Monday, January 04, 2016

Cruising the Web

I hope all my readers had a lovely New Year's Day break and I wish everyone a happy and health New Year's!


If the NSA under the direction of the Obama White House can spy on Israel and its contacts with American congressmen with impunity, what can't they do? And if Democrats blink at this, don't they realize the precedent that has been established for a Republican president?
The Journal says NSA and the White House spied on Israeli efforts to lobby against the president’s Iran deal. If that’s okay, what about spying on Japanese or Australian or South Korean embassy contacts urging Congress to pass TPP, or German or French embassy efforts to see what Congress will do on refugee policy? How about foreign-embassy contacts with various presidential campaigns? Where does it stop? What’s the limiting principle here — that NSA can do whatever the White House wants if it handles the material carefully?

Sure, there can be exceptions and moments when the rules must be suspended briefly for national-security reasons. But the pattern of capturing allies’ internal communications, the communications of senators and congressmen and women, and the speech and emails of Americans engaged in politics is what we see in the new revelations about Obama-era spying. The administration faced a battle in Congress, and it spied on the other side. That’s the kind of conduct we see in third-world countries where control of the spy agency is one of the ways an incumbent regime holds on to power and defeats its political opponents. It ought to be a major scandal when such practices reach the United States.
How fortuitous for the Obama administration that this story broke over just a couple of days before New Year's. Probably by the time Congress returns to town, the administration will try to brush this off as old news and no big deal. Don't forget that this is the administration that winked at IRS actions to block conservative groups in the 2012 election. The President brags about how he plans to bypass Congress and the standard legislative process as much as possible. What have they ever done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?

And the deal that all this was in favor of? It becomes more disgusting with almost every report we have. The Obama administration has bent over backwards to get this abomination passed and to avoid angering the Iranian government. And this is the thanks that the mullahs give President Obama.
The U.S. and United Nations both say Iran is already violating U.N. resolutions that bar Iran from testing ballistic missiles. Iran has conducted two ballistic-missile tests since the nuclear deal was signed in July, most recently in November. The missiles seem capable of delivering nuclear weapons with relatively small design changes.

The White House initially downplayed the missile tests, but this week it did an odd flip-flop on whether to impose new sanctions in response. On Wednesday it informed Congress that it would target a handful of Iranian companies and individuals responsible for the ballistic-missile program. Then it later said it would delay announcing the sanctions, which are barely a diplomatic rebuke in any case, much less a serious response to an arms-control violation.

Under the nuclear accord, Iran will soon receive $100 billion in unfrozen assets as well as the ability to court investors who are already streaming to Tehran. Sanctioning a few names is feckless by comparison, and Iran is denouncing even this meager action as a U.S. violation of the nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the sanctions reports on Thursday by ordering his defense minister to accelerate Iran’s missile program. Your move, Mr. Obama.
And now Iran is firing rockets at our aircraft carrier. This is in addition to imprisoning an American-Iranian businessman. This is the deal that our feckless administration thought it worthwhile to spy on Prime Minister Netanyahu and his conversations with American congressmen.

And now we can see that the administration never had any intention of verifying Iran's compliance with the minimal requirements of the deal.
According to the terms of the agreement, Iran was to disclose all "possible military dimensions" (PMD) of its nuclear program. In July, no less than Secretary of State John Kerry said, "PMD has to be resolved—before [Iran] get[s] one ounce of sanctions relief."

But on December 15, the United Nations's nuclear regulatory body—the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—with the encouragement of the Obama administration, voted to sweep the PMD issue under the rug. They did so in spite of overwhelming evidence Iran has not begun to come clean about its nuclear weapons program. Now, with PMD out of the way, the Obama administration can begin lifting sanctions on Iran as early as next month, giving Tehran billions of dollars with which it can export terror all over the world.

The rationale for excusing Iran is a recent IAEA report concluding that Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program through 2009 but hasn't aggressively done so since. Even that minor acknowledgment, however, contradicts Iran's chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said in August, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has never sought nuclear weapons nor will it ever seek them in the future."

Mark Hemingway employs the so-called "Streisand Effect" to analyze the Obama administration's attempt to smother all negative reporting by denying the obvious.
So it's a wonder that the Obama presidency hasn't quite figured out that denying the existence of the obvious actually doesn't help. When you say there's peace and security in Syria, you're not convincing anyone that's the case. You're inevitably drawing attention to the fact the region is a mess and the Obama administration's handling of the situation has been terrible.

It's not just limited to Syria, either. Denial of the obvious has been a feature of the Obama presidency. Recall that Obama told Bill O'Reilly in his Super Bowl interview a few years back that there was "not a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS. Well, no. In fact, the IRS held a press conference to admit its own wrongdoing and the chief IRS official involved is pleading the Fifth. When you deny the obvious, the effect is to sow distrust among those voters who are concerned about the scandal.

What about "Obamacare is working"? We hear that a lot. Maybe this messaging is necessary because it gives liberal supporters a talking point to rally around, but for the rest of us in the "reality-based community" the undeniable fact is that the law is failing in very significant ways. Insurance costs are up 27 percent despite promises that the law would make it cheaper, and even Hillary Clinton is now conceding in Democratic debates that the law has made the insurance industry less competitive and in Iowa she's admitting the law is killing jobs.

Unless you're already on Team Obama, this kind of denial is polarizing at best and infuriating at worst. So why do they do it? Well, the general rule in Washington is never assume malice when incompetence and arrogance will suffice. It's more than possible that Obama and those in his administration are in a bubble. Indeed, that was heavily suggested by the recent fracas when The New York Times reported—then memory-holed—a report where Obama said he underestimated how much the recent ISIS attack in San Bernardino had spooked Americans because he didn't watch cable news.

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A recent CNN/ORC International poll shows that there is a big enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats for voting next year for president.
Republicans are fired up. Ready to go. Democrats? Not so much.

The latest CNN/ORC International poll laid out a stark “enthusiasm gap” between the two parties: Thirty-six percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they were “very enthusiastic” about voting for president next year, compared with just 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Similarly, a recent survey by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found Republicans, especially older white conservatives, were significantly more interested in the 2016 elections than Democrats and their key demographic groups. Seventy-one percent of likely GOP voters rated their interest in the elections as a “10” on a 1-to-10 scale, compared with 58 percent of Democratic voters who said the same.
Part of that might be a result of the interest generated by the GOP nomination fight while the Democratic contest has been mostly a snoozefest. But I suspect that a lot of that is just fatigue with the current president. The trend is for the out-party to be more enthusiastic than the party in the White House. Democrats held a 17% lead in enthusiasm in the summer of 2004. Once again, that was after an interesting struggle for the Democratic nomination while there was none on the GOP side. And people were already tired of Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that that didn't translate into a Democratic victory says something more about John Kerry and a successful Republican get-out-the-vote effort than about Bush. In 2008, a summer poll showed a 26% gap. Once again, there was a more interesting Democratic contest and we can add on four more years of Bush fatigue. Things changed in 2012 when, in the summer, the Republicans had a 12% enthusiasm gap. Just more evidence, as in 2004, that a summer gap in enthusiasm doesn't necessarily trump a better GOTV effort. And Romney was not as strong a candidate as the Republicans had hoped. So, however the pollsters measure enthusiasm for the upcoming race, the Republicans shouldn't rest on those numbers to think that lack of affection for Hillary Clinton will translate into a GOP victory. The candidate still matters as does the GOTV operation. Ask Kerry and Romney.

Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson report that there is an incipient effort by conservative groups in Iowa to unite in opposition to Ted Cruz by throwing their support behind Marco Rubio.
Many supporters of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the last two winners of Iowa’s Republican presidential contests, are grappling with a pair of grim realities as the 2016 caucuses approach. Not only have their candidates been stuck in the low single digits for months in Iowa, but they also view Cruz, the new front-runner, as a phony opportunist who has pandered to Evangelicals for political gain, particularly in Iowa. And they fear that if Cruz notches a win in the Hawkeye State — especially if he does so by a wide margin, which many Republicans now view as a distinct possibility — he will emerge as the overwhelming favorite to capture the nomination.

These assumptions have led to a pair of common conclusions: First, that preventing Cruz from winning Iowa is more important than promoting their own preferred candidates. And second, that if the only way to accomplish that is by throwing their support to another candidate, it should be Marco Rubio....

The anti-Cruz effort may not be limited to ad campaigns. Sources familiar with the discussions say there are proposals to pool resources that can be used for voter outreach and education as well. A primary target of such a campaign would be Iowa’s churches, where Cruz’s opponents believe parishioners have been misled about the Texas senator’s record on the issue of same-sex marriage. After assuring voters that opposing gay marriage would be “front and center” in his campaign, Cruz told attendees at a Manhattan fundraiser earlier this month that it would not be a “top-three priority,” according to a recording leaked to Politico.
Perhaps this is going on behind the scenes, but I don't see it having much impact. I think the days of leaders being able to achieve major electoral results by throwing their support behind one candidate seem to be over. People are much more independent thinking, especially in a state like Iowa where they pride themselves on the impact that they can have on the race. Secondly, even if the Huckabee and Santorum forces got all those candidates' votes to go to Rubio, that would just move him to about half of where Cruz is now. And I'm not sure why they think Cruz is not a true social conservative. Just because he said that opposing gay marriage would not be a "top-three priority" doesn't mean his position has changed. He's just being realistic about the chances of rolling back a Supreme Court decision. And there are so many other issues facing the country this year, why should futile efforts to change the way the Supreme Court has ruled and the way the national culture is trending be his top three concern? And have they asked Marco Rubio what his top three policy concerns are? Cruz's position is to leave the decision to the states to decide. Given that marriage has always been a state responsibility, that seems like a perfectly reasonable position for someone who respects our federalist system to support. However, given the recent Court decision, it's all moot anyway. While I'm not a big fan of Ted Cruz, this seems like a silly reason to decide he's not their type of conservative. But then I have a hard time getting into the mindset of such single-issue voters on either gay marriage or immigration.

It might just be too late for Marco Rubio whose chances seem more admired by pundits than supported by actual evidence. Allahpundit has a round-up of skeptical and critical commentary about Rubio's campaign and chances. Where once the conventional wisdom was that, after all the noise in the primaries, voters would settle on Rubio as the most electable candidate, the CW is now that Rubio has just not justified such opinions. It's about time for him to make his movement in the polls and it just isn't happening. The tick-tock of the 2016 campaign that will be written after the election will look back and say that his stand on immigration was underestimated by media and political elites and that his campaign never had the sort of ground operation necessary for winning.

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Rahm Emanuel is challenging Bill de Blasio's place as the worst mayor in the country.
How bad is Rahm Emanuel? He makes Bill De Blasio look good. He was forced into an unprecedented runoff before winning a second term last spring. In early December his approval rating was 18 percent. Protestors, including Democratic powerbroker Al Sharpton, want him to resign for the city’s withholding of video in the case of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by a police officer in 2014. Gang violence is pervasive. Municipal finances are a wreck.
So what to do? Why not go vacation in Cuba?
Earlier this month, when Mike Allen of Politico offhandedly mentioned before a live audience that the Emanuel family would be traveling to Cuba for Christmas vacation, the mayor lashed out, sputtering, “Thanks for telling everybody what I’m going to do with my family. You just had a private conversation with me and now you’ve decided to make that public. I really don’t appreciate that,” before demanding Allen call Mrs. Emanuel and apologize.

Leave aside the obvious question, which is how on Earth could Emanuel have thought that the location of his family vacation would remain private in the middle of controversy. Consider a second question, which is what did Emanuel fear in having the information disclosed? Is he ashamed of traveling to Cuba? And did it ever occur to Emanuel, Emanuel’s wife, the group of families the Emanuels regularly vacation with, or any member of Emanuel’s political and communications retinue that traveling to a Communist dictatorship while being accused of insufficient attention to civil rights was, you know, maybe a bad idea? Or were they too afraid of “Rahm being Rahm” to object?

....A liberal who jumps at the chance to vacation in a slave state—and thinks it’s somehow adventurous or even brave to take your children to a place romanticized by left-wing utopians since it went Communist in 1959—is not only morally blinkered. He’s banal. He’s the sort of liberal for whom there is no difference between self-interest and the public interest—a trait Emanuel picked up from the Clintons. He rationalizes leaving the White House for an investment bank, using political connections to amass “$18 million in just two-and-a-half years,” making six-figure fees from a board seat at Freddie Mac, and savaging anyone who dares question the priorities and self-righteousness and sanctimony of multimillionaires who “just want to make the world a better place.” He joins the chorus in favor of criminal justice reform despite slow walking and obstructing an investigation into a police shooting for personal gain.
And now we find out this little tidbit about the cover-up of Laquan McDonald's killing by Chicago police. The mayor's people were in on the cover-up. Can't have such a incendiary story break out before the election, ya know.
The Chicago mayor's office, police and the body that investigates police shootings closely coordinated their response in the months after a white officer fatally shot a black teenager in 2014, newly released emails revealed.

The messages released Thursday clearly indicate that advisers to Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew within months that the case could be politically explosive.

Thousands of emails were released in response to open-records requests from The Associated Press and other media regarding 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was killed in October 2014 after being shot 16 times. Few communications from Emanuel's staff mention him directly - though several refer to him by the acronym "MRE."
Well, the fish rots from the head. And Rahm Emanuel knows all about rotten fish.

Glen Reynolds writes
that Chicago's woes stem from the "Blue Model" of government.
Around the nation, this year, you can see two phenomena at work: One is the collapse of what Walter Russell Mead calls the “Blue Model” of government, one based on unions, racial/ethnic politics, high regulation and high taxes. The other is the steadily more desperate efforts of Blue Model politicians to keep kicking the can down the road.

For starters, look at Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago. Rahm Emanuel, a major inner-circle supporter of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is not a stupid man. Nonetheless, he’s finding it harder and harder to hold things together....

As Mead, a professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College, notes, this poses problems for Chicago in more than one way. First, the economic recovery that Chicago and other major cities have experienced in the past couple of decades is likely due at least in part to more aggressive policing that brought crime rates way down. But aggressive policing means more confrontations between police and citizens, which means more chances for violence.

Plus, as in most large, Democratic cities, the police and other city workers are unionized and, effectively, almost impossible to fire. As Mead notes, “There is a harsh conflict of interest between the city’s employees and the city’s voters. ... It is in the interests of public sector unions to shelter employees from oversight and threats to their job security, regardless of how well they perform.”
Add in the financial problems that Chicago faces because, for years, the politicians have bought off union support by contracting for huge pensions that the city can't pay. So there isn't money to use to ameliorate the demands of black protesters.

William Russell Mead's tour d'horizon of troubles in the blue cities doesn't foresee any relief for those cities.
Fourth, cities today face entrenched cost problems that make economic growth both uneven and fragile. This is partly due to the rising cost of big city governance. It’s harder, for example, to repair the complex infrastructure on which a modern city depends than it is to keep the sewer and road systems running in a small town or a suburb. Those expensive services require high taxes and other costs, driving many kinds of employers away. Partly as a result, cities are losing their middle class populations. In many cities, inequality is rising, the middle class is shrinking, the power of public sector unions over the politics system is growing, and the population is becoming more divided by class antagonisms and ethnic identity politics without a strong middle class to anchor them.

Fifth, native-born citizens, whatever their race, are moving out of many cities, as immigrants move in. This exacerbates income inequality, as in most cases first-generation immigrants (often without good English language skills or higher educational credentials) earn less than the native-born. It also exacerbates tensions between the unionized city work force that reflects the ethnic make-up of the previous generation and the more diverse incoming population. Immigration creates tension between the dominant ethnic groups in city politics (African-Americans in many cities) and newcomers, whether immigrants or highly-skilled affluent people drawn to the remaining dynamic, high-wage sectors of the local economy and to the richer cultural life that cities provide.
The Blue Model created this morass of problems, but it is the citizens of the cities who will suffer. And there doesn't seem to be any solution.

Policy choices still matter. The depth of debt for California and New York is a result of choices that their governors and legislatures have made. The Blue Model sort of choices. If those states' citizens had any real understanding of what their leaders have done to them, they would be outraged.
California has $328 billion in debts, compared to only $94 billion in assets, for a deficit of $234 billion. If debt holders all tell state officials to pay up in 2016, every Californian will have to pay an additional $20,800 in taxes.

Similarly, New York has $257 billion in debt and $130 billion in assets. That makes the Empire State’s deficit $127 billion, or about half of California’s. Even so, if the debts all come due next year, it will mean another $20,700 in taxes for New Yorkers.

Why do California and New York have so much debt? High public employee salaries and benefits play a huge role in it. According to Open The Books, lifeguards on California’s Pacific Coast can make as much as $212,000 annually, then draw an exceptionally generous pension on retirement. And in New York, a librarian in the Queens section of New York City can make more than $391,000 annually.

Oh, CNN's charming Don Lemon. As Jeff Dunetz notes, he cut off Kurt Schlichter's mike for daring to talk about Bill Clinton's history of sexual harassment. But then on CNN's New Year's Eve broadcast he talked about Kathy Griffin trying to molest him in the green room and then decides to comment that she has a "nice rack" while gesturing with his hands. Maybe that's what happens when news figures are supposed to co-host along with a comedian and have hours of TV time to fill without anything to say. But shouldn't it be more notable that a CNN anchor commented on a woman's "rack"?

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Jay Nordlinger reflects on Trump's bragging and how counter it is to what populists and conservatives usually admire.
Donald Trump likes to brag about his Ivy League education — in part because he likes to brag about everything (and bragging, as we all know, is a classic conservative trait). Recently, he said, “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words, I have the best words.”

Normally, the populist Right hates the Ivy League, and would hate anyone who bragged about attending an Ivy League college. But nothing can shake Trump’s admirers from that admiration.

Say that George Will or Charles Krauthammer or Bill Kristol bragged about his Ivy League education. It’s inconceivable, but just say. The populist Right would go absolutely nuts.

As many conservatives have argued, tuition subsidies for college students just leads to increased tuition costs. A new paper by two economists, Grey Gordon and Aaron Hedlund demonstrates that student loan subsidies have been the cause of almost all of the increases we've seen in tuition. And just imagine what the result will be if Hillary gets her way. Unfortunately, most people don't understand the economic impact of such policies and all they see is the seemingly free money and that's just enough for them.

What type of leader lies to the families of those who have been killed in service to the country and then turns around and calls them liars? Hillary Clinton. When asked about the family members of those killed in the Benghazi attacks who have said that she told them that the attack was sparked by the internet video, she denied that she had said that.
Daily Sun columnist Tom McLaughlin pressed Clinton on the conflicting claims.
“Somebody is lying,” McLaughlin said during the editorial meeting. “Who is it?

“Not me, that’s all I can tell you,” Clinton replied.
She's now claiming that it was such a confusing time to meet with the families and to remember what people said when "people were sobbing." Got that? They were so grief-stricken that they just made up something that the Secretary of State said to them. And different families happened to make up the same story. She is so contemptible.

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Joel Kotkin explains how "liberals are the new autocrats." Progressives have always been about using the power of government to impose their vision of an ideal society for ideal people. This was true back at the turn of the 20th century and is we're seeing even more authoritarian behavior from liberals today.
Under President Obama, rule by decree has become commonplace, with federal edicts dictating policies on everything from immigration and labor laws to climate change. No modern leader since Nixon has been so bold in trying to consolidate power. But the current president is also building on a trend: Since 1910 the federal government has doubled its share of government spending to 60 percent. Its share of GDP has now grown to the highest level since World War II.

Today climate change has become the killer app for expanding state control, for example, helping Jerry Brown find his inner Duce. But the authoritarian urge is hardly limited to climate-related issues. It can be seen on college campuses, where uniformity of belief is increasingly mandated. In Europe, the other democratic bastion, the continental bureaucracy now controls ever more of daily life on the continent. You don’t want thousands of Syrian refugees in your town, but the EU knows better. You will take them and like it, or be labeled a racist.
And this centralization of power contrasts with some of the other proclivities of progressives.
Ironically this is occurring at a time when many progressives celebrates localism in terms of food and culture. Some even embrace localism as an economic development tool, an environmental win, and a form of resistance to ever greater centralized big-business control.

Yet some of the same progressives who promote localism often simultaneously favor centralized control of everything from planning and zoning to education. They may want local music, wine, or song, but all communities then must conform in how they operate, are run, and developed. Advocates of strict land-use policies claim that traditional architecture and increased densities will enable us to once again enjoy the kind of “meaningful community” that supposedly cannot be achieved in conventional suburbs.

James Taranto argues that Donald Trump has mastered ALinsky's "Rules for Radicals." The back-and-forth between Trump and Hillary over who was more sexist: Trump or her husband demonstrates how Trump Alinskyed Hillary.
Whatever one may think of what Trump said in 2000, there is no contradiction with what he’s saying in 2015. Then, he accused Mr. Clinton’s critics of being moralistic hypocrites, applying to the then-president standards from which they excuse themselves. Now, he is accusing Mr. Clinton’s defender in chief of being a moralistic hypocrite, applying to her rivals (including Trump) standards from which she excuses her husband. The current kerfuffle is only incidentally about Mr. Clinton at all.

It’s a textbook example of Saul Alinsky’s fourth tactical rule: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” (That is as true of feminism as of Christianity.)

And Trump is perfectly situated to level this attack, for precisely the reasons some Chozicks imagine otherwise. He himself is a voluptuary, not a moralist, which immunizes him through pure logic against any accusation of hypocrisy. As a practical matter, his tabloid lifestyle inoculates him against inquisitions into his private life of the sort that snared Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston during the Clinton impeachment.
All this led to much discussion of Bill Clinton's history of sexually assaulting and harassing women as well as Hillary's attacks on any woman whose accusations were a danger to the couple's political success. As Katherine Timpf reminds us, "Hillary Clinton is not a feminist."
But here’s the thing: The real issue isn’t whether or not to attack Bill to indirectly attack Hillary — it’s about directly attacking Hillary for how she herself treated the women involved.

Hillary Clinton claims to be pro-women, yet has actively worked to ruin lives of so many of them. She’s running on a “feminist platform” — she’s even dared to say that sexual-assault survivors have a “right to be believed” — despite the fact that what she did to the women who accused Bill went far beyond not believing them.

She attacked them.

When allegations of sexual misconduct emerged during Bill’s 1992 presidential run, she’s reported to have said “Who is going to find out? These women are trash. Nobody’s going to believe them.” Multiple people also report that she called the women “sluts” and “whores” — you know, for daring to be raped. A private investigator named Ivan Duda claims that, after Bill lost his second governor’s race, Hillary told him: “I want you to get rid of all these b****** he’s seeing . . . I want you to give me the names and addresses and phone numbers, and we can get them under control.”

And there are multiple reports of her and her detectives doing just that. Kathleen Willey — whom Bill allegedly sexually assaulted in 1993 — claims that detectives hired by Hillary threatened her and her children and even killed her cat. Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill of raping her in 1978, reports that she was also threatened by Hillary.

Oh, and let’s not forget — she had no problem blaming the (very true) allegations that Bill was having an affair with Lewinsky on a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Anything to save a man’s career, amirite?

Does this woman sound “feminist” to you?
As she parades before the voters talking about what an advocate she has always been for women, it is perfectly acceptable to look at her personal history of attacking women for accusing her husband. Just imagine in today's "yes means yes" environment when a young woman can accuse a young man of rape months after their encounter despite having texted to the man about her hopes for sex with him, what those feminists who find these accusations against college students perfectly acceptable would say about a man in Bill Clinton's position who took the actions he's accused of having taken?

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I always liked the French actor Gerard Depardieu. I thought his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac was sublime. But he's gone beyond the pale now as he prepares to play Josef Stalin in a new movie. The actor has gone overboard in his praise for Putin's government and admiration for Putin who gave him Russian citizenship a couple of years ago. He has really gone overboard in his moral relativism.
In separate interviews this year, he has praised Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko – condemned for rights abuses by monitoring groups – as "a nice guy" and described Americans as "a people who have constantly destroyed others."

"They fought each other, destroyed the Indians, after that they perpetrated slavery, then there was the civil war. After that, they were the first to use the atomic bomb... No, I prefer being Russian," he was quoted as saying.
Does he have any concept of the Russian history of atrocities? Although estimates differ, experts agree that there at least 20 million victims of Stalin's Great Terror. And that's not even adding in the deaths of serfs and Soviet victims of the Cold War. Depardieu should just shut up and study some history.

Jonathan Haidt has a thoughtful post about how we have become more divided by political ideology these days than we are by race, gender, or religion. He cites the study by two political scientists that found more divisions by party than by race. Other studies show the same results.
In two additional studies Iyengar and Westwood had participants play behavioral economics games (the “trust game” and the “dictator game”). Each person played with what they thought was a particular other person, about whom they read a brief profile including the person’s age, gender, race, and political ideology. Race and ideology were manipulated systematically. Race made no difference, but partisanship mattered a lot: people were more trusting and generous when they thought they were playing with a co-partisan than a cross-partisan.
Haidt explains why this is such a pernicious condition for our country.
This is extremely bad news for America because it is very hard to have an effective democracy without compromise. But rising cross-partisan hostility means that Americans increasingly see the other side not just as wrong but as evil, as a threat to the very existence of the nation, according to Pew Research. Americans can expect rising polarization, nastiness, paralysis, and governmental dysfunction for a long time to come.

This is a warning for the rest of the world because some of the trends that have driven America to this point are occurring in many other countries, including: rising education and individualism (which make people more ideological), rising immigration and ethnic diversity (which reduces social capital and trust), and stagnant economic growth (which puts people into a zero-sum mindset).

This is extremely bad news for science and universities because universities are usually associated with the left. In the United States, universities have moved rapidly left since 1990, when the left-right ratio of professors across all departments was less than two to one. By 2004, the left-right ratio was roughly five to one, and it is still climbing. In the social sciences and humanities it is far higher. Because this political purification is happening at a time of rising cross-partisan hostility, we can expect increasing hostility from Republican legislators toward universities and the things they desire, including research funding and freedom from federal and state control.

Tribal conflicts and tribal politics took center stage in 2015. Iyengar and Westwood help us understand that tribal conflicts are no longer just about race, religion, and nationality. Cross-partisan prejudice should become a focus of concern and research. In the United States, it may even be a more urgent problem than cross-racial prejudice.
I don't know how much faith we should put on sociological research. It could just be that people feel constrained against expressing any suspicion or animus based on race, gender, or religion, but feel no such constraint when it comes to party. Think of it as such as a reverse Bradley effect in sociology.

2 comments:

Linda Fox said...

Not to diminish Depardieu's stupidity, but many method actors try to incorporate the characters they are playing into their own persona, at least for the duration of the film. This may have led to his "channeling" Stalin's callous viewpoint.

tfhr said...

Betsy,

Thanks for another year of great links, excerpts, and commentary in your daily posts. I don't know where you find the time it takes you to do this but I want you to know it's appreciated. Here's to a very happy and important New Year.