Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Republican leaders continue to embarrass themselves on healthcare reform

Posted by sanityinjection on July 14, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just released the latest version of a Republican healthcare bill to replace Obamacare. And almost immediately, the bill is in danger of failing a procedural vote just to allow it to be debated. And so, like the sand in the hourglass, these are the days of the Republican-controlled Congress, marked chiefly by a complete inability to accomplish anything of importance. But the paralysis on healthcare is especially embarrassing because this is the issue on which so many Republican legislators ran. Remember the refrain: “Repeal and replace!” It seems like forever ago now.

The danger is very real that voters will punish a do-nothing Congress in the next election. Republican voters who believed the promises will be especially ticked off. So knowing this, why can’t the GOP caucus get its act together?

The problem, as usual, is that leadership is over-complicating the bills. In order to try to please and gain the support of all three wings of the party – liberal, centrist, and conservative – they keep adding things to the legislation to win over these groups. Of course, since those factions have very different goals, each thing leadership adds ends up losing more votes on one side than it gains on the other.

What McConnell and his team should do now is abort this latest bill and start fresh by remembering *why* Republicans were opposed to Obamacare in the first place. It wasn’t because they were against expanding access to health insurance for the poor. For most, it wasn’t even because they opposed spending more federal money on healthcare. No, think back and recall that there was one single provision of Obamacare that Republicans across the spectrum were dead-set against. That was the individual mandate, which forces Americans to purchase health insurance and fines us if we don’t.

The individual mandate is prima facie unconstitutional (I don’t care what the Supreme Court said.) It is difficult to imagine a similar federal law requiring Americans to purchase any other good or service. It’s also thinly disguised socialism, as the purpose of the mandate is to force wealthier and healthier people to pay into the insurance system to subsidize the premiums of poorer and sicker people.

The essence of effective legislating is not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. Or to put it another way,  a small victory is always better than a large failure. The only way I can see for Republicans to salvage something out of the healthcare mess is to simply pass a stripped-down bill that only does one thing: repeal the individual mandate. GOP legislators would then be forced to either support the bill or be caught nakedly going back on their campaign promises without any extra language they can point to to justify their opposition. It should be able to get enough Republican votes to pass both the House and Senate.

Of course, the Democrats will scream that repealing the individual mandate will “kill children” because of the socialist funding system mentioned above. This polemic, however, can be easily undercut by establishing a private, non-profit charitable fund to help pay for health insurance for those who cannot afford it but are ineligible for Medicaid. Contributions to the fund, however, will be a matter of public record. Then it will be up to the Democrats to get all their rich Hollywood celebrity friends, and George Soros, to put *their* money, instead of our money, where their mouths are. Heck, if they want to, they can buy multiple health insurance policies for themselves to put more money into the system. But once again, there will be no political place to hide on either side of the aisle.

I’m not under any illusion that anything as sensible as what I’ve just outlined is going to happen. Over-complicating things is what keeps Washington going, it’s what pays the salaries of all the bureaucrats and lobbyists. It’s an excellent example of why bigger government invariably becomes worse government.

Posted in Politics, Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Middle East Update – Qatar, Iran and terrorism

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

I find that it’s rather difficult for those of us in the US to find quality, up-to-date analysis of what is going on in the Middle East. As it has for thousands of years, what happens in this region disproportionately affects the rest of the world. So I’m going to try to post periodic updates summarizing what you need to know with my own analysis.

SAUDI – QATAR SPAT: Perhaps the biggest story this week was the intra-Arab diplomatic spat between the small but wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar and a group of countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. These countries not only have suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar but have cut off land and air travel access and ordered Qataris to leave their territory. This creates a serious problem for Qatar since they import most of their food from these countries and will now have to rely on Iran and Turkey for help. The seriousness of the Saudi-led group’s intentions can be understood from the fact that the Saudis will also suffer from the diplomatic break: Qatar supplies natural gas for the Saudis and other countries in the region, and the Qataris have been kicked out of the coalition military forces fighting the Houthis in Yemen. That war is not going well for the Saudis, so you can tell they are pretty pissed if they are willing to weaken their forces there over this dispute. So what is really going on?

Basically, Saudi Arabia and the other states believe that Qatar is not only too soft on Iran, but too cozy with Islamist groups like Hamas, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Shiite groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Qatari media outlet Al-Jazeera has been a long time thorn in the side of the other Arab monarchies. But the last straw came recently when Qatar paid ransom money to both Iran and al-Qaeda, which of course will be used to fund more terrorism in the region.

Ultimately, the dispute amounts to an inconvenience for the US, whose military Central Command is based in Qatar. But if the Arabs are successful in pressuring Qatar to move away from it support for Iran and other groups, that could be a positive development from the US perspective. There are reports that a minor exodus of Hamas operatives leaving Qatar has already begun.

TERROR ATTACKS IN IRAN: Also this week, the Iranian capital of Tehran became the latest victim of terrorist attacks. The timing is somewhat suspicious, coming in the wake of the Saudi media campaign linking Iran with Islamic terrorism. What better way to prove that Iran is not in bed with Sunni groups like IS and al-Qaeda than for it to be attacked by them? I’m not going so far as to claim that Iran staged the attacks as a false flag operation on their own people, but I wouldn’t put it past the terrorists to have expedited plans to attack Shiite Iran (whom they view as heretics, in many ways worse than infidels) as a way of trying to counter the Saudi propaganda effort. It’s worth noting that these attacks are the first major terrorist attacks in Iran in over 25 years.

BATTLE OF RAQQA: In Syria, US-backed coalition forces have begun their assault on the IS capital of Raqqa, even as progress continues to be made in driving them out of their other stronghold of Mosul in Iraq. Most analysts expect these campaigns to be successful in essentially ending IS as a “caliphate” or territorial power in Syria and Iraq. However, IS-affiliated groups continue to operate freely in places like Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, so the threat of terrorist attacks is far from over.

PALESTINIANS CARE MORE ABOUT JOBS AND DEMOCRACY THAN FIGHTING ISRAEL: A poll conducted last month of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza produced surprising results suggesting that public opinion among Palestinians may be more open to compromises for peace than the Palestinian leadership would like to admit. Basically, the results showed that Palestinians are more interested in being able to find good jobs and having an honest, responsible government than about issues like whether the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem. From Israel, Palestinians most want freedom of movement and more job opportunities from Israeli companies more than they care about Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Perhaps most astonishingly, 62% of Palestinians in Gaza agreed that Hamas should quit calling for Israel’s destruction and accept the idea of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

These poll results may provide some ammunition for US efforts to broker a new agreement, by calling into serious question the claims of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that they would face a popular backlash if they compromised with Israel on their positions.

For more info on these and other Middle East developments, I recommend the Washington-based Al Monitor website. You can find there up-to-date reports from each of the regions within the Middle East as well as some of the most insightful and objective analysis to better understand what is really going on underneath the spin.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

UK Election Analysis: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

Yesterday’s UK parliamentary elections are being spun in the media as a disastrous result for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, despite the face that the Tories remain by far the largest party in Parliament, losing 13 seats from their pre-election tally of 331. To understand what is really going on here, let’s look at the the difference between expectations and reality.

Elections are increasingly viewed not so much by the significance of the actual result, but by the difference between the result and what was expected going into the election. These expectations are themselves the product of media reporting and polling, which vary wildly in the accuracy of their predictions. In the case of this recent election, the Conservatives were originally expected to increase their majority, given the perceived unpopularity of Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Against this expectation, losing any number of seats seems like a failure for May and the Tories. They no longer have an absolute majority in the Commons, although May should be able to count on the support of the small DUP party of Northern Ireland to create a very slim majority. (It is also important to note that Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party refuses to actually take up their seats in Parliament, which reduces the practical number of votes on the opposition side.)

In reality, then, May will be operating in an environment similar to what has often prevailed in the US – a very narrow parliamentary majority in which a few defectors can derail the government’s initiatives. This forces the government to obtain at least some support among opposition MPs in order to get things done. It’s harder to pass legislation, but what does get passed usually ends up being better for having broader support. So the “disaster” for the Conservatives is really just business as usual in the US and many other countries.

Now, it’s certainly true that the result is a setback for May, particularly because the results suggest not so much a repudiation by the voters of Conservative values, but of May and her leadership team. A number of her ministers were among those who lost their seats, even while the Tories increased their percentage of the vote among working-class Britons. May is widely perceived to have run a poor campaign, alienating both older and younger voters with poorly explained social policy proposals. Meanwhile, Corbyn comes out as a winner despite his party still being in the minority. Not only did his leadership improve rather than worsen Labour’s numbers, he was particularly effective in motivating Labour turnout among students and young people. The results should bolster his position as Labour’s leader which had previously been on very shaky ground.

One bright spot for the Tories is in Scotland, where the party has been effectively reborn with its best showing since 1983. The Tories, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, gained at the expense of the previous dominant Scottish National Party. The SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, had been calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and will now probably have to shelve those plans for the time being.

A number of writers seem determined to try to interpret the results as being a referendum on Brexit. In fact, most voters seem to have been more concerned with domestic economic and social issues, understanding that whether “hard” or “soft”, some form of Brexit is now inevitable regardless of who resides at No. 10. It is also interesting that the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London do not seem to have greatly affected the results one way or another. My personal sense is that the typical gain that the “law and order” Conservatives would normally get among some voters was offset by the alternate view that the Tory government, being already in power, is responsible for not doing enough to prevent the attacks.

Speculation about Theresa May being unseated as Tory Leader and Prime Minister is probably extremely premature. This is not because May is beloved or will easily be forgiven by the party for the perceived election failure. Rather, there simply is no obvious choice to replace her, nor is there a significant ideological divide within the party from which a challenger could draw strength. Instead, May will have to make her leadership style more inclusive and put more effort into keeping her MPs happy.

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Thoughts on the 2016 Libertarian National Convention

Posted by sanityinjection on May 30, 2016

In a Presidential election year when we have heard so much dissatisfaction with voters’ expected choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Libertarian National Convention held this weekend assumes greater importance. As expected, the convention nominated former Republican governors Gary Johnson and William Weld as the Libertarian candidates for President and Vice President. Speculation is that the party could have a record performance this year if it picks up votes from Democrats and Republicans unhappy with Clinton and Trump. So what does the party’s convention tell us about who Libertarians are and what chance they have to make an impact in the 2016 election?

I watched about 10 hours of the convention – basically all of it that was covered by C-SPAN. This included a two and a half hour debate among 5 candidates for the party’s Presidential nomination, and the nomination proceedings for both President and Vice-President. For political junkies like myself, the Libertarian gathering stands in stark contrast to the major party conventions, which in my lifetime have been stage-managed, sterile and predictable affairs with less drama than a sewing circle. If nothing else, the Libertarian convention reeked of authenticity. There was little playing to the cameras, apart from some entertainingly cheeky repetitions of the party’s website and phone number (“Point of information, Mr. Chair, I seem to have lost the note where I wrote down the party’s web site, could you repeat that please?”)

And the proceedings clearly were not scripted. Both the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominations required two ballots, and the proceedings were frequently interrupted by various points of order, information, and personal privilege. I was impressed by the convention chair, Nicholas Sarwark (also the party chairman), who exuded professionalism, patience, and good humor as he attempted to herd a room of about 1,000 cats. Many of the points raised by the delegates were clearly out of order, but Sarwark often chose to allow them anyway, reasoning that it would be faster and simpler to do so rather than standing on parliamentary procedure. This strategy worked well for the most part, but it was when Sarwark had to temporarily hand off the gavel to his deputies that things got a little rowdier. Representing a polar opposite side of the party’s character from Sarwark, one delegate managed to get himself added to the  ballot for party chairman just so that, in lieu of a nomination speech, he could (and did) perform a striptease on the podium live on camera. Perhaps nothing illustrates the party’s deep commitment to personal freedom more than the fact that no one made any attempt to stop this, despite later reactions from aghast and embarrassed delegates.

The contrast is a pretty good metaphor for the party as a whole. It often resembles nothing quite so much as Monty Python’s fictional “Slightly Silly Party”; stretches of serious approaches to the nation’s problems punctuated by eruptions from nutjobs, radicals, and goofballs. Even Johnson, who served two generally well-regarded terms as Governor of New Mexico, has a goofy side to him, as evidenced by a pattern of unexpectedly cheek-kissing debate rivals and even reporters. Yet upon reflection, there are plenty of nutjobs, radicals and goofballs in the major parties also. The difference is that the major parties do a much better job of hiding them from the media.

It would be a mistake to allow the occasional circus-like atmosphere to overshadow the wellspring of intelligence, thoughtfulness, integrity and a deep-seated devotion to the Constitution that burbles at the heart of the Libertarian party. There is no doubt in my mind that the average delegate at the Libertarian convention would destroy their Democrat or Republican counterparts in any contest of civic knowledge. And these are people who maintain their principles so strongly that they would rather shoot themselves in the foot time and time again from an image perspective rather than wear the stain of hypocrisy. If nothing else, that aspect alone offers a refreshing choice for voters in the fall, by which time the party expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states. For the party’s wiser heads, the goal is not so much to win the White House – highly unlikely – but to bring unprecedented media attention to their socially liberal, fiscally conservative platform of minimal government and hopefully expand the membership and influence of the party toward a future role something like Britain’s Liberal Democrats.

The party’s greatest challenge this year is to break the glass ceiling that has usually kept third party candidates out of the presidential debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates, a joint creation of the Republican and Democratic parties, has set a bar of 15 percent support in major polls for the inclusion of any third-party candidate. Johnson and Weld have recently polled around 10 percent (when they have been included in polls at all), so it is not inconceivable that they could pass this bar. Johnson is not a great debater, but the national exposure that comes with being on the debate stage is exactly what the Libertarian party needs.

At the very least, doesn’t America deserve the enjoyment of watching Clinton and Trump squirm as Johnson points out how similar they really are?

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New poll shows Native Americans are NOT offended by “Washington Redskins”

Posted by sanityinjection on May 20, 2016

Remember the big pressure campaign a couple of years ago to force the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their allegedly “offensive” name? President Obama and 50 Democratic Senators proclaimed their support for this “civil rights movement”. And then, as with so many armchair liberal cause celebres, it just seemed to disappear; the professional protesters moved on to “Black Lives Matter” and suddenly the supposed legions of mortally offended Native Americans didn’t seem like such a compelling issue.

Now comes a clue as to why the pressure campaign hasn’t been revived. A new Washington post poll of 500 Native Americans across the country indicates that 9 out of 10 are not offended by the name “Washington Redskins”. 7 out of 10 said the word “redskin” was not offensive in general, and 8 of 10 said they would not be offended if a non-Native American called them by that term. These results mirror the findings of a previous poll in 2004. Naturally, Native American “leaders” continue to reject these poll findings, as will the mostly rich, white, left-wing politicians who were the prime movers behind the whole issue. (Never mind that these same politicans spend virtually no time advocating for the things that Native Americans say they need, like decent schools.)

The whole thing would actually be comical if it weren’t for the giddy participation of the mainstream media in whipping up hysteria to aid in this phony campaign. (In this regard, kudos to the Washington Post, which remains a faint glimmer of some journalistic integrity amongst the sad detritus of formerly respectable left-wing newspapers, for publishing this poll. See also a thoughtful WashPost op-ed on the issue here.) It should be of concern that the sources from which most Americans still get their news are demonstrably more interested in pushing an ideological political agenda than in any kind of factual reporting. You need look no further than the recent New York Times attack piece against Donald Trump, which went to a great deal of effort to characterize Trump as a misogynist based on his pattern of hitting on women as a rich single man. Keep in mind this is the same publication that consistently defended Bill Clinton for sexually harrassing and having sex with women as a rich married man. See Camille Paglia’s excellent destruction of this pathetic propaganda here.

Meanwhile, if sports teams’ use of cliches offensive to Native Americans is the issue, how come there hasn’t been any fuss at all about the Cleveland Indians’ continued use of the “Chief Wahoo” logo? Why hasn’t their trademark been revoked? Answer: Because the Cleveland Indians kissed the ring: Whenever anybody complains, they hide Chief Wahoo for a while, using alternate logos and uniforms, until the subject dies down. This appeases the professional Left, because what they really want is not actual civil rights change so much as acknowledgement of their power and righteousness. Kiss their asses and they’ll let you off with a slap on the wrist; dare to suggest that the emeperor has no clothes, as Redskins owner Dan Snyder has done, and you reap the whirlwind of attacks from their subservient media allies.

The point is not that the Washington Redskins or their owner, a wealthy successful man and organization, are some kind of sob story. The point is the one made so famously by pastor Martin Niemoller. With apologies to him: “First they came for the Washington Redskins, and I said nothing, because I was not a Redskins fan.” One day it’s a sports team. The next day it’s climate change “deniers”. The target changes with the wind, but the tactics are the same. Always ask yourselves: Cui bono? (Who benefits?)

Posted in Domestic News, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I believe in Santa Claus

Posted by sanityinjection on December 25, 2015

For a very long time, parents have struggled over what to tell their children about Santa Claus, and particularly the question: At what age should we tell them the “truth about Santa Claus”?

We know certainly that this dilemma dates back well over 100 years, as evidenced by the now-legendary 1897 newspaper editorial popularly known as “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. In that piece, which subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the entire English language, New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church answered a little girl’s letter with an emphatic declaration that Santa Claus not only exists, but that his existence is necessary.

We can certainly sympathize today, 118 years later, with Church’s assertion that the children of that day “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Is it wise, we still wonder, to encourage our children to continue to believe in something – or someone – that can’t be seen or heard? (Never mind that most of the religions of the world propose exactly that.)

As is so often the case, the problem lies not in the answer but in the question. In asking what to tell children about Santa Claus, we have created a false dichotomy, in which our children must either believe in Santa as a living being who magically flies around the world, physically enters their homes on Christmas Eve and leaves them presents, or they must reject him as nothing more than a fairy tale for the ignorant. We can hardly be surprised that such a choice is as unappetizing as that rock-hard, decade-old fruitcake that is still being regifted among our friends and relatives every year.

If we want our children to have an adult understanding of Santa, should we not begin by having an adult understanding of him ourselves – one that allows for nuance and incorporates something of philosophy? Church pointed us in the right direction when he wrote that Santa “exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist”. I can recall in my childhood, on Christmas Day there would be presents under the tree with tags that read, “FROM: Santa Claus”, but they didn’t all have my name in the “TO:” line.  Some were addressed to my mother, and some to my father. In this way, I was taught early on that Santa Claus isn’t just a figure who brings toys to children, but represents something much more universal.

Coming as he does at the one time of year when we are encouraged to forget our woes and try to be kind and generous to one another, is it not an honest answer to say that Santa Claus is the personification of the spirit of human kindness, generosity and love – particularly toward children, but really toward everyone? (I welcome you to go back and watch the classic 1947 Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and ask yourself if the little girl played by Natalie Wood is the only character whose life Kris Kringle affects for the better.) If we choose to imagine that spirit as a jolly fat bearded man in a red suit, is that wrong? What is the correct visualization of a spirit?

We ought to be able to say, without hesitation, that Santa Claus truly exists as long as we can know the joy of giving; as long as we are capable of feeling love for friends and family, and kindness toward strangers; as long as we have not forgotten that man does not live by bread alone, but that we all from time to time need something – or someone – to inspire us to rise above thinking only of ourselves. People who believe in Santa Claus are people who can love. When parents tell their children about Santa Claus, they are not perpetuating a childish fairy story; on the contrary, they are telling their children about the very nuanced and multifaceted concept of love in a simple way that children can accept and understand. If, as we grow older, we come to have an enlarged understanding of that concept, it does not mean that we must discard or reject Santa Claus, any more than we reject 2+2=4 when we have learned to do algebra. Let us not become so one-dimensional in our thinking that, like Shakespeare’s Horatio, we earn Hamlet’s admonition that “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So let me state as vigorously as Church did over a century ago: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. To tell children otherwise is to do them no favor. I am past the age of forty, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I plan to keep on believing in him.

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Why can Hillary Clinton make up fake statistics and no one in the media challenges them?

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

Following up on my previous post, here is another example of how the media does not give the same scrutiny to the statements of someone they like, such as Hillary Clinton, as they do to someone they dislike, such as Donald Trump.

I first noticed this statement by Ms. Clinton during one of the recent Democratic presidential debates, and according to this from Politico.com, apparently she is now repeating the claim in one of her TV commercials: Clinton states that between 88-92 people are killed every day by guns.

Now, that would seem like an easy thing to fact-check wouldn’t it? After all, the FBI reports crime statistics on an annual basis. In 2014, the *total* number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the US was 13, 472. Ms. Clinton’s lowest figure of 88 per day, multiplied by 365 days, would give a total for gun murders alone of 32, 120.

Clearly, this is not a slight exaggeration. Nor is it an isolated mis-statement, since Ms. Clinton has repeated the claim multiple times. It is quite a simply a deliberate and blatant falsehood designed to trick people into thinking that gun violence is a much larger problem in this country than it actually is (the recent terrorist attack in San Bernadino notwithstanding) in order to win support for further eroding that pesky Second Amendment to the Constitution. (In fact, the 2014 homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 people is the lowest since 1963.)

Now, does anyone doubt that if Donald Trump had uttered a massive falsehood like that even once, every major media outlet would be holding it up and trumpeting it as an example of his unfitness for office?

Which is worse: when the mainstream media tells you what they want you to know? Or when they deliberately don’t tell you what they don’t want you to know? At this point, Ms. Clinton could simply declare – as O’Brien famously did in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – that 2 + 2 = 5, and you would hear nary a peep from the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and their assorted imitators.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dissecting media bias: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the anatomy of propaganda as news reporting

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

I call your attention to this superb piece by Emmy-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. In it, she uses the recent controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11 to illustrate the fundamental double standard the mainstream media applies to politicians they don’t want the American people to vote for.

It’s hardly a secret that many mainstream media reporters, editors, and talking heads abhor Mr. Trump and are appalled by the possibility of him becoming President. (I happen to agree with them.) Ms. Attkisson uses a technique she calls “the Substitution Game”, giving specific examples of how the media’s behavior would be very different if the person in question were someone they approve of such as President Obama or Hillary Clinton. She also points out how convenient it is for Ms. Clinton’s campaign to have the national media painting her potential election opponent as dishonest even as polls suggest that perecptions of her own dishonesty are one of her biggest problems with voters. Attkisson isn’t necessarily suggesting a well-orchestrated media conspiracy, but rather a culture of bias that permeates the major television news networks and newspapers.

If this bias were to be stated in its most naked form, it would be something like this: Dishonesty, in the form of intentional misrepresentation of facts or outright lying, is OK as long as it is in service of good liberal causes, but it’s abhorrent whenever it’s done by someone we don’t like or someone who disagrees with us. This fits in with a more general theme that the end justifies the means: that it is OK for the “good guys” (which in the view of so many influential media members means the liberals) are justified in lying, cheating, stealing, or doing whatever is necessary to advance their noble aims, but the “bad guys” – Second Amendments rights advocates, climate change skeptics, etc. –  are abhorrent if they use the same methods, because they have the wrong aims.

Attkisson is not saying that the media should not challenge counterfactual claims by public figures. Rather, she is questioning why they only seem to beat the drum about such claims when those figures are on one side of the political spectrum. When a huge segment of the broadcast and print media spends a lot of time making a huge deal out of controversial statements by Mr. Trump while deliberately downplaying and even ignoring those made by Obama and Clinton, even a relatively savvy news consumer who is not paying close attention can, over time, absorb that implication of what is important. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how propaganda works.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Native American reservation schools: A case study in big government failure

Posted by sanityinjection on November 28, 2015

I commend to your attention this excellent article from Politico.com about the long history of failure of the schools for Native American children run by the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Education, a division of the Interior Department.

As the article notes, decisions about these schools are being made by federal bureaucrats, often with little or no educational expertise. Per-pupil expenditures are high but results are poor compared to schools in other underprivileged areas. Skewed priorities have led to schools with “smart boards” and computers but not enough electricity to run them in crumbling buildings, and teacher salaries that are high but a lack of the infrastructure to attract them.

The only real success mentioned in the article was achieved by a private non-profit organization. Ironically, the article notes that there is significant opposition within Native American communities to reforms that would increase local control of these schools; reading between the lines, that’s about fearing the loss of jobs currently being held by members of those communities. The feds seem to fear that Native American communities might choose to spend less money on their schools given the chance – but how could they possibly make them any worse than they already are?

The question must be asked: If increased federal control has proven to be deleterious to Native American reservation schools, under what theory would federal control be good for any other schools? Granted, the Department of Education is not actually in charge of administrating schools – just making endless rules and regulations for them.

It’s worth noting that the problem has continued despite sincere good intentions under several administrations to try to improve things. The problem with big government is not that it doesn’t mean well; the problem is that by its very nature it is fundamentally structurally vulnerable to problems like corruption, waste, and misprioritization. State and local governments are not without their problems, but simply by virtue of their smaller size there is a limit to how messed up they can get.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee that is supposed to have oversight of Indian affairs spends its time haranguing the Washington Redskins football team  about changing its name, as if that were the way to improve the quality of life for Native Americans.

Social justice advocates like to point out the unfairness of inequities in public policy outcomes for minority groups – mostly urban ones. Surely no group has more of a moral claim to have such inequities resolved than Native Americans, although their reservations don’t generally fall within urban, Democrat-skewed voting districts.

Obviously a problem that has been many decades in the making will not be resolved by any kind of quick fix. But a good first step would be to take the existing funds being allocated to the Bureau of Indian Education and use them to hire private management organizations to overhaul these failed schools, rather than keeping control in the hands of the same bureaucrats that have been mismanaging them all along.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Donald Trump: Dislike him for the right reasons

Posted by sanityinjection on August 8, 2015

For the second time in recent months, I find myself in the unpleasant position of coming to the defence of Donald Trump. For the record, I dislike Trump, and I think his Presidential candidacy is an absurdity and an embarrassment to the Republican Party.

However, when Trump was pilloried by the media and some of his fellow candidates over his remarks concerning criminal behavior by illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, I felt compelled to rise in his defense. The media inaccurately portrayed Trump as having asserted that Mexican immigrants are all criminals and rapists, when in fact he said nothing of the kind. What he did say – and said again in Thursday’s debate – is that among the illegals surging across our border are criminals and rapists from Mexico and other Latin American countries, and that the Mexican government is deliberately encouraging these criminals to cross the border so that they become America’s problem and not Mexico’s. Is Trump a bigot? Maybe he is, but that is not a bigoted statement. I happen to believe it is an accurate one, and the increasing number of violent criminal arrests in this country of illegal immigrants supports the assertion. However, Trump’s subsequent retweeting of an inappropriate comment about Jeb Bush and his Hispanic wife is not defensible. You do not attack a candidate’s spouse.

Now I am once again forced to defend Trump’s most recent controversial remarks about Fox News personality and debate questioner Megyn Kelly. His phrase about “blood coming out of her, wherever” has been taken by many to be a reference to menstruation, which if true would certainly be an inappropriate and sexist remark. And it has already got him disinvited from the upcoming RedState conservative forum by founder Erick Erickson.

However, Trump insists that once again, his meaning has been misconstrued. He was complaining about Kelly’s apparent eagerness to attack him during the debate, and referred first to “blood coming out of her eyes” as a metaphoric illustration of her intent.

I don’t know how anyone who watched the debate could fail to agree with Trump that Kelly was out to get him. You could see her practically salivating at the prospect of being the person who single-handedly brought down Trump’s campaign. The opening question about pledging not to run as an independent and support the party’s nominee was transparently aimed directly at Trump. Trump’s remark does make sense in that context. Is Trump a sexist? Maybe he is, but I don’t think his remark was a sexist one. Kelly is not the most reputable or professional TV commentator around. One ought to able to criticize the questionable conduct of a female professional without being labeled as sexist.

Frankly, all of this faux outrage is just playing into Trump’s hands. He can now dismiss any criticism of his childishness and buffoonery as “just more political correctness”, because his critics have chosen to focus on specific allegedly offensive comments rather than on his entire demeanor and behavior, which is offensive to everyone.

There’s no need to try to twist Trump’s words around in order to undermine him. His consistent jackassery should be quite sufficient to do that for him. But even a jackass, like a stopped clock, is right twice a day. Trump is right about Mexico, and he’s right about Megyn Kelly.

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