You are here

Feed aggregator

Sex Scandals, Evangelicals, Donald Trump, and Roy Moore

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 18:41

Over the last 18 months, evangelical Christians have been asked how they could vote for a serial adulterer like Donald Trump while condemning the alleged serial adulterer Bill Clinton as unfit for office. The general response has been:

Trump was certainly not our ideal candidate and we do deplore his past. He seems to have made some changes and is open to our input. It was either him or Hillary Clinton. And for the sake of the unborn, for the sake of our religious liberties, and for the sake of our security, he got our vote.

Has this compromised our moral authority in the eyes of many Americans?

On the one hand, it certainly has. Our vote for Trump is thrown back in our face on a regular basis. We are linked to anything he says or does that is untasteful.

On the other hand, it really has not. We have been mocked and vilified and called hypocrites and haters for years now. Do we really think that if many of us did not vote for Trump, the society in general would be more open to hear our views about homosexuality and abortion? Hardly.

We All Have Biases -- Are We Being Fair?

When it comes to Judge Roy Moore, we are being asked how any of us could not immediately recognize his guilt, since the mounting evidence against seems overwhelming. Plus, we seem to believe the bad reports about Hollywood moguls and celebrities and leftwing politicians. Why the double standard here?

First, all of us have biases, conscious or otherwise. It's all too natural to defend people who are close to us and question people who are distant from us. For example, a devoted liberal Democrat would be far less likely to entertain an accusation against Barack Obama than against Ted Cruz. Conversely, a staunch conservative Republican would be much more likely to entertain an accusation against Obama than against Cruz.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>

This is reminiscent of the intense drama that unfolded when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of crass and abusive behavior. Liberals rallied around Hill and conservatives stood with Thomas.

As much as we try to avoid partisan emotions, it's only human nature to have them. We must always check to see if we're even making the attempt to be unbiased. Are we? Do we do our best to ask critical questions? Do we give the presumption of innocence to all, even if our first reaction is to condemn those we don't like? Do we weigh all accusations fairly?

Different Experiences, Different Assumptions

Second, when it comes to Judge Moore, we're not just dealing with the possibility of double standards. We're also dealing with extreme skepticism towards leftwing media and extreme suspicion of the political system. It may appear to be an extraordinary display of hypocrisy, as conservative evangelicals stand by a man accused of abusive sexual contact with minors. But it could really be a display of distrust of the left.

Think back to the O. J. Simpson trial, which largely divided Americans between white and black. To many white Americans, the evidence against O. J. was absolutely damning, right down to his DNA all over the crime scene. How is it that so many black Americans didn't see it? Were they ignorant? Did they wink at murder? Was it impossible to think that a black hero was guilty?

Today, President Trump shouts "Fake News" on a regular basis and millions of Americans agree. So when a story starts with the Washington Post, red flags immediately go up.

Not at all. Instead, they deeply suspected the legal system, from the police to the courts to the jails. They had witnessed unequal treatment under the law. They had seen people framed. They had seen the innocent convicted and the guilty set free, hence their deep-seated suspicion.

Today, President Trump shouts "Fake News" on a regular basis and millions of Americans agree. So when a story starts with the Washington Post, red flags immediately go up. And when one of the most conservative senatorial candidates in decades comes under fierce attack right before the elections, a man with great loyalty among his followers, it's very easy for some to question his accusers rather than sympathize with them.

More to the Story

As it stands, we are nearing the tipping point in the charges against Moore. More accusers are coming forward by the moment. His supporters are becoming more desperate. And it's understandable why the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site, posted an article titled, "Evangelicals Announce They Will Withdraw Support For Roy Moore Should Three Or Four Dozen More Women Come Forward."

But before you condemn Moore's Alabama supporters, and before you write off other conservatives who have stood with him, bear in mind that double standards are not the whole story. (Or, perhaps, even part of the story.) Rather, there is extreme suspicion of the left. And there is deep recognition of how many enemies someone like Judge Moore really has. With some claiming clear evidence that the yearbook signature is a forgery, everything else becomes questionable.

For those on the left who think I'm trying to excuse the inexcusable -- meaning, giving Moore any benefit of the doubt even for a moment -- just ask yourself how you would have responded if Fox News and Rush Limbaugh claimed to have evidence of Barack Obama sexually abusing minors. To my readers on the left, what would your first reaction be?

We all agree that if the charges against Moore are true then what he did is terribly ugly and evil. Especially since he did so as a professing Christian and as someone in power. But let's not get carried away with double-standard accusations right now, especially against conservative Christians in Alabama. There's a lot more to the story that must be factored in.

Victim Shaming? MSNBC's Hunt: Franken’s Action ‘Not Actually Groping’

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 18:36
<p>What happened to believing women when they speak out against powerful male accusers? On Thursday, evidence broke of a  2006 incident in which Democrat Al Franken groped and forcibly kissed TV and radio personality Leeaan Tweeden. Photographic proof backs up her claim. Yet MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt described the now-Senator's predatory behavior this way: “Then he took a picture, which his office now says was of a joke that showed him potentially — not actually groping — but mock groping her while she was asleep.” </p>

CBS Partners with Liberal Refinery29 to ‘Empower All Women,’ Except Conservatives

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 17:21
<p>Can a news outlet claim to be fair and unbiased if it partners with a lefty feminist site? Short answer: no. <em>CBS This Morning</em> announced on Nov. 14 that it is “partnering” with Refinery29 for a new series for millennials, “M[Y] Generation.” In a segment on Nov.15, co-founder and executive creative director of Refinery29, Piera Gelardi, told the CBS roundtable that “Refinery29 is a platform that’s really meant to celebrate and empower all women.” But the published history of Refinery29 articles indicates otherwise.</p>

Banter #290: Congressman Greg Walden on the opioid crisis - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 17:20

This week on Banter, Representative Greg Walden (R–OR) joins the show to discuss the opioid epidemic and how Congress is addressing the crisis. Rep. Walden is the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He keynoted an event at AEI hosted by AEI Resident Scholar Sally Satel on addressing the opioid epidemic.

This is the first installment of a series on “Bridging the Dignity Divide.” Over the next six weeks, Banter guests will address topics such as ending the opioid epidemic, expanding career and technical education, reintegrating the incarcerated into society, and promoting work and family formation to overcome poverty. This series is part of a broader institutional push to help close the dignity gap by creating a culture and economy where everyone is needed. The links below provide more information on AEI’s work promoting dignity.

Learn More:

The opioid crisis: What can Congress do? A conversation with House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) (Full AEI event video)

AEI Spotlight on Human Dignity

The Dignity Deficit | Arthur Brooks | Foreign Affairs | March/April 2017

A Spotlight on Human Dignity | Arthur Brooks | AEI | November 8, 2017

Subscribe to Banter

Political Character, Church Character, and Taking Real Responsibility

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:48

Roy Moore had a bad reputation. Alex Chediak has written here on The Stream of credible reports saying that when he was in his 30s, he was known for hanging out in the mall and flirting with high school girls. It's been "common knowledge" around those parts for 30 years, and "not a big secret," according to an Alabama newspaper.

The allegations have substance. Now let's add two known facts to them:

Around that time, Moore made his first run for public office, a judicial bench that he lost in 1982 but was installed in ten years later. Moore was a churchgoer at the time.

I've been asking myself why it's been so hard lately to find a politician Christians can really get behind: a man or woman whose policies and character are both solid. And I wonder whether these allegations and facts, put together, tell a lot of the story. Let's suppose for argument's sake the allegations are true. Did anyone in Roy Moore's church know of his reputation? Did they do anything about it?

I don't know, but I doubt it.

The Bible and Church Discipline Galatians 6:1 teaches that if someone is caught in sin, those who "are spiritual" should restore that person, though always looking to themselves, lest they too be tempted.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us to confront sin progressively, starting in private, but potentially escalating, if there's no repentance, to a church-wide statement that the person has chosen not to live as a member of the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 we see Paul specifically instructing the church to do that very thing. (The passage is somewhat hard to interpret, but that’s probably the best way to understand it.)

This is church discipline. It’s simply a way of saying, “To be a member of this local body of Christ, one must not persist in living contrary to the way of Christ.”

Compromise in the Church

I doubt it partly because I've seen too much compromise in Christian churches. The Bible gives the Church authority to call Her people to a high standard. I've seen few churches exercise that authority.

I've seen a church look the other way when its two youth leaders, a single man and a divorced woman, openly shacking up together. I've seen an otherwise doctrinally solid leadership team stand in silence when a church member supported homosexuality from the pulpit.

So just by the odds, it’s unlikely Roy Moore's church did anything at the time. But it's not just that.

Let’s suppose they'd done the right thing and called him on it (based on the reports of his reputation). If Moore was innocent, He could have publicly repudiated the charges based on the facts. As a public figure, a public statement would have been appropriate. We know of no such statement.

Or suppose his church had initiated discipline and he wasn’t innocent. He could have repented and renounced his shameful actions. We know of no such repentance.

Or suppose the church had done its job with discipline, and he were guilty but refused to repent. In that case the church’s next prescribed step would have been to say something like this: "You can keep doing what you're doing, but don't consider yourself associated with us if you do. We'll continue to love you. You're welcome back in our membership any time you want to give it up and return. But until then, your behaviors cannot have a home here."

A Lesson For All Churches

Of course all this is based on the supposition that the allegations are true. But there's a lesson here regardless: If we Christians want men and women of well-formed character to elect to political office, we'd better start making character formation a real priority in our own midst.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>

There are wrong ways to do this -- to appear self-righteous and judgmental, or to condemn a person prematurely. But there are right ways to do it, too.

It won't come just by preaching. Not even by good preaching. Leaders have to set the example in their own lives. If the Church won’t form good character, then who will?

HuffPost Claims Joe Biden Too Creepy Around Women to Run in 2020

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:40
<p>Former Vice-President Joe Biden is currently being hailed in much of the mainstream media and on friendly interview shows as the Great Democrat Hope for the 2020 presidential election. However, in stark contrast to the current paeans to Biden, the liberal <em>HuffPost</em> has tossed cold water on this idea. Amanda Terkel has written in the November 15 <em>HuffPost</em> that the idea of Biden running for president is really quite horrible due to his very creepy treatment of women.</p> <p> </p>

How Will Media Cover Al Franken’s ‘Disgusting’ Assault?

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:26
<p>According to Leeann Tweeden, a radio anchor in Los Angeles, Democratic Senator Al Franken <a href="" target="_blank">groped and kissed her</a> without consent. Given how quickly journalists jumped on the Roy Moore story, will they offer equally aggressive coverage for this liberal politician from Minnesota? Oh and there’s photographic evidence. Tweeden recounted being on a USO tour in 2006 to entertain the troops. Franken, who was not then a senator, wrote a skit that included him kissing the model and host. Tweeden recounted his predatory behavior: </p>

Katy Tur Gloats Journalists Purposefully 'Shot Down' Uranium One Stories During Campaign

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:11
<p>After conservative media forced the networks and liberal cable news to finally cover the latest FBI revelations over the Clinton Foundation’s financial dealings with Russia, they’ve changed tactics from ignoring the story, to dismissing it as bogus.</p>

MRC’s Gainor: ‘Media Have Been Trying’ to Impeach Trump Since Election

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 15:57
<p>“The media are trying to craft a narrative so it makes Trump look bad,” according to MRC Vice President of Business and Culture Dan Gainor.</p> <p>He spoke to Fox Business anchor Trish Regan on <em>The Intelligence Report</em> Nov. 14, about a recent exposé published by <em>The Atlantic</em> accusing Donald Trump Jr. of corresponding with Wikileaks a total of three times.</p> <p> </p>

Michael Bloomberg Commits Another $114 Million To Anti-Coal Crusade

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 15:10
<p>Billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg is opening his wallet again to help stop coal — and opening it wide.</p> <p>$114 million wide. Against energy jobs.</p>

From Prayer Books to Play Area, Bible Museum Opens New Views into Ancient Text

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 15:04

Thousands of guests are expected when Museum of the Bible opens its doors this weekend, only two blocks from the National Mall. Upon entering past the 40-foot bronze Gutenberg Gates, two things strike most visitors.

One is the digital ceiling with rotating images of stained glass windows and natural landscapes. Measuring 140 by 15 feet and created with 555 LED panels, it often showcases iconic religious art such as the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The other first-floor draw for many guests is the children's experience. With pinball-style games, a "walking on water" illusion, bean-bag toss and other high-touch activities, it resembles a less frenetic version of Chuck-E-Cheese. As parents and now grandparents, museum co-founders Steve and Jackie Green were among the first to see how it played with kids.

"A few days ago, we had 32 of our family members here for a sort of first look at the museum before it opens," says Jackie Green in an interview with The Stream. "Our four grandchildren were here, as were all our children -- we have one son and five daughters. They all interacted with it in different ways."

"Some got on a digital board and they're doing a quiz about what they know of the Bible," she recounts. "In the children's area, my eleven-year-old was Samson and she's pushing the pillars over. My little grandsons are throwing those balls into the lions' mouths. It's just very interactive."

Making the Bible Clear By All Means

Even museum scholars share Green's enthusiasm for the kid-centric spaces. "If families have young ones, they will likely most enjoy the children's area," says Brian Hyland, an expert on medieval manuscripts. "I had my grandkids here on Saturday and they loved it."

He joined the museum team last year as an associate curator. Hyland has taught medieval history at the University of Maryland and several academic subjects at a Catholic school in his home state of New York.

This ecumenical approach enhances every aspect of the museum, leaders say.

Media coverage he's seen of the museum differs with his experience, Hyland notes. "These media reports in advance -- so much has been innuendo, putting things together without context, and the like," he says. "Being on the inside, it's been kind of fun to see how wrong they've gotten what this museum really is about."

He offered a recent Washington Post story as an example. It gave the museum high marks but only after recounting controversies, he says. “The museum, which will be among the largest in a city chock-full of museums, presents ... the Bible through cutting-edge technology and immersive experiences,” stated the Post.

Hyland divides his time between the history floor -- where he ensures the accurate display of medieval materials -- and exhibit areas like the Vatican Library art gallery. "I taught for a long time," he says. "Over the years, it became clear that kids have less and less real knowledge of what's in the Bible."

A Prayer Book Even Protestants Should See

With a teacher's zeal, Brian Hyland shares about one item among thousands featured at the museum. "One of my favorite manuscripts is up on the fourth floor," he says. "It's the prayer book of Charles V, made for him when he was about 16 years old. He later became Holy Roman Emperor and Luther's opponent at the time of the Reformation."

One of the first manuscripts featuring northern Renaissance elements, the prayer book is acclaimed for its use of icons. Having taught at both the high school and university level, Hyland explains how it gives a window into world history. Young Charles assumed a rule over Spain when still in his teen years, he notes.

"What I love about it is it's a prayer book for a young boy," he continues. "It's written in a hand that is very simple, elegant and easy to read. The imagery is very Catholic, dealing with sacrifice, preparing young Charles to assume the role of Holy Roman Emperor."

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>

Religious leaders worldwide recently marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The stand Martin Luther took in 1517 against certain practices continues to reverberate today.

Charles V played an infamous role in those events. Museum visitors may be surprised to find voices offering diverse perspectives on this pivotal era.

"Luther was trying to reform and improve the Catholic Church, to get rid of some of the abuses," states Hyland, a devout Catholic. "That's his starting point and we see that in his 95 Theses. So we represent all sides of the Reformation here."

Welcoming People of All Faiths -- Or None

This ecumenical approach enhances every aspect of the museum, leaders say.

Professor Gordon Campbell, historian at the museum, gives one example. "If you look at the Bible in art, there's an exhibit on the Madonna and Child," he says. "That's of no interest to Protestants, but it's dear to the heart of Catholics and Orthodox."

Another highlight for families will be the Stories of the Bible floor, which retells key events from Scripture. "The way we tell stories recognizes the Jewish angle, which is educational for everyone," says Campbell. "Christians would otherwise not understand it."

The floor is divided into three distinct areas. These include a 40-minute narrative journey through foundational stories and a 12-minute film introducing the New Testament. In addition, Nazareth Village recreates eight scenes of everyday life in first-century Israel.

"We don't refer to the Old Testament, we speak of the Hebrew Bible," he says, noting input from Jewish scholars. "We're eager that anyone come to this museum and feel welcome, whatever their religious identity is -- or none."

The Synergy of Accuracy and Imagination

The museum team brought on creative agency BRC Imagination Arts to produce the lion's share of the stories floor. The firm has created films and experiences across the nation, notably at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. 

Taking up nearly half the stories floor, The Hebrew Bible begins with a fast-paced animated film on the origins of the world. An accurate portrayal of Genesis, it includes a bright flash of light to signify the supernatural act of creation.

"The purpose is for every person to engage with the Bible and become more familiar with it."

"It's actually not a strobe, it's just a bright light," says Matthew Solari, creative director at BRC Imagination Arts. "Young kids have all remarked that is their favorite part. It pulls them into the story!" He notes their tests reveal it is below the threshold to be unsafe for most people. Guests are also notified in queue.

The Hebrew Bible experience further reveals key events in the lives of Abraham, Moses, Ruth and David. The five films are all produced in distinct animation styles and projected in unexpected ways. Visitors walk through immersive environments before and after each video, with sounds, sculptures, light effects and water used to tell the stories.

Narratives unfold fluidly, fusing various media. In one film scene, a woven basket floats on the Nile. Moments later, a bush blazing with bright colors lights up a dark area of the theater. Museum guests venture past it into the next chapter.

Responding to Doubters -- and the Faithful

Skeptics of the museum abound, as media gives outsized coverage to an artifacts incident resolved earlier this year. Yet the Bible may prove to be a continual source of scandal, perhaps even for families.

"We set out to be authentic to the Hebrew text," says Solari, asked about brief nudity in a Garden of Eden scene. "You can't do this without getting a response from somebody somewhere. Through a lot of work with scholars and the museum, we found a style and approach that works for the broadest audience possible."

Manuscripts expert Brian Hyland hopes the curious take time to visit. "If people come and see what the museum is about, it's what we're saying it is," he states. "The purpose is for every person to engage with the Bible and become more familiar with it."


Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., opens to the public this weekend. Watch for further articles in this series.

Drain the Swamp? What Swamp?

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 14:50

Politicians love to rev-up their supporters by promising to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C.

Nancy Pelosi promised to do this in 2006. Throughout his campaign, President Trump promised to, as well. The phrase has become a standard line in campaigns, right up there with "if elected, I'll represent all Americans" and "good jobs at good wages."

The reality is that the swamp cannot be drained. Or, put another way, the swamp as it is seen by ordinary Americans is a myth.


Wait! I agree that corruption needs to be fought, hard. Breaking the law, making shady deals, and plain old graft are never acceptable.

And without question, money talks. Corporate donations to candidates and elected officials influence votes and policy decisions. But as often as not, those donations are given to support people whose convictions about the free market and economic growth motivate them to vote for bills that create jobs, lower taxes, and rein-in government. Bills corporations like, for the most part.

But more broadly, just what is the so-called "swamp?"

Work for a company of any size? It's more likely than not that your firm has representatives in Washington, DC. They might be corporate lobbyists, people who are employees of the same company as you.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>

They might be lobbyists who work for themselves or for a lobbying firm and who are hired to represent your company.

They might be lobbyists who work for a business association or trade group your company belongs to. Say, the National Grocer's Association or the Balloon Council (yes, it exists, and lobbies on helium issues). Or any one of thousands of other such organizations.

In total, there are about 11,000 lobbyists in your nation's capital. Most of them are not cigar-smoking fat-cats who lurk in the shadows. Most make middle to upper-middle incomes, ride the subway to and from work, live in the suburbs and mow their lawns on Saturdays.

A handful are corrupt, ethically if not legally. They schmooze and flatter and wheedle and manipulate. But so do people in every sphere of business in every city in every state in the union. That doesn't make their occupation corrupt or fake in itself.

Why They Lobby

So, why are people paid to lobby?

Because the federal government taxes businesses so much, for so many things, and in such a complicated way. Lobbyists seeking tax advantages often do so because without tax relief, the companies or industries they represent would decline.

In 2016, the IRS "revised its estimated paperwork burden for the Business Income Tax Return by roughly 2.5 billion annual hours (from 360 million hours to 2.8 billion)," reports Dan Goldbeck of the American Action Forum. "On December 31, 2015, the nation's cumulative paperwork burden was slightly more than nine billion hours. Once the IRS paperwork imposition was processed, the nation's paperwork burden grew to more than 11.5 billion hours."

High and complex taxes on businesses of all sizes injure them as they try to create new jobs and market new products. Congress is often oblivious to the realities of what it takes to make the economy tick, so lobbyists spend their time trying to shake some fiscal sense into the House and Senate.

And remember, companies are taxed as persons. The very term "incorporate" comes from a Latin term meaning to "to create a body." Corporations exist legally as persons. They have legal rights and duties.

If they are going to be taxed as persons, they have the same right as every other citizen: No taxation without representation.

Lobbyists exist to fight the regulation that spews forth from Washington at a rate no one person can ever account for.

Lobbyists also exist to fight the regulation that spews forth from Washington at a rate no one person can account for. In 2015 alone, the Obama Administration added "43 new major rules (that) increased annual regulatory costs by more than $22 billion, bringing the total annual costs of Obama Administration rules to an astonishing $100 billon-plus in just seven years," according to James Gattuso and Diane Katz of The Heritage Foundation.

A 2012 study by the National Association of Manufacturers states that "the average U.S. company pays $9,991 per employee per year to comply with federal regulations. The average manufacturer in the United States pays nearly double that amount -- $19,564 per employee per year. Small manufacturers, or those with fewer than 50 employees, incur regulatory costs of $34,671 per employee per year."

That's not all, folks. The Federal Register is the daily record of all existing and proposed federal rules and regulations. In total, at the end of last year, "the number of Federal Register pages stood at 95,894, 19.4 percent higher than the previous year's 80,260 pages."

They’re People, Too

Lobbyists fight regulations. Yes, some regulations are beneficial. Some rules about food and drug quality and that prevent concentrations of economic power (read: monopolies) are among the regulations that make sense. But those that encumber job-creators with unnecessary, nannying, "Washington knows best" demands and duties need to be fought. We can be glad there are advocates making this case on Capitol Hill and in the Administration.

I have not yet touched on litigation reform, and won't now take the time. Just this: Does anyone really think that any company or industry exists just to be a cash cow for trial lawyers?

There are down-sides. The so-called "revolving door" -- work in government, go back to the private sector, bounce back into government, get a great-paying job because of your contacts in government and knowledge of federal policy -- can be dangerous. But do you want to be governed by people who don't know anything about the companies they regulate? Who create laws affecting people who struggle to earn a living? Or whose lack of institutional knowledge prevents them from knowing where, in the vast maze of the federal government, pressure needs to be brought?

Lobbyists aren't saints. Nor are they incarnations of evil. They're people. They have jobs that need doing. They don’t dwell in a swamp. We need to drain that image from our minds to understand what really happens in Washington, DC.

New Report Sheds Light on the Horror That is North Korea

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 14:04

North Korea poses a serious threat to the United States. So far, it’s mostly rhetoric and not action escalated by the DPRK. The regime declared that it would launch "an unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time" upon the United States. It has threatened to turn you into a "pile of ash."

But did you know that same regime turns its own wretched citizens who die in political prison camps into piles of ash? It then uses them as fertilizer. In that appalling action, North Korea itself demonstrates the link between global/national security and human rights. Sadly, this is a link that in recent years has been undervalued in U.S. policy.

New Report

The Committee on Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) is the leading U.S.-based non-governmental organization in the field of North Korean human rights research and advocacy. The organization, under Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, played a vital role in the decision of the United Nations Security Council to address the human rights situation in North Korea. The resulting U.N. Commission of Inquiry was heavily supported with evidence from HRNK.

On Monday, November 13, HRNK released a new report by Robert Collins and Amanda Mortwedt Oh, From Cradle to Grave: The Path of North Korean Innocents. It was launched at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with the authors, Scarlatoiu, and other speakers.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>

The two have impressive credentials. Collins has written several groundbreaking publications on North Korea for HRNK. He completed 37 years of service as a soldier and a civilian employee with the U.S. Army. This included 31 years in the Republic of Korea. Collins interviews North Korean defectors and escapees for HRNK. He is now developing population and human rights data. Oh is an attorney in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps. She analyzes satellite images for HRNK. She was desk officer for the series of satellite imagery analyses of North Korean prisons and prison camps.

A press release said the new publication "documents the chain of political and administrative command and control responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea." Who is responsible for torturing and killing both political prisoners and the innocents arrested with them? The authors wanted to expose how many "innocent" North Koreans suffer and die in the prison camps. These poor souls are guilty only by association. Three generations of families are imprisoned with the "guilty." It is HRNK's hope that someday the evidence in this report will be used to convict those responsible for the crimes.

The Innocents

Who are the innocents? They are normal citizens, unfortunate enough to be born into the hell that is North Korea. They do their best to be loyal to the Supreme Leader. At the report launch Collins said that "every single North Korean starts loyalty training at birth." All lullabies sung to babies in their mothers' arms are about the Dear Leader. This is by government edict.

The report asks:

How do North Koreans, who committed their lives to serve the Kim regime's supreme leader and who are innocent by commonly-accepted legal standards, become criminals in the regime's eyes? How do these innocent North Koreans, who study loyalty to the supreme leader daily, end up in unmarked graves inside a political prison camp?

Tens if not hundreds of thousands of North Koreans die in prison camps. They are starved, worked literally to death, tortured and outright executed.

From Cradle to Grave shows that Kim Jong-un's prison camps are a tool of political oppression and control of North Korean citizens. Both elements are necessary for the continuance of the regime itself. The Kim regime's strategy for survival, the report says, is based on "ensuring the complete loyalty of the people to the Supreme Leader." It has been said that North Korea itself is one big prison camp. The treatment of the citizens demonstrates that this is true. North Korean citizens cannot live for themselves. They have to live for the Supreme Leader. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of North Koreans die in prison camps. They are starved, worked literally to death, tortured and outright executed. This is not just a by-product of regime survival. It is the deliberate, intentional action of people who enjoy being cruel and inflicting pain.

Speaking at the launch, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute said that "human rights is the flip side of the coin from North Korea's behavior internationally." "What North Korea wants to do to us is what they do every day to the people in the DPRK," Eberstadt declared.

You may think that U.S. North Korea policy should only be focused on our national security. But another speaker at the report launch, former U.S. Air Force officer George Hutchinson, warned that "we get distracted by the nuclear threat."

And all of the speakers at the National Press Club launch praised the speech given in Seoul by President Trump. Eberstadt called it a "watershed event … that documented the human rights nightmare in North Korea." Another speaker, Mark Tokola, Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America, was pleased that Trump did not just single out Kim Jong-un, but talked about the crimes of "the regime."

Perhaps U.S. North Korea policy is becoming less distracted. It’s once again linking human rights and national security. Let us hope so for the sake of our own most effective national security policy. But even more so for the sake of millions of innocents in North Korea who suffer from the cradle to the grave.

You Get What You Measure: Internet Performance Measurement as a Policy Tool - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 14:00

Key Points

  • While broadband network speeds have improved substantially over the last decade, the web’s performance has stagnated from the end user point of view.
  • The disconnect between broadband and web speeds suggests that the “virtuous circle” hypothesis created by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to justify common carrier internet regulation is false.
  • A system for capturing passive measurements and sharing them among internet service providers, web developers, and other responsible parties may be useful for accelerating the web experience.
  • The flexible contract terms between content and communication platforms (forbidden by the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order) may mitigate platform inequalities.

Read the full PDF.

Executive Summary 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) justified its 2015 reclassification of internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers with a novel “virtuous circle” hypothesis. The agency correctly observed that broadband networks enable innovation in platform services such as Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. It then speculated that platforms cause improvements in network performance through a feedback process.

The speculation provided the agency with a legal rationale for constraining internet services to its predetermined model: Unless internet services fit the agency’s paradigm, platform innovation would not occur, and there would be no pressure on broadband networks to improve.

Meticulous measurements of broadband performance on the part of regulators and private firms confirm that speeds have improved at a 35 percent annual rate for the past decade. Contrary to the virtuous circle hypothesis, web speed—the time it takes for webpages to load—has only modestly progressed overall and has even regressed since the FCC’s 2015 action.

Web performance has not been subject to the level of scrutiny focused in broadband platforms. This is due in part to the difficulty in measuring web performance. But the FCC has covertly politicized performance measurements. Its Measuring Broadband America (MBA) reports examine both webpage load times and broadband speeds but fail to analyze web data properly.

The load time of webpages does not improve over broadband networks faster than 12–15 megabits per second (Mbps). Early MBA reports reported this fact correctly, but those issued after the FCC redefined “broadband” to 25 Mbps have claimed a threshold value of 25 Mbps even though the underlying data have not changed.

The emphasis on one facet of internet performance, such as last-mile broadband networks, tends to minimize other factors that may be more important to the user, such as the performance impact of tracking networks, browsers, webpage design, and web server performance. In addition, relying on active measurement tools creates opportunities for gaming the system that are not possible in passive systems that merely observe application and network events in real time.

This paper explores opportunities for developing performance tools more responsive to the broader social goal of better end-to-end internet performance across the broad span of applications. It finds that systems for capturing passive measurements and sharing them among ISPs, web developers, and other responsible parties may be useful for accelerating the web experience.

The performance of websites over time is a neglected facet of internet measurement that deserves more attention. In an era of increasing internet consolidation, smaller sites and platforms are squeezed by larger competitors able to invest in private infrastructure. Better insight into web performance and increased flexibility in contracts between content platforms and broadband platforms may mitigate investment inequality effects.


The research literature on internet performance measurement is quite rich.,sup>1 Surveys of measurement tools such as “A Study of Traffic Management Detection Methods & Tools”,sup>2 and “A Survey on Internet Performance Measurement Platforms and Related Standardization Efforts”3 describe a multitude of tools such as NetPolice, NANO, DiffProbe, Glasnost, ShaperProbe, Chkdiff, SamKnows, BISmark, Dasu, Netradar, Portolan, RIPE Atlas, and perfSONAR intended for use in detecting net neutrality violations.

In addition to tools developed for academic research and policy enforcement, internet users rely on Speedtest and OpenSignal for troubleshooting. Finally, proprietary systems such as those developed by Akamai,4 Sandvine,5 Ookla,6 and Cisco7 are used to compile “State of the Internet” analyses aggregating several views of the internet.

While current tools are quite useful for measuring the performance of broadband networks, they are much less useful for examining how well the internet operates as a whole. The internet is an “end-toend network of networks” in which performance depends on a series of cooperating networks and network-attached devices and services.8

From the user perspective, the web appears to be slowing down.9 While this trend has become received wisdom, traditional measures of broadband performance continue to show improvement: Akamai’s measurements of “average peak connection speed” show US average speed increased an average of 29 percent per year between 2010 and 2017, and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) reports a 43 percent average annual increase from 2011 to 2015.10

The emphasis on one facet of internet performance, such as last-mile broadband networks, tends to minimize other factors that may be more important to the user, such as browsers, webpage design, and web server performance. In addition, relying on active measurement tools creates opportunities for gaming the system that are not possible in passive systems that merely observe application and network events in real time. However, passive systems have privacy issues.

This paper explores opportunities for developing performance tools more responsive to the broader social goal of better end-to-end internet performance across the broad span of applications. It finds that a system for capturing passive measurements and sharing them between among internet service providers (ISPs), web developers, and other responsible parties may be useful for accelerating the web experience.

Read the full report. 


  1. This paper is a slightly revised version of a paper presented at TPRC 45, the Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy in Arlington, Virginia, on September 8, 2017.
  2. Lucy Hazell, Peter Thompson, and Neil Davies, “A Study of Traffic Management Detection Methods & Tools,” 2015,
  3. Vaibhav Bajpai and Jurgen Schonwalder, “A Survey on Internet Performance Measurement Platforms and Related Standardization Efforts,” IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials 17, no. 3 (2015): 1313–41,
  4. Akamai, “State of the Internet,” 2017,
  5. Sandvine, Global Internet Phenomena Report: 1H 2014, 2014,
  6. Speedtest by Ookla, “United States,” July 2017,
  7. Cisco Systems, “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2009–2014,” June 2, 2010,
  8. David P. Reed, Jerome H. Saltzer, and David D. Clark, “Active Networking and End-To-End Arguments,” IEEE Network 12, no. 3 (June 1998): 69–71,
  9. Jim Rapoza, “The Web Is Getting Slower,” Aberdeen Essentials, November 5, 2014,; Kalev Leetaru, “Why the Web Is So Slow And What It Tells Us About the Future of Online Journalism,” Forbes, February 6, 2016,; and Hope King, “The Web Is Getting Slower,” CNNMoney, June 16, 2015,
  10. Richard Bennett, “Open Internet Orders Degrade Internet Improvement,” High Tech Forum, June 19, 2017,; and Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering and Technology and Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis, “Measuring Fixed Broadband Report 2016,” September 29, 2016,

Something to be thankful for: the cost of a 2017 Thanksgiving dinner is lower than last year and 23% lower than 1986 - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:30

From today’s annual report from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) on the cost of a classic holiday meal, “Farm Bureau Survey Reveals Lowest Thanksgiving Dinner Cost in Five Years”:

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.87. The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That’s roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016.

“For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America’s family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.

Some comments:

1. Compared to $49.87 last year, the cost this year for a classic Thanksgiving Day dinner for 10 people is $49.12, and 1.50% (and 75 cents) lower than the cost in 2016 (see dark blue line in top chart). That 1.50% decrease in the price for a turkey dinner in 2017 compares to increases over the last year of 2.00% for overall consumer prices and 2.3% for average hourly earnings.

2. The average price for a 16-pound turkey this year ($22.38) is 1.3% (and 36 cents) lower than last year’s price of $22.74, and the prices of other food items on the menu that fell from last year are were a gallon of milk, $2.99 this year; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar, and flour), $2.72.

3. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year is 3.0% less expensive than last year, and the lowest since 2010 (see light blue line in top chart).

4. Compared to the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner in 1986 of $63.87 (in 2017 dollars), today’s classic turkey dinner is 23.1% cheaper at $49.12 this year.

5. Measured in time worked at the average hourly wage for all private production workers of $22.22 in October 2017, the “time cost” of this year’s classic turkey dinner is only 2.21 hours, down by 3.5% from 2.29 hours last year and at the lowest level since 1986 when this annual AFBF report started (see bottom chart). Compared to 1986 when the average American would have worked 3.21 hours to earn the income necessary to purchase the turkey dinner for 10, the “time cost” for a worker today (2.21 hours) is 31.2% lower.

Bottom Line: The fact that a family in America can celebrate Thanksgiving with a classic turkey feast for less than $50 and at a “time cost” of only 2.21 hours of work at the average hourly wage for one person means that we really have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: an abundance of cheap, affordable food. The average worker would earn enough money before their lunch break on just one day to be able to afford the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Compared to 1986, the inflation-adjusted cost of a turkey dinner today is more than 23% cheaper, and 31% cheaper measured in the “time cost” for the average worker. Relative to our income and relative to the cost of food in the past, food in America is more affordable today than almost any time in history.

Bon appetit!

Note: There has been criticism in past years that the AFBF’s classic Thanksgiving dinner menu wouldn’t really be enough food for 10 people. In that case, let’s say it’s more realistically a dinner for 4 or 8 people, or whatever number you thinks is more realistic. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving dinner for ten or one, the important point is that the AFBF determines the retail prices for a fixed basket of 12 food items every year and compares those retail prices over time. Call it a “Classic Thanksgiving Meal for X People,” and choose your own X – the comparison of the cost over time wouldn’t change!

According to the AFBF: “The Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986 and the survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.”

Alt-Left Insanity: Libs Want to Ban Raising Kids, Kill Aging Parents

NewsBusters - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:29
<p>If Paul McCartney and Wings want to record another album, they should call it, <em>Ban On The Run.</em> It could be the Splinter theme song, appropriate since this is “Ban Week” on that crazy, alt-lefty site. Ban Week gives the Splinter staff a chance to opine (say dumb garbage) about everything from cologne to zoos. If you didn’t think liberals hated everything before, you will now. Even more disturbing is how many facets of life they want to get rid of -- even aging parents. It’s not funny. It’s just bizarre. Logan’s Run beat Splinter to the punch by about 40 years -- depicting the murder of anyone over a certain age and government raising our kids, too. </p>

Trump should make sure Roy Moore drops out - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:00

The allegations by five women that Roy Moore pursued and sexually molested teenage girls while he was in his 30s are disgusting, and disqualify him to serve in the United States Senate. Conservatives should be outraged at Moore for his loathsome conduct. But they should also be outraged at the man who helped put Moore on the ballot and is in the process of destroying the Trump presidency: Stephen K. Bannon.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks at the Values Voter Summit of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC, U.S. October 13, 2017. Reuters

If the man Trump supported in the primary, Sen. Luther Strange, were the Republican nominee today, the GOP would be cruising to an easy victory in the Dec. 12 special election. But thanks to Bannon’s insurgent campaign for Moore, Republicans could lose the Alabama Senate seat.

This should be unthinkable. Alabama is one of the most reliably Republican states in the union. No Democrat has gotten more than 40 percent of the vote in a Senate race there since 1996, and every Republican since has won by a margin of between 18 and 35 points. But a new JMC Analytics poll has Moore trailing Democratic opponent Doug Jones by four points, while a Decision Desk HQ/Opinion Savvy poll shows the race tied, 46 percent to 46 percent. An Emerson College poll shows Moore still ahead by 10 points, but even there his lead has been cut by more than half since the allegations surfaced. The Cook Political Report has moved the race from a safe Republican seat to a “toss up.”

A growing number of Republicans say they won’t vote for either candidate. And if more credible allegations emerge before Election Day, Moore’s remaining support could crumble. One poll (which has Moore up by just four points) found that 37 percent of voters say Moore should withdraw, but that number goes up to 64 percent “if the allegations are true.” This suggests that many Alabama Republicans don’t believe the accusations. But if more voters are persuaded as more evidence emerges, it could give Democrats the margin of victory.

Win or lose, Moore’s candidacy is a disaster for the GOP. If he wins despite the allegations, it will send a signal to women everywhere that Republicans do not believe that credible allegations of a grown man molesting a 14-year-old girl are disqualifying. And if he loses, his defeat will dramatically increase the chances that Democrats will win control of the Senate in next year’s midterm elections. That means no more conservative judges, no more conservative legislation — effectively ending the Trump presidency. Democrats would also be in charge of the Russia investigation and have unbridled subpoena power. And if Democrats also win control of the House, then it’s impeachment time. If any of that comes to pass, Trump can thank one man: Bannon.

Even if Republicans manage to hold the Senate, Bannon’s campaign to unseat GOP incumbents is making it less likely that Republicans will expand their Senate majority in 2018. It should be clear by now that having 52 GOP senators is not enough to pass Trump’s agenda. So conservatives should be pouring all their resources into defeating vulnerable Democrats, not diverting millions from those efforts to fund Bannon’s needless internecine war.

Now that Bannon is doubling down in supporting Moore, Republican donors must stop supporting Bannon’s war against Republican incumbents. They should follow the lead of Sheldon Adelson, who this week announced a break with Bannon. And Trump should intervene to stop Bannon’s continued support of Moore and publicly urge the members of Alabama’s Republican Party central steering committee to pull Moore’s nomination when they meet later this week.

Competitive primaries can be a good thing. That is how Republicans ended up with some of their best conservative senators, including Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah). But in this case, they ended up with an alleged predator. Goodness knows he would not be the first one to walk the halls of the Senate. I was a Senate staffer when the Packwood Diaries were released, which detailed then-Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood’s sordid history of advances on women. He resigned under threat of expulsion. But those details emerged after Packwood was elected. In this case, Alabama voters would be sending Moore to Washington with full knowledge of the allegations against him.

That puts Republicans in a quandary. For all the grand talk of expelling Moore after he is elected, it is an open question whether Republicans would really set the precedent of kicking out a senator for alleged behavior — no matter how heinous — that happened decades before he was elected to the Senate, particularly if it was known to the voters who elected him. Moreover, expulsion is not so simple. Moore would be seated, and there would be an ethics investigation that could take months — with public hearings and witnesses. That is a spectacle no one wants.

The best solution is to make sure Moore never makes it to Washington. Some have suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions launch a write-in campaign, but this could split the GOP vote and thus make a Democratic victory more likely. So Republicans, including the president, had better act quickly and get Moore to step aside.

Why Should You Attend A Women On Target Clinic?

NRA Blog - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:30
Learn a skill that will last a lifetime with some great...

Avoiding website design by (congressional) committee - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:00

America’s leading tech companies are in a bad odor these days, with politicians and intellectuals across the political spectrum levying sharp critiques. To pick the most prominent example: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) gave a high-profile speech about technology policy last week. Wired magazine captioned it as “the speech big tech has been dreading.”

via Twenty20

In his speech, Franken suggested that social media companies should have some sort of “neutrality” policy and should not “pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t.” Franken was echoing a concern about the danger of technology companies as gatekeepers, which many other commentators share. He also warned about the dangers that arise when a technology company doesn’t prevent a “hostile foreign power using its platform to spread lies and sow discord.”

These are incompatible goals. By definition, forbidding content that “sows discord” is a non-neutral policy. Franken absolutely cannot have both his wishes.

In practice he can’t entirely have either. For a communication platform to be usable, there must be some mechanism to restrain spam, impersonation, and other harmful content. These policies will inevitably require some measure of judgment, for instance, to distinguish (benign) parody from (harmful) impersonation. Conversely, there is no perfect test for whether content “sows discord” — discord is in the eye of the beholder. Every social media company must make messy and awkward trade-offs, and different companies generally make different trade-offs.

Congress is unlikely to help

Congress is poorly positioned to help companies make these trade-offs. Politicians are professionally ill-prepared to discuss and reason about technical trade-offs. It is nigh universal — it is even a structural inevitability — that candidates for office emphasize only the positive consequences of their policies and even sometimes allege that there will only be positive consequences.

Learn more:

For tax policy (and budgeting generally), Congress relies on technical experts to articulate these trade-offs for them: The Congressional Budget Office makes a definite prediction about what a bill will cost. Earlier in the legislative drafting process, representatives can rely on projections from think tanks and academic experts. There is no congressional software design office, nor even a sizable community of impartial design experts in a position to advise.

Trade-offs can be subtle

The trade-offs in product design can be much more subtle than the clash between neutrality and filtering undesirable content. Consider the role of names. We might reasonably want a social network to require accounts to belong to humans and to be labeled with the actual name of the person associated with it. Facebook and Twitter both have policies along these lines. However, those policies had surprising consequences. Nobody wants a social network where popular singer Rihanna is identified only as “Robyn Fenty” (her legal name). Many people, not just pop stars, have social names that do not match their official documents, and the lines between stage name, alias, and false identity are subjective.

Congress should act cautiously

Any congressional attempt to tell technology companies “thou shalt not filter content” or “thou shalt not cause social disharmony” is likely to go badly. If we are lucky, the statute will be meaningless or so hopelessly self-contradictory that the courts refuse to enforce it. If we are unlucky, it will turn out that technology companies are forced to produce unpleasant or even dangerously insecure products.

Unlike legislators, engineers are trained to reason about trade-offs and limitations. A good engineer thinks through possible approaches and consults stakeholders (management, customers, and so forth) before settling on one approach. Usually, even the best approach is imperfect, and it is the duty of an engineer to “provide full disclosure of all pertinent system limitations and problems.”

Unlike legislators, users directly experience design trade-offs and can adopt the products they want to use. Social media is not like employment, where workers might be coerced into unsafe conditions, nor like medicine, where most people lack the expertise to evaluate safety and efficacy. If you think Twitter is a garbage fire of hate and Facebook is a tool of the Russians, you are free to use Google Plus, LinkedIn, or any other tool you like. Users seem to mostly have a rather more positive impression of both platforms, however.

Congress would do well to leave the design and evaluation of consumer software products to the professionals and users.

Learn more:

Military Photo of the Day: Black Hawk Flies Over Afghanistan

The Stream - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 08:00

U.S. Army soldiers with Task Force Marauder fly a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter mission in Afghanistan on November 10, 2017.

Please pray for the thousands of brave men and women still serving in Afghanistan, as well as their families here at home.





Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream >>


Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer