21st-century digital evangelists had a lot in common with early Christians and Russian revolutionaries.
A long time ago, in the bad old days of the 2000s, debates about the internet were dominated by two great tribes: the Optimists and the Pessimists.
“The internet is inherently democratizing,” argued the Optimists. “It empowers individuals and self-organizing communities against a moribund establishment.”
“Wrong!” shouted the Pessimists. “The internet facilitates surveillance and control. It serves to empower only governments, giant corporations, and on occasion an unruly, destructive mob.”
These battles went on at length and were invariably inconclusive.
Nevertheless, the events of 2016 seem to have finally shattered the Optimist consensus. Long-standing concerns about the internet, from its ineffectual protections against harassment to the anonymity in which teenage trolls and Russian spies alike can cloak themselves, came into stark relief against the backdrop of the US presidential election. Even boosters now seem to implicitly accept the assumption (accurate or not) that the internet is the root of multiple woes, from increasing political polarization to the mass diffusion of misinformation.
All this has given rise to a new breed: the Depressed Former Internet Optimist (DFIO). Everything from public apologies by figures in the technology industry to informal chatter in conference hallways suggests it’s become very hard to find an internet Optimist in the old, classic vein. There are now only Optimists-in-retreat, Optimists-in-doubt, or Optimists-hedging-their-bets.
As Yuri Slezkine argues wonderfully in The House of Government, there is a process that happens among believers everywhere, from Christian sects to the elites of the Russian Revolution, when a vision is unexpectedly deferred. Ideologues are forced to advance a theory to explain why the events they prophesied have failed to come to pass, and to justify a continued belief in the possibility of something better.
Among the DFIOs, this process is giving rise to a boomlet of distinct cliques with distinct views about how the internet went wrong and what to do about it. As an anxiety-ridden DFIO myself, I’ve been morbidly cataloguing these strains of thinking and have identified four main groups: the Purists, the Disillusioned, the Hopeful, and the Revisionists.
These are not mutually exclusive positions, and most DFIOs I know combine elements from them all. I, for instance, would call myself a Hopeful-Revisionist. Read the rest of this entry »
The number of informants executed in the debacle is higher than initially thought.
Zach Dorfman reports: It was considered one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically dismantled the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.
How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?
Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.
“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable,” said one of the officials who, like the others, declined to be named discussing sensitive information. The former official described the attitude of those in the agency who worked on China at the time as “invincible.”
Other factors played a role as well, including China’s alleged recruitment of former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee around the same time. Federal prosecutors indicted Lee earlier this year in connection with the affair.
But the penetration of the communication system seems to account for the speed and accuracy with which Chinese authorities moved against the CIA’s China-based assets.
“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing. The Ministry of State Security [which handles both foreign intelligence and domestic security] were always pulling in the right people,” one of the officials said.
“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.” Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Cultural Appropriation Tastes Damn Good: How Immigrants, Commerce, and Fusion Keep Food DeliciousPosted: August 7, 2018
Writer Gustavo Arellano talks about food slurs, the late Jonathan Gold, and why Donald Trump’s taco salad is a step in the right direction.
The late Jonathan Gold wrote about food in Southern California with an intimacy that brought readers closer to the people that made it. The Pulitzer Prize–winning critic visited high-end brick-and-mortar restaurants as well as low-end strip malls and food trucks in search of good food wherever he found it. Gold died of pancreatic cancer last month, but he still influences writers like Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times columnist and author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.
Arellano sat down with Reason’s Nick Gillespie to talk about Gold’s legacy, political correctness in cuisine, and why Donald Trump’s love of taco salad gives him hope in the midst of all of the president’s anti-Mexican rhetoric. Read the rest of this entry »
Marian L. Tupy writes: Marx’s disciples from Cuba and Venezuela to South Africa and Zimbabwe are committing the same mistake today.
Marxism was supposed to have brought about a lot of positive changes, including the creation of a classless society, where everyone lived in peace. To these ambitious goals can be added substantial reduction in the amount of labor required from the proletariat.
As Rodney G. Peffer from the University of San Diego put it in his 2014 book Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice:
Marx believed the reduction of necessary labor time to be…an absolute necessity. He [claimed] … that real wealth is the developed productive force of all individuals. It is no longer the labor time but the disposable time that is the measure of wealth.
Little did the German economist know that free markets would achieve his objective with aplomb.
The number of hours worked per day has fluctuated throughout human history. Based on their observations of extant hunter-gatherer societies, scholars estimate that our foraging ancestors worked anywhere between 2.8 hours and 7.6 hours per day.
Once they secured their food for the day, however, they stopped. The foragers’ workload was comparatively low, but so was their standard of living. Our ancestors’ wealth was limited to the weight of the possessions they could carry on their backs from one location to the next.
The total number of hours worked rose because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply.
About 12,000 years ago, people started to settle down, cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The total number of hours worked rose, because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply. Since artificial lighting was prohibitively expensive, daylight regulated the amount of work that could be done on any given day.
In summer, most people worked between six and 10 hours in the fields and an additional three hours at home. In winter, shorter days limited the total number of work hours to eight. For religious reasons, Sunday was a day off and a plethora of feasts broke the monotony of agricultural life.
Our expectations as to what constitutes a good work-life balance are obviously very different from those of hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. It makes sense, therefore, to compare today’s workload to that at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1830, the workweek in the industrializing West averaged about 70 hours or, Sundays’ excluded, 11.6 hours of work per day. By 1890 that fell to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Thirty years later, the working week in advanced societies stood at 50 hours, or 8.3 hours per day. Read the rest of this entry »
The two countries are vying to create an exascale computer that could lead to significant advances in many scientific fields.
Martin Giles writes:
… The race to hit the exascale milestone is part of a burgeoning competition for technological leadership between China and the US. (Japan and Europe are also working on their own computers; the Japanese hope to have a machine running in 2021 and the Europeans in 2023.)
In 2015, China unveiled a plan to produce an exascale machine by the end of 2020, and multiple reports over the past year or so have suggested it’s on track to achieve its ambitious goal. But in an interview with MIT Technology Review, Depei Qian, a professor at Beihang University in Beijing who helps manage the country’s exascale effort, explained it could fall behind schedule. “I don’t know if we can still make it by the end of 2020,” he said. “There may be a year or half a year’s delay.”
Teams in China have been working on three prototype exascale machines, two of which use homegrown chips derived from work on existing supercomputers the country has developed. The third uses licensed processor technology. Qian says that the pros and cons of each approach are still being evaluated, and that a call for proposals to build a fully functioning exascale computer has been pushed back.
Given the huge challenges involved in creating such a powerful computer, timetables can easily slip, which could make an opening for the US. China’s initial goal forced the American government to accelerate its own road map and commit to delivering its first exascale computer in 2021, two years ahead of its original target. The American machine, called Aurora, is being developed for the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Supercomputing company Cray is building the system for Argonne, and Intel is making chips for the machine. Read the rest of this entry »
The granting or withholding of that approval is a powerful lever over our lives.
>J.D. Tuccille writes: Increasingly, that’s the theme of modern America. More and more of what we do is dependent on permission from the government. That permission, unsurprisingly, is contingent on keeping government officials happy. Rub those officials the wrong way and they’ll strip you of permission to travel the roads, leave the country, or even make a living.
That’s not a recipe for a free country.
In February of this year, the IRS began sending the U.S. State Department lists of Americans who have a seriously delinquent tax debt, so that these individuals can be denied the right to travel overseas.
“[T]his only applies to a seriously delinquent tax debt,” cautions tax attorney Robert W. Wood, “more than $50,000. Even so, that $50,000 includes penalties and interest. A $20,000 tax debt can grow to $50,000 including penalties and interest.”
Passport revocation isn’t contingent on criminal conviction, or suspicion of flight. Your travel documents can be yanked just for the outstanding debt—even if you’re already outside the country.
“If you’re already overseas, the State Department may, but is not required to, provide a passport permitting your return home,” writes former federal prosecutor Justin Gelfand. “And a 1952 statute makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to enter or exit the country without a valid passport.”
That law requiring a passport to cross the border in either direction, combined with the threat to strip passports from alleged tax debtors, effectively makes the country one big debtors’ prison.
What connection is there between taxes and the right to travel? None. Members of Congress and other government officials just thought they could coerce more people into meeting IRS demands if they made the right to travel (not so much a “right” any more) dependent on keeping the taxman happy. Read the rest of this entry »
The Suicide of the West author explains his anti-Trumpism, evolution on culture-war issues, and growing attraction to libertarianism.
In his new book, Suicide of the West, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg talks of what he calls “the Miracle”—the immense and ongoing increase in human wealth, health, freedom, and longevity ushered in during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.
At turns sounding like Karl Marx, Joseph Schumpeter, and economist Deirdre McCloskey, Goldberg writes, “In a free market, money corrodes caste and class and lubricates social interaction. Capitalism is the most cooperative system ever created for the peaceful improvement of peoples’ lives. It has only a single fatal flaw: It doesn’t feel like it.”
As his book’s title suggests, Goldberg isn’t worried the world is running out of resources. He’s troubled by our unwillingness to defend, support, and improve customs, laws, and institutions that he believes are crucial to human flourishing.
“Decline is a choice,” he writes, not a foregone conclusion. While he lays most of the blame for our current problems on a Romantic left emanating from Rousseau, he doesn’t stint on the responsibility of his own tribe of conservative fear-mongers and reactionaries. Read the rest of this entry »
In April 2018 the Chinese Air Force 15th Airborne Corps completed a yearlong reorganization effort that involved disbanding the three airborne divisions (the 43rd, 44th and 45th) and reassigning divisional headquarters and support troops as well as the units of the airborne regiments to six independent airborne infantry brigades (127th, 128th, 130th, 131st, 133rd, and 134th) which now report directly to the headquarters of the 15th Airborne Corps. While the new airborne brigades have some support troops they now also receive logistics, maintenance, engineer and signal support from the 15th Corps Strategic Support Brigade, as well as the Aviation Brigade (over a hundred helicopters and large UAVs) and Special Operations Brigade (airborne commandos and recon troops).
After the reorganization, the Chinese airborne force still has about 35,000 personnel who still serve in the Air Force 15th Airborne Corps. The airborne units no longer operate as three airborne divisions and an aviation brigade. The airborne divisions no longer exist as the brigades can operate independently and report directly to corps headquarters. This brigade organization makes it easier to rapidly deploy airborne forces and copies a practice that many other nations have adopted over the last few decades.
The Chinese have had some airborne units since the 1950s and these belonged to the air force from the beginning. The 15th Airborne Corps was created in the 1960s and was always considered a strategic reserve unit. By the late 1980s, China had enough air transports to move an entire division (about 10,000 troops) anywhere in China. At the time such a movement took weeks to organize and monopolized most of the air transport aircraft the military had.
Moving a division anywhere by air on short notice was first done in 2008 when one division was sent to Sichuan province to assist in earthquake relief. The early large scale movements by air movements were experimental. Read the rest of this entry »
These members of the ‘government within the government,’ as The New York Times‘ John Tierney describes them, produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight.
Veronique de Rugy writes: The tyranny of the administrative state is real and hard to tame. Americans would be horrified if they knew how much power thousands of unelected bureaucrats employed by federal agencies wield. These members of the “government within the government,” as The New York Times‘ John Tierney describes them, produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they’re in the making — until, that is, they hit you square in the face.
Take the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule that effectively banned car dealers from giving auto loan discounts to customers on the claim that they might lead to racial discrimination (a dubious conclusion reached using flawed statistical models). Dodd-Frank, the legislation that created the CFPB, prohibited it from regulating auto dealers — so the CFPB quietly put out a “guidance” document to circumvent due process and congressional oversight.
Thankfully, this time around, someone noticed. In recent weeks, the Senate passed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act — a streamlined procedure for Congress to repeal regulations issued by various federal government agencies. The House is expected to follow suit soon and send the bill to the president’s desk, if it hasn’t already by the time you read this. Read the rest of this entry »
Author Tom Wolfe discusses the ideas and inspirations for Back to Blood, a story of decadence and the new America. In the book , Wolfe paints a story of a decaying culture enduring constant uncertainty. Heroes are spurned and abused, and values are dissolving; the message seems to be to stick with the good values.
Encryption can protect personal data from government intrusion, which means the government wants the key to break it.
Gavin Hanson reports: Like it or not, you are your data. In this day and age, your receipts, social media activity, public records, GPS data, and internet search history are the proof of who you are. And while you may have thought you had secrets, the Federal Government would like the rest of them.
The seemingly innocuous pieces of information we trade away every day create a detailed mosaic of our lives used to target advertising and create personality profiles that are exploited by the FBI, political operatives like Cambridge Analytica, and Russian propagandists.
And those are just the legal shenanigans! Instances of malicious hacking that jeopardize social security numbers and other important data are on the rise as well.
Encryption, to oversimplify, is the process of putting your data in a combination locked safe, and it’s becoming more popular. Like all passcodes, these combinations are best stored non-electronically.
Automatically encrypted search engines and internet services simplify the process for users. They protect individuals’ data from hacking, theft, and even the government, but they also retain a repository for all the combinations they use to lock data up.
This is the Trojan horse the NSA means to use to gain access to your private data even when it is encrypted.
But that may soon change.
If the executive agencies have their way, the NSA will have a record of every lock combination in use by every company—a skeleton key, if you will, to gain access to your digital home, papers, effects, and aspects of your person without warrant or probable cause—effectively mandating that companies hand over skeleton keys to the locks that they provide to their users, at any time: what they call “exceptional access.” Read the rest of this entry »
Studying Jefferson should be a guiding star.
Jamie Gass and Will Fitzhugh write: “Students of reading, writing, and common arithmetick . . . Graecian, Roman, English, and American history . . .,” Thomas Jefferson advised that democratic education “should be… able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.”
Mid-April marks the 275th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. Given his world-changing achievements, this milestone is worthy of recognizing – and of being taught in our public schools. His contributions to the American civilization are incalculable; he was a revolutionary, statesman, diplomat, man-of-letters, scientist, architect, and apostle of liberty.
Rather than forcing a titan like Jefferson to conform to our era’s often Lilliputian-style narcissism, we should study history by entering the past with imagination and humility.
In drafting the Declaration of Independence, the most elegant and universally quoted political document in history, Jefferson displayed his greatest talents. He powerfully combined literary language and self-evident truths to shape the legal and political future of the United States.
The first member of his family to attend college, Jefferson loved books and classical learning. He could read six languages, including ancient Greek and Latin, while his 18th-century education taught him timeless principles.
Jefferson’s trinity of great thinkers – Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke – embodied what’s been called the Enlightenment’s “science of freedom.”
But his favorite writer was the ancient Roman historian Tacitus – a brilliant chronicler of warped, tyrannical emperors. Jefferson’s liberal-arts-centric education instilled in him a vigilance for liberty, which made him ever wary of threats to his republican experiment in ordered self-government.
Legal scholar David Mayer effectively summarized Jefferson’s strict federalism: “constitutions primarily [served] as devices by which governmental power would be limited and checked, to prevent its abuse through encroachments on individual rights…” Jefferson despised the corruptions of kings, standing armies, banks, and cities, which he identified with the Roman and British empires. Read the rest of this entry »
Williamson came to The Atlantic from the conservative National Review, and his hiring sparked an uproar on the left. After combing through over a decade of his writings, detractors found a tweet where he called for death, by hanging, for abortion. When Goldberg learned Williamson also had referenced the tweet on a podcast, he gave in.
Surely Williamson’s quip was mere hyperbole, meant to provoke. After all, he never wrote an actual column making that argument, despite having written extensively, including about abortion. And his first tweet simply argued that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.”
Only when he was asked what kind of punishment he had in mind did he tweet back: “hanging.” He was “absolutely willing to see abortion treated like regular homicide under the criminal code.”
You don’t have to agree with that; I don’t. But Williamson’s position (not all pro-lifers’) is that abortion is murder (literally, the killing of a baby), that it should be made illegal and carry a punishment equal to that of similar crimes.
Is this more radical than Ruth Marcus’ view in The Washington Post? “I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted,” she wrote about how she would have aborted her child if the baby was found to have had Down Syndrome. Her view is disgusting to conservatives, yet there was no move to get her fired. Read the rest of this entry »
Camille Paglia’s Defense of Jordan Peterson, Excerpted from a Longer Statement Sent in Response to Queries from a Brazilian JournalistPosted: March 29, 2018
From Camille Paglia: excerpted from a longer statement sent in response to queries from a Brazilian journalist writing a profile of me for a major Brazilian magazine, Epoca.
In the Weeds: Kehinde Wiley’s Obama Portrait
.As the United States clips along at the speed of Trump, the news cycle races by in a dizzying blur. Events rapidly recede without any time for real analysis. Such was the case for the big reveal of the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Although it just happened on February 12, it already feels like ancient history. Yet this regrettable image is going to be cluttering up the National Portrait Gallery forever, so it’s worth understanding just what the tax payers had to subsidize.
The Michelle Obama portrait is just sad. A tentative, pallid non-likeness. The apparatchiks at the museum assure us that it is so popular it had to be moved to a larger display space. Perhaps a pilgrimage to it gives the same solace that some progressives get from the plastic Obama…
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The Great Equalizer
Charles C. W. Cooke writes: In her harrowing 1892 treatise on the horrors of lynching in the post-bellum American South, the journalist, suffragist, and civil-rights champion Ida B. Wells established for her readers the value of bearing arms. “Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year,” Wells recorded, “the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves.” She went on to proffer some advice: “The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. The lesson this teaches, and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”
“Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves.”
Conservatives are fond of employing foreign examples of the cruelty and terror that governments may inflict on a people that has been systematically deprived of its weaponry. Among them are the Third Reich’s exclusion of Jews from the ranks of the armed, Joseph Stalin’s anti-gun edicts of 1929, and the prohibitive firearms rules that the Communist party introduced into China between 1933 and 1949.
To varying degrees, these do help to make the case. And yet, ugly as all of these developments were, there is in fact no need for our augurs of oppression to roam so far afield for their illustrations of tyranny. Instead, they might look to their own history.
“The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. The lesson this teaches, and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”
— Journalist, suffragist, and civil-rights champion Ida B. Wells
“Do you really think that it could happen here?” remains a favorite refrain of the modern gun-control movement. Alas, the answer should be a resounding “Yes.” For most of America’s story, an entire class of people was, as a matter of course, enslaved, beaten, lynched, subjected to the most egregious miscarriages of justice, and excluded either explicitly or practically from the body politic.
We prefer today to reserve the word “tyranny” for its original target, King George III, or to apply it to foreign despots. But what other characterization can be reasonably applied to the governments that, ignoring the words of the Declaration of Independence, enacted and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act? How else can we see the men who crushed Reconstruction? How might we view the recalcitrant American South in the early 20th century? “It” did “happen here.” And “it” was achieved — in part, at least — because its victims were denied the very right to self-protection that during the Revolution had been recognized as the unalienable prerogative of “all men.”
Yes. https://t.co/RaMxteRZeU. The history of gun control until around 1970 (note carefully: I’m not saying now) was the history of racism.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) March 25, 2018
When, in 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney buttoned his Dred Scott v. Sandford opinion with the panicked warning that if free blacks were permitted to become American citizens they might begin “to keep and carry arms wherever they went,” he was signaling his support for a disgraceful status quo within which suppression of the right to bear arms was depressingly quotidian. Indeed, until the late 1970s, the history of American gun control was largely inextricable from the history of American racism. Long before Louisiana was a glint in Thomas Jefferson’s eye, the French “Black Codes” mandated that any black person found with a “potential weapon” be not only deprived of that weapon but also beaten for his audacity.
British colonies, both slaveholding and free, tended to restrict gun ownership to whites, with even the settlements at Massachusetts and Plymouth prohibiting Indians from purchasing or owning firearms. Throughout the South, blacks were denied weapons. The intention of these rules was clear: to remove the means by which undesirables might rebel or resist, and to ensure that the majority maintained its prerogatives. In 1834, alarmed by Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia, Tennessee amended its state constitution to make this purpose unambiguous, clarifying that the “right to keep and to bear arms” applied not to “the freemen of this State” — as the 1794 version of the document had allowed — but to “the free white men of this State.”
In much of America, this principle would hold for another century, emancipation notwithstanding. As Adam Winkler of UCLA’s law school has noted, a movement comprising the Ku Klux Klan and those Democrats who sought to thwart the gains of the Civil War “began with gun control at the very top of its agenda.” Read the rest of this entry »
We need to think about more than Trump. We need to deliberate over the course of public policy in a beneficial way.
Jay Cost writes: If the people deliberate about nothing except Trump, they are not thinking about important issues.
It can be hard to keep one’s wits about oneself during the Age of Trump. Our president is like the ringmaster of a circus, and the American people are his enthralled spectators. It seems as if we cannot get enough. Love him or hate him, he remains at the center of our public consciousness.
It is hard to meditate on anything about politics these days without one’s passions being inflamed by Trump. Case in point, Jeff Flake’s appearance on State of the Union Sunday afternoon. CNN reported:
Flake said he was “puzzled” by the White House’s intense focus on former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and disagreed with Trump declaring McCabe’s firing “a great day for democracy.”
“I think it was a horrible day for democracy,” Flake said.
This is how the Trump effect works. He says something ridiculous — in this case, that the firing of Andrew McCabe was a “great day for democracy.” Flake, in disagreement, says the opposite. No, it was a “horrible day for democracy.”
“This is a great way to become the main character, be it the hero or villain, which is exactly what Trump has managed to do. But if we move outside his orbit for a moment, it’s easier to appreciate how we have become detached from reality.”
How about: Neither great nor horrible? How about: The quality of our democracy does not hinge on whether some relatively obscure government official receives his pension?
Temperamentally, the American people have often tended to millenarianism — a great hope that the world is on the cusp of some massive transformation, which hinges on this generation. It is amazing that this predominantly Protestant expectation has managed to remain part of the civic consciousness, even while the United States has become less and less religious.
Trump brings this impulse to the forefront in the way he communicates with the nation. He frames just about everything in hyperbolic terms, and those who disagree with him seem compelled to do likewise. Read the rest of this entry »
A closer look at Francisco Goya’s scariest painting.
FISA Memo Is Scarier than Watergate.
Victor Davis Hanson write: The Watergate scandal of 1972–74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.
In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985–87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.
We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.
But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.
Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.
Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.
Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.
Members of the Obama administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.
“Elite” is now an overused smear. But it is a fair pejorative when denoting a cadre that is not a natural or truly meritocratic top echelon, but is instead a group distinguished merely by schooling, associations, residence, connections and open disdain. If this is supposed to translate into some sort of received wisdom and acknowledged excellence, ordinary Americans may be pardoned for missing it.
Victor Davis Hanson writes: Those damn dairy farmers. Why do they insist on trying to govern? Or, put another way:
Why are Republicans trusting Devin Nunes to be their oracle of truth!? A former dairy farmer who House intel staffers refer to as Secret Agent Man because he has no idea what’s going on.
Thus spoke MSNBC panelist, Yale graduate, former Republican “strategist,” and Bush administration speechwriter Elise Jordan.
Jordan likely knows little about San Joaquin Valley family dairy farmers and little notion of the sort of skills, savvy, and work ethic necessary to survive in an increasingly corporate-dominated industry. Whereas dairy farmer Nunes has excelled in politics, it would be hard to imagine Jordan running a family dairy farm, at least given the evidence of her televised skill sets and sobriety.
Republicans “trust” Devin Nunes, because without his dogged efforts it is unlikely that we would know about the Fusion GPS dossier or the questionable premises on which FISA court surveillance was ordered. Neither would we have known about the machinations of an array of Obama Administration, Justice Department and FBI officials who, in addition to having possibly violated the law in monitoring a political campaign and unmasking and leaking names of Americans to the press, may have colluded with people in the Clinton campaign who funded the Steele dossier.
“Elite” is now an overused smear. But it is a fair pejorative when denoting a cadre that is not a natural or truly meritocratic top echelon, but is instead a group distinguished merely by schooling, associations, residence, connections and open disdain. If this is supposed to translate into some sort of received wisdom and acknowledged excellence, ordinary Americans may be pardoned for missing it.
The frustration with chronic elite incompetence was a theme in the 2016 election. “Expert” pollsters assured us of a Clinton landslide. The media could not follow undergraduate rules of decorum and truthfulness. “Brilliant” Ivy League trained pundits preached that the Trump administration’s first year would be disastrous and without accomplishment. Televised legal eagles insisted that Robert Mueller by now would have indicted Team Trump on charges of Russian collusion.
Half the country no longer believes these self-appointed authorities, largely because there is no visible connection between what the self-congratulatory say and do and any commensurate discernable accomplishment.
After a half-century of “whiz kids,” “the best and the brightest,” and “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Americans finally yawned and are moving on.
Deplorables, Clingers, and Those Not Worthy of Worry
One symptom of such a played-out elite is its blanket condemnation of the supposed blinkered middle-class—usually evident in their virtue-signaling outrage and in their inclination to contrast their own supposed enlightenment to the supposed ignorance of everyone else.
You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic—Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that… Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.
So said Yale law graduate Hillary Clinton, in an incoherent, factually unsubstantiated, and politically disastrous rant that may have lost her the 2016 election.
Clinton all but wrote off 25 percent of America as “not America”—this from the 2008 primary challenger to Barack Obama who was blasted by progressives for pandering to just such a white gun-owning consistency.
Or as Barack Obama once said, Hillary Clinton is “talking like she’s Annie Oakley . . . Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s on the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better.”
Or as Clinton herself once put it, “[I’ve] found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me . . . There’s a pattern emerging here.”
It is hard to image the Yalie feminist Clinton having any sort of political career without attachment to president emeritus and spouse Bill Clinton, whose serial sexual harassment and assault she not only contextualized over four decades, but by serial defense fueled. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew C. McCarthy writes:
… First, the main questions that we need answered are:
- Were associates of President Trump, members of his campaign, or even Trump himself, subjected to foreign-intelligence surveillance (i.e., do the FISA applications name them as either targets or persons whose communications and activities would likely be monitored)?
- Was information from the Steele dossier used in FISA applications?
- If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it so central that FISA warrants would not have been granted without it?
- If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it corroborated by independent FBI investigation?
- If the dossier’s information was so used, was the source accurately conveyed to the court so that credibility and potential bias could be weighed (i.e., was the court told that the information came from an opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton presidential campaign)?
- The FBI has said that significant efforts were made to corroborate Steele’s sensational claims, yet former director James Comey has acknowledged (in June 2017 Senate testimony) that the dossier was “unverified.” If the dossier was used in FISA applications in 2016, has the Justice Department — consistent with its continuing duty of candor in dealings with the tribunal — alerted the court that it did not succeed in verifying Steele’s hearsay reporting based on anonymous sources? Read the rest of this entry »
We are living in an era of political panic.
Yuval Levin writes: Some of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2016 were motivated to overlook his shortcomings by desperate fear that our system of government was near death and only the most extreme measures could save it. A poll conducted by PRRI and the Atlantic immediately after the election found that more than 60 percent of Trump’s voters believed the 2016 election was “the last chance to stop America’s decline.” As one pro-Trump essayist famously put it, things had gotten so bad that it was time either to “charge the cockpit or you die.”
” … Levitsky and Ziblatt essentially ignore core conservative complaints about the ways in which the left has undermined our constitutional norms and institutions. The progressive celebration of executive unilateralism, of the administrative state, and of a politicized judicial branch are left unmentioned. But even though they do not amount to autocracy, of course, these long-term trends are surely threats to American democracy and of at least the magnitude of President Trump’s tweets.
And yet to say so, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest, would itself amount to an attack on our institutions. Without a hint of irony, they note that one of the ways the Tea Party movement undermined political norms was that it lodged the accusation “that President Obama posed a threat to our democracy.” Later they say, regarding Republican critiques of Obama, that “such extremism encourages politicians to abandon forbearance. If Barack Obama is ‘a threat to the rule of law,’ as Senator Ted Cruz claimed, then it made sense to block his judicial appointments by any means necessary.” Presumably this means that if you write an entire book arguing that Donald Trump threatens to bring the death of democracy, you are similarly justifying resistance to his administration by any means necessary.
Can the website survive without its current leader? Should it?
Derek Hunter writes: As the war of words between the President of the United States and Steve Bannon rages over comments in a new book, one question remains on the minds of those who were friends of the man whose website Bannon now runs: Can it survive without him?
Breitbart News was founded by the late Andrew Breitbart and his childhood friend Larry Solov as several separate sites, the “Bigs,” they were called. Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, etc. The names were a play on the liberal penchant for demonizing entire industries by labeling them as “big” and using it against liberal sacred cows – think big oil, big tobacco, big pharma.
Around the time of Breitbart’s death, the individual sites were rolled into one: Breitbart News.
After Andrew’s death in March 2012, Steve Bannon became the effective head of the company, though Solov and Breitbart’s widow retained ownership control.
I was friends with Andrew and used to write on a volunteer basis for his sites because of that friendship. It’s unclear how Steve came into the picture, he wasn’t around at the start, I just remember him suddenly being around when Andrew came to town. I never asked, he never said, and it doesn’t really matter.
To say things changed when Steve took over is to say the sun is bright. Matt Drudge, a close friend of Breitbart’s and former supporter called Bannon “schizophrenic.”
Bannon is “a blot on the conservative movement and a detriment to Breitbart News more broadly, as he always was,” says Ben Shapiro, a good friend of Andrew’s and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire.
Dana Loesch, nationally syndicated radio host and author who served as editor-in-chief of Big Journalism was equally as blunt. “He should have never been in this position in the first place. Bannon has turned that website into the Media Matters of the right,” Loesch said.
Former editor-in-chief of Breitbart TV sees Bannon as an obvious liability. Larry O’Connor, now a radio host in Washington, DC, told the Daily Caller, “It’s hard not to see how he’s a liability for the Brand for the company at this point. Not to mention the reputation of the investors. He’s the face and voice and identifying figure that represents the website and you’ve got the president of the United States publicly humiliating and ridiculing him almost a daily now.”
“He’s a total piece of shit,” said another friend of Andrew’s who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meredith Dake-O’Connor, one of the original editors at Breitbart video, was not happy with the choice of Bannon to succeed Andrew but tried to give him a chance. She quickly soured on him. “From the day that Bannon was announced I have been against his leadership at Breitbart.com. In reality, I tried to give him a chance right after Andrew’s death, but his treatment of people and his editorial vision is and always has been unacceptable,” she told the Daily Caller.
I’ve only known Steve socially, I’ve never worked with him – and socially he was perfectly fine – but several former Breitbart employees, many of whom are friends of mine, have painted a picture of abuse, bullying and threats that completely changed both the tone and direction of the company once he took over.
Make no mistake, Andrew Breitbart was a partisan; he was upfront about it, proud of it. But the work was not about pushing any person or party.
“It’s impossible to say how the site would have evolved under Andrew’s leadership,” Dake-O’Connor said. “In my observation, Andrew was far less interested in Washington tick-tock than Steve’s editorial vision. Andrew despised the incestuous relationship that media organizations had with politicians. Steve recreated that incestuous relationship but on the other side of the aisle. I cannot imagine Andrew doing the same thing.” Read the rest of this entry »
Public order creates a virtuous circle that enables neighborhoods to flourish.
In the last week of 2017, it was announced that homicides in New York City were at a 60-year-low and that gun murders of officers nationally had dropped 33 percent, after rising 53 percent in 2016. Inveterate cop critics seized on the information to argue that there was no such thing as a war on cops, and that proactive policing was irrelevant to crime control, since pedestrian stops had dropped in New York City along with homicides. I responded in National Review Online that gentrification was likely now contributing to New York’s crime decline. Nationally, however, the rising civilian violence in 2015 and 2016 resulted from the prolonged rhetorical onslaught against the police since the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But now it is considered bigoted even to mention racial crime and victimization rates, or to suggest that demographic and economic change can affect a neighborhood’s crime picture.
Let’s look at the facts.
The fact that should concern us all, and that should be at the forefront of discussions of crime and policing, is that blacks die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and most Hispanics combined. That is a serious civil-rights issue, but to my knowledge, Black Lives Matter protesters have remained silent about it. Blacks disproportionately suffer from nonlethal violence as well. Last year in Chicago, 4,300 people were shot—one person every two hours. Those victims were overwhelmingly black. If one white Chicagoan had been shot every two hours, there would be a national uproar; it is unthinkable. But because the victims were black and not shot by the police, the national media are indifferent. (The Chicago police shot 25 people last year, most of them armed or dangerous, amounting to 0.6 percent of all shooting victims in the city.)
The shooting victims in Chicago last year included 24 children under the age of 12, among them a three-year-old boy mowed down on Father’s Day 2016 who is now paralyzed for life, and a ten-year-old boy shot in August whose pancreas, intestines, kidney, and spleen were torn apart. None of the two dozen children were shot by the police. When white children are shot or killed, an outcry ensues—see Newtown, Connecticut. When black children are shot or killed, the country largely looks away—though cops do not—unless the assailant is an officer. This year’s child shooting victims in Chicago include a four-year-old boy shot on the West Side in July while standing next to his mother, who was fatally shot in the head; another four-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister, shot in July while getting snow cones on the West Side; a ten-year-old boy fatally shot in the back while riding in an SUV with this stepfather; and two girls, seven and 13, shot in June on an elementary school playground during a picnic. In February 2017, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes was fatally shot in the head in Chicago by a 19-year-old marijuana dealer, who was blasting away at rival marijuana dealers. While the world knows the name of Michael Brown, the public at large remains ignorant of these young victims because they do not fit the Black Lives Matter narrative. Black Lives Matter activists have held no rallies on their behalf.
Who is killing and shooting black crime victims? Overwhelmingly, not whites, not the police, but, tragically, other blacks. The high black homicide-victimization rate is a function of the black homicide-commission rate. Blacks commit homicide nationally at seven times the rate of whites and most Hispanics, combined. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and most Hispanic males between the ages of 14 and 17. Officer-involved shootings are not responsible for the black homicide-victimization rate, either. In fact, a greater percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by a police officer than black homicide victims: in 2015, 12 percent of all whites and Hispanics who died of homicide were killed by a cop, compared with 4 percent of black homicide victims who were killed by a cop. Nor is white violence responsible for the black victimization rate. Blacks commit most interracial violence. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks committed 85.5 percent of those violent victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites committed 14.4 percent of those violent victimizations, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.
These national disparities are repeated locally. In New York City, for example, blacks, 23 percent of the population, committed 71 percent of all gun violence in 2016; whites, who, at 34 percent of the population, are the city’s largest racial group, committed less than 2 percent of all shootings. These identifications are provided by the victims of, and witnesses to, those shootings, overwhelmingly minorities themselves. A black New Yorker is thus 50 times more likely to commit a shooting than a white New Yorker. In Chicago, blacks and whites are each a little under a third of the city’s population; blacks commit 80 percent of all shootings, whites, a little over 1 percent, making blacks in the Windy City 80 times more likely to commit a shooting than whites. In Oakland, blacks committed 83 percent of homicides, attempted homicides, robberies, assaults with firearms, and assaults with weapons other than firearms in 2013, even though they constitute only 28 percent of Oakland’s population. Read the rest of this entry »