Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cruising the Web

Bret Stephens has some words for the Class of 2014.
Any student who demands—and gets—emotional pampering from his university needs to pay a commensurate price in intellectual derision. College was once about preparing boys and girls to become men and women, not least through a process of desensitization to discomfiting ideas. Now it's just a $240,000 extension of kindergarten. Maybe Oberlin can start offering courses in Sharing Is Caring. Students can read "The Gruffalo" with trigger warnings that it potentially stigmatizes people with hairy backs.

This is the bind you find yourselves in, Class of 2014: No society, not even one that cossets the young as much as ours does, can treat you as children forever. A central teaching of Genesis is that knowledge is purchased at the expense of innocence. A core teaching of the ancients is that personal dignity is obtained through habituation to virtue. And at least one basic teaching of true liberalism is that the essential right of free people is the right to offend, and an essential responsibility of free people is to learn how to cope with being offended.
He concludes by urging them to seek out opportunities to escape the cocoon that colleges have offered them to keep them from being offended.
Deal with it. Revel in it. No consequential idea ever failed to offend someone; no consequential person was ever spared great offense. Those of you who want to lead meaningful lives need to begin unlearning most of what you've been taught, starting right now.
Exactly. I've been thinking about how these college students seem so much more fragile than the high school students I teach. I've been showing my A.P. U.S. History class the movie Glory as a break after their A.P. exam last week. The students are totally caught up in the movie which is one of the very best made about the Civil War, but I guess that I would have to have given them a trigger warning if I showed that at some colleges. After all, there are many uses of the N-word and references to slavery. And spoiler alert, but in a movie about fighting in the Civil War, there are battle scenes in which people die. Who knows what emotions might have been triggered?

Of course the students might already have been irreparably damaged as they have had to read 17th century documents discussing taking land from the natives in America and 19th century documents by Southerners justifying slavery, by nativists rejecting Catholics, by imperialists arguing over whether the Philippines should be annexed despite those unfortunate inhabitants. They've read 20th century documents presenting reasons why women should not get the vote and other documents by 1960s black activists such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael rejecting the help of whites to achieve civil rights.

In my A.P. European History class they have read documents from the Reformation in which every religious group blasts the others. They've read many documents from the age of Imperialism in which Europeans justified their domination over natives of other continents. They've read arguments against women's suffrage that are quite open about those men's beliefs in women's inferiority in addition to words written about the susceptibility to Satan at the height of the 17th century witch trials. They've read screeds of anti-Semitism as well as excerpts from Mein Kampf. They've read descriptions of the Holocaust and the depredations and devastation that took place during the many wars in Europe's history.

And never once did it occur to me that my students needed trigger warnings to shield them from the reality that terrible things have happened in the world's history and that no true study would coddle them from learning those facts. Instead, I find that my students are fascinated to read what people of the past wrote and thought even when those words are so anathema to how we think today. I've had students say that they never understood how people could own slaves until they read some of the defenses of slavery by 19th century Southerners as a "positive good." There is evil in the world and my high school students don't need to be protected from learning about it. Why do these college students need that protection?

The Wall Street Journal celebrates how the ban on earmarks has improved legislation.
Congressional cries to restore earmarks are mounting, and a new favorite argument is that the spenders need the pork authority to properly exercise their Constitutional power of the purse. But if you look at what's happening inside Congress, the opposite is true: The earmark ban is producing more spending accountability and oversight.

Consider the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which is scheduled for a House vote Tuesday. Water spending bills in the recent past were earmarking extravaganzas. The Army Corps of Engineers would recommend the most pressing water needs. Congress would ignore those and focus spending on hundreds of Member projects.

When Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin now pines for the days when earmarks were the "glue" holding bills together, what he's really missing is leadership's power to dole out home-state patronage. Pork-barrel Republicans who say the earmark ban has transferred spending power to the President are excusing their own unwillingness to set priorities.

Remarkable to behold, something like priority-setting has happened in the current water bill, the first to go through Congress since the 2011 earmark ban. Under the process established by Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, the Army Corps publishes a federal notice requesting water proposals from non-federal entities.

The Corps reviews them and sends an annual public report to Congress listing the purpose of each proposal, its purported benefits, statements of support and costs. Congress then chooses which projects to approve. Only those included in the Corps report are eligible for authorization.

This process put House Members in control of spending decisions, even as it required them to choose on the basis of fact and analysis—rather than logrolling. Mr. Shuster and Water Resources Subcommittee Chair Bob Gibbs worked both sides of the aisle to agree on priorities, and the initial bill passed 417-3 in October.

Matt Lewis contemplates the state of conservative media today. It's alive and well.

Noah Rothman has some advice for Republicans on how to connect the VA scandal to anger over the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans will be accused of politicizing the outrageous claims about the VA’s treatment of vets. Good. Not only should Republicans make the VA’s problems a campaign issue, they should ignore the disingenuous scolds who will emerge from the woodwork to chide Republicans for daring to criticize the intolerable conditions America’s vets face.

Political pressure is the only way major reforms are adopted in Washington and bureaucracies shrink. The VA’s scandalous and endemic problems are worthy of politicization.

In a heated election year, and with the added pressure associated with the ACA, Democrats can be forced to go on record opposing much of the excessive bureaucracy, which medical professionals in the VA system are blaming for poor care. Finally addressing the VA’s problems what is most important.

When Reagan finally convinced Congress to elevate the position the VA secretary to the Cabinet in 1988, it came as something of a consolation prize. Reagan had tried, unsuccessfully, to force a Democrat-dominated Congress to privatize much of the care that Vets were receiving. Several decades later, and with the career-killing specter of the ACA hanging over many Democrats’ heads, Reagan may finally convince his political opponents to moderate their hostility toward his vision for the VA.

Byron York explains one area of suspicion that Republicans in the House have towards Hillary Clinton's testimony about the Benghazi attacks. He focuses on a cable that was sent to the Secretary of State's office 26 days before the attack in which he warned about rising threats in the area and the inability of Americans to defend the consulate. State did nothing and Hillary later testified that she never saw the cable. However the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that they knew about the cable. And Hillary Clinton testified that she was aware of attacks in the area and the "deteriorating threat environment." So how did she know all that, but she was not informed about that cable, yet the head of a different department, the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Joint Chiefs Chairman knew about it?
Clinton has argued that she was simply too busy to see the August cable. "One-point-43 million cables a year come to the State Department," she told the House committee. "They're all addressed to me. They do not all come to me."

But Secretary of Defense is a pretty big job, as is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And those two officials were aware of the dire warning that came from Benghazi on August 16, while the Secretary of State -- the official actually in charge of the compound -- says she was not.
Perhaps that is so. But when we've seen scandal after scandal emerge that President Obama seemed to have been totally ignorant of until he read about them in the media, perhaps Americans want to think about whether they want to elect another politician with a proven history of obliviousness.

Mollie Hemingway eviscerates the Washington Post's attempt to ridicule Marco Rubio for saying that there is a scientific consensus that "human life begins at conception." Hemingway cites expert after expert about how there is no doubt at all about when human life begins even if there are those who want to define when pregnancy begins as only beginning at implantation. Read the whole post. It's a masterful refutation of the Post's twisting of its reporting. She even has citations from pro-choice heroes Margaret Sanger and Alan Guttmacher supporting Rubio's words. Jonah Goldberg explains how the Post's manipulation of reporting is the result of the fad of "explanatory journalism" by selectively choosing which experts to cite.
Now there’s nothing wrong, and much that is right, with being an advocate or ideological partisan. The Right has plenty of them too. And there’s nothing wrong with contacting advocates and lobbyists for their opinions. It is often the case that the activists have the most knowledge and the best arguments for their side. But calling up one advocate — or even five on the same side of an issue — to show “consensus” and passing that off as nonpartisan expert authority isn’t explanatory anything. It’s propaganda passing itself off as reporting.