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Archive for October, 2010

Don’t Let the Statehouse Door Hit You on the Way Out

October 27, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2010

English Gubernatorial Elections 2010 in the Un...
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Amidst the embarras de richesses of House and Senate seat pickups Republicans anticipate this midterm election cycle, one plum reward they shouldn’t forget is their likely aggressive gains in gubernatorial contests across the country.

A record-breaking 37 states are holding governor’s races this November—the same number of seats open in the Senate, which has twice the number of positions as the country has governorships.  Republicans hold 24 out of 50 governorships but will probably have at least 30 after November 2.  RealClearPolitics identifies 9 elections as “Safe GOP” and none as “Safe Dem.”  Republicans beat Democrats in the “Likely” category (5 to 4) and the “Leans” category (7 to 5).

Rasmussen Reports notes, “No states with a Republican governor are considered likely to elect a Democrat in November.  But eight states now headed by Democrats—Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming—are seen as likely GOP pickups.”

The allocation of governorships is important in and of itself, but also has implications for the U.S. House of Representatives, given the role of governors in reapportioning districts for House seats based on the 2010 Census.

GOP prospects aren’t universally rosy.  Forget loose cannon Carl Paladino, who was never going to win blue state New York; or Meg Whitman, a celebri-billionaire like Governor Schwarzenegger who doesn’t fit the profile of what voters are looking for in fickle, atypical California.  But in the rest of the country, the map of governorships is turning blood red.

Massachusetts incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick faces a shockingly close reelection race: the latest Boston Globe poll shows him ahead of Republican Charles Baker only within the statistical margin of error.  Patrick has yet to reach 50% support in the polls—typically the kiss of death for an incumbent.  And all of this is happening in the presence of a third-party candidate, Timothy Cahill, who is drawing more votes from Baker than Patrick.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel reports that Republican and even Democratic candidates are pledging to emulate the modus operandi of recently elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has stood up to powerful unions, slashed spending, and vetoed tax increases.

Rhode Island Democratic candidate Frank Caprio has tried to improve his chances by (1) rudely distancing himself from President Barack Obama, (2) being more conservative than former Republican/current Independent competitor Lincoln Chafee, and (3) meeting with Republican leaders in Washington over the objections of state Democratic groups.

In order to complete their gubernatorial coup d’état, the GOP will of course have to beat back the 30% of the populace who constitute the terminally, willfully, irredeemably ignorant—what Mark Levin calls the “drones.”

In the close Ohio governor’s race, voters who favor Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland demonstrated their firm grasp of the issues and fine deductive powers in a series of interviews with the Toledo Blade.  Resident Heather Elliott, who favors Strickland, babbled, “I kind of like everything that he stands for.  I think he’s going to do what we need, and I just have a good feeling about him…  A lot of the [Strickland] commercials I have seen, maybe fair or unfair, they have swayed me against him.”  Fair or unfair—it’s all the same when it comes to recruiting potential Democratic voters!  That’s in the Democratic National Committee bylaws.

In one breath, would-be voter Elliott displays: (1) vagueness about her reasons for supporting the Democrat, (2) a propensity to vote for the Democrat on the basis of emotion, and (3) an admission that the Democrat’s negative ads are unfair.  Remind me: why are we always encouraging people who have no idea what they’re doing to vote?

Fellow Ohio resident Gwen Frisby favors Strickland, despite Ohio’s miserable financial condition, because “It’s almost more that I don’t like how the Republicans are acting toward him.”  Yes, and Frisby probably supports Obama’s destructive policies because it’s almost more that she doesn’t like how the Republicans are acting toward him.

Genius independent voter Lillian Edmondson gushes that she will support Patrick in Taxachusettstan because “I think he tries hard.  He comes across as a very nice man…”  California voter Paula Bennett muses that she will favor Jerry Brown over Whitman because “I like the little guy; he didn’t have the money behind him like she did.”

Ideologically speaking, one has to wonder: are governorships a more natural fit for Republicans, and Congressional offices a more natural fit for Democrats?  In modern political times, Republicans have done relatively better capturing and retaining governorships, whereas Democrats have done better in Congress.  Is this because governors have more of what we shall call, oh, “actual responsibilities”?  Without diminishing Congress’s duties, it’s a fact that governors have to balance state budgets, can’t order the Federal Reserve to print more money while they run up infinite balance sheets, and must make tough and unpopular unilateral decisions without hiding in a crowd.

Though voter discontent this year seems focused mostly on Washington—thus Democratic Senators and Representatives’ perilous election prospects—Republican governors’ elevated chances around the country shouldn’t be surprising.  Christie and Bob McDonnell’s upset of their opponents in special elections in New Jersey and Virginia foreshadowed this pattern last November, when Obama had been in office only 10 months instead of 22.  And that was before Congress rammed through ObamaCare.

All across America it seems voters this year will be telling Democratic gubernatorial candidates to take their agenda and shove it.

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Obama Misquoted: “I Looked Fierce on the Cover of The Advocate!”

October 20, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gay Rights

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President Barack Obama demonstrated his pro-gay credentials last week by having Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett renounce comments she had made that 15-year-old gay suicide victim Justin Aaberg had been bullied because of a “lifestyle choice” he had made.

Obama backed up Jarrett by announcing at an MTV townhall meeting that being gay is “not a choice,” thus discovering something Ronald Reagan figured out 32 years ago.

The remarks topped off a busy week of fierce advocacy from our Fierce Advocate for gay rights, coming as it did after Obama’s Justice Department filed a fierce brief appealing U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and an advocatory brief appealing U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips’ injunction against Pentagon enforcement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).

The administration evidently hates DADT so much that it disobeyed Philips’ injunction and upheld the law by allowing a Texas recruiting station to refuse reenlistment to decorated veteran Omar Lopez, who had been ousted after five years of service in the Navy for “homosexual admission.”

Obama has been insisting that DADT “will end on my watch.”  Given his actions over the past year-and-a-half, perhaps what he really means is that when someone—anyone—other than him takes steps to repeal it, he’ll be “sure to watch.”

Meanwhile, evidence for the administration’s ludicrous claim that immediate lifting of the ban will have “enormous consequences” for the military has yet to materialize.

In the midst of all this fierce advocacy, the national gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) won an actual victory last Tuesday, in the form of Phillips’ injunction against DADT, the next step in the resolution of the case LCR had successfully filed opposing the policy.

LCR and fellow gay conservative group GOProud also called out New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino for his lunkheaded complaints to a group of conservative orthodox rabbis in the Bronx that homosexuality was not a “successful or valid” option and that schools shouldn’t “brainwash” students into accepting it.

The effect of denouncements by these and other Republican groups was that Paladino almost entirely walked back his comments within 24 hours of being criticized, concluding with this statement on Tuesday—“I am 100 percent unequivocally pro gay rights, except for one thing: gay marriage”—which, if true, technically puts him on the same place on the political spectrum on gay issues as Obama.  (A report late last week that Paladino had once been the landlord for two popular Buffalo gay clubs, Cobalt and Buddies II, arguably makes him even more fabulous than Obama.)

Paladino remarked, “I’ve been a high supporter of the gay community my entire career and I will continue to be.  The Log Cabin people know that.  The gay community in Buffalo knows that.  They know my nature and they know the way I’ve been.  The real message is getting out.”

As regressive as Paladino is in his personal beliefs, he is indisputably more susceptible to moderation on gay issues than his rival Andrew Cuomo is on taxes, government regulation, and state interference in economic matters.  Did I miss Cuomo’s public statement asserting, “I’ve been a high supporter of the Constitution and limited government my entire career and I will continue to be.  The Tea Party people know that.  The conservatives in Albany know that.  They know my nature and they know the way I’ve been.  The real message is getting out.”

Paladino’s reversal cost him the endorsement of Rabbi Yehuda Levin, leader of the Orthodox Jewish community to whom Paladino originally made his statements on homosexuality, thus negating the effect of his making the comments in the first place.

Anyway, what role will Paladino actually have in gay issues in his (self-declared) one term as governor, except for vetoing gay marriage should it pass (he has stated he will uphold it if decided in a referendum)?  In contrast, is Cuomo as susceptible to withdrawing his support for crippling taxes on high earners, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, etc., in the 12 terms he’ll serve if voted into office?

Paladino’s lieutenant governor candidate Greg Edwards similarly demonstrated his loathing of gays by attending a Log Cabin political action committee fundraiser at the Soldiers’ Sailors’ Marines’ Coast Guard & Airmen’s Club in Manhattan last Tuesday, the day Paladino apologized for his comments.  The event’s speakers included New York Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox and two pro-gay marriage Republican New York State Assembly members, as well as Republican minority leader B. Dean Skelos, who promised to bring gay marriage back up for a vote if the GOP becomes the majority party next year and urged all Republicans to feel free to “vote their conscience.”

In other recent Republicans-are-doing-more-for-gays-than-Obama news, Republican-appointed Republican judge Vaughn Walker overturned the anti-gay marriage referendum Prop 8 in California two months ago.  The lawsuit was filed by the two lawyers who argued Bush v. Gore in 2000, and the effort was spearheaded by one of them (hint: it was the Republican).

The growing list of prominent Republicans who support same-sex marriage now includes: Dick Cheney, Ted Olson, Laura Bush, Glenn Beck, Cindy McCain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The list of Democrats who oppose gay marriage still includes: Barack Obama.

For 20 months, the Obama administration has been steadily doing everything it can to bolster the case that Democratic politicians are no better on gay issues than Republican politicians.  Last week was merely a banner week for Obama’s demonstration of this fact.

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Banksy Gets Bankrolled by “The Simpsons”

October 18, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Banksy Krusty
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Anonymous leftist hipster graffiti artist Banksy has made a name for himself painting agitprop scenes on walls and bridges throughout his native Bristol, London, and other international locations.

Banksy is recognized for his mostly black-and-white, stenciling technique resembling that of fellow American artist Shepard “Hope” Fairey and old Soviet propaganda posters.  His painted scenes advocate the panoply of progressive causes, such as pushing for health care reform, climate change legislation, nature, and peace; bemoaning war, the police, corporate control, the commodification of art, poverty, the displacement of Native Americans, and Hurricane Katrina; and idolizing Charles Manson.  A recent series of wall paintings on the Israel-Palestinian border protested security measures Israel took to protect itself against suicide bombers.

To commemorate the Copenhagen Climate Summit in November 2009, Banksy painted four murals along Regent’s Canal in London, one of which declared “I DON’T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING” in red letters, the last two words partly submerged below the water line.  This was supposed to be a statement about man-made climate change, and while it likely had little impact, it arguably yielded more efficacious results than the summit itself.

Recently Banksy was invited to help storyboard the introductory “couch gag” for “The Simpsons,” which aired last Sunday.

The opening credit sequence begins with a few clues foreshadowing the Banksy material.  The bird that flies across the screen in the opening shot is carrying a rat, one of Banksy’s favorite icons.  “BANKSY” is spray painted over a billboard advertising Krusty the Klown’s funeral business.  Bart is writing “I must not write all over the walls” all over the chalkboard and walls of the classroom.  “BANKSY” is tagged on the wall outside the school.

After the Simpsons sit down in their living room, the familiar couch scene pans out and becomes a color image on the wall of a dreary, black-and-white factory.  Rows of forlorn, sickly Chinese women slave away hand-painting animation cels, while guards stand by and a sorrowful Communist-sounding melody with a chorus of wailing voices serenades them.  The completed frames are passed to a barefooted waif who carries them one-by-one to an oil drum, climbs to the top of the drum, and dips them in a bubbling, green, toxic substance to preserve them before hanging them on a clothesline to dry.  On the ground are a pile of human skulls and bones; a rat pulls out one bone and drags it away.

The camera pans through a hole in the floor to an elaborate, multilevel, wooden walkway leading downward into the cave-like depths of the factory.  Children push racks of brightly colored Simpsons T-shirts along the walkway, sparsely placed candles their only lighting.

In the basement, workers throw live caged kittens into a shredding machine that turns them into stuffing, which another worker uses to fill cloth Bart Simpson dolls.  The worker tosses the dolls into a wheelbarrow attached to a decrepit-looking panda, which wearily hauls the boxes away.

A man uses a primitive sealing device, consisting of the jaw and tongue of a massacred porpoise, to close up boxes of merchandise for shipment.  Finally, a child pokes holes through the centers of Simpsons DVDs using a sharp post that turns out to be the horn of a chained unicorn, which flops to the ground in exhaustion.

The view pans out to a dreary 20th Century Fox logo made of stained limestone instead of the traditional gold, and flanked by tall, barbed-wire-topped chain-link fences.

There’s so much to laugh at in this ludicrously over-the-top montage that it’s hard to know where to start.  First of all, “The Simpsons” outsources most of its animation to free presidential republic South Korea, not communist state China.  Executive producer Al Jean pointed out for the literal-minded, “I have to say, [Banksy’s opening is] very fanciful, far-fetched.  None of the things he depicts are true.  That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.”  (Meanwhile, The New York Times is covering up for its latest Jayson Blair protégé in the Foreign Affairs section, who saw the intro and wrote a story on sweatshops grounded in his “on location” reporting.)

In addition, there’s the hypocrisy inherent in the fact that Banksy, who once declared, “We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles,” sells reproductions of hundreds of his works and uses various agents to represent his monetary interests.  Banksy is reportedly 36 years old, but demonstrates all the maturity and consistency of an 18-year-old trust fund brat who joins the college socialism club his freshman year.

Banksy ignores other unexamined questions and assumptions implicit in his work.  Who, for example, is responsible for working and living conditions being so awful in the China he depicts—the United States or the Communist Chinese government?  What other horrific jobs would these workers be doing, and for how much less money, if they weren’t painting cartoons and dyeing images on Simpsons T-shirts for an American company?

Did these workers take these jobs voluntarily, or were they forced into them via slavery?  Are they free to leave at any time, if factory conditions are so horrendous or if they think they can find better, higher paying work elsewhere?  Doesn’t the fact that they take jobs with American companies suggest that these companies’ conditions and wages—though understandably lower than in Western countries—are superior to those available in Chinese companies?

Is Banksy’s intro supposed to be some kind of statement on the evils of outsourcing?  The cultural imperialism of the West?  The drudgery involved in hand-drawn animation?

Like the rest of Banksy’s work, and that of most other hopey-changey “political artists” these days, the message is unfocused, emotion-based, incoherent, and specious.

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Bigotry In Between Every Line

October 13, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Racism

“I’m particularly offended by these people who want to take the nation back…  If you read the Republican Contract with America, you can see the bigotry in between every line.”Maida Odom, “One Nation Working Together” rally attendee, October 2, 2010

In a desperate, last-ditch attempt to salvage their miserable midterm election prospects, Democrats have been tarnishing Republicans and Tea Partiers with the smear of—wait for it… racism!

Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth…

At a recent rally in Philadelphia, President Barack Obama warned the audience, “They’re counting on young people staying home and union members staying home and black folks staying home.”  Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Harold Jackson declared that the Tea Party is the ignorant, Negrophobic reincarnation of the pro-slavery wing of the Know Nothing Party.

Zora Neale Hurston, Ida B. Wells, Roy Innis, Eldridge Cleaver, Samuel B. Fuller…

Actually, Democrats have been crying racism throughout Obama’s whole presidency.  For example, New York Times columnist Frank Rich has been using this trick to try to fool Americans into thinking conservatives oppose ObamaCare because they don’t like black people such as bill architects Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Maureen Dowd proposed that Joe Wilson’s exclamation regarding coverage for illegal Mexican immigrants was… anti-black.  Leftist civil rights leaders sullied their reputations by falsely accusing Tea Party protestors of calling Representative John Lewis the N-word and spitting on Representative Emanuel Cleaver.  Obama supporter Henry Louis Gates, Jr. falsely accused a poor working-class cop in Massachusetts of racial profiling.

Martin Luther King, Sr., Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Alveda King…

Democrats have been playing the race card since even before Obama was elected, as in their ludicrous claim that failure to elect Obama would lead to race riots.  Such efforts have done miracles for Obama’s promised improvement in race relations: Rasmussen recently reported that perceptions about black-white relations have gotten much more pessimistic since Obama took office.

Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Shelby Steele, Mychal Massie, Deroy Murdock, John McWhorter, Erik Rush…

To hear Democrats tell it, you would think there were no African American historical figures, civil rights leaders, commentators, politicians, judges, authors, athletes, or celebrities who are Republican, conservative, libertarian, right-leaning, or Tea Party supporters.  Or if there are, that they’re all misguided, brainwashed Uncle Toms.

Armstrong Williams, Lloyd Marcus, Stanley Crouch, Angela McGlowan, Amy Holmes, Sonja Schmidt, Alfonzo Rachel…

You might also be forgiven for thinking that such organizations as the National Black Republican Association and The Alliance of Black Republicans were apocryphal, mere fictional entities.

J. C. Watts, Gary Franks, Alan Keyes, Lynn Swann, Ken Blackwell, Rod Paige, Allen West, Star Parker, Tim Scott, Ryan Frazier, Isaac Hayes, Robert Broadus…

Because Democrats view individuals as voting blocs and interest groups to be Balkanized along racial and ethnic lines, they’ve been caught engaging in some appalling acts in recent years.  Since Obama took office, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of the NAACP applauding Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod for reporting that she had once racially discriminated against a white farmer; Barbara Boxer condescendingly lumping ideologically opposed black groups together based on skin color; and Bill Clinton defending Robert Byrd’s Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops positions as necessary for getting elected to public office as a Southern Democrat.

Clarence Thomas, Janice Rogers Brown, Ward Connerly, Colin Powell, Michael Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Steele…

It’s hard to discern who exactly is supposed to be offended by these smears.  Any thinking black person is surely aware of the black conservative movement, and any unthinking black person is clearly uninterested in the movement and mindlessly committed to the Democratic Party.

Jackie Robinson, Don King, Ernie Banks, Karl Malone, Jerome Bettis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Herschel Walker…

And any thinking non-black person waits for leftists to produce actual evidence of conservative racism and reserves judgment until that time.  Any non-thinking non-black person is happy to accept lies about Republicans spread by race hucksters and reject evidence to the contrary.

James Earl Jones, Jimmie Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, L. L. Cool J, 50 Cent…

When accusations of racism are thrown around often enough, with as little evidence as they typically are, in place of discussion of the issues people really care about, the net effect can only hurt one-trick pony politicians who know that running on their record and their positions will hurt rather than help them.

…and on and on and on and on.

But if Democrats want to spend their dwindling political capital on a charge so old and worn-out even they don’t believe it, hey—I won’t let myself be prejudiced against their strategy.

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More Gun Crimes, Less Sanity About Gun Control

October 06, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gun Control

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Every time a gun crime happens in this country, the mainstream media give it sensationalistic coverage, and liberals cover their mouths with their hands like little girls and then remove them and start howling about the necessity of even more gun control legislation than the historically high levels we have now.

As the just published third edition of John Lott’s classic More Guns, Less Crime exhaustively demonstrates, liberals are moving in exactly the wrong direction in their zeal to stop gun crime.

Lott’s central thesis is that (1) criminals are less likely to commit violent crimes if they know there are significant numbers of concealed carry permit holders with weapons, (2) gun restrictions make it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns for self-defense, (3) gun restrictions have no effect on criminals’ intent or ability to obtain weapons, and (4) gun restrictions thus disarm only potential crime victims, whereas reduced gun restrictions arm citizens and frighten off criminals.

Lott supports his hypothesis via mountains of data analyzed at the national, state, and county level, looking at both overall rates of crimes and the more relevant changes in trends before and after permissive nondiscretionary laws are passed.  He examines multiple categories of crime including murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.  He shows that his results hold, both controlling and not controlling for every demographic variable under the sun, as well as unrelated but important crime rate indicators such as arrest rates, policing strategies, and national trends.

Lott shows that the number of accidental deaths from increased possession of licensed weapons is so minor that it is dwarfed by the number of additional lives saved via increased citizen defense against would-be criminals.

Lott notes the astonishing fact that loosening gun restrictions has had such a positive impact on reducing states’ crime rates over the last two decades that not a single state legislature has even scheduled a debate on repealing nondiscretionary gun laws once they have been passed.

In her semiweekly snarkfest in The New York Times, Gail Collins frequently mocks pro-gun legislators for opposing the slightest, most seemingly inconsequential gun control restrictions, such as not recognizing permits across state lines, banning guns in national parks, and instituting gun show sales regulations.

In fact, Lott’s book just about literally shows that having as many law-abiding citizens with permits as possible, with as few restrictions on obtaining and keeping permits as possible, and the carrying of concealed weapons allowed in as many places as possible, reduces crime to the greatest degree.

For example, Lott finds that murder, robbery, and aggravated assault all increase in states that adopt “one-gun-a-month” rules, and that rape increases after the imposition of a mandatory waiting period.  Rape, robbery, and burglary rates increase in states that pass “safe-storage” rules, and rape increased significantly after the adoption of the 1994 anti-gun Brady law.  The number of permits in a state significantly predicts reduced crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and violent crime overall.

Lott’s findings are instructive in light of the recent University of Texas-Austin shooting, in which college sophomore Colton Tooley unleashed a hail of bullets from his semiautomatic weapon onto students in the street, then headed to the library and shot himself.  The shooting echoed the infamous 1966 shooting on the university’s campus, in which student Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck of the UT clock tower and fired into the crowd, killing 13 people and injuring 2.

UT Austin, like most college campuses, doesn’t allow concealed carry gun permits for students or even security guards.  The state legislature introduced a bill to allow such permits in 2009, but Democrats defeated it.  Republican state senators plan to reintroduce the bill in the 2011 session.  The recent UT Austin shooting could have been prevented or mitigated by the widespread knowledge on campus that guards and possibly students were carrying concealed weapons.

But the Associated Press reported anti-gun nut John Woods, genius graduate student (and major in a field other than logic), saying, “I can’t think of any way that the situation yesterday would have been improved by additional guns.”  Hmm… maybe one of the additional gun holders could have threatened or shot the attacker before he sprayed more bullets into the crowd?  Or maybe the gunman wouldn’t have pulled his crazy stunt if he had known there were numerous law-abiding permit holders on campus with concealed weapons ready to stop him?

Woods should know better, given that he was attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute during its 2007 mass shooting—another bloody massacre that could have been prevented or mitigated if the school had allowed guns on campus and one in which several of Woods’ friends were among the 32 killed.

Lott’s book, whose foundational empirical study was comprehensive and prescient enough to be capable of answering virtually every possible objection when it first came out in 1998 (in a chapter containing detailed responses to two dozen hypothetical counterarguments to his work), responded to critics’ actual arguments in the second edition in 2000, and to additional arguments in the third edition released this year.  Lott did so via references to his original analyses, new analyses done on the original data, new analyses done on new data, and new analyses done on critics’ data.  Thus, the most recent More Guns bears the distinction of featuring Lott’s defense against critics of his defense against critics of his defense against critics of his original study.  I think he’s pretty well answered any fair and reasonable person’s concerns by now.

Lott concludes More Guns, 3rd edition thusly: “The gun-control debate has changed dramatically over the last decade.  In the past the question was how much guns caused crime.  The debate now is over whether there are benefits from gun ownership and how large those benefits are” (emphasis added).

He’s wrong about the debate over whether there are benefits from gun ownership—Lott’s work has conclusively settled the matter.

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The Social Network: Glorifying Litigation Over Innovation

October 04, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

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Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Leftists hate movies about business, because they don’t understand its function and believe wealth is generated by redistributing it from rich people who “appropriated” it from the masses.

Leftists love movies about lawyers, because litigation is the primary means by which they can take down prosperous corporations and “spread the wealth around.”

No business venture was ever launched on the primary basis of deciding who would get what profits if the undertaking were successful.  No litigation to determine who gets what for his role in a venture was ever instrumental in helping an undertaking succeed.

“The Social Network,” the recent film about the founding of Facebook, could have been an exciting, uplifting, inspiring, rags-to-riches story about a young entrepreneur who started a $25 billion company and became the youngest billionaire ever, and the creative steps he went through in solving thorny design, implementation, and managerial problems.

Instead, Hollywood has given us a nasty, cynical, exploitative yarn about slimy people harassing and suing the pants off one another, excruciating and embarrassing depositions taken and disputed, and flimsy contracts and partnerships violated and dissolved.

To the extent that “The Social Network” is engaging, it’s like watching a 12-car pileup, where the cars are driven by obnoxious social climbers and rapacious lawyers.

The development of the Facebook site and its spreading use around the world should have been the main story of the film, with the ugly legal wrangling just blips in the background.  Instead, the film puts the malicious finger-pointing and backstabbing front and center, with details about the creation of the site mere interludes between the bickering.

Maybe a movie focusing only on the virtuoso creation of Facebook wouldn’t have been enough of a film—maybe Facebook simply isn’t that monumental an achievement.  But that doesn’t mean a film dwelling on the legal fallout is a keeper either.

Despite the conflicting accounts in the media, two things are clear from the film and its back story: Mark Zuckerberg is an enterprising, hardworking, ambitious, and talented young programmer, and he is arrogant.

Beyond that, nothing matters.  Would the public have preferred that Zuckerberg not develop Facebook but sing in the choir?  I don’t know Zuckerberg, and I don’t care whether I know him—I can enjoy the products of his success without having to interact with him.

Furthermore, people who don’t succeed are always tearing down those who do—witness the swarm of Bill Gates and Martha Stewart-bashers who crawled out of the woodwork to badmouth these titans after they became rich and famous.  To paraphrase one lawyer in the film, 85% of Zuckerberg’s opponents’ claims are probably exaggerated and the other 15% perjury.

As Debbie Schlussel notes, “Some reports say that Zuckerberg was even more loathsome than portrayed in the movies but because of potential litigation from him, his ‘character’ was toned down.  Others say it’s a hatchet job.  So, what was made up and what is real?  We won’t know for certain, and that’s the problem.  Zuckerberg and the Facebook people didn’t cooperate with the project—and who can blame them?”

The fictional Zuckerberg sums up the situation well in the following quote, the best speech from the film, in response to an opponent’s lawyer’s query as to why Mark is staring out the window: “I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try—but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie.  You have part of my attention—you have the minimum amount.  The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

Some might say that director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin are simply giving moviegoers what they want: a juicy, insider, semi-improvised tale about parties viciously battling to take credit for a hugely popular invention.

But the public is certainly capable of appreciating well-made, non-contentious dramas about business, as evidenced by the success of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” which is now filming its eleventh season.

Of course we need the law in this country.  Legal dramas can certainly be compelling.  But couldn’t there be just one business movie for every 10 lawyer movies that slither out of Hollywood?  (And I don’t include the “Wall Street” franchise in that count—I’m talking about movies that portray businessmen as something other than soulless monsters.)

It’s fortunate for the filmmakers that “The Social Network” came out now, because no one will care about the litigious story behind Facebook in 10 years.  The filmmakers have crassly capitalized on prurient buzz, and in doing so haven’t made a lasting film.

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