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From the Folks Who Brought You Camels and Lucky Strike: “Consensus”

Spend some time with old Time Magazines or Look circa 1950 and you’ll find ad after ad touting the doctors who smoke Camels or Lucky Strike. The PR agencies surveyed the doctors, sometimes counting hundreds of thousands of them, then advised readers that such and such brand was “not irritating on the throat”, was “soothing” and other euphemisms for scientific approval of what turned out to be a deadly product. Most doctors smoked in those days. There was a kind of consensus that smoking was okay, especially if you bought a particular brand, one with filters, perhaps. That the incidence of lung and throat cancer was rocketing up didn’t register fully on medical practitioners for a long while. The connection Read More ›

Iran: Sen. Corker Plays His Hidden Hand

It’s the equivalent of a domestic diplomatic coup.

Many people have been frustrated with the Republicans in Congress for not “doing” anything to prevent a ruinous nuclear agreement with Iran. Sen. Tom Cotton did get 47 GOP signatures on a statement warning that a Presidential agreement without Congressional approval could be over-turned easily by a new President (in less than two years). And that did sober up the Iranians. But it was still only 47 senators. Why were so many Democrats silent, and where was the GOP Leadership?

Well, the answer is, they were biding their time. Whereas the Administration’s diplomacy has been conspicuously clumsy and wrongheaded, Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been exceeding diplomatic–in the best sense. The result is today’s triumphant bi-partisan committee vote to require Congressional approval of any agreement between President Obama and the Iranian regime. This probably will come as a shock in Tehran. But there still appears to be a bi-partisan majority in Congress for clear headed foreign policy.

Sen. Corker deserves credit for the way he managed this elaborate process. Omri Ceren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who keeps a listserv well-advised of daily developments of the Iran nuke story, covers today’s exciting developments in the message below. The best part is the collapse of White House resolve to veto a bill once it was clear the veto would not be sustained. At last! Read More ›

Valuable, Under-Reported Protection from Nuclear Attack

You have plenty to worry about, don’t you, without turning your anxious eyes to the problem of possible nuclear attack on the U.S. Even less worrisome for most people is the chance of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would close down electricity, computers–everything but pre-modern infrastructure–for half or more of the country. Both kinds of danger have been described eloquently by Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter (Sleepwalking with the Bomb), among others.

Yet the possible can become the probable without preventive measures. The point of missile defense is to make it clear to adversaries that an attack is likely to fail and to lead to a very successful counter-attack. The good news that is not being widely reported is that the military is doing something about it–finally.

Former Ambassador Henry Cooper and his High Frontier group are hailing the Pentagon’s $700 million investment in a hardened nerve center inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. That is the most serious first step in upgraded U.S. deterrence. Note Amb. Cooper’s warning that without greatly improved anti-ballistic missile protection from the middle or south of the globe, assaults still can come. So we are a long way from the kind of shield that will a) protect our homeland; and b) serve to deter aggression by North Korea, Iran or, for that matter, something like ISIS. But we at least do have a military command, Congress and–presumably, an Administration–that is preparing to do what is necessary. Read More ›

Climate Change: Where is the Argument?

Leftist debate consists increasingly of personal attacks separated from facts and logical argument. Consider the assault on Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Tribe, previously a liberal’s liberal, who had the nerve to provide his talents to Peabody Coal Co. in response to the climate change issue. Even in religious discussions one expects more than ad hominem slurs. But climate change is a raw and revolutionary religion that still allows no critique. Witness the Washington Post story about Tribe. Read More ›

Missile Defense? In Mothballs, as Danger Grows

The Los Angeles Times reports that a multi-billion dollar plan to save the U.S. from a nuclear missile attack–a danger growing greater with the passage of time–is a flop.

This is the topic no one wants to discuss. The Reagan Administration promoted “Star Wars” until a nuclear agreement was reached with the Soviet Union. But Russia has revived nuclear war talk, and North Korea boasts of its technology and putative interest in bombing us. Iran today is the preview of what could happen among trigger-happy countries in the Middle East. Read More ›

Unsettling “Settled Science”

Stephen Moore has an article in the Washington Times that is worth the attention of skeptics of “settled science.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/15/stephen-moore-climate-change-not-settled-science/ Moore, long a staple of economics articles in the Wall Street Journal, describes the attempts of The National Geographic and other publications to marginalize critics of climate change theory. It’s the old story of argument from authority. What Moore does then is tear the argument apart. There are plenty of reasons to skeptical of “settled science.” The embryonic stem cell debate is a recent example that Moore doesn’t mention. The whole nexus of government research dollars and university science departs and left wing politics deserves book-length treatment. And don’t forget the shoddiest case of “settled science,” Darwinian evolution–and the social Read More ›

Cyber War Concerns Will Not Go Away

How much danger, really, are we facing from foreign attacks on America’s electronic infrastructure? Some, like our senior fellow George Gilder, are skeptical. But another senior fellow, John Wohlstetter, is more concerned. Here is “Faust’s Networks,” his article today at American Spectator.

Disguised Income Redistribution

Income inequality supposedly is a major theme for the left–yesterday, today and (presuming Elizabeth Warren’s continuance) tomorrow. We know about the low skill workers who have trouble making a living, though it is amazing how little the left connects their difficulties to the wide acceptance of low wage immigrants. Even more surprising is the lack of political notice of the major shift in income distribution that is the result of artificially low interest rates decreed by government.

Sometimes a letter to the editor sticks in one’s mind, and so it is that as the year ends I recall one to the Wall Street Journal from back in October from a Gerald Betts of Camano Island, Washington. Let me quote it in its simple and profound entirety:

“Before the recession most seniors relied on a combination of Social Security reimbursement and interest on some savings for their basic income. As you know, fewer and fewer retired Americans are qualifying for private pensions. Interest rates fell from 5-6% in 2005-07 to 0.1-0.2% for the past five-plus years. Seniors involuntarily are subsidizing the economic recovery of America. The interest portion of most seniors’ income stream has almost disappeared.”

He’s right. It’s one reason so many seniors are working on and on. Read More ›

Conservatives and the Language of Politics

by Hans Zeiger (for John Jay Institute) http://www.centerforajustsociety.org/speaking-the-language-of-america/

Paradoxes at the End of Advent

Pope Francis’ already famous prophetic warnings to the Curia this week seem to some (maybe some in the Curia, for example) like a strange kind of season’s greeting. Some Christmas Party he gave them! Where’s the cheer? But if you remember that his message was preached while still in the Church season of Advent, not in the season of Christmas, you’ll see that it was appropriate, indeed.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve,and as one ponders the lessons of the four weeks of Advent, he remembers John the Baptist crying the in wilderness, “Make straight the path of the Lord.” The predictions of Isaiah. God’s promises to David. The Annunciation and the Magnificat of Mary. December, for the Church, is not the season of shopping, but of waiting, listening and reflecting. It is penitential, though maybe not as much as Lent. For liturgical Christians the joy of Christmas begins tomorrow night and lasts through Three Kings Day (the Epiphany), January 6.

What does Advent teach? Like so much of the Bible, the paradoxes are profound. The greatest, of course: The King of Kings is to born to a lowly maid. The Son of God arrives in a stable.

God has a way of giving his greatest gifts to those most humble, those thought unworthy by others. David was a mere shepherd boy, the least obvious of his brothers. How can that be? It’s none of your business. As in the parable of the vineyard workers, Jesus makes clear that God rewards according to his desires, not ours. And yet he will do right by us regardless if we trust his sovereignty.

Watch Amadeus, a wonderful film for Advent, and marvel at the proud but relatively untalented composer Salieri who (in the play and film telling, if not in actual history) is willing to do all that God wants if only God will bless him with great accomplishments. Salieri wants a deal with God. But God blesses instead the irrepressible, irresponsible and profane Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In a great scene, an indignant Salieri burns his crucifix in the fireplace. He goes on to lead a long embittered life, while the prodigious genius, Mozart, creates music for the ages, though his own time on Earth is short.

God doesn’t like the pride of Pharisees. But he also holds to account those he blesses greatly. The incomparable Moses doesn’t get to enter the Promised Land because of shortcomings. David is gravely humbled by God (through the prophet Nathan) because of his sins.

So, as Advent ends, we 21st century denizens also might do well to think of George Gilder and his Israel Test: how do you regard those more talented than yourself? Do you envy them and try to put them down? Or do you admire them and try to emulate and make common cause with them?

These are among the kinds of questions Pope Francis was posing to the Curia, warning of the “sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’.” He warns of “Martha-ism” (in the Gospel story of Mary and Martha, when Jesus visits their home), the sin of “excessive industriousness;…of those who immerse themselves in work” and neglect to sit at Jesus’ feet.” Remember to join your people, to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Read More ›