Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cruising the Web

Matt Schiavenza of The Atlantic ponders why the world hasn't paid as much attention to the mass slaughters in Nigeria by Boko Haram. The stories coming out of there are even more terrible than the murders in Paris. The newest technique of using children as (probably) unwitting suicide bombers is just horrific. Thousands have been murdered or enslaved. Sure Boko Haram had its moment last summer in the news with the administration's attempt at hashtag journalism, but nothing like the wall-to-wall coverage of what happened last week in Paris. Here is Schiavenza's explanation:
The main difference between France and Nigeria isn't that the public and the media care about one and not the other. It is, rather, that one country has an effective government and the other does not. The French may not be too fond of President Francois Hollande—his approval ratings last November had plunged to 12 percent—but he responded to his country's twin terror attacks with decisiveness. Not so Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan. Since assuming the presidency in 2010, Jonathan has done little to contain Boko Haram. The group emerged in 2002 and has consolidated control over an area larger than West Virginia. And it's gaining ground. Perversely, the seemingly routine nature of Nigeria's violence may have diminished the perception of its newsworthiness.

Jonathan's failure to confront Boko Haram, of course, is nothing new. Nigeria has long been cursed with a corrupt, ineffective government, one perennially unable to translate the country's vast oil wealth into broad-based prosperity. During his campaign for re-election—Nigerians go to the polls on February 14—Jonathan has vowed to tackle his country's problem with graft. At a campaign rally on Thursday, the president exhorted his followers to support him.

"You must vote for your liberation, you must vote for your development, you must vote to take Nigeria to the moon," he said.

"You cannot vote to take Nigeria backward."

Boko Haram wasn't mentioned once.

I guess Josh Earnest gets some small kudos for admitting that the White House made a mistake in not sending someone with a higher profile to Paris on Sunday. But sending Kerry a week later doesn't have the same oomph as would have a picture of Obama with arms linked with the other world leaders. And having the news leaked that Obama was watching the football playoffs on Sunday afternoon instead won't help. The Daily Mail reports that even though the White House hasn't confirmed it. But of course that is what he was doing. Did anyone have any doubt? I think the administration is focused more on domestic politics leading up to his State of the Union and just didn't want the distraction of having those stories of his daily speeches touting his agenda overshadowed by his appearing in an anti-terrorism march. But is anyone really paying any attention to the speeches he's been making leading up to the SOTU? If people are paying attention to current events, the stories on terrorism are drowning out anything else.

Byron York explains why "Obama's Paris snub wasn't an oversight." It was just part of his general approach to terrorism throughout his presidency. The WSJ writes on the same theme.
A fair conclusion is that the White House didn’t think it mattered. This fits Mr. Obama’s generally dismissive attitude toward Europe. He was happy to use the symbolism of a speech before tens of thousands of adoring Berliners in 2008 to burnish his theme of restoring America’s image in the world. But as President he has treated foreign policy like a distraction from his work of, well, going to Tennessee to pitch “free” college. America’s image has worsened.

The other signal sent by his French omission is this Administration’s continuing failure to appreciate the nature and scope of the Islamist threat. The murders at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher deli were attacks on innocents and our ally France. But they also represent a political ideology that threatens Western freedom and civilization. The ostensible leader of the free world should want to show solidarity against such a profound menace that will require Western unity to defeat.

On Monday a reporter asked Mr. Earnest about a counterterrorism summit the White House is convening next month in the context of “the battle against Islamist extremism.” Mr. Earnest corrected that the conference would discuss “all forms of violent extremism,” the White House’s preferred euphemism. Like Mr. Obama’s Paris no-show, this reveals a startling and dangerous failure to be honest about radical Islam.

And the administration excuse of having worried about security concerns for Obama in such a gathering was quickly rebutted by the Secret Service which said that it had never been asked about or notified of a possible trip to Paris. I guess they didn't appreciate being the excuse for the White House's mistake.

The Washington Post even published a list of the administration apologizing just in case you thought they never did express their regrets.

And having ISIS or some other group hack CENTCOM's Twitter and YouTube accounts at the exact moment when Obama was giving a speech on cybersecurity doesn't help. Though it's not clear whether the hackers were indeed from ISIS since that isn't the name by which they refer to themselves. It's still an embarrassment for both CENTCOM, Twitter, and YouTube.

The newest trend in politics - targeting 16-year olds.
Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans are desperate for any edge at the polls, and they say they’ll be employing 21st-century data mining techniques in search of supporters from this ripe demographic that has little or no track record in politics. That means scouring local high school directories from Iowa to Florida, matching up data from public voter rolls with parents’ voting histories, and picking through whatever scant bits of consumer information are also available to help paint a sharper picture of the electorate....

But campaigns aren’t just waiting for teenagers to contact them directly. They can buy the public voter rolls in at least 11 states — Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia — that contain data on people younger than 18 who have pre-registered to vote for the next election. The amount of information on each voter varies by state but typically includes a full name, address, date of birth and, when available, party affiliation.

Political campaigns take that public information and start creating dossiers on future voters, folding in census information, their parents’ voting histories, club memberships and whatever additional consumer data is available on 16- and 17-year-olds. While teenagers rarely have their own credit cards or grocery store loyalty cards not tied with their parents, there is still plenty of unregulated information available for a campaign to harvest, from college survey preferences to insights supplied on social media on everything from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter.
I'm not sure how much value there is to targeting teenagers. If it's hard to get 18-year-olds out to vote, it's going to be even harder to get younger kids to pay attention. I teach bright kids who are predisposed to be interested a bit in politics since they're in an AP Government and Politics class, but most of the kids are totally oblivious to current events. If they do know what's going on, it's mostly because they saw it on a comedy show. But why should political parties be any different from credit card or sneakers companies in trying to lock young people in. And it's not just the DNC going after teenagers.
The Republican National Committee senses an opportunity. The next generation of first-time voters were still in grade school when Obama won his first term and have approached legal voting age during a time of deep economic uncertainty. Recognizing the rich vein of potential support, GOP data teams are creating comprehensive files on teenagers as part of a large scale effort to deduce the political DNA of some 200 million Americans.

“This and voter registration are priorities and what we’re already looking to get on voters,” said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. “Frankly, it’s a huge opportunity for us with the youth turning away from Obama and the Democrats the way we’ve seen lately.”

Paul strategists see young voters as viable targets thanks in part to the libertarian stances the Kentucky Republican has taken on National Security Agency surveillance and drug policy. It won’t be the first group he goes after if he runs for president — that would be people with proven track records voting in primaries. But it is an avenue the senator is ready to explore.

Philip Bump at the WP's The Fix notes that the Republicans discussed for 2016 are, on average, more than a decade younger than the Democrats being discussed. And quite a few of them are 20 or more years younger than Hillary.

There is a new rising conservative star...and he's 12-years-old. Despite his parents both being Democrats, this young man is a conservative. And the issue he's working on now is for Georgia to lower the age for serving in public office to 18.
Democratic backgrounds aside, it’s arguably the Pearsons’ family history that led CJ to the right. The son of a retired sergeant major, CJ remembers his political awakening taking place in 2008. He was in the second grade. John McCain’s story of military service and his prisoner-of-war days captivated him. Obviously, he took the opposite stance from what some would expect a young black boy to adopt. “I didn’t look at it as a race thing,” he said. “For me, it was more about who really cared about your country.” He stands his ground on the “not a race thing” mantra, including over Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri: “I was on Officer Wilson’s side.”

What else is on his platform? Plenty, including college debt and public school lunch programs (don’t feed ’em, just teach ’em how to eat better, he says). Though he doesn’t oppose gay marriage, he finds corporate tax rates “crippling” and “inexcusable.” And don’t even get him started on the $18 trillion in federal debt, which, he reminds his audience, increases by 100 grand in the time it took to read this sentence.

This is an interesting, yet unsurprising poll result. When asked whether the media should or should not publish satires of religion, the plurality of Democrats say the media should not, and 50% of Republicans say the media should. I think it's unsurprising since it is liberals who are more concerned about offending Muslims by satirizing Islam. Of course, ridiculing Christians or Mormons doesn't bother them.

As Allahpundit remarks about that poll result, "[r]emember this the next time you stumble across a lefty thinkpiece on how Christian theocrats run the GOP." He also notes that the real divide is along gender and racial lines. Women and blacks are more likely to think that Charlie Hebdo acted irresponsibly by publishing cartoons satirizing Islam. The gender and racial differences probably explain the partisan differences.

The President's spokesman wouldn't say ifthere is an absolute right to freedom of expression when it comes to satire. .
Monday during the White House press briefing, in defending his predecessor Jay Carney for questioning in the judgment of Charlie Hebdo publishing anti-Islamic cartoons in 2012, White House press secretary Josh Earnest refused to say there is an absolute right to freedom of expression when it comes to satirical mockery.

After Earnest said the safety of individuals needs to be considered, CBS’s Major Garrett asked, “Taking steps to protect American service personnel is different than raising questions about the judgment of satirical expression, be it to mock Islam or Christianity or Judaism or any thing else. Where do you draw the line? Do you not have absolute support for the satirical mockery of any institution on this planet?”

Earnest said “There is nothing that the individuals at that satirical magazine did that justified in any way the kind of violence we saw in Paris last week. No. That is the most important principle that is at stake here. At the same time, it would not be the first time their [sic] was a discussion in this country about the responsibilities that go along with exercising the right to freedom of speech.”
I guess that an administration that blamed Benghazi on a video that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went to great pains to criticize for its depiction of Islam doesn't want to suddenly say that it's okay to mock that religion. I just wish he had a better understanding of the First Amendment and its history

Jonah Goldberg explains why the jihadists are winning as he discusses the choices before journalists on whether to run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
This isn’t simply a meaty topic for a journalism school seminar, it’s symbolic of the bind that we are in. Radicals always try to force crises because in a crisis, everyone must choose sides. Vladimir Lenin understood this when he followed a strategy of “the worse, the better.” No one benefits more from blanket anti-Muslim sentiment more than jihadists, because such attitudes push moderate Muslims into their arms.
But that doesn’t justify the use of weasel words from Western politicians such as Barack Obama, John Kerry and Howard Dean, who insist that Islamist terrorists aren’t Islamic, that we are merely at war with unspecified “extremists.” Well-intentioned as such statements may be, they are lies. Moreover, they are the kind of lies that breed suspicion: suspicion that our leaders don’t understand the nature of the threat, and suspicion that they are afraid of speaking the truth. These lies also invite others to believe the opposite is true, or to at least test the proposition. That in turn radicalizes yet more Muslims.
It is right and good to say we are not at war with Islam, but it is dishonest to claim that there are no Muslims waging war against us. Falling back on sanitized euphemisms is the rhetorical equivalent of pixelating Muhammed; it fools no one, save fools.
A free society cannot allow freedom to be held hostage to murderers. And that is why I favor running those images of Muhammad even if some of them offend me. Moderation, tolerance and respect are essential to a free society, but we are in a moment where moderation, tolerance and respect are too easily confused for appeasement. And that is why the jihadists are winning. They are forcing us into only bad options. The center is not holding.
- See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20150111/OPINION02/150119887#sthash.PDwzJCB5.dpuf

Do Americans want the sort of revolution that Elizabeth Warren is selling?
To hear her speak, you would think that ordinary Americans should be manning the barricades but as was demonstrated by the failure of the Occupy movement to really catch hold even after the financial crisis when the time was ripe, the truth is that most are actually too busy shopping at Walmart to bother.
The Left rails against globalisation and out-sourcing but the reality is that it has, on balance, delivered America’s middle class what it always wanted: cheap cars, colour TVs and mammoth fridges in which to store ever-expanding mountains of addictive, sugary food.
Bread and circuses this may be, and it is no doubt frustrating to Mrs Warren that America’s middle classes cannot seem to have their class-consciousness awakened, but those on the Left hoping to foment revolution are likely to be disappointed.

Here's the interesting history of the first Supreme Court case that was a victory for gay rights. It involved a 1950s magazine for homosexuals and whether the Post Office could ban the distribution of the magazine through the mail because they deemed it obscene.

Nate Cohn assesses whether Scott Walker might be the candidate best positioned to present an alternative to GOP voters to Jeb Bush. He can appeal to those on the right, but also to the so-called GOP establishment.

Michael Barone wonders if there is any candidate in either party who can come up with a platform that would win in the primaries and the general and provide an agenda for actually governing in the White House.

Boston should be hoping that they lose out on their bid to host the Olympics.

Obamacare is about to get more irritating to individuals as they try to fill out their tax returns.
The next round of irritation is almost here and will directly impact the people that the president's team is hoping to win over.

The law provides health insurance subsidies to more than 6 million taxpayers. In general, they are lower-income Americans who file the simplest tax returns — a 1040 EZ.

Now, however, that will not be an option. Instead, all who received subsidies must file a Form 8962, which requires five pages of IRS rules to explain. Among other things, it requires a full accounting including the cost of their premium, subsidy and tax credit. Not only that, the form is to be filled out for each and every month of the year.

This may not seem like a big deal to those who write the rules and are affluent enough to hire someone else to prepare their taxes. But it is unlikely that those receiving health care subsidies have accountants to handle such things.

Adding insult to injury, a substantial number of tax filers will go to all this trouble only to find out that their subsidies were too high and they owe the federal government more money. According to some estimates, more than 3 million people will learn they have to give back some of the subsidies they were counting on.

If this were the only irritating aspect of the healthcare law, it might be able to survive. But it comes on top of a long list of other irritations. Some were temporary, such as the initial failure of the healthcare.gov website. Some were major one-time events, such as the fact that many people with insurance were not allowed to keep their insurance or their doctor.

But some are ongoing. In recent months, it became clear that everybody who gets insurance through the exchanges will have to go back to the healthcare.gov website every year. Due to complexities in the formula for calculating subsidies, they will either have to select a new plan (meaning they might also have to switch doctors every year) or risk higher out-of-pocket costs.

Changing insurance and doctors every year is a major hassle, to say the least. It's important to note that these irritations are forced upon the very people that Obama is counting on to make his law popular.