Take Back Your Brains

Today, with ample evidence that young students are no longer taught critical thinking in school, and a tsunami of fake news, we have more reason than ever to take back our brains and critically analyze what we are told is happening and why. This week’s news underscores this point.

It’s Not who we Are

Did you believe, like Hillary, that the country was divided into a smart set who deserves to rule and unwashed, ignorant deplorables? 

Two stories show how untrue this is:

Las Vegas

The horrible slaughter in Las Vegas has unleashed the kind of wild speculation that seems to always follow seemingly inexplicable events. What we did learn was that a well-educated, high-ranking CBS official expressed publicly on Facebook that she had no sympathy for the victims attending the country music show: “I’m actually not sympathetic bc country music fans often are republican gun toters.” She was fired and in the usual left-wing dodge when caught out engaged in reprehensible behavior claimed it was not reflective of “my actual beliefs.”  Reminds me of the kid caught with chocolate all over his face, claiming he didn’t get into the candy stash. And doesn’t know who did.

If you think her views are not (privately) shared in the boardroom of her previous employer -- watch CBS and take back your brains. Of course, they are. Every day. 

As Alicia Colon penned

 Yes, it is true that many CW fans lean right, probably vote Republican, probably believe in the Second Amendment and may own guns, as is their right.

They are also loathed by most Hollywood celebrities and are mocked nightly by late show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel.

This antipathy has flooded the airwaves since last November when Donald Trump was elected president.

It’s Not Who We Will Be After Public Exposure

Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein

Undoubtedly, he is a creative genius. He’s also a sex maniac and a pig. Everyone has known this, including all the entertainment reporters and the Democrats who have been the recipients of loads of his cash over the years, including fake “feminists” Clinton and Obama. This week, perhaps egged on by his brother’s animus and desire to boot him from the operation, or by competing newsrooms trying to get the scoop, we learned of his decades-long abuse of women. 

Weinstein says he’s “taking responsibility.” He’s also suing the NYT for $50 million dollars claiming they published the report without first clearing it with him as they promised to do so that he could “respond.” I rather expect he meant so he could tar his accusers. It’s not who he is, he asserts: “The Times had a deal with us that they would tell us about the people they had on the record in the story, so we could respond appropriately, but they didn’t live up to the bargain...."

Weinstein explained, “They never wrote about the documentary I did with Jay-Z about Rikers Island, they never write that I raised $50 million for amfAR, nor my work with Robin Hood -- instead they focus on trying to bring me down.” 

Just before he was suspended from his company he issued a long sham mea culpa:

"I have got to change, I’ve got to grow, I’ve got to deal with my personality, I’ve got to work on my temper, I have got to dig deep. I know a lot of people would like me to go into a facility, and I may well just do that -- I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself. I want to be able to look at the people I have hurt and say, ‘I am sorry, I have changed and I’ve progressed.’ I am terribly embarrassed for my company, my staff and the only person who could fix this is me. I am going to fix myself, I am going to fix how I deal with women and how I deal with my temper and power.[snip]I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.[snip]

In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won’t do that again. I admit to a whole way of behavior that is not good. I can’t talk specifics, but I put myself in positions that were stupid, I want to respect women and do things better.”

Until late Saturday, he was being represented by anti- sex harassment lawyer Gloria Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, whose work on Trayvon Martin (obviously at odds with the facts as adduced at trial) is being made into a miniseries by Weinstein. Allred represented women who asserted they’d been sexually harassed by Bill O’Reilly. Lisa says of Weinstein:

"an old dinosaur learning new ways." 

Do you get the idea that the soi-disant “champions of women” are their champions only when women are accusing the right, and spokesmen and politicians merely use this as a political cudgel against those they oppose on policy? I do. Compare the silence about Weinstein over decades with the non-stop coverage of one untoward remark by Trump ages ago.

The Deplorables, not CBS and Miramax Honchos, are Who We Are

Sneered at and ignored, ordinary people have shown themselves to be heroes over and over through devastating hurricanes and, the latest horror in Las Vegas.  They protectively covered others with their own bodies at great risk to themselves. Police stood up in the crowd, making themselves targets, to protect civilians. Las Vegas residents stood in hours-long lines to donate blood to the victims. During the rampage, many tried to help others escape. 

The witness saw “police officers standing up as targets, just trying to direct people to tell them where to go.” He added: “The amount of bravery I saw, words can't describe what it was like.” It’s not as if there weren’t glimpses of bravery in earlier mass shootings. Rarely, though, have such attacks been made with fully automatic weapons (which are illegal in all states) and lasted 72 minutes.

That in itself is an astonishing span of terror -- aimed at thousands of concertgoers peaceably assembled for the most American of pastimes. No doubt in coming days we will start to learn more about the dark side of the story, the killer’s descent into whatever madness came over him. What a contrast to the thousands of ordinary Americans who, when fired upon, sprang to help one another and inspired their countrymen in a time of terror.

Engage your brain. In time of danger look for ordinary people, not the elites in New York or Hollywood who really are not “who we are”.

Speculation and Ineffective Nostrums 

Whenever a horrific act occurs people strive to understand it and the motives behind the perpetrator. This week was no exception. So far, the motives of the slayer remain unknown even after extensive investigation.

Naturally, ignoring the impossibility as a practical matter of repealing the Second Amendment, and the ineffectiveness of gun control measures, the usual culprits called for more gun control. Nick Gillespie at Reason took them on, arguing “policy cannot be therapy.”

Of course Second Amendment defenders (I'm one, despite my visceral unease around guns of any shape or size) say that this isn't the time for an emotion-laden discussion of horrific violence. Shouldn't we resist "the grotesque urge to immediately transform all human tragedies into a political agenda" before we even know what happened, I asked just yesterday. Seven years ago, in the wake of the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and the instantaneous and erroneous linking of Sarah Palin's bland go-get-em campaign rhetoric to the rampage of a deranged shooter who turned out to be an MSNBC fan, I sounded a similar note, arguing that the "the goddamn politicization of every goddamn -thing not even for a higher purpose or broader fight but for the cheapest moment-by-moment partisan advantage" was one of the major reasons that Americans increasingly hate politics and politicians.

I stand by all that. It's wrong, I think, to immediately pivot to what are inevitably pushed as "common-sense" policy responses to gun attacks, such as banning "assault weapons" (a class of guns that doesn't really exist, have been banned in the past with no impact on violence, and detract from other, arguably more effective regulations). Thoughts of tearing up the Constitution clearly come more from the heart than the head and should be resisted until the passions calm at least a little. [snip]

It's not cold-blooded or Vulcan to point out that we remain in the midst of an unprecedented deceleration of violent crime and gun crime. Surely that has some connection to policies over the past quarter-century or so that have made it easier for a wide variety of people to legally own and carry guns.

"From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older," says the Bureau of Justice Statistics in its most recent comprehensive report (published last October, using data through 2015). Over the same period, rates for crimes using guns dropped from 7.3 per 1,000 people to 1.1 per 1,000 people. The homicide rate is down from 7.4 to 4.9. These are not simply good things, they are great things. They are the essential backdrop of all discussions about gun crime and mass shootings, even as we grieve the people killed nonsensically in Vegas.

In any event, lack of guns in a Europe, where gun control measures are substantial, has not stopped mass murder by those intent on committing it: Last year alone using trucks, vans, and cars terrorists murdered 86 people in Nice, 12 in Berlin, 12 in London, 3 in Stockholm, at least 14 in Barcelona. And these figures don’t include bombing attacks on civilians, the most recent of which include 22 in London, 22 in Manchester, more than a dozen in St. Petersburg, and 32 in Brussels,

Several Facebook posters have pointed out a serious disconnect on the left: On the one hand they argue the President is a Nazi, creating a police state, and on the other they argue the state should have complete control of all arms.

Playing With Our Minds

Byron York examined the Russian meddling hoax, focusing on the claim -- much exaggerated -- that the Russians used ads on Facebook to sway the election for Trump. (This after claims of hacking vote totals, and collusion proved unsupported by fact.)

1) Of the group of 3,000 ads turned over to Congress by Facebook, a majority of the impressions came after the election, not before. Indeed, in a news release Monday, Facebook said 56 percent of the ads’ impressions came after the 2016 vote.

2) Twenty-five percent of the ads were never seen by anybody. (Facebook also revealed that Monday.)

3) Most of the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by a total of 10 million people in the United States, never mentioned the election or any candidate. “The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a particular candidate,” Facebook said in a Sept. 6 news release.

4) A relatively small number of the ads -- again, about 25 percent -- were geographically targeted. (Facebook also revealed that on September 6.)

5) The ads that were geographically targeted were all over the map. “Of those that were targeted, numerous other locales besides Michigan and Wisconsin, including non-battleground states like Texas, were targeted,” the government official familiar with the ads said, via email.

6) Very few ads specifically targeted Wisconsin or Michigan. “Of the hundreds of pre-election ads with one or more impressions, less than a dozen ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin combined,” the official said.

7) By and large, the ads targeting Michigan and Wisconsin did not run in the general election. “Nearly all of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads ran in 2015 and also ran in other states,” the official said.

8) The Michigan and Wisconsin ads were not widely seen. “The majority of these Wisconsin and Michigan ads had less than 1,000 impressions,” the official said.

9) The Michigan and Wisconsin ads (like those everywhere else) were low-budget. “The buy for the majority of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads (paid in rubles) was equivalent to approximately $10,” the official said.

10) The ads just weren’t very good. The language used in some of the ads “clearly shows the ad writer was not a native English speaker,” the official said. In addition, the set of ads turned over by Facebook also contained “clickbait-type ads that had nothing to do with politics.” And in general, the official’s view is that the ads simply were not terribly sophisticated, contrary to how they have been portrayed.

Day after day the media is forced to retract and make corrections -- sometimes doing so only online and not in newsprint. My favorite fake news correction this week was this one, from Politico.

But there were more, of course. The NYT, for example, falsely reported that the Administration blocked Puerto Ricans from using food stamps to buy prepared food when, in fact, they waived the rule as soon as they could in the aftermath of the hurricane. 

And the narratives about the Special Counsel grow weirder and weirder. With news that the FBI and DOJ refused to allow witnesses from the FBI to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee as to the agency’s own role in engaging GPS to produce the certain Russian disinformation in the Dossier, it’s hard to disagree with my online friend “Ignatz Ratskywatsky:”  “Mueller's contraption seems to be slowly morphing from an effort to 'get' Trump and company to an effort to stop Trump and company "getting" the guys trying to 'get' them.”

In the Meantime, the Trump Train Rolls on

As Richard Fernandez noted in another context (Russian disinformation), the “badged politicans and talking heads on TV”  turned out to be “not so smart after all... the media parade was led by clowns”. Here and in Europe many of us have used our brains and figured that out.

Those with religious objections to contraception will no longer have to provide contraception insurance coverage for their employees; the Iran (non) deal likely will  be decertified this week; the market is booming; the number of employed rising; the hurricane-hit cities and islands are being repaired; Obama’s clean power plan energy restrictions are being lifted; NATO’s kicking in more of its share of the costs of that organization; ISIS is folding in Iraq under new rules of engagement; the sage grouse protection plan rules which are constricting Western state economies are about to be overhauled. 

Yes, we are making America great again. 

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