Free Markets, Free People

Freedom and Liberty

Stuff and whatnot

The idiocy continues on all sorts of fronts.  A few things that caught my eye.  David Axlerod’s autobiography and his expectations:

“More than anything, this is what’s terrible about modern media and how these books roll out,” Axelrod says. “I was determined to write a book that wasn’t going to be characterized by some titillating nugget that had about a three-day half-life, but rather an entire story of my life and the conclusions that life has led me to. I wanted to write a book that people might want to read years from now and not just today’s publication because they wanted to find out who had been knifing who.”

A lovely sentiment. But Axelrod, who likes to think of himself as a real-world idealist, surely knew not to get his hopes up.

Oh balderdash.  Axelrod is about as calculating a political hack as one can find.  To assume he was so naive or stupid to believe his book would be treated any other way is irony on steroids.  The only thing interesting about the man at all are the political secrets he may reveal.  I got a good laugh out of his disappointment.

Under the sarcastic title of “wow, I’d have never guessed this … ” we find:

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Look, those guys learned how to successfully co-opt liberal left anti-war groups ages ago.  This is just the updated effort.  Why this would surprise anyone is a mystery to me.  And, of course, it’s the big names of the movement – Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress.  Bought and paid for … by evil oil.

Irony … it’s just lost on the left.

Under the title of “when bureaucrats get huffy”, things got a little testy in a Congressional hearing yesterday with the newest VA Secretary.  Apparently he’s not used to having his competence questioned:

The fracas started when Coffman criticized the VA for citing its effort to defend cost and time overruns at a Denver hospital projects as a major accomplishment.

“How is that a success?”

[Rep. Mike] Coffman [(R-Colo.)] asked. “You lost that case on every single point for the hospital in my district that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.”

“I think that that’s just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department,” Coffman added. “This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. And I gotta tell you, I think the public relations is great today, but there’s no substance.”

McDonald said he was offended by those remarks, and then dodged the question and tried to shift the blame to Coffman and others in Congress.

“Actually, I’ve been here six months,” McDonald said to Coffman. “You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”

Really … because Coffman has what to do with running the VA project in question?  After all the failure of the past 6 years, that’s just what you need, an egoistic, thin-skinned nincompoop at the head of the VA.  McDonald followed that little jewel up by showing he knew nothing about the person he was insulting:

… McDonald ended by barking at Coffman, “I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?”

Well, as it happens, Mike Coffman is a combat veteran who started his own company, and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq wars.  And as it happens, Secretary McDonald is an ass, just like the head of the IRS, just like our Attorney General, just like … yes, it’s the culture and climate that has evolved within this administration and it all goes directly to the head of it all … our snarky, sarcastic and disrespectful president.

Btw, in my estimation, McDonald ended up looking like a fool, something he richly deserved.

Instead of hurling insults, McDonald should be interested in actually doing something useful.  Like his job:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ vast health network — beset by a scandal last year over delayed care — has been listed as a high-risk federal program by congressional auditors for the first time.

The report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, which is issued every two years, includes a broad indictment of the $55.5 billion VA program, one of the nation’s largest health care systems. USA TODAY obtained the VA section of the report, scheduled for release Wednesday.

And this goob, like most of the administration, is trying to lay off any blame.  It’s a perfect example of an ossified bureaucracy that is more than incompetent, it’s lethal.

Finally, for those of you who like strolling down the memory lane of climate alarmist predictions, there’s a website up dedicated to reminding us again how wrong they’ve all been:

A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.

San Jose Mercury News 30 Jun 1989

Ah, yes, the good old days.

~McQ

Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children”
FactCheck.org – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.

[…]

The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Deafness
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the FactCheck.org article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

They call them “economic laws” for a reason

So the citizens of San Francisco voted themselves an increase in prices, er, excuse me, a “$15 minimum wage” and thumb their noses at the laws of economics.

Reality hits back.  Borderland Books, an iconic SF bookstore, provides the perfect two-fold example with this announcement:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018. Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st. The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages. The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all. Viability is simply a matter of increasing prices. And, since all the other cafes in the city will be under the same pressure, all the prices will float upwards. But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book. Furthermore, for years part of the challenge for brick-and-mortar bookstores is that companies like Amazon.com have made it difficult to get people to pay retail prices. So it is inconceivable to adjust our prices upwards to cover increased wages.

The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%. That increase will in turn bring up our total operating expenses by 18%. To make up for that expense, we would need to increase our sales by a minimum of 20%. We do not believe that is a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time.

Note the key lines.  “The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%.”  Yet, there’s not 39% room in the earnings to weather that increase, because an 18% increase in operating costs puts them in the red.  Borderland Books explains why – retail price is almost impossible to get anymore so they can’t increase the price of the product to cover the cost.  Result?  The workers in the bookstore will have a wage of $0 as of March 31.  I’m sure they’re thrilled.

Meanwhile the cafe will stay open because it can do what?  Pass the cost on to the customer.  So in essence, those who voted for the increase in minimum wage voted dollars out of the pockets of those who opposed it as well as their own.  While the workers in the cafe will get their $15 an hour minimum wage, it will be achieved in an increase in the price of the goods the cafe sells (about 20%).  And if their experience is anything like Seattle’s (which also instituted a $15 minimum wage) tips will dry up to next to nothing, while perks (such as free meals, parking, etc.) will be discontinued now that the workers make enough money to pay for most of them.

Yes, economic illiteracy has a price – and here it is.  Fewer jobs, higher prices, all a result of fools who thought they could magic “a living wage” out of a vote without that having any consequences to the workers or themselves.

Idiots.

~McQ

If you’re a pacifist, it helps if everyone else is too

That’s the hard lesson Japan’s Prime Minister is learning:

When Islamic State militants posted a video over the weekend showing the grisly killing of a Japanese journalist, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising “to make the terrorists pay the price.”

Such vows of retribution may be common in the West when leaders face extremist violence, but they have been unheard of in confrontation-averse Japan — until now. The prime minister’s call for revenge after the killings of the journalist, Kenji Goto, and another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, raised eyebrows even in the military establishment, adding to a growing awareness here that the crisis could be a watershed for this long pacifist country.

“Japan has not seen this Western-style expression in its diplomacy before,” Akihisa Nagashima, a former vice minister of defense, wrote on Twitter. “Does he intend to give Japan the capability to back up his words?”

Japan has been a pacifist country by declaration, pretty much forced into that position by the United States after WWII.  But Japan, if its history is any indication, isn’t a pacifist country by tradition.

And, of course, it is easier to be a “pacifist” nation when you’re essentially protected by GreatPower.  Japan has enjoyed that luxury for almost 70 years.

That’s enough time to begin to believe you can be a pacifist nation and survive.  But, as the title indicates, that’s a dream reality won’t support unless certain unlikely conditions are sought.  It’s a bit like demanding that guns be banned with the belief that if law abiding citizens are prohibited from carrying weapons, criminals too will refrain from using them.   Or unilateral nuclear disarmament.  If you destroy your nukes, well, the other guy has an huge bit of leverage hasn’t he?

No country today can afford to be “pacifist” in this world.  Those organizations and countries like ISIS would love that.  It would be like a homeowner putting a sign in their window that says “this is a gun free house”.  Why not send an engraved invitation to those who look for situations like that to criminally exploit?

Like most ideals, while nice to contemplate and certainly wonderful to wish for, reality simply doesn’t look kindly on unrealistic ideals nor does it deal gently with those who try to practice them foolishly.

Japan is emerging from a long sleep in which they were able to indulge themselves in their dream.  But with China rattling sabers and looking at least regionally expansionist, North Korea in the hands of a mad man and the US showing little or no leadership nor inclination to back Japan like it has in the past — dreamtime is over.

It’s time for them to embrace the suck and do what is necessary to survive and thrive in it.

~McQ

Check The Sky For Flying Pigs

Because this actually happened:

In response to Uber ride-sharing drivers now working in the city, the [Portsmouth, NH] Taxi Commission on Wednesday recommended the elimination of taxi medallions, regulation of taxi fares, city taxi inspections and the Taxi Commission itself.
The commission voted unanimously to send a memo to the City Council outlining its recommendations to lift many regulations currently imposed on drivers-for-hire. The council will be asked to instruct City Attorney Robert Sullivan to rewrite the city’s taxi ordinance to reflect the following changes:
* Recognize so-called ride-sharing services offered by platforms including Uber.
* Replace the current taxi medallion system with a registration process that would require all drivers to register with the city clerk’s office and provide proof of commercial insurance.
* Require the Police Department to conduct criminal background checks on all registered drivers, who would be charged a fee for the background checks.
* Require all drivers-for-hire to sign and adhere to a code of conduct.

That’s right. The Taxi Commission voted, unanimously, to end its own existence. I honestly don’t know if that has ever happened before. And if it has has, it was a very long time ago.

[Taxi Commissioner Larry] Cataldo said if drivers are smoking, or offering rides in unkempt vehicles, consumers will decide if they want to hire them. Under the proposal, police would continue to conduct background checks of registered drivers who would also have to provide proof that their passengers are insured for a minimum of $300,000 under a commercial policy.

Several commissioners compared the proposed deregulation of taxi fares to the fact that someone can buy a glass of beer for $4 at a downtown pub and pay $8 for a glass of the same beer at a nearby restaurant.

“I guess it’s going to come down to what consumers want to do,” said Lt. Chris Cummings, the Police Department’s liaison to the Taxi Commission.

Novel concept, huh?

Just to put this in perspective, local officials, who are often the source of particularly pernicious intrusions into our personal lives, have agreed to give up power in favor of consumer choice. Power that can be lucrative in the form of kickbacks, favoritism, and political brokering. Yet, this body of politicians decided that what was best for their constituents was to put in place simple rules and disband itself. That’s just … amazing.

Of course, don’t go hunkering down in your pig blind any time too soon. The ordinary state of affairs looks like this:

After being a promised a blizzard of historic and catastrophic proportions on Monday, New York City residents woke up today to rather meager snow totals and a lot of questions for their public officials.

[…]

The focus, in particular, seems to be about the decision to shut down New York City at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night. All roads in the region (not just in the city, but in Connecticut and New Jersey, as well) were closed to non-emergency traffic, but Governor Andrew Cuomo also made the unprecedented decision to preemptively shut down the entire NYC subway system. That’s never happened in the 100-plus years of the subways due to snow.

Yet, by 11:00 p.m., it was already becoming clear that such a move was likely going to be unnecessary. That confusion quickly turned to outrage after a report by The Brooklyn Paper that the subway was actually still running. In order to keep the power on and the tracks clear, the MTA continued to shuttle empty trains all throughout the system and was planning to all along. It was apparently Cuomo’s decision to shut the system to passengers, a move that caught MTA off guard and appeared to be unnecessary.

Naturally, some people are upset about the overreaction. It’s one thing to clear the streets of cars, but the subway is the lifeline of the city, particularly for those people who work third-shift jobs or have family and friends in other boroughs. Cries of “nanny state”-ism, political posturing, or just plain cowardice are ringing out today.

Ace describes it this way:

So, now it’s accepted that government officials will essentially declare Martial Law on a whim. Martial Law has become mainstreamed, thanks to our viciously incompetent media.

[…]

These high-handed, alarmist, panicky, lawless actions are being defended on grounds of “safety.”

This is not an overblown statement: All forms of fascism and totalitarianism proceed under the guise of securing the public’s “safety and security.” I don’t think you can cite a single time where fascism did not ride upon twin horses named Public Safety and Public Security.

We seem to becoming jaded by frequent assertions of dictatorial power for this claimed emergency or that imagined crisis.

And let us be clear about things: Cuomo did not do this to “protect the public safety.” He did this to protect his own political safety.

Let us stop pretending to believe the most ridiculous lies of politicians. Let us start dealing forthrightly with one another.

Hearkening back to the Boston Bomber manhunt, he’s not that far off. The question, as always, is how much will the citizenry put up with, and at what point do they stop acting like sheep in the face of “do as we command; it’s for your own good!”

At least in Portsmouth, NH, they’re getting a chance to decide for themselves what’s in their own interests. Let’s hope that catches on.

(h/t: Instapundit)

~ MJW
Twitter: @mjwadeesq

So typical

Who is the “servant” here?

With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers.

As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenues to pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel.

Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.

Solution for what?

The serious problems posed for “state coffers”.

Hey here’s an idea … when state revenue goes down, how about cutting spending?

Note as well that no one is saying a thing about doing away with the fuel tax.

Nope … it’s all about the “state” and its needs.  And all that needs to be done to deprive Californians of even more of their hard earned dollars is a vote of the legislature and a signature of the governor.  Bingo, instant revenue (and likely a large new bureaucracy to “manage” it).

And the federal government is no different.

When a government is desperate for cash, it goes after the middle class, because that’s where the money is….

Though millions of Americans have been putting money into “tax free” 529 plans to save for their children’s increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you’ll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior’s dorm fees.

This doesn’t hurt the very rich — who just pay for college out of pocket — or the poor, who get financial aid, but it’s pretty rough on the middle– and upper–middle class. In a double-whammy, those withdrawals will show up as income on parents’ income tax forms, which are used to calculate financial aid, making them look richer, and hence reducing grants.

Likewise, Obama proposes to tax the appreciation on inherited homes.

Because, you know, save the middle class … or something.

Pay up, suckers.

~McQ

Even more this and that

Not sure how you stick with one topic a day when so much is going on, thus the appeal of commenting on lots of topics.

For instance, we find out that President Obama is the reason gas prices are down … if his SOTU is to be believed (yeah, it’s not).  The fact that you happened to be hanging out in Washington DC and your title is “President of the United States” doesn’t mean you did anything to make that happen.   As I pointed out earlier, his EPA will soon take care of that anyway.

There were a lot of other bits of fun and fantasy as well – free community college.  Because, you know, its free.  And not to worry, it’s those greedy rich folks that will pay for it.  Mr. Obama wants $320 billion in new taxes.  Capital gains tax – up.  Death tax – up.  Bank tax – up.  And  your 529 savings plan for your kids college?  Yeah, no longer tax free.

That, dear friends, is how you get “free” college.  Isn’t free stuff wonderful?

 

Rob-Peter-NRD-600-w-logo

On to your retirement savings:

There would be a new cap in the amount one could accumulate in the aggregate in all IRA and 401(k) type accounts of $3.4 million. After that, you can’t save any more new dollars. The idea is that this is enough to secure a $210,000 annual distribution in retirement, which the government apparently deems “enough” for a retiree.

Because, of course, nanny knows best.

Finally, if  you’re an employer:

In addition, all employers with more than 10 workers and who do not have a 401(k) type plan would be mandated to set up payroll deduction Traditional IRAs for their employees. Also, part-time workers would have to be covered under retirement plans if they have been working someplace long enough. These two things are a new kind of employer mandate from Obama.

Nice plan, no?  No.  As usual, that means precisely what the cartoon shows.  Someone has to pay for all of this and it isn’t just going to be the employer.

Of course the concept that someone must actually “pay” for these things is always left out of the discussion.  It’s “free” after all.

For a completely different subject, and in case you were wondering, yes, liberals in Hollywood (almost redundant, isn’t it) are still wringing their hands about the all white Oscars.  Or at least doing a good imitation of it.  My favorite theory?  “Racial fatigue”.

The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported “12 Years a Slave” had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year.

Because, you know, there’s only so much support those white Hollywood liberals can dole out a year, or something. They gave their all last year.  And you black folks just need to understand that!  By the way, I believe “racial fatigue” does indeed play a part.   People are tired of everything being made to be about race.

Speaking of culture, I found article to be very entertaining.  Is there a civil war brewing on the “progressive” left (one dearly hopes so)?  Why the question?  Dilemmas such as this:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens were once known as the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism. For a long while, there was nothing more amusing to a young liberal than watching one of them debate against a creationist, or someone who objected to abortion or gay marriage on religious grounds. Dawkins, for a while, was the darling of the British media.

Then things started to sour. Christopher Hitchens, in his full-throated defences of the second Iraq war, was the first to lose left-wing support. Notoriously, Feminist Frequency producer Jonathan McIntosh celebrated Hitchens’ death, saying he was a “despicable, warmongering, hateful human being. Good riddance.” (To put that in perspective, McIntosh had just a few months earlier refused to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Dawkins, who recently discovered the joys of deliberately offending people on Twitter, has become an even greater figure of hate for progressives. This is probably due to his indiscriminate rationalism: he is just as willing to poke holes in theories of post-modern feminism as he is to attack religion. And when he does attack religion, he insists that Islam is probably the worst one out there. He has become persona non grata in progressive circles as a result.

2014 saw atheists and progressives embroiled in what looked like an all-out war. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female genital mutilation survivor and one of the fiercest critics of Islam in the atheist movement, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at Brandeis University for her criticism of Islam, and was stripped of her honorary degree. Salon.com immediately applauded the decision.

Students at UC Berkeley attempted to do the same to Bill Maher over his alleged islamophobia, but were stopped by the college administration. Sam Harris, another of the “four horsemen”, felt compelled to engage in a three-hour debate with progressive commentator Cenk Uygur after enduring a wave of hatchet-jobs from media progressives for his own comments on Islam.

Progressives may be overwhelmingly atheist, but there is only so much heresy they can stand. One of their core beliefs is that you do not “punch down”–that is, attack vulnerable or marginalised communities. Islam, despite being the dominant religion of dozens of nation-states, is said by progressives to fall into this category.

We’ve watched this sort of cognitive dissonance have its way with the left before.  That’s because they aren’t really about principles as much as they are about biases.  Oh, and limiting your freedom:

A YouGov poll taken just last fall found that equal amounts of Americans support and oppose “hate speech laws,” defined as laws that would “make it a crime for people to make comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” Thirty-six percent said sure and 38 percent said no way. That’s disturbing enough on its own, but here’s something even more unsettling: Fully 51 percent of self-identified Democrats supported hate-speech laws.

Somehow I’m not at all surprised, given the examples above … are you?

~McQ

So we’re not all Charlie Hebdo …

David Brooks opines today concerning the murders in Paris (quit calling them “executions” and giving them some sort of legal patina):

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in. 

We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.

But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.

Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.

A lot of people are panning Brooks today, but on the large point, I think he’s right.  What was done was, in many people’s opinion, “puerile” and “offensive”.  But as he further points out, even those who are puerile and offensive in that regard do indeed serve a “useful public role.”  They point to things that need pointed at and they do it in a way that is difficult to ignore.  That doesn’t mean I have to like their methods or even their message, but I do want them to have the freedom to express it.

For myself, I usually avoid that sort of offense.  I personally think most points can be made within reasonable bounds of propriety.  But those are limits I put on myself.  It’s a personal belief that I am able to sway more people with reasonable arguments and bits of sarcasm that I am from being puerile and offensive.  I believe that those who engage in that sort of behavior turn off more minds than they turn on.  But that’s my belief.  However, for those that believe otherwise, they have the full right to engage in such behavior as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.   And no, you have absolutely no right to not be offended.

So in that regard, Brooks is right.  I’m not in the mold of Charlie Hebdo … but I defend their right to be offensive, profane, blasphemous and puerile via their speech with everything I have.  That doesn’t at all mean I like it, am not offended by it or think it is right.  And whatever they do, their right to free speech also opens them up to the consequences of exercising that right.

Murder is not one of them.  Violence of any sort is not one of them.  We hear a lot about proportionality.  What is a proportional response to being offended?  Off the top of my head I can think of any number of “proportional” responses – depending on what you find offensive, there are several ways to make that point – condemnation, boycott, peaceful activism, ignoring them, dismissing them, etc.  But their right to say what they want is as fundamental a freedom as the consequences that come with it.  And that’s how it should be.

Modern Christians, for instance, have seen many examples of profanity and what they’d consider to be blasphemy writ large – in supposed “art” for instance.  However, they’ve responded proportionally to the offense.

So Brooks is right in the large sense.  I’m not Charlie Hebdo – but I’ll support Charlie Hebdo’s right to do what they did to the death.

~McQ

If anyone else did this, it would be prosecuted as “FRAUD”!

Actually, the “American voter” wasn’t as stupid, as Jonathan Gruber claimed, because, as he admits numerous times, they had to resort to outright fraud to get the ACA past those voters.  Brian Faughnan summarizes:

So Gruber is previously on the record saying Obamacare subsidies are available ONLY in states that set up exchanges – not in all states. He has also said the law was sold in a deceptive way to fool stupid voters. Now we see him claim that the Affordable Care Act was actually a way to get rid of employer-provided health care, but it had to be done secretly so the American people would go along with it:

“It turns out politically it’s really hard to get rid of,” Gruber said. “And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans…

Gruber explains that by drafting the bill this way, they were able to pass something that would initially only impact some employer plans though it would eventually hit almost every employer plan. And by that time, those who object to the tax will be obligated to figure out how to come up with the money that repealing the tax will take from the treasury, or risk significantly adding to the national debt.

“What that means is the tax that starts out hitting only 8% of the insurance plans essentially amounts over the next 20 years essentially getting rid of the exclusion for employer sponsored plans,” Gruber said.

But to these ethically crippled jerks, it’s not fraud, it’s “clever(ness)”:

A video that surfaced this week shows Gruber telling a Rhode Island audience in 2012 how the feds will collect a tax on high-end policies without families realizing they’re actually paying the tax via insurers: “(I)t’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

Basic “exploitation” – comforting to know that your government actually and purposely was deceitful with the aim of  fooling the public into accepting something the law wasn’t.  Name a fraudster anywhere who doesn’t think he’s “clever”.

Now tell me — what do we usually call such attempts?

FRAUD.

And what do we do with those who attempt to defraud the public?

We put them in jail.

But, you know, that would be “accountability”.

We apparently don’t do “accountability” in the US.  So fraudsters are free to brag about how they did what they did without worrying about facing any consequences.

And the left – well, here’s what they’re worried about:

Former White House press secretary Jay Carney told CNN that Gruber’s remarks in general were “very harmful politically to the president.”

~McQ

Climate change “deal” with China just an excuse for executive action

Given this “deal”, Obama seems to be a used car salesman’s dream, but I’ve come to believe there is a method to this madness.  And it is madness:

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. has set a new goal to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by between 26 percent and 28 percent over the next 11 years as part of a climate change agreement with China. 

The new target is a drastic increase from earlier in Obama’s presidency, when he pledged to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020. By contrast, Obama’s counterpart, Xi Jinping, did not pledge any reductions by a specific date, but rather set a target for China’s emissions to peak by 2030, or earlier if possible. Xi also pledged to increase the share of energy that China will derive from sources other than fossil fuels. China’s emissions have grown in recent years due to the building of new coal plants.

“This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship,” Obama told a news conference in Beijing, with Xi at his side. “It shows what’s possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge.”

No.  No it’s not anywhere near a “milestone” at all.  If that’s the “deal”, he was owned by the Chinese premier.  Instead it is another bad deal used to push an ideological desire.  This certainly won’t be ratified as a treaty with a GOP Congress (if it is even submitted as a treaty).  And anyone who thinks China won’t ignore, or unilaterally extend its 2030 peak use simply knows nothing about how China works.

So the “King” will, apparently, do further damage to the economy by using this bit of nonsense as his catalyst for umpteen executive orders because, you know he has a pen, a phone and an ideology.

Thank goodness that only lasts for 2 more years with a GOP Congress (assuming the GOP Congress has any fiscal balls when it comes to defunding the stupidity he commits to his “executive actions”).  If you loved ObamaCare you’re going to rave about this bit of economic stupidity.

In the meantime, grab your wallets and bend over, here it comes again.

~ McQ