Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tragedy and Politics in Orlando

The first news reports from Orlando called the mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando called it the worst terrorist attack on America since 9/11. By the time President Obama made his remarks, the story had changed to the biggest mass shooting in American history. Despite calling 9-1-1 twice to profess his allegiance to ISIS and other Islamic organizations, that aspect of the massacre has been almost totally lost, buried under various agendas. This highlights one of the most shameful aspects of politics in America.

The two most commonly heard demands are that AR-15 style guns should be outlawed and that people on the terrorist watch list should be prohibited from buying guns. In short order the AR-15 was proclaimed the weapon of choice of terrorists, based on four shootings. This ignores the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter didn't choose his gun, he stole the gun his mother used for target shooting. The Aurora shooter had a tactical shotgun and a Glock as well as an AR-15-style rifle.

Keep in mind that Omar Mateen, the shooter, also carried a Glock handgun and no figures have been released about how many people were shot with which weapon, how many shots were fired, how many times he reloaded or other relevant data. He also carried something that may have been a bomb.

There is an important message by all of the attention devoted to so-called Assault Weapons*. These weapons were tools used by someone bent on murdering multiple people. If he had been unable to obtain an "assault weapon" then he would have used some other type of gun. That might have reduced the number of dead and injured but it certainly would not have stopped him. By focusing on "assault weapons" the message is that stopping this type of assault isn't really important. It's enough to reduce the number of dead and injured by an unknown amount. This is nothing but political posturing.

The reality is that rifles are seldom used in crimes. More people are killed by knives than all types of rifles combined. There are 20-30 million AR-15s alone. Target shooters love them because of the low recoil and because they are easily customized. Most crimes are done with handguns, not rifles. This is common sense. It's much harder to conceal a rifle. This is also true of mass shootings. By some measures, there have been hundreds of mass shootings since Sandy Hook but only four were mentioned when "proving" that this is the weapon of choice.

The watch list is even more posturing. It's true that Mateen was on the FBI list at one point but he was investigated and removed. He was not on the list at the time he bought his guns. As far as we know (the list is secret so we can't be sure) no mass murderer to date has been on a watch list when he bought his weapon. Congress should be investigating that rather than pushing meaningless legislation. they should be exploring ways to identify self-radicalized people.

The tragedy is being used other ways to advance various agendas. Many people have used it to condemn the Right for being anti-gay as if being against gay marriage is equivalent to wanting gays dead. A lawyer for the ALCU with a Muslim family insisted that right-wing Christians are to blame.

The left has been overly delicate about Islam. Islamic countries have no toleration for gays. Several Muslim countries will imprison or execute gays but any criticism is dismissed as hate speech. That is part of why the left is so quick to bury mentions of Mateen's religious motivations. That includes President Obama who has problems reconciling the Islam he remembers from his childhood with today's savage killers. That's part of Trump's appeal and refusing to acknowledge Islam's part in the tragedy only helps him.

* There is no official definition, the term generally describes semi-automatic guns that resemble military ones.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hillary's Problems

Hillary Clinton will certainly become the Democratic candidate for President and is still the favorite to win but she has far more obstacles than expected.

First there's history. The White House normally changes parties every 8 years. People are usually tiring of the sitting president and his attempted successor is usually seen as a shadow or the President. That makes for a hard sell. George H. W. Bush was the only successor to score a decisive win. Hillary wasn't even vice-president. She was only Secretary of State for one term.

Bill Clinton has emerged as a bigger liability than an asset. As a campaigner he's touchy about his own record and doesn't stick to the script but that's minor. It's his history as president that's the problem.

In 2008, Hillary had a great campaign message - elect me and I'll turn back the Bush years and bring back the Clinton years. That's no longer valid. Bill took office 24 years ago and left office16 years ago. He's ancient history and any attempt to bring back the Clinton years is seen as rolling back the Obama years as well as the Bush years.

The Democratic Party has changed considerably since Bill left office. A short list of Bill's major accomplishments includes NAFTA, Welfare Reform and his Crime Bill. Bernie is running against all of those. Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act are also from Bill's years and despised by current Democrats.

Then there's Bill's record against women. By today's standards, he sexually assaulted several women and may have outright raped two. He was impeached for lying about a relationship with an intern. While Hillary cannot be blamed for Bill's actions, she can be blamed for her own complicity. She took the lead in covering these up and lead a campaign of personal destruction against any women who came forward. It's hard to see someone as a champion of women's rights when she acted like this.

Hillary can be her own worst enemy. She lacks Bill's warmth. Her campaign prefers small, controlled events to the huge rallies that Bernie and Trump hold. That's because she comes across as shrill and unlikable at large rallies.

She has few actual credentials. In 1988, CBS ran a series on George H. W. Bush entitled "Tracks" that implied that he had held a lot of positions but left few track. The same is true for Hillary. Her time as First Lady was billed as a co-presidency but her only actual assignment, health care reform, died on the vine. She was considered a Senate leader but only because everyone knew that she was using it as a spring-board to the Presidency. She accomplished very little in her 8 years. This was also true of her 4 years as Secretary of State.

Few people trust Hillary and with good reason.She has a long history of questionable activities. Most people have forgotten her commodities trading when she made $100,000 in one day then quit. Whitewater began as an investigation to see if Bill used his authority as Governor of Arkansas to try to save his investment in a real estate deal. The White House travel office was fired and replaced with Clinton campaign staffers, reportedly at Hillary's insistence. The White house Lincoln Bedroom was turned into a bed and breakfast for major donors. The Clinton Foundation has been described as the Clinton's personal slush fund with the possibility that large donations were made to it with the expectation of favors from the State Department. Hillary's $200,000+ speeches to Wall Street were probably more about gaining the favor of a future president than hearing her financian advice.

Expect Trump to dig up all of this.

Finally, Hillary is trying to sell herself as a candidate of change when she represents the status quo better than any politician alive. Both Bernie and Trump are attracting huge support by claiming that the system is rigged against regular people. Their details differ but both promise to change international agreements to benefit average Americans. Hillary will never be able to convince people that she is as much an agent of change as these loose cannons. Her only real option is to run as a stabilizing influence. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The proper analogy for Hillary's emails

A lot of analogies have been slung around in the months since it came out that Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State, used a private email server stored in her own home to conduct official business. Most of these analogies have been lacking. Here's one that I think captures what she did:

Imagine Hillary instructing her staff that each day they were to take all of the correspondence that landed on her desk, but it in a box and send it to her house. When she finished with it, she threw it in the trash and hoped that no one went through her recycling bin. When it was discovered that Hillary had done this, imagine her excuse was "It was too hard to have correspondence in two places" and "Nothing was marked secret when it landed on my desk. I'm not responsible for what people sent me or how it was classified after I got it."

The point is that this would never have been an issue if her correspondence had stayed at the office where it was supposed to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Politifact Disgraces Itself

A week ago the fact-checking web site, Politifact, investigated President Obama's statement:

The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.
This is outright wrong. While it is possible to order a gun over the Internet, it is not delivered to you. It is delivered to a licensed gun dealer who does the background check that the President insists on. But, rather than give this the Pants-on-fire rating it deserves, they labeled it Mostly-true.

How did they come up with this rating? By using a very fluid definition of buying something over the Internet. As Politifact points out. it is possible to use a web site to find a private individual who has a gun the same as or similar to what you want to buy. But, these web sites do not let you order guns. They let you send a messages back and forth. In order to actually get your hands on a gun, the seller has to transfer it through a gun dealer (with background checks) or you have to arrange to meet the seller in person and buy the gun from him that way. To call this "buying a gun over the Internet" is ridiculous. If I buy something from Amazon, I expect it to be delivered to my house instead of my having to meet someone in a parking lot. It was completely misleading of President Obama to call that buying over the Internet and for Politifact to accept it.

The Washington Post fact-checker agreed with the majority of people and gave the President's statement two Pinocchios

Politifact was founded to be a non-partisan fact-checking site but rulings like these throw all of their other rulings into doubt, especially since many people look at the list of claims and ratings rather than the full reasoning behind the ratings.

I have been following Politifact for a long time and often (but not this time) they do a thorough and even-handed job of researching a question only to have the panel that awards the rating stretch a point in order to give it a left-slant.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Bill Clinton Then and Now

To really understand why the accusations against Bill Clinton you need to understand the history of abortion politics. Abortion was allowed by the Supreme Court in 1973 with the Roe v Wade case. That spawned a strong anti-abortion movement in the 1980s and a pro-abortion response by feminists. This was highly polarizing with feminists aligning with the Democrats and being anti-abortion becoming a litmus test for Democrats. The assumption on the Left was that the Republicans would try to reverse Roe v Wade by appointing a majority of justices who would support reversing it.

Actually, abortion was never as high a priority for Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) as the feminists thought but, because of pressure from feminists, no nominee for Supreme Court who was anti-abortion could hope to be confirmed. This was especially true under Bush. The only way he could get a justice confirmed was by nominating so-called stealth candidates. These were people who were qualified but had not been sitting judges with a history of opinions.

One of these was Clarence Thomas who spent most of his career as an administrator instead of a jurist. He was also difficult to object to because of his biography. He rose from poverty. Feminists were frantic to stop him so the Democrats took an unusual step. Senator Edward Kennedy announced that allegations had been made that disqualified Thomas. This was a serious breech of protocol since the person making the allegations, Anita Hill, had been promised anonymity. In an unprecedented step, Hill gave testimony to the entire Senate (and the televised audience) that Thomas had sexually harassed her by making lewd jokes and describing X-rated movies he had seen. Thomas himself gave counter-testimony, describing the incident as a high-tech lynching. He was confirmed but the entire nation changed its standards on sexual harassment. Democrats and feminists used the incident to mobilize women voters.

Enter Bill Clinton. During his initial campaign it came out that he had had a number of affairs. Things were so bad that when a former Miss America said that she had sex with Clinton, his supporters sighed in relief. At least she was attractive.

Hillary was instrumental in enabling Bill. He had a team of detectives and spin-artists assigned to tamp down "bimbo eruptions". She also went on TV and said that if she was willing to forgive Bill then it was no business of the rest of the country. Hillary's damage control was good enough that rumors that Bill had raped two women never became public knowledge.

Years later, one woman sued Bill, claiming that she had been escorted into his office as governor and he met her with his pants down, obviously expecting oral sex. Depositions from this case led to other women including a young intern named Monica Lewinsky who had an affair with Clinton over several months. In a deposition for the case, Clinton swore that he had not had sex with Monica. This eventually led to his impeachment - not that he'd had sex with an intern but that he lied about it under oath in a sexual harassment case where his sexual history was relevant. Clinton was tried by the Senate which voted against removing him from office.

Along the way, Republicans asked feminists where their outrage was? If telling a female subordinate disqualified someone from the Supreme Court then why didn't they push for the removal of Clinton for doing far worse. The answer was that the flap about Thomas had been faux-outrage for political gain. The feminists saw Clinton as the man who kept abortion legal and they didn't care what he did to women personally. One leader said that she'd get down on her kneJmpes herself and give him a blow-job for keeping abortion legal.

Jump forward a decade and a half and we have a batch of youth voters who had no idea what Bill's history was with women or Hillary's role was in enabling him. At the same time, the current push by feminists has been against "rape culture" in which privileged whites get away with rape. A double standard was possible with Clarance Thomas and Bill Clinton because years separated these incidents but the push against rape and sexual assault is ongoing. It was part of President Obama's 2015 State of the Union Address. Charges against Bill Cosby are headline news.

Feminists long ago gt over being grateful to Bill. Now they are deciding who to support and they are not going to spend political capitol on someone who left office in 2001.

Hillary has been trying to run as a woman's champion but much of this rings false. Did she really try to enlist in the Marines right after she moved to Georgia to marry Bill? And if she did, did she tell them that she was a highly-qualified lawyer? Did she really get a letter from NASA in the 1960s saying that they didn't want women (the only such surviving letters have a very different tone). Hillary's own history is one of trampling women who got in her way by sleeping with her husband then admitting it in public. This is at odds with a champion of women's rights.

All of this came up because Hillary attacked Donald Trump. Trump may have cheated on his wives but no one has accused him of rape or sexual imposition. Hillary tolerated both from her husband which gives Trump the perfect defense.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Obama's Puny Legacy

Here's a prediction, in his final State of the Union address next week, President Obama will name these three things as major accomplishments: His treaty with Iran, the Paris Accords on Global Warming and his executive order on gun control. Ironically, none of these represent an actual accomplishment.

In reverse order, the executive orders on gun control mainly muddy the water on who is and who is not a gun dealer in the hope that more casual dealers will get licenses and perform background checks. This is unlikely to stop a single mass shooting since none of the previous shootings would have been stopped by background checks.

The Paris Accords set goals with no enforcement. It was a feel-good conference and will not cause any real changes.

The original goal of the treaty with Iran was to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons. The final treaty does the exact opposite. It allows them to create nuclear weapons and obligates us to do nothing. Iran can leave the treaty at any time and has already threatened to if we take any action on their missile program. Snapping back the sanctions is a myth.

So, President Obama's big accomplishments are all paper triumphs.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Why Bernie Shouldn't be President in One Tweet

You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 26, 2015

For those who are not familiar with how interest rates work, home mortgages are secured loans meaning that they can take your house if you don't pay. You can't even get a mortgage without showing the bank that you are able to pay (that rule was relaxed during the first part of the 21st century which led to the Great Recession). College loans are unsecured and are given to students in the hope that they will complete their degree and use it to get a job that allows you to repay the loan. People default on college loans far more often than they do on mortgages. That is why mortgage rates are much lower. The higher rate for college loans pays for the people who default.

You would think that a member of the senate and a leading candidate for President would understand how these things work. In fact there is a good chance that Bernie is aware of all of this and rejects it. That's what being a socialist means: You ignore economics and order things the way you think they should work.

If Bernie had his way then the government would lose money on student loans (Obama already decided that it was immoral for banks to profit from student loans and nationalized them). If Bernie wants to subsidize student loans then he should say so instead of making false comparisons.

It doesn't really matter if Bernie doesn't understand basic economics or if he rejects it. Either would be disastrous in the President of the United States.