Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Cruising the Web

Was it just a couple of weeks ago that we were being lectured about not politicizing the mass murder by a Muslim immigrant after he mowed down people in a New York City bike lane? Oh, well never mind. If a gun is used, it is, apparently, never too early to try and use the murders to argue for some sort of gun control regardless of the facts in any particular shooting.

There were laws in place to prevent the murderer in Texas from acquiring a gun because he had been convicted in a court martial for assault and for fracturing the skull of his baby stepson. Federal law prohibits someone convicted of domestic assault from buying a gun. So how was he able to buy a gun? It was just a dang bureaucratic mistake.
The man who police say shot and killed 26 people in a Texas church was able to purchase firearms because the Air Force failed to enter his assault conviction into a federal database.
Devin Patrick Kelley was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after he was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and fracturing his infant stepson's skull. Kelley's case was enough to prohibit him from possessing a firearm under federal law, but due to a bureaucratic error neither his arrest nor conviction were listed in the national background check database.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek confirmed the mistake in a statement.

"Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after this conviction," Stefanek said. "Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations."

Stefanek said the service is now investigating the error.
What a tragic error that might have cost all those people their lives. And this is not the only time that a clerical error may have cost people their lives.
Family members of the people killed in an attack on a South Carolina church last year have sued the U.S. government over an FBI clerk’s mistake that allowed the purchase of the gun used in the shooting.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed by relatives and survivors of the shooting and reviewed by Reuters allege that at least one of the background check databases maintained by the federal government had information that should have prevented the firearm sale....

The examiner who conducted Roof’s check did not see a February 2015 police report in which Roof admitted to unlawful drug possession, which would have barred him from buying the weapon, Comey said last year.

That information did not come to light because Roof’s record listed the wrong arresting agency, federal authorities said.
Sadly, background checks are only going to be as good as the entries made by human beings. And with hundreds of thousands of entries, there are bound to be errors. Who knows how many other errors there are in the database allowing gun purchases by people who shouldn't have been able to buy a gun. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't have the database and use it, but that we can't depend on it to be a total prophylactic preventing undesirable people from getting guns.

No wonder that people have lost all faith in the media and seem happy to embrace #FakeNews. Yesterday presented us with several stories that the media jumped all over to make Trump and his administration look stupid.

A lot in the media twisted a speech that Rick Perry gave to make it seem that he was saying that oil prevents rape and sexual assault. He reported from his recent trip to Africa that a young girl told him how important it was that her village have electricity.
‘One of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I won’t have to try to read by the light of a fire, and have those fumes literally killing people, but also from the standpoint of sexual assault.’
While those on the left were laughing at him and Sierra Club was calling for his resignation, Tim Carney points out how silly those criticisms are.
So let me ask Timothy Cama of the Hill, his editors, and everyone on Twitter OMGing about this a few questions:

Do you believe street lights can reduce crime? If you don't think so, do you think that's at least a plausible idea? (Here's a study from Chicago suggesting that outages of street lights causes crimes.)

Do you think electrification is an important part of economic development in Africa?

Do you think fossil fuels provide more reliable electricity than other sorts of energy?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then you think fossil fuels can help reduce sexual assault.

Cama's tweet, the Hill's tweet, and the Hill's headline all omit the middle step that Perry, even in his inarticulate answer, included: lighting.

"Perry Says More Reliable Lighting Can Reduce Crime" wouldn't have been as clickworthy.

This is literally why Americans don't trust journalists.
He then goes on to link to a UN paper with the title "Better lighting, wider pavements: steps towards preventing sexual violence in New Delhi."

Ed Morrissey reports on two silly stories that the media were peddling yesterday that were totally blown up beyond what really happened. Several media outlets ridiculed Trump for dumping the box of fish food in the water to feed koi fish as if this were a major gaffe, although it was clear fromt he video that the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe dumped his fish food in first. So cancel the whole fishgate scandal.

Then they started laughing at Trump for seeming to not know that Japan builds cars in the U.S. when he asked Japanese carmakers to “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over.” In Trump's usual lack of verbal clarity, that one sentence would seem to indicate that he didn't know that they are already building cars here. As Aaron Blake points out in the Washington Post, the full remarks indicate that Trump acknowledged Toyota and Mazda for their plants in the U.S. and thanked them for doing so and was encouraging more companies to build here instead of shipping their cars over. Blake adds some wise words to Trump's snarky critics about things he didn't actually say.
Trump says plenty of things that are false or that belie a lack of familiarity with the subject at-hand. But spotlighting this quote as evidence of the latter is extremely uncharitable.

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Matthew Continetti read a description of the Obama Foundation meeting in Chicago and the new-agey sorts of activities that the attendees were participating in. They prided themselves on inhabiting what someone labeled "the sanity bubble."
The sanity bubble! What a perfect label for the environs of the self-satisfied and righteous, the elegantly appointed ballrooms where the high and mighty, silhouetted in magenta up-lighting, nod reverentially at clichés mouthed by the latest faddish “thought leader,” before tucking into, say, a caprese salad with arugula and pesto, followed by spinach and gorgonzola tortelloni with caramelized pears and bleu cheese cream. Within the sanity bubble life is pleasant, comfortable, and agreeable, its niceties and pleasures and fixed ideas interrupted by only the maelstrom of political and economic change outside.
Continetti admits that he lives in this bubble, but he knows enough to recognize that this isn't the life experiences of a lot of the country.
As racially and sexually diverse as the crowd at the Obama Foundation summit may have been, everyone at the breakout session on “Who Narrates the World?” had, I’d wager, the following in common: a college or postgraduate degree, the mark of distinction and privilege and wealth in our society today. Yet most Americans do not possess such credentials, and live very different existences from those who do. Recently I asked an elections expert to describe the modern analogue to the “Dayton Housewife,” the prototypical swing voter of the late ’60s and ’70s behind the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. My friend told me the median voter is a believing Catholic woman with children who works part time, attends Mass sporadically, dropped out of college, lives in a household earning between $50,000 and $65,000 a year, votes in general election years, and resides in the Columbus exurbs.

Do you suppose that our hypothetical Westerville mom would write on a chalkboard that she hopes her son will be rescued from “toxic masculinity”? Or cares in the slightest about José Andres? She probably voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 because he talked a good game, has a nice family, and sympathized with the challenges of working people. But then Obama’s second term brought no real improvement in her prospects, and a lot of ancillary cultural and social upheaval besides. Developments that Clinton promised to accelerate, while reassuring the public that the economic picture had brightened itself.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump did a better job of appealing to such voters than Hillary Clinton did.
“Obama and Clinton,” writes Stan Greenberg, “lived in a cosmopolitan and professional America that wasn’t very angry about the state of the country, even if many of the groups in the Clinton coalition were struggling and angry.” But Bernie Sanders, and later Donald Trump, was angry, and offered alternatives that, however flawed, at least seemed to acknowledge the crisis. So the Obama coalition fell apart. And as long as Democrats prefer the safety of the sanity bubble to the realities of America in 2017, that coalition is not likely to be put back together anytime soon.
The Obama Foundation "sanity bubble" isn't going to help their party reach those outside the bubble until they acknowledge the need to reach those voters. As Steven Hayward comments,
The legal filing says “Dr. Clack’s actions have proximately caused, and continue to proximately cause, damage to Dr. Jacobson. . . The publication of the Clack article has exposed Dr. Jacobson to ridicule and has injured him in his reputation.” Indeed it has, because it results in Jacobson getting our coveted Grand Prize Green Weenie of 2017 Award. Here’s to hoping he will sue us, too.

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Sean Trende tries to explain the variation in polling on the Virginia Senate race and concludes that we really can't conclude much, even by aggregating the results of different polls, because the pollsters are making different assumptions. And the Democrat, Ralph Northam, might win comfortably; Ed Gillespie, the Republican, might win, or it might be too close to call. So, basically he's saying that we have no reason to put any faith in any political polling. But that won't stop the media from sponsoring zillions of polls and hours of punditry trying to explain what these perhaps meaningless polls might mean.

John Kerry told Christiane Amanpour that Trump's rhetoric has been over the line and "given North Korea reason to say, 'Hey, we need a bomb.'" Hello? Doe"? Kerry not remember that North Korea already has "a bomb. Allahpundit comments,
They’ve had a bomb since 2006, a full decade before Trump got elected. The bulk of the work they did to develop miniaturized weapons, the key step to building nuclear ICBMs, was performed during the Obama administration, half of which was spent with Kerry as secretary of state. Of the last three presidents, Trump bears by far — by far — the least amount of blame for North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. What is Kerry talking about?

What he means, I guess, is that Trump’s saber-rattling will make it that much harder to convince North Korea diplomatically to give up the 60 or so nuclear weapons they already have. But that’s never going to happen, no matter how much Trump softens his tone. Know why? Because the NorKs learned from Barack Obama never to trust America’s promises of better relations in return for disarmament.
He's referring the lesson that North Koreans have said they learned from Qaddafi's fall after he gave up his nukes.
The Libyan intervention was a Clinton project at State, not a Kerry project, but he cheered it from the Senate, insisting in early 2011 that a no-fly zone to protect the rebels from Qaddafi was a “moral imperative.” North Korea was watching, which explains why Kerry’s own diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang when he took over at State in 2012 went nowhere.

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Environmentalist Mark Jacobson of Stanford is now suing the National Academy of Science and the lead author of a study it published criticizing his work. He's asking for $10 million.
Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor who has prominently contended that the United States can fully power itself with wind, water and solar energy, is suing the National Academy of Sciences and the lead author of a study published in its flagship journal that criticized Jacobson’s views — pushing an already bitter academic dispute into a courtroom setting.

The suit, which asks for more than $10 million in damages and retraction of the study, charges that lead author Christopher Clack “knew and was informed prior to publication that many of the statements in the [paper] were false.” It adds that the NAS “knowingly and intentionally published false statements of fact” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences despite being aware of Jacobson’s complaints.
Clack responded,
“Our paper underwent very rigorous peer review, and two further extraordinary editorial reviews by the nation’s most prestigious academic journal, which considered Dr. Jacobson’s criticisms and found them to be without merit. It is unfortunate that Dr. Jacobson has now chosen to reargue his points in a court of law, rather than in the academic literature, where they belong.”

Clack’s study had 21 authors, but Jacobson’s lawsuit only names him and the academy. The other authors include a number of high-profile academic names in energy and climate change research and policy — a list that Jacobson charges magnified the impact of the article in the media and thus the damage to his reputation.

“We stand behind the paper, and we think this is a scientific issue that needs to be debated by scientists and not in the courts,” said one co-author, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing litigation.
Jacobson has argued that it would be possible to power the entire country solely from wind, solar, and water energy. Environmentalists eagerly embraced his conclusions.
But Clack argued in PNAS earlier this year that Jacobson’s idea was not only infeasible but also that his work used “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.” He and his co-authors said the transition toward cleaner energy will require “a broad portfolio of energy options,” which presumably includes nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, and more.
Jacobson is accusing his critics of making modeling errors. His critics reject the accusation. But now Jacobson has decided that the question should not be settled by scholarly debate, but in court judged by non-scientists. Think of what this means to the idea of scientific research and debate if one person can slap a $10 million pricetag and criticisms.

This video encapsulates the hypocritical arrogance of Venezuela's dictator, Maduro. His people are starving, but he chomps down on an empanada during a live TV address.

Meanwhile, teachers and doctors have fled to Colombia and turned to prostitution to try to get the money to feed their families.