Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Cruising the Web

Sam Schulman details how the bureaucratic approach to Childhood Sexual Exploitation or CSE put the bureaucratic goals ahead of the needs of the over 1400 young girls who were being systematically raped in Rotherham. It is truly a horrifying tale because the agencies that are in place to prevent just this sort of crime did know what was going on and did study what to do about it.
The girls were abandoned only partly because so many made a cowardly choice to let a crime go unreported when they could not think of a “non-racist” way to describe it. They were also abandoned because of the way that these agencies tried to do good. The process of “caring for children” was already bad; the distortions and systematic mendacity encouraged by the ideology of multiculturalism and racial and gender theorizing made it worse.

Jay needs only about 10 pages of the 119-page body of her report to tell the big story: 1,400 victims neglected, mistreated, and betrayed. Every agency contributed to silencing the whistleblowers and abandoning the girls. Parents who acted to protect their daughters were ignored, harassed, even fined and arrested. Rotherham Council ignored their pleas and continued to give contracts to the taxi firms whose owners and drivers were the perpetrators, and in whose cars no teenager in town would ever willingly travel.

The remaining pages offer material that is, in a way, even more horrifying, because in them Jay patiently, plonkingly details the organizational behavior of perhaps half a dozen stakeholders in the tragedy, as seen through some 16 reviews, audits, and assessments by governmental supervisory agencies and private experts from the child protection establishment. Thanks to Jay’s work, we can at least answer the question of what those who were responsible for protecting the girls of Rotherham thought they were thinking. They thought they were thinking very hard and caring very much about CSE, and doing so in the way that they had been instructed was the proper and professional manner to do so. The politicians, social workers, police, and medical professionals had every reason to believe that their efforts​—​which in fact were completely nugatory​—​demonstrated the “best practice,” or as the British more modestly say, “best known practice” on the subject. Jay demonstrates that the public services of England have been marinated in a managerial culture that makes it almost impossible for a frontline institution​—​local government, social services, the police force, schools, private charities, and the NHS​—​to see that they and their partners are doing virtually nothing at all about CSE....

The inspectors told the various players in Rotherham that ever more must be done to deal with CSE​—​but just as urgently, the agencies must also create initiatives to prevent CSE, to create awareness of CSE, to ensure that the focus on girl victims of CSE isn’t so exclusive that boy victims of CSE and LGBT victims of CSE don’t have their own solutions. (Outside reviewers warned Rotherham agencies not to neglect male and LGBT victims as early as 2002, and frequently queried them about it thereafter; perhaps the nagging worked, because there have never been any reported.)

The individual girls who were victims and the particular men who picked them up in taxis from their middle schools and preyed on them in public places all over town lose their specificity. The inspectors continually praised the “focus” and “commitment” of the city and its agencies, but made victims and perpetrators vague and fuzzy categories. The weapons they recommended to fight the evil were even more abstract and ineffectual. The activity the inspectors prescribed and praised in the most lavish terms will be familiar to anyone who has ever been in private business: It consists of nominating teams from different departments to tackle a certain problem on a coordinated basis. Rotherham was urged above all to “develop multi-agency responses to CSE.” The goal was multitudinousness itself: Where two or three agencies are gathered together in the name of tackling CSE, there must be something productive going on. In business, after a point, the teamwork approach will be measured against a goal that can be enumerated: Sales must grow or production time shrink. If the goal is not attained, the collaborative effort withers away. But no social agency, policeman, town councillor, or inspector ever mentioned a numerical goal, such as reducing the number of victims or increasing the number of arrests—with the exception of adequate budgeting for staff.
Read the rest. What is horrifying is that these weaknesses almost guarantee that such horrors could well continue. The bureaucrats thought they were doing a very good job. They had meetings and met with other groups and set up other groups. And isn't that what good bureaucrats do? Who cares about actually helping the girls being raped or stopping other girls from falling prey to these rape gangs?

Michael Barone shoots down all the chin-pulling analysis of whether or not the Republicans will have a wave election this November. As Barone explains, they won't have a wave because they already had a wave in 2010 and there are few seats left to win in the House.

President Obama needs to take a Mulligan.

It's the 50-year anniversary of the infamous Daisy ad. Every year I show that ad to my students and they first gasp and then start laughing because they find it so over-the-top. Every year I show them some of the most famous political ads and it's so interesting to see their reactions given how many ads they've been exposed to in their lifetimes. If you're feeling nostalgic about political advertising, the Living Room Candidate site is wonderful to see the ads run in each election by all the candidates.

Noah Rothman reports that Planned Parenthood is against any effort to make contraceptives easier for women to get if Republicans propose it. Quite a few Republicans have started advocating making birth control pills to be available over the counter. Think of the money that women could save by not having to get a doctor's visit to get a prescription. But Planned Parenthood has come out against the proposal because they'd prefer to have a phony issue about Republicans' supposed war on women rather than making birth control easier and cheaper for women to get. Bobby Jindal is the one who really got the ball rolling on this for Republicans in a column in the WSJ a couple of years ago.
Let's ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.

So at present we have an odd situation. Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription. Contraception is a personal matter—the government shouldn't be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman's employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so.

Here are five political stories to pay attention to this week.

James Oliphant looks at Obama's disastrous summer. He only had one victory and it was such a silly one. for a few days the White House forced Republicans to say that they weren't planning to impeach Obama. Otherwise, the summer has been one disaster after another crisis. Oliphant talks about being at a breakfast with Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer who said that the GOP would try to impeach Obama.
Most every reporter at the table knew this last suggestion was a dubious proposition at best. We knew, too, precisely what Pfeiffer was up to: In a midterm election year, with Democrats jittery about retaining their Senate majority, one surefire way to gin up the party's base, and perhaps capture some swing voters in the process, was to paint the GOP as unhinged and extreme. We knew full well that we were being played, that this was the White House's go-to communications strategy: Change the narrative by setting the Twittersphere on fire. But that didn't stop most of us, as soon as the breakfast ended, from pulling out our laptops and furiously typing and tweeting. "It's catnip," an Obama aide told me later.

Sure enough, within minutes, the story had mushroomed, spreading at a rate that would alarm the CDC. Republicans were tied in knots, with House Speaker John Boehner forced to deny that he would do something he never intended to do in the first place, while less-disciplined Republican members of Congress took the bait and ratcheted up their impeachment talk. Money flowed into Democratic coffers as the tempest carried into the following week.

For Obama and his team, this is now what winning looks like. The impeachment meme—cheap, easy, ephemeral, partisan, hyperbolic, everything the administration claims to loathe—was their lone clear victory in a summer during which the president's approval rating foundered amid a chain of crises stretching from the U.S.-Mexico border to Iraq to Gaza to Ferguson, Missouri.
Oliphant goes on to write that the Obama White House is all about little tactical political moments like this one instead of getting down into the weeds of what is necessary for actual governing.

Richard Cohen explains how Obama has ignored the Broken Windows theory in foreign policy. He ignored the small stuff and now things have become so much worse.
Obama eschewed a broken windows approach to foreign relations. He treated every crisis as an isolated event or problem unrelated to anything bigger. He did not understand that by doing so, the world’s bad guys felt that no one was watching.

The Islamic State metastasized in the Syrian-Iraqi desert. The U.S. knew of its formation, but did not bother with the small stuff. Even when the Islamic State took Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, we lifted hardly a finger. Small stuff. Small stuff.

Similarly, Obama could not see a connection between ignoring his own red line in Syria and what would follow. The issue — the challenge — was not only to remove chemical weapons from Syria, but to make an American President’s word matter.

What the world took from this episode was that Obama held little stock in such symbolism. He was coldly pragmatic, logical and oh-so collected. His foreign policy priorities were twofold: to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and to make sure no terrorist attacked the United States. Both are worthy goals, but in Iraq they produced a power vacuum that the Islamic State rushed to fill.

The broken windows started to add up. In Syria, Bashar Assad paid Obama little heed. Obama wanted Assad gone, but he didn’t go. Instead, Assad escalated his violence step by step — as if each step of the way he was looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching. By now, he has shelled and gassed civilians and massacred his enemies.

Now an Obama administration that has contributed a lexicon of passivity to international relations — “leading from behind,” “we don’t have a strategy yet” and the hardly Churchillian “don’t do stupid stuff” — is busy assembling a coalition to deal with the Islamic State.

Kevin Williams looks at Detroit's bankruptcy and what he labels "the corrupt bargain" that exploited this city to benefit all but the people of Detroit.
This sorry tale features almost everything there is to hate about governance in these United States: rapacious public-sector unions, a feckless city council that apparently had no idea what it was signing off on, Wall Street banks looking to benefit from political maneuvering, promises of casino revenue, and lawyers — lots of lawyers. That and a mayor with two dozen felony-corruption counts now on his curriculum vitae.

While denying up and down that Obama's decision to postpone executive action on immigration was not at all political, White House spokesman Josh Earnest comes right out and admits that, yup, it was all about fear of how Republicans might campaign on the issue if the President acted before the election.

Meanwhile, Philip Bump explains in the Washington Post how the math of Hispanic voter turnout and which states have tough Senate campaigns for Democrats this year explain why Obama postponed his immigration executive actions. This is all very clear and should have been clear to the White House before Obama told us that he'd take action before the end of the summer.

Ed Rogers has some advice for Republicans how they can still take advantage of Obama's actions on immigration in the campaign.
Delaying action until after the elections, coupled with how the immigration issue has exploded, still poses a major challenge for Democrats on the 2014 ballot. Do they say the delay is good, thereby admitting they want to dodge voters? Do they say the president should proceed, putting themselves in a position where they have to either support or oppose a liberal overreach on immigration that has some form of illegal immigrant wave-in at its core? Or do they use mealy-mouth weasel words about wanting to “work with the president on responsible reform,” etc. and hope voters don’t notice their obvious attempts to avoid taking a stand?

If Republicans are artful, they could force the Democrats’ hand and try to make them commit to either supporting or opposing the president’s anticipated executive action on immigration. It will be difficult for candidates to pretend they don’t know what the president is going to propose. It is fair to expect that candidates should be able to answer the simple question of whether or not they will vote to overturn President Obama’s executive order, whenever he decides to release it.

If you think about it, it is incredibly insulting for the White House to admit, “Sure, we have a plan to take executive action on immigration, but we know it would be so unpopular that we can’t expose it just before an election. Voters would be enraged and Democratic candidates would be in open revolt. So we will wait until there is not much voters can do about it.”
And then Rogers issues this warning,
If we know the president is willing to delay executive action on immigration until after the elections so he gets his way and protects his Democratic allies, it raises the question of what else the president is planning to do after Nov. 4. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Chuck Todd explains why the administration uses ISIL instead of ISIS.