Monday, December 22, 2014

Cruising the Web

charlie Cook has produced "40 interesting facts about the 2014 election." Here are some examples:
- Democrats now have the lowest number of U.S. House seats they have held in 86 years, or since 1928.

- Democrats are tied for the lowest number of U.S. Senate seats they have held in 86 years, or since 1928.

- Democrats now hold fewer state legislative seats than they have in 86 years, or since 1928.

17. After the 2006 election, there were 57 Democrats who sat in districts carried by George W. Bush. After the 2014 election, there are just 5 Democrats who sit in a district carried by Mitt Romney.

18. Not since Harry Truman has one party lost as many U.S. House seats in mid-term elections as have Democrats in 2010 and 2014. During Truman’s two mid-term elections, Democrats lost 83 seats. Under Obama, Democrats have lost 76 House seats.

19. There are no longer any Democrats in the U.S. House who represent rural Appalachia nor are there any white Democrats from the Deep South.

32. And because we can’t help ourselves from looking ahead … Democrats would need to pick up 30 Republican-held House seats to take back the chamber in 2016, but only 16 of 247 House Republicans won their elections by less than 10% in 2014. By contrast, in 2010, 42 of 242 House Republicans won by less than 10%.

Jeannie Suk, a professor at Harvard Law School, describes how difficult it is these days to treat laws concerning rape to the tender flowers studying at Harvard Law.
Imagine a medical student who is training to be a surgeon but who fears that he’ll become distressed if he sees or handles blood. What should his instructors do? Criminal-law teachers face a similar question with law students who are afraid to study rape law....

Hard-fought feminist reforms attacked the sexism in rape law, and eventually the topic became a major part of most law schools’ mandatory criminal-law course. Today, nobody doubts its importance to law and society.

But my experience at Harvard over the past couple of years tells me that the environment for teaching rape law and other subjects involving gender and violence is changing. Students seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor. Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.
In this sort of environment, is it any wonder that students had to request postponements of their final exams because they were so worked up over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. I rather suspect that the murder of the two NYPD policemen by a murderer citing the deaths of Garner and Brown won't upset those students as much.

Along the same lines, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a French writer talks about how the liberal bias in academia is ruining the teaching of social sciences.
I have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don't want to be there, or they're just not smart enough to cut it. I say: "That's interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that's true?" An uncomfortable silence follows.
Slash. That's quite a marvelous response to such idiocy. He then goes on to describe the confirmation bias underlying so much social science research, particularly in studies purporting to show how intellectually superior liberals are to conservatives. A recent study by Jonathan Haidt exposes how such studies skew their results.
For example, a study that sought to show that conservatives reach their beliefs only through denying reality achieved that result by describing ideological liberal beliefs as "reality," surveying people on whether they agreed with them, and then concluding that those who disagree with them are in denial of reality — and lo, people in that group are much more likely to be conservative! This has nothing to do with science, and yet in a field with such groupthink, it can get published in peer-reviewed journals and passed off as "science," complete with a Vox stenographic exercise at the end of the rainbow. A field where this is possible is in dire straits indeed....

The authors also drop this bombshell: In one survey they conducted of academic social psychologists, "82 percent admitted that they would be at least a little bit prejudiced against a conservative [job] candidate." Eighty-two percent! It's often said discrimination works through unconscious bias, but here 82 percent even have conscious bias.

Some movie critics think that Sony's "The Interview" was just representative a "white male, Western-centric view." In fact, they can't imagine how we would react if North Korea had produced a movie about assassinating an American president. Funny how they can't remember a 2006 film about assassinating George W. Bush and it won the top award at a Toronto film festival. Did these same critics think that "Taxi Driver" should have been pulled from all distribution since it inspired the assassination attempt against President Reagan?

CNN looks at a list of other things that annoy North Korea such as Christmas trees, soap operas, South Korean pop music, cropped photos, balloons, the Bible,

The WSJ recommends how to respond to North Korea's cyberterrorism by reversing one of the worst mistakes of the Bush administration.

One of the reasons that movie theater chains said they wouldn't air "The Interview" is because of their fear of the legal liability they would suffer if there was any violence at their theaters after those public threats. Sonny Bunch is astounded at what this says about our tort law.
This is also totally and completely bonkers.

Think about this for a second. What we are saying—nay, what we have accepted, as a society—is a situation in which a totally blameless third party would be held responsible for the evil committed by an irresponsible actor. Sony and the theater chains are being punished for the mere potential of a terror attack against them.

I joked with a friend that tort reform immediately became my number one concern for 2016. He pointed out, rightly, that this is a much larger issue. Tort reform? That’s just futzing around at the edges. Our problem runs much, much deeper than concerns over insurance costs for doctors. Our true problem is that, again, we have accepted, as a society, that it’s okay to sue a party for the bad behavior of a second party even if the first party has no role whatsoever in the malfeasance.

That’s the saddest part of all this. Yes, Sony and the theater chains have acted cowardly and without honor throughout this ordeal. But it’s not their fault. It’s ours. We made this world. They’re just living with the rules we adopted.

Jonah Goldberg remembers how other nations have responded to terrorist threats on their cultures.
When Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a call for Salman Rushdie’s assassination, the British government spent millions protecting Rushdie.

During the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein was raining scud missiles on Israel, the Israelis refused to bend, even though they reasonably feared that the missiles were tipped with nerve gas. A long-planned symphony concert went ahead as scheduled. The only accommodation they made to the assault: Everyone in the audience wore gas masks. (ABC News cast this heroic defiance in anti-Semitic terms, reporting that the concert-goers were determined to get their money’s worth.)

Those were credible threats, and democratic leaders stood firm.

In America, when faced with less-credible threats, we flew the white flag.

Vermont decided it can't afford its government-financed single-payer health system. John Fund wonders if "As Vermont goes..." perhaps so goes the rest of the nation.

Charles C. W. Cooke satirically wonders what there is that liberals like to celebrate about the Castros' Cuba other than they like that Cuba opposed the U.S.
The Cuban government is to be praised for its brave stand against untrammeled freedom of speech and bourgeois cultural selfishness; for its steadfast resistance to the dangerous, outdated notion that citizens have a right to self-defense; for its refusal to permit abstract notions such as “the rule of law” and “human dignity” to get in the way of altruistic goals such as universal child care and free dental care; and for the scorn that it has poured upon the cheap, inauthentic baubles of unchecked American capitalism (McDonalds, Starbucks, SUVs, purified water, etc.).

Matthew Continetti reminds us of all the tyrants that President Obama has bailed out.
In this president the thugs in Havana and Caracas, Damascus and Tehran, Moscow and Naypyidaw and Beijing have no better friend. For these bullies, these evildoers, these millenarians and sectarians, Barack Obama is more than a dupe. He is an insurance policy.

Cuba is but the latest example of this president’s failing to exercise leverage in the pursuit of American strength and security and prestige. Here are the Castro brothers, decrepit and spent, their revolution a joke, their economy in peril thanks to the collapse in oil prices brought on by a strong dollar and increased U.S. supply.

The China option—foreign direct investment from America—is Raul and Fidel’s only play to sustain power over the society they have impoverished. And Obama says yes, yes to everything: an embassy, an ambassador, diplomatic relations, travel and exchange, status among nations, removal from the list of state sponsors of terror, and a serious opportunity to lessen the embargo that has kept the dictators caged for decades.

In return, the Castro brothers give up … well, what? Alan Gross, a political prisoner and persecuted religious minority who shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place? A second man who has been in captivity for decades? Thin gruel.

No promise of elections, no declaration of religious freedom, no demilitarization, no opening up of Cuban prisons to international inspection. Not even a pledge that salaries from U.S. companies operating in Cuba at indentured-servitude rates—the minimum wage is $19 a month—will be paid directly to employees rather than passed through the bloated, corrupt, suffocating state.

This isn’t giving away the store. This is giving away the shopping mall, town center, enterprise zone. And it is entirely in character with President Obama’s foreign policy.
Meanwhile, Raul Castro has worked fast to remove any fig leaf that President Obama might have had about why his actions on Cuba are going to change anything there.
Cuban President Raul Castro sent a blunt message to Washington Saturday as the White House works to reverse a half-century of hostility between the U.S. and Cuba: Don't expect detente to do away with the communist system.

Castro's speech to Cuba's National Assembly was a sharp counterpoint to the message U.S. President Barack Obama gave in his year-end news conference the day before. Obama reiterated that by engaging directly with the Cuban people, Americans are more likely to encourage reform in Cuba's one-party system and centrally planned economy.

"We must not expect that in order for relations with the United States to improve, Cuba will abandon the ideas that it has struggled for," Castro said.
IBD reminds us of how strong a position we had been in relation to Cuba and how Obama gave away all that leverage he might have had and how Obama didn't get anything of note in return.
Obama held a handful of strong cards — including the plunging price of oil and the weakening of potential Cuban patrons from China to Russia to Iran — but instead played the deuce, offering concessions to Castro without getting so much as a pledge of democracy.
Given the numbers of Cuban refugees we accept from that brutal regime, that was something very much in the U.S. interest. So were the following:

• An end to Cuban permission for Russian jets buzzing the Gulf of Mexico, a new development as Vladimir Putin flexes his muscles to reduce U.S. influence.

• An end to arms trafficking with North Korea and a clear accounting for the 2013 incident at the Panama Canal, where North Korea was caught with a tankerful of weapons from Cuba.

• An end to Cuba's money-laundering for terrorists, mafias and cartels.

• An end to Cuban meddling in Venezuela.

• A return of fugitives from U.S. justice, such as Black Liberation Army terrorist leader Joanne Chesimard, who murdered a New Jersey police officer and then escaped prison in 1979 to a Cuban asylum.

• An agreement on environmental safeguards as Castro's partners drill the Gulf of Mexico without any.

Would any of this been too much to ask? Because the time to ask was before granting the Castroites the legitimacy of diplomatic relations, not after. Not having asked, America's hand is weaker than ever, and the aces are gone.

Peter Kirsanow has been reading the Obamas' interview with People Magazine where they talk about how they have occasionally been mistaken for people of lower status. Kirsanow notes the claims that they didn't make.
Neither claimed that they were compelled to go to segregated, substandard schools. All evidence is that they each went to decent schools.

Neither claimed that they were compelled to live in segregated areas or substandard housing. In fact, rumor has it they live in pretty decent housing right now.

Neither cited being barred from colleges or law schools on the basis of race. Indeed, given the ubiquity of affirmative-action programs, it’s highly probable that they received racially preferential treatment from such schools.

Neither claimed they were denied jobs due to race. Again, the fact that most major institutions practice affirmative action renders it probable that they were just as, if not more, likely to get jobs than similarly situated white comparatives.

Neither claimed they were denied the ability to vote or participate in the political process. The president has even joked about voting more than once in his hometown of Chicago.

Neither claimed that they were turned away from a restaurant, place of lodging, or had to eat in a segregated area.

Neither claimed they were denied a raise, promotion, transfer or were otherwise treated differently during their employment history on the basis of race.

Neither claimed a publisher refused to publish any of their work or relegated such work to a publishing racial ghetto.

The examples could go on almost interminably, including more subtle ones. Let’s stipulate that, of course, racism and discrimination exist, and that in a nation of 310 million, some instances are egregious. Nonetheless, the Obamas could at least have the grace to stipulate that the fact they have to cite getting mistaken for a valet and being asked to help get something off a shelf (even if such acts are somehow indicative of latent racism) shows the country has made impressive progress over the last 50 years.