Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Cruising the Web

Noah Rothman is fed up with all the false outrage because an obscure staffer of a minor GOP congressman tweeted a stupid message chastising the Obama daughters. The media want to say that the Obama daughters are off limits for any sort of criticism. I'm fine with that. But the media sure didn't have that attitude about GOP children. Rothman reminds us of several examples you may have forgotten about. You might protest that most of these examples dealt with adult children, not teenagers. But Rothman reminds us of how the Washington Post's fashion writer, Robin Givhan, took the children of John Roberts to task for the clothes they wore to his nomination announcement. And they were five and four at the time.

The New Republic looks at the increase in multiracial marriages and how that is affecting our culture. In some ways, this increase says good things about our society and is a nice development to contemplate in this era when so many want to drive wedges between races.

Luke Hilgemann reminds us in USA Today of the real lesson of Grubergate.
This is the most important lesson to be learned from Jonathan Gruber's honesty: The bigger and more complex the bill, the more vulnerable it is to political manipulation — and the more likely it is to deceive the American people. Obamacare epitomizes why Congress should tackle such sweeping reforms with a piecemeal, straightforward, and transparent approach. Hopefully the incoming Congress will remember this as they take up health care reforms of their own.

This is very scary stuff.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned U.S. businesses that hackers have used malicious software to launch destructive attacks in the United States, following a devastating cyber attack last week at Sony Pictures Entertainment....

"This malware has the capability to overwrite a victim host’s master boot record and all data files," the report said. "The overwriting of the data files will make it extremely difficult and costly, if not impossible, to recover the data using standard forensic methods."

Hackers have used similar malware to launch attacks on businesses in highly destructive attacks in South Korea and the Middle East, but security experts said that if the malware was indeed used on Sony, it would be the first large-scale attack of its type launched against a company on U.S. soil.

"It's a game changer," Clemens said.
I'd like to have faith in American ingenuity to fend off so attacks from Russian and Chinese hackers and who knows what else. But in the short term, we could be up for severe challenges.

Politico looks at the House GOP freshmen who represent districts that Obama won in 2012. There is such focus always on the so-called Tea Party Republicans, but the GOP will have to figure out how to protect these new representatives who will surely be targeted in 2016.

Since we have one election behind us, it's time to start pondering 2016. Michael Barone looks at the chances that the Democrats could retake the Senate.

Marc Thiessen has a reasonable idea for the Republicans to take regarding Obama's executive overreach on immigration. Take Obama up on his rhetoric that he wants to deport criminals. That sounds good, but the administration's regulations don't back up the President's words.
The administration’s new guidelines prioritize the deportation of illegal aliens with felony convictions. But his regulations leave those convicted “of a ‘significant misdemeanor’ which for these purposes is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence” in a lower category of those to be deported, along with those convicted of other crimes “for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more (the sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and does not include a suspended sentence).”

This is absurd. Prosecutors reach deals every day that allow people facing felony charges to plead down to misdemeanors in exchange for a guilty plea. The same goes for time served in custody. Those plea deals should not come with executive amnesty as well.

Furthermore, Congress should insist that illegal immigrants allowed to stay under Obama’s executive action be barred from receiving certain taxpayer-funded benefits, such as welfare, food stamps, tax credits, Social Security and Medicare. Obama claimed in his immigration address that he wanted to help “immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government.” If that is the case, then he should have no problem with legislation ensuring that is the case.

Frank Rich interviews Chris Rock. Of course, there are all the standard liberal hits on Bush and Fox News. But there also some very interesting tidbits. Rock is clearly a thoughtful guy. I might not agree with a lot of his politics, but he still has some very interesting observations. For example, Rock explains why he won't play colleges any more.
I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

In their political views?

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.
I can really see how colleges aren't the place to say anything the least bit transgressive and most comedy is transgressive at some point.

One more promise of Obamacare not coming true.

Just like students who leave writing their term paper until the last night and then pull an all-nighter, Congress has left a whole lot of business to get done in the 11 days they've given themselves to work during the month of December.

Newsweek looks at whether tour guides should have to be licensed.
When Dan Leger applied for his tour guide’s license in Savannah, Georgia, six years ago, he had to strip, give blood and urine samples, detail his sexual history and submit to the dreaded “cough test.” Leger has also had to undergo additional physicals to renew his credentials, per Savannah’s ordinance on tour guide licensing. The city’s regulations also require tour guides to pass a background check and a 100-question history test, as well as pay multiple fees.

“This is all simply so you can walk around and tell a story,” Leger, who goes by the moniker Savannah Dan, says. “The city of Savannah shouldn’t have the authority to license my free speech.”

On November 17, Savannah Dan and three other tour guides filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging that the licensing rules violate their First Amendment rights. They claim these procedures constitute an unconstitutional burden on free expression.
I can see that a city might have an interest in limiting how many tour guides there are so that the streets don't become overcrowded. But that would be true of any business operating in the city. Where does government draw the line?

James Taranto contrasts the New York Times' acceptance of violent rioting in Ferguson with their coverage of Tea Party peaceful protests.

Charlie Cook analyzes how the Democrats have damaged themselves politically so that their party has become basically a coalition of young people, minorities, and wealthy whites.
But considerably less is being said about a parallel problem that Democrats are facing. Although the national red-blue maps of the partisan makeup of the House, the governorships, and, somewhat less so, the Senate are misleading in that they equate population with land area, the maps do illustrate where Democrats are strong and where they are not (interesting factoid: Only 14 percent of the land area in the U.S. is represented by a Democrat in the House). Increasingly, Democratic strength is concentrated primarily in urban areas and college towns, among minorities, and in narrow bands along the West Coast (but only the first 50-100 miles from the beaches) and the East Coast (but only from New York City northward). The South and the Border South, as well as small-town and rural America, are rapidly becoming no-fly zones for Democrats. Few Democrats represent small-town and rural areas, and the party is find it increasingly difficult to attract noncollege-educated white voters.

This challenge for Democrats can be sliced and diced a number of ways: by race, by where people live, and—very acutely—by combining race with socioeconomic status. A Nov. 25 report by the Gallup Organization underscored Democrats' problems with noncollege-educated white voters. According to Gallup Editor Frank Newport, "President Barack Obama's job-approval rating among white noncollege graduates is at 27 percent so far in 2014, 14 percentage points lower than among white college graduates. This is the largest yearly gap between these two groups since Obama took office. These data underscore the magnitude of the Democratic Party's problem with working-class whites, among whom Obama lost in the 2012 presidential election, and among whom Democratic House candidates lost in the 2014 U.S. House voting by 30 points."
No wonder Hillary Clinton has tried, ineptly, to portray her family as broke after they left the White House. She's got to find a way to bring back that group of voters to the Democrats if she wants to win in 2016.

Glenn Reynolds has some more thoughts on how the Democrats threw away the white working class vote.
So if Democrats want to win back the white working class — and they kind of need to, if they want to win elections, because it's an enormous demographic — maybe they need to start thinking about honoring and encouraging work, rather than talking about race or class. One person who has some ideas in this direction is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who suggests that the government invest heavily in infrastructure, which would create a lot of blue-collar jobs.

That was actually an original part of Barack Obama's stimulus plan, but it was derailed by feminists within the Obama coalition who thought it would produce too many jobs for men. Christina Romer, then-chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, reported: "The very first email I got ... was from a women's group saying 'We don't want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.' "

Well, if you're offended by jobs for burly men, you probably won't do well with working-class men, or with the working-class women who are often married to burly men. And, as Joel Kotkin notes, many other Obama policies — promoting urban density, which creates fewer construction jobs; fighting oil and coal extraction, thus targeting industries that create high-paying blue collar jobs; and even opening up immigration, which drives down wages for the working class — all seem designed to punish people who work for a living, even as expanded benefits for the poor seem designed to reward people who draw government checks for a living.

A reporter for the Associated Press, Matti Friedman, exposes how the western press is biased against Israel. He starts off with a powerful example of how a pro-jihadist rally at a mainstream Palestinian university in East Jerusalem received no coverage in the western press despite powerful pictures and how the story illuminated why Israelis are wary of withdrawing from East Jerusalem or the West Bank. He writes that such omissions are common. Another point he makes is how the media cite NGOs in the area as if they are unbiased humanitarians. The journalists hang out with those NGOs at the same parties.
In these circles, in my experience, a distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry. I don’t mean a critical approach to Israeli policies or to the ham-fisted government currently in charge in this country, but a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism—an idea quickly becoming one of the central elements of the “progressive” Western zeitgeist, spreading from the European left to American college campuses and intellectuals, including journalists. In this social group, this sentiment is translated into editorial decisions made by individual reporters and editors covering Israel, and this, in turn, gives such thinking the means of mass self-replication....

Many foreign journalists have come to see themselves as part of this world of international organizations, and specifically as the media arm of this world. They have decided not just to describe and explain, which is hard enough, and important enough, but to “help.” And that’s where reporters get into trouble, because “helping” is always a murky, subjective, and political enterprise, made more difficult if you are unfamiliar with the relevant languages and history.

Confusion over the role of the press explains one of the strangest aspects of coverage here—namely, that while international organizations are among the most powerful actors in the Israel story, they are almost never reported on. Are they bloated, ineffective, or corrupt? Are they helping, or hurting? We don’t know, because these groups are to be quoted, not covered. Journalists cross from places like the BBC to organizations like Oxfam and back. The current spokesman at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, for example, is a former BBC man. A Palestinian woman who participated in protests against Israel and tweeted furiously about Israel a few years ago served at the same time as a spokesperson for a UN office, and was close friends with a few reporters I know. And so forth.
He goes on to give example after example about how his employer, AP, ignored pro-Israeli stories and continued to trumpet the anti-Israeli line. And Hamas understands this dynamic and manipulates the media to continue to gain positive coverage.
During my time at the AP, we helped Hamas get this point across with a school of reporting that might be classified as “Surprising Signs of Moderation” (a direct precursor to the “Muslim Brotherhood Is Actually Liberal” school that enjoyed a brief vogue in Egypt). In one of my favorite stories, “More Tolerant Hamas” (December 11, 2011), reporters quoted a Hamas spokesman informing readers that the movement’s policy was that “we are not going to dictate anything to anyone,” and another Hamas leader saying the movement had “learned it needs to be more tolerant of others.” Around the same time, I was informed by the bureau’s senior editors that our Palestinian reporter in Gaza couldn’t possibly provide critical coverage of Hamas because doing so would put him in danger....

In Gaza, this goes from being a curious detail of press psychology to a major deficiency. Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. One of the reasons it works is because of the reflex I mentioned. If you report that Hamas has a strategy based on co-opting the media, this raises several difficult questions, like, What exactly is the relationship between the media and Hamas? And has this relationship corrupted the media? It is easier just to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them.

In previous rounds of Gaza fighting, Hamas learned that international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs, a lesson it would implement in this summer’s war. Most of the press work in Gaza is done by local fixers, translators, and reporters, people who would understandably not dare cross Hamas, making it only rarely necessary for the group to threaten a Westerner. The organization’s armed forces could be made to disappear. The press could be trusted to play its role in the Hamas script, instead of reporting that there was such a script. Hamas strategy did not exist, according to Hamas—or, as reporters would say, was “not the story.” There was no Hamas charter blaming Jews for centuries of perfidy, or calling for their murder; this was not the story. The rockets falling on Israeli cities were quite harmless; they were not the story either....

When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)

Colford, the AP spokesman, confirmed that armed militants entered the AP’s Gaza office in the early days of the war to complain about a photo showing the location of a rocket launch, though he said that Hamas claimed that the men “did not represent the group.” The AP “does not report many interactions with militias, armies, thugs or governments,” he wrote. “These incidents are part of the challenge of getting out the news—and not themselves news.”

This summer, with Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds falling back before the forces of radical Islam not far away from here, this ideology’s local franchise launched its latest war against the last thriving minority in the Middle East. The Western press corps showed up en masse to cover it. This conflict included rocket barrages across Israel and was deliberately fought from behind Palestinian civilians, many of whom died as a result. Dulled by years of the “Israel story” and inured to its routine omissions, confused about the role they are meant to play, and co-opted by Hamas, reporters described this war as an Israeli onslaught against innocent people. By doing so, this group of intelligent and generally well-meaning professionals ceased to be reliable observers and became instead an amplifier for the propaganda of one of the most intolerant and aggressive forces on earth. And that, as they say, is the story.

James Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA, has to sell his Nobel Prize. He's become a nonperson after some stupid racist comments he made. Of course, he doesn't seem to have made good investments of all the money he has earned over his lifetime. A man his age shouldn't be down to his last Nobel Prize.