Friday, November 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

I hope all my readers had a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family. Right before the break, my AP European Country was studying the Industrial Revolution and reading some of the descriptions of what it was like to work in a factory or mine in that era. Then we went from there to talking about the Irish Potato Famine. We decided that we had so very much to be thankful for to be living here in American in this age. In a way it was a very nice transition from the study of history to celebrating Thanksgiving. The more I study, the more I'm grateful for when and where I was born.

As Chicago braces for widespread protests, I've been reading more about the alleged murder of
17-year old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer. What a horrible story. I hadn't realized at first that this shooting happened over a year ago, but the city refused to make the very disturbing video public until forced to do so by a judge. I can understand why the authorities didn't want the video public, but one can't help wondering how much of the secrecy was related to the intervening mayoral election in which Mayor Rahm Emanuel was facing a very tough re-election. And it seems mighty convenient that the city paid out $5 million to the family before the city even bothered to charge the policeman in question. The Chicago Reporter reports on the efforts of a journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman to get the truth about the shooting out in the public. The city tried to cover up the whole story.
Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release. Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van Dyke unloaded his service weapon, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said. “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.” To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

In April, the Chicago Tribune revealed Van Dyke’s name and his history of civilian complaints—including several brutality complaints, one of which cost the city $500,000 in a civil lawsuit—none of which resulted in any disciplinary action. In May, Carol Marin reported that video from a security camera at a Burger King on the scene had apparently been deleted by police in the hours after the shooting. (Link via American Thinker)
Things really smell here when the timeline of the city's story and what was later found out to be true comes to light. Just imagine if this story had come out in the middle of Emanuel's reelection campaign and the city had erupted in rioting. John Kass of the Chicago Tribune calls Emanuel out for calling about accountability while sitting on the video.
McDonald was shot to death by Van Dyke on Oct. 20, 2014. And Emanuel rushed to settle the case even before a lawsuit was filed. City Hall shelled out $5 million of taxpayer money.

And then the Emanuel administration wasted a boatload of cash on legal fees and other legal work, trying for months and months to keep Chicago from seeing that video the mayor said he'd never seen.

Rahm sat on the video, and kept sitting on it, all the way through his re-election, as black ministers and other African-American political figures rallied to his side to get out the black vote and deny that vote to Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

If the video had come out during the election campaign, Rahm Emanuel would not be mayor today.

Rahm didn't demand that the video be shown, and neither did the Chicago City Council's Black Caucus. They voted for the $5 million settlement.
Maybe Chicago benefited from releasing the video right before Thanksgiving and I'm certainly not wishing rioting or any more racial tension on the city near where I grew up. But, as Robert Tracinski argues, blacks should really be protesting the decades of misrule in the city that has helped the wealthy and hurt the poor. Check out his graphic showing the growth of poor areas among wealthy enclaves in the city over the past 45 years while the middle class has left the city.
The people most likely to engage in fiery Bernie Sander rhetoric about “inequality” are most likely to create that inequality in the places where they rule. Like many big cities, Chicago manages to provide security, public transportation, and good schools to a few small enclaves of the upper middle class. Everyone else gets failing schools, cuts in the number of bus lines, and above all else poor policing. Chicago suffers from the classic big-city dysfunction that results when the police view themselves as alien from a hostile population: the callous and excessive use of force, yet without any actual benefit in the reduction of crime.

So if there are any people who have a right to be lividly angry at their city government, it’s the people of Chicago—even more so because they have voted lockstep for the Democrats for 50 years, and this is the thanks they get.

Ah, but there’s the rub. If the city is about to get the riots it deserves, the protesters have to admit they have gotten the city government they asked for.

It’s not just that they have voted for politicians from the Democratic Party. It’s that they have uncritically embraced that party’s ideology. As they have suffered under the yoke of a big, intrusive, corrupt, callous, and indifferent government, they have clamored for more of it....

Chicago has a long history of embracing lefty do-gooders and rabble-rousers who make a lot of noise about how much they care about the poor, but manage to drain billions in taxpayer dollars without making anything better. Yet the people remain in thrall to those political charlatans—they even sent one of them to the White House.

What they need is not just a blind rebellion against the police or against City Hall. What they need is a real rebellion against the paternalistic ideology that treats them as wards or subjects of government, even as it fails them continuously for 50 years.

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Travis Hall, a self-professed fan of Rush Limbaugh, calls Rush out for his hypocrisy on Donald Trump. He expresses a lot of what I feel when I see conservatives falling for Trump's shtick.
One of Limbaugh's biggest criticisms of President Obama has always been the vagueness in Obama's message; in his way of speaking until he can think of something to say; in the blank canvas that he offers us to project our hopes and dreams upon. And that, when he goes off-message, he often misspeaks. Explaining what Obama meant to say has become a cottage industry for websites like Vox and full-time gigs for a variety of nationally known journalists.

When has Trump ever offered anything of substance? His speeches are meandering streams of consciousness, and although he claims each to be unique, they are often the same litanies of vague promises. Trump will negotiate hard with China and Mexico. Trump will make the military so strong it will make your head spin. You'll get bored with winning so much. Chinese bankers live in his building, which proves he can bring jobs back from China. Trump thinks reporters are sleazy. Trump will hit you so hard. And, oh, by the way, have you seen the polls?

Limbaugh has been the voice for those who believe in smaller government for as long as he's been on the air. So it would stand to reason that challenging Trump on even his vague promises to vastly enlarge an already bloated government should give Limbaugh pause. Apparently, it doesn't. How many new government agencies will be necessary to round up 11 million illegal immigrants, send them back to Mexico and then let them back in? How many billions of dollars will it cost to make the military so great your head will spin? How many government workers will be required to build the Trump wall, complete with a beautiful Trump door?

Limbaugh has long lamented "low-information voters," who, he claims, are responsible for the rise of Obama. It's not his policies that win the day; it's the fact that he's cool and hip. His celebrity overcomes all other weaknesses.

Trump took the money that his father left him and built a series of failed casinos. What else does he have to offer, other than gaudy celebrity?
I can understand the low-information voters who are attracted to Trump because of his celebrity or the illusion that he would be the strong leader that, apparently, they're waiting for. His simplistic, yet arrogant proclamations about how he'd solve our nation's problems and make America great again might appeal to someone who knows little about how government works or who has no grounding in conservatism. But there is no excuse for so many conservative radio voices to be cheering Trump on. I can only see two reasons for their doing so. They love his big talk about how he'd stop immigration and send people back and they enjoy the way that he takes on the MSM. But there is so much more to governing the nation than criticizing the liberals in the media.

Both David Frum and Ramesh Ponnuru criticize the efforts of some Republican groups to attack Trump as being extremist or unsuited to the presidency or to attack on national security. They both argue, adn I think they're right, that such attacks are not going to register with those who like Trump. They've heard all that for months now and it hasn't mattered. Both Ponnuru and Frum come to the conclusion that the best thing would be to attack at his supposed strong point - his stand on immigration. That is the position that has resonated with a lot of voters, but it has only recently become Trump's position. Just as Rubio is weak for his support of an entirely different approach to immigration, so is Trump. As Frum points out, many of this construction projects about which he brags so constantly have been and are being built with the labor of illegal immigrants.
Extreme and provocative statements verging on open racism normally doom candidates. They have helped Trump, to date, because those statements seemed to prove that here, at last, was a candidate as exercised about the immigration issue as Republican voters. The well-spoken politicians who had promised to solve the problem in years past had all failed, or turned coat. But a man who’d say wild things that the political elite unanimously condemned as reckless and irresponsible—well, he at least must be sincere, mustn’t he?

So that’s the point where an effective attack would hit him.
Back in 2012 he was criticizing Romney for taking too strong a position on illegal immigration and pushing for a comprehensive policy “to take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country.” So Frum suggests that some of the anti-Trump Republicans suck it up and try attacking on his flip flops on immigration.
Where he is in 2015 is not where he was in 2012—and that could suggest that where he is in 2015 is not where he’ll be if elected president. Every politician changes his mind. Accusations of flip-flopping hurt because they open the possibility that where there is a flip-flop, there may in future be a flop-flip—that the position adopted for political advantage will be jettisoned when political advantage signals a different direction.

Trump’s histrionics—and the criticism he has taken—may seem the ultimate proof of sincerity: When a man walks that far onto a limb, he must mean it, right? The task for Trump’s Republican rivals is to convince Trump followers that this supposed anti-politician is using typical politician’s tricks.

Attacking Donald Trump as untrustworthy on stopping illegal immigration—or having super PACs do it —will stick in the craw of elected Republicans. They are, for the most part, in full agreement with the 2012-vintage Trump on the issue. But it’s their only hope. Of course, it raises the awkward but all-important question: What would they do instead to address a voter concern that until now they have ignored or disdained?
It might go against their own beliefs on immigration, but if they're serious about taking on Trump, don't just echo the same criticisms that both conservatives and members of the media have been making about Trump without doing much to dent his popularity.



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Jonathan Haidt who has written powerfully with Greg Lukianoff about how coddling students has led to an intolerance of freedom of thought in today's schools and universities, has a very good post at Heterodox Academy about his experience speaking at a high school and how what is happening in high schools explains the rudeness and hostility to freedom of expression at places like Yale. He thought his talk was being well-received until the Q and A session during which he was peppered with rude and aggressive questions attacking him for all sorts of things he hadn't said. He slowly realized that all his questioners were girls and the boys were being silent. In another session with the students he started out by asking the students if they wanted their school to be one in which people felt they had to keep their mouths shut if they had offensive views or if they wanted the school to be one in which everyone felt comfortable voicing their views. They were unanimous in preferring the open-minded approach. But then he asked some more questions that revealed what type of school it really was.
Me: OK, let’s see if you have that. When there is a class discussion about gender issues, do you feel free to speak up and say what you are thinking? Or do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? Just the girls in the class, raise your hand if you feel you can speak up? [about 70% said they feel free, vs about 10% who said eggshells ]. Now just the boys? [about 80% said eggshells, nobody said they feel free].

Me: Now let’s try it for race. When a topic related to race comes up in class, do you feel free to speak up and say what you are thinking, or do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? Just the non-white students? [the group was around 30% non-white, mostly South and East Asians, and some African Americans. A majority said they felt free to speak, although a large minority said eggshells] Now just the white students? [A large majority said eggshells]
Me: Now lets try it for politics. How many of you would say you are on the right politically, or that you are conservative or Republican? [6 hands went up, out of 60 students]. Just you folks, when politically charged topics come up, can you speak freely? [Only one hand went up, but that student clarified that everyone gets mad at him when he speaks up, but he does it anyway. The other 5 said eggshells.] How many of you are on the left, liberal, or democrat? [Most hands go up] Can you speak freely, or is it eggshells? [Almost all said they can speak freely.]

Me: So let me get this straight. You were unanimous in saying that you want your school to be a place where people feel free to speak up, even if you strongly dislike their views. But you don’t have such a school. In fact, you have exactly the sort of “tolerance” that Herbert Marcuse advocated [which I had discussed in my lecture, and which you can read about here]. You have a school in which only people in the preferred groups get to speak, and everyone else is afraid.
This is a really powerful demonstration of how students really feel about expressing their views. And I'm sure that his unnamed school is not unique. I would like to think that the high school where I teach is different, but I'm not so sure. Every year, in my AP Government classes, I have the student discuss current issues and then map their views onto a scale measuring their ideology. I start off, as Haidt recommends, but stressing how important it is to respect other's views. When I first started in 2002, there would be an open discussion of issues like gay marriage or whether environmental regulations harm the economy. The leftist views predominated, but there would be a vocal minority for the opposite views. Now, no student will speak up against gay marriage or environmental regulations. Perhaps the students have all moved to the left, but I also wonder if there are students who are, as Haidt says, afraid of walking on those eggshells.

Haidt calls for diversity of viewpoints among the faculty so that the students would feel more comfortable. To tell the truth, I am not comfortable with teachers in high school talking about their political views with students. Sure it might come out and students can figure things out, but I don't want to make the Democrats in my classes to feel uncomfortable about stating their views because they worry about what I might be thinking.

Haidt answers those who might be indifferent to the discomfort that whites, males, and conservatives might be feeling.
You might think that this is some sort of justice — white males have enjoyed positions of privilege for centuries, and now they are getting a taste of their own medicine. But these are children. And remember that most students who are in a victim group for one topic are in the “oppressor” group for another. So everyone is on eggshells sometimes; all students at Centerville High learn to engage with books, ideas, and people using the twin habits of defensive self-censorship and vindictive protectiveness.

And then… they go off to college and learn new ways to gain status by expressing collective anger at those who disagree. They curse professors and spit on visiting speakers at Yale. They shut down newspapers at Wesleyan. They torment a dean who was trying to help them at Claremont McKenna. They threaten and torment fellow students at Dartmouth. And in all cases, they demand that adults in power DO SOMETHING to punish those whose words and views offend them. Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture, which weakens students by turning them into “moral dependents” who cannot deal with problems on their own. They must get adult authorities to validate their victim status.

So they issue ultimatums to college presidents, and, as we saw at Yale, the college presidents meet their deadlines, give them much of what they demanded, commit their schools to an ever tighter embrace of victimhood culture, and say nothing to criticize the bullying, threats, and intimidation tactics that have created a culture of intense fear for anyone who might even consider questioning the prevailing moral matrix. What do you suppose a conversation about race or gender will look like in any Yale classroom ten years from now? Who will dare to challenge the orthodox narrative imposed by victimhood culture? The “Next Yale” that activists are demanding will make today’s Centerville High look like Plato’s Academy by comparison.

The only hope for Centerville High — and for Yale — is to disrupt their repressively uniform moral matrices to make room for dissenting views. High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify. Schools that value freedom of thought should therefore actively seek out non-leftist faculty, and they should explicitly include viewpoint diversity and political diversity in all statements about diversity and discrimination.
Well said.

George Will goes through the crazy stories from so many college campuses of how intolerant students and professors have become of anything that doesn't conform with the officially approved orthodoxy. There are many examples I hadn't heard of and I've been following these stories with a sense of horror. He concludes,
So, today give thanks that 2015 has raised an important question about American higher education: What, exactly, is it higher than?

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Charles C. W. Cooke rightly calls out the efforts of the Senate Democrats to connect their desired limitations on gun purchases to fears of terrorists coming here and buying guns by proposing that anyone on the watch list be barred from buying a gun.
Let us avoid gloss or euphemism and speak plainly: This idea flies directly in the face of every cherished American conception of justice, and it should be rejected with extreme prejudice. You will note, I hope, that Reid, Schumer, Jentleson, and co. are not proposing to place restrictions on those who have been “accused,” “charged,” or “convicted,” but upon those who are “suspected.” They are not referring to those who are working their way through the judicial system, but to those who remain outside of it. They are not seeking to limit the rights of those who are out on bail or awaiting trial, but those who have not so much as been handcuffed. Loudly and proudly, they are arguing in favor of removing fundamental rights from anyone whose name has been written down on a list. Because they hope to confuse the public, their talk is peppered with references to “Paris-style” “assault” rifles and “automatic” weapons. But this is a red herring: Their proposal applies equally to guns of all types, not just those that give Shannon Watts and Diane Feinstein the willies.

In times past, officials advocating the simultaneous undermining of a range of constitutional rights would have been tarred, feathered, and dumped into the sea, along with their staff, their press agents, and anyone else who saw fit to acquiesce in the scheme. A little of that spirit might be welcome here.

However the press might cast it, there are not in fact “two sides” to this issue. It is not a “tricky question.” It is not a “thorny one” or a “gray area” or a “difficult choice.” It is tyranny. Somewhere, deep down, its advocates must know this. Presumably, Chuck Schumer would not submit that those on a terror watch list should be deprived of their right to speak? Presumably, Harry Reid would not contend that they must be kept away from their mosques? Presumably, Diane Feinstein would not argue that they should be subjected to warrantless searches and seizures? Such proposals would properly be considered disgraceful — perhaps, even, as an overture to American fascism. Alas, there is something about guns that causes otherwise reasonable people to lose their minds.

Matthew Boyle describes how we could still end up with a brokered GOP convention. Those states holding primaries or caucuses before March 15 will award their delegates proportionally among the top finishers.
That means 1,113 delegates are awarded on a proportional basis before any winner-take-all state even comes up. That’s almost half of the 2,472 total delegates awarded and nearly enough to equal what’s necessary to win the GOP nomination, 1,237 delegates.

As such, some candidates may skip along picking up small pockets of delegates over the first few weeks of voting, gathering up a few hundred and holding them until the convention. At a brokered convention, some real dealmaking could happen on the floor. Deals could include who would be on the ticket, reforms to the party platform, cabinet position, and so much more.

What’s more, several candidates may not truly be ruled out until the very end of the race, since they might collect those small pockets of delegates early on, then take some of the winner-take-all states later in the game to reach the magic 1,237 delegates. With so many strong candidates in the field, and so much interesting and out of the ordinary stuff happening in this particular cycle, what most people say is that anything is possible.
Only a few states have winner-take-all rules for awarding their delegates. If those states go for different candidates, it could be that no one will have the necessary 1,237 delegates. I've been hearing such predictions for a brokered convention quite a few times, but the last time the GOP had one was in 1976 when Reagan came close to toppling Gerald Ford. And there is another little-known rule that I hadn't heard of previously.
“Officially, it’s Rule 40 in the RNC handbook and it states that any candidate for president ‘shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states’ before their name is presented for nomination at the national convention,”

The Examiner looks back on what polls were saying during Thanksgiving week the year before the past three presidential elections. There doesn't seem to be much predictive power. People just haven't made up their minds yet. So maybe it's too early to worry about a brokered convention.

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Stephen Hayes writes about the intelligence scandal over reports on ISIS. He points out that this is a scandal about which we've been hearing for a few years going back to how the administration has blocked analysis of the bin Laden documents that were captured in the raid that killed him.
The current storm over ISIS intelligence is not a new controversy, though most of the media are treating it as such. It’s better understood as an installment in a long-running scandal that extends beyond CENTCOM in Tampa, into the upper reaches of the U.S. intelligence community and perhaps into the White House.

Readers of this magazine are familiar with the story of the documents obtained in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Sensitive Site Exploitation team on the raid collected more than a million documents​—​papers, computer hard drives, audio and video recordings. Top Obama administration officials at first touted the cache as the greatest collection of terrorist materials ever captured in a single raid and boasted that the contents would fill a “small college library.” An interagency intelligence team, led by the CIA, conducted the initial triage​—​including keyword searches of the collection for actionable intelligence. And then, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials with firsthand knowledge of the controversy, the documents sat largely untouched for as long as a year. The CIA retained “executive authority” over the documents, and when analysts from other agencies requested access to them, the CIA denied it​—​repeatedly.

After a bitter interagency dispute, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, allowed analysts from CENTCOM and the Defense Intelligence Agency to have time-limited, read-only access to the documents. What they found was fascinating and alarming. Much of what these analysts were seeing​—​directly from Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders​—​contradicted what the president and top administration officials were saying publicly. While drone strikes had killed some senior al Qaeda leaders, the organization had anticipated the U.S. decapitation strategy and was flourishing in spite of it; bin Laden remained intimately involved in al Qaeda decision-making and operational planning; the relationship between al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban remained strong despite the Obama administration’s attempts to weaken it by negotiating with Taliban leaders; al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, while uneven and fraught with mutual distrust, was far deeper and more significant than U.S. intelligence assessments had suggested.

Taken together, this new primary-source intelligence undercut happy-talk from the White House about progress in defeating jihadist terror. Al Qaeda wasn’t dying; it was growing. The Afghan Taliban wasn’t moderating; its leaders were as close to al Qaeda as ever. The same Iranian regime promising to abide by the terms of a deal to limit its nuclear program had provided safe haven for al Qaeda leaders and their families and had facilitated al Qaeda attacks on the interests of the United States and its allies.
So why wouldn't the National Security Council want analysts to see these documents? Don't they want the most informed analyses made of the threat we're facing? Sources point to the White House and the NSC as being the ones to block access.

President Obama seems fixated on his graying hair. All presidents, except maybe Reagan, noticeably grayed and aged the longer they were in office. Imagine what Trump's combover would look like after four years in office. It would be Yuuuuuge.