Thursday, December 14, 2017

Note to Democrats: Not Everything is About Trump

Republican Roy Moore lost a senate race in deeply Republican Alabama. Is this a sure sign that the populous is rising up against President Trump? Hardly. Moore wasn't even Trump's first choice. He supported the acting senator in the primaries but Moore beat him with the help of former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

Moore was always a flawed candidate. His views on religion and gay rights seem stuck in the 50s or 60s. Establishment Republicans such as George Will disowned Moore from the start and that was before the sexual allegations started.

Personally, I think that these were overstated. What they boil down to was that nearly 40 years ago when Moore was in his early 30s he was attracted to women in their mid-teens. This is creepy but legal. It was not pedophilia - that's having sex with someone 13 or under. The youngest of these accusers was 14 and claimed that he wanted sex but didn't actually have it.

The important thing is that all of these accusations were from before Moore was married. No one claims that he cheated on his wife or otherwise engaged in any questionable activities with women since he married. Not that it matters. We were told constantly about what a terrible person Moore is. The Republicans in general and President Trump in particular kept Moore at arm's length through much of the campaign.

This attack served its purpose. Many people who would have voted for Moore lost their enthusiasm. The exit polls show this. Democrats had a high turn-out and Republicans had a low turn-out.

Then there was the protest vote. Jones beat Moore by 49.9% to 48.4% but 1.7% were write-in votes. I think it's safe to assume that the majority of these were Republicans who made protest votes. If they had voted for Moore then he'd be senator.

So a controversial candidate with a major sex-scandal lost by a small percentage in a heavily Republican state. Whatever affect Trump had on the vote is drowned out. This is not much of a sign for the future.

The Republicans are now down one seat in the Senate (which they can possibly pick up again in 2020). That makes it a bit easier for the Democrats to take the Senate in 2018 but it's still a long-shot. To do it they will have to win several races in states that Trump carried plus two states that currently have Republican senators. Every Democratic incumbent won in a year that Obama was on top of the ballot and every Republican incumbent managed to keep his seat with Obama at the top. Trump will not be on the 2018 ballot although the Democrats will try to make the election a referendum on him and whatever the anti-Trump outrage of the day is. It's unlikely that multiple women will appear to denounce multiple Republicans or that this will still have the same shock value that it had in the Moore/Jones special election.

There's also a good chance that the economy will be booming. There are early signs of it including (anti-Trump) economists warning that booms are bad. Wave elections seldom happen in good times. People tend to vote their wallet.

To sum it up, don't look at this election as a barometer for 2018.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Why Americans Don't Trust the News

I have a simple piece of advice to the news media: you can be a trusted source of news or you can be part of the Resistance but you can't be both at once. Currently too many news organizations are siding with the Resistance and it's kill their credibility. Two recent examples involve the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. First ABC News reported that General Flynn was going to testify that candidate Trump had directed him to meet with the Russian government. Except they got the timeline wrong and Trump was President-elect at the time and the meetings were perfectly legal. Then CNN reported that Donald Trump jr was given an advanced peek at a Wikileak dump (with the implication that Wikileak might be affiliated with Russia). But, like ABC, CNN got the timeline wrong. The email in question was dated September 14 instead of September 4. The Wikileak dump in question had been made on the 13th so this was just a heads-up about information that was already public.

Both of these mistakes happened because the respective newsrooms are full of people who are positive that Trump needed Russian help in order to win the election. They are in a bubble with no dissenters to question their findings or make sure that they double-checked their sources. Instead they are in a competition to see who will report Trump's fall first. This leads them to make critical errors and causes the public to question anything they say.

It must be pointed out that the actual effect of Russian influence on the election is highly questionable. They bought more ads outside of the election cycle than during it and they supported numerous causes. Many analysts think that the Russians were trying to sew general confusion rather than help a specific candidate. Even if they were trying to help Trump that does not mean that they were working with the Trump campaign. After the overthrow of Libya, Putin was convinced that he would be targeted next for overthrow and specifically blamed Secretary Clinton for this.

To date, the case that there was a quid pro quo agreement with the Trump campaign relies mainly on wishful thinking rather than any facts. But Hillary Clinton continues to push the narrative that she lost because of the Russians and newsrooms are still full of Hillary supporters.

The various newsrooms need to take a lesson from the 2004 presidential election and 60 Minutes. A 60 Minutes producer named Marla Mapes was convinced that President Bush had avoided the draft during Viet Nam by taking a slot in the Texas Air National Guard that was only available for the rich and well-connected. She was told flat-out that the TANG always had openings because it required more time and was more dangerous than normal National Guard service but she refused to believe it. While she was researching the story, an anonymous source offered her some memos that Bush's commander had typed up but kept secret. She took these and ran with the story without bothering to do any real fact-checking. But, as with most things that are too good to be true, these were fakes, and not even very good ones. They had numerous problems with the format and terminology and appeared to have been written with Microsoft Word. The story blew up taking the career of Mapes and Dan Rather with it. To this day, Mapes refuses to admit that the documents were poorly-done forgeries.

What happened to CBS and 60 Minutes in 2004 is threatening to happen to the entire news industry now. No one stops to question the basic assumption that Trump colluded with the Russians. This spills over into other reporting on national issues. There are two sides to every story but the only one that gets reported is the anti-Trump side. When President Trump rescinds one of President Obama's executive orders, the focus of the news is on the people who will be hurt without mentioning that the order was probably illegal in the first place. I could go on but that could take an entire post by itself. The point is that the more one-sided the news reporting becomes the less it will be trusted. 

Why Hillary Lost and Why She Blames Everyone Else

I'm not about to give Hillary Clinton money for her book "What happened" so I'm depending on others who have read it for the details. I just read an account of the "Commander in Chief Debate" which wasn't exactly a debate. Matt Lauer interviewed both candidates separately then the interviews were aired back to back. In Hillary's book and in several recent interviews she complains that she started out talking about judgement but then he asked her about the emails. She was annoyed. She had already been cleared of any crimes by the FBI. She felt it was an unfair question. She expected a powder puff interview. So she gave a pat answer. Later a Republican veteran asked about them again, this time about the fact that no charges were filed which gave the impression that the investigation was fixed. She was really upset that such a person would be allowed to ask such a question.

That that's why she lost. The emails were a big issue. They showed lack of judgement that she compounded several times over, first by deleting over 30,000 emails then by having the server scrubbed (and not like with a towel). Several felonies were committed including scrubbing the server while there was an active subpoena and simply being in possession of some highly-classified emails but no one from her team was ever charged.

This was a big deal. Simply repeating that the FBI declined to recommend charges does not convince people that her judgement is sound. If anything, it doubles down on bad judgement. She never has gone beyond the "I'm sorry I got caught and I wouldn't have done it if I'd known how much trouble it would cause me" that she coughed up instead of a real apology.

And now, over a year later, she's still railing because Matt Lauer had the nerve to ask her about a major issue. And she acts as if Trump cruised to victory without a single scandal.

Does "Billy Bush tape" ring a bell? It should. Hillary was playing excerpt from it six times an hour for weeks in swing states. That was just the biggest issue that came up. Every week or two the press uncovered something about Trump. But Hillary forgot all about that.

What really comes through is Hillary's sense of entitlement. She's outraged that anyone did anything to prevent her from having a cake-walk into the White House. How date Bernie run against her and how dare he make popular promises? How dare Matt Lauer and NBC bring up the emails? And how dare the FBI investigate them? Or re-open the investigation after discovering that her assistant Huma was forwarding emails to her husband Anthony Wiener to print? And how dare anyone, especially women vote for anyone but her?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Divisiveness of Hillary Clinton

I've been called divisive more times than I can count, and for the life of me, I can't understand why. Politics is a divisive business, it's true, and out country has gotten more polarized with every passing year. . . Why am I seen as such a divisive figure and, say, Joe Biden and John Kerry aren't? . . . I'm really asking. I'm at a loss. - Hillary Clinton in What Happened

Is this woman so self-unaware that she doesn't see the differences between her own actions and other politicians? I can give a few quick examples of her divisiveness:

Let's start with the news that her husband had been having an affair with a White House intern in the late 1990s. When Bill ran in 1992 he and Hillary did an interview where he seemed to say "I've had affairs in the past but I won't have any if I'm elected president". Hillary knew of her husband's long history with other women better than anyone. She employed a staff just to quash these women from speaking out. So she had no reason to doubt that Bill had indeed been having an affair. But that's not how she reacted. She denied everything and (this is the relevant part) blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy". To no one's surprise, the affair was real but Hillary never went back and admitted that she'd been wrong to claim that Republicans made it up.

But that's ancient history. Just two years ago there was this exchange at a Democratic debate:

ANDERSON  COOPER: Which enemy that you made during your political career are you most proud of?

CLINTON: Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians; probably the Republicans

So Hillary named Republicans as enemies that she was proud to have. She refused to back away from that statement when asked about it later.

In July She tweeted: The Republican Party platform is so hateful, you'd think Donald Trump wrote it himself.

Then at a public fundraiser Hillary said some things that she'd previously been only saying to small, private groups: If I were to be grossly generalistic, I would say you can take Trump supporters and put them in two big baskets," Clinton said. "There are what I call the deplorables -- the racists, you know, the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he's going to restore an America that no longer exists. So just eliminate them from your thinking, because we've always had an annoying prejudicial element within our politics.

She later backed away from using "half" but it was too little, too late. Republicans knew that she really thought of all of us as deplorable.

All of this is very divisive. Hillary sees the world as us vs. them with "them" being the Republicans. You don't see Biden or Kerry doing things like these.

Then there is her book tour. I can remember losing candidates going back to Humphrey in 1968. They all took their loss fairly gracefully. Humphrey and Gore tough college for a while. McGovern, McCain and Kerry returned to Congress. Gore eventually reinvented himself as an environmental profit and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Mondale, Dole, Romney and Dukakis pretty much bowed out of politics. Carter reinvented himself helping to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Absolutely none of these losing presidential candidates wrote a book complaining about how they deserved to win then went on a speaking tour contesting the election. Hillary is unique in being the worst loser in modern history. And that makes her divisive.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Inevitability of the Current Sex Scandals

The past year or so seems to be a reversion to New England in the 1690s when the Puritans ruled. The Puritans divided the colony into the elect and the reprobate. The elect were already saved. They were guaranteed their place in heaven. The reprobate would go to hell. The problem was telling who was in which group. Unfortunately, when God saved someone, he did not leave a visible mark so the only hint was that the elect could do no wrong. I mean that literally - it would never occur to one of the elect to sin. So everyone was examining everyone else's behavior to see who sinned and who didn't. All of this lead to the Salem Witch Trials, among other things. Of course, it is impossible for anyone to be completely without sin so this lead to a very nasty environment.

The modern version has its own version of the elect and the reprobates - The minorities and their woke allies vs everyone else. And, as with the Puritans, no one can ever be woke enough.

During late Summer and early Fall it was historic figures who where being examined. Naturally, the slave holders were judged as inadequate but it goes further than that. Presidents Lincoln and Grant were also found wanting. Lincoln allowed some Indians to be executed after a major uprising and Grant owned a slave for a while (with no points given for Grant freeing the slave in 1850).

Now the witch hysteria has moved on to sexual harassment. This began with the airing of then-candidate Trump talking about being able to inappropriately touch women without repercussion. That died down for a while but started up again with 40-year old accusations against Harvey Weinstein. That mushroomed into accusations about many actors, directors, etc. Then it spread to politicians - first a Senate candidate who was  accused of being creepy 40 years ago and now sitting Senator Al Franken.

Personally I'd love for Franken to be forced to leave the Senate and live a life of obscurity but this would never have come up if we weren't in a sexual exploitation hysteria.

One beneficial result of the current hysteria is a reexamination of President Clinton's record of sexual abuse. That's long-overdue. And it may prevent Hillary from making another run for President. After all, she spent decades covering for Bill.

But in general, the current hysteria has gone too far. People's careers are being ruined on the basis of accusations, often with no corroboration. We have the Obama administration and the feminists to thank for that. They insisted that there be no presumption of innocence for sexual harassment. Ironically, most of the people hurt so far are from the left.

Hysteria is never a good public policy. There are reasons that we have presumption of innocence, statute of limitations and all the other things in our justice system. All of that's gone out the window along with any sense of proportion. Is a squeeze on the butt or being touched through your clothes the same as being beaten and raped? It shouldn't be and we should wait for some sort of corroboration before  ruining people.

But this is just the current phase of a general hysteria. Something new will come up in a few weeks and all the sexual allegations will be forgotten.

The real question is how long the general hysteria will last.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Day that Trump Won

A year ago we woke up knowing that it was the day Hillary Clinton would become the first woman president. She had bragged more than a week before that she wasn't even thinking about Donald Trump anymore. Her campaign insisted that she'd run up enough of a lead in early voting in Florida to make it impossible for Trump to win that state.

But Florida went for Trump. So did Pennsylvania and several other states that Trump wasn't supposed to have a chance in. What happened?

For me, the election was s surprise but not a shock. I'd been watching the electoral vote carefully and I knew that Trump had a decent chance. All you had to do was make the assumption that the polling models favored Clinton. There were several states that "leaned Clinton" meaning that polls showed her ahead but within the margin of error. If you assumed that the turn-out would match the last two presidential elections then Clinton was ahead. But if you assumed that the minorities who turned out in record numbers for the first black candidate would not turn out for a rich, white woman who oozed entitlement then Trump would win. It was as simple as that.

Of course, the Democratic elite had no idea it was coming. They saw Trump as a clown who somehow managed to get on the ticket. They ignored the fact that he had already beaten the other political dynasty, the Bush family. Jeb was supposed to be the more accomplished version of George W. but Trump easily defeated him along with other governors and well-known senators.

After Clinton's loss in the 2008 primaries it was assumed that she would be Obama's successor. Her stint as Secretary of State was meant to flesh out her resume which was actually fairly weak (She had no real accomplishments in the Senate and she was the first woman to argue that being married to the President qualified her to replace him).

The primaries should have signaled the Democrats that Clinton was a weak candidate. Even with the DNC being under her control she had problems running against an ancient socialist who wasn't even a Democrat. She was well-known to the nation and at least half the population had a firmly-fixed dislike of her. To top it off, she spent all of her time courting minorities and ignoring the working-class whites who traditionally supported the Democrats.She also refuses to admit mistakes or take responsibility for her actions. This trait continues  as Clinton blames the Russians and the FBI for her loss rather than her own mistakes.

Every time she opens her mouth to deliver a rehearsed excuse I thank the voters that she's not our president.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Pro-Abortion Mind Game

A Harvard philosopher named Michael Sandel came up with a "thought exercise" to prove that we don't really believe that life begins at conception. It goes like this:

You are in a fertility clinic and there's a fire. On your way out you hear a noise and check in a room. You find a five year old child and a container marked "1,000 embryos". The fire and smoke are getting bad and you can only save one. Do you save the child or the container of embryos? Naturally you will save the child which means that you don't really believe the embryos are people which, in turn, means that you've been lying in order to contain control of women's bodies.

I cleaned it up a bit but that's what he says. You can see the whole thing laid out here if you really want along with a separate take-down.

So, does this thought exercise do what it claims to? Not really. It was contrived to make you choose the desired outcome. There are several reasons that the average person would choose the child. Here are some of them:

1) We don't handle abstracts well in a crisis. Most people wouldn't even stop to read the containers. They'd grab the child and run.

2) We are hard-wired to choose the concrete over the abstract. We see this constantly in movies and TV shows - someone is given a choice to save a hostage knowing that it could mean the death of many others. Given the choice between a live child and a container, people will choose the child, even if they know that the container represents more children. What's more, we don't actually know what the contents of the container are. Just because it has a label does not mean that it is currently full or even in use.

3) We know more than we are told. Anyone who knows how in-vitro fertilization works knows that we are already in squishy grounds. Only a fraction of the embryos will actually be successfully implanted so it is not a 1000 vs 1 choice. Most of these embryos will be discarded or die in failed implantations (which is why the whole process is morally squishy). The catholic Church debated allowing this process for this very reason.

4) This is an impossible situation. Embryos are not freeze-dried, ready to add water to reconstitute. They are kept frozen at near absolute zero. So the container in question would actually be a larger freezer. Disconnecting it would lead to the death of the embryos within minutes. To put this in perspective, let's take an alternate thought exercise. You are in a maternity ward and a fire breaks out. You see a five year old and two premature infants in incubators. Do you save the child or do you save the two infants, even knowing that they will die unless they can quickly be put back in incubators? And, if you choose the child does this mean that you do not think that the infants are actual people until they can breath unassisted?

It's one thing to propose a thought exercise to make people clarify and justify their reasoning. But that is not what Sandel did. He is playing a mind game to enforce his point of view. And he's not doing a very good job of it. He needed to propose it in neutral terms so that people's defenses were not raised. But he is really just performing for the people inside the bubble. He's not expecting anyone with dissenting views to really examine his exercise.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Weinstein, Trump, Clinton and Thomas

The big news right now is that movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been preying on women for decades. The real news is that this was widely known within certain circles but suppressed. Even the story that finally broke the news was killed by NBC News and the reporter had to go elsewhere to get it published.

Weinstein is highly connected. He is a major donor to Democrats. He consulted Hillary Clinton's campaign and President Obama's daughter interned with his production company. Given all of the Hollywood connections the Clintons and Obamas have, it's hard to believe that no one took them aside and whispered a warning in their ear. The truth is that they probably didn't care until a string of flops meant that he was no longer as powerful. Newer revelations show that this may be the tip of an avalanche. Left-leaning Hollywood may be full of sexual predators and no one cared.

A year ago the big news was a 1990s hot mic tape catching Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush that being rich and famous allowed him to touch women (through their clothing) and no one complained. While several women came forward after that to accuse Trump of improperly touching them, these accusations smelled of an opportunistic chance to derail the Trump campaign.

Going back 26 years, we have the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. Thomas was on track to sail through the confirmation when Teddy Kennedy broke precedent and revealed secret testimony given to the FBI. Anita Hill, one of Thomas's former employees, claimed that Thomas had made inappropriate comments in her presence. There was a minor uproar over this, even though a large group of women who had worked with Thomas said that he'd never behaved in an inappropriate manner in their presence. Thomas was confirmed but female outrage made 1992 the "year of the woman" in elections.

In-between we have Bill Clinton who had multiple affairs including one in the White House and has been accused of violently raping two other women while president. When this news came out, conservatives wanted to know where was the outrage? Several feminist leaders answered that they didn't really care what Clinton did in his private life as long as he supported their agenda. The progressive organization MoveOn was founded to convince the county to "move on" after Clinton's impeachment.

The implication here is that the left only cares about sexual harassment (or worse) when it's to their advantage. They are willing to ignore abuse as long as the abusers support the right causes and as long as the victims stay quiet.

So, why is the left surprised that President Trump's supporters act the same way - ignoring Trump's personal indiscretions because they need him to undo the damage of the Obama presidency?

There's a larger issue here, one that the left will come to regret. You have to be consistent in how you apply standards or they cease to be meaningful. For the past few years the left has pushed the idea that free speech is an outdated concept. Eventually they will miss the protections they currently take for granted but threw away for short-term political gain.