The Economist Breaks Silence on Obamacare

Big news at The Economist magazine: it finally broke its silience on the tribulations of Obamacare.

Back when the big insurers started pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges, there was not a peep from The Economist, not even in its business section. Upon subsequent pull-outs and premium increases, continued silence. Being an early cheerleader for Obamacare, it may have wanted to avoid embarassing news.

Finally, now that the news is splattered everywhere else, The Economist is forced to follow suit. What it described in the above-linked article is a consequence of Obamacare that any economist worth his or her salt could have predicted.

Why didn’t you, Economist?

Fact-Checking PolitiFact

PolitiFact.com, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, is a self-proclaimed fact checking operation. I know this won’t surprise anyone, given that it’s affiliated with the “mainstream” media, but it has a decidedly leftward bias. A quick look at past columns shows that it has a preference for “fact checking” statements made by people who lean right. Not surprisingly, it tends to deem their statements as untrue, and when it “fact checks” statements of those who lean left, it tends to deem their statements as true. This is highly subjective stuff, laden with cherry-picking.

Also not surprisingly, PolitiFact leaves out crucial facts in its reporting (mistakenly, or dare I ask, deliberately?), prompting it to give erroneous assessments. A case in point: when it attempted to evaluate whether something that commentator Reza Aslan said was true. Azlan responded to an insinuation made by comedian and commentator Bill Maher that female genital mutilation is an Islamic problem. Azlan said that it’s actually “a central African problem.”

Who was right – Maher, or Azlan?

PolitiFact deputy editor Katie Sanders claimed that “Azlan’s larger point – that this is not a problem in only Muslim countries – is valid. Countries with majority-Christian populations also carry out this practice, while Islamic-majority countries like Iraq and Yemen have rates on the lower side. We rate Aslan’s claim Mostly True.”

In her research, did Ms. Sanders not come across the report, “FGM in Ethiopia”? It’s one of the first things that comes up when one does a Google search using the keywords “female genital mutilation Muslim Christian Ethiopia.”

The report states:

“FGM is practiced by both of the main religions in Ethiopia – Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Muslim groups are more likely to practice FGM than Christian groups, with the prevalence among Muslim communities being 65.1% and that among Orthodox Christians being 45%. The prevalence of FGM among Muslims is not only higher but is also changing more slowly.”

That’s a crucial point, indicating that while FGM exists among both Muslim and Christian populations in Africa, it’s more common among Muslim populations. This means that within countries where FGM is practiced, there could be something about the Muslim religion that either encourages the practice, or that prompts people to tolerate it to a greater extent. (Or, there could be something about the Muslim religion that causes economic development to occur more slowly compared with areas where other religions predominate, resulting in more widespread practice of primitive and repulsive customs such as FGM.)

Maher only implied that FGM is an Islamic problem, and didn’t directly characterize it as exclusively an Islamic problem. As FGM is more common among Muslim populations, Maher’s claim was mostly true. Hence Aslan’s claim was mostly untrue. So PolitiFact was mostly wrong.

 

AP and Fox News Make Big Grammatical Mistake

A stark manifestation of our increasingly atheistic and anti-religious culture is the frequent writing of God in lowercase. It’s quite common among people who aren’t writing professionals, e.g. users of social media or those who post their comments to articles.

Now, even writing professionals are carrying out the practice. They’re willing to break the rules of grammar in an apparent effort to snub God and religion.

An article by the Associated Press and picked up by Foxnews.com describes a particularly disturbing murder in which a father allegedly threw his four-year-old daughter off a cliff.

Outside the courthouse the girl’s mother, Sarah Key-Marer, declared “Lauren was our gift from God, the best thing that ever happened to us.” But in the article it was written as, “Lauren was our gift from god, the best thing that ever happened to us.”

It’s likely that God was lowercase in the original AP article and Fox News left it that way. It’s always possible that God was uppercase in the original and Fox News changed it to lower case. Assuming the former, then the writer of the article, the AP editor, and the Fox News editor not only insulted God and people of faith, they also made an egregious grammatical error.

Sarah Key-Marer wasn’t referring to a Hindu god or some other pagan god. She no doubt was referring to God – the monotheistic God so ingrained in our culture. God is a proper noun, and proper nouns (e.g. names of persons and places) should always be written in uppercase.

What if AP would have written, “The bracelet was our gift from susan.” Or, “The necklace was our gift from mom.” And what if Fox News would have left it that way when they ran the article? It would have been obvious that they made a grammatical mistake.

Or, maybe the writer and editors consciously made a grammatical mistake but so loathed Susan, or so loathed Mom, that they wanted to insult them by writing their names in lowercase, regardless of the damage to their reputation as good stewards of the English language. Even such widely reviled figures as Hitler and Osama bin Laden get their names written in uppercase, as they should.

So why write God’s name in lowercase?

Maybe the AP and Fox News writers and editors are atheists and think that God is fictitious. Then they’re still in the wrong. Names of fictitious persons, such as Alice of Alice in Wonderland, are still written in uppercase.

My bet is that they wrote God in lowercase because they so loathe or disrespect people of faith, and/or are so committed to the atheist cause, that they want to send a clear message. Not only are they damaging their reputations as good stewards of the English language, but if God does exists, then they could be setting themselves up for a very rude awakening when they’re finished up with this life.

Courses on Christianity by a Christ-Naysayer

There are a lot of book authors arguing in favor of the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. There don’t see to be many authors, however, who’ve made a name for themselves arguing against those assertions. One such author, though, is UNC-Chapel Hill professor Bart D. Ehrman. It seems whenever anyone wants to challenge a Christian apologist, or hold a debate between a Christian apologist and a contrary spokesperson, they turn to Dr. Ehrman. (Is there no one else to whom they can turn? Are the arguments against the authenticity of the Gospels so weak that so few researchers are prepared to defend that position?)

You may be familiar with The Great Courses – the audio lecture series with hundreds of courses in a variety of disciplines, presented by prominent professors. The Great Courses has several courses on Christianity, including History of the Bible, How Jesus Became God, A History of Early Christianity, Historical Jesus, The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History, and The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

Those constitute a large portion if not the majority of their courses on Christianity. And guess who’s the lecturer for all of the aforementioned courses: yep, none other than Bart Ehrman.

To be sure, The Great Courses has another course relating to Christianity, The History of the Catholic Church, taught by a professor who’s a Catholic himself. So they aren’t all religion-bashers there.

But Dr. Ehrman certainly is. Calling himself both an atheist and agnostic, he’s produced voluminous literature arguing against the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. The Freedom from Religion Foundation even presented him with their Emperor Has No Clothes award last year. See here and here.

It’s obvious that this is a man with an axe to grind.

A less controversial lecturer would be preferred – at the very least someone who is coy about whether or not he or she believes in the divinity of Christ.

In their bio of him, it behooves The Great Courses to add that among Dr. Ehrman’s awards is the above-mentioned one from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Update: Having listened to Ehrman’s History of Early Christianity, it turns out that his presentation was more objective than I had expected. In any case, his FFRF association should still be in his bio.

 

 

Morning Chatter Worth Ignoring

Major newspapers often are criticized for disguising opinion stories as news stories on their front page. It seems safe to assume that one news outlet, called GlobalPost, embraces that style of journalism, making no bones about mixing news and opinion.

It distributes an e-mail called GlobalPost Morning Chatter. Its Dec. 15, 2014 edition focused on the hostage standoff in Sydney, Australia, perpetrated by an Islamic militant. But the news story morphs into a broadside on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot. The first salvo is packed with irony – criticizing his tough-on-terrorism stance as a terrorist incident plays out in real time. They write,

“Abbott has also repeatedly spoken of the potential threat of Islamic terrorism in Australia. He ordered counterterrorism in Sydney’s suburbs in September, raised the country’s terror alert, and broadened police powers to arrest terror “suspects.” These moves by the conservative prime minister have been heavily criticized both at home and abroad.”

That last sentence was unabashed editorializing. An objective journalist would have added that his moves have been praised as well, going into a little detail regarding both the praise and criticism. And the word “suspects” is in quotes, indicating that the person who wrote the article for some reason doesn’t consider them as actual suspects. That’s a bold insinuation that warrants an explanation. But alas, no explanation is given.

The current hostage incident is an obvious argument in favor of Abbot’s tough-on-terrorism stance – that he has proven to be prescient in repeatedly speaking about the threat of Islamic terrorism in Australia. Yet the article is written in such a way as to be critical of that stance. I suppose one could make the tortured argument that cracking down on terrorism actually could spark certain acts of terrorism, but the GlobalPost writer certainly doesn’t.

And it gets worse from there – incredibly, GlobalPost Morning Chatter uses the hostage news hook to pooh-pooh Mr. Abbot’s environmental, social, economic, and immigration policies.

Any discerning reader can see that this is one shoddy piece of journalism. Previously, GlobalPost Morning Chatter appeared to be straight news on international events, peppered with a little flair. Unfortunately, that flair has morphed into raw partisanship.

Washington Post: Shielding You from Embarrassing Obama Aministration News

news shield of the washington postThe reality of media bias particularly stands out when observing which stories the media choose not to cover. When embarrassing information about the Obama administration comes to light, they often ignore it altogether. That characterizes what the Washington Post – and other media outlets – is doing now.

There’s a big story about a “smoking gun” e-mail sent by White House deputy national security director two years ago, in which he urged Obama administration officials to attribute the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, in which the U.S. ambassador was killed, to a spontaneous uprising stemming from anger over a YouTube video about Mohammed. The blame was misplaced: the terrorist attack actually was a pre-planned, coordinated operation by paramilitary personnel.

Not only was such a strategy wrongheaded at the time, but compounding the wrongdoing, the administration did not disclose the e-mail when Congress asked for such information. It only came to light under a recent Freedom of Information request.

But in yesterday’s and today’s print editions of the Washington Post, the story is nowhere to be found. Not even a mention of it in “news in brief”. The only place I came across it in the Post was in the form of an online blog post by a right-leaning commentator.

That’s doing a real disservice to its readers. The Post shouldn’t be shielding them from important information, even though it may be embarrassing to their beloved administration. A good news organization, of course, should report the good and the bad. To be sure, sometimes when a story gets so big, such a publication is almost forced to cover it, which could happen with this story. But the story is already plenty large enough to warrant is coverage.

Perhaps the Post is catering to the whims of the majority of its readers, who also don’t want to read news embarrassing to the administration. In that case the Post is just aiming to be a pleasure center, not a hard-nosed information center.

In countries where there’s government censorship, there are plenty of stories in the media. What’s notable, though, is the lack of stories embarrassing to or critical of the government. The WaPo example shows that in free societies, the same thing can happen in certain publications – albeit imposed by the employees of those publications, rather than by the government.

A Columnist’s Calumny

The left is outraged at Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen for writing that “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)”

Then, in attempting to defend himself, he slanders a whole segment of the population by writing, “What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people.”

The affront is multi-fold. interracialHe calls tea party people “extreme.” That’s corruption of the English language. Since when is it “extreme” to want to reduce our burgeoning national debt and slow the rate of government spending, which is mainly what the tea party is all about? The true meaning of the word extreme, in a political sense, is to describe people who carry out violence for political ends.

The other smear is that tea partiers are against interracial marriage. He provides zero evidence to back that up.

Yes, distressingly, there are still folks out there who are opposed to interracial marriage. And you know what? For whites, they’re split about evenly among Democrats and Republicans – 12.5 percent of the former and 11.4 percent of the latter for the years 2000-2010, according to one survey. (The numbers for all races are 9.3 and 11.6 percent respectively. Among blacks, curiously, the numbers are 2 percent for black Democrats versus 13 percent for black Republicans, but one wonders whether there was an error. Why would black Republicans be against blacks marrying whites? You’d think if anyone, that would characterize black nationalists, who certainly aren’t card-carrying Republicans.)

About a year ago MSNBC host Chris Hayes got himself into trouble when he declared that racist Americans “almost entirely” are Republicans. Then a few days later, to his credit, he apologized and pointed out that those opposing interracial marriage are split about evenly among Democrats and Republicans.

Richard Cohen, are you as honest a journalist as Chris Hayes? If so, it’s time for you to apologize as well.

The Left Abhors Fox News’ Constructive Criticism of Them

The vitriol on the left against Fox News is astonishing. What’s going on here is the natural human tendency to not like hearing constructive criticism. Just as people don’t like to hear pitfalls pointed out to them about their behavior or their actions, those on the left don’t like to hear pitfalls pointed out to them about their political worldview or that of people they admire. It’s a natural human trait the world over.

And that’s why in the majority of countries of the world, like in Venezuela  – where the last opposition television station is finally throwing in the towel after tremendous harassment from the government – Fox News would be shut down in a heartbeat by the powers that be who don’t like hearing constructive criticism. Fortunately we in this country have freedom of the press.

It and other right-leaning news outlets run stories that left-leaning news outlets would never run because those stories may be critical of or embarrassing to the left. That’s galling to the left, which is why the invective against Fox News is so intense.

Certainly, as in all news outlets, one could find areas of legitimate criticism, such as lack of coverage of a certain something, biased coverage of something, or what not. But the broad-based name-calling and efforts to try to pass it off as a “faux” news or “propaganda” organization is rampant. To the left, such “propaganda” is simply legitimate news that they would rather not hear.

I got into a Facebook back-and-forth on this topic. After expressing my disapproval of a Facebook friend (whose identity has been withheld to protect the innocent) “liking” a foul-mouthed, hate-filled Jim Carrey press release directed against Fox News, he acknowledged my point and “unliked” the press release, but then went off into a tirade against Fox News, calling it “faux” news, a propaganda outfit, and – this was a new one on me – even a cult.

I asked him to jump to Foxnews.com and tell me now the dozens stories posted on its website aren’t legitimate news. (True, even I would take issue with some of its gossip/celebrity coverage as being legitimate news, but that certainly isn’t part of the left’s gripe with it.)

The only thing he offered up was a story on the big controversy surrounding Google’s decision to highlight in its logo the leftist labor leader Cesar Chavez on Easter Sunday. I pointed out to him that that wasn’t faux news or propaganda, but rather legitimate news. When Google, which usually dresses up its logo with a theme relating to the particular big holiday, instead highlights something totally unrelated to that holiday, then that’s big news. It didn’t even show an Easter bunny.

My Facebook friend didn’t provide a counter-argument. Conclusion? That the Google story, and the dozens of other stories (except perhaps some of the gossip coverage) were not propaganda, not faux, not a cult, but legitimate news.

Adding a Log to the Distrust of the Media Fire

Overwhelming majorities of Americans say they don’t trust the media because of instances like this:

In covering remarks by President Obama, NPR reporter Ari Shapiro commented, “The American people agree with the president’s solution to the problem, combining spending cuts with tax revenues. Even a majority of Republican voters support that approach.”

That statement is suspect. It appears to be based on old polls taken prior to the Jan. 1 tax hike. I did a Google search for polls taken within the last month regarding support for further tax increases, and came up dry.

Moreover, you’ve probably noticed that any commentary that NPR adds to news stories, such as in this instance, is leftward biased. They want to try to make the listener think that the tax increases are right because that’s what “the American people” supposedly want.

Prior to conducting open heart surgery, does a heart surgeon take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best way to conduct the operation? Prior to building a bridge, does a bridge engineer take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best method to construct it? Prior to designing a new piece of software, does a computer programmer take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best software code to use?

So if the American people as a whole aren’t qualified to offer advice on the nitty-gritty of surgery, engineering, or computer programming, what makes NPR think that the American people are qualified to offer advice on the nitty-gritty of economics? Raising taxes is an intensely economic undertaking, with economists going to years of schooling in order to best analyze what effects raising taxes will have on the economy and society.

Moreover, of course a majority of the American people would like to sock it to the rich. Such a thought is emotionally satisfying to most people. Shadenfreude, particularly directed at the rich, is a common human trait. But economic policy should not be based on emotion, especially based on the emotions of a majority of the American people. In other words, NPR’s commentary that it snuck into its news story is not only suspect in terms of its accuracy, but it’s also absurd.

 

If the NYT Won’t Expose It, Then Someone Has To

The New York Times is complaining that the inquiry on Democratic Senator Menendez over allegations of soliciting prostitutes in the Dominican Republic “started with a partisan push.” The reformist-leaning (some people call it conservative-leaning) National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) apparently was first to uncover the alleged hanky-panky. The Times writes that the episode “illustrates the often-hidden role that partisan players have in helping push the major news media to dig into ethical allegations lodged against sitting members of Congress.”

The tone is the article suggests that exposing wrongdoing of lefties by groups funded by righties is scandalous in and of itself. Of course, oftentimes the only way wrongdoing by lefties is ever going to be exposed is through right-leaning investigators. It’s obvious that the New York Times didn’t take the lead in investigating and exposing the story, and there’s a reason for that.

Given that the vast majority of news outlets consist of left-leaning employees, they’re significantly less eager to dig up dirt on their allies in the political world. So if they’re not going to do it, then someone has to. That’s why there are watchdog groups like NLPC.