March 2015, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Is The Ferguson Story Over? I suspect that it is, that the shooting of the two police officers, and the arrest of "demonstrator" Jeffrey Williams will end the national (and international!) press coverage. Mostly.
The story was never important in itself; it was only important to the extent it could be used — regardless of mere facts — as a parable of police brutality and black victimhood.
But Williams spoiled that parable, by adding an ending that doesn't fit.
And that explains why Attorney General Eric Holder was so angry about the shootings.
Yesterday, I checked a number of "mainstream" news sources and found that they gave the arrest perfunctory coverage. They knew that their parable had been spoiled, and they wanted to move on.
(Some radical leftists will cling to the story, of course, but the more pragmatic will search for another story that can be turned into a similar parable. And, in a country as large as the United States, they will find one, in time.)
Ferguson has been horribly damaged by all this. Judging by past experience, it will be decades before it recovers. But they shouldn't expect an apology from President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, or Al Sharpton.
- 6:37 PM, 16 March 2015 [link]
Unlike Far Too Many Academics, Law Professor Glenn Reynolds Believes in freedom of speech.
It has been a bad spell for the University of Oklahoma. First, some members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist song on a bus, and a video went public. Then OU President David Boren kicked the fraternity off campus and summarily expelled two of the fraternity members.At one time academics, even university presidents, mostly understood that you showed your support for free speech by tolerating speech you hated. At one time, academics at public institutions, even university presidents, mostly understood that the 1st Amendment requires them to tolerate such speech.
But, as the liberals who ran the campuses were replaced by leftists, those who run our colleges and universities have dropped their support for free speech, and have even lost their understanding of what the law requires of public institutions.
President Boren is likely to get an expensive legal lesson in the 1st Amendment. And that may, I repeat, may, make some of our colleges and universities less "islands of repression in a sea of freedom", to borrow Abigail Thernstrom's famous phrase.
- 6:15 AM, 16 March 2015 [link]
Maureen Dowd Was Not Impressed by Hillary Clinton's press conference.
Instead of raising us up by behaving like exemplary, sterling people, you bring us down to your own level, a place of blurred lines and fungible ethics and sleazy associates. Your family’s foundation gobbles tens of millions from Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes, whose unspoken message is: “We’re going to give you money to go improve the world. Now leave us alone to go persecute women.”There's more criticism of the Clintons, much more, along with a few obligatory jabs at Republicans.
(If you are as picky as I am, you will have noticed a number of mistakes in the column. For example, Dowd refers to Hillary Clinton's "droit du seigneur", which is wildly inappropriate for a woman. Then there is the missing comma in "the first woman president who will improve the country" — which implies that there were one or more earlier women presidents who did not improve the country. And, in the next-to-the-last paragraph, Dowd contrasts "mortal" and "regal", which sounds good, but makes no sense, since kings and queens are mortal, too.)
- 7:43 PM, 15 March 2015 [link]
Where In The World Is Vladimir Putin? Julia Ioffe has a whole collection of rumors, including this one:
Putin was even momentarily found, in the vicinity of Ticino, Switzerland, where, a local tabloid announced, Putin’s gymnast girlfriend Alina Kabayeva had given birth. Hopes were dashed when [Putin spokesman Dmitry] Peskov appeared again to say that this too was untrue.The Daily Mail has the most interesting rumor:
Vladimir Putin is 'alive' but 'neutralised' as shadowy security chiefs stage a stealthy coup in Moscow, it was claimed last night.But it probably isn't true.
I haven't the faintest idea which, if any, of the rumors Ioffe describes is correct, or even partly correct. What bothers me is that I fear that our CIA may be almost as much in the dark as I am.
(The FSB is the Russian Federal Security Service, and is something like our FBI — on steroids.)
- 1:52 PM, 15 March 2015 [link]
"Is Obama Really a Christian?" David French asks and answers that question, though his answer is not a simple yes or no.
In his public faith, he was. But not by black-liberation theology. Instead, he has publicly adopted the beliefs and practices of Wright’s denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC), perhaps the most liberal of the Mainline Protestant American denominations. In fact, when one considers not just the president’s public professions of faith but also his public policies, his relationship with the UCC represents the perfect marriage of church and politician.So the answer to that question is that it depends on how you define Christian.
Barack Obama says he believes strongly in the separation of church and state — and I suspect that he believes what he says. Which is deeply ironic, as French explains in his concluding paragraph:
Barack Obama may believe in black-liberation theology, or he may not. He may have a close relationship with God, or he may not. We can’t know his heart. But when it comes to his civic religion, President Obama is his church’s — and liberal Christianity’s — great and mighty instrument.I found French's argument persuasive on the whole, though I do wonder how he would explain Obama's failure to attend church often, since leaving Reverend Wright's church.
There's much more in the article, including fascinating discussions of how their faiths affected Obama's predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush..
(Here's the Wikipedia article on the United Church of Christ.)
- 1:08 PM, 15 March 2015 [link]
Measles, Vitamin A, And Golden Rice: When I glanced through the Wikipedia article on measles a few weeks ago, I noticed something I had missed before.
Between 1987 and 2000, the case fatality rate across the United States was three measles-attributable deaths per 1000 cases, or 0.3%. In underdeveloped nations with high rates of malnutrition and poor healthcare, fatality rates have been as high as 28%. In immunocompromised persons (e.g., people with AIDS) the fatality rate is approximately 30%. Risk factors for severe measles and its complications include malnutrition, underlying immunodeficiency, pregnancy, and vitamin A deficiency.I knew that Vitamin A deficiency caused many health problems, but I had not realized, until I read that passage, that it makes measles far more dangerous.
Fortunately, there is a cure for Vitamin A deficiency, golden rice.
Unfortunately, that cure has been blocked by superstitious Greens, especially in Europe, where Vitamin A deficiency is not a large problem.
So kids are dying of measles — right now — in Africa and Asia because of unwarranted fears of genetically modified foods in Europe, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States.
- 11:09 AM, 14 March 2015 [link]
Consumer Reports Has Gone Anti-Science On GMOs: Until recently, the United States has mostly avoided the controversies over genetically modified crops. But now the anti-GMO activists are getting a big boost from an organization that should know better.
Consumers Union, whose magazine Consumer Reports has built a reputation for impartial and reliable reviews of everything from household cleaners to SUVs, has hardened its stand against GMOs, further distancing its views from the mainstream science community.Andrew Porterfield explains why Consumer Reports is wrong. When you have finished the post, you will wonder whether you can trust them on anything else.
(For the record: I have been informally boycotting products that claim to have no GMOs, for years. Almost everything we eat is genetically modified — the main exception I know of is wild-caught sea foods — mostly by traditional breeding methods, but now often by more precise methods. So even the name the activists use is deceptive. I don't like it when anyone spreads destructive superstitions; I especially don't like it when large corporations do so, in an effort to grab a few extra dollars. )
- 10:06 AM, 14 March 2015 [link]
Happy Pi Day! And this year, it's special.
What makes 3/14/15 so special for pi fans is that it is the only day this century that will have the first five digits of pi -- 3.1415. Since the next digits are 92653, most people have chosen 9:26 p.m. to mark the ultimate pi moment. (Sticklers can wait for the clock to read 53 seconds.)Most kids like pi, but few as much as the kids in these videos. I'm especially impressed by the triple tasker.
Is it irrational to celebrate pi? Why, yes it is. But that's okay, as any mathematician can tell you.
(If you are a practical sort, you may want to celebrate 22 July, instead.)
- 8:50 AM, 14 March 2015 [link]
Another Crime By Stalin? While working through a stack of old newspapers, I came across this Antony Beevor review of a book on the Battle of Kursk, the greatest tank battle in history.
The review is quite favorable, but Beevor does quarrel with the author, Dennis Showalter, on one point:
The author's analysis of the Battle of Kursk is first-class. His only mistake in the background to the battle is to repeat the misconception that the Soviets' Operation Mars in November 1942, a major attack on the Rzhev salient, was a coequal offensive with Operation Uranus to surround the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. It has been convincingly shown—by Gen. M.A. Gareev and the Russian Association of Second World War Historians—that Mars was purely a diversion to tie down the German Army Group Center during the Stalingrad counteroffensive. According to the Soviet spymaster Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov, the plans for Mars were deliberately fed on Stalin's orders to the German intelligence chief Reinhard Gehlen through a double agent. This act of cynical sacrifice, carried out behind Gen. Zhukov's back, led to more than 200,000 Soviet casualties, even if it did manage to tie down German forces in the center during the main attack round Stalingrad.(Emphasis added.)
Was that Stalin betrayal a crime? Or a brilliant — and supremely cynical — stratagem to make it certain that the Soviets were victorious at Stalingrad? I suspect historians will be arguing that question for years.
(Here's the Wikipedia article on Operation Mars, and here's the Wikipedia biography of Antony Beevor.)
- 9:54 AM, 13 March 2015 [link]
More Data On Muslims And Crime In The United States: I almost missed this post because Mona Chalabi was investigating a different question (and, in my opinion, getting the answer wrong). But she did get some data on the religious affiliations of inmates in federal prisons that supports an argument I have been making for some years.
There are other categories that don’t match up. According to the Census Bureau, 0.6 percent of Americans describe themselves as Muslim. In prison, that figure is 5.6 percent. It’s already a considerable difference, but an additional 1.8 percent of prisoners identified with the Nation of Islam and another 1.2 percent said they were “Moorish” (which the BOP said should also be considered a variant of Muslim). Altogether, the percentage of Muslims in the prison population is about 14 times higher than that of the general population.(Emphasis added.)
That 8.4 percent total for Muslims may actually underestimate the proportion of Muslim prisoners, because the data probably comes from questions asked when an inmate enters prison, and Muslims are winning converts in prison, as she goes on to say.
I found her discussion of why Muslims are so much more likely to be criminals incomplete, and, in part, unpersuasive, for reasons I have discussed before, and probably should review again, soon. For the moment, I'll just remind you that the founder of Islam, Muhammad, began his career as a religious leader by attacking and plundering caravans.
(If you are like me, you may need a review of one of the religions mentioned, Santeria.
I suppose I should say why I think her main conclusion, that there are fewer atheists in prison than in the general population, is unwarranted. There are three reasons for my skepticism. First, inmates have a motive for saying they have a religion, even if they don't. Prison chaplains can do small favors for inmates, and they would be more likely to do those favors for inmates who, at least nominally, share their faith.
Second, she excludes two categories, "no preference" (17 percent) and "Other" (3 percent) that certainly include some atheists (and agnostics).
Third, prisoners have less education than the average and so are less likely to know what the word "atheist" even means, much less realize they belong to the group.)
- 7:52 PM, 13 March 2015 [link]
The Bride Gave Her Would-Be Groom A Simple Test: He failed.
An Indian bride walked out of her wedding ceremony after the groom failed to solve a simple math problem, police said Friday.For whatever reason, she suspected that he and his family had been lying about his education, and so made that simple check.
(It is not unusual in India for a bride and groom to meet each other for the first time at the wedding ceremony.)
- 7:00 AM, 13 March 2015 [link]
The Intense Anti-Vaxxers Won In The Washington State House: In February, I noted that those opposed to mandatory childhood vaccinations had won many recent victories, in spite of them being a small minority, a small minority but an intense minority.
At the time, I thought they might lose here in Washington state because the salience of the issue had risen, because more people were paying attention, thanks to the recent measles outbreak.
But the intense anti-vaxxers won again.
An effort to remove personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines as an authorized exemption from childhood school immunizations died in the House after failing to come up for a vote before a key deadline.In Washington, the House is controlled by Democrats, the Senate by Republicans. If a bill doesn't pass one of the two houses before that Wednesday deadline, it is dead for the session.
(None of the news stories I have seen describe the party breakdown of support and opposition to the bill. The party balance is close enough in both houses, so that the bill could have passed either with unanimous support from the minority party, and a few votes from the other side.)
- 2:57 PM, 13 March 2015 [link]
The Formation Of The Obama/Sharpton Alliance: Jillian Kay Melchior has been digging into that recent history, and has written the best account I've seen.
Regardless of the venue, sources close to Sharpton say that in late 2007 or early 2008, Jarrett negotiated a simple deal with the reverend: Sharpton would discreetly support Obama for president, working mostly behind the scenes; he wouldn’t publicly criticize Obama, but he also wouldn’t back him in a way that aroused attention.It isn't hard to see what Sharpton got out of this tacit alliance, power and undeserved respectability.
I recall being surprised by the alliance when it formed, thinking that Obama would see it as too risky, even if the alliance was mostly hidden. But he was protected by our "mainstream" journalists then, even more than he is now, and so the gamble paid off, politically.
Note that the initiative for the alliance came from Obama and Valerie Jarrett, not Sharpton, that they reached out to the disreputable reverend, not the other way around.
And they must have done so, knowing of Sharpton's history of inspiring deadly riots and spreading slander. They must have known that many blacks would agree with sociologist Orlando Patterson's description of Sharpton as a "racial arsonist". But Obama and Jarrett sought the alliance anyway.
Which tells us something about Obama and Jarrett.
(For the record: Sharpton has, on a few occasions, allied with Republicans on specific issues. Former New York mayor Bloomberg, who has been a Republican, appears to have just bought off Sharpton.
Melchior has written a more recent post, in which she describes Sharpton's bad luck with fires and important records.)
- 12:57 PM, 13 March 2015 [link]
Yesterday Evening, I Did Something I do occasionally: watch the first few minutes of network news stories to see what the networks think is important news. If I time it right, I can catch BBC America, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Yesterday evening all but one of them made the resignation of the Ferguson police chief their second story; the exception — I don't recall whether it was NBC or CBS — made it their lead story.
This is absurd.
We have known for months that Officer Darren Wilson was attacked by Michael Brown, after Brown had just staged a robbery, and while Brown was high on drugs. Race had nothing to do with the incident — unless it was one of the reasons Brown attacked Wilson.
It is a sad story, but it is not a national story, much less an international story.
But it was made one by leftists, including Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Barack Obama. — with the complicity of many "mainstream" journalists.
For months those journalists have been sticking to their story, as more and more facts came out that contradicted it.
And by doing so, they made attacks on police officers more likely, and made it more likely that encounters between police officers and young black men would end violently.
So I was not surprised by the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson last night. It is what I have been expecting.
And I do hold our "mainstream" news organizations partly responsible.
(A political note: One of the reasons the Obama administration hyped the Ferguson story was to increase the black vote in the 2014 election. In my opinion, that was a tactical error as well as wrong, that they probably lost more votes from those — black, white, and Hispanic — who fear disorder than they gained from those who follow Al Sharpton.)
- 9:06 AM, 12 March 2015 [link]
There Are Still Honest, Competent "Mainstream" Journalists: But one fewer, now that Lisa Myers has retired.
Myers left NBC a year ago after clashing with Brian Williams over his refusal to air reports that he considered “divisive,” but that Myers considered part of the job of news organizations to keep government accountable. One of Myers’ spiked stories was that Barack Obama knew his “you can keep your plan” promise was a lie as far back as 2010, which ended up on NBC News’ website rather than on air.(Emphasis added.)
Now Myers is getting a little revenge, by going on the lecture circuit and talking about her experiences. You may want to read the post, and perhaps even the linked article to see what she has to say.
The way she and Sharyl Attkisson, were treated by their news organizations gives us good reason to be suspicious of television news, good reason to tell a pollster like Quinnipiac that we trust those news organizations "somewhat". At most.
(Here's Myers's official NBC biography. They are really proud of her, even though they forced her out. Presumably that was written before she left, and hasn't been revised.)
- 3:42 PM, 11 March 2015 [link]
Today's New Yorker Cartoon Would Shock most modern educators.
(I chuckled when I saw it, and then started wondering whether the right kind of aversion therapy might not have good results — in some educational situations. I know that parents and teachers thought so for millennia, and I am not sure they were entirely wrong.)
- 12:48 PM, 11 March 2015 [link]
"Clinton’s Email Explanation Won’t Placate Critics" So says the Associated Press.
The message from Hillary Rodham Clinton: Trust me. But in a 21-minute news conference to address why she used a private email account as secretary of state, the favorite for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 did little to try to build that trust among those willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.Among those critics who weren't placated are the people who run the Associated Press.
The Associated Press filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the State Department to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.The people running the AP think they have been stonewalled, and are now ready to spend money and time to get the records they think the laws entitle them to have. (I am not a lawyer, but suspect they are right.)
This is not a great way to begin a presidential campaign.
(This article by John Harris may give you a partial understanding of how Hillary Clinton thinks about this controversy. I say partial because we have learned over the years that, when Bill or Hillary Clinton are claiming privacy rights, it is often because they are hiding something illegal or unethical. Harris doesn't discuss that point, which will occur to almost every Clinton critic.
Here's the Wikipedia article on the Freedom of Information Act, with the usual caveats.)
- 10:15 AM, 11 March 2015 [link]
Republicans Distrust Fox Less Than Other Networks: But, on the whole, Americans don't trust any TV news source very much. Those are the two principal conclusions I draw from this Quinnipiac poll.
FOX News offers the most trusted network and cable news coverage, 29 percent of American voters say, when asked to compare the major TV news outlets in a Quinnipiac University National poll released today. But when network news is examined on a case-by-case basis, FOX drops in the ratings.Here's the party breakdown on that comparative question (number 62): Republicans 58 percent, independents 25 percent, and Democrats 3 percent.
If you look at the straight trust questions (numbers 55-61), you will see that, for every news source: NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and local TV, the top answer is "somewhat". Which is not, in my opinion, a positive response. A man who says he trusts his bank "somewhat", a woman who says she trusts her husband "somewhat", a child who says he trusts his teacher "somewhat" is not expressing confidence in the bank, the husband, or the teacher, respectively.
TV news organizations should be horrified by these findings, but, as far as I can tell, they are, at most, mildly bothered. At most.
(Here's a brief discussion from Tom Bevan on why Fox has that advantage.
FWIW, there were more Republicans (32 percent) than Democrats (29 percent) in the sample.
Minor technical point: I would have preferred that Quinnipiac had phrased the straight trust alternatives differently, something like this: almost all the time, most of the time, and so on.)
- 7:59 AM, 10 March 2015 [link]
He Started It: That claim, which parents and teachers hear again and again, is an apt description of President Obama's problems with Congress.
The White House and some Democrats are livid over congressional Republican attempts to circumvent President Obama's authority to make a nuclear arms deal with Iran. They have a right to be angry — but not to be surprised.It's regrettable, but Obama did, indeed, start this war between the two branches, because he couldn't persuade Congress to go along with his policies. Note that that was true even before the last election, when Republicans took control of the Senate.
There is something adolescent in President Obama's refusal to accept constitutional limitations or, to put it more generally, his refusal to accept that others have interests and rights he should respect.
(It is not clear to me how seriously Obama tried to persuade congressional leaders to go along with his policy of seeking a deal, almost any deal, with Iran. It may be that he, as he has done on other issues, just expected them to follow him.)
- 5:52 AM, 10 March 2015 [link]
What Was Left Out — And Put In — To That NYT Story On Selma? The decision of the New York Times to leave President Bush out of the picture of the commemorative Selma march has drawn considerable criticism, with many — especially Republicans — suspecting the exclusion was deliberate, and even akin to Soviet practices.
The story does make casual mention of the 43rd President, saying, “Joining Mr. Obama on Saturday was former President George W. Bush, who signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, as well as more than 100 members of Congress.” It also added, “While sitting onstage, Mr. Bush made no remarks, but rose to his feet to applaud Mr. Obama, and the two men hugged afterward.” But that was it.The public editor at the Times, Margaret Sullivan, says that the picture was not cropped, that the photographer did not even send the wider-angle picture to the Times, because of its photographic flaws.
Whether or not you believe her — and I mostly do, in this case — the article the picture illustrates is so badly flawed that the Times should redo it. Completely.
Sullivan does not explain what was left out of the article: the party of those who controlled the police in Alabama fifty years ago. Near the very end of the article, the Times does give us two names, Sheriff Jim Clark and Governor George Wallace. Both men were Democrats (as were practically all elected officials in Alabama, at that time).
For some reason, the reporters who wrote that lead article — Peter Baker and Richard Fausett — did not think readers needed to know which party was responsible for the attacks on the civil rights demonstrators, fifty years ago.
Nor does Sullivan explain what the reporters put it, all those references to Ferguson. The Times article (and, apparently, Obama's speech) are good examples of the "presentism" fallacy, where historical events are seen through present events, rather than in their own context. The history of the Selma march is presented as if it were somehow like the events in Ferguson, which is bizarre to anyone who has not bought the Obama/Holder/Sharpton propaganda on Ferguson.
That's too bad, because the actual story of the original Selma march is interesting — and, most likely, unfamiliar to most younger readers.
- 5:59 PM, 9 March 2015 [link]
I Hope All Of You Are OK: I say that today because the Mondays after we "spring forward" are a little more dangerous than the average Monday, because of the switch to Daylight Saving Time.
The simple act of adjusting to the time change, however subtle, also has measurable consequences. Many people feel the effects of the "spring forward" for longer than a day; a study showed that Americans lose around 40 minutes of sleep on the Sunday night after the shift. This means more than just additional yawns on Monday: The resulting loss in productivity costs the economy an estimated $434 million a year.It doesn't save energy — which was the original reason for establishing it in the United States — and it has some costs, not large for a nation with more than 300 million people, but measurable.
(Oddly, the author, Matt Schiavenza, calls for President Obama to "scrap" DST. Ending it would require legislation, so at most Obama could propose scrapping it. And it doesn't sound like the kind of issue that would interest Obama.
If this post seems familiar, that's because it is. Note that there may be benefits to the switch in the fall, but that they are less than the costs in the spring.)
- 8:17 AM, 9 March 2015 [link]