Monday, October 23, 2017

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg explains why Steve Bannon shouldn't be regarded as some great rainmaker who knows how to pick and elect whichever candidate he wants. Rather, he's the guy who claims credit for the rain that is already going to fall.
Bannon followed the same playbook in the 2016 presidential race. He boarded the Trump train late and pretended he’d been the conductor all along. As Trump himself put it: “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Bannon claimed credit for ROy Moore winning the GOP senate primary in Alabama when Moore was already ahead in the polls.
Now, Bannon is claiming he will back candidates to challenge every incumbent senator up for reelection in 2018, save for Ted Cruz, who is supported by the billionaire Mercer family, patrons of Bannon and Breitbart News.

It’s understandable that Bannon and his employees at Breitbart would want to perpetuate the myth of Bannon’s rainmaking skills. They’re in the business of monetizing anger at Washington and the GOP “establishment.” Less forgivable, if not necessarily less understandable, is the eagerness of the political press to perpetuate the myth that Bannon is a master political strategist and a kingmaker in Republican politics.

In 2016, at the height of Trump’s popularity with grassroots Republicans, Breitbart tried his “fight the establishment” shtick and failed miserably. He backed Trump copycat Paul Nehlen’s bid to topple House speaker Paul Ryan in the Wisconsin GOP primary. Nehlen lost by 68 percentage points. Bannon tried the same thing in Senate primaries in Alabama, Arizona, and Indiana and got shellacked in each of them.

“Watching Bannon make threats against entrenched Republican senators is like watching an armchair fantasy-football player manage a professional football team,” National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar writes. “He’ll quickly find that beating Hillary Clinton may look like child’s play compared to toppling entrenched Republican senators with ample resources behind them.”
Perhaps. Or Bannon can ride the wave of anti-establishmentarianism sweeping through Republican ranks. But, just as some of the Tea Party candidates could win their primaries, they still couldn't win general elections except if they had political talents and smarts such Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio did in 2010. The Christine O'Donnells and Sharron Angles didn't.
If the Bannonistas lose, you can be sure Bannon will insist they were stabbed in the back by the “establishment” and “disloyal” Republicans. And if they win in the primaries or the general elections, it will certainly be due to their own merits and the anger of the GOP base at the Washington dysfunction that fuels right-wing populism these days. When it rains he’ll dance, taking credit for wins he didn’t earn, and he’ll blame losses on the dysfunction he helps fuel.
Or maybe we'll get this result when people start realizing that they've backed someone who is a political incompetent.
Two prominent staffers on Arizona Republican Kelli Ward’s primary campaign against sitting Sen. Jeff Flake have officially issued an apology to everyone in the state for helping to legitimize Ward as a serious political candidate.

The two staffers, Dustin Stockton and Jen Lawrence, resigned from the Ward campaign in recent weeks. Stockton was Ward’s chief strategist. Lawrence was the candidate’s press secretary.

Stockton and Lawrence say they were responsible for managing Ward’s current U.S. Senate campaign from May 2017 until September 2017. They identify themselves as prominent grassroots activists. Both are also former Breitbart reporters.

“After running her campaign, we’ve realized that our successful efforts to legitimize her campaign was a mistake,” Lawrence said in a Tuesday press release.

The two newly-former campaign aides say they were responsible for transforming Ward from a fringe candidate into a bona fide contender flush with donor cash and volunteer support.

Financier Robert Mercer and his wife Diana donated $300,000 to a super PAC supporting Ward while Stockton and Lawrence were the campaign’s stewards.

Breitbart, the populist conservative website run by Steve Bannon, published friendly articles supporting Ward in her 2016 primary run against Sen. John McCain. Breitbart has also been supportive of Ward in her bid against Flake.

“Her campaign was such a disaster that we saw an opportunity to prove how much we can help struggling campaigns and we did just that,” Stockton, the former Breitbart writer, said. “Unfortunately, she showed that she isn’t up to the task of standing up to the pressure that causes so many candidates to betray voters when they get to Washington.”

....Stockton said he and Lawrence worked to position Ward effectively as a grassroots conservative for the primary. They became disillusioned, they said, after concluding that Ward’s ambition to become a U.S. senator is far more important to her than any actual policy issues.

“What we found is that she is willing to adopt whatever methods she thinks will work at the time,” Stockton said. “She will set anything aside in order to pursue her own ambition.”
Hmmm. Is there any recent candidate backed by Breitbart whom that description would fit?

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Conor Friedersdorf has an article in The Atlantic looking at what people really think about the phrases that universities have determined are microaggressions. He discusses an education sheet that has been used at several universities to list phrases that professors and other students should not use because they are "racial microaggressions that “communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons.”
The following statements are included:

“You speak good English.”
“When I look at you I don’t see color.”
“America is a melting pot.”
“America is the land of opportunity.”
“Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.”
He looks at a poll that CATO and YouGov conducted on free speech to see if people actually find those phrases offensive. Amazingly, they don't.
Telling a recent immigrant, “you speak good English” was deemed “not offensive” by 77 percent of Latinos; saying “I don’t notice people’s race” was deemed “not offensive” by 71 percent of African Americans and 80 percent of Latinos; saying “America is a melting pot” was deemed not offensive by 77 percent of African Americans and 70 percent of Latinos; saying “America is the land of opportunity” was deemed “not offensive” by 93 percent of African Americans and 89 percent of Latinos; and saying “everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough” was deemed “not offensive” by 89 percent of Latinos and 77 percent of African Americans.
Gee, is it the university diversity bureaucrats who have determined that those phrases are offensive, not the people who are supposedly being aggressed upon? Friedersdorf understands the more pernicious effects of this self-satisfied proclamations on what constitutes racism.
The effect was to misinform any young people who accepted its assertions in two ways: they would have left college falsely confident that they understand what others find offensive and demeaning; and falsely perceiving folks who use the aforementioned phrases as offending others—willfully or through discreditable ignorance of widely held norms—even as those alleged “micro-aggressors,” who perhaps belong to a socioeconomic class less likely to attend college, saw themselves as being affirmatively friendly and inoffensive, and turn out to have a better grasp on what others think.

It’s easy to understand why administrators are tempted to simply tell people how to be culturally competent, rather than ensuring that pertinent facts are taught and urging individuals to apply reason to them; if I were on a college campus where a clueless white undergraduate from a deeply out-of-touch family non-hatefully donned blackface, my first impulse would be to say, “That’s hugely offensive, don’t ever wear it again!” rather than undertaking the more demanding task of educating the individual in question.

The censure might even have the same effect.

But even if almost everyone is on the same page when it comes to blackface, Holocaust denial, or racial slurs, it appears some powerful college administrators are incompetent at formulating a broader picture of what it is to be culturally competent, and are sometimes the ones who’d most benefit from remedial education.

Things are becoming very silly these days.
The UK government says the term “pregnant woman” should not be used in a UN treaty because it “excludes” transgender people.

Feminists reacted with outrage to what they said was the latest example of “making women unmentionable” in the name of transgender equality.

The statement comes in Britain’s official submission on proposed amendments to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 1976. The UN treaty says a “pregnant woman” must be protected, including not being subject to the death penalty.

Yet in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office submission, Britain opposes the term “pregnant woman” because it may “exclude transgender people who have given birth”. The suggested term is “pregnant people”.

Only two known UK cases exist of transgender pregnancy, where children are born to trans men who have had a sex change but retained a functioning womb and ovaries.

Sarah Ditum, a prominent feminist writer, said: “This isn’t inclusion. This is making women unmentionable. Having a female body and knowing what that means for reproduction doesn’t make you ‘exclusionary’. Forcing us to decorously scrub out any reference to our sex on pain of being called bigots is an insult.”

And then there is this idiocy.
Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe has been named one of the World Health Organization's "Goodwill Ambassadors," in a move that has puzzled just about everyone on the face of the earth. Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, has seen the country essentially fall apart under his leadership. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is just 60 years and Mugabe is accused of dozens of human rights abuses....

In his new post, Mugabe is being asked to be the "Goodwill Ambassador" throughout Africa on conditions such as stroke, heart attack, and asthma. Ironically, Mugabe often leaves the country (despite his relatively advanced age) for medical treatments as Zimbabwe's healthcare system is in shambles.

According to people working for the World Health Organization, they were "dumbfounded" by the move and are concerned that Mugabe's position will make the organization seem less credible.
Ya think? Do people really not know the atrocities that Mugabe has been responsible for?
From January 1983, a campaign of terror was waged against the Ndebele people in Matabeleland in western Zimbabwe. The so-called Gukurahundi massacres remain the darkest period in the country’s post-independence history, when more than 20,000 civilians were killed by Robert Mugabe’s feared Fifth Brigade.

No one has accepted the blame for the violence, but the recent release of historical documents has shed new light on those responsible.

The wide-ranging reports include diplomatic correspondence, intelligence assessments and raw intelligence garnered by spies recruited from within the Zimbabwean government.

These papers – augmented by my investigations and the testimony of Zimbabwean witnesses – appear to substantiate what survivors and scholars have always suspected: Mugabe, then prime minister, was the prime architect of well-planned and systematically executed mass killings.

The documents, which include recently declassified cables from the Australian high commission, reinforce the view that Gukurahundi – a Shona word for the spring rains that sweep away dry season chaff - was closely associated with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party’s efforts to eliminate opposition groups after independence in 1980.
Scroll through the posts at Genocide Watch on Mugabe and think about whether he should be a Goodwill Ambassador for anything?

UPDATE: Fortunately, after hearing all sorts of protest, the WHO has withdrawn its invitation to Mugabe. But the fact still stands that they originally considered this a good idea.

Jay Nordlinger is amazed that William Browder, the lawyer for Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured to death in a Russian prison, has now been placed on Interpol's wanted list by Vladimir Putin and thus banned from coming to the United States.
Thereafter, Browder dedicated himself to the cause of justice in Russia.

“My grandfather was the biggest Communist in America, and I was the biggest capitalist in Russia,” he likes to say. His grandfather was indeed Earl Browder, the head of the CPUSA. His father was Felix Browder, a math genius.

In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian human-rights abusers: It freezes their assets and deprives them of visas. Boris Nemtsov called the Magnitsky Act “the most pro-Russian law ever enacted by a foreign government.” (Nemtsov was the leader of the opposition to Putin in Russia. In 2015, he was murdered within sight of the Kremlin.)

The Magnitsky Act drives Putin nuts. It means that his men can’t act as they always have, i.e., with impunity. Now there are consequences, which is a problem for Putin. Four countries have Magnitsky acts: the U.S., Britain, Estonia, and now Canada. (They passed theirs last week.)

Browder is a driver behind these Magnitsky acts, and Putin hates him for it, understandably. Twice in 2013, he tried to add Browder to Interpol’s wanted list, and twice he failed, because Interpol knew that Putin was politically motivated. Browder is not a criminal. He is an anti-criminal, which is why Putin targets him.

In 2014, Putin tried again — no dice. Last summer, Browder testified against him before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Senate, to damning effect. Obviously ticked, Putin tried again. This time, Interpol had Browder’s name on the list for a month, before deleting it.

In the wake of Canada’s new Magnitsky act, Putin has tried again. Tried for a fifth time. Interpol has accepted his request. Worse, the U.S. government seems in partnership with the Kremlin: Our government has revoked Browder’s visa. (American-born, Browder is a British citizen.)

What the …? Let this error be corrected speedily. It’s Putin’s killers and thieves who should be barred from the U.S., not their nemesis, Browder.

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In the wake of the news that Russia purchased Facebook and Google ads to exacerbate racial and political tensions in the U.S., Julia Ioffe reviews the history of Russia or the Soviet Union trying to use propaganda to interfere in American politics. This is all out of the same playbook.
During the Cold War, the Kremlin similarly sought to plant fake news and foment discontent, but was limited by the low-tech methods available at the time. “Before, the Soviets would plant information in Indian papers and hope it would get picked up by our papers,” says John Sipher, who ran the CIA’s Russia desk during George W. Bush’s first term. The Soviets planted misinformation about the AIDs epidemic as a Pentagon creation, according to Sipher, as well as the very concept of a nuclear winter. “Now, because of the technology, you can jump right in,” Sipher says.

Neither is playing on racial tensions inside the United States a new Russian tactic. In fact, it predates even the Cold War. In 1932, for instance, Dmitri Moor, the Soviet Union’s most famous propaganda poster artist, created a poster that cried, “Freedom to the prisoners of Scottsboro!” It was a reference to the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama, and then repeatedly—wrongly—convicted by all-white Southern juries. The case became a symbol of the injustices of the Jim Crow South, and the young Soviet state milked it for all the propagandistic value it could.

It was part of a plan put in place in 1928 by the Comintern—the Communist International, whose mission was to spread the communist revolution around the world. The plan initially called for recruiting Southern blacks and pushing for “self-determination in the Black Belt.” By 1930, the Comintern had escalated the aims of its covert mission, and decided to work toward establishing a separate black state in the South, which would provide it with a beachhead for spreading the revolution to North America.

The Soviets also exploited the oppression of Southern blacks for their own economic benefit. It was the height of the Great Depression, and the Soviet Union was positioning itself not only as a workers’ utopia, but as a racial utopia as well, one where ethnic, national, and religious divisions didn’t exist. In addition to luring thousands of white American workers, it brought over African-American workers and sharecroppers with the promise of the freedom to work and live unburdened by the violent restrictions of Jim Crow. In return, they would help the Soviets build their fledgling cotton industry in Central Asia. Several hundred answered the call, and though many eventually went back—or died in the Gulag—some of their descendants remain in Russia.
The Soviets clearly saw American civil rights struggles as a way to demonize the U.S. and offer a counter to any story about Soviet brutality or denial of civil liberties. I spent a semester in 1979 studying Russian in Leningrad and I was amazed at how current Russians were about civil rights disturbances in the U.S. That was often one of the first questions that new acquaintances would ask about America.

So is this what they're teaching in universities?
A University of Pennsylvania teaching assistant is under heavy fire after they tweeted that they would call on 'white men' last when doing student participation.

Stephanie McKellop, a Ph.D. student studying marriage and family (using them, they pronouns), has since set their tweets to private but shared that they were trying to encourage classroom participation by minority students.

'I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC get second tier priority. [White Women] come next. And, if I have to, white men,' they said in the tweets on Monday.

In subsequent post, McKellop explains that the tactic - called progressive stacking - was one learned from a professor in undergrad.
'In normal life, who has the easiest time speaking, most opportunities? Flip it,' they added.

'The classroom is the place YOU get to control social setting.'

....Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor of educational-policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona, offered The Chronicle of Higher Education an explanation of 'progressive slacking.'

He said: 'In college classrooms, it's very common for people of privileged social identities to dominate conversations.'

Utilized during the Occupy movement, the move isn't used often in an academic setting, according to the professor.

In a classroom, ideally, a professor would ask a question and students would raise their hand, contributing to the 'stack'.

Mr. Cabrera added that normally, professors would call on students that they see raised their hands first.

But what the tactic may actually do, is allow the teacher to choose students from marginalized groups first.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the usage of progressive slacking.

Many, incorrectly, assume that students from privileged groups will therefore be discriminated against when wanting to participate.
Others, also think that it will cause the teacher to choose marginalized students who did not raise their hands, which is also not the case.

'[It's] an acknowledgment that traditional pedagogical techniques have silenced marginal voices.'

It is rather similar to the already practiced method of teachers calling on students who do not get the chance to contribute as much.
No, it's not similar to teachers calling first on students who don't contribute as much. I suspect all teachers do that. I know I do. Sometimes, when I have students who are very shy or afraid of speaking up in class, I'll recommend that they set a goal to raise their hands once that week and I'll keep an eye on them and call on them first when they do that. Then we'll try to work up to twice a week and so forth once they realize that nothing bad will happen when they volunteer in class. That's a lot different than stating, publicly no less, that I will call on people based on their race and gender because of some perceived privilege. As far as I know, being shy in class is not genetically tied to race. There could be a shy white student who needs encouragement to participate.

Another technique is just to call on students without regard to who is raising his or her hands. All too often students will hide behind their not raising their hands when I call on them. Once they realize that anyone can be called on at any time, they realize that they have to pay attention all the time and be thinking about the subject under discussion. If a teacher does it right, everyone will have at least one time to participate in each class and the teacher can think about spreading the questions around rather than what race or gender someone is.

Why would a white school want to take a class from this TA who has publicly announced her perceptions of them solely because of her race? Is the fact that she's favoring blacks over other minorities over whites make it all acceptable? What garbage!

Naomi Schaefer Riley discusses Cornell's Black Students United which has demanded that the university favor Black American students rather than those who are immigrants or the children of immigrants of Africa. After receiving criticism, the group apologized for raising "conflicted feelings" among the communities they represent.
But if the purpose of racial preferences is to promote “diversity,” as the Supreme Court has held, why don’t immigrants count?

The BSU argued that “the Black student population at Cornell disproportionately represents international or first-generation African or Caribbean students. While these students have a right to flourish at Cornell, there is a lack of investment in Black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America.”

There’s a contradiction here. For years liberal writers have blamed black poverty and undereducation on racism—the experience of being more likely to be pulled over by police, to be looked at suspiciously in department stores, to be discriminated against in schools and the workplace.

But it doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not to the same degree, among immigrants. “The more strongly black immigrant students identify with their specific ethnic origins, the better they perform [academically],” Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld observed in their 2014 book, “The Triple Package.”

....Why does racism not seem to keep black immigrants down? The answer is obvious: Black immigrant culture tends to value academic achievement and believe it is possible no matter what happened to your ancestors. As one business school graduate born to Nigerian parents tells Ms. Chua and Mr. Rubenfeld: “If you start thinking about or becoming absorbed in the mentality that the whole system is against us then you cannot succeed.”

Groups like the Cornell BSU insist that the system is out to get them and they cannot succeed. This makes the presence of high-achieving immigrant black students inconvenient. Between diversity and victimhood as the highest good in today’s academia, it’s hard to know where to place your money.
But claiming benefits for one's supposed victimhood is a lot easier than telling oneself that one should work hard to achieve no matter how dreadful the circumstances one was born into.

Allahpundt is gobsmacked
at how much money Bill O'Reilly has paid to settle a sexual harassment claim by former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl. The NYT reported this weekend that he paid her $32 million to settle her claims against him. That's a whole lot of money for actions that Bill O'Reilly has claimed never happened.
I can’t get my head around the number. Do a google search of large wrongful death settlements — not sexual harassment, not assault, not rape, actual death — and you’ll find law firms touting blockbuster agreements they’ve brokered for their clients of … around $8 million. The famous O.J. civil verdict in favor of Ron Goldman’s family was $33.5 million but only $8.5 million of that was compensatory damages.

A $32 million settlement from one individual to another individual is a staggering, bank-breaking sum, more than a year’s gross salary even for the fantastically successful 8 p.m. host on America’s most successful cable news network. Last night Gretchen Carlson, who knows well what it’s like to be harassed at Fox, tweeted, “Nobody pays $32m for false allegations – nobody.” Try to imagine a scenario in which you’d part with that kind of change to silence someone if their accusations were meritless. Now try to imagine how grave the accusations must have been to even put a number like that on the table. Again, it costs far, far less to kill someone....

O’Reilly denies everything, of course. His lawyer called the Times story “defamatory” in a statement but didn’t specify why and didn’t challenge the eye-popping $32 million figure. He also noted that “dozens” of women at Fox News came forward after Ailes was let go in 2015 alleging that they’d been harassed by “scores” of men at the network and that 21st Century Fox had paid out — deep breath — close to $100 million in settlements to resolve the claims. Clearly he’s insinuating that there’s been a feeding frenzy of bogus accusations by greedy women eager to shake down deep-pocketed Fox personnel, never mind that O’Reilly already had three settlements under his belt from over the years by the time Ailes departed. An obvious question: If the halls of Fox News are crawling with sociopathic women willing to destroy a man’s reputation with lies about harassment to make a buck, why haven’t the very rich Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Bret Baier been accused? Maybe the reason dozens of women made accusations and received settlements is because … there really was a culture of harassment at Fox?

The Weinstein Company got righteously clubbed a few weeks ago by commentators gawking at the fact that Weinstein’s contract allegedly had a pay-to-prey clause that gave the firm no means to fire him over settlements with accusers. All he had to do was pay the company itself a million dollars for each infraction and his job was safe. 21st Century Fox *did* have a clause in O’Reilly’s contract that allowed them to terminate him for reasons related to harassment and they eventually put that clause to good use, as they noted yesterday in a statement. In that sense the Weinstein and O’Reilly situations are different. But in another sense they’re similar: The Weinstein Company signed Weinstein to a new deal after he’d already paid out multiple settlements. Same with Fox and O’Reilly, and Fox doesn’t have the excuse that the “problem” employee in this case was the man who founded the firm and whose name was on it. They knew that Wiehl had threatened him with a lawsuit in January, by their own admission, yet re-signed him anyway the following month after it was settled. In fact, according to the Times, there’s reason to think Fox might still have O’Reilly on the payroll if not for a federal investigation that all but ensured the Wiehl settlement would eventually become public. Per the NYT’s timeline, it was just six days after Fox’s lawyer warned the company that the details would come out that O’Reilly was canned. What if there had been no investigation? Would his employment have outlasted Big Harv’s?
For all the glee that conservatives have enjoyed at the Harvey Weinstein story, we shouldn't bypass the scummy behavior that was going on at Fox News.

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This is the cutest video you'll see all year. I just can't help smiling seeing this little boy tell his mother that he needs her to come home from the hospital.