Strange Bedfellows
February 1, 2019

Smartphones are terrible — present company excluded, of course — and addictive, and studies are showing that those little screens in our pockets are detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing. This is especially true for children and teenagers. "Smartphones have made our kids dumber — it's measurable," Tucker Carlson said on his Fox News show Thursday night. "But they've also made our kids much less happy." Suicide rates and mental illness in teens "began to surge right around 2012," he added, "just as smartphones and social media became universal."

"Smartphone use makes your kids sadder, slower, and more isolated and, over time, can kill them," though if you've never tried "taking an iPhone away from a seventh-grader ... it's like trying to get a junkie into rehab," Carlson said. But he had a solution: "Parents need help, and there is no reason that the Congress, which made smartphones possible in the first place, shouldn't be part of the solution. So here's an idea: Ban smartphone use for children, pass a federal law tomorrow."

Comedian Neal Brennan agreed with Carlson about the awfulness of smartphones on Thursday's Daily Show. And like the generally anti-regulation, small-government Carlson, Brennan's solution relied on legislation. Unlike Carlson, he wasn't serious, probably. "I got my inspiration from another problem: guns," he said. "There are a bunch of great gun control ideas that we're never gonna use. That's when it hit me: What America needs is common-sense phone control."

"Our phones are just like guns: You think it's a good idea to have one, but statistically you're more likely to use it to hurt yourself," Brennan said, and he laid out phone-specific waiting periods, mental-health checks, and background checks. But like that seventh-grader, Brennan did not react well when Trevor Noah suggested he give up his phone first. "Typical liberal," Brennan said. "Trevor, you'll get my phone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." Peter Weber

August 22, 2017

In President Trump's new Afghanistan War policy, laid out in a speech on Monday night, he pledged a deliberately unspecified troop surge, probably of about 4,000 extra troops, and declined to set a timetable for withdrawing the U.S. military from the country. Trump sided with the former generals in his administration rather than those advocating winding down the 16-year-old war as a lost cause, prominently his recently ejected chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, so perhaps it is no surprise that the foreign policy hawks in the Republican Party were very enthusiastic about Trump's speech ...

... while Bannon's Breitbart News vehemently disagreed with Trump's decision. Specifically, the writers and editors at Breitbart took issue with Graham and other conservatives that the policy was significantly different that former President Barack Obama's.

Democrats criticized Trump's lack of details or vision. And while the reaction at Fox News was much more positive, not all Fox News regulars were on board. Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host once considered for White House press secretary and reportedly in talks for her own Fox News TV show, sounded almost like the Democrats.

So, 2017, strange bedfellows, etc. Peter Weber

August 29, 2016

Last week, Megyn Kelly broadcast an interview with Julian Assange in which the WikiLeaks founder threatened to release damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and explained why he isn't releasing anything negative about Republican nominee Donald Trump. On Saturday night's Greg Gutfeld Show, the host posed this question about Assange to his panel of entertainers and writers: "Is he really concerned about the future of America or is he just doing this for his own sick satisfaction? And since when do we have the right to look at other people's secret stuff?... When is hacking okay? When it's someone you don't like, like Hillary?"

These are some serious questions, and the panel split, 3-2, in Assange's favor, with Gutfeld evening the score. Gutfeld's show isn't Fox News Sunday or Meet the Press — his panel was an odd mix of novelist and literary critic Walter Kirn, former National Security Council staffer Gillian Turner, professional wrestler Tyrus (George Muchoch, formerly Brodus Clay), National Review writer Katherine Timpf, and Jeff Dye, a stand-up comedian and reality TV personality, who hosted the MTV show Numbnuts — but their discussion is animated and pretty interesting, and it touches on many of the issues of privacy and security that don't always have clear answers. You can watch below. Peter Weber

May 11, 2016

A right-wing Hindu nationalist group in India is inspired by Donald Trump — and praying for his victory to Hindu gods.

The dozen members of Hindu Sena chanted mantras and burned a ritual fire of seeds, grass, and clarified butter for Trump's success this week. They are sympathetic to the presumptive Republican nominee because of his rhetoric about Islam, as tensions between Indian Hindus and Muslims have simmered for years.

"The whole world is screaming against Islamic terrorism, and even India is not safe from it," said Vishnu Gupta, founder of the organization. Giving Trump's slogan a globalist spin, he added, "only Donald Trump can save humanity." Bonnie Kristian

April 4, 2016

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are often cast as opposite poles of this presidential election, but when it comes to trade, immigration, and blue collar jobs, they actually have a lot in common. Both have promised to nix free trade deals and keep out low-wage, foreign workers to produce a blue collar revival in America.

"But many economists say that's little more than an appealing fantasy," Politico reports, because "[m]any, if not all, of the low-skilled, assembly-line jobs the two leading populist candidates talk about bringing back are gone for good."

So even if Trump or Sanders did succeed in forcing American companies to close factories abroad and open more at home, the new facilities would mostly "hire" robots. On the upside, however, as those low-skilled jobs have been automated, slightly higher-skilled — and better-paid — positions have become available instead. As a result, contrary to the Trump/Sanders doomsday rhetoric, American factory jobs have increased by nearly a million positions since 2010. Bonnie Kristian

February 20, 2015

Someone at Cadillac, or its ad company Publicis, is a fan of Brené Brown, a researcher who's made a name for herself studying the benefits of vulnerability and the downsides of shame. Earlier this week, the car company launched an ad campaign, "Dare Greatly," based on a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt. Most recently, the quote has been revitalized by Brown, who titled one of her recent books Daring Greatly (2012). Brown noticed the ads, and so did her fans, she writes at her site. It wasn't entirely coincidental:

Cadillac sent me an email last week informing me about the campaign and letting me know that they were inspired by the quote, and particularly by my book. I am in no way involved with the Cadillac campaign. I'm not receiving any payment and I wasn't consulted or informed in advance of the launch. When I first learned about the campaign I experienced many different strong emotions — fear, anger, vulnerability — but mostly scarcity. [Brown]

"Scarcity" is the title of the first chapter of her book Daring Greatly, and it focuses on America's "culture of 'never enough'" — which is to say, the idea that we are always needlessly striving for something, and always come up short. Which is an odd inspiration for Cadillac. But, as Brown says, "Teddy Roosevelt's quote has been inspiring people for over 100 years," so why not luxury car makers? You can hear Roosevelt's quote in the Cadillac ad below. —Peter Weber

December 8, 2014

You know a policy debate in Washington is interesting when President Obama and Justice Antonin Scalia are on one side and Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are on the other.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering re-classifying broadband internet as a more heavily regulated Title II utility, like phone service, a goal backed by Obama and, in a 2005 Supreme Court dissent, Scalia. Opposed to this move are a group of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the Urban League. These groups say they oppose the plan out of fear that it would curb investment in minority-heavy neighborhoods that don't have good broadband internet access, among other concerns.

Plenty of civil rights groups support re-classifying broadband as a Title II service to promote net neutrality, the idea that all internet traffic be treated equally. "The civil rights community is like every sector anywhere," Cheryl A. Leanza, at the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, tells The New York Times. "While from the outside it seems like a monolith, it is not." The NAACP and other black and Latino advocacy groups are a small part of the massive lobbying effort directed at the FCC over the proposal. Peter Weber

December 2, 2014

By all rights, Jon Stewart's Monday interview with Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano should have been awkward, given the smackdown of Fox News that Stewart had delivered earlier in last night's Daily Show. But the topic was civil liberties, something Napolitano started out noting that he and Stewart basically agree on. The audience, too, judging from their reaction.

"We need to know that our rights come from our humanity, not the government," Napolitano said, earning a hearty round of applause from the audience. Stewart probed: "Is the problem really the government, or does it lie in us, and our desire for safety, and for law and order, and for authority?"

Napolitano agreed: "When the people are afraid, they will surrender their liberties for safety. So it is in the government's interest to keep the people afraid." There are things to be afraid of, he conceded, but liberty versus government laws isn't a balancing act, "it's a bias in favor of freedom," he added. "Freedom is the default position, because we are born with freedom." If the cognitive dissonance of a Fox News regular and Jon Stewart agreeing with each other that fear is bad doesn't put you off, watch the conversation below. Or watch Part 2 of the interview to see Napolitano criticize the Ferguson Police Department — and Fox News' misuse of fear. --Peter Weber

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