Character Assassination

 

It’s ugly. No one will deny the intensity and revolting events that have taken place since the election of Donald Trump. In one sense, destroying another’s reputation is not new; but the collaboration in order to take down the President and his administration is a process I’ve not seen in my lifetime. It’s character assassination. I’d like to define that term, provide a few examples of the ways it’s been practiced historically, and how is different in these times.

Character assassination is slandering a person with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person. Further, I believe it is an evil act. Dennis Prager explains that these actions actually violate the Ten Commandments, specifically the Eighth Commandment, “Do not steal.” After explaining how stealing a person (enslaving) is prohibited, as is taking away a person’s property, he talks about the most egregious type of stealing:

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The New York Times Offers Another Underpowered Case for Breaking Up Big Tech

 
Former Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks to Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google.

Hot on the heels of Esquire’s 7,000-word argument against Big Tech comes the New York Times Magazine’s 8,000-word argument against Big Tech. Hed: “The Case Against Google.” Dek: “Critics say the search giant is squelching competition before it begins. Should the government step in?”

The piece’s author, Charles Duhigg, answers in the affirmative: “If you love Google, you should hope the government sues it for antitrust offenses — and you should hope it happens soon, because who knows what wondrous new creations are waiting patiently in the wings.”

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Is Trump Guilty or Does He Just Look Guilty?

 

When absorbing news about the Mueller investigation, I can’t help thinking of Saddam Hussein. No, I’m not equating our president with the late Iraqi dictator. I’m thinking more about our assumptions regarding Saddam’s guilt. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the whole world was asking whether Hussein had a secret WMD program. The head of our CIA said it was a “slam dunk.” Our allies’ intelligence agencies agreed. There were good reasons to think it was true.

Hussein had used chemical weapons against the Kurds. He had threatened to “burn half of Israel.” He had used nerve gas against Iran in the Iran/Iraq war. Following the first Gulf War in 1991, the coalition was surprised to find Iraq’s nuclear program quite advanced. Throughout the decade of the 1990s, Saddam thwarted and harassed international weapons inspectors. In 1998, signing the Iraq Liberation Act, President Bill Clinton cited Hussein’s long cat and mouse game with international inspectors and declared “It is obvious that there is an attempt here . . . to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, [and] the missiles to deliver them . . .”

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Our Conversation with Victor Davis Hanson

 

Professor Victor Davis Hanson discussed his prescient contribution to Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism with our own Ben Weingarten. You can listen to their interview right here on Ricochet. What follows is a full transcript of their discussion, slightly modified for clarity.

Ben Weingarten: The term “populism” has been thrown around repeatedly throughout history and it’s often used pejoratively to put down one’s political opponents. How do you define it?

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A Simple Observation

 

If half the stuff the anti-2nd Amendment advocates claim were true, all of the left-leaning media outlets would being doing hidden camera exposés on it. We would be inundated with stories of underage kids, felons, and other prohibited individuals purchasing guns. Everyone talks about the “gun show loophole” but nobody produces evidence of it. That’s because they know better. The system works 99.98 percent of the time.

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Listen to DC — Not That DC: DC McAllister

 

I did an interview on my podcast today with Ricochet’s own D.C. McAllister that I thought was worth a special mention. I met Denise at a Ricochet gathering a while back and was so impressed with her warmth, wit, and intelligence that I invited her on the show without any clear notion of what we would discuss. It turned out to be one of the best interviews I’ve done. There comes a point where plain commonsense becomes wisdom, and Denise has reached that point. It was so refreshing to hear her speak, I thought I should make sure the rest of Ricochet didn’t miss the chance. Hit the link. You won’t be sorry.

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Trump’s National Security Excuse for Trade Protectionism Is Almost as Bad as the Economic One

 

National security is the justification President Trump will employ if he takes action against aluminum and steel imports. As the president said last week, “I want to keep prices down but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminium industry and we do need that for national defense. If we ever have a conflict we don’t want to be buying steel [from] a country we are fighting.”

Really? Just what sort of military scenarios is the Pentagon feeding the White House? The top two suppliers of steel imports to the US are Canada and Brazil. Russia and China, on the other hand, are fifth and eleventh with 9% and 2% of imports, respectively. Indeed, as trade expert Phil Levy points out, the US currently has defense treaties with five of the 12 countries picked for potentially higher tariffs. Levy adds that the report itself notes that Defense Department steel needs require a measly 3% of US steel production.

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School Shootings: Do We Really Care?

 

Because, if we really care, there’s really only one response that has a chance of significantly limiting the violence in the short term. Everything else requires asking people to surrender rights — First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights — that they will refuse to surrender.

There’s only one practical answer, and it doesn’t require that anyone surrender rights, nor that a large number of people be convinced to do something they don’t want to do, nor that some kind of miracle of mental health care occur. It requires that a relatively small number of people take responsibility for the safety of our school children.

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Alarm Over Russian Interference Is Beyond Silly

 

Of course, the Russians (and Chinese and others) tried to interfere with our elections. They have been doing it since the origination of the KGB in 1954. In his seminal book on the history of Russian intelligence, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and The Secret History of the KGB (1999), Christopher Andrew sites dozens of examples of KGB interference including some fun tidbits about KGB covert operations against former President Ronald Reagan, which began five years before he became president.

What has happened to our educated classes in America? As kids, we learned in Mr. Lafontaine’s 6th grade Social Studies class that the Russians were causing street demonstrations, placing false op-eds, and buying off journalists to try to get Richard Nixon elected because Kennedy was touting the Missile Gap, back in 1960.

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The Marvel-ous Culture

 
Jon Bernthal as “The Punisher” (Marvel Studios)

I am not an aficionado of comic books. I can not argue the merits of Marvel vs. DC. The only comics-based movie I can attest to seeing in the theater was Superman with Christopher Reeve and that was in a whole different universe called “1978.” Fast forward 40 years and my wife suggests we sit down and watch a Netflix series called The Punisher. She hooked me with the words “former Marine.”

OK, I’m in. But first, we have to watch another Marvel/Netflix offering called Daredevil where the protagonist, Frank Castle, is introduced. To put it bluntly, these two series are blood porn. They are violent beyond brutality and after a period of time, like sexual pornography, they are incredibly desensitizing — both in the portrayal of the violence and in the casual manner in which human life is snuffed out.

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“Idahocare”

 

Individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are in a state of serious disrepair. The deep structural problems with these plans cannot easily be fixed. The main issue is that the benefits packages are too generous—and there is not enough revenue coming in to fund them, as young and healthy individuals and families desert the plans in increasing numbers. The danger of implosion is everywhere. In Idaho, the rate increases in individual ACA-compliant plans for the last three years—12% in 2016, 24% in 2017, and 27% in 2018—explain why middle-class families have quit the exchanges, even though their income is too high to qualify for either Medicaid or ACA subsidies, leaving them with no coverage at all. Faced by this breakdown, Idaho Governor Butch Otter issued an Executive Order directing the Idaho Insurance Department to devise “creative options” to expand market access. As a legal advisor to Blue Cross of Idaho (BCI), let me explain what was done and why.

The key challenge is to promote access, but without some of the ACA’s most onerous features, such as premium compression by age and no restrictions on coverage for preexisting conditions when there have been coverage breaks. It would be folly in a system of federal dominance for states to allow local insurers like BCI to junk all ACA-compliant plans. But the same conclusion does not apply to a program in which all these plans are left untouched. Subsequent to BCI and other companies would like to offer, alongside ACA-compliant plans, a more basic state-compliant plan that may well prove attractive to those people who today have no coverage at all. These other plans are to remain in the same risk pool as the ACA plans. Anyone who wants to enroll in the ACA-compliant plans may do so. The new Idaho program simply increases the options.

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Mueller Re-indicts Scooter Libby

 

Last Friday I stumbled into an ugly DC building on Pennsylvania Avenue in search of the IMC (International Mensa Convocation) where I was scheduled to speak.

After a lingering probe of each of my numerous body cavities, the comely security guardette directed me to check out a meeting room on the second floor where she said there were “a number of other odd-looking people” gathered.

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Now It’s Esquire’s Turn to Make the Case for Busting Up Big Tech. It’s Not Strong

 

The March issue of Esquire gives Scott Galloway, an NYU marketing professor, nearly 7,000 words to make his case for dismantling Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Galloway scare-quotes them as “the Four,” while the headline writer refers to them as “Silicon Valley’s Tax-Avoiding, Job-Killing, Soul-Sucking Machine.” (As a long-winded sobriquet, the latter really doesn’t have the oomph or stickiness as when Matt Taibbi famously referred to Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” But a solid effort, I guess.)

So what is Galloway’s argument? Patient readers must plow through nearly half the essay — though many lovely charts will aid the journey — to find out. Before getting to his casus belli against the SVTAJKSSM, Galloway first runs through a series of “valid concerns” to whet the appetite for antitrust destruction: The Four are really, really big. The Four are addictive. “Google is our modern day god.” The Four don’t pay enough taxes. The Four are destroying massive numbers of jobs. Government has surrendered before the Four like the POTUS before Zod in “Superman.”

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University and Free Speech – Hope for the Future?

 

Lately, I’ve seen a few encouraging stories about a shifting perspective about free speech on university campuses. Some of the shifts are unhelpful, but others suggest that the leadership of universities is finally recognizing the significant role their institutions can play in supporting and perpetuating free speech.

At first glance, some stories are not positive. A few universities are trying to charge a “security fee” to groups who are inviting what the university defines as “controversial speakers.” Needless to say, the administrators are the very ones who decide that a given speaker is controversial, immediately suggesting that trouble will be brewing before and during a presentation. The University of Alabama imposed a fee of $7,000 on the College Republicans chapter that was hosting Milo Yiannopoulos in 2016. Just before the event, the university revoked the fee with the statement, “the University of Alabama supports free speech and welcomes diverse speakers to our campus. As with all speakers, the views of Mr. Yiannopoulos do not necessarily reflect the views of the University.” It was a wise choice since the chapter could not afford the fee and would have had to cancel the event.

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David Laufman: Another One Bites the Dust

 

Did anyone else hear about David Laufman quitting a week ago? I heard about him from a Hugh Hewitt podcast from Hewitt’s Friday show with a representative of Hillsdale College.

Who is David Laufman? He’s the Dept. of Justice, National Security Division, Deputy Asst. General in charge of counterintelligence, cyber security, counterespionage and export controls. And why does that matter? As The Conservative Treehouse explained, Laufman was involved with most aspects of the current controversy surrounding Robert Mueller’s investigation:

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A Quiet Dinner with a Side of Despair

 

“Mother!! I told you. Not now!” 

He was a toothache of a man. His greasy unkempt hair, which looked like a shovelful of wet pine straw dumped unceremoniously on his head, framed a face whose signature expression was a resentful scowl. Grey eyes pierced from under his furrowed and bushy eyebrows, his weatherworn face had more lines than a map of L.A., though one would search in vain for “laugh lines.”

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ACF#26: Blade

 

Let’s talk about black heroes at the movies. Wesley Snipes was one of the last action heroes–remember when American heroes could be working class and villains tech millionaires?–and he reached his peak with Blade, the best Marxist story of a generation, as Pete says. Here’s how Marxist “wake up and smell the exploitation” stories work: Remember The Matrix? Well, we have lots to say in praise of Blade and we continuously connect it to the shocks in American politics now, especially the Bernie-Hillary class conflict.

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The Violence Stem

 

After the horror in Parkland, FL, there are the usual calls from the usual suspects to ban “assault rifles” and shut down the NRA; as if the NRA itself trained the murderer in how to kill innocents. Blaming the NRA for this mass murder is roughly equivalent to blaming the number of traffic deaths in the United States on the American Automobile Association: Both of them are membership organization built around the enjoyable and safe use of a particular piece of technology. No more, no less.

The problem happens when that particular piece of technology is used for evil and violent purposes, and this is true of gun and automobile alike. The technology is not the issue, the way it’s used to harm other people is the issue. To borrow from Bill Clinton: it’s the violence, stupid.

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The Shooters: They Think They’re the Victims

 

As usual, the cries for getting to the root of these terrible mass shootings are dominating the media landscape. It’s guns! It’s mental illness! It’s the lone wolf syndrome! I’m not against trying to understand the perpetrators of these horrifying events. In fact, this post is an effort to look at one other possible source of the problem—although if there’s any truth to my proposition, dealing with it may be more complex than we can imagine.

The problem? The mentality of the shooter: his victimization and our indulgence of it.

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Winning the Argument, Losing Our Way

 

Here we are again. Having the same argument we’ve had too many times before. And we most likely will have it again, won’t we? In today’s society, we are more mentally segregated than ever and increasingly stuck in echo chambers. The preachers on the left and the right preach the same old lines and everyone yells “amen” at the appropriate places in the sermon. It has become more important to convince ourselves that we are correct in our thinking than to provide solutions to our problems (or, in lieu of that, accepting that there are certain things we simply cannot change.)

The gun control/rights debate that will unfold over the next days and weeks will highlight the cognitive dissonance across the political spectrum.

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No Names

 

An orgy of mutual disgust now greets every mass shooting in America. Liberals despise conservatives who, they predict, will offer only insipid “thoughts and prayers” in the face of what they conceive to be preventable massacres. Conservatives scorn liberals who, they believe, will propose “feel good” gun measures that would have no effect on any mass shooting.

But there is something that we can try to prevent these horrific killings. It doesn’t require legislation. It won’t cost a penny. It doesn’t require compromising anyone’s gun rights, and it’s more concrete than “see something, say something.”

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Transgender Tragedy Continues

 
Transgender student Nicole Maines listens during a hearing before the Maine Supreme Court. A lawsuit accuses a school district of breaking a state law in 2007 when it stopped letting Nicole Maines use the girls’ bathroom and required to her use a staff bathroom after a student’s grandfather complained. Maines was born a boy.

Last week the American Civil Liberties Union sued Alabama state officials in a federal district court on behalf of three transgender individuals. The plaintiffs all suffer from gender dysphoria: Darcy Corbitt and Destiny Clark are men but want to obtain Alabama driver’s licenses that describe them as female; John Doe is female but seeks to change her driver’s license to one identifying her as male.

In this latest court case, the ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s Driver License Policy Order No. 63, which requires that a person either submit an amended birth certificate or “a letter from the physician that performed the reassignment procedure.”

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