The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Real Russian Scandal

There were far too many legitimate scandals during the Obama years (purposely ignored and or downplayed by the trained hamsters of the mainstream media) and even more instances of dishonesty, corruption, and general incompetence on the part of Hillary Clinton (purposely ignored or downplayed by the trained hamsters of the mainstream media) during that same time. I recognize that discussing them after the fact has become tedious, but that's exactly what Obama and Clinton hoped would happen as they lied, stonewalled, and otherwise obfuscated any attempt to uncover the truth contemporaneously.

For years, clear-eyed observers have noted that the Clintons accepted millions "donated" to the Clinton Foundation as quid pro quo for dirty dealings while Hillary was Secretary of State. There was also evidence that the Obama administration knew about those dirty dealings and did nothing. There were no investigative reports by the trained hamsters of the media because the findings would embarrass (or worse) their chosen president and his anointed successor.

Now, after lengthy litigation and FOI requests, one of those scandals is re-surfacing. The New York Post Editorial Board comments:
It turns out the Obama administration knew the Russians were engaged in bribery, kickbacks and extortion in order to gain control of US atomic resources — yet still OK’d that 2010 deal to give Moscow control of one-fifth of America’s uranium. This reeks.

Peter Schweizer got onto part of the scandal in his 2015 book, “Clinton Cash”: the gifts of $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the $500,000 fee to Bill for a single speech, by individuals involved in a deal that required Hillary Clinton’s approval.

The New York Times confirmed and followed up on Schweizer’s reporting — all of it denounced by Hillary as a partisan hit job.

But now The Hill reports that the FBI in 2009 had collected substantial evidence — eyewitnesses backed by documents — of money-laundering, blackmail and bribery by Russian nuclear officials, all aimed at growing “Vladimir Putin’s atomic-energy business inside the United States” in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The bureau even flagged the routing of millions from Russian nuclear officials to cutouts and on to Clinton Inc.

Hillary Clinton, again, sat on a key government body that had to approve the deal — though she now claims she had no role in a deal with profound national security implications, and during the campaign called the payments a coincidence.

The Obama administration — anxious to “reset” US-Russian relations — kept it all under wraps, refusing to tell even top congressional intelligence figures.
Where are the Democrats as all of this comes to light? After all, they're so, so worried about Russian "collusion" with Donald Trump, you'd think they might be equally worried when a President ignores Russian bribes and pay-offs associated with nuclear material (!!) orchestrated by his own Secretary of State. Nah ... crickets.

An even more interesting question is why the Trump DoJ and Jeff Sessions don't institute a criminal probe. Sure, like everything the Clinton mafia has done, there are convoluted arrangements, cut-outs that obscure the trail of money, and a patina of deniability. But under it all is corruption of the highest order.

The next time you hear a progressive suggest that if only Hillary Clinton were president all would be right with the world, ask yourself what dirty deals she might have already initiated. Even worse, ask yourself whether the trained hamsters in the media would call her on it.

UPDATE:
----------------

It occurs to me that there is a still more interesting question about the Obama-Clinton-Russia scandal. Will Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, investigate it? After all, it's well within his purview of investigating ways in which Russia may have affected American politics, and there are certainly collusive elements to it. If Mueller punts, as I suspect he will, it only emphasize the hyper-partisan nature of his investigation and taint any findings that he ultimately reports.

The Baton

During the last administration, it appears that both Democrat and Republican elites in Congress were perfectly willing to allow Barack Obama to rule by Executive Order. Little substantive legislation was passed, no meaningful treaties or international agreements were approved by Congress. Obama entered into the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran Deal unilaterally, without approval of Congress. The pontificating and often sanctimonious elites of both parties loved it ... they blathered on about whatever, but never had to take a vote that would hold them accountable.

And now, they furrow their brows and frown when a new president asks them to perform their constitutional duty and pass legislation, enter into international agreements or sign treaties. Victor Davis Hansen comments:
Trump is not avoiding controversial or substantive issues, but often he is shrugging that the problem was not his—and thus may belong to others to solve. DACA was illegal; even honest Obama supporters concede that. Trump wants it reformed and clarified—but by the Congress that alone should have had the legal authority to pass or reject the law.

Trump did not make the Iran Deal, but he knows that it is a de facto treaty that was never ratified by the Senate and could not be today. If it is such a good deal, then the bipartisan Senate now can either reform and resubmit it, or ratify it as is or reject it. Ditto the Paris Climate Accord. Cannot Chuck Schumer introduce a bill to reclassify the accord properly as a treaty and see it passed by the Senate with a necessary two-thirds majority?

The same is true of Obamacare, the Korean nuclear crisis, and ISIS. Trump loudly announces he will solve the crises that others caused. But if he is prevented by legislative logjams and the courts, then nature will take its course: Obamacare will fall by its own weight, more quickly once its Obama-era illegal executive orders are removed; any sane country will eventually have to shoot down an incoming Korean missile and do what is necessary to protect its people; and as ISIS grew and immigration to the West exploded, Trump simply understood, when faced with the real threat of an ISIS caliphate, the Western world would drop its past insistence on Marquis of Queensbury rules of engagement.
If the children of illegal immigrants (DACA) should be granted legal residency in the United States (I think they should be given that privilege), then why is there any hesitancy by Democratic leaders to pass legislation to do so? If the Iran Deal is such a boon to world peace, why don't the Democrats and the few GOP elites who prefer to keep it in place band together a ratify it as a formal treaty? Or alternatively, legislate harsh new sanctions against Iran?
If the Democrats think that Climate Change is the existential threat they claim it is, then why not pass legislation that would commit the USA to participate in the Paris accords? And if Obamacare just needs a few simple tweeks to make it work as promised, why have the Dems worked so hard to ensure that none are made?

Of course, the answer to all of those questions is multipart:

1. It's much, much easier not to take a position, particularly if the outcome may not be good. Kicking the can down the road is SOP for Dem and GOP elites.
2. It's much, much easier to be doctrinaire, rather than negotiated with the other party and being held a traitor by an unhinged base.
3. It's much, much easier to pontificate and much, much harder to take action.

By passing the baton to the Congress, Donald Trump has done what the constitution mandates. The representatives of the people (yeah, I know that the Congress actually represents themselves and their donors, not the people, but whatever) have a responsibility to act. And they don't like it one bit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Left Behind

Millions of words (including a few in this blog) have been written about Bo Bergdahl, the disgraced Army Sergeant who deserted his unit in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, only to be given a hero's greeting by Barack Obama when he was exchanged for five Taliban commanders imprisoned in the West. He recently pleaded guilty and will be sentenced shortly.

Because the Bergdahl story makes Democrats uneasy, their narrative about the prisoner exchange relies on the notion that the United States leave no member of the military behind. I personally agree with that position, even if we had to release five Islamic terrorists.

A recent exchange on a talk show between a Democratic talking head (DTH) and a Republican talking head (RTH) went something like this (paraphrasing slightly):

RTH:  "I think it's disgraceful that Barack Obama exchanged Bergdahl, who was a deserter, for five Taliban commanders."

DTH (indignant): "I thought you'd be the first to argue that Barack Obama was right when he decided no warrior should be left behind in a war zone."

RTH (pausing for a beat): "Too bad he didn't think that during Benghazi."

Oh ... Snap!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Subsidies

During Barack Obama's presidency, Obamacare was propped up through a series of questionable legal maneuvers. Legislatively mandated taxes and penalties on those who did not join the program were postponed in direct contravention of the Affordable Care Act. Subsidies to insurance companies that were not approved by Congress were made and ruled unconstitutional by the courts. And all of the other problems associated with a poorly designed and even more poorly implemented health care program were kicked down the road so that voter anger was delayed. Now, the Trump administration, along with a do-nothing GOP congress is left to pick up the pieces.

The Democrats, of course, now promote the meme that it has been the GOP actions or inaction that has caused Obamacare to implode. That Trump is "sabotaging" Obamacare. That may very well be an effective political strategy among those who are not well informed, but it's mendacious politics (as if there was another kind).

Now that Donald Trump has rescinded what the courts have ruled as illegal subsidies to insurance companies, you'd think the world would has come to an end. The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
... The payments [subsidies] are illegal. The Affordable Care Act leaves the subsidies contingent on an annual appropriation, but since 2014 Congress has declined to dedicate the funding. The Obama Administration wrote the checks anyway, and the House of Representatives sued. Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer last year ruled that the Obama Administration had violated the Constitution, and an appeal is pending.

Mr. Trump continued the payments on the hope that Republican health-care reform would repeal ObamaCare and moot the subsidy dispute. That did not happen. Now the Administration has decided to follow the Constitution, and fidelity to the law should trump the policy merits or political risks.

The left is accusing Mr. Trump of—this is a partial list—sabotaging the Affordable Care Act; conspiring to harm the poor; sending a wrecking ball into the American health-care system; killing people. One frequent citation is a Congressional Budget Office report from August that predicted premiums would increase if the subsidies ended, which is true.

Yet CBO also noted that the added expense would be covered by subsidies for individuals that increase with premiums. The market would continue to be stable by CBO’s report, and the change won’t invite the ObamaCare death spiral that Democrats would love to pin on Republicans. More generous individual subsidies mean the insurers now predicting Armageddon will still get paid.
The reason that many, many voters are fed up with both parties is the level of outright dishonesty that has now pervaded two party politics. The Dems, who absolutely, positively created the mess that is now Obamacare, refuse to work with the GOP in any meaningful way to come up with a better alternative. The GOP is generally innocent in all of this, but might extend an olive branch to the Dems by losing the phrase "repeal and replace," and creating a new healthcare program with a far better cost profile and relatively few changes in coverage "for the poor," to retain the name Obamacare. By the way, a one-payer federal program is NOT even a remotely viable solution.

Sadly, the elites who run both parties care a lot about political advantage and the result is bad leadership and even worse progress toward health care the is driven by concern for our tax dollars and the people who need coverage.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Implicit Racial Bias

If we remove all of the political hysteria on both the Right and the Left surrounding the NFL-kneeling debate, it's fair to state that the complaint of those NFL players who choose to kneel is the following: there is implicit racial bias that pervades every aspect of life in our country. As a consequence, people of color have become victims who are not allowed to achieve the economic and social rewards that are so easily attained by Caucasians.

The Left often states that the actions of NFL players should start a "conversation" about the italicized contention in the preceding paragraph. But those same left-wingers suggest that when any countervailing facts or positions are offered, those arguments and the person making them are "racist." End of the conversation!

Heather McDonald is an outstanding researcher and journalist who specializes in racial disparities throughout the United States. Unlike the trained hamsters in most of the media, she spends the time it takes to look at the data, read the research, and draw conclusions based on fact, not on emotion. She writes:
Few academic ideas have been as eagerly absorbed into public discourse in recent years as “implicit bias.” Embraced by a president [Barack Obama], a would-be president [Hillary Clinton], and the nation’s top law-enforcement official [Eric Holder], the implicit-bias conceit has launched a movement to remove the concept of individual agency from the law and spawned a multimillion-dollar consulting industry. The statistical basis on which it rests is now crumbling, but don’t expect its influence to wane anytime soon.

Implicit bias purports to answer the question: Why do racial disparities persist in household income, job status, and incarceration rates, when explicit racism has, by all measures, greatly diminished over the last half-century? The reason, according to implicit-bias researchers, lies deep in our brains, outside the reach of conscious thought. We may consciously embrace racial equality, but almost all of us harbor unconscious biases favoring whites over blacks, the proponents claim. And those unconscious biases, which the implicit-bias project purports to measure scientifically, drive the discriminatory behavior that, in turn, results in racial inequality.

The need to plumb the unconscious to explain ongoing racial gaps arises for one reason: it is taboo in universities and mainstream society to acknowledge intergroup differences in interests, abilities, cultural values, or family structure that might produce socioeconomic disparities.
I suspect that Leftists would label McDonald's statement as "racist" out of hand. The reason? It hits a nerve by identifying the obvious. It's certainly possible that implicit bias exists, but it is not the only and exclusive parameter (difference) that might effect those who have not achieved the economic and social rewards that others may have achieved.

McDonald goes on to address the psychology experiments that form the "science" behind the implicit racial bias argument. It's well worth reading in its entirety. In summary, she writes:
The fractious debate around the IAT [an implicit association test used to examine bias] has been carried out exclusively at the micro-level, with hundreds of articles burrowing deep into complicated statistical models to assess minute differences in experimental reaction times. Meanwhile, outside the purview of these debates, two salient features of the world go unnoticed by the participants: the pervasiveness of racial preferences and the behavior that lies behind socioeconomic disparities.

One would have difficulty finding an elite institution today that does not pressure its managers to hire and promote as many blacks and Hispanics as possible. Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of diversity infrastructure, according to Howard Ross. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires every business with 100 or more employees to report the racial composition of its workforce. Employers know that empty boxes for blacks and other “underrepresented minorities” can trigger governmental review. Some companies tie manager compensation to the achievement of “diversity,” as Roger Clegg documented before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2006. “If people miss their diversity and inclusion goals, it hurts their bonuses,” the CEO of Abbott Laboratories said in a 2002 interview. Since then, the diversity pressure has only intensified. Google’s “objectives and key results” for managers include increased diversity. Walmart and other big corporations require law firms to put minority attorneys on the legal teams that represent them. “We are terminating a firm right now strictly because of their inability to grasp our diversity expectations,” Walmart’s general counsel announced in 2005. Any reporter seeking a surefire story idea can propose tallying up the minorities in a particular firm or profession; Silicon Valley has become the favorite subject of bean-counting “exposés,” though Hollywood and the entertainment industry are also targets of choice. Organizations will do everything possible to avoid such negative publicity.
Similar attempts to improve diversity are occurring every day at universities (for both faculty hiring and student admissions) and throughout the federal government.

When McDonald presents hard data about SAT scores and other knowledge-based metrics, she treads on very dangerous ground. Like psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray, who wrote the infamous book, The Bell Curve, way back in the 1990s, she will be labelled a racist so that the core of her argument will be controversialized. It's easy to characterize significant differences in outcomes as driven by "implicit racial bias" but it's also dishonest to suggest that other parameters don't come into play. In fact, it just might be that those other parameters have a significantly greater effect than any implicit bias that does exist. If the NFL players and their supporters really do want to initiate a conversation, the data presented by Heather McDonald and other researchers might be a good place to start.

UPDATE:
--------------

Progressives love the sound of the phrase "social justice." It provides a clear and obvious pathway for moral preening without providing pragmatic solutions to the problems (both real and imagined) that are identified. Social justice is demanded (by NFL player protesters and their supporters) in the case of "implicit racial bias." But what exactly is being proposed by those who make the demand. Eliminate bias? A good idea, but how exactly does that happen, and more important, how exactly will the elimination of implicit racial bias on its own address many of the other cultural, educational, and structural aspects that may affect achievement and economic outcomes? I suppose it could be argued that by eliminating bias all of the other aspects would disappear, but that's wishful thinking and completely unsupported by any empirical evidence.

Possibly, those who demand vague ideas like "social justice" might focus instead on targeted actions that would explicitly address the cultural, educational, and structural aspects that affect afflicted communities. I suspect that if real solutions were proposed and implemented successfully by the affected communities themselves, implicit racial bias would take care of itself.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Elites — Redux

Kurt Schlichter is a conservative firebrand who writes with an acid wit. He is best when he skewers the cultural and political elites in our country. Here's a sample:
To be a normal American is to constantly be scolded, to be lectured, to be treated as a morally bankrupt simpleton in need of the guidance and direction provided by an urban elite ruling class notable for its empty academic credentials, its track record of incompetence, and its idolization of people who erotically abuse the foliage.

If we are to have betters, is it so wrong for us to demand that they actually be better? Superiors should be distinguished by their superiority – if you presume to take charge shouldn’t you demonstrate tactical, technical, and moral mastery? So what has our ruling class mastered lately? What is the skill set that sets the smart set apart?

Are they our betters because of the degrees they hang on the walls of their over-priced, open-floor plan townhouses? Going to college used to mean something more than you had nowhere else to go after high school. It was a training ground for the leadership class. A college student was an invitee to an intellectual banquet where he could sample the best of Western civilization, of art and literature, of civics and philosophy. But today, it’s all gender studies and grade inflation, with whiny social justice warriors drowning out any voice that won’t sing in tune. It is steam table trays heaped with gray, fatty meat and limp asparagus - the Golden Corral of the mind.
For decades the Washington elites have emanated from Ivy league schools that claim to provide deep insight that allows them to lead in both domestic and foreign policy. But exactly what have they accomplished in the past four decades?. To illustrate this point, it was the elites of both parties who allowed the North Koreans to develop nukes while concurrently paying protection money to them. They appeared to be sage diplomats, when in fact, they were merely kicking the can down the road in an effort to make the NoKos someone else's problem. Now, those same elites tell us that a different approach (Trump's more forceful stance) is somehow dangerous? What incredible chutzpa!

Schlichter continues:
Where are the elite’s achievements? Our betters have been running things and yet they are the ones crying loudest about how awful things are. It’s another scam, of course. Things are awful, but not for them – do you think the Westside Los Angeles folks I dwell among are hurting? No, let the good times roll – on the backs of the people east of I-5. Things are hard out there in actual America (but improving under Donald Trump, the quintessential Anti-Better), and our ruling class is demanding action. That action is to direct more money and power to the ruling class. That’s the answer to every policy question. Yeah, they’ve failed, but if you reward them, well, then they’ll totally start succeeding.

Iraq, the 2008 financial meltdown, health care…the hits keep coming, and the answer for the last failure is always the same. Trust us, and double down. Accountability? That’s for us suckers.
The elites (on both the Left and the Right) stand in front of the camera in $2,000 suits, using soothing words and a calm tone to maintain their grasp on power. They invariably enrich themselves and provide benefits to their supporters at the expense of taxpayers. They have the polish and the demeanor that exudes confidence and competence, but it's all empty posturing—political theater to keep the masses in line. Note how the elites emphasize the need to "act" presidential. We just experienced eight years of that "act," and the results were less than outstanding.

Schlichter provides an example from this week's events:
Then the media ... starts talking about how Trump needs [Senator Bob] Corker’s vote for tax reform and how it was totally stupid and dumb and stupid for Trump to insult a guy whose vote he needs and … wait a minute. Did you detect a troubling premise within that line of reasoning? Did you notice how the media simply assumes that it’s just fine for Bob Corker to block critical reforms that will help normal Americans because his feelingz are hurted and he haz the sadz?

We normals are expected to tolerate a crushing tax system even longer because one of the elite is pouty, and that’s perfectly okay. Because us normals are not the priority. The elite is ...

So why should we normal Americans respect these people? Why should we submit to being constantly scolded, lectured, and treated as morally bankrupt simpletons anymore?

We shouldn’t, and we aren’t, not anymore.

They wonder why they got Trump.

They are why they got Trump.
Indeed, they are.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Up in the Air

I was once a road-warrior, a person who traveled the country at least 50 percent of the month, almost always on airlines. During that time, air-traffic delays were common. Many years later, they're still common. Attempts by the federal government to improve our air traffic control system (ATCS), its technology, and its human efficiency have wasted billions and accomplished relatively little.

There is currently a suggestion before the congress to privatise the ATCS. The Dems, who have never seen a move toward privatization that they could agree to, are naturally against it. They cite too much corporate control and covertly worry that their beloved public sector unions might be impacted. The GOP is waffling.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
One overwrought objection was that the bill would be a big business giveaway to major airlines, which would have had four representatives on the governing board. The revised bill grants airlines one seat and adds representation for cargo and regional airlines, as well as airports. Robert Poole, the intellectual force behind the idea who supported the first version, calls the new bill a “big improvement.”

Another concern is that rural airports will be closed or harmed, though the bill maintains subsidies for remote areas, which is lamentable if a political reality. A Reason Foundation report details how FAA after the 2013 budget showdown put a moratorium on new contract towers that can benefit small airports, which will never beat out JFK or San Francisco International for FAA dollars. Under a new arrangement, rural airports could explore technology like remote towers, which allow controllers to manage operations with sophisticated cameras and communication equipment.

Many of these complaints come from the unprotected class of Americans known as corporate-jet passengers ... If the proletariat sitting in steerage pays for air services, so should a CEO flying across the country for lunch. The irony is that corporate-jet users are the least price-sensitive passengers and put a high value on time. Wouldn’t many executives happily pay extra for a faster landing and shorter lines on the tarmac?

... All of this will be litigated in the Senate if the bill passes the House, where proponents are whipping support. But in the upper chamber the idea is opposed by Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who wields a deciding vote on the committee that oversees transportation. Mr. Moran thinks he’s protecting his home state aviation lobby, though more efficient air space would benefit the entire industry.

Republicans should seize the moment because they have a President who wants reform as part of his infrastructure upgrade. Mr. Shuster is willing to negotiate, and the House has done the leg work. The biggest hurdle may be convincing appropriators to relinquish control over billions in air-travel tax revenue they now redistribute.
Privatization of the ATCS is long past due. Sure government oversight by the FAA for safety and quality can continue, but like the breakup of AT&T many years ago, privatization of the ATCS will lead to better technology, significant cost savings, and better service for beleaguered air travelers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spiked

Sharyl Attkisson notes that many are expressing surprise that a venerable media outlet renowned for social justice—The New York Times—would have spiked the Weinstein story when it was first proposed a decade or more ago. After all, isn't sexual abuse something we can all condemn? Isn't misogyny the accusation du jour since the recent presidential election?

But Attkisson provides important context when she writes:
Many people seem shocked by claims from a former New York Times reporter who says the newspaper sat on her 2004 information exposing alleged sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. (The Times told Newsweek they would have only withheld information for good reason.)

The Weinstein question aside, I can tell you that every day, in newsrooms around the country, stories are killed because powerful people know how to get them killed.

Recently, a former managing editor of Time magazine said that the only bias reporters have is their bias to get a great story on the front page. That may be true of good journalists — and there are many. But good journalists’ intentions are impacted by managers and editors with authority to shape and censor; by managers and editors who are lobbied, enticed, pushed, pressed, cajoled and threatened by PR companies, crisis management specialists, global law firms, super PACs, advertisers, “nonprofits,” business interests, political figures, famous people, important people, wealthy people, and their own corporate bosses.

An entire industry has been built around companies and operatives that work to get stories placed, discredited or wiped. They obfuscate, confuse and attack. Their targets include ideas they oppose, whistleblowers and advocates who are exposing the truth, journalists uncovering the facts, and news outlets publishing the stories.

They deploy every tool imaginable: fake social media accounts, letters to the editor and editorials, journalists, nuisance lawsuits, bloggers, nonprofits, online comments, Wikipedia, paid “articles” written by for-hire “reporters.”

One operative matter-of-factly described his strategy to me: “You call the [news division’s] attorney, you call the general counsel, and you say ‘Do you understand what you’re doing?’ … We’ve killed several stories by using that method.”
Although both the Left and the Right use the tools Attkisson describes, the Left has been far more effective. Why? Because the mainstream media has a decided and often overwhelming left-wing bias. For that reason, they are often more than willing to work with the smear merchants who "obfuscate, confuse and attack" with "fake social media accounts, letters to the editor and editorials, journalists, nuisance lawsuits, bloggers, nonprofits, online comments, Wikipedia, paid “articles” written by for-hire 'reporters.' "

Fake News is not a new phenomenon, but it has gotten much, much worse in the months following Donald Trump's election. Its purveyors include the most elite members of the media community. Their intent is to promote a specific narrative and destroy any competing content or people who question that narrative.

Donald Trump may be wrong about some things. But he is not wrong when he bluntly suggests that "fake news" is a serious problem, particularly when it comes from media sources that were once trusted by us all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

De-Certify

It is a sure bet that the four anti-Trump constituencies will become apoplectic if (as expected) Donald Trump de-certifies the infamous "Iran Deal." You'll undoubtedly hear hysterical Democrats exclaim that Trump has enabled Iran as a future nuclear power (forgetting the hard fact that Barack Obama's "deal" already has done that.) The WaPo and/or the NYT will publish leaks from members of the deep state in which Trump is characterized as a warmonger or a "moron." The GOP elite will sagely straddle the fence, suggesting that Trump is too impetuous and that other (undefined) approaches might have been better. And the trained hamsters of the main stream media will collectively howl, telling us that Trump will lead us toward armageddon.

The Mullahs and Vlad Putin (you recall, the guy who they tell us Trump is in bed with) have already begun to make ominous threats. The "global community" is clutching its pearls, afraid that a clear indication that the Iran Deal is a progressive fantasy will upset lucrative business deals with the Mullahs.

Let's all take a deep breath. Iran was developing nukes prior to Obama's catastrophic capitulation in which he rewarded the fiction of nuclear cessation with $150 billion. Obama's deal has no teeth, no effective mechanism for determining whether Iran is actually violating its provisions (despite what the IAEA and deep state "diplomats contend), and astoundingly, allows Iran to build nukes in less than a decade.

Iran, on the other hand, has done NOTHING to convince the West that it is any less belligerent, any less hegemonic, or any less a state sponsor of Islamic terror. In fact, it has escalated its negative behavior in all three areas.

If the Iran deal disappeared tomorrow, nothing much would change, except that instead of kicking the can down the road, when Iran would be even more dangerous, we might have to deal with their treachery sooner. I suspect that a plurality of the Iranian people don't want this, but the Mullahs—a collection of brutal, dictatorial and hyper-ideological rulers—do. And it's the Mullahs we have to contend with.

Yet the elites tell us that we must maintain the fiction created by the Iran deal. We have to make believe that the "deal" in place today will somehow moderate Iran's behavior and make us all safe. That making believe that Iran is a non-threatening actor will somehow make it so. The deal is a sham that provides enormous benefits to the Mullahs, but essentially no verifiable or long-term benefit to the West.

For the past 30-plus years, Western elites have conducted the same deal-making with North Korea, and now the NoKos have nukes and the mechanism to deliver them. Over those decades there were multiple unenforceable "deals" (seasoned with billions is "aid") with the NoKos (analogous in many ways to Obama deal with Iran), all pushing the fiction that all was under control. Until it wasn't.

Now the elites have the chutzpa to suggest that a different Trumpian approach is somehow ill-advised?

Nice work, elites. Let's follow the NoKo model for Iran and see how it all works out. Oh ... wait ... we already know how it'll work out, and it isn't pretty.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Truth to Power

Harvey Weinstein is a scumbag, but a very powerful scumbag in Hollywood and Democratic circles. I suspect he is not unlike some other Hollywood moguls who parley their control over the fortunes of many of the glitterati into sexual predation. There is little shock in the fact that Weinstein did what he did, but it is rather shocking that many within the Hollywood (and Democratic party) community remained silent when his predation was widely known. After all, big movie stars and many other lessor entertainers, comedians, and artists now view themselves as social justice warriors. They're the first to call out what they perceive as misogyny or any of the other "isms" they identify.

So let's go back exactly one year and recall the universal outrage from Hollywood after Donald Trump's private conversation with Billy Bush was leaked. Trump was crude and inappropriate, but his words were just that—words. Sure, anger was justified, but mass marches with pussy hats, over-the-top tweets that expressed fire-hot rage were possibly a bit much, but maybe not.

Fast forward to today and the Weinstein case. Weinstein didn't say nasty things, he did nasty things. Even in our postmodern world, actions matter, and Weinstein's actions make him a sexual predator worthy of righteous indignation and heavy condemnation.

Julie Kelly provides a scathing commentary. She begins by recalling the Trump-Billy Bush scandal:
So, let’s take a little trip down Social Media Lane and see how our virtuous, high-minded celebs who wanted Trump charged with rape a year ago have reacted to the Weinstein story.

Do you hear the crickets? I sure do.

Come along then, and let us look at the Twitter timelines of some of Trump’s most indignant celebrity agitators such as Debra Messing, Chelsea Handler, Bette Midler and Lena Dunham to see if any are despairing over Weinstein’s vile behavior and the victims left in his wake. Messing? No. Handler? No. Midler? No, but she did [rightly in my view] tweet about “the deceit!! The hypocrisy! The nerve!!” of Republican Congressman Tim Murphy for asking his girlfriend to have an abortion. Lena Dunham? Oh yes, here’s something! Dunham applauds the Times reporter for breaking the story then says this about Weinstein’s victims: "The woman who chose to speak about their experience of harassment by Harvey Weinstein deserve our awe. It's not fun or easy. It's brave."
So it's crickets from most and then praise for the victims, but no direct mention of the deeds committed or condemnation of them. Kelly continues:
But surely our nation’s conscience, celebrity interviewer Jimmy Kimmel, has something to say about this. Hmmm, I don’t see anything on his Twitter page. Perhaps he mentioned it in his monologue last night? Nope, but he did rant on and on about Trump’s tweets on fake news. No tears, though.

And what to make of Ashley Judd? The actress was completely unhinged during her speech at the Women’s March in D.C. the day after the inauguration. She referred to herself as a nasty woman, despicably claiming Ivanka Trump was her father’s “favorite sex symbol, like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.” While she found time to vent about female celebrities getting paid less than their male counterparts, and questioned why tampons and maxi pads are still taxed, she failed to muster up the courage to tell the frenzied crowd about her encounters with Weinstein.

It's also worth noting that on Saturday, SNL's satirical "Weekend Update" made no mention of Weinstein, even though the jokes write themselves and his persona allows for comical caricature.

The point, I suppose, is that even Hollywood glitterati can be hypocrites. They're perfectly willing to "speak truth to power" when the power can't and won't hurt them, but when a different more localized power just might screw them and their careers ... well ... seems like moral preening is just too high a price to pay.

UPDATE-1:
--------------
The New York Times deserves credit for breaking this story, particularly because Weinstein is a major donor for the newspaper's preferred political party. But The New York Post reports:
A former New York Times reporter claims the paper ordered up a story in 2004 about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct — but then “stripped” it of any reference to the accusations after being pressured by him to do so.

“After intense pressure from Weinstein … the story was gutted,” Sharon Waxman wrote Sunday in an article for The Wrap, a site that she founded in 2009.

“I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known,” Waxman added. “I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.”

The Times did not return a request for comment Sunday night.
I have to wonder whether the Times would have spiked the story in 2004 if Weinstein was a major GOP donor.

UPDATE-2:
--------------

In a fascinating piece in the conservative Weekly Standard, Lee Smith explores the reasons why the NYT published this story. He writes:
Which brings us, finally, to the other reason the Weinstein story came out now: Because the court over which Bill Clinton once presided, a court in which Weinstein was one part jester, one part exchequer, and one part executioner, no longer exists.

A thought experiment: Would the Weinstein story have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? No, and not because he is a big Democratic fundraiser. It’s because if the story was published during the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it wouldn’t have really been about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey would have been seen as a proxy for the president’s husband and it would have embarrassed the president, the first [Democrat] female president.

Bill Clinton offered get-out-of-jail-free cards to a whole army of sleazeballs, from Jeffrey Epstein to Harvey Weinstein to the foreign donors to the Clinton Global Initiative. The deal was simple: Pay up, genuflect, and get on with your existence. It was like a papacy selling indulgences, at the same time that everyone knew that the cardinals were up to no good. The 2016 election demolished Clinton world once and for all, to be replaced by the cult of Obama, an austere sect designated by their tailored hair shirts with Nehru collars. “That is not who we are as Americans,” they chant, as Harvey Weinstein’s ashes are scattered in the wind.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Piling On

During the presidency of Barack Obama, the main stream media acted like the iconic statue of the three monkeys, covering their eyes, mouths and ears to anything that hinted of scandal, bad decision-making, or incompetence. The trained hamsters who arrogantly (and incorrectly) labeled themselves "journalists" were the praetorian guard for Obama, not only shilling for his administration's policies, but burying anything and anyone who might taint his legacy. The result, sadly, was a presidency that was unaccountable and therefore, unconstrained in its effort to reshape the policies, culture and foreign policy of the United States, even when those efforts were disastrous. The result, was broad-based dissatisfaction with government and ultimately, the election of Donald Trump.

Matthew Continetti provides a useful summary of the aftermath:
For years, reporters were content to obscure their ideological dogmas and partisan goals behind the pretense of objectivity and detachment. Though the Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN practiced combat journalism against conservatives and Republicans, they did so while aspiring to professional standards of facticity and fairness, and applying, every now and then, scrutiny to liberals and Democrats worthy of investigation.

Donald Trump changed that, of course. He is so unusual a figure, and his behavior so outlandish, that his rise precipitated a crisis in a profession already decimated by the collapse of print circulation and advertising dollars. The forces that brought Trump to power are alien to the experience of the men and women who populate newsrooms, his supporters unlike their colleagues, friends, and neighbors, his agenda anathema to the catechism of social liberalism, his career and business empire complex and murky and sensational. Little surprise that journalists reacted to his election with a combination of panic, fear, disgust, fascination, exhilaration, and the self-affirming belief that they remain the last line of defense against an emerging American autocracy. Who has time for dispassionate analysis, for methodical research and reporting, when the president's very being is an assault on one's conception of self, when nothing less than the future of the country is at stake? Especially when the depletion of veteran editors, the relative youth and inexperience of political and congressional reporters, and the proliferation of social media, with its hot takes and quips, its groupthink and instant gratification, makes the transition from inquiry to indignation all too easy.

There is still excellent journalism. I would point, for starters, to the work on charter flights that led to the resignation of Tom Price. But the overall tone of coverage of this president and his administration is somewhere between the hysterical and the lunatic. Journalists are trapped in a condition of perpetual outrage, seizing on every rumor of discontent and disagreement, reflexively denouncing Trump's every utterance and action, unable to distinguish between genuinely unusual behavior (the firing of Comey, the tenure of Anthony Scaramucci, the "fine people on both sides" quip after Charlottesville) and the elements of Trump's personality and program that voters have already, so to speak, "priced in." Supposedly authoritative news organizations have in one case taken up bizarre mottoes, like "Democracy Dies In Darkness," and in another acted passive-aggressively by filing Trump stories under "entertainment," only to re-categorize the material as news with the disclaimer (since dropped) that Trump is "a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, and birther." The mode of knee-jerk disgust not only prevents the mainstream media from distinguishing between the genuinely interesting stories and the false, partisan, and hackwork ones. It also has had the effect of further marginalizing print and broadcast journalists from middle America.
The trained hamsters of the mainstream media have become the propaganda arm of the Democratic party, and like the party that "journalists" overwhelmingly support, they are in a hole and just keep digging. Sure, the Dem base revels in the media's hysterical and often dishonest coverage of the Trump administration, but in the center of the country (both politically and geographically) there's different story to be told.

In order to validate their own ideological prejudices, the media, along with the other three anti-Trump constituencies (the dems, the GOP elites, and the deep state) are doing their best to destroy Trump (for his part, Donald Trump often provides them with an unintentional assist). They hope that his defeat in 2020 will be an "I told You So" moment. But that strategy just might be perceived as piling on, and the result the media so fervently desires might be more elusive than they think.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Wrong Approach

I, for one, am in favor of enhanced background checks for all purchases of both rifles and handguns. I'd go even further and suggest that each state should define its own testing protocol to ensure gun safety—sort of like a driving test. I'd be okay with outright bans on the sale of mechanical modifications that can convert a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon. All of that, in my view, does not violate the constitutional rights of gun owners and would seem reasonable and appropriate. By the way, existing law already does some of the things I've just noted.

But here's the thing: All of those steps will do little or nothing to address the horror of mass shootings like the one that occurred in Las Vegas. That doesn't make steps to be more stringent about gun ownership a bad idea, but we should be honest about what problem such steps might solve. The Left suggests that if only we had better "gun control" the problem of gun violence would be solved. On it's face, it seems like common sense—more control of guns, less gun violence. Right?

Sadly, the answer is not so much. Like most topics that the Left obsesses about, their positions are high on emotion and very weak on facts. In a recent article, Maggie Koerth-Baker of the data analysis firm 538, makes the following statement:
First, [Mass shootings are] rare, and the people doing the shooting are different. The majority of gun deaths in America aren’t even homicides, let alone caused by mass shootings. Two-thirds of the more than 33,000 gun deaths that take place in the U.S. every year are suicides ...
But everyday gun deaths, like the 500+ deaths recorded in Chicago each year, go under-reported and otherwise ignored by the media, often with a purpose. It's the mass shooting that garner attention, and the Left and it's trained hamsters in the media, true to form, never fail to politicize a national tragedy. (Think: The recent counter-factual attempts to demonize the Trump administration over hurricane response in Puerto Rico.)

The Editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
... if Paddock [the Las Vegas mass murderer] had an automatic weapon, he probably obtained it illegally. Automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since the 1930s, and it has been illegal to buy a new automatic firearm since 1986. An automatic weapon made before 1986 must be registered, and only specific dealers may transfer them. Buyers must undergo a lengthy FBI check that includes fingerprints and photos, and local law enforcement is alerted.

Paddock also possessed several semi-automatic “assault” rifles, such as an AR-15. But what defines an assault weapon are its cosmetic features—not its caliber or velocity. That is why the Clinton-era ban on such rifles had no discernible effect on gun violence, and why the Department of Justice in 2004 found no purpose in renewing it.

Ah, but what about so-called bump stocks, which Paddock used to simulate quick, automatic-style fire? Outright modification of a firearm into an automatic is already a federal felony punishable by 10 years in prison. Congress could outlaw bump stocks, but how does it outlaw a technique? The practice of quickly “bumping” a trigger with one’s finger to engage in rapid fire long predates bump stocks or other accessories.

Congress could again try to ban certain types of rifles, but a 2015 Congressional Research Service report found that from 1999 to 2013 assault rifles were used in 27% of public mass shootings. The Virginia Tech shooter in 2007 killed 32 people with two handguns. FBI statistics show that of 15,070 homicides in 2016, 374 people or 3% were killed with rifles. Some 656 homicides were committed with “personal weapons” (hands, fists, feet) and 1,604 with knives.

Mass shootings are in more than half of all cases related to domestic or family violence. Another big chunk are crime-related, including gang violence. According to John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center, most mass shootings with 15 or more casualties since 1970 took place outside the U.S., including France and Norway that strictly regulate guns.

As for background checks, several Nevada gun shops have told the press that Paddock passed all requisite checks, and he appears to have no history that would have flagged him under a more stringent background system. He was able to buy his guns legally so he had no reason to use what is sometimes called the gun-show loophole.
As usual, the Left is trying to solve the right problem with the wrong approach.

If we truly want to move against mass shooting, the solution is not greater gun control, it is a scary combination of Big Data and Artificial intelligence. But it's also an massive government invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Let me risk over-simplifying and summarize the approach: All purchases of weapons, ammunition, bomb making materials, etc. would be recorded in a central database. All prescriptions for anti-psychotic medication would be recorded and stored in a central database. All incidents of violence by individuals would be recorded in a central database. All visits to websites that advocate violence (e.g., terror organization websites) would be recorded in a central database. All communication between citizens and known threats would be recorded. All social media would be continuously scanned for appropriate markers. And on and on. These data would then be processed to uncover patterns that might be dangerous. Machine learning algorithms would be continuously adapted to refine the approach, until potential mass murders are identified. Note the word, "potential."

Would you want this level of scrutiny in the hands of big government? I do not.

And if most of us do not, it just might means that sadly, mass murder events present an intractable problem.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Las Vegas

According to what we know to date, the United States' latest heinous mass murderer, Stephen Paddock, appeared to be an ordinary guy to those who knew him. He gambled heavily, made what appears to be substantial money, lived in various places, was amicably divorced twice, had no known fanatical religious or political ideology, no arrest record, no known psychiatric record ... an enigma.

Paddock may have had a psychotic break, but his apparent actions prior to his murderous rampage indicate organized planning and purposeful execution. No immediate hallmarks of psychosis. There is no indication, despite ISIS' claims, that he was aligned with an Islamic terror organization. An enigma.

The question that occurs after every mass murder is how can it be stopped. The answer is not the one that most people want to hear. Without massively intrusive monitoring of every citizen, without massively intrusive tracking of every purchase—not only guns, but ammonium nitrate for bombs, rented trunks for ramming, large knives and machetes for on-the-ground attacks, base ingredients for poisonous gas attacks, drone purchases for through-the-air attacks, organic ingredients for the making of bioweapons, and soon, off-the-shelf nanotech or genetic technology that could be weaponized ... the list is long. Should we do that? Should we turn our country into a police state? There are no easy or comfortable answers.

Richard Fernandez comments:
An ordinary 21st century man has more energy at his disposal than ancient kings. Much modern consumer technology is already dual purpose. It will become more so as distributed design and manufacturing spreads ...

All this lies at the disposal of a mind. Some craziness is obvious. Extremist religion, apocalyptic ideology are particularly maddening threats because we can see them coming but don't get out of the way. But sometimes the danger isn't obvious. Wait till we get a nice guy biotechnologist with a "big safe" [Like Paddock's] in the garage.

There have always been crazy intelligent people. What's different is never before have there been so many tools around they can pick up. Tragic though recent events have been it's sobering to realize we've been lucky so far. Despite being one the largest manhunts in history the FBI still haven't officially solved the 2001 anthrax attacks, which could have been far worse.
Take away one weapon, and "crazy intelligent people" will find and or make another. Hillary Clinton (recently via Twitter) and her supporters on the Left think they understand the problem and that by removing one weapon that is available to "crazy intelligent people," they will solve the problem. Sadly, if it were truly that easy, it would already have been accomplished. The problem is far more complex, and it just might be intractable.

But that harsh and scary truth is not something that sanctimonious politicians want to speak and significant numbers of the population want to hear.

UPDATE:
-----------------

Chris Stirewalt summarizes the politics of these horrific events:
So common have these events become that there is a rhythm to the political response. And not a good one.

First, fools and political grifters take advantage of the absence of good information. While people are still trying to sort out what exactly has occurred, loudmouths and those looking to exploit the tragedy waste no time in offering bunkum and divisive opinions, sometimes crudely so.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee [Hillary Clinton], for example, would not even wait until the dead had been numbered to start exploiting the massacre. A woman already famous for her rapacity managed to still surprise with her response.

The other major party [the GOP] also has a standard response to mass-casualty events involving firearms, which is to offer condolences and prayers to those slain and their families and then stand tight-lipped until the shock of the moment and, accordingly, the calls to action, begin to fade.

Of all of the ways in which America is disserved by its broken political process, our leaders’ inability to do anything at all about the increasing frequency and lethality of these murders stands out.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Puerto Rico

First came the massive flooding of Hurricane Hugo. The response in Houston was organized, rapid and competent. Then came the massive category 4 storm, Irma, in South Florida. The federal response was, once again, organized, rapid and competent. I suspect that Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media quietly wanted either of both storms to be Donald Trump's "Katrina," but the facts on the ground simply wouldn't support that argument.

The Category 5 hurricane, Maria, that hit Puerto Rico gave those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome one last chance. The Democrat mayor of San Juan, who criticized the federal response, gave them the opening they needed to begin the drum beat. Of course, the fact that the Mayor was a rabid Clinton supporter, that she had eschewed the appropriate planning that was required to prepare for the storm before it hit and the necessary logistics in the aftermath were of little consequence. In the words of far too many of the trained hamsters, this was just another example of Trump's "racism" and "misogyny." All of that, of course, is fantasy, but no matter, the trained hamsters are running with it.

The reality is far different. Assets were put into place before the storm hit. Planning did occur and resources were moved to the Island immediately after the storm abated. Things are very bad, but Category 5 hurricanes tend to have that result.

But for Dems, their trained hamsters in the media, and #Nevertrumpers, it's all about allocating blame and name calling. Here's the reality as described by Glen Reynolds:
... Puerto Rico is an island. The long lines of utility trucks and semi-trailers full of supplies that streamed into the areas of Texas and Florida hit by hurricanes Harvey and Irma can’t drive to Puerto Rico. Everything that gets there has to come in by air and sea, and couldn’t even do that until airports and seaports, damaged by the storm, were up and running, which took a while. Plus, as Hendrix notes, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and government are nowhere near as robust and effective as is the case in Texas and Florida.

Worse yet, Maria was the second hurricane to hit Puerto Rico, and the third to hit the United States in the space of a few weeks, and many U.S. government assets were already committed elsewhere.

That means recovery is going to be slower no matter what. Relief officials on the island say that aid is getting to the ports now, but the problem is distribution, with most truck drivers unable to get to work because of the destruction.

“It’s a lack of drivers for the transport trucks, the 18-wheelers," Col. Michael Valle, who is in charge of the Hurricane Maria relief efforts, told The Huffington Post. "There are ships full of supplies, backed up in the ports, waiting to have a vehicle to unload into. However, only 20% of the truck drivers show up to work. These are private citizens in Puerto Rico, paid by companies that are contracted by the government.”
There will be lessons learned from each of the storms, but overall, the response by the feds has been commendable. Sure, there are problems, some significant, but that doesn't mean that the current president has somehow dropped the ball.

Those who have decided to criticize the federal response on partisan grounds or suggest that somehow "racism" has played a role in Puerto Rico are playing a despicable game. Then again, that's par for the course in this roiled political environment.

AN ASIDE:
-----------------

One of the important lessons of Puerto Rico is the importance of a "robust" infrastructure. We, as a country, need to improve infrastructure across the board. If that takes the commitment of $1 trillion or more, so be it. The price of not doing so could be far, far greater.

I'm a strong advocate of smaller government. But one of the important roles of the federal government is to support, enhance and build national infrastructure. For decades, we've spent far too much growing government rather than improving infrastucture. That has to change.

We also need to harden critical elements of our infrastructure—our electric grid, our ports, our rail network, our critical private sector computer networks—against EMP attacks. And if you don't know what EMP is, it's time to learn. The previous administration had an opportunity to do just that with a $800 billion "stimulus." They frittered the money away. Now it's Trump's turn. He's a builder. It's time to build.