Obama’s Keystone Confusion

In his appearance last Monday on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

Second, the usual climate alarmist assumptions, namely that humans are having a substantial impact on the climate and that a warming of the planet is likely to be harmful.

Third, and most important, the implicit assumption that climate change — even if you believe the alarmists’ claims — is the only risk worth considering.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/61227/obama%E2%80%99s-keystone-confusion

The one unintended positive of ObamaCare

I, like anybody who appreciates personal and economic liberty and rational policy, oppose ObamaCare. That does not mean, however, that it does not have any beneficial impact or, along with its many ill-conceived taxes and bureaucracies and nanny state regulations (such as the impending annoyance of having to see calorie counts on every menu), offer a useful object lesson to guide future policy.

If Jonathan Gruber, despite his apologies for being rude, is correct that American voters are both stupid and selfish, it will be intellectually difficult as well as politically risky for Republicans to point out such object lessons — not least to each other.

But it's worth a try.

And recent data about the declining growth in total healthcare spending (which doesn't mean total spending is declining, nor does it mean that health insurance premiums are not still rising — quite rapidly in certain categories of plans) are worth talking about.

Please read the entirety of my note for The Hill here:
http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/226579-the-one-unintended-positive-of-obamacare

We Can Handle the Truth

What do the recent University of Virginia gang-rape charges made in Rolling Stone magazine, rape implications against an Oberlin College “campus conservative” by talented-but-annoying darling-of-the-left Lena Dunham, and the unending “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “die-in” pantomimes of murder-by-racist-cop regarding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have in common?

The obvious answer is that all three stories are unsupported by actual evidence. While something tragic certainly happened in Ferguson and something bad may have happened to a young woman in Virginia, the aspects of the stories that made them national sensations were fabrications.

(Given Lena Dunham’s admissions that she was drunk and high on both illegal and prescription drugs, and that she willingly had sex with someone even after he had done something exceptionally inappropriate to her in public, no part of her insinuation of rape seems credible… and further scrutiny demolishes it entirely.)

The more important answer is that in each case liberal activists, whether “feminists” (the true motivation of too many being hatred of men) or race hustlers like Al Sharpton (who needs to raise a few bucks to pay down $4.5 million in tax liens), are telling us that the truth doesn’t matter.

Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/61190/we-can-handle-truth

Rolling Stone Withdraws Explosive Story of UVA Rape

With a note to readers saying that their trust in the accuser was "misplaced" and that there now seem to be "discrepancies in her account," Rolling Stone magazine has retracted a dramatic "investigative" article claiming that a young woman nicknamed Jackie was gang-raped at a University of Virginia fraternity party in September 2012.

The fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi - which was vandalized after the article was published - has issued a statement rebutting the article, including that there was no party at the frat house on the night in question.

The story, violent and heart-wrenching, played into the worst fears of Americans about the so-called epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses around the country -- something which seems to be manufactured by ludicrous definitions of what qualifies as sexual assault. (This is not to downplay the harm of true sexual assaults.)

Quite a few people, such as Richard Bradley, Robby Soave of Reason, the always-excellent Jonah Goldberg, and to a lesser degree Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, questioned the reliability of reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, particularly after she admitted in an interview that he had not spoken with the young men who were accused of the horrific crime. (Each of the linked articles is worth reading.)

Now, with the fraternity having been suspended - indeed all "Greek" activities suspended until next month, Rolling Stone has much more than egg on its face, and Ms. Erdely has a lot of explaining to do, not least why Erdely did not speak to any of the accused young men.

[As of 3:15 PM Eastern Time, despite the retraction having been news for a few hours, Mr. Erdely has posting nothing to her Twitter feed despite having used that feed to try to attract as much attention as possible to her work of at-least-part-fiction.]

Details regarding the night of Jackie's claimed rape as well as key aspects in the description of the then-student she named as the lead perpetrator have not withstood even basic investigation but reporters who actually cared about the truth. What remains unclear is whether "Jackie" was actually raped or gang-raped at all; her friends say there was a major change in her personality around that time and it is possible that she did suffer a sexual assault. Perhaps, although she claims not to have drunk alcohol that night, she instead regretted having done just that and not remembering what she did that night. I don't know. We'll probably never know. In fact, Jackie may not know...which would be the most logical explanation for this whole mess.

But regardless of what Jackie knows or believes, a reporter's job is to do much more than accept the incredibly dramatic story of a young woman when the story involved accusing a half-dozen young men of a terrible crime.

If Rolling Stone's cover photograph of the Boston Marathon bomber wasn't enough to turn you away from that publication, this sure should be.

No new user registrations on this web site

Hello all,

Due to a proliferation of spam registrations from China, I am disabling the ability for new folks to register on Rossputin.com but anyone who is already registered can still comment.

David Brooks Insults Capitalism

I object to the term “crony capitalism” because it gives a misleading and negative perception of the most beneficial — and moral — economic system ever experienced by man.

I object to New York Times columnist David Brooks for the same reason.

Few things are more harmful to a rational debate over national economic policy than an electorate that is not just uninformed, but misinformed. And when it comes to economics, misinformation almost always has the effect — no doubt intentional — of encouraging voters to mistrust liberty, especially economic liberty, while looking to a feckless, impersonal, self-serving government for care and comfort.

Assailing capitalism is necessary for the election of Democrats. But, outside of liberal enclaves and universities, spreading misinformation and distrust of free enterprise is not a particularly easy task since its benefits are obvious to most Americans: capitalist countries have higher standards of living than non-capitalist countries; capitalism has lifted a billion human beings out of poverty in less than a generation; Americans are congenitally allergic to government meddling in our businesses (though too many are willing to tolerate meddling in other people’s businesses); and our nation was conceived to enable your “pursuit of happiness” — a pursuit that you instinctively know is most compatible with economic freedom.

Therefore, an effective (even if dishonest) critique of capitalism requires attacking its edges rather than its strong heart by focusing on barely relevant tertiary effects (real or, as with Brooks’ claims, fictitious) and demonizing the rich as greedy, heartless, and parasitic. You’ve heard these myths repeated ad nauseam, particularly leftist frothing about income inequality, the rich “buying elections,” the “one percent,” and so on.

Each of these tropes is easily — and often — debunked. But they still have some effect on those whose basic understanding of economics and liberty causes them to forget that no other economic system has done as much good for as many people as capitalism and no other system is compatible with a free people.

Of course, it’s all the better for the left if a “conservative” makes the arguments for them — which is where David Brooks usefully comes in.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/61135/david-brooks-insults-capitalism

Uber Shouldn’t Hire Political Hit Men

While I’ve never been a customer of Uber or, more specifically, of one of their drivers, I’m a big fan of any company that uses technology to allow more efficient and profitable use of individuals’ private assets (in this case, their cars) to benefit consumers (who can’t find a taxi or want something more convenient or comfortable) while challenging the power of regulators and taxi cartels.

In short, Uber is, at least in theory, a capitalist’s dream. Beyond that, it works, or at least it’s perceived to be working by some very successful investors: In June, Uber closed a financing round that valued the company at $18 billion only four years after it began operating. As The New York Times noted, that makes Uber “worth more than Alcoa, Tiffany or Whole Foods. (It’s bigger than Hertz Global Holdings and Avis Budget, too.)”

 

Five months ago, the company was “operating in 128 cities in 37 countries around the world with hundreds of thousands of transportation providers and millions of customers connecting to our platform.” By August, it was up to 170 cities. Just this month, they announced service in Cairo (Egypt, not Illinois), Santa Fe, Chattanooga, four towns in northwestern Oregon, Little Rock, and Budapest. They’ve also rolled out a partnership with online music service Spotify through which an Uber customer can hear music of her choice while waiting for a ride and then have her own playlist continue once she gets in the Uber vehicle.

Uber’s drivers are rated by passengers, and if they do not maintain a high average rating they are removed from the ranks of the Uber-approved. Although not without its controversies (such as riders being pressured to give higher ratings than a driver deserves), Uber is a major part of the “trust economy” being fostered on the Internet where experiences of others guide consumers.

Now Comes the Caveat

Please read the entirety of my article for The Federalist here:
http://thefederalist.com/2014/11/25/uber-shouldnt-hire-political-hit-men/

Political Metastasis: A Stage IV Cancer of Political Lawlessness

Sadly, someone I care deeply about was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer — one that is difficult to survive. The problem with this cancer is that it is rarely found until it reaches what oncologists call Stage III or Stage IV, meaning that treatment options are limited and the prognosis is guarded at best — with even “guarded” representing sometimes unjustifiable optimism.

What was so shocking about the diagnosis is that there was no prior indication of illness, certainly none that a person would attribute to a serious ailment rather than to an insignificant virus or just getting a poor night’s sleep. As the unknowing victim moves through life thinking all is well, he is being killed from the inside out. The same is now happening to our national body politic.

The rise of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States suggested a slightly sick country: A completely unaccomplished man elected to the highest political office on the planet on promises of “hope and change” based on radical and ignorant ideas.

To be sure, signs of at-least-minor political illness predate Obama: the Republican brand was (and to a large extent remains) deeply tarnished by years of Republican big spending, corruption, lack of legislative achievements, and did I mention big spending? 

No doubt you can name even earlier symptoms.

Despite all the current noise, our national political illness is not defined by the behavior of the president; instead, the cancer is the mindset of the public and of politicians who tolerate or justify the behavior. It is not what you see on the surface but what is happening underneath.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/61039/political-metastasis

Hillary Clinton: The Biggest Loser

Andrew Romano, a California-based writer for Yahoo News, spilled a lot of ink in recent weeks explaining why Latinos were not ditching the Democrats in this election (they moved toward the GOP by six percent overall, and more in some tight key races), why Mark Udall might “still have a shot in Colorado” (he didn’t), and why Republican governors were “flailing” in their quests for re-election (four of the five he named won, and the one who lost, the extremely unpopular Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, had long been a fifteen to twenty point underdog).

So he’s not exactly a credible pundit when he pens his newest morsel of Democratic hope-over-reality naïveté: that the big winner of the 2014 midterms was Hillary Clinton.

Romano’s wishful thinking is being echoed by many on the hard and soft left, including Forbes contributor Rick “I write from the left” Ungar, Cosmopolitan’s senior political writer Jill “Feministe” Filipovic (I didn’t’ know Cosmo even had such a position, though I suppose a magazine so focused on positions would have one of each…), Reuters political reporter Gabriel Debenedetti, AMERICAblog’s Progressive editor-in-chief John Aravosis, and editor of the National Interest, Jacob Heilbrunn.

The standard version of the “Hillary won the midterms” myth goes something like this:

1. The midterms’ massive repudiation of President Obama and what Charles Krauthammer calls “Obamaism” means that pressure from Hillary’s left including fear of a presidential run by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has all but vanished, allowing Hillary to campaign in the center rather than continuing on her “businesses don’t create jobs” idiocy. (Ungar)

2. The 2014 results were “more of a referendum on questions about Obama’s leadership rather than a sweeping rejection of Democratic policies” (Debenedetti), allowing Clinton not only to run against Republicans but also giving her more political leeway to contrast herself with President Obama.

3. Republicans will govern like right-wing nuts, including “two long years of attacks on women’s rights” (Filipovic), engaging in “shenanigans” led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) such as voting to repeal Obamacare — “just imagine the crazy things Ted Cruz and the Tea Partyers are going to come up with” (Aravosis) — while “pushing for a renewed military surge in the Middle East” (Heilbrunn), thereby allowing Hillary to campaign against an “impetuous” Republican Party that will be just as unpopular as the GOP was in 2008.

Republicans aren’t buying it. Some likely GOP presidential contenders, assuming that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2016, came out of the election swinging at Hillary.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60955/biggest-loser-them-all

Pre- and post-election lessons

Two large cross-currents in American political opinion will be the driving forces in today’s elections: A general dissatisfaction with government and politicians and a specific dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama.

These trends reinforce each other where a Republican candidate is challenging a Democratic incumbent but work against each other where the incumbent is a Republican. Overall, the dissatisfaction with Obama will be a stronger force in national elections, but on the state level incumbents of both parties will go into Tuesday night with trepidation.

Of course, candidates matter and just being not-a-Democrat will not always be enough for the GOP to knock off Democratic senators and congressmen for whom there remains some modest offsetting benefit of incumbency.

The good news for Republicans is that they do seem capable of learning: with a few exceptions such as the very weak Terry Lynn Land in Michigan, the party nominated electable candidates while mostly avoiding disasters like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who harmed the entire Republican message and brand.

So let’s talk about what to look for on Tuesday night as returns trickle in to give a sense of just how large these trends are, not least because their impact will go beyond the next Senate session and into the 2016 presidential campaign, which will feel as if it begins hours after this election ends. This analysis will not be exhaustive; instead my focus will be on elections that I believe are close.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60862/pre-and-post-election-lessons

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