The Sketchy Criticism of SketchFactor

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Jesse Jackson

The inventors of a new iPhone (and soon on Android) app called SketchFactor think that similar, albeit not necessarily race-based, concerns — such as caring for one’s personal safety — represent a market to be tapped.

Ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri, make the debate about SketchFactor particularly timely since — although with hugely different levels of importance and emotion — both are causing debates over race relations and racism in the United States.

And so the app uses public data combined with crowdsourced reports of “sketch” — meaning activity in a location that ranges from weird to dangerous, from catcalls to racial profiling, which is then marked on a map — to help users avoid neighborhoods or routes that might offer unwanted encounters.

No doubt that crowdsourced information allows the injection of bias, even racism, into such an application. But there’s a reason why so many of today’s most successful travel and leisure websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp rely on user contributions to generate content that other users largely trust. It is a proven model, at least if there is a critical mass of participants.

But when they learned of SketchFactor, the left-wing blogosphere went crazy with cries of “racist!”

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60268/sketchfactor-and-its-skittish-critics

No Asylum for Current Flood Across the Border

A Denver Post guest op-ed argued for giving asylum to children crossing illegally into the US right now. I disagree, and sent the Post a rebuttal, which they printed here:

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26343789/no-border-kids-dont-deserve-asylum

Ferguson on Fire

As the suicide of Robin Williams — one of the few self-inflicted deaths of a public figure which truly saddened me; the man made me laugh since my teenage years — grabs the headlines, Ferguson, Missouri is literally and figuratively on fire.

On Saturday in the majority-black suburb of St. Louis, 18-year old African-American Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white policeman. Details of the encounter between Brown and the as yet unnamed officer remain sketchy but it is undisputed that Brown was unarmed. A friend of Brown’s who witnessed the shooting claims that the officer shot Brown in the back and then shot him again repeatedly after Brown was attempting to surrender. According to CNN, “Authorities counter that Brown attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.”

Urban legend — and requisite accompanying celebrity-promoted hashtag — has already been made regarding Mr. Brown putting up his hands and calling out “Don’t shoot!”

We don’t have enough information to fairly discuss just what happened and why. But some of the immediate reactions to the shooting are now making as much news as the terrible event itself.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60244/ferguson-fire

Extraordinary Irresponsibility

In yet another uninspiring performance by our unengaged and unengaging president, this time a press conference at the end of a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama discussed, among other things, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which, according to The One, “we” have achieved.

It’s not entirely clear just how “we,” meaning the president, his feckless Secretary of State John Kerry, and his utterly incompetent foreign policy team (but at least they’re loyal — the most important characteristic for employees of any petty dictator), helped achieve anything other than the emboldening of Hamas, which led to the death of many more of Hamas’ human shields. Obama further asked how “we build on this temporary cessation of violence.”

It is unclear whether Hamas will go along with Israel’s offer to extend the ceasefire beyond its original 72 hours, which will determine how they who are actually fighting might or might not “build on” anything. As for what “we” might do, well, Martha’s Vineyard is very nice this time of year.

Showing his further detachment from reality on the subject — or more likely his ingrained anti-Israeli bias — Obama claimed (twice!) “I have no sympathy for Hamas.”

Well, isn’t that special?

Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60198/extraordinary-irresponsibility

Pass the House Border Bill

Conservative and liberal media alike were all atwitter with Thursday’s midday news that the House of Representatives was going on its summer recess without passing a border-related bill because Republicans did not have the votes to pass it. The left was particularly pleased in the apparent inability of the new House leadership team to pass a relatively inexpensive bill that contained at least one conservative priority on an extremely visible issue.

Later in the day, we learned that Speaker of the House John Boehner and House GOP leadership are keeping the House in session until there is a vote on a bill, which may occur on Friday.

Boehner is right to do this, and the House should pass the bill under consideration.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60147/pass-house-border-bill

Join me July 30 at Denver Press Club

DUE TO TORRENTIAL RAIN AND STREET FLOODING, WE'RE RESCHEDULING THIS EVENT.

WILL LET YOU KNOW OF FUTURE DATE WHEN IT'S SET

To all my readers and friends who are in or near Denver:

Please join me on Wednesday, July 30 at the Denver Press Club on July 30th at 6:00 where I will be guest bartending.  The Denver Press Club is located at 1330 Glenarm Place, directly across the street from the Denver Athletic Club.

We'll get a chance to discuss important issues, have some fun, and view the many Pulitzer prizes that adorn the walls of the Press Club.

The Press Club's web site is here and you can get directions here.

Three Cheers for Tax Inversions

Former Chief of Staff for the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), Edward Kleinbard, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that “tax inversions must be stopped now.”

Kleinbard may understand taxes but like so many on the left has a weak grasp on economics and on the proper relationship between a government and its citizens (including those operating within corporations).

Tax inversions involve an American company buying a foreign firm in order to move its tax domicile to the lower-tax foreign location. Some of the most common recent inversions involve buying Irish companies.

For example, Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based maker of medical devices (especially pacemakers), is buying Covidien which has its tax domicile in Ireland — a country with a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate as compared to the U.S. rate of 35 percent — before the average 4.1 percent state tax rate for a statutory rate of 39.1 percent, the highest in the industrialized world. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Medtronic Inc. could avoid $3.5 billion to $4.2 billion in U.S. taxes on funds it holds overseas” as a result of the transaction.

Kleinbard isn’t the only critic of these transactions.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60063/three-cheers-tax-inversions

Appeals Court Slightly Wounds Obamacare

It’s too soon for champagne, but perhaps a beer is in order.

In a 2-1 decision in the case of Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the Internal Revenue Service cannot interpret the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as allowing subsidies for those Americans who purchase health insurance from the federal health insurance exchange known as Healthcare.gov. This is because the text of the law specifies that subsidies or tax credits are available for insurance purchased on state-created exchanges.

Later on Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled oppositely: that the subsidies are permissible for the federal exchange. More in this in a moment.

Should the D.C. Circuit’s ruling ever actually take effect, this would mean that those who purchased Obamacare insurance in a state that did not create its own exchange but instead relied on the federal exchange must cover the full cost of their insurance rather than have others pay for some share of it. (What a novel concept in Barack Obama’s America!)

A lower court had ruled that the intent of the law was to permit subsidies for insurance purchased on either a state or federal exchange, but the panel ruled otherwise: “Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation.”

The ruling comes down to the permissibility of the IRS to interpret the law under a relatively lenient standard: “we will uphold an agency action unless we find it to be ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.’”

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60042/appeals-court-slightly-wounds-obamacare

Border issue leaves only "war on women" from Dems

Hundreds of Central American children held at an American Air Force base remind us of the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. Another thousand future illegal immigrants riding atop a Mexican "death train," anticipating their permisos en los Estados Unidos, remind us of the lawless policy that is causing this predictable crisis.

But it is the criticism by Hispanics and African-Americans of President Obama's response to the tsunami of adult and pint-sized illegal immigrants which suggests the political catastrophe that these events will unleash on Democrats during elections barely three months away.

Please read the rest of my Op-Ed for the Denver Post here:
http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26173054/border-issue-trouble-democrats

Border Chaos Changes Election Year Politics

In a Gallup poll released Tuesday, the percentage of Americans who say that immigration is the nation’s most important problem reached 17 percent, the highest level in eight years and the second-highest ever recorded by that polling organization.

It’s easy to scoff at the fickleness of the American public, taking a long-term problem such as immigration (legal or otherwise) from rating as most important by 5 percent of the population to 17 percent of the population in just a few weeks, notwithstanding the images of young unaccompanied children flooding into Texas. After all, border security and immigration didn’t suddenly become three or four times as important as it was just a month ago. It’s just that the symptom has alerted people to the disease of a lawless situation encouraged by a lawless president and an ineffective immigration system.

But what has become massively more important in that short time frame is immigration as a political issue and how it may now favor Republicans — or at least not harm them.

Immigration, along with the closely-tied issue of race, were to be two the three legs of the stool upholding already flimsy Democratic electoral hopes in November’s elections.

But as Hispanic congressmen, an irate black woman in Houston (in a now-viral video), and furious black crowds in Chicago publicly assail President Obama for not doing his job and for treating illegal alien children with more care and concern than he shows for American children, claiming that the GOP is a party that “black and brown” people must fear and loathe is suddenly a challenge.

Similarly, with even MSNBC hosts questioning the administration’s competence, bashing the president for not visiting the border, and scoffing at a Democrat’s claim the border is really secure, the effectiveness of Democratic appeals (particularly to Hispanic voters) that Republicans are the problem when it comes to immigration reform will run into the increasingly credible notion that the GOP has no reason to trust this president as an honest partner in negotiating such reform. Would you?

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/59982/border-chaos-changes-election-year-politics

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