Friday, December 30, 2016

Cruising the Web

Sanctioning Russia for hacking and posting the emails of leading Democrats is fine. But I wonder why those actions were so much more heinous than the OPM hacking or various other hackings of private companies and banks. And David Burge also has a point in this tweet.
I sure hope that the administration is doing a lot more behind the scenes than what they announced. As the WSJ writes,
Mr. Obama also promised that he would take other steps, “some of which will not be publicized.”

Let’s hope so, because efforts to sanction Russia’s powerful FSB and GRU intelligence agencies won’t carry much sting with the officials and hired hackers who carried out the cyberattacks. Identities can always be changed and fake documents issued. The Kremlin has already promised that it will retaliate in kind, probably by expelling a similar number of U.S. diplomats from Moscow and stepping up its harassment of those who remain, washing out the impact of Mr. Obama’s order.

The larger flaw is that Mr. Obama’s order amounts to a far too late signalling exercise to underscore U.S. displeasure, rather than a serious retaliatory strike that imposes real costs on responsible Russian officials. House Speaker Paul Ryan was right to support Mr. Obama’s actions, but he was also right to add with no small irony that they are “an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia.”
They have some other suggestions of what the President could have chosen to do.

Of course, Trump's unreasoning stubbornness in downplaying Russia's role in cyberattacks seem like deliberate blindness. It would be nice, however, if journalists would recognize that the election wasn't hacked. The Obama administration admits that. What was hacked were the accounts of John Podesta and the DNC and some other prominent Democrats. While linking to quite a few media headlines referring to Russia hacking the election, Jon Gabriel explains how erroneous this is.
Despite the histrionic claims of the press, the election was not hacked. The Democratic National Committee’s lousy IT security allowed someone to access their emails which were then leaked. Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta fell for an age-old phishing scam that was as believable as getting millions of dollars from a Nigerian prince. Using the spotty media understanding of cybersecurity, they can claim that the DNC and Hillary’s campaign were “hacked,” but the election decisively was not. And the press knows it.

In order to “hack” an election, a nefarious group would have to infiltrate the voting systems of 50 states, plus DC and territories. All of these systems are unique, with completely different architecture, ballot formats, tabulation processes, etc., etc. This did not happen. In fact, some hackers tried breaking into a few different states’ systems weeks before the election, were quickly identified, and prevented from doing so. Likewise, someone attempted to gain illegal access to the Republican National Committee, but since they had a competent IT staff, this too was thwarted.

But even without delving into the technical details, it’s obvious that the election wasn’t hacked. If, say, Russia wanted to elect Trump, they would have given him the popular vote victory along with his electoral victory. They also wouldn’t have left him to squeak out meager wins across the upper midwest and rust belt.

The media is intentionally lying to the public because they want a better excuse for Election Day than the reality. They would rather focus on hacking, the popular vote, FBI Director James Comey, or the minuscule alt-right, instead of accepting that American voters slightly preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, at least in the states where it counted. People wanted change over the ineptness, cronyism, and stagnation of the Obama era. They didn’t trust the utterly untrustable Clinton and liked her even less.

The harsh reality is this: Hillary Clinton is the worst presidential nominee in American history. And if the media is actually concerned about fake news, they will drop the election hacking lie and just admit that their candidate was a disaster.
Of course, it serves the interests of the Democrats to perpetuate the "fake news" that the Russians hacked the election instead of saying that the Russians hacked Democrats' emails. So expect the media to continue using that phrase.

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Emma Green has an article in The Atlantic about religion and the Democratic Party. She interviewed Michael Wear, who was the director of President Obama's faith-outreach efforts, and is a conservative evangelical Christian. Wear has written a new book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America. Wear describes the basic illiteracy and ignorance about fundamental beliefs of Christians. Here is his answer to a question on why liberals have been unwilling to reach out to evangelical Christians.
Wear: They think, in some ways wrongly, but in other ways rightly, that it would put constraints around their policy agenda. So, for instance: You could make a case to evangelicals while trying to repeal the Hyde Amendment, [which prohibits federal funding for abortion in most circumstances,] but that’s really difficult. Reaching out to evangelicals doesn’t mean you have to become pro-life. It just means you have to not be so in love with how pro-choice you are, and so opposed to how pro-life we are.

The second thing is that there’s a religious illiteracy problem in the Democratic Party. It’s tied to the demographics of the country: More 20- and 30-year-olds are taking positions of power in the Democratic Party. They grew up in parts of the country where navigating religion was not important socially and not important to their political careers. This is very different from, like, James Carville in Louisiana in the ’80s. James Carville is not the most religious guy, but he gets religious people—if you didn’t get religious people running Democratic campaigns in the South in the ’80s, you wouldn’t win.

Another reason why they haven’t reached out to evangelicals in 2016 is that, no matter Clinton’s slogan of “Stronger Together,” we have a politics right now that is based on making enemies, and making people afraid. I think we’re seeing this with the Betsy DeVos nomination: It’s much easier to make people scared of evangelicals, and to make evangelicals the enemy, than trying to make an appeal to them.
Here is an answer to a question as to why Democratic leaders won't discuss the moral question of abortion even when, like Tim Kaine, they purport to be personally opposed to abortion.
There were a lot of things that were surprising about Hillary’s answer [to a question about abortion] in the third debate. She didn’t advance moral reservations she had in the past about abortion. She also made the exact kind of positive moral argument for abortion that women’s groups—who have been calling on people to tell their abortion stories—had been demanding.

The Democratic Party used to welcome people who didn’t support abortion into the party. We are now so far from that, it’s insane. This debate, for both sides, is not just about the abortion rate; it’s not just about the legality of it. It’s a symbolic debate. It’s symbolic on the pro-choice side about the autonomy of women and their freedom to do what they want with their bodies. On the pro-life side, they care not just about the regulations around abortion, but whether there’s a cultural affirmation of life.

Even the symbolic olive branches have become less acceptable.
It's an interesting interview. There used to be many people like this within the Democratic Party as well as pro-choice voters within the Republican Party. Now...not so much.

Another interesting interview is with Anthony Bourdain upon the release of his newest cookbook, Appetites. Reason Magazine excerpts Bourdain's views on all sorts of subjects. He has some interesting comments on liberals and how they regard those who are not like themselves.
Bisley: You're a liberal. What should liberals be critiquing their own side for?

Bourdain: There's just so much. I hate the term political correctness, the way in which speech that is found to be unpleasant or offensive is often banned from universities. Which is exactly where speech that is potentially hurtful and offensive should be heard.

The way we demonize comedians for use of language or terminology is unspeakable. Because that's exactly what comedians should be doing, offending and upsetting people, and being offensive. Comedy is there, like art, to make people uncomfortable, and challenge their views, and hopefully have a spirited yet civil argument. If you're a comedian whose bread and butter seems to be language, situations, and jokes that I find racist and offensive, I won't buy tickets to your show or watch you on TV. I will not support you. If people ask me what I think, I will say you suck, and that I think you are racist and offensive. But I'm not going to try to put you out of work. I'm not going to start a boycott, or a hashtag, looking to get you driven out of the business.

The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now.

I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done.
Jim Geraghty weighs in on the same theme about political correctness. Geraghty is giving out his awards for 2016 and this is his award for the "most under-reported story of 2016."
So you put together the NFL ratings slide, the all-women Ghostbusters reboot flopping, enrollment down sharply at the University of Missouri, the short-lived crusade against the hosts of “Fixer Upper” on HGTV, this was the year of the backlash against political correctness, and it didn’t happen overnight. This was building, online outrage by online outrage, for a long time, and it blindsided most of the media. Political correctness was never popular, but you would never know it from the way the media talks about these issues. You would never know that almost half the country doesn’t support gay marriage. You would never know that the majority of people think there are two genders.

The most under-reported story of 2016 is the supreme unpopularity of political correctness and the “Social Justice Warrior” philosophy.

Kevin Williamson writes about how the American presidency has devolved into almost a cult where people look to the president to set the cultural tone of the nation as well as the person responsible for anything and everything that occurs within the country. This is such a change from what the Founding Fathers envisioned back when they were rebelling from Britain.
To be a republican in the 18th century was to be a radical. The American founders were deeply suspicious of pomp and circumstance: It is not mere coincidence that the ban on an official national church (that, and not having a manger scene at city hall, is what “establishment of religion” means) came in the first item on the Bill of Rights. Many republicans of the founding era were so suspicious of religious bureaucracies that it was not a foregone conclusion that the Catholic Church would be tolerated throughout the colonies. (Indeed, for a time it wasn’t.) And they were even more suspicious of the claims of royalty. In the person of the English king, they found a compound of those sources of suspicion: a hereditary monarch who was head of state and church both.

The idea that a large, complex society enjoying English liberty could long endure without the guiding hand of a priest-king was, in 1776, radical. A few decades later, it became ordinary — Americans could not imagine living any other way. The republican manner of American presidents was pronounced: There is a famous story about President Lincoln’s supposedly receiving a European ambassador who was shocked to see him shining his own shoes. The diplomat said that in Europe, a man of Lincoln’s stature would never shine his own shoes. “Whose shoes would he shine?” Lincoln asked.

As American society grows less literate and the state of its moral education declines, the American people grow less able to engage their government as intellectually and morally prepared citizens. We are in the process — late in the process, I’m afraid — of reverting from citizens to subjects. Subjects are led by their emotions, mainly terror and greed. They need not be intellectually or morally engaged — their attitude toward government is a lot like that of Trump’s old pal Roy Cohn: “Don’t tell me what the law is. Tell me who the judge is.”

For more than two centuries, we Americans have been working to make government subject to us rather than the other way around, to make it our instrument rather than our master. But that requires a republican culture, which is necessarily a culture of responsibility. Citizenship, which means a great deal more than showing up at the polls every two years to pull a lever for Team R or Team D, is exhausting. On the other hand, monarchy is amusing, a splendid spectacle and a wonderful form of public theater.

But the price of admission is submission.
This is so true. And I don't think that a president whose business history revolved around marketing the slapping of his name on products and real estate holdings is the man to reverse this trend.

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It is saddening to me, as a history major who graduated from George Washington University, that the school has removed the American-history requirement for undergraduate history majors. How a university named for George Washington could think that history majors don't need to know American history is beyond me. Ian Tuttle writes that this is, unfortunately, a growing trend.
Of course, GW’s decision is hardly novel. In July, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that “only 23 undergraduate history programs at the U.S. News & World Report’s top 25 national universities, top 25 public institutions, and top 25 liberal arts colleges require a single U.S. history class,” and where the requirement remained, students could fulfill it with courses such as “Mad Men and Mad Women” (Middlebury College) and “Hip-Hop, Politics, and Youth Culture in America” (University of Connecticut).
The trend is to trumpet globalism rather than the history of individual nation-states. GWU always prided itself on being the fulfillment of a vision that George Washington, as stated in his will, had of a national university.
The appropriateness — in 1799 or now — of a “national university” is debatable, but Washington’s larger vision deserves renewed consideration: He wanted the American university to be an American university, in its educational activities faithful to the unique history, circumstances, and meaning of the fledgling country in which it stood. The American university should cultivate leaders with a devotion to their nation, not an intellectual loyalty to an abstract notion.

Times having changed, nurturing patriotism now smacks of indoctrination, and elite universities are eager not to tempt a flare-up of nationalism. But the result is not increased global solidarity; it’s more and more elite anomie, as the products of elite institutions absorb the message that natural, concrete loyalties — to country, chief among them — are toxic, and struggle to muster the same affection for high-minded ideological projects.

There is a place for cosmopolitanism, for worldliness, for a cultured touch, just as there is a place for international coordination and cooperation. Washington himself hoped his university would help students free themselves from “local prejudices & habitual jealousies” that “when carried to excess, are . . . pregnant of mischievous consequences to this Country.” But the rebel against the British Empire was not under the misimpression that the United States was merely a larval stage on the way to a more perfect global union.

That is the view of many of our elite academic institutions, which are keen to speed the process along. But “the world” has no citizens, and those who hope to change it must do so by way of particular places and specific, local loyalties.

If the George Washington University wishes to change the world, it might start by relearning its own history.

Matt Shapiro did a deep dive into PolitiFact's rating
s to see how they slant their ratings against Republicans. It's a very detailed analysis, but he does seem to prove that they are much more likely to go after statements by Republicans and to rate statements by Republicans as not true even when the statements are objectively true.
Barack Obama continues to this day to claim that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. PolitiFact rated this as “Mostly False” in 2012, but changed their rating to “Mostly True” when Obama made the same statement in the State of the Union but with fewer details. Their excuse was that Obama’s claim was misleading but technically true if you look at data with the least possible context. (This is a standard PolitiFact prefers for Democrats but abhors applying to Republicans.) Obama (and most Democrats) continue to this day to make this incredibly misleading claim.

Yet Mitt Romney was checked five times (each one rated false) for making the arguably true statement that Obama apologized for the United States when visiting foreign countries after being elected in 2008. PolitiFact found Romney was right that Obama expressed regret over recent U.S. policy, then proceeded to go on a 3,000-word diatribe about what exactly constitutes an “apology.”

The pattern is there: PolitiFact checks Republicans repeatedly for the same facts, especially if they feel they can rate them “false.” Keep in mind that PolitiFact routinely touts its aggregate truth ratings, so running up the “false” scoreboard on Republicans matters when they release their “who is more honest” data stories. (Links within original)
PolitiFact is also more likely to go after Republicans than Democrats. Marco Rubio seems to be a special target for PolitiFact.
Rubio was the junior senator from Florida for nearly six years before coming in third place in the 2016 Republican primary. Yet PolitiFact was checking him nearly every month since a year before he was elected to the Senate.

Rubio was fact-checked as many times before he took office than long-time senator and erstwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been checked in his entire career. Before he even started his presidential campaign Rubio was fact-checked 10 times more [than] Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been during her tenure....

Before he even announced his run for president, PolitiFact had checked Rubio more times (87 fact-checks) than they had checked Clinton during her entire 2008 presidential run (83 fact-checks). It seems over-eager to check a four-year junior senator more than a presidential candidate, vice president, Senate majority leader, and speaker of the House.
I'm sure that Democrats would argue that Rubio just was saying more things that weren't true. But this seems more likely to be an example of confirmation bias. I'm sure that Republicans could have filled up the site with much more fact-checks of Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, or Hillary Clinton. Perhaps, if PolitiFact wants to maintain the illusion of being a neutral site, they might want to consider hiring more conservatives just to balance out what statements they choose to go after. And if liberals want to claim that "Republicans lie more than Democrats" and use PolitiFact for their evidence, it helps to do the sort of analysis that Shapiro has done. Conservatives have been complaining about PolitiFact for years, so it helps to have Shapiro's data to exemplify their bias.

This is a fascinating map in US News about what each state performed the most Google searches.
Some make sense like my state, North Carolina's search or Oklahoma searching for the Kevin Duran decision or Colorado searching for Peyton Manning retirement. But I'm not sure why Vermont is searching the most about David Bowie or Idaho in particular was searching to understand how Trump won. I feel like there are several sociological dissertations in this map.