Missing the Point on Planned Parenthood

As previously noted, it does not matter what Trump does; he will be widely criticized.

He took steps not to defund the organization, but to remove the government funding to that organization.  The organization will not cease to exist; but if it cannot subsist on private donations, perhaps it does not deserve to exist at all.

Nobody can give a straight answer as to the actual purpose of Planned Parenthood.  Does it coordinate abortions, or is it instrumental in providing female healthcare?

If it provides abortions, it should not receive federal funding.

But if it provides access to female healthcare, should it receive federal funding?  Not in this case either.  Private organizations should not receive funds from the federal government, no matter what the purpose of that organization is.

This entire matter is being badly framed.  It is not really an issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice.  It is, as usual, an argument of the real purpose of government.

Bastiat: “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society.  As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.”

In response to the popular meme, “you’ll never see seven women legislating what men ought to do with their reproductive organs” I can only say this: it misses the entire point of these measures.  These men do not seek to control your reproductive organs (at least not with this most recent legislation) but rather, do what they were elected to do: shrink and restrict the functions and expenses of government.

As usual, of course, the left is being over-dramatic.  Removing federal funding from Planned Parenthood is not trying to control reproductive organs; it’s just doing the right thing with public money.

Trump and Education Reform

Now that the grand theater is over, it’s time to get down to business.

I’m not so sure if the many outlandish promises (i.e., the wall, Muslim registration, etc) are ever going to materialize; but then again, I’ve been wrong about Trump at every twist and turn.  I should just stop making predictions.

I found his inaugural address to be quite good, certainly simple and succinct.  A negative response was inevitable, no matter what he said.  The left and the media will loose their last vestiges of legitimacy very quickly, not because they have an ideological opposition to Trump, but because they will find a way to criticize everything the man does or says because of it.  (Remember soon after the election when Trump had the gall to have dinner without notifying the press?  That sort of thing.)

There was one statement in particular that I hope he follows up on:  “…an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge…”

This is quite the case.  For all intents and purposes we (as a nation) have among the wealthiest education systems in the world, yet the mediocre results become more obvious with each passing year.  It’s clear to everyone except those in the education system that it’s not a matter of money, but of method.  Really, what justification do we have to continue this failing educational status quo?

The growth of school choice in the last few years is encouraging.  What really would be needed to “fix” this education system is the innovations and improvements that really only happen by private initiative on an open market.  But most people have decided that education should never be privatized; so we are left with very few options, and most of them being some variation of government monopoly.

The school choice system – one I hope is honestly pursued by the new Trump administration – gives at least the illusion of choice, and more importantly the motivation for the providers of education to improve their product.  Quite simple enough, but it still finds widespread opposition.  Mostly because some students might have a better educational experience than others; and this is true.  However, would we rather stifle the potential of the brightest students in the interests of fairness of equality?  Would we really want to see that potential unrealized so that all the students are equal in the same, dismal public school?

As for our own state, you can bet that teacher pay is going to be an issue this Spring, as it always is.  Never mind the fact that the pay rate of public school teachers is inflated relative to the pay rate of private school teachers; and never mind the fact that while we are comparing the rates of teacher pay here to other states, we fail to take into consideration the cheaper cost of living here – yes, let’s ignore all that.  Everyone seems to be quite decided.

The taxpayers are already heavily burdened with this inefficient Oklahoma public school system.  But rather ingeniously, Oklahoma State Representative Mark McBride has devised a plan that would basically allow us to have our cake, and eat it too.  Use TSET money to fund, at least in part, education employees involved with health or related matters, thus freeing up money for other education purposes.  Besides healthcare expenses, TSET money is largely being wasted on these silly TV ad campaigns – but I think education is a far better use for that money.

House Bill 1245 is one that is really worth watching.

The Stagnation of Progressivism

 

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It was happening anyway.  Trump’s victory only showed the stagnation – and the utter desperation on the part of the progressive movement for some sort of relevance.

Progressive policies and movements have given us no tangible, positive changes.  Instead, the progressive movement gives us only self-righteous whining.   All the progressive movement’s members are so entirely sure of themselves, contrary opinions are not just disagreements, they are seen as aggression.  There is no possible reasonable mindset but their own.

Of course, this is fairly obvious.

Meryl Streep did nothing brave (or remotely interesting or useful) in her anti-Trump rant, which is nothing but a repeat of what we constantly hear from the left wing.  Just as the right wing began to invent apocalyptic fictions eight years ago, just to live in constant paranoia in the shadow of those fictions, so we now see the progressive movement do the exact same thing.

Streep attacked Trump, which is well within her right to do.  The progressives applauded her for it.  Trump, who has every right to respond in kind, responds and is attacked for it.

I say that progressivism is stagnant because it cannot offer a proper, intellectual defense of itself.  It can only attack the opposition, and then run behind a chair and accuse the opposition of aggression when it has the audacity to argue back.  It can only drone on endlessly about the non-existent oppression of homosexuals and related groups, non existent racism, pronouns and inventing new genders.  These are all signs of a stagnation.

I’m not sure if it’s the stagnation that was responsible for Trump’s win (i’m still convinced that it was the perception of something different, that influenced the voters where it mattered) and progressivism is not going to disappear, either.  It’s still more fashionable to be a liberal, after all.

 

The Russian Report – The Russian Fiction

Today, an unclassified version of “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” was made available.  I hope that the unclassified version will be available soon, as supposedly much of the concrete information was removed to protect sources.  I have a feeling that whatever information was with-held was just as flimsy as that which was released.

After all, circumstantial evidence is not evidence, and at any rate not sufficient cause to create a diplomatic row such as the present administration has done.

In case you don’t have time or willingness to read through twenty five pages of Government fluff, here are some highlights, and some commentary.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.”

Is it wrong for a foreign government to prefer a certain candidate over another?  In another place I would be willing to explore that question in depth, as it does deserve an answer.  But here, I can only say that our own government is guilty of doing this, even going so far as to finance certain candidates in foreign countries.  We can do it, but other countries can’t?

I can see why Vladimir Putin would want to oppose a candidate who has taken a very brash and aggressive tone towards another nuclear power.  Nobody wants friction, and Trump did promise a more cooperative relationship.  But as to discrediting Clinton?  Everything about her was entirely factual – if we want to place blame, we can only place it on Clinton.

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.

(emphasis added, because i’m speechless at the “troll” issue.)

Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.

Finally, this myth can be laid to rest.  Russia could not have manipulated the vote tallies.

In early September, Putin said publicly it was important the DNC data was exposed to WikiLeaks, calling the search for the source of the leaks a distraction and denying Russian “state-level” involvement.

He isn’t wrong, it is important.  Given that the report gives no evidence or grounds for the assertion that Russia conducted the hacks and sent the information obtained to Wikileaks (“reasoning” offered is circumstantial only; RT is sympathetic to Assange and RT’s editor in Chief visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2013, long before Trump’s candidacy became a thought) we cannot believe this assertion.

Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.

(Emphasis added) Okay?  Isn’t it something that we’re suddenly concerned about media bias when, throughout this whole affair, the American media was overwhelmingly biased in favor of Clinton?  I have a hard time objecting to the Russian media’s bias towards Trump when our own media was so obviously in the bag for Clinton.

It’s worth it to note that at this point in the report, the focus turns from flimsy hacking allegations to details on the Russian media activity, which actually constitutes the majority of the unclassified report.

RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.

So, you mean, the truth?

A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.

What remains to be proven, is the impact these “trolls” had on the actual outcome of the election.  It certainly isn’t featured in the report.

In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.”

What, so the prospect of third party candidates is “undemocratic” now?  On that count, the RT hosts are completely correct.  The two party system is a sham, and indeed, a third of our population goes effectively unrepresented.

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).

RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).

Well… How are these assertions incorrect?

According to Simonyan, the TV audience worldwide is losing trust in traditional TV broadcasts and stations, while the popularity of “alternative channels” like RT or Al Jazeera grows. RT markets itself as an “alternative channel” that is available via the Internet everywhere in the world, and it encourages interaction and social networking (Kommersant, 29 September).

Small wonder that the TV audience worldwide is loosing trust in traditional TV, due to it’s obvious, left wing bias.  Not that RT’s right wing bias is noble, but it’s understandable that a certain part of the news audience would want an alternative more in line with their views.  This report implies, of course, that the bias of our own media sources are okay, so long as they are sympathetic to Clinton and the ruling class.

That’s about it.  The full report, if that’s how you like to spend your long winter evenings, is available here:  https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf