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A Divergent View

One of the problems Clinton the Inevitable is having is some rumbling from her base. This is not surprising, given that Clinton is a hawk, a favorite of Wall Street, an ardent supporter of the surveillance state and an opponent of drug legalization. I suspect, in the end, it won’t matter. The Democrats will vote for Hillary anyway. But to appease them, she’s having to embrace parts of their progressive agenda, including expanding Social Security.

Seriously:

Progressives have a few such priorities in mind. First, they want Clinton to embrace an expansion of Social Security benefits. It’s an idea that seemed unthinkable during the period of fiscal austerity from which Congress has slowly been emerging, but it has gained steam among Democrats in recent months. Championed both by Warren and by the significantly more conservative Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the proposal earned support from all but two Senate Democrats when it came up during last month’s budget vote-a-rama. “She says her focus is on economic security. There’s no question Social Security is a key part of economic security,” said Nancy Altman, co-director of an advocacy group dedicated to boosting the public-pension system. “So it’s hard to understand why she wouldn’t do it.

Their other goal includes eliminating college loans in favor of a free education. Because, apparently, what this country really needs is another multi hundred billion dollar entitlement that will massively hike the cost of college. Oh, and they also want a pony and an action man figure and toy train.

The progressives know these ideas won’t get anywhere with Republicans in control of Congress. But they are tired of the Democrats being “cautious” (i.e, somewhat responsible) and want them to be “bold” (i.e,. stupid).

I can attack any part of this agenda, but let’s take on Social Security expansion, which I’ve addressed before:

Only an idiot would ignore that Social Security is already running a primary deficit and its “solvency” through 2033 comes from a trust fund that consists of nothing but IOU’s. Only an idiot would ignore the problem that massive retirement guarantees have created in Europe — plunging fertility rates, slow growth, waves of early retirement, even less personal savings. And only the heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots would propose tripling this problem.

Even if you ignore the political aspects, you’re talking about a massive tax hike which the government will, as it has done with Social Security, loan to itself and spend, leaving us in an even worse situation. Instead of having a Social Security Trust fund with $5 trillion fictitious dollars in it, we’ll have one with $10 trillion. I haven’t seen a proposal this stupid since Algore said he would shore up Social Security with the money we were borrowing from it.

The wealthy in this country are already paying an effective tax rate in the high 30’s. As Mcardle points out in a series of rebuttals to progressive talking points, this is a historic high. Contrary to the claim that Reagan and Bush 43 put the rich on easy street, the current tax code is just as onerous as it always was:

In 1986, in the face of a persistent budget deficit of roughly 5 percent of GDP, the Reagan administration undertook a massive tax reform that lowered marginal rates but also got rid of most deductions, which actually ended up raising effective taxes on the highest-income groups; the total average tax rate for the top 1 percent jumped from 24.6 percent in 1986 to 30.3 percent a year later. That’s why you could lower the top marginal rate to 28 percent from 70 percent and only see effective tax rates decline by five percentage points over that period.

But even that didn’t last. The George H.W. Bush administration did a big budget deal that raised taxes. The Bill Clinton administration raised them again, and the effective tax rate for the top 1 percent peaked at 35.3 percent in 1995, slightly higher than it had been at the previous peak in 1979. Even after the Bush tax cuts, the effective tax rates of this top group ran somewhere slightly north of 30 percent, or about where they’d been in 1981, before Reagan’s tax reform took effect. They only dipped back into the 20s under Barack Obama, because of the lasting effects of the recession.

Most of the tax relief of the last thirty years has come in the form of eliminating income taxes on the poor and drastically reducing for the lower middle class.

Progressives cling to the fantasy that we can simply raise taxes on the rich forever. “Hey!” they think, “we’re only taking 35.7% of the rich’s income. We could take another 5-10% easy!” Even assuming it were fair or even possible to take half the income of the “rich”; even assuming this wouldn’t damage the economy, we are already committed to spending that money. We already have trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Obamacare. We already have hundreds of billions committed to interest on the debt and maintaining Obama’s (and soon Hillary’s) wars. We already have a time bomb of public and private pensions that our government may end up bailing out. You can’t just spend money and hope the tax revenue will materialize. You can’t raise taxes on the rich forever. Eventually, you are going to have to raise taxes on the middle class. And eventually, you are going to run into a fiscal wall.

Now, by contrast, Chris Christie this week laid out his plan for Social Security. It includes tapering benefits to people with incomes over $80,000 and raising the retirement age. In the link, Yglesias makes the reasonable point that this hurts poorer seniors the most, who often retire earlier and don’t live as long as wealthier seniors. That’s true, but we still can’t sustain the current system. Maybe you can step the retirement ages a little differently or up the benefits for the most needy seniors. But at least Christie’s plan acknowledges the fiscal realities of the 21st century. At least it’s not based on the pie-in-the-sky belief that we can just raise taxes on the evil stinking rich and pay for … everything.

Contemplating this issue and the opposing views this afternoon, I became a little more optimistic about the 2016 election. A lot of people see the broad Republican field as a weakness. But, in some ways, it’s a strength. Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz … these guys have a very diverse array of views on foreign policy, economics and budget issues. They’re all conservative, in their way. But we’re looking at a real debate about where this country needs to be headed. We’re getting a fairly broad and somewhat sensible palette of ideas from the Republican slate. And that becomes really obvious when you compare it to the toked-up-college-dorm-bull-session ideas emerging from Clinton’s base.

The question, as always, will be: do the American people prefer conservative fact or progressive fantasy? I guess we’ll find out.

Star Wars Trailer 2

We’re back after some technical issues. The good news is that we may soon be getting some more technical help from my brother, who does this professionally.

To celebrate, here is the new Star Wars trailer:

I don’t want to be optimistic but it’s hard not to be.

I’ll have some more posts tonight and tomorrow on Iran, taxes and how stupid our media is. And this weekend will see the first Science Sunday

State-Sanctioned Kidnapping

For a long time, I’ve been writing about the growing government obsession with helicopter parenting. We’ve seen parents get threatened and sanctioned for such things as letting kids play in the street in a safe neighborhood.

A few months ago, I started following the story of the Meitivs:

In December, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv let their 10-year-old son, Rafi, and his 6-year-old sister, Dvorah, walk 1 mile home through Silver Spring, Maryland, alone. The kids got picked up by the police, who then turned the case over to child protective services. The Meitivs, as it happens, are “free-range parents” who have a very coherent philosophy about giving children more independence. They had let their children walk home alone that day only after practicing and felt the kids were ready.

In the letter to the Meitivs, dated Feb. 20, CPS says that it has closed the investigation. But a charge of “unsubstantiated” is not quite as definitively closed as “ruled out.” (The third option is “indicated,” the equivalent of guilty.) Danielle told the Washington Post she felt numb when she first opened the letter and then told her husband, “Oh my God, they really believe we did something wrong.”

CPS officials did not say they would keep an eye on the Meitivs. But now they have a charge of child neglect in their file, which puts them in a precarious position. They believe strongly that children should be able to roam the neighborhood unsupervised. But they no doubt believe even more strongly that they don’t want to be at any risk of having their children taken away from them for a second charge of neglect. Why on earth should the state have any right to put them in that predicament?

Emphasis mine. And lying … theirs:

The children of Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were taken into custody by county police at a park about 5 p.m. and turned over to the Child Protective Services agency, said Capt. Paul Starks, the county police spokesman. The children’s mother said they were released to the couple at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

The parents said the children, who are 10 and 6 and have been described as “free-range children,” had been expected home at 6 p.m. Sunday. When that time passed, the parents said, they began looking for them.

“We have been searching for the kids for hours,’’ the mother said in a Facebook posting. They learned of the children’s whereabouts about 8 p.m. The mother said they later spent about a half-hour at the CPS offices in Rockville without being allowed to see them.

Starks said police were dispatched after a stranger saw the unaccompanied children in the park near Fenton and Easley streets. He said police took the children to the CPS office.

(Lenore Skenazy has often talked about these stranger reports. She makes a good point: it’s appalling that someone’s first instinct on seeing two kids walking home from the park is to call the cops. Not to ask the kids if they’re OK (which, to be fair, can be construed by the panic-minded as predatory); not to be familiar with their neighborhood so that they know the kids are fine. Their instinct is to call the police, a decision that by law starts a CPS investigation.)

You can follow more on Lenore’s awesome blog. There does seem to be a bit of vindictiveness here. CPS took their kids and didn’t tell them for three hours. That is, every parent’s fear was realized only it wasn’t strangers kidnapping the kids, it was the state. After keeping them for another two-and-a-half hours, the Meitivs had to sign a temporary safety plan where they agreed not to let the kids out of their sight.

This boggles the mind. CPS is claiming that they simply responded to the report of a stranger and followed standard procedure. Even if that’s true, even if they didn’t specifically target a family that made their overzealousness a national story, it’s still insane. CPS’s defense of their actions is that is standard procedure to take into custody a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old who are walking unaccompanied in a safe neighborhood during daylights hours, not notify the parents for three hours, holds the kids for five-and-a-half hours and only release them if the parents agree not to let the kids out of their sight.

To be fair to CPS, they claim Maryland law is on their side. The law says that no child under eight can be left in a building without someone over age 13 accompanying them, which sounds crazy to me and would have gotten my parents jailed. But it does not apply to kids walking home from school or a park, where the law asks the CPS to judge the situation. If the facts in this case are as the Meitivs allege, then I think the Silver Spring CPS has too much time and money on their hands and not enough abuse and neglect to keep them busy.

Hillary In

Well, it’s official. Hillary has announced her candidacy. I know that’s a shock. Personally, I think she should go with this slogan:

The 2008 election was very fun to blog because so much was uncertain. Hillary seemed inevitable but then Obama beat her. McCain was declared dead but roared back. It was completely unpredictable. 2012 was fun, in its way, but we all knew it would be Romney in the end.

I’m dreading this election because what is there to say? We’ve had 24 years to see how corrupt and petty the Clintons can be and yet there are enough kool-aid drinkers to make this happen. Our only hope is that some even more massive corruption is found (always a possibility with these people). But even then, I think the Democrats will go ahead and nominate her. She could club baby seals and they’d still nominate her. She could throttle orphans on TV and they’d still nominate her. Hell, she could announce that she’s a Republican and wants to bust unions and they’d still probably nominate her. The thought of 4-8 more years of the Clintons may be enough to get me to vote Republican for the first since 2000.

I don’t, however, think Clinton’s ultimate election is unavoidable. To quote me:

What the hell is Hillary’s campaign going to be about?

Seriously. What issues is she going to run on? She can’t run on Obama’s record since it isn’t that hot and Obama is unpopular. But she can’t run against it without splitting the party.

Healthcare? That used to be her issue but we have Obamacare and that’s quite enough, thank you. Foreign policy? The economy? None of those are winners for her. In the end, I suspect Hillary’s campaign will come down to “it’s my turn” and I just don’t see the voters jumping on that. They didn’t with McCain in 2008. Or Dole in 1996.

As I see it, she has two options. One is to hope that the economy is doing great, the world is settled down, the scandals blow over and Obamacare becomes popular. Then she can run on a campaign of continuing those policies. And also doing something about all the pigs flying through the air.

The other option … and I suspect that given the realities of Obama’s tenure, this is where she’ll go … is Republicans Be Crazy. She’ll attempt to portray them as deranged lunatics who want to end Medicare, take away your health insurance, crash the economy and start a war. She’ll rally the various parts of the Democratic coalition and try to isolate the Republicans to only representing old white Christian men. Such a campaign would be nasty and divisive but I strongly suspect this is the road she’ll take.

Because, that’s the other reminder in this story. The Clintons talk nice when they have nothing to gain or lose. But when it comes to something they want — be it a plea bargain or the White House — they will scorch the fucking Earth to get there.

It will require a tremendous and concentrated effort by the Republican Party to derail her train, but it can be done. Especially as I think a lot of people are contemplating Clinton II with the same dread I am.

Right now, the only official Republican candidates are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. I don’t think either of them has much of a chance. While the GOP may flirt with outsider candidates, they always end up nominating someone mainstream: Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush II, McCain. Romney was so sensible you could have marketed him as a floor wax.

But that may be a strength this year. The Democrats and their allies are so busy portraying Cruz and Paul as crazy nutjobs that when the Republicans end up nominating someone sensible like Scott Walker or Jeb Bush, what are they going to say? I know what they’ll say but why would people listen?

(This was a similar dynamic to 2012. The Democrats kept telling us that Newt was crazy, Caine was crazy, Santorum was crazy, Bachman was crazy. So when Romney won the nomination, they were out of ammunition. Romney lost, of course, but he did outpoll the Republican Party nationally and was even leading for a while. And I don’t see Clinton as having Obama’s political guile.)

Gun to my head, I would say the GOP candidate is most likely to be Jeb Bush or Scott Walker. Rick Perry could surprise as could Rick Santorum. But I keep getting this sneaking suspicion in my gut that the future GOP nominee is someone we’re not talking about right now.

Election 2016 is still dull and a long way away. But it could get exciting fast if the right Republican comes along.

(Possible thread for the comments: put out your own dark horse GOP candidate and how you think he’d do.)

Paul Officially In

Rand Paul has officially thrown his hat into the Presidential ring, unveiling his agenda and opening up a website. I don’t think Paul has much of a chance of the nomination or the Presidency, given some of his unorthodox views. And, for obvious reasons, I’m a little dubious of half-term senators running for President. But I do like having him out there. He’s another voice outside the GOP establishment. He brings to the fore a number of issues — mass incarceration, the War on Drugs, NSA surveillance, aggressive foreign policy — that the GOP needs to confront.

And … he drive the Left Wing absolutely berserk. Today’s stories have alternated headlines of “Paul’s no different from other Republicans” to “Paul is a crazy far out Republican”. They’ve been putting up factually challenged rants about how he wants to return us to the 19th century. They’ve been accusing him of being sexist based on a testy interview with Savannah Guthrie. The Left Wing has a lot invested in the idea that all Republicans are sociopathic, racist, sexist shitlords who only care about rich people. Paul is one of the biggest challenges to that.

But there’s something else I’m picking up on. One of my favorite responses to Paul’s candidacy has been from whichever semi-literate intern wrote Paul Krugman’s column today. He puts up an idiot’s version of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and then claims, based on no data whatsoever, that there are no libertarians1. Everyone in America is either economically and socially liberal or economically and socially conservative. Because apparently the polls showing a large libertarian center don’t exist.

Why is American politics essentially one-dimensional, so that supporters of gay marriage are also supporters of guaranteed health insurance and vice versa? (And positions on foreign affairs — bomb or talk? — are pretty much perfectly aligned too).

Well, the best story I have is Corey Robin’s: It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.

And I suppose that you have to say that modern liberalism is in some sense the obverse — it is about creating a society that is more fluid as well as fairer.

This is mind-bogglingly stupid. 40% of self-described Republicans now support legal same-sex marriage, including 60% of young Republicans. 60-70% of independents support same sex marriage. And despite claims by liberals, actual polls show that a clear majority of independents and the vast majority of Republicans oppose single-payer healthcare. So this “actually very few” people who support same sex marriage and oppose single-payer health is approximately half the electorate.

Mankiw:

Similar to Krugman, I would define a libertarian voter as one who leans left on social issues (such as same-sex marriage) and right on economic issues (such as taxes and regulation). I certainly put myself in that camp, and I don’t think I am as lonely as Krugman suggests. I meet lots of students with similar views (though, admittedly, Harvard students are hardly a representative sample of voters).

I also meet a lot of students with similar views at my big state university. Mankiw also reminds us that far “challenging traditional hierarchies”, the Democrats supported them up until about last week:

Many libertarian voters I know (including those students) often vote for Democratic candidates because they weight the social issues more than the economic ones. I usually vote for Republican candidates because I weight the economic issues more than the social ones.

One reason is that I don’t view the Democratic Party as a leader on social issues. Remember that Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Barack Obama was against same-sex marriage when he ran for President, and then he “evolved” (aka flip-flopped) on the issue. On this social issue and many others, our elected leaders are really followers. The leaders are the American people.

Why are so many liberals freaking out about Rand Paul? Why are so many reduced to sheer hysteria by the prospect of a “libertarian moment”? Because libertarianism and libertarian-conservatism put the lie to the liberal conceit, espoused above by Krugman, that Democrats are mavericks who challenge traditional hierarchies. I couldn’t imagine anything further from the truth. Democrats were the party of slavery. Democrats were the party of segregation and Jim Crowe (especially progressive hero Woodrow Wilson). Democrats support massive government power, including the surveillance state and Obama’s wars. They have only supported social change when forced. They bomb countries, they violate civil liberties, they jail people by the millions and they always, always seek to expand the scope and power of our government. That’s not being a maverick and challenging social hierarchy. That’s being a conformist. It was, in fact, progressive hero Woodrow Wilson who said, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”

Rand Paul isn’t a dangerous loon. And he’s not the antichrist. What he is is a heretic, challenging the religion that is Progressivism. We should be grateful they’re not calling for him to be burned at the stake.

Yet.

Paul says he is not a libertarian and his views would be best described as conservative. But he draw enormous support from libertarians and libertarian-conservatives.

Rolling Stone Learned Nothing

So the Columbia Journalism review released their report on Rolling Stone’s sensational and false story of a gang rape at UVa. It’s very damning, showing that RS basically ignored red flags and any journalistic standards to get the story. They’re not going to fire anyone over it. But they insist that they feel really really bad for having slagged the reputation of a few dozen men, a fraternity and an entire university (one I am an alumnus of and retain an affection for).

So … yeah. No responsibility at all.

There are numerous good takes on this story, including Megan McArdle, Doug Mataconis and Conor Friedersdorf. But I want to spin out one little thread.

In politics, I often harp on about the process. I demand that the President go to Congress before going to war. I’m big on checks and balances. I’m vocal in my support for the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eight amendments. I support these things because I think that a good process will, more often that not, lead to a good result. If the President has to get the permission of Congress to go to war, he’s going to make sure he can make a case for it. We’ll still mess up (see Iraq) but it will minimize the mistakes.

By the same token, our civil liberties, in part, protect us from government error. Requiring that cops and prosecutors gather evidence and have a trial before a jury is not a guarantee of a just outcome. But it makes it a lot less likely that injustice will be done, that errors will be made.

Our system of civil liberties and checks and balances is not designed to produce “good government” (often defined as “big government”). It’s not designed to be efficient. An “efficient” government would jail people without trial and engage in whatever endeavors it thought necessary. No, the system is designed to keep mistakes to a minimum. As much as our government messes up, think how much more often they’d mess up without the Bill of Right and the Balance of Powers. The Constitutional process is about minimizing mistakes, even if that means results that are slower and less dramatic than some of us would like.

Almost all endeavors in life have their own set of checks and balances designed to minimized mistakes. Mine has the scientific method and peer review. Journalists minimize mistakes by confirming what details can be confirmed. They talk to as many sources as possible. They check the honesty of all sources. They apply common sense. It’s not perfect … but it does minimize the mistakes.

The CJR report make it clear that Rolling Stone ignored those checks and balances. They didn’t talk to Jackie’s friends. They made only a pro forma inquiry with the fraternity. They didn’t research her background. They did these things because they wanted the story to be true. They got so focused on the result — a sensational horrifying story about a culture of gang rape at a prestigious Southern university — that they said, “to hell with the process”.

McArdle:

Erdely’s statement focuses on her fear of retraumatizing Jackie, something that also comes up in the CJR report. But something less salutary also appears: the fear of losing a really good story. These things seem to have sort of gotten blended together, so that when problems emerged with the reporting, everyone involved at Rolling Stone was able to convince themselves to go forward anyway on the grounds that Jackie is a trauma victim and it’s dangerous to retraumatize her. Yet they don’t seem to have been worried about retraumatizing her by running her story in a national magazine.

Because most of my readers are not journalists, it seems worth noting that if this story had not fallen apart, it likely would have walked away with a National Magazine Award. It checks all the boxes: important social issue, beautiful writing, a vivid and gruesome event at its core, a heart-rending miscarriage of justice. When Jackie threatened to slip away, she was threatening to torpedo Rolling Stone’s major coup. There were certainly other stories that Erdely could have used instead, but less sensational stories that are more typical of campus rapes would not get the kind of readership or professional recognition that the magazine would earn for uncovering a clear-cut and horrific crime that the university had inexplicably failed to pursue.

That is the lesson here: RS became so focused on the goal and so fearful of not reaching that goal that they ignored the steps needed to get there. They pushed the process aside because the story (and the issue) were too important to be bothered with such mundane details as talking to the accused. They might have gotten it right anyway, by sheer luck. But bypassing the fact-checking process left open the possibility that they would be proved dramatically and disastrously wrong, as indeed they were.

This is something to keep in mind as we go forward on campus sexual violence. The Obama Administration has been pushing universities toward looser and looser standards of justice on campus sexual assault: requiring a “preponderance of evidence” standard, for example. There are numerous campuses where, had Jackie made this accusation to the University, the fraternity would have been disbanded and some members expelled. Indeed, there are at least two dozen men suing universities claiming they were railroaded.

The Rolling Stone debacle reminds us of just how badly wrong you can go when you focus on the goal of stopping campus sexual violence instead of the process of ferreting out the truth. Let’s not make the mistakes Rolling Stone made and seems indifferent to. Let’s look at their rush to judgement as something we shouldn’t do.

The Outline of a Deal

It’s not official, yet. Right now it’s just the framework. But the basics of the nuclear deal with Iran look … not that bad, actually. Iran will cut down it’s centrifuges by two-thirds and not enrich uranium past 3.67 percent. They’ll cut their stockpile of enriched uranium by 97% and not build any new facilities for 15 years. IAEA will have access to all of their facilities. This is the most important part:

U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.

Sanctions related to support of terrorism will remain in place.

Israel is unhappy, but Israel will be unhappy with just about any deal. The GOP and many Congressional Democrats are objecting, but they’ll object to almost any deal. Obviously a better deal would eliminate their nuclear facilities completely. But Ed Krayewski makes a good point:

That’s the reality a lot of critics of the Iran deal don’t want to admit. President Obama even briefly touched on it yesterday—a country won’t do something just because America wants it to. For starters, the country’s political leadership would have to be historically illiterate to even consider it. Following American diktats provide no guarantee of not becoming a target of American ire in the future (i.e. Qaddafi giving up WMDs and then getting regime-changed by the West anyway). Could the U.S. continue sanctions against Iran? Certainly. The Israeli government would appear to consider that a better option. But sanctions aren’t effective at compelling compliance. Cuba’s been the subject of sanctions for more than half a century—neither did the sanctions break the communist regime nor were they even able to accomplish the more limited goal of extracting reimbursements for property seized by the Cuban government. And, most importantly, sanctions rarely hurt the ruling class of a country. The Ayatollahs, the Castros, the Kims, they’re all authoritarians of very different stripes, but none have known hunger or deprivation because of the sanctions their actions may have triggered.

While I agree that our ability to force Iran’s hand is limited, I’d disagree that the sanctions haven’t been a big factor here. Iran is much closer to a democracy than Cuba is and the bad Iranian economy has clearly put the leadership in jeopardy of popular uprising. I don’t think Iran would be at the table at all had it not been for the sanctions. This is good: it indicates a sliver of pragmatism laced within the fundamentalist dipshittery that infests Iran’s leaders.

As always, the devil is in the details. We’ll see how the final deal looks and how the inspections go down. But so far … this doesn’t look half bad … if the inspections and the conditional nature of withdrawing sanctions are as strong as the State Department is claiming.

No Pizza For You

Indiana has suddenly become the latest front in the Culture War. As noted by Xetrov below, Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Act similar to the federal RFRA. However, the association of several rabid anti-gay activists with the bill has raised concerns that it will allow discrimination against gays (even though no RFRA in the country does that). Pence wants to clarify this in the bill. In a reasonable world, that clarification would pass and we’d move on.

But what’s the use of being reasonable? Tarring and feathering some poor sap is just so much more fun:

Someone please tell me if my progression here is inaccurate in any way:

1) Family owners of small-town Indiana pizzeria spend zero time or energy commenting on gay issues.

2) TV reporter from South Bend walks inside the pizzeria to ask the owners what they think of the controversial Religious Restoration Freedom Act. Owner Crystal O’Connor responds, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no….We are a Christian establishment.” O’Connor also says—actually promises is the characterization here—that the establishment will continue to serve any gay or non-Christian person that walks through their door.

3) The Internet explodes with insults directed at the O’Connor family and its business, including a high school girls golf coach in Indiana who tweets “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?” Many of the enraged critics assert, inaccurately, that Memories Pizza discriminates against gay customers.

4) In the face of the backlash, the O’Connors close the pizzeria temporarily, and say they may never reopen, and in fact might leave the state. “I don’t know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it’s safe to reopen,” Crystal O’Connor tells The Blaze. “I’m just a little guy who had a little business that I probably don’t have anymore,” Kevin O’Connor tells the L.A. Times.

Yelp has been working overtime to delete shrieking negative reviews of the place. Conservatives have responded with a GoFundMe campaign that has, at present, raised over $100,000 to help out the pizzeria owners.

This is insane. All the owners of this establishment did was answer a reporter’s question honestly and they’re suddenly being hounded by the entire Left Wing Echosphere. It reminds me of something Clark wrote over at Popehat (I’ll link when their site is back up). The Culture War is basically over and the Left has won the field. Gays are out of the closet, sodomy laws are dead and gay marriage is legal in 39 states. Birth control is so available that the government will force your employer to buy it and the Republican compromise position is to make it available over the counter. Despite a spate of anti-abortion laws, we still have one of the most liberal abortion regimes on the planet.

And is the Left responding to this with joy and reconciliation? They are not. As Clark put it, they are going around the battlefield shooting the survivors of the losing side. They hounded Brendan Eich out of a job, they’re boycotting the entire state of Indiana and now they’re hounding some poor restaurant owners whose crime was not realizing a reporter was baiting them.

Once Again, PC Eats Itself

So this week, Comedy Central announced their replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show: South African comedian Trevor Noah. Noah, known for a somewhat edgy standup routine and a couple of correspondent reports on The Daily Show was immediately praised a great choice.

Wait for it….

A few hours after Comedy Central announced that the South African comic would replace Jon Stewart, Salon’s TV critic predicted a surge of “right-wing rage” because “conservative critics have a practiced, doublespeaking method of piling on the heat on figures who stand out because of their race or gender or sexuality,” and obviously their guns would turn on Noah.

Not 24 hours later, Salon published a piece about how Noah’s old tweets—not conservatives—might “kill The Daily Show.” As Sonny Bunch helpfully recounts, the Internet discovered that Noah, who’d grown phenomenally popular in the rest of the Anglosphere, had a bit of a clunker problem.

You can click through to read the offending humor, which consists of tweets that include some Jewish jokes and some fat-girl jokes.

This has all led to some whipsawing in progressive media, from a Trevor Noah welcome wagon to a caravan of pitchfork-wielding villagers. On Monday, Vox’s Max Fisher introduced Noah to readers with “seven of his funniest clips,” and predicted that the host would make his show “a fresh and perhaps invaluable contribution to how we talk—and joke—about race and nationality.” He proved it, with a dive into Noah’s popular videos, pulling out solid routines about how bad Africans looked in famine relief ads and how mixed-race people get “upgraded to black” when they’re famous.

Yet within a day, there was dissent within Vox; writer Kelsey McKinney was explaining why Noah might be unfit to lead TDS. “A Daily Show host should be held to a higher standard than other comedians,” she wrote in regard to the tweets. “These jokes are offensive because they are reflections of cultures that are oppressive and privileged—and rather than being critical of those societal constructions, the jokes instead reinforce them.”

It’s Patricia Arquette all over again. It was fine for Noah to make black jokes, white jokes or anti-American jokes. But he can’t make fun of fat women because he’s above them in the N-dimensional matrix of the perpetually offended. (Weigel reminds us of the Suey Park-Colbert incident, where a bunch of hashtagivists insisted that Colbert’s satire of racism was, in itself, racist).

So what do I think? Chris Rock, a few months ago, gave an interesting interview where he talked about our culture of perpetual offense as it applies to comedians:

It is scary, because the thing about comedians is that you’re the only ones who practice in front of a crowd. Prince doesn’t run a demo on the radio. But in stand-up, the demo gets out. There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like fucking Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, “Oh, I went too far,” and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.

Exactly. Comedians who live on the edge of offense, as Rock sometimes does, have to work their material to go up to but not over the line. And the only way to know you’ve gone over the line is when people get offended and stop laughing. Think about Rock’s routine on black people vs. the n-word and how much work he must have done to make sure it was funny without being offensive. That’s something that can only come from experience, from trial and error.

For comedians (and really, for everyone), Twitter is a test audience of 284 million. We’ve seen a lot comedians — Patton Oswalt and Louis CK, for example — tweet jokes that went over the line (sometimes way over it). Hell, we’ve seen random people like Justine Sacco have their lives turned upside down because a dumb joke went viral.

I didn’t like Noah’s tweets (which are, granted, a small selection from over 8000 tweets). But I did find his stand-up material good. Not George-Carlin-in-his-prime good, but reasonable. I do think his tweets went over the line and the Jewish jokes did bother me. But I’m willing to give Noah a chance at The Daily Show. If he starts making offensive jokes, I’ll turn it off. But as someone who has occasionally tweeted stupid things, I’m not willing to line up the firing squad just yet.