altar of political correctness.

It must take a fair amount of brains, medical knowledge, drive, and a record of impressive achievement to get to where Dr. Frieden is in the world. Why has it all deserted him now—except, perhaps, for the drive? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

October 14th, 2014

The university’s not just dead…

…it’s been zombified.

I’ve written before about the death of the university from the virus of pressure of special interest groups favored by the left. The phenomenon seems to have really caught on during the late 60s, when university administrations capitulated to, fed the beast, and joined the chorus of leftist voices. But the process has only accelerated and strengthened since then.

The latest manifestation, this time at Fordham, is a neat combination of both Kafkaesque and Orwellian. From Professor Doron Ben-Atar:

During an emotional meeting convened to discuss the appropriate response to the measure, I stated that should Fordham’s program fail to distance itself from the boycott, I will resign from the program and fight against it until it took a firm stand against bigotry. The program’s director, Michelle McGee, in turn filed a complaint against me with the Title IX office, charging that I threatened to destroy the program. (As if I could? And what does this have to do with Title IX?) This spurious complaint (the meeting’s minutes demonstrated that I did not make such a threat) ushered me into a bruising summer that taught me much about my colleagues, the university, and the price I must be willing to pay for taking on the rising tide of anti-Zionism on American campuses…

It was a sobering summer. I have had to defend my reputation against baseless, ever-evolving charges, ranging from sex discrimination to religious discrimination. I went through a Kafkaesque process in which I was never told exactly what I supposedly did wrong, nor was I ever shown anything in writing. Eventually I learned that the charge was religious discrimination born of my opposition to anti-Semitism. The implication is that anti-Semitism needs to be tolerated at Fordham, and that those who dare to fight it run afoul of university rules.

Administrators and colleagues failed to protect my First Amendment rights, and fed the assault on my character. A person utterly unqualified to understand anti-Semitism sat in judgment of a scholar who publishes on and teaches the subject. A report has been issued without letting me even defend myself. My choice to have legal representation has been cited as proof of my guilt. Most painful was realizing that my commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, so central to who I am, has been used against me in a most unethical manner not only by the member of the faculty who filed the baseless charge, but also by the office of the University Counsel.

Fordham remains my intellectual home. Some colleagues, appalled by the charge and proceedings, turned out to be actual loyal friends who supported me through the ordeal. But I also learned about another part of the university where colleagues resort to legal bullying to settle political scores; where heartfelt utterings at faculty brainstorming become evidence for politically motivated character assassinations; where those charged with protecting women against real abuses engage in a politically motivated witch-hunt; where fighting against the oldest hatred—anti-Semitism—makes one a pariah.

The university has long been on the front lines of the war the left has been waging for the hearts and minds of American youth, and has had no small effect on it. Fighting against the left’s influence has always been dangerous, but it has become more so as they’ve grown in power.

[NOTE: More at Legal Insurrection, including some tweets that show the overwhelming hypocrisy of the woman who launched the changes against Professor Ben-Atar, Micki McGee.]

October 13th, 2014

Obama’s a better general than his generals, a better…

…oh, a better everything than his everythings.

Does Obama listen to anyone except his political experts? Oh, he pretends to listen. He lets them talk—invites them to talk, even—and tilts his head and furrows his brow, and thanks them. And then they’re dismissed, while the real advisors and Obama confer:

…[I]nside the White House…the foreign policy machine has grown dramatically in power under Obama and cabinet members and their departments have felt marginalized.

The National Security Council staff, which coordinates U.S. defense, diplomatic and intelligence policy from inside the White House, has nearly doubled in size on his watch. It has gone from about 50 under George H.W. Bush to 100 under Bill Clinton, 200 under George W. Bush and about 370 under Obama.

Decisions small as well as large are made at the White House, often with scant influence from the Pentagon and State Department and their much larger teams of analysts and advisers. Senior Cabinet officials spend long hours in meetings debating tactics, not long-term strategy, the officials said.

One could understand this behavior in a president with some sort of previous foreign policy experience. But Obama has none. What he does have is boundless confidence/arrogance, and he likes to be advised by rank and sophomoric amateurs.

Presidents must ultimately take charge and make their own final decisions, of course. But that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t or don’t listen to experts. Obama not only doesn’t listen to the experts (including those he’s appointed), he keeps his decisions a secret. Nobody knows, outside of a small circle of friends:

One former senior U.S. official said Obama’s 2011 decision to abandon difficult troop negotiations with Baghdad and remove the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq surprised the Pentagon and was known only by the president and a small circle of aides.

No one except those aides approved of it.

And the following much smaller decision was a huge mistake even in terms of politics (IMHO, responsible for even many liberals starting to doubt him—at least among some liberals I know):

While on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard in late August, he was widely criticized for golfing after making a condolence call to the family of murdered American journalist James Foley. Minutes after declaring Foley’s murderer – Islamic State – a “cancer” that had “no place in the 21st century,” Obama teed off with a campaign contributor, an old friend and a former NBA star.

Don’t worry, though, no-drama Obama isn’t going to do any soul-searching. Soul-searching is for the little people. Blaming is for Obama:

Obama later told aides the criticism was inevitable. No matter what I do, he said, my enemies will attack me.

Poor put-upon guy.

October 13th, 2014


It’s for real.

Fun half-and-half photos at the link.

[Hat tip: Maetenloch at Ace's.]

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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