Squandering Political Capital

While there’s little chance of this story distracting from Obama’s failure effectively to deal with ISIS/Ebola/Economy, the White House is facing another scandal as the Washington Post reports that Obama aides “knew of possible White House link to Cartagena, Columbia prostitution scandal.” The article states that “new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.”

Read more here. Even if no particular action is taken in response to the latest of many lies told by the Obama administration, it’s nice to see what little credibility he has left be further eroded. It’s not surprising to see that, as this AP Story reports, Obama allies are “getting harder to find.”

It may turn out that during the last two years of his presidency, all Obama will have is his pen and his phone—without many people being willing to pick up the phone. (Certainly government bureaucrats should be less willing to pick up the phone, if they don’t want to end up in Lois Lerner’s situation.)

While I’m happy to see Obama squander what little political capital he has left, I was sorry to see this week that Ted Cruz—who may be the best, potentially electable candidate for 2016—denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear any of the same-sex marriage cases. He has even vowed to introduce a Constitutional Amendment defending “traditional marriage.” I have loved Cruz’s principled stand on free speech, Obamacare, and other crucial issues, and here I think that Cruz is not only wrong (I support same-sex marriage), but that he is also wasting time, energy and political capital. I feel like I could quote right back to him the beginning of the speech he made in opposition to the Senate Democrats’ proposed Constitutional Amendment to curb free speech. In fact, I hope the Democrats do that.

Given that the 2014 elections are nearly upon us, I was happy to see Jason Mattera help Senate Majority Fossil Harry Reid squander a bunch of his political capital this week. It seems Mr. Reid doesn’t like being questioned about his multi-million-dollar net worth. Reid’s “aide” (as one source called him) actually physically attacked Mattera, who was doing nothing more than asking Reid how he made so much money while living on a government salary his entire career. Reid has vehemently denounced the Koch brothers, who spend their own money to influence politics so that politics doesn’t have as much influence over our lives. In the meantime, Majority Fossil Reid has apparently used political influence—and our tax dollars—to line his own pockets. It’s time we showed him the door.

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American Sense of Life vs. Government Schools

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, spoke at the Intellectual Property Expo in London today. Among the controversial statements to the press made by Sir Tim in the hours leading up to the event, is his assertion that “computers are getting smarter and we are not.” What should we do? Paraphrases Matt Warman of The Telegraph, “The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.”

One sort of job that will not disappear, predicts Sir Tim, is that of software developers. In fact, the demand for software developers, he thinks, will be limited only by our imagination:

I think in a way with software if people are interested in writing it, it’s not that there’s a certain amount of software that needs to be written. What you do with it is limited only by your imagination. If your imagination limited, OK. But some of it can be very artistic some of it can be very practical.

Those of us who embrace new technology, and who realize that everything comes with a cost, accept the inevitable job displacement that often accompanies innovation. We realize that the way to thrive, now and in the future, is by ensuring that we and our children receive a quality education that will allow us to adapt to a changing job market.

But will our government permit us to do this?

Parents who choose to send their kids to government schools are finding they are able to exercise less and less control over their children’s education. Many states across the country are still in the process of implementing Common Core, in which the curriculum–which some have complained will indoctrinate and dumb-down our children to an even greater degree than before–is dictated by a federally-appointed body. Those states that are implementing Common Core are being bribed, with our tax dollars, to get as many children as possible to take and pass–whatever that means–a series of standardized tests based on the Common Core. Now, in Wyoming, the Attorney General has, according to the Daily Caller, “officially advised the Wyoming Department of Education that it is illegal for parents to opt their own children out of statewide standardized assessment tests given in taxpayer-funded public schools.” Illegal to keep your own children home on the day the tests are administered because you don’t want their brains–or egos–to be turned into mush.

Think you can escape the effects of the Common Core by choosing to homeschool your child? Think again.

On Sept. 18 The Examiner reported that a New Jersey family that was homeschooling their children “received a notice from the local Superintendent of Schools that they must adhere to Common Core standards.” The Home School Legal Defense Association is there to help the parents fight back, but given the increasing popularity of the homeschooling movement (see this story, for example, about the increase in the rate of homeschooling in NC), I doubt this will be the last we’ll see of this sort of power grab.

Thankfully the American sense of life seems to be alive and well in parents throughout the country: The Daily Caller reports today that a recently published study shows that the public–and, in particular, parents at the local level in school districts throughout the country–is increasingly turning against the Common Core. (You may rightfully experience satisfaction that the study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports Common Core.)

When surveyed, 34 percent of district leaders described resistance from outside the school system as a major challenge to implementing Common Core, and another 39 percent described it as a minor challenge (18 percent said it was not a challenge at all).

That is a dramatic shift from 2011, when only 5 percent of district leaders said outside resistance was a major problem, 35 percent said it was a minor one, and 60 percent said it wasn’t a problem.

And of course the report found that implementing Common Core, as with any other government program, will cost more than originally projected: “[A]ll is not well even for district heads, who are adamant that more time, effort, and money than initially expected will be necessary for Common Core to work.”

Read more of The Daily Caller’s summary here.

As Ayn Rand wrote in her essay, “Don’t Let It Go,” “An American is an independent entity….[and] has no concept of service (or of servitude) to anyone.” Let’s hope that parents will continue to embrace this attitude and resist Common Core—and that they are able to overcome the bureaucratic inertia that already exists in the curriculum’s favor. Eventually, of course, my hope is that a substantial minority of parents in our country will join the abolitionist movement, but for now it is the Common Core that must be defeated.

(Those who need extra concrete motivation to join the abolitionist movement: Check out this story, in which we learn that a chain of Ohio “charter schools,” which are government-funded, but privately run, and are supposed to provide a higher quality alternative to “traditional” government schools, are hiring a large number of Turkish teachers of dubious qualification.)

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The Private Sector Reigns Supreme…Again

Good news for Apple fans: the company’s mobile operating system, iOS, as well as its new iPhone 6 devices, feature beefed-up levels of default encryption and–to the horror of our federal government’s “Justice” department–no “back door.” Zack Whittaker of ZDNet argues that the “feds only have themselves to blame” for Apple (and also Google) beefing up their smartphone encryption, because the federal government has failed to scale back the NSA’s bulk metadata collection in any significant fashion. I agree, and I also agree with Whittaker’s (and others’) disappointment in the Washington Post editorials echoing “Justice”‘s call for a “back door” and arguing for a “compromise” on encryption.

Yes, government should be able to compel the production of evidence when it has probable cause and particularized suspicion (and follows procedures appropriate for the context). But government should not be able to compel manufacturers of devices to do its job, to make it unnecessary for the government to approach the device owner directly with the warrant. As Yaron Brook alluded to on Facebook yesterday, it is great to see the profit motive encouraging companies to cater to customers’ privacy preferences.

[Also notable: this story about Twitter suing the U.S. government over limits on its ability to disclose surveillance orders, something about which Apple has also complained.]

Now, if only Apple could figure out a simple and elegant solution to the threats posed by ISIS and Ebola…

The news on Ebola is getting worse, as we learn that a nurse in Spain–who presumably knows what precautions to take and has the materials necessary to take them–contracted the disease while treating two patients who had been brought to Spain for treatment. The nurse’s husband and two others have reportedly now also been placed in quarantine. The Los Angeles Times published a speculative piece, in which one expert opined that “We just don’t have the data to exclude [the possibility of Ebola spreading by air in close quarters].” While it’s natural to worry about a disease that seems to be killing more than half of those who contract it, we need to keep in mind that the assertion about the possibility of airborne Ebola is arbitrary–there is no evidence to support it and therefore it should be dismissed–unless and until such evidence materializes.

While we wait for more information on the transmission of Ebola, it is heartening to read of the Firestone plantation in Liberia, where the tire manufacturer has applied determination and common sense to the task of containing the Ebola outbreak, with great success. “[E]ven as the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded rages all around them, Firestone appears to have blocked the virus from spreading inside its territory.”

It is not surprising to me that a private company has outperformed governments in containing Ebola. In fact, while our own government should likely be doing more–temporary travel restrictions or enhanced screening–to combat the current outbreak, preventing the spread of disease is not a routine government function. Firestone realizes that it is crucial for the success of their plantation in Liberia effectively to contain the virus, and they have acted accordingly. (HT Rick Wilmes, who brought the Firestone story to my attention.)

What is a proper government function, however, is defending citizens against threats of physical force from enemies foreign and domestic. And it is here that the Obama administration’s default is most concerning. ISIS continues to behead western journalists and threaten the beheading of veterans and active members of the military. They are harassing military members and their families via social media. ISIS supporters have even managed to place their graffiti in Washington, D.C. And yet our President and his Secretary of State continue to evade the nature of the threat, or its origin, saying it has nothing to do with Islam and, apparently, everything to do with Syrian rebels needing our assistance.

Thankfully we have some Americans who are willing to speak the truth about the nature of the threat we face. The most unapologetic and outspoken critic of ISIS and Islam of late is, surprisingly, a liberal who most likely would not want to be included in a post praising the private sector: Bill Maher. Here’s the latest in a long series of Maher’s excellent commentary on Islam and the danger it poses:

Check the Real Time account on YouTube for more commentary by Maher, and join me in thanking him for speaking out and telling the truth when no one in our government seems to be able to.

You might also enjoy this from a few years ago: Maher’s “Muslim Dior” fashion show:

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