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.

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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

The Most Ridiculous Campaign Ad of the Year

Democrats and liberal organizations have put out a lot of hyperbolic, hyperventilating ads this year...almost all related to birth control, since they don't actually have a positive agenda to run on. This matches my predictions of several months ago...{patting self on back}.

One of the problems with what George Will called (speaking specifically of Mark Udall but the point can be generalized as well) "a relentlessly gynecological campaign" is that it treats women like idiots and takes their votes for granted based on a single issue (or single small cluster of issues) which is not at the top of most women's minds. After all, women every bit as much as men care about jobs, paying the bills, seeing (and having their kids see) the doctors of their choice. So while women still lean toward Democrats, they are doing so far less than before. It's not that I expect a majority of women to vote Republican in Colorado or in many other swing states. I do, however, expect many of them who have voted Democrat in the past to refrain from voting in 2014, giving a huge boost to Republican hopes in close races.

The left is getting absolutely desperate. And perhaps nothing shows it more than what may be the most ridiculous ad I've heard this year.

I thought it was a joke at first, but it's not.

Behold the wonder of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, and consider just what this ad implies about NARAL's view of the intelligence of voters:

http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/elections/2014/GMMB_25914_NARAL_CO_ThisGuy.mp3

Hillary's Clumsy Radicalism

Hillary Clinton’s Friday warning to a Boston audience, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and business that create jobs,” felt like a “jump the shark” moment even within a Democratic Party that has adopted a similarly ignorant and harmful anti-capitalist mantra.

The most well-known recent Democratic dismissal of entrepreneurs came from President Obama during the 2012 election campaign season: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The entire rant is equally inflammatory, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of economics and a reprehensible dismissal of those risk-taking businesspeople — with whom Obama never associates except when collecting their checks at Silicon Valley fundraisers — who power the economic engine of the free world.

But Barack Obama, not exactly a fountain of new ideas, didn’t come up with this by himself and he isn’t even the poster child for class warfare in the United States. That dubious honor goes to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who in 2011 told a group of supporters that “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” She went on in this vein for some time, discussing business and taxation without offering the slightest suggestion that society should be grateful to, not jealous of, the men and women who build the factories; they, not taxpayers funding roads, are what cause a nation to thrive.

Mrs. Clinton’s statement goes well beyond Obama’s and Warren’s muddle-headed formulations of Progressive class warfare into a level of speciousness so obvious that even most Democrats would not actually believe her: After all, who other than businesses or corporations create jobs in this country? Individuals who are not operating as businesses rarely create jobs. That leaves only the government.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/60788/hillary-does-job-america-once-again

Every Hemorrhagic Virus Should Have Its Own Lawyer-Lobbyist

Perhaps it’s not surprising coming from our first Community Organizer president that the trait the administration claims is most needed in an “Ebola czar” — not that it’s been shown that such a position needs to be created in the first place — is, as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health put it, “somebody who’s a good organizer.”

It’s been proven that rabble-rousing on the South Side of Chicago does not qualify one to lead anything more significant than a golf foursome (though you have to give Obama credit for spending his time doing what he’s best at, showing a clear understanding of the principle of comparative advantage).

Similarly, one wonders just what the newly named czar, Ron Klain, has “organized” that should give the American people confidence that the most incompetent administration in modern U.S. history is doing what needs to be done to keep citizens safe from a virus that the media is turning into the biggest medical scare since the Spanish Flu.

To wit, Ron Klain — no doubt a very smart man and talented lawyer, including having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and clerking for a Supreme Court justice — is best known for organizing and advising Democratic politicians from Ed Markey to Bill Clinton to Al Gore to Gen. Wesley Clark to John Kerry, and most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden (proving that intelligence cannot be gained by proximity) before taking a job in the private sector.

Other notes of interest about Mr. Klain include his membership in the Algore Cult of Global Warming and that he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, helping a firm that required tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts with “regulatory issues,” according to the Washington Post. He has publicly supported the ill-conceived “Buffett Rule” — calling for higher taxes on the wealthy — although within an analysis that at least recognizes that the “middle class” is as skeptical of Democrats as it is of Republicans.

Clearly the man is indeed a qualified organizer — of the office workings and spin machines of liberals.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator:
http://spectator.org/articles/60704/who-says-you-need-doctor-fight-ebola