Blogs

Chart of the Day: World Trade Is Down 2% This Year

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 4:51 PM EDT

Here is your chart to ponder today. It shows the total level of world trade:

You can see the huge dip during the 2008-09 recession, followed by a steady recovery. Until this year, that is. During the past six months, world trade has declined by about 2 percent.

Most of this loss was made up in June, but monthly figures are volatile and June could be just a temporary artifact. Time will tell. Most likely, this is yet another indication of a weak global economy, one that's going to get even weaker if China's recent troubles portend a genuine recession.

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Hillary's Email: Still No There There

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 3:12 PM EDT

The AP's Ken Dilanian reports on the use of email in the State Department:

The transmission of now-classified information across Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email is consistent with a State Department culture in which diplomats routinely sent secret material on unsecured email during the past two administrations, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

....In five emails that date to Condoleezza Rice's tenure as secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, large chunks are censored on the grounds that they contain classified national security or foreign government information....In a December 2006 email, diplomat John J. Hillmeyer appears to have pasted the text of a confidential cable from Beijing about China's dealings with Iran and other sensitive matters.

....Such slippage of classified information into regular email is "very common, actually," said Leslie McAdoo, a lawyer who frequently represents government officials and contractors in disputes over security clearances and classified information.

What makes Clinton's case different is that she exclusively sent and received emails through a home server in lieu of the State Department's unclassified email system. Neither would have been secure from hackers or foreign intelligence agencies, so it would be equally problematic whether classified information was carried over the government system or a private server, experts say. In fact, the State Department's unclassified email system has been penetrated by hackers believed linked to Russian intelligence.

....Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said State Department officials were permitted at the time to use personal email accounts for official business, and that the department was aware of Clinton's private server....There is no indication that any information in Clinton emails was marked classified at the time it was sent.

Whatevs. Let's spend millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of congressional committee time investigating this anyway. Maybe we'll finally find that Whitewater confession we've been looking for so long.

Sigh. Yet Another Thing to Freak Out About.

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 2:57 PM EDT

Mutant super lice? WTF? I blame liberal moral decay.

Breaking News: Kids Don't Like to Eat Vegetables

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 1:38 PM EDT

Excellent news! We have new research on whether kids like to eat vegetables:

The Agriculture Department rolled out new requirements in the 2012 school year that mandated that children who were taking part in the federal lunch program choose either a fruit or vegetable with their meals.

...."The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no," Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This will come as a surprise to exactly zero parents. You can (usually) make your kids eat vegetables if you refuse to let them leave the table until they do, but that's what it takes. Ask my mother if you don't believe me.1

I'm not actually making fun of the researchers here. Sometimes seemingly obvious things turn out to be untrue. The only way to find out for sure is to check. And in fact, the study actually did produce interesting results:

Because they were forced to do it, children took fruits and vegetables — 29 percent more in fact. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables actually went down 13 percent after the mandate took effect and, worse, they were throwing away a distressing 56 percent more than before. The waste each child (or tray) was producing went from a quarter of a cup to more than a 39 percent of a cup each meal. In many cases, the researchers wrote, "children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch."

Yep: when kids were required to plonk fruits and vegetables onto their trays, average consumption went down from 0.51 cups to 0.45 cups. Apparently sticking it to the man becomes more attractive when kids are forced to do something.

In any case, the researchers kept a brave face, suggesting that eventually the mandates would work. We just need "other strategies" to get kids to like eating vegetables:

Because children prefer FVs in the form of 100% fruit juice or mixed dishes, such as pizza or lasagna, one should consider additional factors, such as the types of whole FVs offered and how the cafeteria staff prepares them. Cutting up vegetables and serving them with dip and slicing fruit, such as oranges and apples, can positively influence students’ FV selection and consumption by making FVs more accessible and appealing.

I dunno. Cutting up veggies and serving them with dip decidedly doesn't make them taste anything like pizza or lasagna. I speak from decades of pizza-eating experience here. Anyway, parents have been trying to get their kids to eat their vegetables for thousands of years, and so far progress has been poor. I'm not sure what the answer is. Shock collars? DNA splicing? GMO veggies that taste like candy bars?

1Yeah, yeah, some kids actually like vegetables. Little bootlickers.

Watch Ted Cruz Turn a Simple Immigration Question Into an Attack on Obama and the Mainstream Media

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 11:59 AM EDT

Megyn Kelly tried to nail down Ted Cruz last night on a simple question: If a pair of illegal immigrants have two children who were born in the United States and citizens, would he deport the citizen children?

Cruz did not answer the question, but instead launched into an explanation of how he thinks the immigration system should be changed, starting with finding areas of bipartisan agreement such as securing the border, and then streamlining legal immigration.

"But that doesn't sound like an answer," Kelly said...."You've outlined your plan, but . . . you're dodging my question. You don't want to answer that question?" Kelly asked.

...."Megyn, I get that's the question you want to ask. That's also the question every mainstream media journalist wants to ask," Cruz said.

"Is it unfair?" Kelly asked. "It's a distraction from how we actually solve the problem. You know it's also the question Barack Obama wants to focus on," Cruz said.

"But why is it so hard?" Kelly asked. "Why don't you just say yes or no?"

This is Ted Cruz showing off his debating skills. His supporters hate the mainstream media and they hate President Obama, so Cruz adroitly turns this into a show of defiance against both. "I'm not playing that game," he insists, the courage practically oozing out of his pores.

Nice job, senator!

Did Donald Trump Discover Religion in 2011?

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 11:27 AM EDT

Here is Donald Trump on religion in a 2011 interview:

“I believe in God. I am Christian. I think The Bible is certainly, it is THE book,' Trump told CBN's David Brody.

....When asked by Brody about whether he keeps a lot of Bibles, Trump said, "Well I get sent Bibles by a lot of people... we keep them at a certain place. A very nice place. But people send me Bibles. And you know, it's very interesting. I get so much mail, and because I'm in this incredible location in Manhattan, you can't keep most of the mail you get.

I put this up for two reasons. First, Trump's claim that he puts all the Bibles he receives in "a very nice place" is pretty amusing. I'd like to see this Taj Mahal of Bible storage! Second, it's the earliest reference I can find to Trump talking about religion.

I don't have access to a good news database, so I can't really say for sure that Trump never displayed any religious tendencies before this. I can say that even though he's a Presbyterian, he got married in 2005 in an Episcopalian church. And when his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism, he apparently had no problem with it. That's not much, but it's all I've got.

So what's the deal with Trump and religion? He seems to have discovered it pretty conveniently during his slow-but-steady conversion process into a viable Republican presidential candidate, but maybe not. Maybe he's been a regular churchgoer all along. Does anyone know?

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Quote of the Day: Donald Trump is the "Political Equivalent of Chaff"

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 10:47 AM EDT

By now everyone has heard of Donald Trump's run-in with Univision reporter Jorge Ramos at his press conference yesterday. But just because it was so entertaining, I'm going to quote conservative blogger Leon Wolf at length about the whole affair:

Donald Trump just held a press conference prior to a speech in Iowa which was — and I say this without exaggeration — the most bizarre thing I have seen in a lifetime of following politics. It was at once an illustration of why the media fixates on him, and also why the other candidates in the race cannot deal with him.

He opened the conference by yelling at Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who he claimed asked a question without being called on. He continued to yell at Ramos at some length about being out of turn, then turned to one of his campaign staffers, nodded, and pointed at Ramos, whereupon the staffer removed Ramos from the conference. (Note: I would have zero problem on principle with throwing Ramos out of a press conference on the merits).

The next reporter’s question, naturally, was, “Why did you have him thrown out?” Amazingly, Trump responded to this question, I’m not kidding, by answering, “I didn’t have him thrown out, you’ll have to ask security, whoever they are.” When reporters pressed him with the obvious fact that the person who had him removed was on his staff (he appeared to be wearing a Trump button even, but I can’t swear to that), he immediately changed his tune to say that it was because the reporter was a “highly emotional person,” with no mention of the fact that 30 seconds earlier he had been denying that he had Ramos thrown out at all.

....When a politician goofs once, it’s easy for that to get stuck in the feedback loop of the media and other candidates.

Watching Donald Trump speak and answer questions, though, is like watching a billion targets appear in the sky all at once, for a political opponent. Each thing he says is so bizarre, or ill informed, or demonstrably false, or un presidential in tone or character, that it becomes impossible to know which target to lock on to or focus on. And to the extent that he makes a policy statement, it is so hopelessly vague and ludicrous that it’s impossible to know where to begin, at least within the context of the 30-second soundbite that the modern political consumer requires (and chances are, he will say something diametrically opposed to it before the press conference is over anyway).

Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.

I have only one point to make here: Ramos was being a jerk and a bully, but in the end, he was only doing to Trump what Trump does to everyone else. And that made the whole thing worthwhile because we learned what happened when Trump is faced with someone willing to be as much of a bully as he is: he couldn't handle it, so he had the guy thrown out and then lied about doing it.

Needless to say, he can't have the Secret Service toss Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping out of the room if he gets annoyed at them. So what does he think he's going to do? If he can't even handle Jorge Ramos, how is he going to handle Enrique Peña Nieto?

And then there's the inevitable question: will this episode hurt or help Trump? Answer: It will hurt him with Hispanics, of course, but Trump doesn't care. He's playing entirely for the Republican base right now, and they're going to love this. If he has the guts to toss out Jorge Ramos, maybe that means he'll have the guts to deport 11 million illegal immigrants too. Vote Trump!

Two Journalists Shot During Live Television Broadcast

Authorities have identified a suspect.

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 10:03 AM EDT

Update, August 26, 2015, 2:25 p.m. EST: The suspected gunman, Vester Flanagan, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sheriff Bill Overton announced in a press conference.

Update, August 26, 2015, 1:00 p.m. EST: Following a police chase, authorities found Flanagan suffering from a gunshot wound. It appears to have been self-inflicted.

Two members of a Virginia news crew were shot and killed during a live news segment on Wednesday morning. Authorities have identified the suspected gunman as Vester Lee Flanagan, according to multiple sources. He reportedly went by the name Bryce Williams professionally. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a local radio station that the suspect was believed to be a "disgruntled employee" of the news station, WDBJ.

The shooting occurred at Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia, where reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were both killed. WDBJ confirmed their deaths. The head of the local Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker at the time, was also injured in the attack. She is out of emergency surgery and in stable condition.

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office couldn't immediately be reached for confirmation of the suspect's identity.

Part of the shooting was recorded on video and posted to social media accounts. It was later taken down. 

Below is a live newscast of the outlet's coverage of the shooting:

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more information becomes available.

Donald Trump Just Had Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos Thrown Out of a Press Conference

"Go back to Univision."

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 7:11 PM EDT

At a press event in Iowa Tuesday, Donald Trump had Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos removed by security after the Trump critic challenged the GOP front-runner for his positions on immigration.

"Sit down, go back to Univision," Trump said, before Ramos was removed.

Watch:

Ramos reportedly returned some time later.

Also, via Brandon Wall, this is apparently how Trump calls for security:

GIF: Brandon Wall

 

All of Our Negotiating Partners Think the Iran Deal Is Just Fine

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 6:18 PM EDT

The New York Times reports that the Iran deal is just a big yawn in Europe:

The matter is settled, according to Camille Grand, director of the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris and an expert on nuclear nonproliferation. “In Europe, you don’t have a constituency against the deal,” he said. “In France, I can’t think of a single politician or member of the expert community who has spoken against it, including some of us who were critical during the negotiations.”

Mr. Grand said the final agreement was better than he had expected. “I was surprised by the depth and the quality of the deal,” he said. “The hawks are satisfied, and the doves don’t have an argument.”

No arguments? I got your arguments right here. 24 days! Self-inspections! $150 billion! Death to America! Neville Chamberlain!

If the Europeans have no arguments against the deal, they aren't even trying. They should try calling the Republican Party for a set of serious, detailed, and principled talking points.