Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cruising the Web

The administration spent yesterday trying the square the circle of President Obama's remarks about people being shot up who randomly happened to be in a deli in Paris. They went through some grammatical contortions to try to redefine the meaning of "random." John Podhoretz explains how odious this is.
At Tuesday’s press briefing, White House mouthpiece Josh Earnest said something disgusting — I don’t know how else to describe it — about the massacre at the Hyper Casher kosher supermarket in Paris one month ago.

“The individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident,” Earnest droned, “were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happened to be.”

Take it from someone who keeps kosher: Nobody “randomly” happens to be in a kosher supermarket, not even in Manhattan.

But you didn’t need to take it from someone who keeps kosher, did you? You already know that the clientele of a kosher supermarket is almost entirely made up of Jews. You know this because you’re not an idiot.

Yes, if you want to find Jews, a kosher supermarket is the place to be on a Friday morning, as people are preparing for the Sabbath.

Since Earnest is the press secretary of the most important person in the world, I assume he isn’t an illiterate dope. Which means he knows this too.

So what he did was speak a vile lie, and a deeply dishonorable one.

It’s dishonorable because his remarks suggest these murders were meaningless acts of nihilism, when they in fact were terrifyingly meaningful acts of anti-Semitic murder on European soil 70 years after the Holocaust — acts that are causing many if not most of the 600,000 Jews in France to think seriously about emigrating.
Jen Psaki, the vapid State Department spokeswoman even claimed that not all the victims were Jewish. Then Earnest and Psaki spent the day trying to twist what they'd said and what the President had said to not mean what they'd actually said. The question is why Obama had been so unwilling to characterize the attacks as anti-Semitic even though he'd said so right after the event. I guess he thinks that terming the murders as anti-Semitic might make people notice who the perpetrators of the murders were - Islamic jihadis. And Obama is too caught up with his concern that we don't stigmatize Muslims by acknowledging that some Muslims want to kill a whole bunch of non-Muslims as well as those they don't consider sufficiently Muslim to correctly define whom it is we're fighting and why.

Roger Simon writes on the same topic.
Thought experiment: What if a white racist with a submachine gun broke into a convenience store in South Central Los Angeles, grabbed seven or eight African Americans who were shopping (maybe there was one Korean) as hostages for the release of some other white racists and then, when attacked, started spewing the N-word while shooting up the place, killing three or four of the African Americans and wounding three or four others, one or two critically.

How would President Obama react?

Do you think he would say there was something racial about the obscene incident? Damn right he would — and he should. In fact, he would do it forcefully and immediately. After all, when Trayvon Martin died in far more ambiguous circumstances, he was quick to jump in, identifying with the 17 year old who would resemble, Obama said, his own son if he had one.
That's quite a bit different from how Obama described the victims of Ahmedy Coulibaly. Read Josh Earnest's and Jen Psaki'ssilly explanations yesterday trying to explain how going into a Kosher supermarket on a Friday full of Jews shopping for the Sabbath was still just a random shooting. Simon concludes,
Now I live in an era when Barack Obama and so many others are trying to remind me and everyone post-Ferguson that #blacklivesmatter. Well, they do and they always did, for me and a lot of other people. But somehow our president, regarding Iran, Israel and the events in Paris, seems to have forgotten its obvious corollary: #Jewishlivesmatter. Until he gets that straight, I’ll be on the side of black people, but not for a second on his.

James Taranto explains the dangers behind Obama's moral ambivalence.
But he and his administration stubbornly adhere to a policy of refusing to identify the ideology behind all the terrorism. The new National Security Strategy uses the phrase “violent extremism” nine times but never answers the question: Extreme what?

The document does answer the question, if only implicitly: “We reject the lie that America and its allies are at war with Islam.” In his statement on Kayla Mueller’s murder, Secretary of State John Kerry also alludes to Islam, though without mentioning it by name: “our resolve is unshaken to defeat this vile and unspeakably ugly insult to the civilized world and to defeat terrorists whose actions—killing women, killing children, burning people alive—are an insult to the religion they falsely claim to represent.”

We’d certainly agree that the Islamic State does not represent the whole of Islam or anything close to it. But the administration adamantly refuses to acknowledge even that it represents an extremist fringe of Islam. In this regard, the sentence in the National Security Strategy that immediately precedes “We reject the lie . . .” is especially revealing: “In all our efforts, we aim to draw a stark contrast”—there’s that phrase again!—“between what we stand for and the heinous deeds of terrorists.”

That’s a peculiar contrast, between our ideas and the enemy’s actions. What does the enemy stand for? Again, to work in this administration is to be forbidden from answering—perhaps even from thinking about—the question. Last week, after word came of the Islamic State’s murder of a Jordanian pilot, the president declared: “It also just indicates the degree to which, whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt.”

“War on terror” was an imperfect formulation, but sure beats “war on whatever.”

So does Hillary think she can run for president simply via Twitter and paid speeches in front of limited audiences? Andrew Stiles wonders, "Where's Hillary?"
Where in the world is Hillary Clinton? Over the past several weeks, she has been behaving like a reclusive third-world dictator. She’s trying to conduct a presidential campaign exclusively via Twitter. Her only public appearance this year has been in Canada, at a forum hosted by a banking giant accused of helping Enron defraud investors. Will she even bother to formerly announce her run for the White House? Or will she keep giving paid speeches until October 2016 before mounting a last-minute write-in campaign, in order to minimize the amount of time she has to spend associating with filthy commoners?

We're already starting to see cracks in the whole Hillaryland inevitability campaign.
So then: can Hillary pull off glamour for the long haul? Consider Postrel’s three elements: mystery, ease, and the promise of a better future.

First, there’s mystery. You can see her team already struggling with this, openly debating when she should get into the race and if she should even bother putting herself out there for debates against D-list contenders for the Democratic nomination. She’s tried hard to avoid weighing in on controversies. Clearly, she’d like to use mystery to her advantage. A look at her favorability ratings in polls over the decades shows that the more she’s visible in the political fight, the lower her numbers go.

Once Hillary announces, she won’t have that luxury. The Elizabeth Warren wing of her party will demand that she detail an economic agenda they can get behind; the Republicans will have warehouses of opposition research about her past statements at their disposal to weaponize in campaign ads. She may try to preserve mystery, but it is unlikely she will succeed.

Then, there’s the element of ease. It’s never been said that Hillary makes campaigning look easy. I don’t just mean her personal style, though the hard-to-watch book tour of last summer is a perfect example of her shortcomings there.

Unlike “No Drama Obama,” Clintonworld has always been known for infighting, back-biting, and commotion. Of course, Hillary has been snapping up talented former Obama staff and consultants, and her camp has been telling reporters this time will be different. But has Old Clintonworld truly been quietly, peacefully sidelined?

As Monday’s David Brock drama illustrated, every prominent Democratic consultant gets a plum seat at the table in a Hillary campaign, the odds that they will all agree (and play nice together) must be next to zero. A candidate never wants their campaign team to be the story, but too many cooks in the kitchen will likely whip up plenty of fodder for drama-hungry reporters.

On both mystery and ease, Hillary will have a challenge. But the area where the race will truly be won and lost is the final piece: the promise of escape to aspirational future. (This is the element of glamour that makes sleek auto advertisements compel us to look up the prices on luxury cars, because we badly want to be zipping down that coastal highway, too.) So what, exactly, is Hillary Clinton selling? Can someone who has been at the center of American politics since before “pogs” were popular credibly offer to provide an “escape,” a turning of the page to a bright new future?
What are the chances that all these Democratic operatives who come to her from different backgrounds as either Obama or Clinton workers are all going to be able to work together in peace and harmony without any leaks or complaints to the press?

Chris Stirewalt discusses Hillary's campaign problems.
The problem, of course, is the amount of money involved. While Hillary will not there today, her husband and daughter will be backscratching with leaders from big business and big labor in New York. And while the hundreds of millions of dollars the Clintons have raised for their foundation isn’t campaign cash, it’s all part of an empire built around the celebrity and potential return to power of the former first couple. And as the campaign prepares to file paperwork and the PACs prepare to start making larger payouts, the fight for control is evidently intensifying. Brock’s allegations read like he believes the many members of Team Obama and rival Clintonites were looking to elbow him out with allegations of impropriety right before the starting pistol fired. So ask yourself this: Do you expect these problems to get better or worse as time goes on? And here we see one of the major dangers to Clinton being without a real rival for her party’s nomination. If there is no common threat, the animosity will be directed inward.

Jason Riley wonders if the left will ever forgive Daniel Patrick Moynihan for being right when he warned 50 years ago about the crumbling black family.
History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.

For decades research has shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school and many other social problems grew dramatically when fathers were absent. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on juvenile delinquency—by William Comanor and Llad Phillips of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2002—concluded that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”

Ultimately, the Moynihan report was an attempt to have an honest conversation about family breakdown and black pathology, one that most liberals still refuse to join. Faulting ghetto culture for ghetto outcomes remains largely taboo among those who have turned bad behavior into a symbol of racial authenticity. Moynihan noted that his goal was to better define a problem that many thought—mistakenly, in his view—was no big deal and would solve itself in the wake of civil-rights gains. The author’s skepticism was warranted.
As Riley notes, this is also the 50-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act which has been a remarkable success with black voter-registration in the South exceeding their registration in other parts of the country and the black voter-turnout rate in 2012 exceeded white voter-turnout.
But even as we note this progress, the political gains have not redounded to the black underclass, which by several important measures—including income, academic achievement and employment—has stagnated or lost ground over the past half-century. And while the civil-rights establishment and black political leaders continue to deny it, family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism.

In 2012 the poverty rate for all blacks was more than 28%, but for married black couples it was 8.4% and has been in the single digits for two decades. Just 8% of children raised by married couples live in poverty, compared with 40% of children raised by single mothers.

One important lesson of the past half-century is that counterproductive cultural traits can hurt a group more than political clout can help it. Moynihan was right about that, too.
But this is one of those taboo subjects that few politicians, especially white ones, can discuss with impunity. President Obama, to his credit, has occasionally addressed the subject, but has not really used his bully pulpit as full-throatedly as he might have to try to address these disturbing social trends.

Michelle Malkin reminds us of Michelle Obama's hypocrisy in her current campaign against processed foods.
Before she was wielding the power of public office to dictate school lunches and castigate junk-meal makers, Mrs. Obama profited from the very same processed-food industry she now demonizes. What none of the fan-girling mainstream journalists who’ve covered her Let’s Move anniversary campaign have bothered to mention in their glowing profiles is that “cheese dust” was gold dust for the Obamas.

The first lady may not think it’s food now, but powdered edibles provided hefty financial sustenance for her family 10 years ago. It’s just one of the many tasty perks of political influence Mrs. Barack Obama has enjoyed in her adult lifetime.

Let’s move? How about let’s remember, shall we? In June 2005, a few months after her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Obama snagged a seat on the corporate board of directors of TreeHouse Foods Inc. Currying favor, the food-processing company put her on its audit and nominating and corporate governance committees despite her complete lack of experience or expertise. For her on-the-job training and the privilege of putting her name and face on their literature, the company forked over $45,000 in 2005 and $51,200 in 2006 to Mrs. Obama — as well as 7,500 TreeHouse stock options, worth more than $72,000 for each year.

Mrs. Obama raked in that easy money thanks to the worldwide conglomerate’s popular product line of powdered non-dairy creamers and sweeteners, hot and cold cereals, evil macaroni and cheese, skillet dinners, powdered gravy and sauce mixes, powdered drink mixes, powdered soup, and puddings.

She certainly didn’t look down her nose at milk dust, cheese dust, juice dust, oatmeal dust, or broth dust when it came mixed with a healthy paycheck.

I wouldn’t begrudge Mrs. Obama’s enterprises, except for the fact that she’s using taxpayer money and public office to shove her highbrow tastes and control-freak ideology down our throats. More offensive: Constant posturing from the White House about the need for jobs, while Mrs. Obama now sneers at the food-processing industry that put money in her designer pocket. Kraft Foods alone employs 103,000 people, with manufacturing and processing facilities worldwide, and reported annual net revenues topping $40 billion.

Molie Hemingway writes that the sins of which Brian Williams is accused are just everyday jobs for much of the political media.
Williams lied. I’m not defending him. But in a world of serial exaggerators and distortion artists, he’s the least of mainstream media’s problems.

Exaggeration and distortion is de rigueur for many political journalists....

ut there’s another kind of exaggeration that is indefensible. Take the story of a low-level staffer of a back-bench Member of Congress sharing some mildly critical remarks about the First Family’s comport. The Washington Post ran more than a dozen stories on the matter. One of them was a story digging up dirt from the staffer’s high school years, written by “foreign affairs” reporter Terrence McCoy. Other media outlets camped outside of her parents home.

Exaggeration is what the media do with every story, whether it’s Ebola, invented vaccination battles, climate change, and any slight mis-step any right-of-center politician ever has the misfortune of even thinking of uttering. It’s what the past few years of War on Women hysteria have been, from the complete and utter freakout over the Komen Foundation trying to extract itself from funding Planned Parenthood, which performs more than 300,000 abortions a year, to the Sandra Fluke saga.

There’s a flip side to the exaggeration, which is distorted downplaying. This is what the media do when they suppress stories that make them look bad, whether it’s Kermit Gosnell’s abortion and infanticide clinic, Jonathan Gruber’s comments on Obamacare, the IRS’s admitted — admitted! — targeting of conservative groups, or Bill Clinton’s close ties to a pedophile.

Sometimes they do a little bit of both — distorting and exaggerating the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, while failing to cover many other local crimes involving police overreach. They cover violent Occupy Wall Street protests with due deference while claiming that the massive and peaceful Tea Party movement was on the verge of unbridled violence.

Brian Williams has a lying problem, granted, but the media’s problem with truth telling is much more harmful.

Sean Trende analyzes whether there is actually a built-in Republican advantage in elections. There's some very good advice there, although several potential candidates are at risk of not following it.

The National Journal remembers past failed campaigns and has some advice about "How Not to Run for President."