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Monday, July 25, 2016

NYT Bias

At The New York Times, public editor Liz Spayd writes:
Why is it that conservatives, and even many moderates, see in The Times a blue-state worldview? Let’s set aside for now the core of their criticism — that the coverage is in fact biased. I’ll be turning to that as I settle into the job. My focus here is only on the perceptions. Because while one might debate the substance of the claims, the building blocks that created them are in plain sight.
The home page is a good place to start. Anchoring its top right corner is the Opinion section, which promotes the columns and editorials of its mostly liberal writers. “Readers know the difference between opinion and news,” you’ll often hear. I’m not so sure all do, especially when the website makes neighbors of the two and social platforms make them nearly impossible to tease apart.

Maybe we’re well past worrying about that. So turn to the drumbeat of Hillary Clinton campaign ads on the website. Even for me, who fully knows an ad from a news story, seeing Clinton’s smiling face when I’ve come to read the news can be rather jarring.

Readers often run across ads like these on The New York Times’s homepage.

How about all the reader comments attached to political articles? On most days, conservatives occupy just a few back-row seats in this giant liberal echo chamber, not because Republicans are screened out by editors but because they don’t show up in the first place. Bassey Etim, who oversees the comments forum, makes a point of salting conservative voices into the week’s list of top commenters. “It just makes the conversation more dynamic and interesting,” he says.

For some print readers, the placement of an editorial calling for gun control on the front page last December, which garnered a record number of comments, was shrill proof of the kind of Times bias they expect. There was a torrent of debate over the appropriateness of its placement.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Charles Murray, Coming Apart, and the 2016 Election

At AEI, James Pethokoukis interviews Charles Murray:
Now, I know that we have the cottages in Newport that were palaces back in the late 19th century and other great displays of wealth, but those were fairly isolated to a couple of places in the northeast United States. What we see now is large enclaves of really affluent people forming these large communities in which they live conspicuously different lifestyles than everybody else — that’s new in the United States. The extent to which the upper class rather openly disdains ordinary Americans, that’s also really, really new. A part of being an American 50 years ago that you celebrates your own middle-class or working-class roots and you took great pride in saying “Hey I’m just another guy like anybody else even though I have a net worth of $20 million.” No, this behavior by the upper class has stoked a lot of that.
I don’t think that it’s the difference of wealth per se; I think it’s the separation. If you go to towns where you have a guy who started a chain of transmission repair shops and has several million dollars and has built a really nice house but he also is obviously still one of the guys, he’s still in the community where he grew up and everybody knows him, and yeah he’s made a lot of money —I don’t think that that kind of wealth generates a lot of resentment. I think it’s these people living in New York, Washington, San Francisco, L.A. — these big glitzy centers — acting as if they can lord it over the rest of us, that generates a lot of this anger.
Another problem with the experts — and I think that this gets to a lot of the visceral anger that people have — is that the experts have been recommending policies for other people for which they do not have to bear the consequences. The case of immigration is a classic case where I can sit down with economists on both the left and the right, and we with great self-satisfaction talk about all of our wonderful analyses that show that this idea that immigrants are driving down wages of native-born Americans is way over-exaggerated; that immigration is essentially a net plus, so forth and so on…  Those analyses may be right, but that does not change the fact that we aren’t the people who are like the carpenter who used to make $16 an hour, and he is losing work because contractors are hiring immigrant carpenters for $12.
As far as the “Coming Apart” phenomenon is concerned, it is going absolutely nowhere, no matter what happens with the election results. I think that the truth that has been exposed over the last eight months is that the Republican Party has a lot fewer people who believe in traditional conservative principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility and so forth than we thought we did.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Business Dudes Abide

A few months ago, Rich Galen wrote:
No less than T.E. Lawrence, known to us as Lawrence of Arabia, learned a hard lesson after World War I. He thought he and his Arab allies had created a new order in the Middle East. But, he wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
"When we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace."
Nicholas Confessore reports at The New York Times:
Though Mr. Trump promises to topple Washington’s “rigged system,” the opening rounds of his party’s quadrennial meeting accentuated a more enduring maxim: Money always adapts to power.

At a downtown barbecue joint, lobbyists cheerfully passed out stickers reading “Make Lobbying Great Again” as they schmoozed on Monday with Republican ambassadors, lawmakers and executives. At a windowless bar tucked behind the Ritz-Carlton hotel, whose rooms were set aside for the party’s most generous benefactors, allies of Mr. Trump pitched a clutch of receptive party donors on contributing to a pro-Trump “super PAC.”

And on Tuesday night, as Republican delegates formally made Mr. Trump their presidential nominee, a few dozen lobbyists and their clients instead sipped gin and munched on Brie puffs in an oak-paneled room at the Union Club. They had come to witness a more urgent presentation: Newt Gingrich, a top Trump adviser and Beltway fixture, painting an upbeat picture of the deals they could help sculpt on infrastructure projects and military spending in the first hundred days of a Trump administration.

“It is the business of Washington,” said Michael J. Anderson, a Democratic lobbyist who represents American Indian tribes, after watching Mr. Gingrich speak. “Mr. Trump is talking about changing the paradigm. It’s not changing one bit. The political and influence class is going on as before.”
Joel Fox writes at Fox and Hounds:
From the business perspective is the top two primary working out as hoped? Looking at the lineup of 28 same party run-offs, mostly Democratic contests in this heavily Democratic state, business can advocate for and help fund the more business-friendly Democrat in each race.
Yet, in many cases the winning Democrat will stay true to the overall Democratic Party line. In most cases, but not all. A highlighted example, the debate recently over cutting gasoline consumption saw some Democrats ignore the pleas of their party’s governor and legislative leaders to the satisfaction of the oil industry and other businesses.
Business leaders appear resigned to looking for the “best” Democrat.
A well-known example played out when former Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen made it known she was interested in challenging Democratic incumbent Cathleen Galgiani for the 5th Senatorial District. Business interests felt Galgiani was a good enough vote in the senate. The business groups let the state Republican Party know it’s wishes and in turn the party refused to help Olson with financial support for her campaign. Resigned, Olsen chose to run for supervisor in Stanislaus County.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Catholics and Capital Punishment

At The Catholic World Report, Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette write:
Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI -- stated unambiguously that:
[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty… (emphasis added)
How could it be “legitimate” for a Catholic to be “at odds with” the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope’s opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not “present himself to receive Holy Communion.” If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics.”
The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a “prudential” matter about which popes have no special expertise.
We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, forthcoming from Ignatius Press.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nuanced Views on Immigration

Gallup reports:
Two-thirds of Americans oppose immigration plans advocated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In contrast, 84% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., a plan backed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Notably, significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Lucifer Refererence

Last night, Ben Carson said at the GOP Convention:
One of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes, her mentors, was Saul Alinsky [CROWD BOOES]. Her senior thesis was about Saul Alinsky. This was someone that she greatly admired and that affected all of her philosophies subsequently. Now, interestingly enough, let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky. He wrote a book called “Rules For Radicals”. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now think about that. This is a nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our creator. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “one nation, under God”. This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says “In God We Trust”. So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.
Where does this reference come from?  The opening pages of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals includes this epigraph from Alinsky himself:
“Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins - or which is which), the very first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer.”
(Other epigraphs on the page are from Hillel and Thomas Paine.)

A 2014 survey found that Republicans were significantly more likely to say that Satan causes most evil in the world, a reflection of religiosity in the GOP

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Experts that hunt out plagiarism professionally say there is basically no chance that Melania Trump’s speech Monday night did not steal lines from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech.
Turnitin, a California-based company, uses a computer algorithm to automatically vet submitted writing for any matches that could amount to plagiarism. Following the controversy Monday, the company used that tool to analyze Trump’s Republican National Convention speech.
Chris Harrick, Turnitin vice president of marketing, told The Hill on Tuesday that 6 percent of Trump’s speech was determined to have language that matched with other existing text. All 6 percent came from Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Harrick noted that the company does not play “judge and jury” on whether something was plagiarized, but the odds that Trump’s speech did not include plagiarized content are effectively a mathematical impossibility.
According to Turnitin, there is a 1 in 1 trillion chance that two writers would write the same 16-word sequence by coincidence. The longest matching sequence of words between the Trump and Obama speeches was 23 words.