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March 2017

A Field Guide to Harvard’s Field Guide on ‘Fake News’ The real fake-out is that the Left is capable of honestly policing fake news. By Ben Shapiro

Last week, Harvard released a new research guide on “fake news.”

“Fake news,” of course, is the source of all evil, according to the Left. It’s only thanks to lies that Donald Trump was elected! Instead of targeting stories that are completely false, however, the Left applies the label of “fake news” to outlets that report factual stories but draw political conclusions from them — in other words, they call everything with which they disagree “fake news.”

Which means that their talk of “fake news” is actually fake news.

Of course, the largest “fake news” item of all is that “objective” news sources aren’t biased in their coverage. They obviously are, and it’s why conservatives have warmed to President Trump’s labeling left-leaning outlets such as CNN “fake news” even if CNN isn’t actually reporting anything factually false but merely drawing convenient leftist inferences from overblown coverage of core facts.

Nonetheless, the Harvard guide, written by “social justice” professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College, purports to compile a handy-dandy list of fake-news sites to avoid. The list provides ten different ways to label the stories on such sites:

fake news (actual fake news)
extreme bias (“sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts”)
conspiracy theory
rumor mill
state news
junk science (“sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims”)
hate news
proceed with caution (“sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification”)

Two other indicators are used for leftist sites that meet Zimdars’s politically correct standards:

Five Realities to Remember about the Health-Care Debate The congressional Republican bill is flawed, but so are many of the talking points being used against it. By Michael Tanner

It has been barely a week since the Republican plan to (sort of) repeal and replace Obamacare was unveiled and already the proposal has been savaged from both left and right, by most of the media, by various interest groups, including doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, and by virtually anyone else with an opinion. Outside of Paul Ryan, it is hard to find anyone who truly likes this bill. Indeed, in my opinion, this is a deeply flawed bill that perpetuates — and in some cases exacerbates — some of Obamacare’s worst flaws. Still, there are some important things to keep in mind.

1. There will be losers as well as winners. The Republican talking point that everyone will be better off under their proposal is silly and just gives opponents an easy target. Every piece of legislation creates winners and losers. Obamacare did. There were far more losers than winners, but some of those who won under Obamacare will be losers under the Republican plan. They will receive lower subsidies, have to pay more for insurance, or be forced to switch to less inclusive plans. Denying this simply allows Democrats and the media to search for someone getting hurt and blow it up into a big story.

2. There will be more winners than losers. The media coverage of the Congressional Budget Office’s report has focused on the reduction in insurance coverage (more on this below). But the report also showed that premiums would be lower under the GOP plan starting in 2020, about 10 percent lower by 2026. That represents a substantial savings for millions of Americans. The Republican plan would also give millions of Americans more choice of insurance plans, making it easy to find the type of coverage and the provider networks that suit their needs. Nor should we ignore more than $1 trillion in tax cuts, many for the middle class, or the $337 billion reduction in deficits over the next ten years. Those cuts mean more jobs and economic growth, a big win for everybody.

3. No, 14 million people are not having their insurance taken away. Media reports have focused on CBO’s conclusion that there would be 14 million fewer insured Americans next year under the GOP replacement plan, and as many as 25 million fewer by 2027, though more people would still be insured than before Obamacare. Those numbers may or may not be accurate (CBO’s model has consistently relied on a belief that the individual mandate would cause people to sign up for Obamacare, a belief that hasn’t held up in practice), but they are badly misleading. Much of the projected decline in coverage stems from CBO’s belief that, without the individual mandate, many people would choose not to buy insurance. Whether or not that is a wise choice on their part, free people should have the ability to make even unwise choices. That’s not “taking their insurance away,” it is treating people like adults.

4. Of the 25 million fewer insured in 2026, 14 million would come from a reduction in Medicaid enrollment. That may sound alarming, but Medicaid was not only fiscally unstainable in its current form, stressing both federal and state budgets, it provided barely minimal care. Reforming Medicaid in a way that encourages states to innovate and focus more of their resources on the most vulnerable populations, rather than, say, the elderly in nursing homes, many of whom are middle class and simply shifting the burden from their families to taxpayers, or single, childless men, can only benefit those most in need.

5. The alternative is Obamacare not Utopia. In comparing the GOP alternative to Obamacare, it is important to remember that Obamacare was teetering on the edge of collapse. Projections of how many people would be insured or what premiums would be ten years from now assume that Obamacare would survive that long. It couldn’t, not in its current form. When Democrats point out someone who would lose their insurance under the GOP replacement, we should ask what would happen to that person when — not if — Obamacare spirals into oblivion.

Unpacking the Complexity of Repeal and Replace Conservatives are anxious to repeal Obamacare, but repeal must be a true repeal. By Michael A. Needham & Jacob Reses

The debate over the repeal and replacement of Obamacare has been hard for many on the right to parse because the concept of “repeal” — a term with a straightforward meaning that is isolated from “replace” — can lose its clear meaning when the two are joined at the hip.

Obamacare touched on so many aspects of health policy — aspects any reform effort would inevitably need to address, albeit in a different manner — that evaluating any one element of the law in isolation from the others is enormously difficult. Which aspects are central, and which are peripheral, is no easy question to answer for such a massive law. That difficulty is compounded by the lack of consensus among Republicans on an ideal replacement. Sound Obamacare replacement ideas in the minds of some may double down on Obamacare’s worst features in the minds of others. A further complication is introduced by the sequencing of reform. Some replace concepts, though in isolation of potential merit, may take on a different character in a policy context where metastatic remnants of Obamacare remain on the books pending repeal at a later date.

“Repeal and replace” has become a mantra in many corners on the right but it has long been a source of unease for some conservatives who have feared that “replace” might in practice not represent true “repeal.” The reaction to American Health Care Act represents the eruption of such concerns, which have brewed under the surface of our Obamacare debates for years, into the spotlight.

Sensing that things might play out precisely this way, many conservatives, Heritage Action included, urged Congress to lay the groundwork last Congress for an immediate repeal of Obamacare shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama’s successor. That process culminated in the passage of the 2015 reconciliation bill that the same conservatives have urged Congress to pass for the last several weeks. But that bill was imperfect, as many noted at the time. Its authors, reluctant to test the limits of the Senate’s Byrd Rule, which limits what can be included in a reconciliation package, prematurely omitted from the bill the repeal of Obamacare’s various insurance regulations. Though it repealed Obamacare’s taxes and spending, it was understood at the time to be a floor, not a ceiling, for repeal. More work, we all knew, would be needed.

Muslim IT Hackers in Congress Had Access to Everything Daniel Greenfield

It really speaks to the level of corruption and disorganization that this situation was able to go on for so long. Or that a clearly corrupt bunch that seemed willing to do anything had such access.

I’m not sure if that last sentence should be taken to refer to Congressional Democrats or the Pakistani Muslim IT brothers in their employ who are at the center of an access scandal. And a bunch of other scandals.

Awan ran technology for multiple House Democrats, and soon four of his relatives — including brothers Abid and Jamal — appeared on the payroll of dozens of other members, collecting $4 million in taxpayer funds since 2010.

“They had access to EVERYTHING. Correspondence, emails, confidential files — if it was stored on the Member system, they had access to it,” the former House Information Resources (HIR) technology worker with first-hand knowledge of Imran’s privileges told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“There were some things – like access to the House email system that were totally controlled by the technicians at HIR. In order for certain permissions to be granted, a form was required to ensure that there was a paper trail for the requested changes. Imran was constantly complaining that he had to go through this process and trying to get people to process his access requests without the proper forms. Some of the permissions he wanted would give him total access to the Members’ stuff.”

“IT staff at HIR can be tracked for every keystroke they make,” the worker said. But by comparison, “when these guys were granted access to the Member’s computer systems there is no oversight or tracking of what they may be doing on the Member’s system. For example they could make a copy of anything on the Member’s computer system to a thumb drive or have it sent to a private server they had set up and no one would know.”

So we have some rather dubious people with access to everything on the system of Dems working on high level committees. And it’s a safe bet that they were no more secure about it than Hillary. On top of that you have Capitol Police, a sinecure position, investigating this, instead of the FBI or the Secret Service.

The central IT staffer said any suggestion that the brothers’ access didn’t span the full gamut of congressional intrigue was silly because they were the ones giving out permissions.

“When a new Member begins, they guide them on everything from which computer system to purchase to which constituent management system to go with and all other related hardware purchases. Then they install everything and set up all the accounts AND grant all the required permissions and restrictions,” the staffer said.

“In effect, they are given administrative control of the Members’ computer operations. They then set up a remote access so they can connect from wherever they are and have full access to everything on the Member’s system.”

You had Pakistanis with a backdoor to the systems of key figures who oversaw national security agencies. This is really bad. And yet keeping the investigation out of sight will bury it.

Will Wilders Win? The Dutch go to the polls. Bruce Bawer

Here’s one perverse consequence of Europe’s insane immigration policies: international election campaigns. Case in point: there are now so many Pakistanis who hold Norwegian citizenship (and collect Norwegian benefits) but who spend most of their time in Pakistan (where they can live like kings on those benefits) that Norwegian politician now routinely travel to Pakistan – this is not a joke – to campaign in a part of the that has come to be known as “Little Norway.” But it works the other way, too. So many Turks live in the Netherlands that President Tayyip Ergodan, in advance of a forthcoming referendum on expanding his powers, sent some of his flunkies to Rotterdam the other day to court votes. To the surprise of many, however, the normally docile Dutch government pushed back: it banned a scheduled pro-Erdogan rally, expelled one Turkish cabinet minister, and denied entry to another.

It was a small but cheering action. For too long, European elites have viewed their own countries as “humanitarian superpowers” (yes, seriously) whose mission is to give a leg-up to the downtrodden of the Muslim world. The elites in the Muslim world, however, regard European nations as colonies in the making, whose treasuries are annually drained of colossal sums in welfare handouts that end up juicing up Muslim economies, and whose leaders are docile, appeasing patsies who dare not breathe a negative word about anything Islamic.

The Dutch government’s response to Erdogan, then, marked a major departure from standard practice. It was a shocker, in fact, and perhaps a game-changer. Erdogan, accustomed to European bowing and scraping, clearly wasn’t prepared for it. He went ballistic, comparing the Dutch to the Nazis and blaming them for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serb units murdered 8,000 Muslims while Dutch UN peacekeepers stood passively by. Turks in Rotterdam went ballistic too, holding massive riots that drew participants from as far away as Germany. Dutch authorities declared a state of emergency.

Ergodan’s slam at the Dutch will probably boost his support among his own people. But what impact will this imbroglio have on today’s Dutch elections? The Netherlands, which despite its small size has an extraordinary number of parties represented in its parliament, is currently governed by the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) in coalition with the social-democratic Labor Party (PvdA). But a great deal has changed since the last elections, which took place in 2012. The PvdA, which won 38 percent of the vote in 2012, is now down to around 10 percent in polls. The VVD, which received four out of ten votes in 2012, now stands to earn only one in four.

Trump Embraces The PLO Fantasy The new president is gearing up to make the same mistake as his predecessor. Caroline Glick

US President Donald Trump is losing his focus. If he doesn’t get it back soon, he will fail to make America great again or safe again in the Middle East.

After holding out for a month, last week Trump indicated he is adopting his predecessors’ obsession with empowering the PLO.

This is a strategic error.

There are many actors and conflicts in the Middle East that challenge and threaten US national interests and US national security. Iran’s rise as a nuclear power and regional hegemon; the war in Syria; Turkey’s abandonment of the West; and Russia’s regional power play all pose major threats to US power, security and interests. The Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, Hamas and other Sunni jihadist movements all threaten the US, Europe and the US’s Sunni allies in the region in a manner that is strategically significant to America.

None of these issues, none of these actors and none of these threats are in any way related to or caused by the PLO and its interminable, European-supported hybrid terror and political war against Israel. None of these pressing concerns will be advanced by a US embrace of the PLO or a renewed obsession with empowering the PLO and its mafia-terrorist bosses.

To the contrary, all of these pressing concerns will be sidelined – and so made more pressing and dangerous – by a US reengagement with the PLO .

And yet, over the past week, Trump has indicated that the PLO is now his focus.

Last Friday, Trump spoke on the telephone with Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is head of the PLO and the unelected dictator of the corrupt, terrorism-sponsoring, PLO -controlled Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.

According to media reports, Trump told Abbas – whose legal term in office ended eight years ago – that he views him as a legitimate leader. According to the official White House report of the conversation, Trump also reportedly told Abbas that he supports reaching a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Such a deal, to the extent it is ever reached, involves expanding PLO control over Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem at Israel’s expense.

Trump also invited Abbas for an official visit to Washington. And the day after they spoke, the Trump administration moved $250 million in US taxpayer dollars to Abbas’s police state where for the past 25 years, Abbas and his cronies have enriched themselves while feeding a steady diet of antisemitic, anti-American jihadist bile to their impoverished subjects.

To build up his credibility with the PLO , Trump put his electoral pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem on ice. The real estate mogul ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deny Jews the right to their property and their legal right to use state lands in Judea and Samaria.

And swift on the heels of that conversation with Abbas, Trump’s chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt was dispatched to Jerusalem to begin empowering the PLO at Israel’s expense.

No More Gravy Train for the United Nations Trump administration contemplates 50% reduction in U.S. funding. Joseph Klein

Bureaucrats and diplomats at the United Nations are scrambling to adjust to the new Trump administration. One thing seems certain. The Obama days of wine and roses for the UN are over. The Trump administration is reportedly laying the groundwork for cuts of at least 50% to U.S. funding for United Nations programs. U.S. diplomats warned key UN member states to “expect a big financial restraint” on American spending at the UN at a meeting earlier this month in New York City, according to sources cited by Foreign Policy.

The United States spent nearly $10 billion in total on the United Nations in 2015 alone, based on available data. This includes U.S. payment of 22 % of the UN’s regular budget and about 28.5% of its peacekeeping budget, which together add up to over $3 billion annually. The U.S. has contributed billions of dollars more in voluntary donations to various UN agencies, programs and flash humanitarian appeals. Based on available 2015 data, cutting just the U.S. voluntary contributions by 40 % would save about $2.7 billion a year.

It has been estimated that the U.S.’s mandatory assessment for funding of the UN’s regular budget is more than that of 176 other UN member states combined. The 56 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are estimated to have constituted approximately 8.6% of global production in 2015. However, they only paid 5.6% of the UN’s regular budget and 2.4% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget.

United Nations mandatory assessed budget funding is based on the socialist formula of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The starting point is to calculate each member state’s mandatory budget assessments based on the proportion of each member state’s gross national product in comparison to the global gross national product. However, that is only the starting point. Many “less developed” nations’ assessments are then adjusted downward through manipulative concessions such as a debt burden discount and a low per capita income discount. Wealthier nations find themselves having to make up the shortfalls.

The United States is bearing an unfair burden in the funding of the United Nations. Yet the U.S. has only one vote out of 193 member states in the General Assembly when it comes to approval of the final budget for which it pays the lion’s share. This redistributionist practice must end and give way to more equitable sharing of mandatory assessments so that all member states have some real skin in the game.

The UN is also way overdue for a major overhaul, including significant cuts in its bloated budgets.For example, UN bureaucrats based in New York have been receiving net remuneration (i.e., take-home salary) at a level about 25% higher than that of their U.S. equivalents, according to the International Civil Service Commission. There are highly generous benefits that the UN provides its staff on top of that. UN salaries and benefits need to be frozen, or even rolled back, to eliminate any differential that still remains with what comparable U.S. civil servants receive, as a condition for continued U.S. funding.

The UN’s aid agencies are cumbersome and non-transparent. One independent study published a few years ago concluded that “many of the UN agencies have an extremely bad record on transparency” and are “among the least accountable aid agencies.” UN agencies also carry heavy overhead costs, which reduce the amount of contributions from donor countries going directly to those who need the assistance. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Population Fund “actually spend more on administrative costs than aid disbursements (129% and 125%, respectively),” according to the study. The UNDP also has the highest salary/aid ratio at 100 percent. Perhaps for that reason, the UNDP’s transparency record is particularly bad.

Another American City Destroyed by the Democrats The tragic story of Minneapolis. John Perazzo

“American politics is dominated by an enduring myth,” writes author Peter Collier—the myth “that Democrats are the party of the common man, the voiceless, the powerless, the poor. That if you care about what happens to the least among us, you will cast your vote in the Democratic column.”

But as Collier also points out, the vast majority of America’s voiceless, powerless, and impoverished people are concentrated in cities that have been run exclusively by Democrats for decades—even generations—without interruption. These are cities where stratospheric rates of crime, poverty, unemployment, out-of-wedlock births, homes without fathers and failed school systems have become a way of life—along with oppressive and confiscatory taxes whose only discernible achievement is to keep the leaky ship of city government afloat for as long as possible before it is inevitably capsized by economic and social calamity.

Minneapolis, Minnesota is perhaps the least likely case in point. Camouflaged by the state as a whole, a synonym for plainspoken stability, it is just one of the many American cities that were once thriving centers of industry, prosperity and optimism—until Democrats took them over. Since 1978, Minneapolis has been governed exclusively by mayors from the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFLP)—the state affiliate of the Democratic Party.

Prior to this long era of Democratic dominance, Minneapolis’ poverty rate was consistently lower than the national average. Throughout the 1980s, when the trickle down of the Reagan economic boom had a positive effect on cities nationwide, Minneapolis shared in these good times, adding some 3,000 new jobs to its downtown area each year from 1981-87. As of 1983, only 8% of the city’s metropolitan-area population lived below the poverty level, as compared to approximately 15% of the national population.

But by 1988, then-mayor Donald Fraser—a member of the DFLP—had grown troubled by the stark contrast he saw between the majority of his city and who were thriving economically, and a number of African-American neighborhoods where crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency were experiencing a growth spurt. Taking a page out of the same playbook other big city Democrat mayors were using, Fraser believed that the cure was redistribution of income. He decided to revamp the way in which social-welfare expenditures were allocated and believed, specifically, that federal and local agencies needed to focus more of their resources on the economic problems confronting unwed mothers (who were disproportionately black) and their children.

The Real Hamas: Sorry, Folks! by Bassam Tawil

What Hamas says, day and night, in Arabic, tells the real story. In fact, Hamas officials are very clear and straightforward when they address their people in Arabic. Yet some Western and Israeli analysts do not want to be bothered by the facts.

Some reports have suggested that Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh are the ones pushing for the changes in the movement’s charter. However, even if Mashaal and Haniyeh succeed in their mission, there is no guarantee that Hamas’s military wing would comply.

Hamas has also denied its intention to cut off its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. “The reports are aimed at tarnishing the image of Hamas in the eyes of the world,” explained a top Hamas official. He also denied that Hamas was planning to abandon the armed struggle against Israel in favor of a peaceful popular “resistance.”

What does Hamas mean when it says that it “accepts” an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem without recognizing Israel’s right to exist?

Is this a sign of moderation and pragmatism on the part of the extremist Islamic terror movement? Or is it just another ploy intended to deceive everyone, especially gullible Westerners, into believing that Hamas has abandoned its strategy of destroying Israel in favor of a two-state solution?

Recent reports have suggested that Hamas is moving towards “declaring a Palestinian state over the 1967 borders.”

According to the reports, Hamas is also contemplating changing its charter so that it would no longer include anti-Semitic references. The charter, which was drafted in August 1988, contains anti-Semitic passages and characterizations of Israeli society as Nazi-like in its cruelty. The same reports also claimed that Hamas’s revised charter will also state that the terror movement is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some analysts in Israel and the West have interpreted these reports as a sign that Hamas is finally endorsing a policy of pragmatism toward Israel and Jews. They are particularly excited about Hamas’s purported intention to declare (in its revised charter) that its conflict is “only with Zionism and the occupation, and not with Jews around the world.”

Judging from the analyses published by some commentators and Palestinian affairs “experts” in the past few days, one might conclude that Hamas is on its way to making a dramatic change in its vicious ideology. Unfortunately, however, the facts suggest otherwise.

Merkel’s Migrant Deception by Vijeta Uniyal

As it now turns out, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was right about a “secret deal” all along.

In a government report published last month by the German newspaper Rheinische Post, experts recommended an annual intake of up to 300,000 migrants a year for the next 40 years, to counter lower German birth rates.

As they embark on a bizarre social engineering project on a continental scale, members of Germany’s political class evidently do not see the need to consult even their own electorates. Instead, they apparently believe in creating irreversible facts on the ground, and giving voting rights to migrants permanently residing in Germany.

“Never believe anything until it has been officially denied,” people use to say in days of the Soviet Union. Today, the same seems to be true for the European Union’s migrant policy. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel engineered the EU-Turkey deal on migrants, it was widely described by the European politicians and the media as a “breakthrough”. Merkel and other EU leaders agreed on offering a down payment of €3 billion to the regime of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in return for its promises to “stem migrant flows”.

In December 2015, nearly four months before the EU-Turkey agreement was even formalized, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused Chancellor Merkel of working on a “secret deal” with her Turkish counterparts. President Orbán was quite specific in his claims, apparently certain that Berlin would soon reveal the details to the public.

“Beyond what we agreed with Turkey in Brussels there’s something that doesn’t figure in the agreement,” President Orbán said in December 2015. “We’ll wake up one day — and I think this will be announced in Berlin as soon as this week — that we have to take in 400,000 to 500,000 refugees directly from Turkey.”

President Orbán was ridiculed for his claims. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans dismissed President Orbán’s allegations of a secret deal with Turkey as “nonsense”.

Bloomberg News reported the German and French outrage to President Orbán’s allegations at that time:

“France and Germany are working together to manage the flow of migrants, which is a challenge to everyone,” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters in Paris on Wednesday. “Last weekend the union reached an agreement with Turkey,” and Orban should be aware of the details since he was there, Le Foll said.

A German government official, requesting anonymity because EU-Turkey talks are ongoing, said Orban’s claim that Germany made a secret deal is false.

As it now turns out, PM Orbán was right about a “secret deal” all along. According to the latest revelations made by the German newspaper Die Welt, Chancellor Merkel, along with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, had agreed to accept 150,000 to 200,000 Syrian migrants from Turkey into the EU without consulting other European member states.