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.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Mush From the Wimp

In 1980, an editor put a placeholder title on an article about a speech by President Carter. He was not a fan of the President and entitled it, "Mush From the Wimp" He intended to fix it before it went to print but a few copies got out.

I was reminded of that when President Obama made his Oval Office speech last Sunday. Prior to the speech I was afraid that he was about to announce some new presidential directive to limit guns. Instead he gave a short speech in which he proposed nothing new and only seemed animated when warning about the perils of Islamophobia. In the fight against ISIS (or ISIL) he offered the straw man alternative of a 100,000 man invasion which no one has seriously proposed.

He also doubled down on gun control, insisting that there is no reason for a suspected terrorist to be allowed to buy a gun. This argument is ingenuous. Either he has no idea how the terrorist watch list works or he thinks that no one else does.

To listen to the President, you would think that the watch list* provides a full and complete identification of the suspects. In fact, it is nothing but a list of names, some of them partial names. The list is notorious for false hits such as the five times that Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy was stopped because a suspected terrorist used the alias "T Kennedy". The list does not contain such things as birth date or address or even middle initial. The left has been complaining about the list for years. Now, because it is politically convenient to use it to pummel Republicans, it's acceptable.

Of course, false hits may not be a bug when stopping gun purchases, they may be a feature. The purpose of this proposal is to keep people from buying guns. The fact that no dmestic terrorists have been on the list is irrelevant.

Which is a term that describes President Obama these days - irrelevant.

*or lists, he seems to be referring to the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list which are separate but similar

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Posturing About Guns

The left is using the Rahm Emanuel school of crisis control - never let a crisis go to waste. This has led to an embarrassing about of political posturing.

First came the slaughter in Paris. President Obama insisted that the response to this was an international agreement on global warming. While this was rather lame, the rest of the left used the tragedy to bludgeon the right over concerns that the proposed 10,000 Syrian refugees will not be properly screened.

Then came the Planned Parenthood shooting. The perpetrator was a disturbed man with a long history of hating Planned Parenthood. He lived off the grid without even electricity. Accordingly, it is debatable how aware he was of the videos showing some of Planned Parenhood's unsavory practice. Regardless, several of Planned Parenthood's supporters insist that after that shocking incident, all criticism of Planned Parenthood is now banned. There was also a lot of talk about Christian terrorism.

President Obama, following up on his intended push for gun control, stood in Paris and said that shootings like that just don't happen in other developed countries. Obama and the left in general repeated their call for "common sense" solutions to gun control, ignoring the fact that these have already been passed where the shooting happened.

The White House also pushed the idea that anyone on the terror watch list should be banned for buying a gun. Never mind that the left has been objecting to this watch list for years. Never mind that it's so loose and unaccountable that Senator Teddy Kennedy was on it and was unbable to find out why. This idea was still repeated constantly by the left. Even Hillary Clinton repeated this claim. This is just political posturing since no one has named any shooter who would have been prevented from buying his guns.

Then came the terrorist attack in San Bernadina. President Obama had been briefed and must have known that it was likely a terrorist attack when he gave his standard speech about common sense gun control and it not happening in other countries. It was the same gun control speech he gives for any shooting with no indication that this might be something special.

The entire left has taken up this new call to arms (so to speak). Guns are responsible for the tragedy and anyone one who opposes gun control is an accomplice. The idea is to channel outrage at a domestic terrorist attack at Republicans for allowing it to happen.

There are problems with this line of attack. California, where the attacks happened, already passed the full slate of gun control and it failed to stop the killing. The married couple was not on any watch list to say nothing of the no-fly list.

There is a bigger flaw in the gun control argument. Gun control does not stop terrorist attacks. France has tighter controls than anything seriously proposed for the US but it had multiple terrorist attacks this year. These terrorists happened to use guns this time but they had also bee working on building bombs. The Boston bombers only had one pistol between them. They used a home-made bomb. The San Berdina terror couple was working on similar bombs.

Even Columbine was meant to be a bomb attack killing 1,000. If the pair of killers hadn't had access to guns then they might have successfully reset their bomb.

In Israel, terrorists are using kitchen knives and cars to attack people - something the msm is ignoring.

Either the left knows that terrorism will not be stopped by background checks and hopes the rest of the country is too stupid to realize it or they have worked themselves into such a state that they don't stop to think about what they say - possibly both considering President Obama's incoherence on the subject.

Regardless, the left is using tragedies to push an agenda that will do nothing to stop further shootings. This is insulting to Americans.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Syrian Refugees (squirrel)

Ten days ago I never saw the slightest sign that anyone I know cared in the least about Syrian refugees. Now I've lost count of the number of posts I've seen on Facebook about them.

The big change is, of course, the slaughter of French innocents by ISIS-backed terrorists, one of whom seems to have been a Syrian refugee. While it's true that conservatives have called for the US to stop accepting these refugees, I really thing that the response from the left is disproportionate given their lack of prior interest. After all, I don't see any calls for President Obama to do more to end the horrible Syrian civil war. Syria has had a refugee crisis for years and conservatives have been the only ones who seemed to even notice.

There are several things that could be done. Most of these involve opposing Syrian President Bashar al0assad. Had Obama enforced his red line against Bashar using chemical weapons then the crisis might not even exist today. Basar continues to use chlorine gas and barrel bombs against the civilian populace. He has created more refugees than ISIS.

So why haven't we enforced some no-fly zones or armed some of the rebels who want to fight both Bashar and ISIS? Because President Obama is counting on the nuclear proliferation treaty with Iran to be his foreign relations legacy and Iran has threatened to pull out if we do anything against their puppet, Bashar.

So, instead of examining the causes of the refugee crisis, we have a bunch of liberals who found a way to make it sound like everything is the Right's fault. It's a distraction from ISIS and from the wreckage that Syria has turned into.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kerry and the Legitimacy of Terror

In remarks to Staff and Families of US Embassy, Paris , Secretary of State, John Kerry said this:

In the last days, obviously, that has been particularly put to the test. There's something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they're really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn't to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That's not an exaggeration. It was to assault all sense of nationhood and nation-state and rule of law and decency, dignity, and just put fear into the community and say, "Here we are." And for what? What's the platform? What's the grievance? That we're not who they are? They kill people because of who they are and they kill people because of what they believe. And it's indiscriminate. They kill Shia. They kill Yezidis. They kill Christians. They kill Druze. They kill Ismaili. They kill anybody who isn't them and doesn't pledge to be that. And they carry with them the greatest public display of misogyny that I've ever seen, not to mention a false claim regarding Islam. It has nothing to do with Islam; it has everything to do with criminality, with terror, with abuse, with psychopathism – I mean, you name it.

There are two problems with the Secretary's description of last Winter's attack. The first is his dismissal of it as being legitimate. Charlie Hebdo satirized everything including religion. They only satirized Mohamed four times over a period of years. Regardless, Kerry thinks that this is enough to drive sane people to commit murder.

The other problem is that there was a simultaneous attack on a deli. It was a Jewish deli but not all of the patrons were Jewish. The deli was attacked for no other reason than a hatred for Jews. Does Kerry also dismiss this as legitimate? Does he think that the Jews had it coming as did anyone one patronized a Jewish deli? Or did the attack slip his mind completely?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Hillary Won't Be President

There is little doubt that Hillary will win the nomination for presidency but there are a number of reasons that she cannot win the election.

History is one big roadblock. In the last 100 years, a single party has only kept the White House for more than two terms twice. Reagan/Bush held it for 12 years and Roosevelt/Truman for an amazing 20 years, Roosevelt/Truman was a special case with Truman already in office when he ran on his own. Obama is no Reagan, leaving behind so much goodwill as to propel his successor into office in a virtual third term and Hillary is not running as Obama's successor.

The wave elections of 2010 and 2012 imply that the country is reluctant to vote for Democrats unless Obama is at the top of the ticket and the country is suffering from Obama fatigue in general. Obama's executive orders have also cost him (and his successor) support.

There is also the leftward shift of the Democratic party. Obama ran as a blank slate then proved to be much further left than many of his supporters imagined. But the party has moved further left than Obama. This will be a defining election - has the country as a whole moved to the far left or just a portion of the Democratic Party? With all of the candidates running to the left of Obama, we won't know for sure until the general election but my guess is that the more centrist candidate will win. The Republicans have not moved anywhere near as far as the Democrats so they are more likely to nominate a centrist.

All of that is generic.There are some specific reasons that Hillary won't be the next president.

Her age is one of them. She will be as old as Regan when we was elected and his age did come up as an issue. Her health may also become an issue. There are rumors that she has health problems. All of the Republicans come across as young and vital compared to her.

Hillary fatigue is another problem. She's been a public figure since 1992. I doubt if anyone under 30 can remember a time when she wasn't known. It's hard to generate Obama-level excitement for someone who has been around so long.

Then there is Hillary herself. She is not a warm person. Typically, she is most popular when she is away from the public spotlight. The more people see her the less they like her.

She is also insincere. She can't hide the fact that she's taken multiple stands on issues depending on what's most popular. She will have trouble justifying many of her current positions in a general election and fact checkers have already caught her in flips.

And all of that assumes that none of the corruption associated with the Clinton Foundation comes out.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

What's Happening in Syria

Back from a long break from blogging. We'll see how often I keep updating but this one is fairly important and I want to go on the record so that I at least have the satisfaction of gloating later.

To many people, President Obama's policy on Syria has been puzzling. He really has no policy except to hope that things turn out better on their own. Part of this is his conviction about "being on the wrong side of history" and is aversion to boots on the ground, especially after he bragged about bringing the troops home.

As I write this, the Russians have entered Syria, promising to aid the fight against ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State) but their air strikes seem to be doing more harm to rebels apposing Assad than to ISIS.

So, here in a nutshell is what's been going on:

For most of his presidency, Obama pinned his hopes of a major foreign relations accomplishment on a nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran. He unwisely let Iran know how important this was to him giving them an edge.

Early in the war Obama was advised to help the rebels in order to bring Assad to the bargaining table. He didn't do this because Assad is Iran's client and they threatened to stop the treaty if he moved against Assad.

At the conclusion of the treaty process, Obama stated that he expects Iran to move back into the world as a regional power. Privately, Obama is counting on Iran to fight ISIS for him.

So far Obama's efforts against ISIS have had limited effect. You cannot win a war by limited air strikes alone and Iran has objected to Obama arming any force that might threaten Assad. This left a power vacuum in the Middle East which Putin's Russia has filled.

Obama hoped that Iran didn't mean the daily chants of "Death to America" and that signing a treaty that gives Iran a path to being a nuclear power and releasing billions in cash will make Iran our friend. He is likely mistaken.

Putin is taking advantage of our weakness and providing direct aid to Iran's client. This will help Iran in becoming the regional power that Obama envisioned but it will be a Russian ally not an American one. This has an added benefit because the refugee crisis caused by the civil war in Syria is causing strain on all of Europe. The weaker Europe is, the harder it is for them to oppose Russian expansion.

This should be obvious but Obama has trouble seeing Russia uncritically. He spent years on a reset and he has dismissed their territorial ambitions as being on the wrong side of history. He dismissed Romney's warning about Russia with a one-liner about the 80s wanting their foreign policy back. It never occurred to him that Russia wanted a return to the 80s.

So, my prediction is that when the dust settles, Iran will control Syria and Iraq with Russia's aid and will be threatening the other countries in the region. Europe will be too busy worrying about the refugees from all of this to do anything to stop it and it will probably be too far advanced when a new president is sworn into office for the United States to take any effective action.

And that will be President Obama's real major foreign accomplishment.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hillary's Launch

Last Friday the Hillary Clinton campaign announced that Hillary would be announcing her candidacy on Sunday with a tween and a video. I'm not quite sure why that wasn't considered the official launch. The fact that she is running is likely to be the smallest surprise in the campaign. We've know that she wants to be President for the last 16 years and this is the second time she has run.

Where other candidates have given speeches, Hillary released a video. It was a very slick video and minimized Hillary's biggest weakness - herself. She didn't appear until after the half-way mark and she said almost nothing except that she is running and that the deck is stacked against the middle class. This was probably a preemptive strike against Elizabeth Warren who uses the exact same words.

While HIllary seems to have the nomination wrapped up months before the first primaries, her chances of actually winning the election are much smaller. In 2008 she was running against an unpopular president and an unpopular war (that was back when Afghanistan was still "the good war" and Iraq was a distraction). She was the heavy favorite to win that election, too, but she made some important mistakes. She assumed that she would have the nomination wrapped up by Super Tuesday and spent her campaign fund accordingly. In contrast, Obama ran a 50 state campaign and was able to come from behind to take the nomination.

This time around, Hillary is from the same party as an unpopular president and is saddled with a foreign policy that has been a disaster on most fronts. Eight years ago McCain was able to run as a maverick because he has opposed his president on some policies. Hillary has never publicly broken with Obama on anything.

Hillary's resume is worse than before. In 2008 she was a prominent senator, if only because of her husband and he expectation that she would run for president. Her stint as Secretary of State was unimpressive and she will have to spend a lot of time defending things that happened during her tenure.

Hillary is trying to put all of that behind her and run as the candidate who will break the glass ceiling. She is a poor role model for that since she only rose to prominence because of her husband. She has not been the first woman to do anything important. Even as Secretary of State, she was the third woman to hold the job.

Hillary running as a champion of the working class is laughable. She is part of the system that stacks the deck. She claims to have been broke when Bill left office but they already had multimillion dollar book deals and speaking tours in their future.

Her past finances are dirty going back to Bill's time as governor. She managed to make a huge sum in the commodities market during her single day of investing. Most people forget that the investigation that led to Bill's impeachment started with a housing project called Whitewater where a number of regulators turned a blind eye to irregularities.

More recently, the Clinton Foundation has accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from questionable governments.

Regardless of all of this, the truism is that Hillary's worse opponent is herself. She is a poor public speaker and a poor decision maker. Time and again, her popularity goes up when she keeps a low profile and drops when people actually see her. That is why she had such a small part in her announcement video and why she is going to small gatherings instead of making speeches before large crowds. Her campaign is trying to sell the idea of Hillary rather than the candidate herself. That may be enough to get her the nomination but it is unlikely to save her from a skilled Republican opponent.

The Republicans are already running anti-Hillary ads. This may be a mistake. If she stumbles at this point then her replacement will have "that new car smell" as President Obama put it and will be harder to beat. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Social Justice and Free Speech

It is no big revelation that the Social Justice movement thinks very little of free speech. To them, free speech is just an excuse for hate speech.

The social justice movement, known as SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) to dissenters, is an offshoot of feminism. It concentrates on the rights of women, gays, transgender, people of color and Muslims. It also embraces multiculturalism, meaning that all cultures are considered equal. They are convinced that we live in a patriarchy maintained by privilege.

Columns calling for an end to hate speech are nothing new but a recently column by someone named Tanya Cohen takes it to a new level.

Like similar columns, Cohen applauds other countries, insisting that the United States is alone in the world in allowing hate speech. Like other columns, Cohen never quite defines hate speech but she does give enough examples for us to be clear what she means when she uses the term. Also, unlike other columns, Cohen goes beyond suppressing hate speech and actually calls for the imprisonment of anyone engaging in hate speech.

She says this of Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

In a civilized country with basic human rights, Phil Robertson would have been taken before a government Human Rights Tribunal or Human Rights Commission and given a fine or prison sentence for the hateful and bigoted comments that he made about LGBT people. In the US, however, he was given no legal punishment, even though his comments easily had the potential to incite acts of violence against LGBT people, who already face widespread violence in the deeply homophobic American society – and his comments probably DID incite acts of violence against LGBT people.

So, Robertson should be fined or imprisoned because he might have incited acts of violence. What Robertson actally said was that he didn't understand the attraction of gay sex and that his religion considers it a sin. He did not incite violence which is the standard definition of hate speech.

She continues:
Countries like the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Australia – to name just a few examples – take a much more sensible approach to freedom of expression.  They allow legitimate freedom of expression while banning bigots, hatemongers, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, pro-pedophile groups, terrorist sympathizers, harmful media, Holocaust deniers, pick-up artists, climate change deniers, and other forms of expression which damage society and social cohesion.

I'm sure I could make a case for a number of prominent figures being included in that list starting with the 911 Truth movement.

While America has always been far behind the rest of the world when it comes to basic human rights – we still have yet to ban firearms, we still have yet to provide free higher education, and we still have yet to implement free universal healthcare, for example – the need to outlaw hate speech is one of the most basic and fundamental human rights obligations.  Not only is it codified in multiple international human rights conventions, but even countries like Russia, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Jordan – countries that most Americans consider to be "third-world" – have laws against hate speech.  Why is the so-called "third-world" protecting basic human rights better than America is?

What Cohen fails to understand is that repressing speech is a sign of a repressive government. In the course of her column she includes every opinion that she disagrees with as hate speech. That is outright censorship. Free speech allows speaking truth to power. The privileged always get their message out. Free speech is about protecting the rights of those out of power.

Her column gets even more horrifying when she quotes Australian law at us:

Australia's human rights courts have ruled many times that it doesn't matter whether the comments are "true" or "balanced" or not; if the comments may offend minorities or incite hatred, then they are against the law in Australia, as they should be.  Australia has also proposed legislation (the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill) which declares people automatically guilty of offending, insulting, humiliating, or intimidating minorities unless they can prove their innocence beyond any reasonable doubt.
So people can be arrested for saying true statements and the American presumption of innocence has been turned on it's head. No wonder she feels confident that Phil Robertson would be convicted. How could he ever prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he didn't inspire any violence?

So what it freedom of speech in Cohen's world?

Freedom of speech exists so that people can criticize their government, provided that they do so in a civil, polite, and respectful manner.  Freedom of speech does NOT give you the right to offend, to insult, to disrespect, to oppose human rights, to argue against the common good, to voice approval of totalitarian ideologies, to perpetuate toxic systems of privilege and oppression, to promote ideas which have no place in a modern democratic society, to be provocative or incendiary, or to express opinions which are unacceptable to the majority of people.
That last part is telling - free speech can be suppressed if it expresses a minority view.

This next quote shows the contradictions of the SJWs:

Most champions of hate speech are straight, white, Christian males who have never had to experience the devastating consequences of hate speech.  These highly privileged members of society will never understand the harm that hate speech causes to vulnerable minorities.  Hate speech is not "freedom" to the Muslims who face widespread attacks and abuse as a result of hate speech from outlets like Fox News and Bill Maher.

Does she really think that straight, white, Christian males have never had anyone say anything hurtful to them? That qualifies as hate speech to me.

The inclusion of Bill Maher in this list is another contradiction. His "hate speech" is to call for reform of Muslim countries where women are routinely abused and LBGT are regularly executed. Because the SJWs bend over backwards to protect Muslims and because multiculturalism maintains that Muslim countries are equally valid, Cohen wants Maher censored and possibly arrested even though she must be as appalled as he is by things such as judicial rape and female genital mutilation. Here is what she has to say of him:

Likewise, attacks on Muslims always increase when powerful figures like Bill Maher make bigoted statements that incite racial hatred and violence against Muslims (in fact, racist hate speech from Bill Maher recently incited a man in Chapel Hill to shoot three innocent Muslims – in a civilized country, Bill Maher would be held legally accountable for the shooting).

This shows how ignorant Cohen actually is. Police have said that the Chapel Hill shooting was over a parking space, not religion. To specifically attribute this shooting to Bill Maher is an incredible leap, but, under her reasoning, Maher would have to prove that he didn't inspire the killings.

As it turns out, even the countries that Cohen wants us to emulate don't suppress speech as much as she wants. She mentions the rise in racism and antisemitism in Europe on free speech in the US. Somehow, it missed inspiring such sentiments here.

Cohen alone is a crank but her views are all to common among the SJWs. They have no respect for individual rights, only group rights. If you are a member of the wrong group (white, straight, Christian men) then you need to be suppressed. This sort of reasoning is all too common among dictatorships and is anathema to a truly open society.

While free speech means that Cohen is free to spout nonsense like this, it also means that I am free to refute it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hillary's Emails

In attempting to justify her use of a private email server for her official emails while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton claimed that there were no state secrets contained in the emails. The main response was to assume that she was being less than honest about this but what if she was telling the truth?

Consider this, her main qualification for the post of Secretary of State was that she had visited several countries while First Lady. She did not have a background in statecraft nor had she run any organization larger than her failed 2008 presidential campaign. It was widely assumed that she was given that post as a consolation prize for not carrying the election fight to the convention. Most people forget but neither candidate had enough delegates to win the nomination. Obama needed her to release her delegates.

There were rumors during Clinton's tenure that her deputies were actually running the State Department. What if that was true and Clinton's job was mainly to act as a figurehead?

When asked about her achievements in the State Department, the usual one is that she visited a record number of countries. That is consistent with the idea that she was a figurehead. She spent her time in office doing what she had done as First Lady - making good will visits but not engaging in any actual policy.

That squares with her statement that her emails never contained any state secrets and with her consternation at being questioned about the deaths in Libya.

Of course, if this got out it would ruin her chances at the presidency and be a major embarrassment for the Obama administration so we will not get any further clarification on this.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What Net Neutrality Really Means

Forget all the talk about equal service, freedom and little-startups vs. telecoms. Here's what the decision is really about.

Netflicks is the biggest single user in the Internet. It represents at least 20% or all Internet traffic. The Telecoms had to add a lot of capacity to handle all that traffic and they charge Netflicks for preferred treatment. Those costs are passed on to their customers.

The FCC decision means that Netflicks gets to use 1/5 of the Internet free and the costs for the additional infrastructure will be passed on to all Internet users through higher fees. This is a huge windfall for Netflicks.

It also means that the government can regulate other Internet traffic. This was sold as promoting freedom for all but, as Google and others have pointed out, the next step will be government officials deciding what is and what is not in the public interest.

Under Operation Chokehold, the government has tried to cut off access to banks from legal businesses it disapproves of including gunsmiths. Do you trust these people to regulate the Internet?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bad news for the Democrats

One of the biggest factors the Democrats had for mobilizing the youth vote was Comedy Central. The Daily Show and Colbert Report were ostensibly comedy news shows but the news they showed was typically one-sided.

I stopped watching the Daily Show during the 1990s when I noticed that Jon Stewart's opening monolog always contained points from the White House message of the day.

Stewart's main bit was to take the news and put it into "perspective." If it was bad news for the left then he would contrast it with something worse the right did. If it was good news for the right then he'd manage to put a negative spin on it. If it was good news for the left or bad news for the right then he'd dance a little jig.

Stewart likes to have things two ways. He insists that he can't be held to standards of fairness or accuracy because he's a comedian who "makes things up" but he also likes to lecture the news media on what the are doing wrong. He gets away with this because he says what hi audience wants to hear.

He has a reputation as a soft interviewer. This is partially deserved. He is good at prompting people to get their message out - as long as he agrees with that message. If he doesn't then the person being interviewed can count on it being cut to make him look bad.

The Colbert Report was slightly different and evolved over time. The original premise was that Stephen Colbert was playing a conservative commentator but was actually a liberal. In fact, during the early years, the joke was often on the left. Colbert went for the joke and gained the reputation as a hard interviewer. He typically began interviews with liberals by asking, "George Bush, great president or greatest president?" It got to the point where Democrats refused to come on his show. During a writer's strike Colbert was (officially) working without writers. During that period he was at his most fair and unbiased.

When the strike ended, the show took a sharp turn to the left. This paid off for Colbert. Not only did the Democrats start coming back on his show, he started getting invited to the White House.

Colbert's attacks were always unfair and sometimes verged into outright mean. During the 2012 campaign he devoted two separate segments on telling us how weird it was that Romney's wife practiced dressage (an intricate form of horseback riding sometimes called horse ballet) and how silly it was that Romney had an Olympic entry in dressage. Keep in mind that this is an Olympic sport that takes years of practice for the horse and rider. Colbert distilled this down to wearing a child's cowboy hat and going "giddy up" while slapping his rear.

A number of polls showed that a large chunk of the youth vote got their "news" from the Daily Show and Colbert Report. With these gone, will the Democrats have a voice left to comfort the youth vote in 2016?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Charlie and Obama

On Sunday the French took to the streets in support of the people murdered at Charlie Hebdo. They were joined by the heads of 40 states including Israel and Palestine. Notably missing was anyone from the United States. The lame duck Attorney General was in Paris but sat out the march. The Secretary of State was in a conference in India. The President and Vice-President were home.

The White House has admitted that this was a mistake but it still remains unexplained. A few lame excuses were offered - foreign trips take months of planning and an American president can't expose himself in public like that. Considering that 40 other heads of state were able to overcome these obstacles, these are either half-hearted or they reflect the belief that the President of the United States is more important than any other head of state (in which case, why not send Biden?).

Most of the President's usual defenders have turned on him over this. Even Jon Stewart on the Daily Show complained.

The best that Dana Milbank, on of the President's few defenders, could come up with was accusing the GOP of an inconsistent attitude toward France. Milbank reminds us that just 12 or 13 years ago we were calling the French Surrender Monkeys. While that is true, the context was that the French were against the war on terror. The march in Paris was in support of the newest victims of that war and the victims being supported were not part of the government, they were satirists (and innocent bystanders). The only inconsistency is in equating the two.

Killing people over cartoons, no matter how offensive, strikes at the heart of a free society. By ignoring the march, the Obama administration signaled that it sees this as a French problem instead of an international one.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Protecting Speech

Free speech is under attack from multiple fronts. The most obvious is the terrorist attack against a French newspaper for cartoons mocking Islam (note, they also mock Judaism,  Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular without death threats).

Shocking as this was, the more pernicious attack comes as a call for reasonable limits on hate speech. Here is an example written by a Tanya Cohen. In fact, Cohen casts our First Amendment freedom as a lack of protection.

The year is 2015 and all other countries have laws against hate speech along with laws against other forms of speech which violate basic human rights. As a matter of fact, international human rights law MANDATES laws against hate speech. Protecting vulnerable minorities from hate speech is one of the most basic and fundamental of human rights obligations, and all human rights organizations worldwide have emphasized this.  But the United States refuses to protect even the most basic of human rights, firmly establishing itself as a pariah state that falls far behind the rest of the world in terms of protecting fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.

She goes on at length but this is her main point. She goes on to say:

Like any sensible person, I am a strong believer in the unalienable right to freedom of speech and I understand that defending freedom of speech is the most important when it's speech that many people do not want to hear (like, for example, pro-LGBT speech in Russia). Freedom of speech is the core of any democratic society, and it's important that freedom of speech be strongly respected and upheld. Censorship in all of its forms is something that must always be fiercely opposed. But we must never confuse hate speech with freedom of speech. Speech that offends, insults, demeans, threatens, disrespects, incites hatred or violence, and/or violates basic human rights and freedoms has absolutely no place in even the freest society.

Here is where we get a real feel for where she is going with this. She is all for protecting speech that she wants to hear (pro-LGBT speech in Russia) but against any speech that insults her.

In starkest terms, freedom of speech is worthless unless people are allowed to say things you don't agree with. Giving the government the power to ban hate speech is giving the people in charge the ability to stifle debate by defining it as hate speech. We already saw this over the last six years where any disagreement with President Obama was ascribed to racism.

One wonders how Cohen would classify the Black Lives Matter protests? At least a couple of related protests have openly called for the death of cops and a recent rise in cops being shot show that these protests are inciting violence. Should they be suppressed? If not then what about the protests in support of the police? Are they hate speech?

Actually we need look no further than Cohen's column to see the dangers of outlawing things as hate speech. The incident that inspired the column was a piece of art installed at the University of Iowa. This shows the outline of a KKK member and is covered in press clippings about Klan violence. The artist says that it is an anti-Klan piece. Presumably the object is to remind us how violent the KKK was at its height. Cohen will have none of that. Her column starts with this statement:

The recent controversy at the University of Iowa – in which an "artist" (supposedly an "anti-racist" one) put up an "art exhibit" which resembles a KKK member covered in newspaper clippings about racial violence – is a perfect example of why we need to implement real legislation against hate speech in the United States.

So, in her view it's not enough to be anti-KKK. Any depiction of the Klan is to be banned and the artist arrested for having the gall to create a piece that makes Cohen uncomfortable. This is not being against hate speech, it is advocating the worst kind of censorship. The scary thing is that a large swath of the left agrees with this.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The New Yorker and Gun Control

The New Yorker ran a column about a Newtown-related lawsuit against the maker of the gun used. The column is big on invective but lacking any solid footing.

The author, Adam Gopnik, boils his argument down to this description:

[...] the gun manufacturer is guilty of having sold a weapon whose only purpose was killing a lot of people in a very short time.

Gopnik likes this description so much that he uses it more than once. But here's the thing, the class of semi-automatic rifles in question, the ak-15, is the most popular long gun in the US. There are hundreds of thousands of these, possibly millions. If it's only purpose is to kill a lot of people in a very short time then you would expect millions of deaths by these guns annually. Instead long guns are responsible for only a tiny number of annual deaths. Instead these guns are used for target shooting and small-game hunting. That's why the assault weapon's ban in the 1990s was ineffective. They were banning weapons that are seldom used offensively.

Gopnik also advances this argument in favor of suing gun makers:

If a carmaker made a car that was known to be wildly unsafe, and then advertised it as unsafe, liabilities would result. The gun lobby is, or believes itself to be, immune.

In fact, cars kill tens of thousands of people per year, more than guns do, even when adding in suicides. Both car makers and gun makers are immune unless the death was due to a manufacturing defect.

Gopnik tosses off this statistic:

The underlying politics of gun control has always been the same: the majority of Americans agree that there should be limits and controls on the manufacture and sale and ownership of weapons intended only to kill en masse, while a small minority feels, with a fanatic passion, that there shouldn't.

This was never true. Right after Newtown a majority supported increased gun control but the opposition was never tiny. The most current polls show that more than 50% of the population is against additional gun laws.

Gopnik makes a moral case comparing gun control to gay marriage and sexual assault on campus. This argument is hit and miss. Gay marriage is becoming accepted but the latest figures on sexual assaults on campus indicate that the problem is overstated.

No honest or scrupulous person can any longer reject the evidence that gun control controls gun violence. It can be rejected only by rage and hysteria and denial and with the Second Amendment invoked, not as a document with a specific and surprising history, but as a semi-theological dogma.

Actually, an honest, scrupulous person would be aware that the cities with the most gun control are the most violent - places like Chicago and Washington DC. In the rest of the country, gun violence has been going down for decades even as the number of guns in circulation is at an all-time high.

All of this amounts to a feel-good column designed to cheer up gun control proponents from the funk that their failures must have them in.