The Left’s War On The Western Intellect

One never needs to look far for a Berg’s Seventh Law violation.  But this one may be the big daddy of them all.

For all the left’s bargling about how smart they are and how stupid the teabagging wingnuts are, it’s the left that’s waging a war against the intellectual traditions that made the West a great, and – by world historical standards – free, prosperous and enlightened place.

The Late, Great Debate:  I did debate team for one year, and speech team for two in high school.  And with all due respect to the debaters in my social circle – including John Hinderaker, a national college debate champ – there was no question about it; debate team was the lesser set of skills.  The best “debaters” merely honed their ability to rattle off, auctioneer-style, factoids in a coherent-sounding case; oratorical style and even audible legibility didn’t make the cut as priorities.  Debaters tended to make lousy “forensics” speakers.

But debate teaches a vital skill – indeed, perhaps one of Western Civilization’s most vital skills; classical logic.  A good debater knows how to contruct a logical argument, quickly, steering clear of glaring logical fallacies which will, of course, cost them points with literate judges.

Or rather, they knew it.

John Hinderaker relates the story of the decline and fall of collegiate debate, where teams are now winning “debate” tournaments while ignoring the stated topic and swerving into their own personal polemics, often in “slam poetry” and hip-hop styles and, dumber still, declaring the idea of “logic” and “structure” to be racist:

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

“Collegiate debate” has turned into the MinnPost comment section!

I’m tempted to declare that the structure, rules and equipment of the NFL are ageist, classist and ableist, and play using only a shotgun and a hockey stick; why should those privileged with athletic talent and lack of years have all the fun and money?

Well, no – I won’t.  Because I’m not an idiot.

The underlying message from the academy (and hip hop forms notwithstanding, the end of collegiate debate is a battle between academic points of view, not tastes in music) is that logic and structure – the building blocks of western philosophy, “liberal” government, modern science, and indeed every Western intellectual tradition worth preserving – are matters of racist “privilege”.

Would we have had a small-”l” liberal government, ann Enlightenment, a Renaissance, math and science as we know it, a legal system remotely worth having, and any common intellectual tradition without classical logic?

Happy To Be An Intellectual Midget For A Better Minnesota!:  Of course, it’s more than just a national thing; the Minnesota Left has been doing its best to make politics and public life in Minnesota  dumber, coarser, nastier thing.

Bill Glahn dials this tendency in as remorselessly as a sniper:

As the 2014 election campaign heats up, a drearily familiar pattern is repeating itself. Flush with big dollars from out-of-state donors, Democrat-front group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) is attacking Republican candidates under the theme Wrong for Minnesota…Back in the dim mists of time—when dinosaurs still trod upon the earth—I was taught that arguing against the person (ad hominem) rather than what the person was saying, defied the laws of logic.

When I was in debate in high school, and moreso when arguing points in college, leading with the ad hominem was a good way to have your thesis sent to the showers.

I was taught in classical Greek rhetoric that a message that relied exclusively on raw emotion (pathos)—rather than reason (logos) or an appeal to values (ethos)—was considered the lowest form of communication.
Ad hominem and pathos are the only form of expressions ABM is capable of. The reason why ABM relies on these tactics is because they work. The object is not to engage in debate, but to end debate by surpressing voter turnout. ABM is not trying to convince you that you should vote for Democrats, they are trying to convince you that no Republican possesses the personal character worthy of your vote.

And it works.  A potential candidate for higher office talked with me about ABM’s efforts last year; this person wanted very much to run for an office that would be up for election this year, but couldn’t; while they have the political savvy, experience and record to do the job, ABM would make their personal life – things unrelated to politics, of course – a living hell.  And so a good candidate opted out of the race – leaving that bit more room for an inferior Democrat.

To add insult to injury?  The same media full of Lori Sturdevants and Keri Millers that snivel about the “vitriol” and “anger” in politics, are utterly silent about the Alliance’s crimes against logic:

Should a Republican whisper about the health of our current governor or the temperament of our junior senator, they are immediately shouted down by local media.

Either because of personal relationships or broad sympathy with the aims of ABM, these tactics are never questioned by local media. ABM’s increasingly fantastic and desperate claims against Republicans are never subjected to the “fact-check” apparatus.

And why is that?

Why has MPR, especially their “Fact-Check” operation, “Poligraph”, never systematically looked into ABM’s propaganda?  Catherine Richert?  Mike Mulcahy?  Tom Scheck? Anyone?

The Barricades Fall – A Little

The Twin Cities’ left is declaring a Code Red; Glen Taylor is buying the Strib

The Minnesota sports and business tycoon and former GOP state senator has picked up the shrivelling Gray Nag of Minnesota media properties - and has vowed to make some changes.

Some. 

Bear in mind, Taylor came from the old-school Minnesota GOP; relatively moderate, accustomed to working with the then-slightly-less-extreme DFL in a way that’s as obsolete as the personal computers from the 1980s, when that arrangement still held sway. 

But he’s talking changes; the MinnPost‘s Britt Robson (from the first installment of a two-part interview) talked with Taylor about his planned changes:

MP: The Star Tribune is regarded as a liberal newspaper, rightly or wrongly, and probably less so now than ten years ago. Will that change under you in any way shape or form?

GT: I think the answer is yes. But I think the answer is yes whether I buy it or don’t buy it. Everything changes, and some people are going to say, “Well it is, because you bought it, that it changed.”

I would say back to them, “No. You are going to have new hires. You are going to have new people. There are going to be changes in seniority. You have got to be responsible to your readership.” And I think it has already been changing, and I have been a longtime reader of the paper.

Will it change because of the ownership of Glen Taylor? Yeah. To say it won’t wouldn’t be accurate. But it isn’t like Glen Taylor is going to come in there on day one and say, “I’m going to fire people” and do all sorts of things. I am going to say — and I have already told them this — that first of all it has got to be fair and it has got to be accurate.

On the one hand, that – especially if manifested in the form of “reporting news that impacts the DFL with the same zeal as they do it to the GOP” – would be a huge start. 

On the other, I think Taylor is too sanguine about the evolutionary process in journalism.  The old, DFL-upsucking liberals like Nick Coleman are slowly fading away (and Lori Sturdevant has got to be eyeing that condo in Tampa, right?), but even they got their start at a time when American journalism paid more than feeble lip service to the ideals of impartiality and balance.

The Journalism academy today is far less idealistic than it was forty years ago.  New J-School grads are far more likely to start out as advocates from the word “go” than their elders, who oozed into the role over decades in a “progressive”-dominated state. 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:  So what does the Strib  really need?

  1. An Editorial Staff that actually puts accuracy and completeness ahead of politics.  Today – when they’ll sit on video of Mark Dayton giving an embarassing speech, but race to press with even the most foetid allegations about Republicans – they do not.  This editorial staff needs to crack the whip on, if not “objectivity” (which I believe has always been a myth in the major media) at least detachment, balance and development of sources outside the current crop’s clubby Rolodex full of left-leaning contacts. 
  2. Accountability:  For the better part of a decade, the person filling the role of the ombudsman (“reader representative”) at the Strib has served entirely as the editorial board’s spinmeister/spinmistress.  Ombuds like Sue Perry were the journalistic equivalents of Baghdad Bob, asking who you trusted – your lying eyes, or the Strib’s spin on the mountain of evidence of the paper’s bias.   The Strib needs an ombud that revels in mixing it up with the paper’s status quo. 
  3. A Columnist’s Row With Real Diversity:  Liberals have spent the past half-decade or so whining about the hiring of Katherine Kersten.  The complaints took two forms; “why hire a conservative, the paper is already balanced/conservative”, and “she doesn’t know the journo’s secret handshake!”.  The first line of complaints was straight from Alice in Wonderland.  The second wasn’t so much delusional as, I think, a tacit admission that conservatives were right; the journos wanted someone filling the “house conservative” role who knew the secret journo handshake and would work for “the team” when in doubt.  Which is not to impugn Doug Tice, Kersten’s designated replacement, in any way – he’s a solid reporter, right of center by Strib standards, and a journo of great integrity, but hardly an iconoclast.   The Strib needs an iconoclast, someone who will hold the ancient, biased institution of the paper’s feet in the fire. 

What else will it take?

Confronting The History Thief

Question: will the media force Elizabeth Warren – putatively the Democrat second choice after Hillary! – to meet with Cherokee women who’d like to talk with her about her phony claim to being a member of their tribe?

And profiting from it?

(Answer: Sure they will.  When they get done holding Ryan Winkler accountable for turning a SCOTUS justice into Stepin Fetchit).

Kill The Bill

John Cornyn is right; Chuckles Schumer’s proposed “Media Shield” law creates two medias – a government-sanctioned media (which will, by necessity, have to dever to government to retain its favored status), and the rest of us:

“This is a bad idea and one whose time has not come,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate minority whip, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview. “Believe me, we will not be rolled over.”…Schumer’s proposal would exempt a “covered journalist” from subpoenas and other legal requirements to expose their confidential sources in leak investigations and other areas. Other lawmakers have proposed similar ideas in the past, but the effort gained new momentum after a series of revelations about controversial tactics the Justice Department was using to target journalists.

I’m not the only one who notes the irony – liberals like the media and Diane Feinstein are fine with the rabble being spied on – but they value their privacy.

(If we had a media that was a genuine antagonist and check on government, it’s still be a stupid but forgiveable bill.  But we don’t, and we haven’t in decades). 

This bill needs to die and be buried in a forgotten unmarked grave.

Count The Paragraphs, Part II

News:  Mayor of Charlotte, NC arrested, charged with public corruption and accepting bribes:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who has been in office less than six months, resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina’s largest city.

Not News:  The fact that Cannon is a Democrat is buried in the middle of Paragraph 2.

Count The Paragraphs

News:  A California State Senator who helped author California’s latest draconian gun control laws – was arrested yesterday, accused of trying to trade guns for influence:

In San Francisco, FBI agents have charged California State Sen. Leland Yee with conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud. The allegations were outlined in an FBI affidavit against Yee and 25 others. The allegations against Yee include a number of favors he requested in exchange for campaign donations, as well as performing “official acts” in exchange for donations to get himself out of a $70,000 debt incurred during a failed San Francisco mayoral bid, according to court documents.

Yee discussed helping the undercover FBI agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder-fired automatic weapons and missiles, and showed the agent the entire process of how to get those weapons from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines into the United States, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua.

Not news:  It took to paragraph 7 to note that Yee is a Democrat.

Open Letter To Every Single News Reporter In Minnesota

To:  Every Single News Reporter In Minnesota (and pretty much everywhere else)
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  Spade Is Dead

Dear every single news reporter in Minnesota,

It’s come to my attention for the 20th year in a row that some of you are falling back on the crutch that Kate Renner did in her story on the U of M kids fighting for their human right of self-defense:

U of M freshman William Preachuk believes things could have ended differently if he’d been able to pack heat

Please be advised:  Not a single actual person outside the news media has used the phrase “packing heat”, at least non-ironically, in close to 70 years. 

That is all.

Chanting Points Memo: The Head Fake

Joe Soucheray got fooled.

The entire Twin Cities media has either been fooled, or is playing along.   I vote “playing along”.

Governor Messinger Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Bakk aren’t “fighting”, or “at odds”, or “in a conflict” over the DFL’s so-called “tax cuts” (which, let’s not forget, “cut” less than 10% of the four billion dollars worth of tax hikes the DFL jammed down back in 2013).

This is all theater.   And it’s about as spontaneous as a porn shoot.

Signs the DFL planned this from the ground up?   Ask yourself this; why is Governor Messinger Dayton, who is up for re-election this year, “in conflict” with Tom Bakk – who is not up for re-election this year – and not Paul Thissen, who is?

The entire “story” is a carefully-manicured charade designed to make Mark Dayton – who signed four billion dollars worth of tax hikes last year with little more thought (and perhaps little more knowledge) than he’d use signing a credit card receipt at the Oceanaire – look like a “tax cutting moderate” compared with the Senate (who are utterly safe for the next two years, and for whom the media will help engineer something in two years anyway), but heaven forbid not the House, who are, mirabile dictu, not involved in this particular fracas.

Nope, No Media Bias At All

The DFL controls both chambers of the legislature, as well as the Governor’s office.

They passed four billion dollars in total tax hikes last session, for a net two billion dollars in increases, without a single Republican vote.

But now the DFL needs GOP support to change tax policy? 

That’s what this piece – “GOP senators refuse to be rushed on sweeping tax-relief measure” – would have you believe.

No, really:

Dayton and DFL leaders have rushed to pass the measure to ensure the largest number of Minnesotans can take advantage of more than $50 million in retroactive tax relief by April 15. Senate DFLers used a rare procedure to try to speed passage by a day, but Republicans in the minority used their limited muscle to delay the vote until Friday.

Earlier in the week, Dayton chastised Senate DFLers for not passing the measure swiftly enough. On Thursday, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined together to direct their wrath at Republicans.

Look – this bill was never intended as anything but an election-year bandaid for the DFL – allowing them to say “We cut taxes! (to some favored classes of Minnesotans, for a total of a tiny fraction of the tax hike we unilaterally jammed down two years ago)” in an election year when the MNSure flop and the 2013 tax and spend and gun grab orgy looks certain to cost the DFL dearly. 

Baird Helgeson is, in short, carrying the DFL’s narrative water:

“There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to block the bill’s passage,” Dayton said. If Republican legislators force any further delays, “they will be solely responsible for denying income tax cuts to thousands of Minnesotans.”

The measure is nearly certain to pass Friday because Republicans are out of options to block it.

Ahem:  the DFL doesn’t need one single Republican vote to pass the “tax cuts”.  Not One. 

Why is Baird Helgeson and the Strib carrying the DFL’s water? 

Will Rachel Stassen-Berger, Tom Scheck and Bill Salisbury catch the Strib on this fairly egregious bit of journalistic partisan narrative-fluffing?

That’s Why We Used To Call Them “High Priests Of Information”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

“All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “all the news we want you to know.” I didn’t realize that news in America is on a need-to-know basis. The media decides what we need to know and who we need to hear it from.

That’s thoughtful. Screening the information I’m given avoids confusing me with troubling thoughts and all that messy thinking for myself. Makes pulling the level for “D” much easier. Reminds me of my youthful Catholic catechism. The nuns flat-out said “Don’t read the Bible: the Pope already read it. We’ll tell you what you need to know.”

Today, network anchors act as if they’re the Pope, telling me only what I need to know.

Works for me.

Joe Doakes

 

I suppose that makes Lori Sturdevant “doctrinally infallible”…

…but then, other than a brief stretch when the Jamestown district rented a couple rooms at the local Catholic school when our school was being torn down, I’ve never really had any Catholic education.

Media catechism, on the other hand…

Strib: “Look At All That Money!”

You know me.

You know I believe that the Strib is – and at the highest level, sees itself – as a PR arm for the DFL.

I don’t think I’ve left a whole lot of you wondering about my beliefs about Minnesota’s Newspaper of Record.

But I never figured the business section’s Neal Saint Anthony would turn into a stenographoer for Alida Messinger, too.

But one of my last little outposts of pollyannaism about theStrib’ssense of detachment has been the business section, especially Neal Saint Anthony.

I was wrong, of course:

Nearly half of the tax cuts Gov. Mark Dayton proposed Thursday are for businesses and their owners, a move that may reduce the anti-business criticism that has dogged him.

 Dayton proposed — and the House almost immediately passed — eliminating three business-sales taxes that accounted for $232 million in his overall $616 million in tax cuts.

 He also asked lawmakers to simplify and raise the estate tax deduction to $2 million from $1 million and to eliminate the gift tax, a 10 percent levy on any personal gift above $1 million. Those moves would cut $43 million in taxes, bringing the combined cut on businesses and the wealthy to $275 million, or 44 percent of the total.

So let’s get this straight:

  • In 2013, the DFL went on a taxing orgy, jacking up taxes by a net $2 Billion.  With the economy still moving forward after a decade of Republican control, revenues actually went up $3 Billion.  That’s an extra $600 taken out of the productive economy for every man, woman and child in Minneosta.   This orgy of larceny was treated with kid gloves by the Minnesota media. 
  • In 2014, the DFL proposes “giving” a few hundred million of those three billion dollars “back”.    This “gift” is being greeted with saturation media coverage, in a key election year in which – mirabile dictu – the DFL is in dire need of a PR win. 

Why, it’s almost as if a cynic might expect to dig back into the “hypothetical” Minnesota version of Journo-List and find a conversation between key DFL operatives and the major Twin Cities media figures saying “we’ll grab all the taxes we can first; keep mum about it.  We’ll give some back next year; make a huge deal about it.  And for God’s sake, never talk about MNSure!”. 

But that’d be cynical, wouldn’t it?

Same As It Ever Was

The other day, a pack of the usual crowd of waxy yellow Leftyblog and Leftytweet buildup  teased themselves to ecstasy over this photo:

It’s a group of “Trail Life” boys – from a breakaway sect of Boy Scouts that bars openly gay members – “giving a Nazi salute” as they recited their creed. 

Except it wasn’t:

But it turns out that the boys were not saluting Hitler and contrary to the first Associated Press caption, they were not reciting a creed. The boys were singing “Taps,” a longtime Boy Scout tradition that the Texas Trail USA troop had adapted as their own.

The boys had gathered in a circle with their hands raised straight into the air. They gradually lowered their hands as they sang the song. It concludes with their hands flush against their side.

“It really misrepresented what was going on,” [John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life] told me. “There are children involved and that made it more outrageous. They were exploited and misunderstood.”

The picture accompanied what was actually apparently a relatively fair story.

But when it comes to the un-PC, “fair” isn’t part of the left’s playbook. 

Read the whole thing.

They All Mean The Same Thing Eventually, Don’t They?

 Remember:  the reason the mainstream media is better than all of us bumptious alt-media people is that they have layers and layers of gatekeepers. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I read h this AP piece in the Strib, about United Airlines cracking down on people hauling refrigerator-sized “carry-on” bags onto their flights, and went “yay”. 

But this sentence here stuck in my craw:

It has nothing to do with revenue, [United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson] said, adding that one non-complaint bag takes up the same space as two complaint ones.

One suspects a bag that generates no “complaints” would take up much less than half the space of two bags that generate complaints. 

Unless the word they were looking for was “compliant”.   Which is a whole different word – indeed, geometrically opposite in this context. 

English in America today: I’m afraid a generation of hasty online spelling means were loosing the standard’s of are language. 

Layers.  Of Gatekeepers.

Strib: “Oops – Sorry About All Those Unexpected Property Tax Hikes”

If there’s a “broken record” phrase in all of Minnesota conservative alt-media, it’s “the Star Tribune is carrying the water for the DFL”.

It’s like saying “Boy, isn’t Lady Gaga weird”.  It’s the baseline.  It hardly needs to be said.

As Strib observers and critics go, I’m more jaded and cynical than most, which is another way of saying “almost cynical enough”.

But even I – who doesn’t really doubt that the Strib’s editors, and likely some “journalists”, are on the local version of “Journo-List” with the DFL, Take Action, Alliance for a Better Minnesota and Alida Messinger – wasn’t ready for the avalanche of lies and bald-faced image-shaping in this editorial.

The subtitle says it all:  ”Relief not as sizable as hoped, but help goes where it’s most needed.”

There was no relief, and the “help” was taken from most Minnesotans and given to the Minnesotans whose votes the DFL wants to buy!

It only gets worse:

As many previous statehouse politicians learned to their sorrow, local property taxes are hard to control from the Capitol. That reality has hit home to the DFLers in charge of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

 They thought they set the table in 2013 for noticeable reductions in property taxes around the state. Instead, they got mixed results and a muddled message. Total K-12 school and local government levies are up $125 million this year, giving Republican politicians the chance to crow that the DFL’s tax-suppression strategy failed.

There was no “DFL Tax-Suppression Strategy, other than repeating “raising Local Government Aid will lower property taxes!” enough times for the incurious to believe it. 

None! 

But DFLers also engineered an increase in property tax refunds for both homeowners and renters, distributed on an income-based formula to low- and middle-income taxpayers facing high tax bills. Factor in estimated claims for the richer refunds, and net property taxes in 2014 are down slightly from 2013 — by $8 million, or 0.1 percent…But count us too among fans of the $133 million boost this year in refunds to qualifying taxpayers. The income-driven property tax refund and renters’ credit are well-designed programs that this year will reach an estimated 550,000 property owners and renters — up from 140,000 previously eligible.

“Income based formula”.

In other words, the DFL took money from some people, and gave it to others. 

That’s not a tax cut.  That’s redistribution.  That’s the state picking winners and losers. 

 That leaves plenty of Minnesota’s 2.1 million households staring at higher taxes again this spring. This is the 12th year in a row for increases in total property tax burdens, with yearly increases averaging $332 million.

 But the credits are helping to stabilize housing for low-income Minnesotans by sending help to those whose property tax bills are high enough in proportion to their incomes that their ability to remain in their homes could otherwise be in doubt.

That’s not “property tax relief”.  That’s a social program, using the state to funnel money to overextended low-income home owners.

 The refunds may not stifle political criticism, but they’re sound policy.

No.  They are DFL campaign spending.

Fact: after two years of the DFL claiming at every turn that the GOP’s cuts to LGA hiked property taxes, and that their reinstatement would “cut property taxes” – their words, over and over and over again – nearly 80% of Minnesota’s jurisdictions raised property taxes. 

The DFL lied to the people.

TheStrib, in this editorial, is covering for the lie, and doing it clumsily. 

Well, too clumsily to fool anyone that’s paying attention. 

But the Strib’s political coverage isn’t aimed at that audience.

The Ringer

The relationship between the Democrats and the  media occasionally usually seems intimate to the point of unseemly.

But it rarely seems like the media are directly employed by the Democrat party (Keri Miller and Lori Sturdevant notwithstanding).

But that’s changed.

Perhaps you recall; a few years ago, I was part of a small group – along with left-leaning reporter David Brauer and several Senate staffers – that rewrote the Senate’s media credentialing rules.  The changes opened up the Senate to all manner of alternative media, including bloggers.

That was a good thing.

But one of the rules read like this: “Organizations owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations (defined as organizations registered with the Campaign Finance Board or the Federal Election Commission) shall not be granted credentials.”

Bill Glahn noticed something:

It turns out that in 2012 and 2013, the senate Democrats paid a total of $30,250 for “research” to a company listed as “Enlighten Enterprise” of 254 Wheeler Street in St. Paul.

Records on file at the Minnesota State Secretary of State’s Office show that a company called “Enlightened Enterprises” was registered at that address on July 25, 2012 by a Shawn Towle. The first payment from senate Democrats to Enlighten Enterprise occurred on July 26, 2012.

As pure coincidence would have it, a Shawn Towle is listed in both the 2012 and 2013 editions of Capitol News Coverage Directory as an accredited member of the senate press corps, representing Checks & Balances. That Shawn Towle is also listed in the current 2014 edition.

Sources in the Senate tell me Towle is at press conferences, pressing Republicans and back-slapping Democrats…

…which is fine, and not much different than the rest of the Capitol press corps.

But none of them are paid by the Senate DFL Caucus.

Is the Senate DFL paying for “media” presence, and violating its own rules in the process?

Someone should ask Tom Bakk…

More later.

Ta Ta

Morgan’s prime-time show is now mulch.

He was most famous for trying to return America’s gun laws to pre-revolutionary standards.

No, even that noted conservative tool, the NYTimes, caught that:

Mr. Morgan’s approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.

I, for one, was looking forward to dumping the unctuous old Pom into Boston Harbor.

But I’ll settle for this, for now.

Our Idiot Elite

One of the things you learn by studying “progressivism” (as starkly opposed to classical liberalism) is the contempt its practitioners have for their subjects.

Er, citizens.  Sorry.  That was a slip.

Micheal Barone reviews a book – ““The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.” by Fred Siegel – and  runs down some history of this contempt, a history lesson you just didn’t get in high school:

Progressivism was repudiated in the landslide election of Warren Harding in 1920, at which point disenchanted [post-Wilsonian] liberal thinkers turned their ire against middle-class Americans who, in the “Roaring ’20s,” were happily buying automobiles, refrigerators, radios, and tickets to the movies.

The novels of Sinclair Lewis, the journalism of H. L. Mencken, and the literary criticism of Van Wyck Brooks heaped scorn on the vast and supposedly mindless Americans who worked hard at their jobs and joined civic groups — Mencken’s “booboisie.”

I’ve always been annoyed by the retroactive regard Mencken gets – but given his resonance with our intellectual “ruling class”, it makes disturbing sense. 

These 1920s liberals idealized the “noble aspiration” and “fine aristocratic pride” in an imaginary Europe, and considered Americans, in the words of a Lewis character, “a savorless people, gulping tasteless food,” and “listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world.”

This contempt for ordinary Americans mostly persisted in changing political environments. During the Great Depression, many liberals became Communists, proclaiming themselves tribunes of a virtuous oppressed proletariat that would have an enlightened rule…The supposedly mindless 1950s, Siegel recalls, were actually a time of elevated culture, with thousands of Great Books discussion groups across the nation and high TV ratings for programs such as Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Laurence Olivier.

And let’s not forget the left’s tenuous relationship-of-convenience with rationality:

Liberals since the 1920s have claimed to be guided by the laws of science, but often it was crackpot science, like the eugenics movement that sought forced sterilizations.

Other social-science theories proved unreliable in practice. Keynesian economics crashed and burned in the stagflation of the 1970s.

The academy and the media it spawned has spent nearly 100 years trying to give Real America an inferiority complex. 

Read the whole thing.

Journalism Saves The Day

The City Pages got out there are did that gumshoe journalism that they’re famous for, in noting that this photo…

…attributing a quote to Michele Bachmann, which has been sweeping Facebook for the past week, is in fact a hoax.

Just one problem: She didn’t say it, and a version of this fake quote has been circulating since 2011

Whew.  Of course, some version or another of that quote has been around for decades - P.J. O’Rourke noted something like it in Holidays in Hell, twenty years ago, if I recall correctly.  If you tell a liberal a conservative Christian supports snake-handling, they’ll believe it without question.

But this is good!  Actual fact-checking!

I’ll urge the City Pages to start working on this one:

Or maybe this:

It’s good that we have highly-trained info-ninjas, watching society’s ramparts.

The Secret Handshake

The Strib is discontinuing its “Contributing Columnists” column – or at least the part of it that featured conservatives like Katherine Kersten and Jason Lewis – in favor of installing Doug Tice as the paper’s sole voice of “dissent”.

Now, I’m acquainted with Doug.  I’ve interviewed him.  He’s a good guy, and a good reporter.

But having him serve as the sole voice of dissent on the Strib’s DFL-blue columnists’ row?

Bill Glahn writes about the changeover:

If such a thing is possible, I participated in a useful discussion on Twitter last night. The principal participants included my internet radio partner—St. Paul attorney John Gilmore—Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie, and former editor and current Southwest Journal columnist David Brauer.

Prompting our conversation was the apparent decision by the Star Tribune to discontinue the weekly Sunday Opinion page “Contributing Columnist” feature, in which non-liberal voices rotated through about once a month. The feature included columns from conservative author Katherine Kersten, conservative radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and centrist politicians Tim Penny and Tom Horner.

That space is to be filled by a weekly column from current Star Tribune staffer D.J. Tice. I’ve met Mr. Tice on a number of occasions and have read his work for years. Not to damn him with faint praise, but he strikes me as a reasonable sort, very middle-of-the-road.

And he is.  This blog has mixed it up with Tice, and come away better for the discussion.

But here’s the beef:

To my taste, he comes across as more Joe Lieberman than George Bush. Perhaps, though, I will be pleasantly surprised by his work in this new role.

If you go waaaaay back to when Tice was with the Pioneer Press, he was…Republican.  Low-key, not especially ideological.

Mr. Brauer was among those cheering the move, telling us that the current conservative lineup was not “worthy” and did not “best showcase” our side of the aisle.

I’ve had that same discussion with Brauer, among others on the left.   I asked – in a city full of highly capable conservative writers (John Hinkeraker, Walter Hudson, Ed Morrissey, Bill Glahn himself, Scott Johnson, Erin Haust, and on a good day yours truly), what was the problem?  Finding a new conservative to fill the space would be a cakewalk!

And Glahn has the same question I did:

What makes a conservative “worthy”? It is a willingness to support the larger progressive cause? In Part 1 of this series, I quote National Review’s Jonah Goldberg on the liberal view of what the proper role of conservatives should be in the national discourse,

“Good conservatives… should know their place and gladly serve as Sherpas to the great mountaineers of liberalism, pointing out occasional missteps, perhaps suggesting a slight course correction from time to time, but never losing sight of the need for upward ‘progress’ and happily carrying the extra baggage for progressives in their zealous but heroic quest for the summit.”
For another view of a worthy role for conservatives, in Part 2 of this series, I quote the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto as he reviews a piece by Time magazine’s Joe Klein on the subject of ObamaCare,

What Klein wishes for is a division of labor in which the two parties would cooperate to make government bigger. He’d like the Republicans to reinvent themselves as a non-ideological party devoted to effective management, which would allow the Democrats to focus on expanding government. In such a world, Democrats would face no serious resistance to their legislative efforts, and there would be less risk of ObamaCare-style failures because the elephants’ job would be to clean up after the donkeys.

There’s all that; a decade of reading Lori Sturdevant’ll tell you that the views above are more common than not.

But the other subtext I got from discussing this with Brauer was the idea that their idea of a “worthy” “conservative” is someone who might be incrementally to the right of the rest of columnist’s row – enough to allow plausible deniability of bias without being too threatening – but most importantly, someone who knows the secret journalists’ handshake.

In other words – someone who is a journo first and foremost, and a dissenter from the group orthodoxy…somewhere down the list. 

Is it a make-work program in an industry increasingly full of people scrambling for jobs with non-profits or PR firms?

Or is it sometime more?

And are people (like, occasionally, a very frustrated me) being shortsighted for saying “a pox on their house and all like them?”

Glahn says yes:

For the reader, the absence of dissenting views—or when rebuttals are allowed only to hand-picked issues at certain times—reinforces the impression that no credible opposition exists to the progressive worldview or that there exists no viable alternatives to liberal policies. As a result, conservative election triumphs (like Scott Walker’s) or the failure of progressive initiatives (like MNsure) catch the reader by complete surprise: from faithfully reading the Star Tribune, they would not be aware such outcomes were possible.

This, of course, ties into my thesis – that most Minnesota liberals never learn how to debate conservatives, and conservatism, because they never actually encounter it as anything but a punch line, a defamatory stereotype, or a crisis.  From our DFL-owned school system, through our university system in which ”questioning authority” means “from the left only”, to the non-profits and academic and government union jobs that absorb so much of the regional left, they never have to confront considered, intelligent dissent – because the institutions that “inform” them carefully filter everything about conservative dissent that can’t be turned into a Sack cartoon from them. 

I still believe that even a liberal newspaper and its readers would benefit from a regular conservative presence on its pages. Thoughtful conservative commentary that describes, week-in-and-week-out, a workable alternative set of policies based on a competing worldview would force liberals to sharpen their arguments and readers to expand their horizons.

I believe the mainstream media hit a fork in the road over the past few decades; inform people, or serve a political end.  They made their choice, and they’re going to keep running with it.

And while I have the utmost respect for Doug Tice, he’s less a dissent from the Strib’s suffocating groupthink than he is the “good cop” to a room full of rhetorical “bad cops”. 

It’s not actually dissent.

Chanting Points Memo: Will Susan Perry Ever Stop Treating Readers Like Junior High Kids?

There must be a legislative session coming up; the MinnPost – a local group-blog funded by liberals with deep pockets employing a rogue’s gallery of recycled local big-media people – is back on the gun beat.

Last week, Susan Perry – their “consumer health reporter”, whose sloppy reporting on this subject we’ve repeatedly, even routinely, beaten up in this space – wrote a fluff piece about a metastudy (a repackaging of the data in other studies) appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine that shows that having a gun in the home doubles chance of a murder, and triples the chance of suicide.

And it reminded me of an episode from twenty years ago.

Let’s flash back, shall we?

The Gullible, Biased Hack Beat:  Back in the early nineties, the anti-gun media (which was most of them, back then) breathlessly recited a factoid; a study in the New England Journal of Medicine had showed, we were told, that a gun in the home was 43 times as likely to kill the owner, or someone the owner knew, than it was to kill a criminal.

The media reported this uncritically, without question, much less the faintest pretense of analysis of the data that led to that very specific number.

Of course, some Real Americans in the Second Amendment movement did dig into the study, back when “the internet” was still “Usenet” for most people.

They found that the data came from King County, Washington, during a period of several years in the late eighties.  And the “43:1″ ratio actually broke out, over the period of time, to nine justifiable deaths of criminals that the shooter didn’t know, against something like 380-odd other firearms deaths.

And of those 380-odd firearm deaths, the vast majority were suicides – enough to account for 36-37 of the “43″.  Of the remaining 6 from the “43″ – 50-odd firearms deaths – there were a few accidents; the rest were murders or manslaughters of one kind or another.  And note that it only counted the presence of a gun in the home, not whether it was used; if someone broke into your home and shot you as you were peeling potatoes at your kitchen counter, but there was a gun in the house, it went into the “43″.

Suicide is obviously a problem – but it doesn’t depend on firearms.  Japan, where guns are unobtainable, has double the US’ suicide rate.   But leaving out suicides, the rate dropped to more like six to one.

But there were other clinkers in the way the “43:1″, or even the 6:1, figures were generated, and related to the public by a media that, at best, didn’t know what it was talking about and, at worst, didn’t care.

Walt White Knew Jack Welker!:  The phrase “gun owner or someone they know” was the first problem.

Someone who shoots himself, obviously, is “killing themselves or someone they know”.  But then so is a drug dealer shooting a rival, or a customer that owes them money, is “killing someone they know”, as is a gang-banger shooting a long-time rival So is a woman shooting an ex-husband that’s been stalking and threatening her.  So is someone killing a robber that they had met, even once, ever.

The NEJM study didn’t distinguish between those types of killings.  The “1″ in the “43:1″ ratio only included justifiable homicides where the shooter had never met the victim.

Why So Bloodthirsty?:  Did you notice that the only “good” results in the New England Journal study – the “1″ in “43:1″ – were the nine justifiable killings of complete strangers?

Leaving aside the likelihood (indeed, fact) that some of the homicides of acquaintances were justifiable – why is a justifiable killing of a complete, malevolent stranger the only legitimate use of a firearm?

The study didn’t account for deterrences of other crimes.  A gun used to scare away a burglar or a stalker doesn’t have to kill anyone to have a beneficial effect – deterring a felony without a shot being fired.

The Real Results?:  So when you take the numbers from the “43:1″ ratio, and then…:

  • factor out suicides (which are a problem, and were the vast majority of the deaths in the study, but are entirely different than crimes committed with malice against others)
  • move the justifiable homicides of “acquaintances” – ex-spouses and the like – into the “good” column”
  • Account for the “bad” shootings that involved someone who was drunk or high, or had a criminal record
  • Add in estimates of the number of crimes that would have been deterred by law-abiding citizens with guns in the same area during the same period

…then the original New England Journal of Medicine study’s numbers came out more like this:

  • A gun in a home in which one or more residents had a criminal record, drinking or drug problem was equally likely to be involved in a murder or unjustified killing as it was to deter a crime.
  • A gun in a home without any of those problems was dozens or hundreds of times as likely to deter a crime (depending on the estimate of deterrences you accepted – from the conservative FBI estimate to the much more expansive estimate by Gary Kleck, which by the way tracks pretty well with the Centers for Disease Control’s recent work on the subject) as to be involved in an unjustifiable homicide.  That’s dozens at least, hundreds at most

So How About Sue Perry’s Article?:  A quick scan of the metastudy in Annals shows that it (or, more proximately, the studies it mines for data) does not, in fact, control for…:

  • drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • criminal records

…among the subjects in the “study”.

Like the reporting on the NEJM study twenty-odd years ago, it considers firearms in a vacuum, without accounting for any of the human factors – criminal activity of the owner, sustance abuse issues, or mental illness.

Neither does it distinguish between justifiable homicide – which accounts for 2-3% of all firearms deaths in America in a given year – and murder, manslaughter or accidental deaths. 

It’s junk science…

…well, no.  It’s junk social science, which is the worst kind.

Susan Perry is doing junk reporting of junk non-science, to report a meaningless, junk conclusion. 

Why?

Remember:  The MinnPost operates with the assistance of a large annual grant from the Joyce Foundation.

Follow the money. Journos do it – when it’s not Alida Messinger or Michael Bloomberg’s money, anyway.

The Joyce Foundation also funds…

  •  ”ProtectMN”, the closest Minnesota gets to an actual gun control “organization”,
  • “TakeActionMN”, which essentially serves as an unregulated “progressive” political party whose mission is to drive the DFL to the left.  It may be the most successful political party in Minnesota today – precisely because the laws that apply to the GOP and (to some extent) DFL don’t apply to it. 

 

All “journalism” about guns – and politics and general – from the MinnPost must be considered with that in mind.

So why would the MinnPost publish a continuous chain of stories about Second Amendment issues that range from bad science to bad history to bad scholarship to really, really bad reporting

Because, I suggest, it’s what they’re being paid to do.   

There was a time when “journalists” would have recoiled at any suggestion that their coverage was bought and paid for to secure some special interest’s narrative. 

Those days are long past us – to everyone who pays attention.

File Under “Things Everyone In The Twin Cities IT Community Knew A Year Ago”

MNSure’s development process was, and remains, a shambles:

An Optum report released Wednesday cites major problems with MNsure.

According to the report, “Program management structure and process is nonexistent.” Optum says MNsure’s management decision making was “occurring via crisis mode.”

Thing is, the warning signs were there.  

Why, if only our society had an institution – perhaps one with printing presses and transmitters and a legion of workers who consider themselves an order of aescetic info-monks, dedicated to bringing the truth to the unwashed masses…

…that don’t get financially tied to the institutions they’re supposed to be covering.