Eric Frein will die in prison But he will never be executed

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Jury chooses death sentence for convicted murderer Eric Frein

by Laura McCrystal, Staff Writer | @LMcCrystal | lmccrystal@phillynews.com | Updated: April 26, 2017 — 10:50 PM EDT

MILFORD, Pa. – A jury Wednesday ordered the death penalty for Eric Frein, who gunned down two state troopers outside their Pike County barracks in 2014 and then eluded more than 1,000 law-enforcement officers until he was captured in the Poconos after 48 days.

As the verdict was read just before 10 p.m. in a packed courtroom, sighs of relief and a shout of “yes” were heard from the troopers and the victims’ family members present.

Frein showed little reaction as the verdict was read after nearly five hours of deliberation.

The decision marked the end of Frein’s four-week trial, which offered new information about the man who spent the fall of 2014 on the FBI’s most-wanted list for killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass.

Some of the testimony recounted the deadly sniper attack and manhunt for Frein that gripped the Northeastern United States and made international news.

There’s more at the original.

Let’s be honest here: even though Mr Frein was sentenced to death, the odds are very much against him actually being executed. Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the Keystone State, 408 people have been sentenced to death. Of those 408:

  • 181 are currently on death row;
  • 169 had their sentences reduce to life imprisonment;
  • 33 died of other causes while on death row;
  • 16 had their sentences reduced to less than life imprisonment;
  • 6 were exonerated; and
  • 3 were executed, all three of whom voluntarily dropped their appeals.

On February 13, 2015, shortly after taking office, Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) announced a moratorium on all executions in Pennsylvania. The immediate ‘beneficiary’ was convicted murderer Terrance Williams, who was scheduled to be executed on March 4, 2015, but the Commonwealth did not have the lethal drugs used in executions on hand. The Governor’s pardon power is limited: he may grant clemency only upon a favorable recommendation by the Board of Pardons.

Governor Wolf appears to be opposed to capital punishment, but his predecessor, Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) was not; Governor Corbett signed 48 death warrants during his term, but not one condemned man was actually executed during his four years in office. No one has been executed against his will in the Keystone State since the re-establishment of the death penalty!

It didn’t matter whether the governor supported or opposed capital punishment, and it didn’t matter whether the legislature was controlled by Republicans or Democrats: not one single execution occurred, unless the condemned man volunteered for it by dropping his appeals.

And Pennsylvania’s prosecutors know this, know it very well. They know that winning a capital sentence doesn’t mean that a killer will be executed; they just know that seeking the death penalty shows that they are ‘tough on crime.’ It’s an election issue for them, and nothing more.

So, what did prosecutors achieve in the Frein case? The conviction was a foregone conclusion, and his attorneys never even attempted to argue that Mr Frein wasn’t the killer. Rather, they tried to show what a terrible home life he had, “an abusive, alcoholic father who railed against police and the government, and fabricated stories about being a war hero,” to try and spare him from a capital sentence. Had he been sentenced to life imprisonment, that’s it, we’d never hear about him again. Since he was sentenced to death, he’ll be incarcerated much more expensively, on death row rather than general population, have multiple appeals, all paid for by the taxpayers, and he still will never be executed.

The death penalty is nothing but a waste of money.

Simplifying taxes

From The Washington Post

One tax change that should be made — and certainly won’t be

By George F. Will | Opinion writer | April 28, 2017

Attempting comprehensive tax reform is like trying to tug many bones from the clamped jaws of many mastiffs. Every provision of the code — now approaching 4 million words — was put there to placate a clamorous faction, or to create a grateful group that will fund its congressional defenders. Still, Washington will take another stab at comprehensiveness, undeterred by the misadventures of comprehensive immigration and health-care reforms. Consider just one tax change that should be made and certainly will not be.

The deductibility of mortgage interest payments, by which the government will forgo collecting nearly $1 trillion in the next decade, is treated as a categorical imperative graven on the heart of humanity by the finger of God because it is a pleasure enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. About 75 percent of American earners pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes, and only around 30 percent of taxpayers itemize their deductions. Ike Brannon, of the Cato Institute and Capital Policy Analytics in Washington, argues that, given America’s homeownership rate of about 63 percent, not even half of all homeowners use the deduction. Its principal beneficiaries are affluent (also attentive and argumentative) homeowners, and its benefits, as Brannon says, “scale up” regressively: The larger the mortgage and the higher the tax bracket, the more valuable the deduction is.

Perhaps the deduction’s net effect is a higher rate of homeownership, which can benefit society by encouraging respect for property rights, the thrift necessary for a substantial investment and a sense of having a stake in the community. But the unpleasantness of 2008 demonstrated the downside of encouraging too much homeownership. Furthermore, the deduction might actually suppress homeownership by being priced into rising housing costs. Besides, Australia, Canada and Britain, which have no mortgage interest deductions, have homeownership rates comparable to that of the United States.

Homeownership is, Brannon argues, a way for people to hold their wealth; it is not an investment because “it does not improve the productive capacity of the economy.” Indeed, the more money that flows into housing, the less flows into stocks, bonds or banks.

There’s more at the original, in which George Will presents more arguments for ending the deductibility of mortgage interest, but that last quoted paragraph I find specious: home ownership leads people into investing in their homes, in maintenance and improvements. It increases consumer demand in ways that renting does not, and in ways that owning rental property often doesn’t. Landlords have to maintain their properties, but only rarely put money into improving them. Given the ability of landlords to depreciate their property, they have some ability to get away with allowing their properties to deteriorate, as foolish as that sounds.

However, I do not disagree with Mr Will, especially when I consider a real proposal by the Trump Administration. From The New York Times:

State and Local Tax Deduction: An Item Blurring Party Lines

By Patricia Cohen | April 27, 2017

To some, it is a tax on blue-state liberalism. To others, President Trump’s plan to end the federal deduction for state and local taxes would eliminate a costly perk for the wealthy.

But to many taxpayers, the deduction is a cherished break that can save them thousands of dollars in double taxation.

Mr. Trump and House Republicans, riding a wave of conservative and populist sentiment, are pushing to end the provision. Yet they must overcome a long tradition and powerful opponents, including Republican and Democratic officials in wealthy, populous states like California, New Jersey, New York and Texas.

“I don’t think they’re going to seriously restrict it at all,” said William G. Gale, a co-director of the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a former economic adviser to President George Bush.

Congressional Republicans have indicated that they will go it alone on tax legislation, but taking on such an entrenched interest usually requires bipartisan support.

“If Republicans do it by themselves, they put a big target on their backs,” Mr. Gale said. Members of Congress generally take a “political Hippocratic oath” to “never be seen to do obvious harm,” he said, but eliminating the deduction, which would increase taxes and undermine the ability of cities and states to raise revenue, would violate that precept.

A raft of organizations that represent state and local governments — including the National Governors Association, the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of State Legislatures — denounced the measure, saying it would upset the balance between local and federal interests and undermine growth. “We fundamentally believe that Americans’ income, property and purchases should not be taxed twice,” the organizations said in a statement.

Other interest groups have also registered their opposition, like the National Association of Realtors, which said that eliminating the state and local deduction would help “nullify the current tax benefits of owning a home for the vast majority of tax filers.”

It’s that last paragraph which tells the story: for most Americans who itemize deductions, it takes both the mortgage interest and state and local tax deductions, together, to exceed the value of the standard deduction.1 With the low interest rates of the past several years, the mortgage interest deduction is getting smaller, and that has pushed many homeowners into using the standard deduction.2

If either the state and local tax or the mortgage interest deductions are eliminated, then both should be, because one without the other would be available to only a very limited number of taxpayers. This would greatly simplify many people’s taxes, as more people would be using Form 1040A rather than 1040; the people most greatly hurt would be Jackson-Hewitt and H & R Block, but I have little sympathy for the idea that our taxes are so complex that so many people can’t — or are afraid to — do their own taxes.

Tax simplification has long been something that politicians have promised, but it has rarely been delivered. The keeping of records, such as having to look up how much you paid for automobile registration fees, has eluded many people, and the Schedule A deduction of things like work uniforms and boots can easily be abused.

What we really need are fewer potential deductions coupled with lower tax rates; ending the primary Schedule A deductions would help with that.
________________________

  1. The standard deduction for heads of household rose to $9,300 for tax year 2016, up from $9,250, for tax year 2015.The other standard deduction amounts for 2016 remain as they were for 2015: $6,300 for singles and married persons filing separate returns and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly.
  2. I have used the standard deduction for tax years 2015 and 2016, as my mortgage interest amounts have declined. I do still get to deduct property taxes on my rental property, as that is reported on Schedule E. I have no mortgage interest on my rental property, but if I did, that, too, would be reported, and deducted, on Schedule E.

Tax cuts to stimulate growth It's been tried before; has it ever worked before?

From The Wall Street Journal:

Mnuchin Says Trump Will Offer ‘Biggest Tax Cut’ in U.S. History

Cut seeks to spark sustained 3% economic growth

By Richard Rubin and Nick Timiraos | Updated April 26, 2017 9:45 a.m. ET

To spur economic growth, President Donald Trump plans to propose what his Treasury Secretary said Wednesday would be the largest tax cut in the country’s history.

The plan calls for 15% tax rates on all businesses, deeper than the rate cuts proposed by House Republicans. Those rates are likely to drive Democrats away and to cause complications in Congress because changes in tax policy that the Senate can pass on a party-line vote, under the budget procedure known as reconciliation, aren’t allowed to create long-run budget deficits.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at an event Wednesday morning that the administration wants permanent policy changes, but that temporary cuts could be considered, too.

“This is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country,” he said at a conference in Washington sponsored by The Hill newspaper.

There’s a lot more at the link, and, from what I can see it’s half of a good plan. Why half? Because the plan does not address spending, and without addressing spending, the plan balloons the deficit. When the Journal article mentioned that it might have to be passed under reconciliation, it tells you that the Trump Administration knows that this plan will increase deficits; to advance a tax plan through the Senate without risking a filibuster — the Democrats could choose not to filibuster, but you know they’ll try to stop this — it cannot increase the deficit beyond a ten-year time frame. That’s why the tax cuts passed under the younger President Bush had the automatic sunset provision, which would have raised taxes on everybody. With the Democrats holding the Senate and the White House, the Republican-controlled House was able to get the tax cuts extended for lower-income people, but only at the cost of raising taxes on the top producers.

Trump administration officials say they will rely on those optimistic growth projections to assume any cuts will generate substantial higher revenues to offset declines from lower rates. Most tax specialists say such cuts are unlikely to fully pay themselves.

Now, where have we heard that before? It’s been tried before; has it ever worked before?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, from his Twitter account.

The First Street Journal had many articles condemning the huge deficits run under President Obama, and the Editor does not believe that deficits are somehow better or more acceptable because a Republican in in the White House. I have already noted that continual deficit spending, during good times as well as bad, has taken us completely away from Keynesian ideas and has, in effect, inoculated our economy to any projected benefits from stimulus. Constant stimulus has already been figured in to our economy.

Yes, our taxes are too high, way too high, but we must cut spending as well as taxes; if we do not, we will simply be adding to the burden on the taxpayers to pay ever-increasing debt service, tax dollars being taken to pay for programs long in the past. President Trump’s proposed FY2018 budget, the one he called a “skinny” budget, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called a budget using a different adjective beginning with an “s”, is a start, but it’s not a big enough start. Federal government spending needs to be cut not just down to the bone, but to start sawing into the bone a bit as well. The entire Department of Education needs to be flushed down the toilet, the Department of Commerce reduced to its statistical services and trade missions, the Department of Energy pared back, and the biggest offender of all, Health and Human Services, not just eliminated, but all of the wages ever paid out to any of its employees somehow garnished back!

OK, OK, I know that last can’t happen, but it should!

The federal government is simply too big, way too big, not only taking over services which ought to be performed by states and cities, but having services which should not exist at all.

Once we cut back on all of that unnecessary and irresponsible government spending, it will be time to cut taxes.

Ulrich Baer, The New York Times, and the totalitarianism of the left Conservatives may mock the positions of the left, but the left try to use governing power to muzzle the positions of the right.

The New York Times would be the first to defend the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press . . . for itself. Others? Not so much:

What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech

by Ulrich Baer1 | April 24, 2017

During the 1980s and ’90s, a shift occurred in American culture; personal experience and testimony, especially of suffering and oppression, began to challenge the primacy of argument. Freedom of expression became a flash point in this shift. Then as now, both liberals and conservatives were wary of the privileging of personal experience, with its powerful emotional impact, over reason and argument, which some fear will bring an end to civilization, or at least to freedom of speech.

We should resist the temptation to rehash these debates. Doing so would overlook the fact that a thorough generational shift has occurred. Widespread caricatures of students as overly sensitive, vulnerable and entitled “snowflakes”2 fail to acknowledge the philosophical work that was carried out, especially in the 1980s and ’90s, to legitimate experience — especially traumatic experience — which had been dismissed for decades as unreliable, untrustworthy and inaccessible to understanding.

The original article is a long one, 1,786 words, and copyright laws being what they are, I cannot simply reproduce the whole thing.3  Much of the article deals with the work of Jean-François Lyotard:

Lyotard shifted attention away from the content of free speech to the way certain topics restrict speech as a public good. Some things are unmentionable and undebatable, but not because they offend the sensibilities of the sheltered young. Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.

The recent student demonstrations at Auburn against Spencer’s visit — as well as protests on other campuses against Charles Murray, Milo Yiannopoulos and others — should be understood as an attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people, rather than censorship. Liberal free-speech advocates rush to point out that the views of these individuals must be heard first to be rejected. But this is not the case. Universities invite speakers not chiefly to present otherwise unavailable discoveries, but to present to the public views they have presented elsewhere. When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.

Really?  Then the universities must be taking the decisions concerning the content and value of those views, taking those decisions for other people rather than for themselves.  Private colleges ought to have more leeway in this, but public schools are government entities, and thus subject to the limitations on government power over speech.

The great value and importance of freedom of expression, for higher education and for democracy, is hard to underestimate. But it has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation’s oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth. We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.

I find this notion repugnant.  To hold that “the necessary conditions for speech (should) be a common, public good” is to hold that the public — meaning: government officials, the ones who exercise power in the name of the public — get to decide, in advance, whether some particular expression meets or enhances the “common, public good.”

Well, not just government officials.  One of the greatest tragedies for the press was the creation of the internet: it allowed people to get out messages that were not previously approved by the ‘gatekeepers’ of the professional media.  One no longer needed to have the editors of The New York Times or The Washington Post or even the Lexington Herald-Leader to approve publication to get one’s point out into the public domain.

Rush Limbaugh was the first to break the gatekeepers’ power in this. By virtue of his talent, he was able to put together an audience which was ready to listen to points of view not approved by the gatekeepers, a talent which enabled him to draw a massive audience.  Mr Limbaugh’s medium was radio, not the internet, but he demonstrated that there was a huge audience out there, one which people exploited for themselves once the internet became solidly established and inexpensive enough for almost anyone to use.4

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

Is not Dr Baer’s own position an attack on some people’s “right to participate in political speech as political agents?”

My copy of Will, autographed by G Gordon Liddy. (Click to enlarge)

My copy of Will, autographed by G Gordon Liddy. (Click to enlarge)

In 1980, Watergate burglar G Gordon Liddy published his autobiography Will, after which he went on a book tour. Following prison and disbarment, he needed the money! Sometime in the early eighties, my best friend Ken and I went to see Mr Will’s speech in the University of Kentucky’s Student Center Ballroom. There were well over a thousand people in attendance,5 and the room was packed. There were a few protesters, including one rather rude fellow who was screaming and running down the aisles, before he was tackled by an audience member6 and escorted out by the University Police, but one thing is obvious: far fewer members of the university community chose not to attend than did. The freedom of speech, which Mr Liddy exercised, carries with it the freedom of others to choose to listen or not listen, and far more people chose not to listen than otherwise.

This is what Professor Baer misses: the freedom of speech, or the press, carries with it the freedom of others to choose to listen or read, or not listen or read. The New York Times is the most famous and widely read newspaper in the country, and perhaps the world, but far more people choose not to read it than do. Fox News is the most widely watched cable news network in the country,7 but far more people choose not to watch it than otherwise. With around four million viewers, before his recent dismissal, Bill O’Reilly was watched by a whopping 1.2% of the American population.

Dr Baer continued, letting us know that he was writing from a definite leftist position:

We should recognize that the current generation of students, roundly ridiculed by an unholy alliance of so-called alt-right demagogues and campus liberals as coddled snowflakes, realized something important about this country before the pundits and professors figured it out.

Quite frankly, “coddled snowflakes” is about as kind a term as one might find for them. Just what are these students going to do when they leave the protected enclave of academia, and have to do something really radical like get jobs out in the real world? They are going to find out that the real world doesn’t care about their feelings, and that building a career means competing with other people seeking the same advancements up the corporate ladders. When their competitors discover that the snowflakes can be disturbed and hurt by micro- and not-so-micro-aggressions, the competitors will use those to trample down the snowflakes. Of course, Dr Baer, who described himself as “a college professor and university administrator with over two decades of direct experience of campus politics,” has, himself, battled for, and won, a coveted position as a tenured professor, something to which far more aspire than ever win.

What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone.

This is ludicrous. Conservatives claiming that freedom of speech is, and ought to be, absolute, are championing “the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse.” It means that “minorities” have the same rights to say and publish exactly what they think, and that they have an equal right to compete with everyone else for attention and persuasion. What Dr Baer and the snowflakes fear is competition, that their arguments will not be strong or persuasive enough.

In conclusion, Dr Baer thanks the protesters 8, the Black Lives Matters and the other snowflakes “for keeping watch over the soul of our republic.” Yet the “soul of our republic” would, in Dr Baer’s construction, stifle the opinions and freedoms of those who might disagree with the protesters, the Black Lives Matters activists and the other Special Snowflakes. Only those protesters with whom Dr Baer agrees may speak; everyone else, shut up!

Freedom of speech and the press exists in order to allow people to have opinions contrary to those in power, something the Framers held dear to their hearts. They were, after all, the revolutionary generation, the people who used speech and the press to inspire a revolution against King George III, to seek independence from Great Britain. With the rise in power and influence of the left in academia, it is the left who are the ‘government,’ as it were, in the universities, and ‘revolution’ from the right is something which must be put down. That is the position of Dr Baer, the position of King George and his Parliament, the position of Kim Jong-un, and Xi Jinping, and Nicolás Maduro.

Conservatives may mock the positions of the left, but the left try to use raw power to muzzle the positions of the right.
___________________________

  1. Ulrich Baer is vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, and professor of comparative literature at New York University, and the author of “We Are But a Moment,” a novel.
  2. Today, snowflake is used to describe a person perceived as overly sensitive and fragile, often in a mocking way.
  3. As noted on our Copyright and Reprint Policy page, The First Street Journal adheres to the “Fair Use” standard for quotations from articles. The quotations from Dr Baer’s article are for the purposes of criticism, comment, and news reporting, and while I have attempted to limit the use of direct quotations of Dr Baer’s article, I have used direct quotes where I believe I must in order not to misrepresent his stated views in any way.  The quoted paragraphs are sequential, but not contimuous.
  4. Though I pay for a hosting service for The First Street Journal, there are sites, such as blogger.com, which allow people to post their thoughts without charge.
  5. It’s been a long time, and I cannot tell you what the announced attendance was, if the attendance was announced at all.
  6. No, not me.
  7. From Forbes, before the dismissal of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News Channel:

    In the first quarter of 2017, Fox News reached its largest audience in the channel’s 21-year history. From Dec. 26, 2016, to March 26, 2017, Fox averaged 1.7 million viewers each day and 2.8 million in primetime. In a press release, Fox called it “the highest-rated quarter ever in cable news history.”

    Indeed, the network’s cornerstone program, The O’Reilly Factor, reached an average nightly audience of 4 million, the largest audience for any cable news show in history. The top five cable news shows this quarter all air on Fox: The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier and Hannity.

  8. People exercising their freedom of speech!

The Democrats want us to take the same path as France

From CNNMoney:

France is the weakest of Europe’s big 3 economies

by Ivana Kottasová | April 23, 2017: 9:34 PM ET

France is stuck in a major rut.

Europe’s third biggest economy has suffered years of anemic growth, high unemployment and budget deficits, while neighbors such as Germany and the U.K. have enjoyed a stronger recovery from the global financial crisis.

The country’s economic malaise is a major issue in presidential elections.

Before voting began Sunday, the contest had narrowed to a four-way race between candidates from across the political spectrum. Two of them — far right politician Marine Le Pen and socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon proposed radical ideas on how to improve the economy. Both oppose free trade agreements and are highly critical of the euro.

Melenchon crashed out in Sunday’s vote but Le Pen came second and now faces centrist reformer Emmanuel Macron in the run-off. But will either of them have the right prescription to cure France?

There’s more at the original, but what follows explains a lot. France’s GDP grew by a pathetic 1.2% in 2016, while the first and second largest economies in the European Union, Germany and the United Kingdom, both grew at 1.8% rates. The CNNMoney article made no comment about just how poor those 1.8% growth rates are. The International Monetary Fund (CNNMoney’s source for the GDP figures) projects a 1.4% growth rate for France in 2017.

But, the article continues to tell us, things aren’t so terrible for French citizens. Despite 10% unemployment overall, and a whopping 24% for jobseekers between 15 and 24, we’re told that income inequality is somewhat lower in France, and that social spending, as a percentage of GDP, is much higher there, 31.5%. Yet, somehow, the article never ties that to another statistic given, that France’s government debt has risen from 58% to 90% in just a decade.

Am I the only one who thinks that spending almost a third of the country’s GDP on “social spending” might be the cause of the surge in debt?

Completely unmentioned is an interesting statistic. The media — and almost everyone else — were stunned when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 elections. Yet the numbers expose the reason: despite all of the rosy economic figures given out by the Obama Administration, in praise of itself, and to help Mrs Clinton, the United States economy grew by less than that of Germany and the UK, at only 1.6%. It didn’t matter what wonderful numbers the Democrats gave us: the American working class could feel the weakness of the economy, feel it in their wallets, feel it in the economic malaise, feel it in their bones.

GDP growth of 1.6% is unacceptable, as is the 2.1% that the Federal Reserve projects for 2017. President Trump campaigned on boosting economic growth to between 3 and 4%, something he may be unable to accomplish, but when people went to the polls in 2016, they weren’t voting on what happened in the past, but on what they wanted for the future.

In the meantime, the ‘leadership’ of the Democratic Party, are still pushing for increased social spending, just the thing that drove France’s government debt to 90% of GDP. Such is a prescription for disaster.

Moral consistency: don’t bemoan Bill O’Reilly’s ouster over sexual harassment if you thought Bill Clinton should be impeached for a consensual sexual encounter

From National Review:

O’Reilly, Ailes, and the Toxic Conservative-Celebrity Culture

By David French | April 20, 2017

Knifework, not character or integrity, is what we demand from our ideological gladiators. We’re paying the price.

There are those who say that the Left is “taking scalps,” and they have a list of Republican victims to prove their thesis. Roger Ailes is out at Fox News. Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. Michael Flynn is out at the White House. Those three names — the head of the most powerful cable news network, the highest-rated cable news personality, and the national-security adviser — represent a stunning wave of resignations and terminations.

But this isn’t scalp-taking, it’s scalp-giving. Time and again prominent conservative personalities have failed to uphold basic standards of morality or even decency. Time and again the conservative public has rallied around them, seeking to protect their own against the wrath of a vengeful Left. Time and again the defense has proved unsustainable as the sheer weight of the facts buries the accused.

Read more here.

I’m old enough to remember how angry conservatives were when President Clinton received fellatio from a completely willing young intern, and how many thought he should be impeached and removed from office for it.1 Why, then, do so many conservatives believe it was wholly wrong for Bill O’Reilly to lose his job for sexual harassment of unwilling co-workers?

Think of all of the situations in which leftists have gotten that conservatives used against them: former President Clinton’s infidelities were still being used in attacks on his wife’s 2016 presidential candidacy, and Anthony Weiner, husband of Mrs Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, and his ridiculous, perverted behavior was also being used against the Clinton campaign.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that conservatives were cheering, and the left were mocking, Vice President Pence for his long-established policy of following the “Billy Graham rule,” refusing to put himself in situations in which he would be alone with any woman other than his wife.2 Why, then, are so many conservatives outraged that Roger Ailes and Mr O’Reilly got busted and lost their jobs for similar behavior?

Well, I’m not outraged, and, quite frankly, I’m not even surprised that such things (probably) occurred. Fox News is great for having brought forth the conservative positions on the news, something no one else on television was doing. But when you watch Fox News, what you are seeing is a bunch of really pretty thirty-somethings dressed in short skirts and f(ornicate) me heels. Now that I have retired (sort of), I have been able to see the very lovely Ainsley Earhardt, one of the three co-hosts on Fox & Friends, in the morning, not only with the obligatory short skirt and heels,3 but wearing sleeveless dresses in the middle of winter; what woman would choose to dress that way, in New York City, if she weren’t under network ‘guidance’ to do so? Mr O’Reilly apparently mentioned to one of the Foxes on Fox that he was glad she was a blonde, but, let’s tell the truth: there are a whole lot more blondes on Fox News than their percentage of the population. Of course, most of them appear to be blonde solely due to help from Clairol!

Fox News’ success has been imitated, of course, as CNN and the Weather Channel appear to have made skirts and heels di rigour for their on-air women as well. I noticed — I’m a fairly observant fellow! — that when Anaridis Rodriguez was heavily pregnant on the Weather Channel, she started wearing flat shoes, but was back in high heels as soon as she returned from maternity leave. It was the change due to physical necessity, and then the return to the obvious dress code when she returned, that brought it to my attention.

Fox News’ viewers very obviously appreciate the way the anchorwomen dress; Fox is number one in viewership, by a wide margin. That CNN would encourage their anchorwomen to dress similarly is hardly a surprise;4 if it worked for Fox, it should work for CNN as well.

It’s long been obvious: television is an appearance-driven medium,5 and the people who make it in television all know that. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a medium which places a premium on good looks would be one in which some people think those looks are meant for more than just the camera.
_______________________________

  1. He was impeached, though not technically for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, but for his actions to try to cover it up.
  2. I noted that, had Mr O’Reilly followed that rule, he’d still have his job today.
  3. I have noticed Miss Earhardt wearing slacks twice recently; it was so unusual that I took note of it.
  4. I was unable to find any supporting articles stating that such is a dress code at CNN, but if there isn’t, then it seems that the ladies there all think alike.
  5. I happen to have a face made for radio, and a voice meant for print.

Marie Harf gets #Outnumbered

From Fox News:

‘That’s Obama Propaganda’: McCain, Harf Battle Over ‘Success’ of Iran Deal

April 20, 2017 | 12:47 PM EDT

On “Outnumbered” today, Meghan McCain and Marie Harf got into a testy exchange while discussing the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

McCain agreed with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assessment that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran.”

She said that of all the sins of the previous administration, this is the one that future generations will feel the most ramifications from.

Harf, a former State Department official under Obama, insisted that the deal is working.

“The Iranians have upheld their part of the bargain,” Harf said. “Because of that deal, today they are over a year away from being able to get a weapon. Before the deal, they were under 60 days away.”

She said Iran’s nuclear program has been “greatly diminished” as a result of the deal.

McCain argued that it is not a success and it’s actually the biggest foreign policy catastrophe of Obama’s eight years as commander-in-chief.

There’s a little more at the original; I’ll add the video when I see it available.

I actually like Marie Harf, in that she’s willing to stick to her guns and make her case. On #Outnumbered, where the show style is one man ‘outnumbered’ by four women, it sometimes becomes one liberal, Miss Harf, outnumbered by four conservatives.

But there’s one point I just have to make. Miss Harf said that Iran has had to give up 90% of its nuclear weapons material under the agreement. And yes, that was what the agreement specified. But it wasn’t that long ago that then-Secretary of State John Kerry, for whom Miss Harf worked, told us that Syria was in compliance, and all of its chemical weapons were gone. Then, just earlier this month, Miss Harf was on the hook, having to explain away how Syria managed to launch a chemical weapons attack after all of their chemical weapons were gone:

Marie Harf, a Fox News contributor and former spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Kerry, scrambled on Wednesday to defend the Obama-era Syria deal from 2013, admitting it was not “perfect.”

The Obama administration has come under fire after the Syrian regime launched a chemical weapon attack last week that killed more than 80 people. Obama, Kerry and others repeatedly claimed credit for a deal in 2013 that rid the country of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Fox News host Bill Hemmer asked Harf whether she agreed with President Trump’s decision to order a military strike against Syria last week.

“I did. I thought it was a good response to President Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” Harf said. “What I’m more focused on now quite frankly is the strategy going forward and what happens next in Syria.”

Hemmer then asked Harf whether Obama was given the same military option during his presidency.

Harf claimed that while she was at the State Department in 2013, they wanted to use force against Syria when it was discovered that they used chemical weapons. However, Harf said that Congress did not give the Obama administration authorization to use force, so Kerry had to conduct a backup plan and negotiate an agreement to get chemical weapons out of Syria.

She conceded to her point that Obama should have just attacked Syria without Congress’s authorization, but then she pivoted to defending the Obama administration for getting 1,300 tons of weapons out of Syria.

“Either they hid some [chemical weapons] that we didn’t know about or they’ve made more in the last 3.5 years,” Harf said.

Hemmer played a clip of Kerry from January talking about how they got “all of the weapons of mass destruction” out of Syria.

There’s more at the original, but I would have thought that Miss Harf would have been a bit more circumspect about declaring that Iran was in compliance, when the evidence that Syria had not been was made evident by about seventy dead men, women and children. Add to that the prior discussion, on the same show, concerning North Korea’s bluster and nuclear program, when North Korea had also broken agreements concerning nuclear weapons, and someone as intelligent and educated as Miss Harf ought to know that totalitarian regimes cannot be counted upon to keep their agreements, not when the dictators decide otherwise. This was an area of expertise for her: “on June 1, 2015, she became Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to Secretary Kerry, continuing her work leading the Iran nuclear negotiations communications strategy.”

Well, perhaps she really does. Perhaps Miss Harf is simply playing the role assigned to her when Fox News signed her. Me, I’d rather see honesty.

Bill O’Reilly, Mike Pence and the Billy Graham rule

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News, denies wrongdoing; Tucker Carlson will take over timeslot

Updated: April 19, 2017 — 5:46 PM EDT | by Nick Vadala, Staff Writer

Bill O’Reilly is no longer with Fox News.

21st Century Fox issued a statement on O’Reilly’s departure, writing that the host “will not be returning” to the network:

Tucker Carlson will take over the 8 p.m. timeslot once occupied by O’Reilly starting Monday. Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld will continue to guest host in O’Reilly’s absence on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The Five will move to the 9 p.m. slot.

O’Reilly, in a statement obtained by The Washington Post Wednesday afternoon, again denied any wrongdoing.

He added that he was incredibly proud of his a 20-year career at Fox News.

“It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he said. “But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

There’s more at the original.

Mr O’Reilly denied the allegations of sexual harassment, but the fact that Fox paid out millions to settle some sexual harassment claims against him sure doesn’t count in his favor. I have no position on his guilt or innocence, realizing that the truth in a he said/she said situation can never really be known, but one thing is clear: Mr O’Reilly was obviously in some situations in which allegations of sexual harassment could at least be credible, and Dylan Byers of CNN reported that part of his problem was that Mr O’Reilly wasn’t really all that well liked by his colleagues.

Is that true? CNN certainly has no reason to be fair to Mr O’Reilly, and the executives must be overjoyed that Fox News Channel’s top performer, and the number one show in its time slot, are gone. But all of this demonstrates, to me, the wisdom of Vice President Mike Pence and his following of the ‘Billy Graham rule’:

How Mike Pence’s Marriage Became Fodder for the Culture Wars

Outrage over the vice president’s approach to marriage reveals how deeply gender divides American culture.

by Emma Green | March 30, 2017

The Washington Post ran a profile of Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, on Wednesday. The piece talks about the closeness of the Pences’ relationship, and cites something Pence told The Hill in 2002: Unless his wife is there, he never eats alone with another woman or attends an event where alcohol is being served. (It’s unclear whether, 15 years later, this remains Pence’s practice.) It’s not in the Post piece, but here’s the original quote from 2002: “‘If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,’ Pence said.”

Some folks—mostly journalists and entertainers on Twitter—have reacted with surprise, anger, and sarcasm to the Pence family rule. Socially liberal or non-religious people may see Pence’s practice as misogynistic or bizarre. For a lot of conservative religious people, though, this set-up probably sounds normal, or even wise. The dust-up shows how radically notions of gender divide American culture.

Pence is not the first contemporary public figure to set these kinds of boundaries around his marriage. He seems to be following a version of the so-called Billy Graham rule, named for the famous evangelist who established similar guidelines for the pastors working in his ministry. In his autobiography, Graham notes that he and his colleagues worried about the temptations of sexual immorality that come from long days on the road and a lot of time away from family. They resolved to “avoid any situation that would even have the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” From that day on, Graham said, he “did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.” It was a way of following Paul’s advice to Timothy in the Bible, Graham wrote: to “flee … youthful lusts.”

The Hill article gives more context on how the Pences were thinking about this, at least back in 2002. Pence told the paper he often refused dinner or cocktail invitations from male colleagues, too: “It’s about building a zone around your marriage,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a predatory town, but I think you can inadvertently send the wrong message by being in [certain] situations.”

The 2002 article notes that Pence arrived in Congress a half decade after the 1994 “Republican revolution,” when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House. Several congressional marriages, including Gingrich’s, encountered difficulty that year. Pence seemed wary of this. “I’ve lost more elections than I’ve won,” he said. “I’ve seen friends lose their families. I’d rather lose an election.” He even said he gets fingers wagged in his face by concerned Indianans. “Little old ladies come and say, ‘Honey, whatever you need to do, keep your family together,’” he told The Hill.

These comments show that the Pences have a distinctively conservative approach toward family, sex, and gender. This is by no means the way that all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians like the Pences, navigate married life. But traditional religious people from other backgrounds may practice something similar. Many Orthodox Jews follow the laws of yichud, which prohibit unmarried men and women from being alone in a closed room together. Some Muslim men and women also refuse to be together alone if they’re not married. These practices all have different histories and origins, but they’re rooted in the same belief: The sanctity of marriage should be protected, and sexual immorality should be guarded against at all costs.

The left attacked the Vice President over that, claiming that such a policy undercut women in the professions. Slate, of all places, had a rational response, by a liberal writer:

Lists of government staffers are widely available, and in 2012, for example, Pence’s roster of 19 Congressional employees included nine women, including his press secretary and staff director, the latter of whom he made his deputy chief of staff when he moved to Washington this year. No one would call Mike Pence a champion of gender equality—he spent part of the day Thursday casting a tie-breaking Senate vote to give states permission to deny funding to abortion providers—but he is not incapable of working with women.

And, in the concluding paragraph:

Socially conservative politicians who are discovered cheating on their spouses earn a lot of well-deserved scorn for their hypocrisy. But this week we’ve seen that socially conservative politicians who bend over backwards not to cheat on their wives are also subject to mockery and derision. The Pences’ approach is far too onerous and paranoid for my own relationship, and perhaps for yours, too. But something is obviously working for Mike and Karen Pence, who have been married for 31 years despite the kind of high-power, high-demand career that has derailed many other Washington marriages.

Is Mr O’Reilly really innocent of all of the allegations? Were they really all set-ups by gold diggers? I neither know nor care, but had he employed the Billy Graham rule — perhaps we can now refer to it as the Mike Pence rule? — he’d still have his job today.

A messed up society: when adults look for ‘transgenderism’ everywhere

This is from The New York Times, and I’m surprised that they actually printed it:

My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.

By Lisa Selin Davis | April 18, 2017

“I just wanted to check,” the teacher said. “Your child wants to be called a boy, right? Or is she a boy that wants to be called a girl? Which is it again?”

I cocked my head. I am used to correcting strangers, who mistake my 7-year-old daughter for a boy 100 percent of the time.

In fact, I love correcting them, making them reconsider their perceptions of what a girl looks like. But my daughter had been attending the after-school program where this woman taught for six months.

“She’s a girl,” I said. The woman looked unconvinced. “Really. She’s a girl, and you can refer to her as a girl.”

There’s more at the original, but the point is simple: a young girl, who in times past would simply have been accepted as a tomboy, is now presumed by politically correct adults to be transgender. Were Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip still going, we’d be seeing all sorts of liberal commenters telling us that Peppermint Patty, the good-at-sports tomboy, must really be transgendered. J K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, decided that Albus Dumbledore was homosexual, and while I suppose that the author defines the character, there was no sex involving Professor Dumbledore in any of the Harry Potter novels. He was a fictional character, who never engaged in sex in any of the books in which he appeared,1 so, to me, his ‘sexual preference’ — can a fictional character have any preferences? — was nothing at all.

Our culture has become thoroughly fouled up! The ‘transgendered’ make up somewhere around 0.3% of the population, as far as anybody knows — though some left-wing publications are now claiming that it may be as high as 0.6% — a population size I would guess to be somewhat smaller than the incidence of ‘tomboyism’ among girls.2 From any reasonable perspective, it would make more sense to assume that a girl who dresses like a boy and plays sports with the boys is a tomboy, something perfectly within the range of normal behavior, than that she is mentally ill. And really, why should anybody, other than her immediate family, think that it’s any of their business whether a particular girl who doesn’t favor ‘girly girl’ clothes is or is not ‘transgendered?’

One of the more positive aspects of our society is the encouragement of girls toward athletics; why would we ever want to think that a girl who wants to mix it up with the guys playing baseball or soccer or whatever — especially before adolescence, when girls and boys are more physically equal in such things — is anything other than she appears, a girl who wants to compete?

It’s a pretty sad commentary on our society that the Times would have to publish an article like this, a sad commentary that the propaganda of the ‘transgender’ lobby would have busybodies thinking that normal kids must really be abnormal.
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Cross-posted on RedState.
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  1. Yes, I have read all of the Harry Potter series of books, and yes, Miss Rowling is an excellent author. I was particularly impressed by her ability, as a mature woman, to write so realistically about an adolescent boy’s emotions.
  2. A google search failed to locate any statistics on the prevalence of ‘tomboyism.’

Democrisy: Why are the feminist left so silent on domestic abuse when it involves an immigrant?

And now, the story:

Silicon Valley CEO Pleads ‘No Contest’ to Abusing His Wife—and Is Offered a Deal for Less Than 30 Days in Jail

A deal was struck, and the judge had left for vacation, before the victim had her say in the same Santa Clara courthouse where Brock Turner was given six months for sexual assault.

by Michael Daly | 04.17.17 7:40 PM ET

At Apple, Neha Rastogi worked on everything from Siri to FaceTime to Maps, sometimes seated beside Steve Jobs himself.

She is clearly brilliant and dedicated as well as passionate about the happy interface between technology and the public. Nobody could have foreseen that she would someday be compelled to employ an iPhone to record harrowing moments of what she says was a pattern of domestic abuse during virtually her entire 10-year marriage to a man who is now CEO of a Silicon Valley startup.

Without the recordings, it would have been just another case of “he said, she said,” as her husband, Abhishek Gattani, faced his second felony domestic violence charge in Santa Clara Superior Court in fabled Palo Alto.

Instead, it was “he said, she-and-her-iPhone said.”

The video that Rastogi made on May 17, 2016, of 5 minutes and 58 seconds of her life with Abhishek Gattani offers no dramatic images like the elevator surveillance footage of Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend with a single devastating punch.

Visually, this footage is so uneventful you might think that somebody had mistakenly left their phone in video-record mode in their pocket.

But that makes the audio all the more disturbing, most particularly when you begin to hear the repeated thwacks in the presence of their then 2-year-old daughter.

The Daily Beast original has a lot more, including the audio recordings and transcripts of the whole stinking thing.

This was Mr Gattani’s second assault upon his wife known to law enforcement; he had already been apprehended for assaulting his wife, in public, with a “closed fist,” for which he:

was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to a year of domestic violence/anger management classes, but not a minute behind bars.

The current case? Mr Gattani was allowed to plead down from felony assault to felony accessory after the fact, with an accompanying misdemeanor of “offensive touching.” He would be sentenced to six months, but serve less than one, with the rest on probation.

Now, why might the prosecution agree to a lenient plea deal for the second assault? According to the article:

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Steve Fein, described the plea deal to The Daily Beast as a fair outcome, noting that accessory after the fact is also a felony, though not a violent one that would place Gattani at risk of being deported back to his native India. Fein indicated that his boss, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, seeks to avoid such deportations.

and:

[Mr Fein] allowed that no case is exactly like another, but ventured that the outcome in this one was not unusual.

“[Gattani] didn’t get a lighter deal, he didn’t get a heavier deal,” Fein said.

He confirmed that Gattani’s immigration status was a factor.

“It was a consideration, yes,” he said.

Since the Daily Beast article was published yesterday, Salon writer Amanda Marcotte has published four articles,1 none of which mentioned this particular outrage, even though it is squarely within her sphere of interest. Other than Sarah Lacy on Pando and Karoli Kuns on the liberal site Crooks and Liars, a Google search for Abhishek Gattani2 turned up nothing from the feminist ‘intellectual leadership,’ not from Melissa McEwan, not from Jessica Valenti. The New York Times took the Daily Beast story and put it on their Women in the World web page, a 21 hours after the Daily Beast original.

If there was ever a story about the left trying to ignore criminal brutality when it might have an impact on immigration policy of which they disapprove, this is it. Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen has a policy of avoiding charges which might lead to deportation of immigrants. The Mercury News quoted the soft-on-crime Mr Rosen:

In the DA’s office, we successfully prosecute more than 42,000 criminal cases a year, and send hundreds of men and women to jail and prison each year.

Most of these inmates will serve their sentences and get released back into our community. These inmates are not the ‘other.’ They are our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors.

Yet here he has had opportunities to not have criminals released back into his community, and has declined them. He has attempted to eliminate the ‘unconscious victim’ loophole that got Brock Turner off so lightly, but had one of his minions negotiate a lower sentence on a lesser offense to keep Mr Gattani safe from deportation. He should want Mr Gattani locked up for years, and then deported once he gets out, to protect the women of Santa Clara.

This is a horrible story, one in which I would expect the feminist left to be outraged. The Brock Turner case sure got their dander up, but Mr Turner was a white American, who couldn’t be deported, so their outrage didn’t impact immigration policies. One would think that the Gattani case would also anger them, but, Alas! it could be seen as supporting deportation and President Trump’s policies, even though Mr Gattani is a legal immigrant. Even to the feminists, opposing Mr Trump on immigration is much more important that abuse of women.
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Cross-posted on RedState.
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  1. Miss Marcotte’s Salon author page accessed at 5:42 PM EDT
  2. Conducted at 5:53 PM EDT.