Sanity Injection

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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Political correctness reaches a new milestone

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2017

Until today, I felt pretty certain that over the past couple of decades, I had witnessed every variation of political correctness, to the point that I could no longer be surprised by whatever lunatic nonsense is foisted upon us by those who believe in the right to never be offended.

Until today.

That’s when I read this story over at Outkick the Coverage. I encourage you to read the story, and the comments, yourself. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe this actually happened at first. But let me summarize: In the wake of the unfortunate events that recently took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, ESPN was apparently very concerned about mentioning anything to do with the Confederacy during their broadcast of the college football game between William and Mary and the University of Virginia. How concerned, you ask? Enough that they re-assigned one of the broadcasters scheduled to call the game to a different game because of his name: Robert Lee.

That’s right, because the sportscaster happens to share his very common first and last name with the Confederacy’s legendary general, Robert E. Lee, whose statue was the focus of the protests in Charlottesville, ESPN thought someone might be offended by HIS NAME.

Incidentally, Mr. Lee does not appear to be any sort of white supremacist, seeing as how he’s an Asian-American fellow. But apparently, ESPN thinks just the sound of his name might be too triggering for some.

The phenomenal idiocy of this is almost too much to comprehend. How many people named Robert Lee do you think there are in this country? Should they all have stayed home for a week so as not to offend anyone by their existence? Should Robert G. Lee, professor of American Studies at Brown, have taken an immediate sabbatical so as to preserve the campus as a “safe space”? Should Robert Lee, the English golfer, have stayed off the links for a week out of extreme politeness? Should Florida Episcopal preacher Robert V. Lee have let someone else spread the word of God for a little while? If anybody at ESPN happens to be reading, here’s a whole list of folks you probably don’t want to mention on air for a while.

Hyperbole, yes. But I am merely illustrating the logical extension of the ridiculous notion that someone should be hidden from public view because they happen to share the same name as an unpopular historical figure. It is neither rational nor reasonable to order a society on the basis that you ought to be able to go through life never hearing the name of someone you don’t like! Germany has some of the strictest anti-racism laws around, but even they didn’t try to ban people from naming their kids “Adolf”.

It would be easy to write this off as a “cover-your-ass” overreaction by a TV network already struggling as a result of their own over-politicization. What is disturbing is not so much the stupidity or craven cowardice of ESPN brass, but rather the larger prevailing climate of political correctness that leads to this kind of idea not being laughed right out of the meeting room.

I respect those who feel that leaders of the Confederacy should not be honored on public property. I understand why people might find their statues offensive. But if a person is going to be thrown off the rails simply by hearing the name Robert Lee, or even the odious Nathan Bedford Forrest, then it is that person who has a problem, and it is not society’s job to cater to them. When we have created a climate where a major media outlet like ESPN genuinely fears they will be the target of protests if they let an Asian-American reporter named Robert Lee call a game in Virginia, then it is time for some man-made climate change.

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Posted in Current Events, Domestic News, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What can we learn about Trump from his new Afghanistan policy?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2017

Last night, President Trump publicly announced a major shift in his position on Afghanistan. He plans to increase the number of American troops there by roughly 50% in an escalation of the campaign against the Taliban and their terrorist allies. This is a reversal of Trump’s campaign statements in which he called for a speedy withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. So what does this tell us we can expect going forward from Trump? Here are a few takeaways:

1) None of Trump’s campaign promises can be believed. This was a major plank of Trump’s foreign policy that attracted significant support from libertarians and isolationists, and he has completely reversed it. Don’t count on Mexico paying for that border wall either, on which no new work has been authorized to date. And don’t expect the recently commenced negotiations on NAFTA to end up with anything more than small tweaks. It’s been clear to long-time Trump watchers all along that Trump likes to shoot his mouth off, but feels absolutely no compulsion to align his deeds with his words.

2) Trump does occasionally listen to someone. He’s gone on record many times as wanting to give military leaders more say in decision making, and that’s what he’s done here. Trump’s generals managed to convince him that pulling out of Afghanistan would be like a winning lottery ticket for terrorist groups seeking a safe haven in that country. They also probably pointed out that as operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq start to wind down, it will be possible to shift resources from that theater to Afghanistan, resulting in little net increase in overseas deployments and their cost in the long term.

3) Steve Bannon has left the building. If anyone wondered if Bannon’s firing was mostly for PR reasons and thought he might continue to wield influence behind the scenes, this decision puts that idea to rest. Bannon was one of TrumpWorld’s most vocal proponents of withdrawing from Afghanistan. It’s not a coincidence that the announcement of the new policy comes shortly after Bannon’s departure.

Stepping back from Trump and looking at American defense policy  over time, it is striking how consistent it has been regardless of which party controls the White House. Presidents Bush, Obama, and now Trump all campaigned on the idea of reducing our foreign commitments, then ended up increasing them. What this reflects is that American defense policy, and foreign policy more generally, tends to be driven less by ideology and more by a practical analysis of the nation’s security interests. If the isolationists ever want to make gains, they’d need to start by infiltrating the “deep state” of civil servants at State, Defense, and Homeland Security who marshal the facts, figures, and projections that go into the security briefings every President receives. These officials have little incentive to suggest policies that would result in the reduction of their funding, shrinking of their departments and possibly the loss of some of their jobs. It seems to me, however, that most Presidents perceive that it is preferable to fight dragons in someone else’s backyard than to wait until they show up in your own.

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A brief guide to the ideological roots of Islamic terrorism

Posted by sanityinjection on August 21, 2017

It is hard for most Westerners to understand how Islamic terrorism fits into the spectrum of Muslim theology. We are told, accurately, that terrorist fasadis like ISIS and al-Qaeda represent a fringe extremist view that most Muslims disavow. But where does this view come from, and what has caused it to become more popular and prominent over the last few decades?

First, let’s recall that most of the Muslim world is divided between the two major dominations, Sunni and Shi’a. (There are other minority sects that don’t fall into either category, but their influence on politics is minimal.) The Shi’ites are fewer in number and their political power is mostly restricted to Iraq and Iran. Most Muslim countries, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, are predominantly Sunni.

Within Sunni Islam, there is also quite a bit of variation in views on both religious and political matters. The particular strain of thought that today’s terrorist groups generally arise from is called Salafism, and it began as a reform movement over two centuries ago. Salafism is essentially a form of Islamic fundamentalism, which holds that the oldest forms of Islam practiced by Muhammad and his immediate successors are the most pure, and any modifications that have occurred within Islam since that time are errors that should be corrected.

It should be noted that there is nothing inherent in Salafism that requires political involvement or necessarily endorses violence. The first Salafists were mostly concerned with stamping out what they saw as idolatrous veneration of Islamic saints and places of worship. (ISIS’ habit of destroying historic monuments is an extreme manifestation of this viewpoint.) There are many Salafis who advocate staying out of politics, and many politically activist Salafis who do not condone violence. But this is the larger ideological context that most violent Sunni groups fit into.

Salafism as a political force first came into its own in Arabia, when the founder of a sect called Wahhabism made an alliance with the tribe of ibn Saud. The Wahhabis agreed to support the Saudis politically, and the Saudis agreed to promote Wahhabism as the correct form of Islam. The Saudis kept that bargain, and when they became masters of most of Arabia after World War I, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and subsequently became rich from Arabia’s oil, they began to have a major influence on the Islamic world. Saudi oil money paid for mosques, Islamic schools and charities, all of which dutifully spread the Wahhabi version of Salafism. Conservative even among the fundamentalist world of Salafism, Wahhabism is responsible for the many cultural restrictions on dress, music, and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that slavery wasn’t abolished there until the 1960s. The terrorist groups’ adoption of these cultural restrictions can be traced directly to the Saudi-funded schools and mosques where they were educated.

However, the real shift occurred with the victory of Islamic groups over the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. This effort was heavily backed by Saudi money and many of the jihadis who fought there espoused Wahhabi beliefs. The lesson was that violent jihad against the enemies of Islam was not only appropriate, but could be successful. The prestige of Wahhabism, previously viewed among the Muslim world as more of an Arabian oddity, increased dramatically.

A final group that must be mentioned is the Muslim Brotherhood. Based in Egypt, the Brotherhood is an international coalition of political Islamists, generally Sunnis but not tied to any particular orientation, instead stressing the need for Muslim unity. The Muslim Brotherhood is devoted to the goal of establishing Islamic government and sharia law, by democratic means if possible. However, they have at times engaged in violence. (The US continues to debate whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as Russia and Saudi Arabia have done; many experts argue this would be neither accurate nor helpful.) The Muslim Brotherhood has specifically disavowed any support for ISIS or al-Qaeda, but it was a Brotherhood leader, Sayyid Qutb, whose anti-secular, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic writings influenced the founders of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Saudi Arabia was once a supporter of the Brotherhood, but they fell out as a result of the Gulf War and now are confirmed enemies. However, both the Saudis and the Brotherhood now find themselves unhappily dealing with the fallout of these terrorist groups they helped to inspire. (Ironically, within the past year the Saudi monarchy has been moving to liberalize Wahhabi cultural restrictions, both to improve the country’s image and to try to curb the power of Wahhabi clerics and reduce potential support for jihadi groups within the Kingdom.)

To sum up: Today’s terrorist groups were birthed in the 1990s amid a soup of Saudi-financed Wahhabi fundamentalism and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Islamist politics, and inspired by the success of violent jihad in Afghanistan.

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

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 Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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