Legislating Hysteria

Another gem from Kevin Williamson, A National State of Non-Emergency in National Review:

What people remember of that episode is Senator Edward Kennedy’s infamous speech describing “Robert Bork’s America,” “a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Congress is organized under parliamentary rules, and where there are such rules there always will be procedural shenanigans. The filibuster, for example, has not always been used for the most reputable of purposes: The 14 hours Senator Byrd had spent filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not prevent him from becoming the Democratic leader in the Senate. The legislative calendar, committee hearings, and such relatively modern innovation as budget reconciliation all have been used in the service of petty politics, which is what politicians do. Complaining about that is like complaining about how wet the water is. But scope and scale and context matter, too. Republican Bob La Follette may very well have been on the wrong side with his 1917 filibuster of a bill that he believed (correctly) would lead the United States to intervene in the Great War, but that was a matter of genuine national and historical consequence. Congress may have erred in abbreviating the usual legislative process to pass the PATRIOT Act, but the sense of urgency was proper and legitimate.

The Bork nomination, on the other hand, was an ordinary piece of government business elevated by Democrats to the status of national emergency in the service of narrow partisan interests. Biden was running for president, Kennedy was running for conscience of the Democratic party, and Byrd, frustrated by Republicans’ lack of cooperation on a number of his spending priorities, had promised: “They’re going to pay. I’m going to hit them where it hurts.” The hysteria and vitriol directed at Bork were of a sort rarely seen since the early 19th century. But they quickly became commonplace.

Journalistic Malpractice on Russia

“Read the declassified report by the intelligence community that came out in early January,” said (Hillary) Clinton. “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement – which I know from my experience as a senator and secretary of state is hard to get – they concluded with ‘high confidence’ that the Russians ran an extensive information war against my campaign to influence voters in the election.”[1]

Senator Al Franken and Joe Biden repeated the 17 Agency consensus myth even though Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper  corrected it. Only three agencies” were directly involved in the assessment, “plus my office,” Clapper told Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).[2]

From the Washington Examiner, A rather large New York Times correction:

To be fair to the paper, however, it’s important to note the Department of Homeland Security, the ODNI and the FBI issued a joint statement on Oct. 7, 2016, announcing Russia was responsible for the hacking of email accounts belonging to Democratic National Committee staffers and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. However, unlike the Jan. 6 assessment, which the Times referenced specifically, the U.S. intelligence community did not at that time conclude that the hacks were done for the benefit of Trump.

Lastly, even before Clapper testified in May, the claim that all 17 intelligence agencieswere in agreement should have raised red flags for the Times and others. The U.S. intelligence community is comprised of 17 separate groups, including the Department of the Treasury, the CIA, the FBI, Army Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, the DNI, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Homeland Security, the NSA and the Department of State. Also included are the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Energy and the Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy Intelligence groups.

What role would the Coast Guard have played in drafting an assessment stating the Russians interfered in the election to help Trump?

The partisan noise has combined three Russian scenarios into one weak accusation.  Hacking into Hillary’s and John Podesta’s e-mails is one act. Whatever the political purpose of this is questionable. It is ironic that while excuses were made by her supporters for her reckless handling of her e-mail server,  it was the same recklessness that led to her being hacked. The revelations that sunk Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile may have invaded their privacy, but the truth from these revelations was never doubted.

The second accusation was Russia’s attempt to influence the election process itself. This could mean tampering with voting machines or the voter registration list. Apparently there were signs of attempts to hack the process, but they were unsuccessful. There was no consensus or indication that they had any impact on the voting tabulation.

The third accusation which gets the most attention and also seems to have the least credibility is that Trump was intentionally colluding with the Russians to influence the election.

Perhaps the Russians just wanted to created havoc and discord. Perhaps they succeeded. We have also tried to influence elections. Obama threatened Britain with trade restrictions if they voted for Brexit and he blatantly tried to influence the Israeli elections.

Alan Dershowitz has criticized the Russia investigation because it is presuming a crime before it has enough facts. It should be conducted as a hearing to gather information, not gathering evidence in a closed format with a presumption of guilt.

The CNN retraction and the James O’Keefe sting show that when rage trumps (pun intended) judgment, the truth is the first victim.  The partisan bubble that infects major new outlets provides an environment for political advocacy rather than objective journalism.

This reckless disregard for quality journalism only empowers and enables Trump.


[2] https://townhall.com/tipsheet/cortneyobrien/2017/06/30/new-york-times-issues-correction-for-russia-flap-n2348994


The War on the Middle Class


Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review, Plutocratic Populism Pays

In mid-October, Hillary Clinton gave a short lecture at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas bewailing the crushing costs of a university education. “Higher education,” Clinton thundered, “shouldn’t be a privilege for those able to afford it.”

One reason tuition and student indebtedness have soared — UNLV’s tuition is set to go up by 17 percent next year — is that universities pay exorbitant fees to multimillionaire speakers like Hillary Clinton. College foundations sprout up to raise money for perks that might not pass transparent university budgeting. Clinton — or her own foundation — reportedly charged a university foundation $225,000 for a talk lasting less than an hour. For that sum, she could have paid the tuition of over 320 cash-strapped UNLV students. Is there a Clinton Tuition Fund, to which Hillary contributes a portion of her honoraria to exempt herself from the ramifications of her own accusations?

Could not Barack Obama blast billionaires somewhere else than at the homes of billionaires? If Hillary Clinton is going to deplore high college costs, could she not settle for $25,000 an hour rather than ten times that? Could not Mark Zuckerberg live among those he champions rather than driving up housing prices by buying a multimillion-dollar housing moat around his tony enclave? If Joe Biden swears that hedge funds and Wall Street are toxic, mightn’t he at least first advise his brother and son to steer clear of such tainted cash?

Modern liberalism is an ideology of the super-wealthy in alliance with those who need government assistance — often in opposition to the less liberal middle class, which bears the brunt of higher taxes, more regulations, and zero interest on savings. The vast growth of local, state, and federal government and their workforces, the huge increase in pensions and benefits, the spectacular rise in the number of people on government support, coupled with zero interest for those with modest savings, represents a huge transference of wealth from the middle class to those classes beneath them — even as the resulting booming stock market has enriched the already rich. In some sense, strident populist rhetoric is a psychological tic, an acknowledgment that Obama progressivism has all but destroyed the middle class. When Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg talk like populists, then we know populism is dead.

Making Rulers Uncomfortable


One of my favorite blog postings this year is The Left is Too Smart to Fail by Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish.  Science is for Stupid People is equally worthy and an excellent companion piece to the first article.


Science, the magic of the secular age, is their church. But science isn’t anyone’s church. Science is much better at disproving things than at proving them. It’s a useful tool for skeptics, but a dangerous tool for rulers. Like art, science is inherently subversive and like art, when it’s restricted and controlled, it stops being interesting. 

But manufactured intelligence has the same relationship to intelligence as a painting of the ocean does to the real thing.

The real ocean is complicated and messy. So is real intelligence. Manufactured intelligence is the fashion model playing a genius in a movie. Real intelligence is an awkward man obsessing over a handful of ideas, some of them ridiculously wrong, but one of which will change the world.

Real intelligence isn’t marketable because it doesn’t make an elite feel good about its power.

Biblical fake prophets were often preferred to real prophets because they made rulers feel comfortable about the future. The modern technoprophet assures a secular elite that it can effectively control people and that it even has the obligation to do so. It tells them that “science” is on their side.The easy way to tell real religion from fake religion is that real religion doesn’t make you feel good. It doesn’t assure you that everything you’re doing is right and that you ought to keep on doing it.

The same holds true for science. Real science doesn’t make you feel smart. Fake science does.

No matter how smart you think you are, real science will make you feel stupid far more often than it will make you feel smart. Real science not only tells us how much more we don’t know than we know, a state of affairs that will continue for all of human history, but it tells us how fragile the knowledge that we have gained is, how prone we are to making childish mistakes and allowing our biases to think for us.

Science is a rigorous way of making fewer mistakes. It’s not very useful to people who already know everything. Science is for stupid people who know how much they don’t know.

A look back at the march of science doesn’t show an even line of progress led by smooth-talking popularizers who are never wrong. Instead the cabinets of science are full of oddballs, unqualified, jealous, obsessed and eccentric, whose pivotal discoveries sometimes came about by accident. Science, like so much of human accomplishment, often depended on lucky accidents to provide a result that could then be isolated and systematized into a useful understanding of the process.

Just One Life

Jonah Goldberg writes Biden’s Faulty Lifeguard Logic  “If it saves one life” — at what cost? at the National Review, 1/11/13.


The idea that the government can regulate or ban its way into a world where there are no tragedies, no premature deaths, is quite simply ridiculous. But that is precisely the assumption behind phrases like “if only one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Which brings us to the dangerous part. Pay attention to what Biden is saying. The important thing is for government to act, not for the government to act wisely.

And that’s the real problem with this kind of rhetoric. Not only does it establish a ridiculously low standard for what justifies government action — indeed, action itself becomes its own justification — but it also sets the expectation that the government is there to prevent bad things from happening.

Biden has a warrant to investigate the role not just of gun laws but also video games, movies, mental-health policies, and lord knows what else in order to make sure we don’t have another Newtown or Aurora massacre. I am wholly sympathetic to the desire to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.

But for starters, I would first like to hear exactly what Biden would have us do with regard to the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments before I think action is self-justifying on the grounds that if it saves even one life, it’s worth it.


Good policy requires careful analysis and wisdom. Both virtues are rare in this debate.  Emotionally driven policy enacted in a rush will almost never result in good or effective policy.