My column at the Daily Caller from September 13, 2012:
Four years of appeasement are finally paying off. The Obama administration apologized for a movie that no reasonable, intelligent person could take seriously. The apology served as an invitation to attack our embassies. And it predictably led to the demand that we prosecute the movie’s producers for “hate speech.”
Our embassy in Cairo accused the producers of the movie of abusing “the universal right of free speech.” They could more credibly be accused of abusing their video recording equipment. The movie looks more like a spoof than a dangerous propaganda film. While the Obama administration is quick to detect “religious incitement” when it is directed at Muslims, it’s not sure what to think of an angry mob that tears down our flag and replaces it with the black flag of al Qaida.
Within hours our consulate in Libya was also attacked and our ambassador and three consulate staff members were killed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued yet another apology: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.” President Obama echoed this view.
In other words, Secretary Clinton and President Obama excused the violence before they condemned it.
President Obama accuses Republicans of clinging to the failed policies of the past. But the Obama administration has revived the practice of picking winners and losers in the marketplace. That policy didn’t work in the 1930s and isn’t working today.
Policy wonks believe that businesses are congenitally short-sighted — that businesses must be prodded to invest in infrastructure and tomorrow’s technologies. But it’s not true. The mobile phone industry continues to spend tens of billions of dollars acquiring spectrum rights, building nationwide networks, and developing next-generation technologies. Businesses wisely make long-term investments when there are good prospects of success.
The Obama administration clings to ideas that even FDR’s treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, said didn’t work. Every available means is being used to undermine natural market forces: loans are being made that will never be repaid, regulations and taxes are being enacted to punish select industries, corporate bondholders are being expropriated, waivers are being granted to individual companies, and private businesses are being squeezed out of markets.
No wonder the U.S. is experiencing the worst economic recovery since the 1930s. Who wants to invest in businesses when the federal government is running around trying to make winners out of losers and losers out of winners?
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were repeatedly accused by the media of making false claims during the Republican national convention. The reporters didn't just question the accuracy of certain statements as they might have done in years past. They flatly stated that the assertions were found to be false by the fact checkers.
However, just because someone hangs out a shingle that says "fact checker," that doesn't mean they have a lock on the truth. Heck, it doesn't even prove that they are credible. This is particularly true in politics, where facts often mingle with opinions. Like initial reports about breaking stories, the findings of self-appointed fact checkers should be greeted with skepticism.
It's not terribly surprising that the mainstream media has pounced on the opportunity provided by the fact checkers. The media's credibility among the American public is at an all-time low. Most Americans perceive the media as terribly biased. No doubt, many media figures believe they can boost their credibility-or at least shield themselves from further charges of bias-by hiding behind self-styled fact checkers.
Fact-checking websites use a number of tactics to convince visitors that they are fair and reliable. They claim to be non-partisan. They demonstrate their neutrality by criticizing both sides. They show that they are thorough and nuanced by assessing some claims as partially true and others as partially false. And they use gimmicks such as the "Truth-O-Meter" to convince people that they are singularly focused on gauging the truth.
Take for instance PolitiFact.com. This fact-checking website is operated by the Tampa Bay Times, a newspaper widely considered anti-Republican (and known to some as the "Florida Pravda"). However, if a website purports to be fact checker, then shouldn't it be operated by people who can legitimately claim to be impartial? PolitiFact is staffed by the same old reporters and researchers.
Some of the responses to Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment are equally ridiculous. The opinion editor for the Berkeley Political Review, Alex Kravitz, suggests that members of the Senate should have to pass an intelligence test before assuming office. Charles Johnson, who operates the once respectable Little Green Footballs blog, is stunned that Akin “managed to reach adulthood with a completely non-functioning brain” and upon learning that Akin is a member of the House Science and Technology committee advised his readers to “weep for America.”
No one disputes that what Akin said was silly, wrong, and offensive.
However, the idea that certain elected officials should have to pass an intelligence test is also silly, wrong, and offensive. It seems to me that many of the people who would support such a test are the same people who complained in the past that intelligence tests are biased. Plus, isn't there a risk that it would lead to an intelligence test for voters? (In that case, why bother having elections?)
Nor does Todd Akin’s comment disqualify him from the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The main purpose of the committee is not to determine the merit of scientific claims. It’s to discuss public policy and propose legislation.
Besides, even some of the greatest scientific minds in history embraced ideas that most people would consider irrational, stupid, or silly.
Isaac Newton, who discovered much of what is now considered the foundation of classical mechanics and who shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for inventing calculus, was intensely interested in alchemy and biblical prophecy. Though admirers point out that such ideas were commonplace in Newton’s day, there’s no getting around the fact that Newton devoted considerable time and effort to what were clearly occult ideas.
Oliver Lodge, who was one of the first to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves, was President of the Society for Psychical Research and fervently believed in telepathic communication between the living and the dead.
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, suggested that the seeds of life were planted on Earth by an extraterrestrial civilization—a theory known as “directed panspermia.” Though Crick opposed creationism, his own theory evaded the question of how life originated, passing the buck to space aliens.
William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, warned that less intelligent people reproduce at a higher rate and that this was particularly a problem among blacks. Though Shockley shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics with colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, he seemed determined to offend people with his theory of race and intelligence.
Raymond Damadian, the principal inventor of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is a young earth creationist. Here is a man who believes that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old despite massive evidence to the contrary. Yet he not only understood the science underlying MRI, he built the first full-body magnetic resonance scanner. In my opinion, more in doubt is the intelligence of the committee that denied him a share in the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Some prefer to believe in a binary universe in which people are either consistently scientific or consistently unscientific. But that’s not how the world actually works. It’s not only possible to be scientific about some things and irrational about others—it’s rather common.