• Michigan’s infamous Mddle East specialist, Juan Cole, comes up with another doozy

    Carbon dioxide, Cole says, is “a far more deadly gas” than what was used in “the gas attack in Syria on April 4.”

    His basic argument is encapsulated in the headline of his recent article in The Nation:

    The Other Poison Gas Killing Syrians: Carbon Dioxide Emissions

    If Trump and his cronies really cared about children killed by noxious gases, they wouldn’t be trying to spew ever more CO2 into the atmosphere –Juan Cole

    You see, it’s about drought. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s the drought that caused everything to go wrong in Syria.

    Oh, yes, and Trump is to blame. Plus, he’s a hypocrite for bombing a Syrian base to stop more chemical weapon attacks because Trump doesn’t also agree with Al Gore on climate change. If you can follow that logic, check with your doctor. If you agree with it, apply to graduate studies with Prof. Cole at Michigan.

    Again, to quote the professor:

    The Syrian civil war has left more than 400,000 people dead, among them graveyards full of children and innocent noncombatants. About half the country’s 23 million people have been left homeless, and of those, 4 million have been driven abroad (some of them contributing to Europe’s refugee crisis and its consequent rightward political shift). The war occurred for many complex reasons, including social and political ones. The severest drought in recorded modern Syrian history in 2007–10, however, made its contribution. –Juan Cole


    Comment:  Notice that, in the fine print, Cole relegates the drought to a much more ambiguous status. It “made a contribution” to the humanitarian disaster, he now says. How much contribution? He refuses to say.

    Yet the whole point of the article is that carbon dioxide in Syria is more deadly than poison gas attacks, which are war crimes (for good reasons). In short, the article is bait-and-switch, seasoned with hyperbole, political correctness, and a steadfast refusal to look true evil in the eye.

    The most appropriate comment comes from the movie, Billy Madison. It is pitch perfect for Prof. Cole’s analysis:

    In other words, a drought may have contributed, indirectly, to the carnage in Syria. But to emphasize it as a major cause is misleading, tendentious, and wrong.

    To put it differently, California had multiple years of drought and, according to recent statistics, the civil war there has claimed far fewer than 400,000 lives. Perhaps under 300,000.

    Hey, let’s at least give Jerry Brown some credit for avoiding barrel bombs in the Central Valley. So far.


    Hat Tip: Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch. They found the Cole article and publicized it. Kudos.

    Tom Blumer at NewsBusters, who initially publicized the article.

  • Chris Stapleton nails two songs, one a classic, one an original

    “Elvira” and “Might As Well Get Stoned”

    I always liked “Elvira” even though it was so obviously written to be a commercial hit when the Oak Ridge Boys sang it in 1981. Bubble-gum country, you might say. Even though I knew that, I also knew it was–and is–wonderfully catchy. “My heart’s on fire-a . . . for Elvira,” followed by a doo-wop “giddyup” that could have come from the Coasters.

    Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town show it has legs. Giddyup.

    As a bonus treat, here’s a short interview with Little Big Town about how they decided to do that song and their love of the Oak Ridge Boys.


    Chris and Morgane are great in “Might As Well Get Stoned.” How deep is his accent? Well, he rhymes “on” and “stoned”


    Bonus: If you want another, here’s a heart-wrenching version of “You Are My Sunshine,” with Morgane Stapleton killing it. It’s a little too slow for my taste but it brings out the pain in the song.

    Jimmy Davis, credited with co-writing the song in 1939, rode its success to become governor of Louisiana. Davis didn’t actually write it and never said he did. He bought it from another writer and put his name on it, as many singers did in those days.




  • Fascinating personal reflections by Prof. Jean Yarbrough: “How I Became a Conservative”

    Jean Yarbrough, a distinguished political philosopher at Bowdoin College, describes her personal and intellectual journey in a brief, engaging campus talk, published here.

    She entered college in the mid-1960s a liberal Democrat, from a “blue collar/middle class” neighborhood on Long Island, the first generation in her family to attend university.

    In those heady days on campus, she moved left and eventually joined the Students for a Democratic Society, the most prominent leftist group of the era.

    In graduate school, though, she began to rethink her views as she grappled with truly great books.

    “Having wasted my undergraduate years protesting,” she said the first peg of her conservatism developed when she began studying the “great texts” in her graduate program at the New School for Social Research in New York City. “I read great books, and these books changed my life. They made me think more seriously about the world around me.” . . .

    The books she read during this period pushed her to carefully consider the importance of natural rights, constitutional government, statesmanship, and virtue — its role in society and how it can be cultivated.

    She goes on to discuss her changing views about foreign policy, marriage-motherhood-and-feminism, religion, and economics. It’s thoughtful, candid, and accessible.

    At a time when students at so many schools refuse to hear alternative views, it’s wonderful to see Prof. Yarbrough given a respectful hearing on her campus and a chance to engage students with serious, often-difficult and controversial ideas. That’s what higher education should be about.


    As an addendum, Prof. Yarbrough includes some of her favorite books on politics. A specialist in American political thought, she knows the field well and has written highly-regarded books on Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. Her list is worth pondering–and pursuing.

    • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
    • Plato, Apology, Republic, Gorgias, Symposium, Laws
    • Aristotle, Politics, Rhetoric, and Nicomachean Ethics
    • Locke, Second Treatise of Government
    • Rousseau, Second Discourse, Emile
    • Tocqueville, Democracy in America
    • Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
    • The Federalist Papers
    • Abraham Lincoln’s writings
    • Hannah Arendt, On Revolution and The Human Condition
    • Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History and his Selected Essays
    • Harvey Mansfield, Taming the Prince
    • Harry Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided

    Comment: If you read these books–and only these–you would have an unsurpassed education in political thought.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, April 25

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Government Shutdown? Trump seeks to avert a disaster by showing flexibility on border wall (Washington Post)

    Comment: I said recently he would cave on the wall, at least as a requirement for this week’s budget. Stopping illegal immigration is important to his voters, not the wall as such, despite his campaign promises. It polls poorly; the Republicans know the media would blame them for any shutdown; and, after all, they control the legislature and executive so how could they screw this up? The voters would be right to ask if they do screw it up.

     As France movements toward the runoff ballot, voters are anxious about growth and employment, as well as Muslim immigration and terrorism.On troubling signal: almost 60% of France’s young workers were on “temporary contracts in 2015.” (One reason for these “temporary contracts”: in France, you basically get tenure in many jobs after a few months. So, predictably, businesses don’t hire. This is economic malpractice.

    As for the election, the centrist Macron is currently a 20 point favorite over right-wing nationalist Le Pen, says the Wall Street Journal.

    European markets showed relief over the prospect of a Macron victory.

     Trump said to favor 15% corporate tax rate, less than half the current nominal rate (New York Times)

    Comment: The depth of the cut may reflect the Trump Administration’s fear that they won’t be able to get the individual tax cut through Congress this year. Their calculation is that tax cuts are essential to economic growth and that, if personal cuts are delayed, then deep corporate cuts might do the trick.

    The Democrats will attack corporate tax cuts, of course, saying they benefit the rich. That argument will gain traction if the economy is sluggish. It will sink in quicksand if the economy grows more rapidly.

    BART, barf  Bay Area Rapid Transit “takeover robbery: 40 to 60 teens swarm train, hold up riders”  (SF Gate)

    Dozens of juveniles terrorized riders Saturday night when they invaded the Coliseum Station and commandeered at least one train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries.

    The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. . . .

    The attack was so quick, police reported, that the teenagers were able to retreat from the station and vanish into the surrounding East Oakland neighborhood before BART officers could respond. –SF Gate

    Comment: The report at SF Gate should win a special award for “exceptional reporting services in never mentioning–or even hinting–at who these robbers might have been.” They conclude the report by noting that “last month, according to two television reports, a swarm of teenagers invaded a carnival near the Oakland Coliseum, beating workers and stealing prizes from the game booths.” 

     Waymo, the Google self-driving car, gets first real riders soon in Phoenix  (Bloomberg)

    The cars are customized Chrysler minivans and have already been tested with Alphabet employees, but real drivers will give the company more data. The project has been in the works for a decade.

    Comment: Autonomous cars and trucks are a remarkable achievement that will have a far-reaching impact on the economy and society.

     Comment: Thank you for all the kind words on my post about grits, school lunches, and creeping federal regulations. The post is here.



  • How to know when gov’t regulations go too far? When they ban GRITS

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    A silly story with a deeper meaning

    The silly part:

    Federal regulations effectively prevent schools from serving grits, which Southern kids enjoy eating. I sure do.

    The deeper meaning part:

    How a good-hearted program to help feed school children morphed into complete Washington control over all school lunches, with no federal laws ever making that explicit choice.

    Read and Enjoy the story and a lagniappe–the Perfect Blues Song (about Grits) at the bottom


    First the came for the grits. And I said nothing.

    Then they came for the biscuits and gravy,

    And there was no one left at Waffle House to defend me.


    Todd Starnes writes

    When President Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, we had no idea he was secretly plotting to ban biscuits and grits.

    The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act strictly limited calories, fat, salt, sugar and just about everything else that makes food edible – including grits. . . .

    We could originally serve half whole grains but that changed in 2012 when we had to start serving 100 percent whole grains,” said Stephanie Dillard, the child nutrition director for Geneva County Schools in Alabama.

    That meant no more grits.

    “And grits are a staple in the South,” Ms. Dillard told me. “Students really want to eat their grits.” –Todd Starnes


    Comment: Here’s a genuine question–and an important one politically. When, exactly, did the United States make an explicit political decision that Washington and not local schools should decide what all children eat?

    Answer: We never made such a self-conscious decision.

    This was the creeping effect of Washington control. It always works the same way.

    Here is the generic sequence by which local control is eliminated and moved to Washington without the peoples’ representatives ever making an explicit democratic decision to do so 

    1. The country perceives a problem, such as poor kids needing additional nutrition
      • We make a political decision to solve or manage the problem by passing a law and appropriating funding.
    2. Congress passes a general law saying, “Here’s some money for these kids’ nutrition.”
      • The goal, we hypothesize here, is worthy. In this case, it certainly is.
      • The President and his staff, who helped write the law sign it.
    3. Because the law needs implementation, a federal agency sets out rules and regulations with explicit criteria for key terms such as
      • Who is eligible? (“All children whose families are less than 4 (or 6 or 8) times the poverty level.”
        • Many of the key terms, such as “poverty level in 2017,” are defined by another bureaucracy
      • How much money goes to each school district
      • What foods the district has to serve to receive the money–and what foods it cannot serve. This restriction will apply to ALL their federal funds
    4. QED: All control over school lunches has been snatched away from local control without Congress and the President explicitly deciding on this change.

    To put it another way, this is how the country ends up being ruled by mid-level bureaucrats, whose regulatory control has grown exponentially.


    Here’s the music to accompany the story: “If I don’t love you baby, grits ain’t groceries.” Little Milton and Bonnie Raitt do it right. Stay around for Little Milton’s interview about the early days at Sun Records.

  • Torn between two lovers: Strange story and the perfect blues song to go with it

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    I hate it when this happens.


    Blues song, dedicated to the miscreant’s wife.

    “Another Mule Kickin’ in Your Stall,” is supposed to be metaphorical.

    In this case, though, it’s all-too-real. Elvin Bishop does a great, laid-back version of this Muddy Waters song. There are several great versions, if you are interested. Junior Wells has a fine rendition, featuring his harmonica. So does the great blues piano player, Otis Spann, here. Bobby “Blue” Bland does a growling version here.

    Let’s go with Elvin’s easy, wistful version.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 24

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     French elections: For the first time in modern history, both main parties were defeated in first round; Centrist Emmanuel Macron faces right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen in the May 7 final ballot.  

    This from France 24:

    French centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen have qualified for the second round in the French presidential election with 23.7 percent and 21.7 percent of the vote respectively.

    • Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen have qualified for the second round of the French presidential election, according to early results.
    • French President François Hollande has called Macron to congratulate him.
    • Conservative leader François Fillon conceded defeat and called on supporters to vote Macron
    • Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon, who got just 6.2% of the vote, said he took full responsibility for the election drubbing. –France 24

    The Associated Press says:

    French voters shut out the country’s political mainstream from the presidency for the first time in the country’s modern history, and on Monday found themselves being courted across the spectrum for the runoff election.

    The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen’s path to power. . . .

    Both center-right and center-left fell in behind Macron, whose optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders is a stark contrast to Le Pen’s darker, inward-looking “French-first” platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

    European stock markets surged on the open as investors welcomed the first-round results, with Macron favored to win. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron “all the best for the next two weeks.”–AP

    Big week coming in Washington: Looming deadline to avoid government shutdown, Trump promises to roll out tax-reform plan this week, and the negotiations on health care continue.  Fox News report here.

    The Hill reports that “Top Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms” Democrats say that is a deal-breaker for them.

    Comment: I don’t see a Republicans willing to risk a shutdown for it, either. At least a significant number in both the House and Senate will think it’s the wrong fight right now.

     Krauthammer on US leverage in the North Korea crisis  (National Review Online)

    His main arguments:

    • It is not a fake crisis.
      • He argues (as I did here last week) that North Korea is headed for a nuclear breakout that would be irreversible.
      • He fears that deterrence might not work because we cannot be sure the Kim Regime is rational.
    • The US has strong cards to play, short of war, by pressuring China. As Krauthammer puts it:
    • Chinese interests are being significantly damaged by the erection of regional missile defenses to counteract North Korea’s nukes. South Korea is racing to install a THAAD anti-missile system. Japan may follow. THAAD’s mission is to track and shoot down incoming rockets from North Korea but, like any missile shield, it necessarily reduces the power and penetration of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.
    • For China to do nothing risks the return of the American tactical nukes in South Korea, which were withdrawn in 1991.
    • If the crisis deepens, the possibility arises of South Korea and, most important, Japan going nuclear themselves. The latter is the ultimate Chinese nightmare. These are major cards America can play.

    Our objective should be clear: At a minimum, a testing freeze. At the maximum, regime change. –Charles Krauthammer at National Review Online

     Venezuela meltdown, on edge of civil war

    The NYT headline is “Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President

    Comment: The word “leftist” appears for the first time in paragraph 5. The word “socialist” first appears in paragraph 19, referring to Hugo Chávez “vision of a Socialist revolution to transform Venezuela’s poor neighborhoods.”

    No word yet from political analysts Sean Penn or Danny Glover.

     “Union chief asks public to withhold judgment on American Airlines flight attendant”  (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

    The attendant is

    accused of “violently” snatching away a baby stroller from a mother, inadvertently hitting her with the stroller and narrowly missing her small child on a Dallas-bound flight from San Francisco on Friday. –Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    Comment: “We know you have a choice of airlines to smash your head in. We’re glad you chose ours.” 




  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, April 23

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     French head to polls in first round of Presidential election amid tight security. (France 24) The four candidates offer starkly different paths forward. ZipDialog will discuss the two finalists after they are chosen.

    Comment: The stakes go well beyond France. They involve the future of the EU, NATO, immigration, and the economy. Several candidates have ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia, as well.

     A memory from the 1950s: Producer who rigged quiz shows dies at age 95  (New York Times) Now, for $64,000, can you name that producer?

    Albert Freedman, the producer who was pushed by a competing program’s sponsor (Geritol), to find a more appealing figure to appear as winner. He found Charles Van Doren, told him how the scheme would work, and got him to come on Freedman’s program, “Twenty-One.”

    Comment: What Freedman and Van Doren did was standard show biz tinsel–costume jewelry presented as diamonds. But it was the honest 1950s and the quiz shows were being presented as authentic, so its discovery created a huge national scandal.

     In a successful operation, the Surgeon General is removed, replaced temporarily by his deputy  (Washington Post) No side effects.

    The removed physician, Vivek Murthy, was a controversial appointment because the biggest item on his c.v. was his political support for Obama.

    The interim replacement is Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams.

    Comment: Trump’s political opponents think the frontrunner is Dr. Nick Riviera.

     Headline of the Day: “Florida state senator who resigned over racial slur hired former Playboy, Hooters models (Fox News)

    The Florida state senator who resigned this week after using a racial slur previously hired a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model with no political experience to be consultants for his political action committee.

    The PAC for Florida state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, hired the women last year and paid them a total $3,500, The Miami Herald reported Saturday, based on state records. –Fox News, based on Miami Herald reporting

    Comment: Gee, I wonder why you would hire the beautiful women with no political experience as consultants? Hmmmm.

     The Palestinian Authority pays a monthly salary to the families of terrorists who kill innocents. It is their standard policy. Their favorite targets are Jews. The money, of course, comes from western donor governments, who have not insisted that this stop or that their official school textbooks stop their deadly incitement and remove vicious anti-Semitic materials.

    Comment: Beyond shameful. Morally disgusting–both for the Palestinian Authority (of course) and for the donor governments who say nothing. They know their money is fungible, and they know the P.A. is directly subsidizing terrorism, yet they say little and do not insist on a change.


     Much appreciation to Israel Pickholtz for his information about the Quiz Show Scandals (now updated) and his clarifying question about the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.


  • Bad Vibes: Another Goofy Crime Story

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    Headline in Canada’s National Post:

    Ontario woman told sex shop clerk she had HIV before lunging at him with needle and stealing vibrators

    [Naomi] Shawana fled the store with both vibrators (the second was worth about $100) and left the area in a waiting taxi — her means of getting to the store. –National Post

    Comment: “I received an unusually large tip,” said the taxi driver, “after bringing the trip to completion.”