Monday, December 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

The unfolding hostage crisis in Sydney is a horrific story. We can all imagine how this could be any of us or our friends who happened to stop in a bakery for a cup of coffee. I've long thought that the most efficient way for terrorists to paralyze western economies would be to have small attacks on ordinary life so that people would fear to go out shopping or gathering. Good luck to the Australians in dealing with these terrorists.

Ross Douthat notes two separate reports on the differences between the college-educated and the struggling working class. One notes that divorce is declining among well-educated Americans and the other report notes that less-educated men are less likely to work and are more likely to not come from two-parent households.
But the two articles read together also raise a crucial cultural question: To what extent can the greater stability of upper-class family life, and the habits that have made it possible, be successfully imitated further down the socioeconomic ladder?

Many optimistic liberals believe not only that such imitation is possible, but that what needs to be imitated most are the most socially progressive elements of the new upper class’s way of life: delayed marriage preceded by romantic experimentation, more-interchangeable roles for men and women in breadwinning and child rearing, a more emotionally open and egalitarian approach to marriage and parenting.

The core idea here is that working-class men, in particular, need to let go of a particular image of masculinity — the silent, disciplined provider, the churchgoing paterfamilias — that no longer suits the times. Instead, they need to become more comfortable as part-time homemakers, as emotionally available soul mates, and they need to raise their children to be more adaptive and expressive, to prepare them for a knowledge-based, constantly-in-flux economy.
As Douthat politely notes, this is a ridiculous recommendation. The last thing the poorly educated and low-employed classes need is less marital stability. Don't these progressives know the positive effects there are for children to come from a two-parent household? Why would progressives want to encourage the exact opposite approach?

If the Senate Democrats are all about transparency, there is a whole lot more about which that we could shine a light on.
It goes without saying that Obama has less regard for transparency in his own domestic governance, which affects citizens much more directly. He cut a secret deal with the pharmaceutical lobby to support Obamacare; his administration resisted releasing accurate information about enrollments in that program for months; his agencies routinely try to avoid honoring Freedom of Information requests, to the point that they have to be sued to divulge non-life-threatening information; top officials in his administration have been caught conducting business on secret, private email accounts to conceal their doings; his IRS is balking about releasing emails that will shed light on its violations of citizens' rights between 2010 and 2012.
Think about how Obamacare was crafted and pushed through. Transparency wasn't so important then, was it? Or how about how the Holder Justice Department has jumped all over journalists from AP or James Rosen from Fox to track down leaks? I guess that transparency wasn't so important the, was it?

Chris Cillizza awards President Obama "the worst year in Washington. Again."

Katherine Timpf summarizes "seven insane Christmas shopping tips from the PC police." Progressivism - where fun goes to die.

Kevin Williamson describes how Elizabeth Warren is really a big supporter of corporate welfare.
No doubt aware that 99 percent of those who look to her for guidance on financial regulation could not explain what a derivative is, Senator Warren did her usual dishonest shtick, engaging in her habitual demagoguery without every making an attempt to actually explain the issue, which is a slightly complicated and technical one, to the rubes who make up the Democrats’ base. Angrily insisting that the reform is about nothing more than ensuring that “the biggest financial institutions in this country can make more money” is cheap, and it’s easier than trying to explain why many midsized banks believe that the rule puts them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis the big Wall Street firms, to say nothing of exploring the convoluted question of why agricultural swaps are covered by the rule while interest-rate and foreign-exchange swaps are not....

The Tea Party came into being as a reaction to Republican complicity in bailouts of all sorts: of Wall Street firms, and of irresponsible mortgage borrowers. Occupy, and the potty-trained version of that movement led by Elizabeth Warren, demands more bailouts: of people who borrowed money for college or to buy a home, of fashionable corporations that do not want to pay market rates for financing, etc. Senator Warren is an energetic proponent of corporate welfare for Boeing, General Electric Bechtel, Caterpillar, and other such poor, defenseless little mom-and-pop operations.

If you are looking for actual rather than theoretical opposition to bailouts and corporate welfare, then your choices include Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz, but practically nobody who might be called a progressive.

Nobody ever says he’s in favor of more bailouts or more handouts to business interests, but every time you hear a politician trotting out federal loan guarantees for certain businesses or targeted tax breaks for others, that is what he is talking about. Senator Warren may dismiss the revision to Dodd-Frank as a sop to big business, but she does not oppose sops to big business —she only opposes the ones not originating on her side of the aisle.

And Obama's presidency and the Democcrats' actions in Congress have not done good things for their party at the state level.
In 2010 Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, flipped 21 chambers, and won complete control of 25 statehouses. This year Mr. McCollum credits a “perfect storm” of strong candidates, effective strategy and a highly charged political atmosphere that delivered 69 of 99 state legislative chambers to Republican hands, exceeding the party’s previous high-water mark of 64 in 1920.

Republicans this year flipped nine state legislative chambers: the Colorado Senate; Maine Senate; Minnesota House; Nevada Senate and Assembly; New Hampshire House; New Mexico House and West Virginia House and Senate.

Next year, the GOP will control the legislatures and governorships in 23 states, while Democrats will enjoy hegemony in seven—California, Delaware, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Bolstering the GOP’s ranks in state government, Republicans will have 31 lieutenant governors, 28 secretaries of state and 27 attorneys general.

such facts lead Jamelle Boule at Slate to fret about how the Democratic Party is "down and out" at the state level. They run the risk of being closed out of redistricting if they continue to be shut out of state legislators. They aren't building up a good farm team of governors like the Republicans have been doing. We're seeing the dearth of Democratic talent by the paucity of reasonable candidates other than Hillary for 2016. The Democrats can thank President Obama and the slavish voting in support of his policies by the Democrats in Congress for the past six years.

We're starting to get a better idea of how much Obamacare is going to cost. And it's not a pretty picture.
The basic budgetary facts are not in dispute. When Obamacare was enacted, the official cost estimate was roughly $900 billion over the period from 2010 through 2019. However, the health law’s cumulative costs have since roughly doubled as more of its provisions come online. The simple difference in the time period, plus the increase in massive new entitlement spending, has started to bring the law’s true costs into sharper focus. For 2015 through 2024, CBO now estimates that the insurance subsidies and the big Medicaid expansions will cost $1.89 trillion.
So all the more reason to find out what went into and what came out of Jonathan Gruber'd modeling of the costs of Obamacare.

The Washington Examiner pays tribute to how Ayaan Hirsi Ali is fighting the real war on women and contrasts that with the focus of the left.
If American liberals were as concerned about women’s rights as they claim to be, they would have to shift their focus to other countries, but that would mean giving up a cherished narrative about conservatives here at home and acknowledging the threat radical Islam poses to women worldwide.

The real horrors facing women in the world aren’t discussed in America, where those who try to point out what is going on in other countries or criticize the trivial nature of feminist obsessions are sidelined from the public debate.

But recent events have cast a glaring light on the brutal treatment of women by those claiming to act in the name of Islam, posing a challenge to the American Left by creating a conflict between the liberal desire for women’s equality and a multicultural reluctance to criticize other cultures....

The Left’s kid-glove treatment of even radical Islam exposes the logical flaw at the heart of multiculturalism. How does one tolerate the murderous intolerance of another culture? Is someone really a principled supporter of diversity, of women’s rights, of gay rights, if he refuses to resist or even acknowledge the mortal threat that is posed to those causes by a different culture?

Many liberals downplay the threat of Islamic extremism that they claim in principle to find abhorrent.

If women’s equality and homosexual rights are important to the Left, why are liberals hesitant to criticize an ideology that threatens both groups? Homosexuals are subject to judicial execution in several Muslim countries including Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although homosexuality is legal in more than 20 Muslim-majority nations, it is still viewed as shameful and sometimes punished by private citizens, who are forgiven for persecuting homosexuals and even for killing them.

P.J. O'Rourke was forced to write about Lena Dunham. And he's not happy about it.

John McCormack examines what Jonathan Gruber's testimony means for the Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell. He hasn't done much good for the government case.

Brian Hughes wonders why there is all this soul-searching on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA, but no parallel soul-searching on using drones to blow suspected terrorists to bits. Somehow, it's better to kill such terrorists and risk killing civilians than it is to try to capture them and get some information from them.

Matthew Continetti explains why we don't need another "national conversation on race." The last thing the left want is a true dialogue on any topic.
America does not need another “national conversation on race.” The previous one, which lasted from 1997 to 1998, was so utterly useless that hardly anyone remembers it. President Clinton delivered speeches, convened town hall meetings, empaneled an advisory board, and issued a report on race relations. It went nowhere.

Why? Because the public forums were characterized by self-indulgence, protest, confusion, miscommunication, and acrimony. The advisory board presented the view of race from Harvard Yard. Affirmative action was defended when it was not ignored, its critics muted.

There were racial gains during the Clinton years. But those advances did not come from any “conversation.” They came from a vast reduction in crime and from a booming economy.

Conversation itself is overrated. When someone tells you it is “time to have a conversation,” he is about to fire you, deliver criticism, or relay other bad news. A friend of mine has a saying: You rarely get in trouble for what you do not say. And the more you say, the longer the conversation, the more “honest” and “open” it becomes, the more likely it is to devolve into soliloquy, recriminations, passive aggression, insults, tears, and bad feelings.

“National conversation” is a misnomer. An ideal conversation is free flowing; a discourse between friends; a meandering and pleasant exchange of ideas, of opinions, of gossip, of knowledge. There is no program to such conversations, no objective, no overriding purpose. A nation encompasses too many people with too many divergent and opposing views for such casual and edifying talk.

Especially when the government is involved. Who is invited to speak, what the terms of dialogue are, how long the parties engage—in a “national conversation” these are questions not freely answered by individuals but deliberately settled by collectives. Which is why the advocates of such conversations often seem more interested in acquiring a platform than a parley.

The very notion of a free-flowing symposium is undermined by the time the ground-rules of conversation are established. Cutting the pretense of free exchange and true diversity of opinion would be more honest. But no politician is going to call for a “national lecture” on race. Who would show up?

Conversation implies voice, analysis, abstraction. But politics is not merely theoretical. There are tangible consequences. And so a “national conversation” is more than an exercise by which power determines the ground of acceptable debate. It also provides cover for unelected academics and technocrats to implement controversial agendas the voters may not want.

National conversations are worse than useless. They are harmful. They presuppose, they live off of, the racial, ethnic, and sexual divisions they intend to mend. Separate the public into competing tribes, and not only will disagreements between them fester. Other tribes will feel unrecognized, excluded, alienated from the proceedings. Differences will become entrenched. Slights and peeves will multiply.

In wake of the Rolling Stone's fiasco of reporting on a supposed gang-rape at the University of Virginia, the Daily Caller reports on eight other stories of rapes on campus that turned out to be hoaxes. Several of these hoaxes shared the same goal as the Rolling Stone story - to bring attention to the supposed rape culture on campus.

James W. Ceaser reports on how college campuses are becoming places where truth and reason are no longer relevant.
Like many such crowds, this one sought its own victims to punish. Strangely, retribution against the seven alleged perpetrators was treated as less important than one might have thought, for this result would have placed the onus in the affair on these individuals and their criminal acts. From the moment of the first mass rally, speakers from the faculty and student body left no doubt that they were in search of much bigger game. Moving in a reverse pyramid from the specific to the more abstract, they decried the fraternity system, privilege (the “money-fraternity complex”), and the rape culture of the South, including Thomas Jefferson for his relations with Sally Hemings. The charges went higher and higher up the ladder of generality until the sex crime committed at UVA became a confirmation of the basic theory of privileged Western male oppression that is so widely subscribed to in the disciplines of cultural studies. The theoretical or ideological dimension that began to take hold, which relies on class profiling, accorded with the subtext of the Rolling Stone article that is directed less against sexual violence per se—of which Charlottesville has tragically suffered more than enough in recent years—than against sexual violence perpetrated by males belonging to society’s “upper tier.”

...Noble sentiments, but have they been followed? The latest and most disturbing turn in the whole sequence of events came in the aftermath of the unraveling of the published story. No one, of course, knows exactly what, if anything, happened in that fraternity house, or how many, if any, of the victim’s charges can stand up to scrutiny. Despite promises from different parties to get to the bottom of things, one coming from Rolling Stone no less, this matter may never be resolved. What stands out, however, is the reaction of the activists. Though disappointed that the veracity of this story of suffering and bestiality has been placed in doubt, they remain undeterred. Now they claim that the facts of this case ultimately do not matter. It is the larger cause that counts. The article, they say, has served to put a spotlight on the epidemic of sexual violence on campus. As one of them put it, “The main message we want to come out of all this is that sexual assault is a problem nationwide that we need to act in preventing. It has never been about one story.” The activists, moreover, can claim already to have won a victory. They are certain to be at the center of the next step in the process, now underway at UVA, of adopting new measures to deal with this problem.

But the truth does matter. Even on the level of future policy changes, this problem can only be properly addressed if it is presented in an unbiased way, not in terms of a preconceived framework. The moral dimension of disregarding the truth also cannot be forgotten. Members of the university community have been vilified as gang rapists. Does anyone mind? The University of Virginia has been charged with bearing the full burden of national obloquy. Does anyone care? If the faculty and administration prefer to abdicate to a crowd rather than offer a defense, even in comparative terms, of the university’s reputation, then who will stand up for the place?

....Far from being an end in itself, the truth on our college campuses is now treated as a mere instrument of combat. It is wielded with feigned righteous-ness when it promotes a preferred cause and then abandoned when it produces the opposite result. In the end, this is the sad message that universities now convey.
As Kevin Williamson writes, all this brouhaha about a supposed culture of rape on college campuses ignores the actual facts from the DOJ that young women on campuses are less likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than young women not on campuses. The elites who are all worried about this mythological epidemic of campus rapes instead of caring about the terrible rapes that are actually happening.
Our policy debates are dominated by relatively narrow-minded and self-interested elites, and so it is natural that our discussion of sexual assault focuses on what might be happening at Villanova University rather than what’s happening on Riker’s Island or on Ojibwe reservations. But the way we talk about rape suggests that we do not much care about the facts of the case. If understanding and preventing rape were our motive, we’d know whether the victimization rate was x or 11x, and whether elite college campuses are in fact rather than in rhetoric more dangerous than crime-ridden ghettos and isolated villages in Alaska, a state in which the rate of rape is three times the national average. We’d never accept that the National Bureau of Economic Research didn’t know whether the inflation rate were 1.6 percent or 17 percent. We’d give the issue properly rigorous consideration.

But if your interest were in making opposition to feminist political priorities a quasi-criminal offense and using the horrific crime of rape as a cultural and political cudgel, then you’d be doing about what we’re doing right now.
Charles C. W. Cooke notes that this all of a piece with the liberal approach to journalism. What matters is the narrative, not the actual facts.
Just a few short weeks ago, when Rolling Stone’s story was almost universally believed to be true, we were urged to read each and every sordid detail of the case so that we might better acquaint ourselves with the broader problems that are presented by “rape culture.” Today, as the story continues to collapse, the opposite view is regnant, and the very same people who pointed excitedly to Erdely’s work now contend that we should not be focusing on an individual case such as this in the first place. Thus are we being asked to accept two contradictory positions. The first: that Erdely’s gang-rape story was important enough not only to justify months of research but to serve as the hook on which her piece was hung. The second: that it didn’t matter at all. “Not sure,” Vox’s Libby Nelson asked last night in a tweet that summed up the volte-face, what the Washington Post’s “endgame is in continuing to pursue” the facts.

Such self-serving inquiries illustrate something crucial — namely, that many of those who describe themselves as “journalists” these days are more interested in moral positioning and the advancement of their agendas than in the attainment of objective truth. Where most of us are primarily concerned with whether a given claim is correct, others seem more attentive to how we react to that claim in the first place. Did you ask questions about Jackie’s story as it was reported? If so, you must hate women, work for the patriarchy, or hope to prove that nobody is ever raped. Did you believe Jackie uncritically and with a full-throated roar? Excellent, then you must be a good person who wants to help women, move the country forward, and do something concrete about the issue of sexual assault. It’s really that simple, my dear.

Amazingly, these presumptions tend to remain intact through thick and thin. In consequence, a person who incorrectly judged the veracity of Rolling Stone’s story can remain on the side of the angels, while a person who was correct to doubt the account is dismissed as a devil who just got lucky. (Links in original)

One benefit of the collapsed UVa story is that it has cast light on what Glenn Reynolds calls "the great campus rape hoax."
The truth — and, since she's a politician, maybe that shouldn't be such a surprise — is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What's more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.

Upshot: Women on campus aren't at more risk for sexual assault, and their risk is nothing like the bogus 1-in-5 statistic bandied about by politicians and activists. So why is this non-crisis getting so much press?

It's getting press because it suits the interests of those pushing the story. For Gillibrand and McCaskill, it's a woman-related story that helps boost their status as female senators. It ties in with the "war on women" theme that Democrats have been boosting since 2012, and will presumably roll out once again in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps Elizabeth Warren. And University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan hasn't apologized for her action in suspending all fraternities (and sororities) on the basis of a bogus story in Rolling Stone. Nor has she apologized for the mob mentality on campus that saw arrests, vandalism and protests at a fraternity house based, again, on a single bogus report. Instead, she's doubling down on the narrative.

This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.

At least until people catch on. As George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf notes, "After a while, the boy who cried wolf wasn't believed, and the women who cry rape may likewise not be believed, especially with the accusations of rape at Duke University and the University of Virginia fresh in people's minds."

Even one rape is too many, of course, on or off of campus. But when activists and politicians try to gin up a phony crisis, public trust is likely to be a major casualty. It's almost as if helping actual rape victims is the last thing on these people's minds.

Daniel Payne tells us how and why the fiasco of what happened at Rolling Stone will happen again. When the approach to all tales of rape is that we must believe the victim and never believe the accused.
f a woman claims she’s been raped, we should offer her our support, our trust, and our tireless advocacy. We should not, however, suspend all of our doubts and throw ourselves headlong into full-fledged and unequivocal belief—any more than we would for any other reported crime. The genuinely responsible thing to do is to discover the truth; it’s not to accept one person’s testimony with no reservations whatsoever. Nothing is that certain, as Rolling Stone and Erdely are now painfully discovering.

Meanwhile, the New Yorker points out the odious way in which the Rolling Stone portrayed Jackie's three friends who supposedly refused to get her help because they didn't want to risk not getting invited to future frat parties. The female, called Cindy in the story, is portrayed as basically a slut who thought being ganged raped would be fun if the guys were hot fraternity guys. It's not clear if Rolling Stone even contacted the female friend. We know the author didn't contact the male friends. Apparently, it was so acceptable to accept the supposed victim's story, that it didn't matter how the magazine portrayed her three friends. Describing one of those friends as a fun-loving, but heartless slut was perfectly fine even if no research was really done to support that depiction.

It's striking how so many on the left are eager to believe the accused's story for any type of crime, except that of rape. Then the presumption is that the accused is always guilty and the victim's story should never be questioned. Freddie deBoer writes at The Week about how dangerous this approach is. Anyone who questions the veracity of the victim is excoriated online as a supporter of rape.
The insistence that every rape accusation must be presumed to be true inevitably means that the credibility of those opposing rape will always be bound up with the least credible accusation. This, perversely, makes it harder for those people to speak out against rape, not easier. The notion that rape victims should be believed by default seems humane and understandable. But in practice it leads to a condition where all rape accusations must be true for any individual standard to be taken seriously. That's an impossible standard, one no crime should ever have to meet.

So, does the Mel Gibson banishment standard apply to Amy Pascal and Scott Rubin at Sony? Or are anti-Semitic rants less acceptable than racist jokes about President Obama?