Category: U.S. Politics (Page 1 of 19)

Otto Warmbier Story: Don’t make North Korean policy off the news

Making good policy requires sober analysis. Emotionally-charged words devoid of any real meaning do a disservice to the pursuit of sound policy.

North Korea represses 25 million people. Its government has killed hundreds of thousands of the people who live there by policy-induced starvation, assassinations, and death camps. It is building nuclear weapons, and just a few months ago it brazenly assassinated the exiled brother of the dear dictator on foreign soil. But now it is the death of an American tourist that has caused National Review to call for kicking North Korea out of the United Nations.

Calling the death of Otto Warmbier an “act of war,” National Review calls for ratcheting up pressure on the rouge regime to punishing levels. That’s all well and good–North Korean tyranny deserves to be resisted–but why did it take the death of an American to inspire such passion?

To be sure, National Review mentions the horrible crimes North Korea commits against Koreans and others in its article. But it is only now that they said the U.S. should emphatically step up its game: “North Korea’s brazen murder of an American citizen is reason to reevaluate.”

North Korea’s ongoing campaign of torturing refugees wasn’t reason to reevalutate? Its sinking of the Cheonam wasn’t reason to reevaluate? Its continued threats to turn Seoul into a sea of fire?

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The triumph of bullshitting: Why Trumpcare probably won’t hurt Trump

What happens when a “populist” conidate becomes president and has to account for the contradictions between his rhetoric and his real platform? What happens when a bill is on his desk and he has to either sign it or veto it and can’t do both? With the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate trying to push through TrumpRyancare in a span of two weeks, we may soon see.

Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie says that for Trump to sign Trumpcare, Medicaid cuts, tax cuts for the rich, and the rest of his typical Republican agenda, he will lay bare the phoniness of his “populism,” alienating him from the “working class” voters who are credited with powering him to victory. I’m not so sure.

Bouie cites recently released studies of cultural-identity politics views and the 2016 election. Of particular interest is Lee Drutman’s study, which plotted voters on quadrants by economic views and social views in order to arrive at four groups: traditional conservatives (conservative on economic and cultural issues), traditional liberals, and, most important, “populists” (liberal on economic issues and conservative on cultural issues). You might associate these groups with particular candidates: Mitt Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan in the traditional conservative camp, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traditional liberals, Gary Johnson a populist, and Donald Trump a “populist.”

As you can see, “populists” are a big group, and Republicans seemed to do win more of them than did Democrats, despite the fact that those voters should agree with the Democratic economic agenda more than with the Republicans.

The data bares out that Trump won the vast majority of “populists”:

Why didn’t Republicans win “populists” in 2012 or 2008? One key point: Even as Romney and Ryan might well be more conservative/right-wing than the general public on cultural issues, they are not as conservative, and importantly, not as vocal in expressing those views, as Trump is.

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Post-election survey finds ethnocentric, identity politics factors in election

Trump supporters don’t terribly like immigrants or Muslims, and white Democrats like African-Americans more than white Americans.

Those are some of the findings of a large-scaled post-election study by John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University. The survey data comes from multiple surveys by YouGov of 45,000 respondents, including 8,000 respondents who were interviewed both in 2011-2012 and 2016. One of the questions asked voters to rate certain ethnic and religious groups on a thermometer scale:

A few things that can be said:
– For all groups surveyed, immigrants and Muslims rated second to last and last, respectively, but the difference was much greater with Republicans and Trump primary voters.
– Trump voters ranked white people more favorably than any other group ranked them and ranked minorities (excluding Jews) lower than every other group.
– While Trump voters ranked Jews slightly lower than did Republicans as a whole, their rating of Jews is lined up pretty evenly with the rating of Jews by Democrats, white Democrats, and the population at large–around 75.
– Democrats ranked blacks, Hispanics, and Jews noticeably higher than they ranked whites. Even white Democrats ranked blacks and Jews slightly higher than they ranked whites. The gap in the ratings of whites by Democrats as a whole is thus due partially, but not entirely, to the fact that there were many more blacks and Hispanics represented in the survey sample of “Democrats” (as opposed to “white Democrats”).

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Otto Warmbier and North Korea: The larger meaning

Otto Warmbier was released from North Korea in a coma and died.

The story of the American arrested in Pyongyang and sentenced to 15 years for allegedly trying to take a propaganda poster back home captivated the American media and was the source of a fair share of hot takes. As usual, it was quickly turned into a pointless political football to be tossed around by the cultural right and the social justice left. Some idiots on the left (a Huffington Post unpaid blogger, Salon, Larry Wilmore — no one of too much influence) took a sick kind of schadenfreudic pleasure in seeing a white man arrested and sentenced to a harsh prison term. Conservatives took these silly statements by a few liberal bloggers and thus used them as examples of the “moral perversion” of the “social justice left” (Noah Rothman of Commentary, Nick Gillespie of Reason).

It’s a distraction from the issue here. North Korea arrested someone for a minor offense and sentence him for one and a half decades–and possibly mistreated him (we can’t speculate too much without facts). For race-obsessed morons who have no sympathy for white people, consider this: The vast majority of North Koreans are Korean people. The same government that uses Americans–of all races and genders (including journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling and professor Kim Sang-duk) as bargaining chips tortures and kills Koreans. An estimated 200,000 Koreans are in concentration camps as a result of political “crimes.”

The same government that will throw an American in jail for 15 years for stealing a propaganda sign forces local people to have portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on every wall. In the same place that an American may have contracted botulism, hundreds of thousands, maybe over a million, have starved to death over the years.

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Will the real conservative please stand up?

Who is a conservative? Burke or Buckley? Is Bill Kristol a conservative or Victor Davis Hanson? David Cameron or Peter Hitchens? Or are they all conservatives? Will Narendra Modi of India be considered a conservative? Is Vladimir Putin’s vision of a society conservative, or Rodrigo Duterte’s forceful authoritarian law and order imposition against deviant drug addicts a conservative approach? In that case what is conservative? How can it be defined and charted for this new young century?

For those of you paying attention, two of my colleagues recently started this topical and timely debate. Ben Sixsmith, critiquing Noah Rothman’s Commentary piece, stated that #NeverTrumpers are pseudo-conservatives. Mitch Blatt countered that they are indeed conservatives, because there isn’t any fixed definition of conservatism.

For a non-European/non-American reader of politics, the arguments of both sides might seem odd. Both are correct, both are circular and axiomatic. Both, in some ways, logically contradictory. And both, never tries to define what it tries to critique. Without summarising the aforementioned pieces, (readers can read them, in their due time) let me highlight the contradictions.

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Yes, Reagan Republicans, neoconservatives and #NeverTrump-ers are conservative

Is Donald Trump a conservative? Are neoconservatives conservatives? Was Ronald Reagan a conservative? This argument has been dividing the Republican Party for years. When Trump entered the primary for the Republican nomination in 2015, it was pointed out that he had a track record of supporting Democratic/liberal policies like abortion rights and healthcare for all. Even while he flip-flopped on many of those issues, he continued to push an economic and social worldview that was out of line with some of the leading players in the Republican Party–a kind of “economic nationalism,” as Steve Bannon described it.

Among the #NeverTrump coalition, Reaganite neoconservatives have strongly represented, including Bret Stevens and Noah Rothman, who come under critique in Ben Sixsmith’s first piece for Bombs + Dollars. For him the question becomes, “Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?” I’ll take this to mean, Are small government, pro-free trade, conservatives who support an strong role for America in the world still conservative?, because those are the specific positions under critique. In short, are Reaganesque neoconservatives conservative?

My answer is yes, and here’s why:

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How left-wing smears about racism come back to bite them

One of the most often heard complaints about politically correct liberals is that they try to smear everyone with whom they disagree as bigots. “Racist,” “sexist,” “transphobe,” “transmisogynistic”… The terms are thrown around so often that many people stop listening.

Often people disagree about what constitutes bigotry. But just as often people disagree about the context and what was actually said. While I was listening to the podcast Undisclosed, I was treated to an example of how casually self-righteous liberals can fabricate racially-charged accusations, perhaps without even being conscious of it.

Undisclosed operates in seasons that usually take on cases of someone whom the team of three lawyers, Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and Susan Simpson, thinks was wrongly convicted of a crime. They present the story and the evidence, as they see it, and argue why the convict wasn’t guilty. For the past few months, however, the story they are presenting is different: They are arguing why they think the Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray are guilty.

It’s a bit of an interesting turn for the attorneys, who usually argue someone’s innocence, to take a hard stance against people who were charged with crimes on shaky grounds. Maybe it shows the group is focused on the politics of identity–race and power structures–rather than defending the civil rights of anyone accused of a crime. Or maybe they are just continuing their mission of defending the public against heavy-handed tactics of the corrupt police and justice system that, in their view, mistreated and killed an innocent man. Either way, they ought not make up lies about subjects involved.

On episode 14, when talking about the protests that turned into riots, the host stated, “The nation saw the mayor unable to communicate to her own city, awkwardly trying to say that she respects civil liberties but then referring to protesters as ‘thugs’.”

“Referring to protesters as ‘thugs’…” Does anyone remember when Baltimore Mayor Stefanie Rawlings-Blake, a liberal Democrat and an African-American woman, said that? I seem to recall exactly the quote they were thinking of, and she didn’t at all refer to “protesters” as “thugs.”

Just to make sure I was remembering right, I looked it up:

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Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?

It is and always has been patently obvious that Donald J. Trump is not a conservative. He is no more a man of ideas than he is a man of manners, and his instincts tend towards decadence, impulsivity and egoism instead of restraint, prudence and selflessness.

Nonetheless, people who emphasise that Trump is no conservative often remind me of Christ’s warning about motes and beams. There is no one set of ideas and attitudes that could call “conservative”. It is obvious that conservatism comes in different forms, not least as different people have different institutions to conserve. But anti-Trump conservatives are often hard to place in the traditions of American or European conservatism. Indeed, it can be difficult to know what such commentators are trying to conserve.

Take Noah Rothman of Commentary magazine. Mr Rothman argues that President Trump ignores “some of the most fundamental ideas of conservatism”. Such as?

…the benefits of free-market health care, skepticism toward centrally planned infrastructure projects, the moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force, the centrality of strong family and community bonds, the necessity of failure, the importance of immigrants to the American project, and an incremental approach to political change.

We shall generously assume that Mr Rothman means American conservatism, for Edmund Burke, arguably the father of modern conservatism as a coherent phenomenon, could hardly have believed in the “moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force” when America barely existed.

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Hirsi Ali’s and Nomani’s testimony before Congress

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and John Lenczowski testified before Congress yesterday in a hearing that The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones opposed.

Hirsi Ali testified about her view that Islamists are using “dawa” to try to advance fundamentalist Islam, or “political Islam” as she defines it, through political means. In part:

The biggest challenge the United States faces in combating political Islam, however, is the extent to which agents of dawa can exploit the constitutional and legal protections that guarantee American citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech—freedoms that would of course be swept away if the Islamists achieved their goals.

She mentioned the case of Imam Suleiman Bengharsa, who has expressed support of ISIS on Facebook and shared ISIS propaganda videos. The New York Times has reported about him: “The case poses in a striking way the dilemma for the F.B.I. in deciding when constitutionally protected speech crosses into inciting violence or conspiring to commit a terrorist act.”

Nomani testified in part:

It is because terrorism is fueled by Islamism, an ideology of political Islam, and we have wasted millions of dollars to design counternarratives without dealing with a very simple and fundamental truth. We must destroy and eliminate the narrative of Islamism. As author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a target of wrath among Islamists, has put it: the ideology is put forward by dawah, or an “invitation” to its extremist form of Islam. Islamic extremism is not compatible with the 21st century. But it is a critical component of terrorism.

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Don’t let Muslim women testify to Senate!, New Republic warns

Two “nasty” women are scheduled to appear in front of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security this morning, June 14, 2017, to share what they know from research and personal experience on Islamic extremism: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani.

Their appearance has sent at least one New Republic blogger into a fury. Sarah Jones wrote, “The Senate is about to hear from two of the worst possible “experts” on Islam.” Interesting to note that of the four witnesses speaking at the hearing, two are men and two are women–Jones only pointed out the women for attack.

Jones’ reasons? Hirsi Ali, who has been oppressed by the fundamentalism of Islamic governments and societies as a youth and continues to be threatened with death threats, has made controversial statements about Islam. She also has worked with conservative groups that Jones doesn’t support.

Jones even cited Max Blumenthal as a source. Blumenthal is not without controversy himself, to put it lightly. He has made a career, if you can call it that, out of appearing on conspiracy shows like The Next News Network and Iran’s Press TV to talk about “Israel Cover Up[s]”, bemoaning “the Zionist gag rule,” and comparing Israel to ISIS. In the hours after Elie Wiesel died he said Wiesel “should not be honored” and called him a “supporter” of “war crimes.” No surprise Jones doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for victims of theocratic oppression if she cites Blumenthal.

As for Nomani, she’s even worse: she supported Donald Trump! “Asra Nomani is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump,” Jones wrote. One need not search long to find that I was quite opposed to Trump during his campaign and continue to oppose most of his actions as president. But does my disagreeing with her about Trump mean that she doesn’t have anything valuable to say about Islam and extremism?

As a Muslim who has desegregated sex-segregated mosques–and also received threats for doing so–and who has written about issues related to Islam for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere, it appears to me she should know a little more about the topic than Sarah Jones.

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