Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cruising the Web

Kevin Arnovitz has a long story at ESPN about why people across the nation don't just love or hate the San Antonio Spurs as much as the public usually feels about a winning team. They're not flash and their players don't seek the limelight. They just get the job done. One more reason to pull for them to win two more games. They're like the good guy who finally wins the girl in the end after she takes a ride with the flashy, but lesser guy. They're the Jimmy Stewart of basketball, but I hope that this time he gets the girl.

Somehow the media got a lot of the story about PRISM all wrong.
The botched reporting by the Guardian and the Post means that millions of readers directed their anger at a handful of big companies that were unfairly accused of selling out their customers to the national security apparatus. The reality is that if NSA surveillance is indeed overstepping its bounds, those companies are victims, not willing participants.
It turns out that Obama's show-boating on sexual misconduct in the military has ensured that, if two defendants are found guilty in military sexual assault cases currently going to trial, they cannot be punitively discharged because his comments as commander in chief would have unduly influenced potential sentencing. That is what happens when our supposedly constitutional lawyer president can't stop from inserting himself into an ongoing story.

Harry Enten, the Guardian's expert on polling and politics, argues that the surveillance stories about the NSA might give the GOP an opening with younger voters. Of course, that would necessitate the GOP taking a more libertarian stand on such security issues and there seems to be a split down the middle on this issue within the party. And if the Democrats lost the White House, they would probably revert to their previous position on such a program since they would no longer have to reflexively support Obama.

What a surprise, insurers aren't as interested in joining up to Obamacare's small-business exchanges as the bill's backers were counting on.

As Detroit inches ever closer to what will be the biggest municipal bankruptcy in history, ponder the city government model that put this sort of fiscal lunacy in place.
More than 42 percent of Detroit's 2013 revenues went to required bond, pension, health care and other payments. If the city continues operating the way it had before Orr arrived, those costs would take up nearly 65 percent of city spending by 2017, Orr's team said.

James Taranto discusses "pathological altruism," a concept argued by Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Basically, she is summarizing the liberal approach to public policy.
Oakley defines pathological altruism as "altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in unanticipated harm." A crucial qualification is that while the altruistic actor fails to anticipate the harm, "an external observer would conclude [that it] was reasonably foreseeable." Thus, she explains, if you offer to help a friend move, then accidentally break an expensive item, your altruism probably isn't pathological; whereas if your brother is addicted to painkillers and you help him obtain them, it is.
As Taranto writes,
Pathological altruism is at the root of the liberal left's crisis of authority, which we discussed in our May 20 column. The left derives its sense of moral authority from the supposition that its intentions are altruistic and its opponents' are selfish. That sense of moral superiority makes it easy to justify immoral behavior, like slandering critics of President Obama as racist--or using the power of the Internal Revenue Service to suppress them. It seems entirely plausible that the Internal Revenue Service officials who targeted and harassed conservative groups thought they were doing their patriotic duty. If so, what a perfect example of pathological altruism.
It's a fascinating approach to both social and political interactions.

The idea that the IRS scandal was cooked up by a few low-level employees in Cincinnati is just as false a narrative as the idea that the attack on Benghazi was the result of outrage of some youtube video.

Charles Krauthammer requests that the President decide if we are still in a war on terror that necessitates secret data collection by the NSA or if, as he has announced publicly, that threat is dying out.
Nor does it help that just three weeks ago the president issued a major foreign-policy manifesto whose essential theme was that the War on Terror is drawing to a close and that its very legal underpinning, the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, should be not just reformed but repealed to prevent “keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.”

Now it turns out that Obama’s government was simultaneously running a massive, secret, anti-terror intelligence operation. But if the tide of war is receding, why this vast, ever-expanding NSA dragnet whose only justification is an outside threat — that you assure us is ever receding?

Which is it, Mr. President? Tell it straight. We are a nation of grown-ups. We can make choices. Even one it took you four years to admit is not “false.”
As Orrin Hatch argues, if you're upset by what we're finding out about how the IRS conducted its business, just wait until they're handling Obamacare.
The bottom line here is that the IRS can barely manage what it already has to do (and that's a generous characterization given its unlawful targeting of conservative groups). The prospect of the IRS taking a central role in the administration of ObamaCare can only be described as scary.
Indeed.

Ace links to the ludicrous idea by a couple of academics that children's books with human-like animals as the heroes are sending a dangerous, racist message to children.
Most animals portrayed in children’s books, songs and on clothing send a bad message, according to academics Nora Timmerman and Julia Ostertag: That animals only exist for human use, that humans are better than animals, that animals don’t have their own stories to tell, that it’s fine to “demean” them by cooing over their cuteness. Perhaps worst of all, they say, animals are anthropomorphized to reinforce “socially dominant norms” like nuclear families and gender stereotypes.

Most animals portrayed in children’s books, songs and on clothing send a bad message, according to academics Nora Timmerman and Julia Ostertag: That animals only exist for human use, that humans are better than animals, that animals don’t have their own stories to tell, that it’s fine to “demean” them by cooing over their cuteness. Perhaps worst of all, they say, animals are anthropomorphized to reinforce “socially dominant norms” like nuclear families and gender stereotypes.
One of the authors of the story, Timmerman, prefers that little children are exposed to the real animals and the lessons that we could learn from them.
Authors are often trying to convey good social values in children’s books with animal characters, whether it be acceptance or generosity or inclusivity. But Ms. Timmerman wishes these authors would acknowledge that “animals themselves may have lessons to teach us.” For example, bees buzzing around a hive or ants in an ant farm can teach the importance of community and teamwork without having to be anthropomorphized, she said.
Ah, I guess we should be exposing the toddlers to lots of those lessons about animals killing and devouring other animals. That's just the sort of realism that such fuzzy-headed thinking seems to forget about. Just because a creature isn't human, doesn't mean that it's all sweet and good. Rather like the lesson that just because a culture is non-Western doesn't mean it's all hunky dory in how it treats women or those weaker than the culture's leaders.

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