The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ali Khamenei

Years into its governance, the previous administration commonly blamed the administration before it (the presidency of George W. Bush) for many of its problems. I found that objectionable at the time, and agree that Donald Trump's comments on the "mess" left by Barack Obama are equally objectionable. Every president runs for office knowing full well that his predecessor made mistakes, sometimes very serious, and that his administration would have to deal with them as part of governance or foreign policy.

On the foreign policy front the most egregious mistake made by the Obama administration (and there were many) was the "Iran deal." Still defended by many progressives and some Democrat politicians, the deal was intended to normalize Iran over the years and preclude the immediate development of nuclear weapons by the Islamist government of Iran.

Let see how things are working out.

Sure, Iran has violated their agreement repeatedly, has continued its belligerent threats, has launched medium range missiles in violation of UN sanctions, and has been otherwise aggressive within the Middle East and beyond. But has it, as Barack Obama hoped, begun to normalize? AFP reports:
Tehran (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Tuesday for the "complete liberation" of Palestine from the "tumour" of Israel, renewing his regime's refusal to recognise Israel's right to exist.

Khamenei was speaking at the sixth international conference in support of Palestinian intifada (uprising), one of a number of showcase events the Tehran authorities organise in solidarity with the Palestinians.

"This cancerous tumour, since its start, has grown incrementally and its treatment must be incremental too," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"Multiple intifadas and continuous resistance have succeeded in achieving very important incremental goals.

"It continues to advance towards its other objectives, ultimately the complete liberation of Palestine," he added.

He listed Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 as two major achievements so far.

Moderate President Hassan Rouhani, and the conservative brothers who head parliament and the judiciary -- Ali Larijani and Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani -- flanked the supreme leader as he spoke.
Unwittingly, Khamenei has provided insight into Islamist hegemonic strategy across the west—incremental actions followed by incremental successes, each leading to the ascendency of Islam and the downfall of the infidel. This template is assisted by progressives in the West who refuse to understand or even name the threat posed by Islamists, thinking that all Muslims will assimilate and moderate when recent history indicates that exactly the opposite will occur.

Yet again, the the main stream media didn't report Khamenei's speech—it doesn't fit the narrative of a "deal" that will enhance world peace. Nor does it regularly report the lack of Muslim assimilation and normalization that has been evidenced in many European countries (including Sweden, by the way) and the resultant violence and crime.

Iran and Islamists worldwide are the West's enemy. Donald Trump and his national security team understand that. Hopefully, they'll fashion foreign policy that works to thwart Iran's hegemonic ambitions and its terror sponsorship around the world,. As important, they should disregard the crazy notion that unvetted immigration from hotbeds of Islamist thought and terror pose no threat to Western countries and cultures.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Venezuela—A Quarterly Visit

Every quarter or so, I revisit the country of Venezuela to explore whether ever-tighter socialist control of a once prosperous South American country will turn around the disastrous consequences of the rule of socialist Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Like many Leftists, Chavez (now deceased) and Murduro are true believers—anti-Capitalist, redistributionist reformers who promised that they would improve the lot of the populace at the expense of "the rich." They and some of their supporters became very rich, but they also instituted a totalitarian state as their policies failed and the country spiraled into chaos.

Ed Feulner and Ana Quintana report the sad details:
For the past 21 years, The Heritage Foundation has published its annual Index of Economic Freedom, which looks at the economic freedom of countries throughout the world. In that period of time, Venezuela’s score has declined the most out of any country, going from 59.8 to 27.0 (on a scale of 1-100). It is now in second-to-last place, right behind Cuba and better only than North Korea.

Adding to Venezuela’s economic crisis is its skyrocketing inflation rate. The International Monetary Fund estimates a 2016 inflation rate of 475 percent, an enormous increase from 2015’s already crushing rate of 275 percent. For 2017, the situation is estimated to become much worse, with a sharp rise of 1660 percent.

Mismanagement of the economy has created a humanitarian disaster beyond comprehension. The capital city of Caracas is now the most dangerous non-war zone in the world, with 120 murders for every 100,000 residents. Venezuelans live in fear knowing they are more likely to be kidnapped in their own country than are the citizens of Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

To combat the epidemic of food scarcity, the government put the military in charge of the country’s food management and distribution systems. Yet that only seems to make matters worse. The AP recently reported that the military is taking advantage of the country’s food shortages by profiting from food trafficking.

The deteriorating conditions in health care show just how serious the crisis is. Chronic shortages of medicine have rendered hospitals essentially useless. The World Health Organization estimates that there are shortages for 75 percent of necessary medications and medical supplies such as antibiotics, vaccines, and scalpels.

Blackouts resulting from a crumbling energy infrastructure are a daily occurrence. The death of newborns has become a common phenomenon, with one doctor saying “the death of a baby is our daily bread.” Infectious diseases once kept under control have surged. Cases of diphtheria and malaria are re-emerging, and the number of Zika infections is estimated to be “nearly 700,000,” according to a Venezuelan health organization.
Interesting that the main stream media avoids reporting on the plight of our South American neighbor. Whether it's the NYT, CNN, WaPo, 60 Minutes, NBC, ABC, or any other source, it's a typical example of bias by omission. I suspect that's because Venezuela doesn't fit nicely into any left-wing narrative of a socialist utopia. It's also interesting that when politicians like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warran or the new rising star, Keith Ellison are interviewed, there's never a question that probes their assessment of why Venezuela is in a death spiral.

There are many Democrats who are arguing that their party needs to move even further left. I wonder whether they even consider the possibility that the end state (many years hence) of far-left rule could be something akin to Venezuela.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beware

Glen Reynolds discusses the escalating hostility (not criticism, mind you, outright hostility) directed at Donald Trump and tries to dissect its underlying cause. Sure, Trump is often crude, and his aggressive style definitely rubs people the wrong way, he is dangerously imprecise with his speech, but in many ways, his policies (as distinguished from his style) are not nearly as ominous as his many detractors would have us believe.

Yet representatives from many elite entities in this country—the so-called intelligencia, the arts, much of the GOP establishment, some pundits on the right, all on the Left, almost all of the media, some corporate CEOs, much of the federal bureaucracy, almost all of academia—seem to hope for Trump's failure as a president and have established a narrative of the man as a deranged monster.

Reynolds discusses the reaction of the elites after Donald Trump's upset election victory:
But as Nicholas Ebserstadt notes, that changed in November. To the privileged and well-educated Americans living in their “bicoastal bastions,” things seemed to be going quite well, even as the rest of the country fell farther and farther behind. But, writes Eberstadt: “It turns out that the year 2000 marks a grim historical milestone of sorts for our nation. For whatever reasons, the Great American Escalator, which had lifted successive generations of Americans to ever higher standards of living and levels of social well-being, broke down around then — and broke down very badly.

"The warning lights have been flashing, and the klaxons sounding, for more than a decade and a half. But our pundits and prognosticators and professors and policymakers, ensconced as they generally are deep within the bubble, were for the most part too distant from the distress of the general population to see or hear it.”

Well, now they’ve heard it, and they’ve also heard that a lot of Americans resent the meritocrats’ insulation from what’s happening elsewhere, especially as America’s unfortunate record over the past couple of decades, whether in economics, in politics, or in foreign policy, doesn’t suggest that the “meritocracy” is overflowing with, you know, actual merit.
And there's the rub. The "best and brightest" are slick—they speak well, use precise language withthan 140 characters, are quick to cite precedent (of the best and the brightest who have come before them), tell us repeatedly that their collective insight is significantly more robust than the average citizen's. Their style is impressive. They appear to be everything that Trump is not.

But over the past 20 years, their results have been far less than impressive—an economic meltdown, serial wars, the virulent growth of radical Islam, increased tension internationally, stratospheric national debt, to name only a few things. At some level the people recognized this and rejected their reign in 2016. That was too much for too many within elite entities. Reynolds comments:
The rage of our privileged class is thus about loss of status. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous. Nations have blown up over less: As [Richard] Fernandez observes, “Suicidal factionalism has torn apart famous nations before, Rome's Crisis of the Third Century being the most famous example. . . . If Trump is overthrown by the Deep State in a year, he's unlikely to be the last. If neither faction will suffer itself to be governed by the other, whoever succeeds Trump can expect his term to be short. America could have its own period of the 26 presidents [Rome had 26 rulers in a very short historical period]. That will be good news for the Barbarians, waiting at the edge of the Baltics, in the South China Sea, and on Europe's borders, ready to move in. Rome's Third Century crisis did not end well. The new normal was not a return to the Golden Age, but the end of it.”

Strong nations can fail when their leadership class, or a part of it, succumbs to pettiness, and places its narrow factional interests above those of the nation. Americans have often assumed that we are immune to such things. Perhaps earlier Americas, with a more disciplined, more patriotic ruling class, were. But today’s America is not. Beware.
If you listen carefully to the elites who are now paraded in front of us via the media, you begin to understand the arrogance, the pettiness, and the outright rage that their loss of status has created. If the imaginary news that is being created to support their cause becomes ingrained, if propaganda, rather than honest critique becomes the norm, if hostile protest, rather than calm dissent over the next four or eight years becomes commonplace, a steady erosion in our culture, our governance, and our country is possible. "Beware."

UPDATE:
---------------------

Writing in a similar vein, the blog, Diplomad 2.0 notes:
At the risk of some exaggeration--but this is a blog, and that's what we do--perhaps we should see Trump as bringer of the new culture to the traditional culture of the traditional Washington elites and their enablers in the universities, Hollywood, and corporate medialandia. There is no doubt that a huge socio-cultural clash is underway. Turn on your TV; you see it. Listen to the debates of people around you; you hear it.

Trump has upended the traditional political culture in a way not seen since, well, I don't know since when; you fill in the date. The left are akin to some sort of American Ibo [a Nigerian tribe (actually, Igbo) discussed by Chinua Achebe in the classic novel, Things Fall Apart] who see their traditional government-based culture threatened, and much of their behavior seems to indicate they, too, are preparing to commit suicide.

After watching some anti-Trump demonstration on TV, a friend of my son's asked these intelligent questions of me the other day, "What has Trump done? Why is he accused of being racist? Why do they hate him so much?" Best as I can tell, I think they hate the idea of Trump. He wasn't supposed to be president. He is not, I guess, one with the body. He has, in short, exposed them as, no other word for it, crazy. Yes, crazy.
Yes ... crazy.

UPDATE (2/22/17):
------------------------------

Still additional commentary by Holman Jenkins:
The saddest part, though, is how quickly Democrats, following their loudest, ninniest voters, have decided to turn Mr. Trump into the Antichrist. One example: In 17 years of Howard Stern interviews, Mr. Trump appears never to have uttered a sentiment unfriendly to gays. He is a lifelong New Yorker. He was a regular at Studio 54. His mentor was a powerful gay attorney. In his convention speech, Mr. Trump offered himself as the defender of “LGBTQ citizens.” Yet many gay activists now join a parade of those pronouncing themselves oppressed by a Trump presidency. Why? Pure cognitive dissonance: Democrats have been busy twisting his admittedly rococo image beyond reason to fit their partisan needs.
The "ninniest voters" have worked very hard to transform Trump into a hard-right crazy and despite copious evidence to the contrary, they believe their own B.S. After all, without that belief, it would be difficult to produce the near-hysterical fervor they evidence (e.g., "fear," "stress," threats to leave the country). Not only doesn't the hard right characterization conform to Trump's past history or his proposed policies, independents and voters in fly-over country view the "#Resistance's" histrionics as unhinged. The anti-Trump forces are in a deep hole and insist on digging further. So be it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Russians are Coming

This morning, CBS News interviewed Robby Mook, ex-spokesperson for Hillary Clinton. Mook couldn't stop talking about the threat posed by the evil Russians, how the election was hacked (implying Hillary would have otherwise won) by the Russians, that Trump's national security advisor had the gall to speak with the Russians, that Donald Trump is in league with the Russians, that Trump's people are enriching themselves via the Russians, blah, blah, blah. Of course, because this fits so nicely into the progressive narrative, the CBS interviewer nodded her head and didn't ask a salient question: It's apparent, Robby, that you're very concerned about the Russians. Since Mitt Romney was roundly ridiculed by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when he noted the Russian threat during the 2012 campaign, were Obama and Clinton wrong about Russia then and did their lack of concern lead to the problems you tell us we're having now?

Hmmm. That question will not be asked. Why? Narrative conflict.

Roger Simon comments on the Russia scare that now pervades the MSM and is a daily talking point on both the Left and some elements of the Right:
It's been over fifty years--believe it or not--since Norman Jewison's comedy hit The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, starring Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin, among others, made fun of the perpetual distrust (justified or not) we Americans and the then Soviet Russkies had for each other. The liberal filmmakers had their message -- we should all just relax and love each other.

For those same liberals -- perhaps including Reiner and Arkin, who are very much still with us -- the situation seems to have completely reversed. Liberals and progs these days are aping Reagan, naming Russia as the Evil Empire. They wouldn't dare make jokes about the spy ship currently thirty miles off our coast -- it's a matter of urgent seriousness now -- even though we have been spying on them and they on us since the 1920s at least, and probably before.

Apparently the gravity of this espionage is contingent on who's in power. When you're out, it's of the utmost concern. When you're in, it's business as usual.

Similarly, when a new administration comes in, they try to make nice with Russia, eventually fail, and then revert to form. Clinton, Bush and Obama all tried it. (Oh, how Obama tried it.) And now it's Trump's turn. Of course, if you read the junior varsity propagandists at the New York Times, this all began with Donald. But you'd need a lobotomy to believe the NYT these days. Actually, four presidents in a row falling over each other to woo the Russians unsuccessfully could make a pretty funny comedy were Chaplin still alive -- or the Marx Brothers ....
The Russians are an international adversary, but like every administration has done for the past 50 years, they can be dealt with through a combination of negotiated self-interest and resolve. The previous administration truly did not understand how to negotiate (the Iran Deal is prima facie evidence of that) and showed little resolve. Putin was emboldened, and the rest is history.

In the Russians, the Democrats have found a meme that seems to resonate, so they're running with it. Politics as usual. Meanwhile, in their rush to protect anything and everything Islam, the Dems are missing (or willfully disregard) a much larger threat—Iran. Simon continues:
But what is a true threat to the USA -- and many others -- is Russia's alliance with Iran. Over the years, the Russians have been tsarists, communists and, now, oligarchists, but they have always been at least somewhat rational. The Iranians are cuckoo.

Well, not all Iranians obviously, but enough of their leadership and their masses, millions of whom believe this Twelfth Imam mumbo jumbo with its accompanying end days theology. Just the folks to help militarily. But the Russians are doing it.

Some say Trump's outreach to Putin was motivated by an attempt to break this alliance between the Russians and Iranians. It's doubtful we will ever know now, since the uproar caused by a few phone calls was so great it's hard to see how the president has room to maneuver at this point. The Russians noticed this as well. It's been all over their press. We're back to square one.

What marvelous irony. The liberals who wanted so much to make peace in the days of The Russians Are Coming are doing their best to keep us at war.
Iran is our enemy—has been since 1979. Since the previous administration has given them a clear path to nuclear weapons (ten years is not a long time), they will rapidly become a global threat—not just to us, but to the EU, and the Middle East.

Most of the Left and many #NeverTrumpers on the Right have looked at our threat landscape and—as usual—defined the threat incorrectly. Sure the Russians are an adversary, but the Iranians are far more dangerous. An alliance between he two could be very dangerous indeed. Maybe that's why talking with the Russians, rather than demonizing them, isn't such a bad idea.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Imaginary News

Scott Adams has introduced a new phrase—Imaginary News—that extends and amplifies the term "fake news" that is bandied about by people on both the Left and the Right. He notes, correctly, I think, that everyone has a movie going in their head, and that the movie helps a person comprehend the world. He further contends, for example, that it's the movie that causes most progressives and Democrats to view Donald Trump's press conference as a clear example of a president who is a raving lunatic, characterizing the entire thing as a "meltdown." A different movie causes moderates and conservatives, along with some moderate Democrats to see the news conference as Trump being Trump—sometimes incoherent, often combative, frequently hyperbolic—but otherwise suggesting core beliefs (e.g., jobs, border security, appropriate on Islamic terror) that resonate with millions.

Adams asks whether both views can peacefully co-exist or whether one side or the other is hallucinating—driven by the movie that is in their head. He suggests that during the campaign, the preponderance of main stream media, along with virtually all progressive bloggers, journalists, and commentators dismissed Trump with a derisive laugh. Hillary Clinton would win—period. Adams writes:
Then he won.

When reality violates your ego that rudely, you either have to rewrite the movie in your head to recast yourself as an idiot, or you rewrite the movie to make yourself the hero who could see what others missed. Apparently the Huffington Post [Adams example of progressive media] chose to rewrite their movie so Trump is a deranged monster, just like they warned us. That’s what they see. This isn’t an example of so-called “fake” news as we generally understand it. This is literally imaginary news. I believe the Huffington Post’s description of the press conference is literally what they saw. If you gave them lie detector tests, they would swear they saw a meltdown, and the lie detector would say they were telling the truth.

There are two clues that the Huffington Post is hallucinating and I’m not. The first clue is that they have a trigger and I don’t. Reality violated their egos, whereas I was predicting a Trump win all along. My world has been consistent with my ego. No trigger. All I have is a warm feeling of rightness.

The second clue is that the Huffington Post is seeing something that half the country doesn’t see. As a general rule, the person who sees the elephant in the room is the one hallucinating, not the one who can’t see the elephant. The Huffington Post is literally seeing something that is invisible to me and other observers. We see a President Trump talking the way he normally talks. They see a 77-minute meltdown.
The "deranged monster" movie that most progressives see is an example of confirmation bias. They were convinced that their candidate would win, were sure that the record of the previous president was so exemplary that few voters would reject it and the political party that supported it, were confident that blue collar states were behind the Democrat candidate... and then all that blew up in their faces. The movie in their heads had to be re-edited to conform to a reality they could not dismiss. So the new progressive movies sees armageddon driven by a "deranged monster" that is Trump. Like most movies, this one is fiction, but that matters little. Because the movie keeps playing in a continuous loop, everything Trump is really, really bad and is a harbinger of disaster. Imaginary news driven by a disaster movie. I think I'm beginning to get it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rabid Dogs

The mental image of a pack of angry rabid dogs, snarling as saliva dripped from their mouths, seemed appropriate as the Democrats and mainstream media pounced on the resignation of General Michael Flynn as national security advisor. Recall that Flynn has worked within the military and the government tirelessly for 30 years, but left-wing Salon suggests that this decorated veteran and/or Donald Trump himself are traitors with the headline, "None Dare Call it Treason." That. Is. Unhinged. But no surprise.

The talking point from Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media was "What Did the President know and When Did He Know It?" Odd that they didn't ask that question during the Benghazi scandal, where actual people actually died in an election year cover-up, or the IRS scandal, where actual U.S. citizens were actually targeted by a federal agency, but no matter.

I decided to sit back and let the outrageous claims settle a bit before commenting. My sense was that this entire episode was a political assassination, grossly overblown, but it was difficult to be sure.

Now, the entire story and all of its most outrageous accusations are falling apart. Patrick Pool summarizes the current status of this story:
The media narrative that recently ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was involved in nefarious -- nay, sinister and possibly treasonous!!! -- dealings in his December call with the Russian ambassador is quickly collapsing, as CNN reports that the FBI will not be pursuing any criminal investigation involving Flynn's phone call.

So too is the hype that the Trump campaign was riddled with contacts with Russian intelligence, as reported yesterday by The New York Times.

I addressed this story yesterday in my post-Flynn resignation roundup, noting that the screaming headline was undercut by the Times' own reporting that no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence had been found.

The trained hamsters of the MSM are being forced to report that most of their outrageous claims (e.g., this is "Trump's Watergate") are nonsense, but then again, since November 8th, the MSM, driven by their overt hostility to Trump, has been all about reporting nonsense as truth and unsubstantiated innuendo as fact. Even NPR is forced to admit this with a headline that reads "Intelligence Official: Transcripts Of Flynn's Calls Don't Show Criminal Wrongdoing."

There is another element to this story that the Democrat's trained hamsters in the media seem far less interested in discussing. Peggy Noonan comments:
Who is listening to, and leaking information to the press about, not only Mr. Flynn’s conversations but the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders? And what is their motive?

Is this, as some suggest, “deep state” revenge for the haughty, dismissive way Donald Trump spoke of the U.S. intelligence community during and after the campaign? Is it driven by sincere and legitimate anxieties that the new White House has an unknown relationship with Vladimir Putin’s government that potentially compromises U.S. security, independence of judgment and freedom of action? Is it driven by the antipathy of the permanent government toward Mr. Putin, and a desire to bring down those, like Mr. Trump, who hope for closer relations with Russia? Is it that they’ve seen—and listened to—enough of Mr. Trump to think he’s a screwball, period, and a threat to the republic?
So it seems that the the media has a new-found interest in ferreting out all of the details of an administration's foreign dealings with an international adversary, Russia, but little interest in investigating potential national security leaks my members of the "deep state" that are opposed to Trump. Franly, the latter is far more dangerous than the former. But at least they're investigating. Maybe they'll now have interest in going back and investigating the secret meetings and agreements between the previous administration and an international enemy, Iran—a country sworn to "Death to America" in the run-up to the disastrous Iran deal.

Nah ... after all, a few telephone calls between an incoming administration and Russia is far more foreboding than an the Iran deal that just might set the stage for nuclear war.

By the way, one has to wonder why the transcripts of the secret meeting between the past president and the Mullahs of Iran were never leaked. Oh, I forgot, the past president was beyond reproach, so there is nothing to learn from his meeting with the Mullahs. Unless there is.

UPDATE-1:
----------------------

The lowly editors of The New York Post take on the left-wing propaganda machine that was once the vaunted New York Times and provide an example of how the NYT is working to discredit Trump:
Take a deep breath and realize how precious little substance there is in all the breathless reporting about supposed skulduggery by President Trump, his team and the Russian government. If the nation’s lucky, the coming congressional probes — and whatever surfaces from the apparent ongoing FBI investigation — may one day provide some clarity.

Hostile, hysterical reporting based on anonymous leaks provide no hard facts — just “narratives” that could come out of a creative-writing class.

Take Wednesday’s breathless New York Times story, “Trump Aides Had Contact With Russian Intelligence” — which was remarkable for containing the same facts the Times reported back in October as “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

Both reports say various Trumpites talked to figures in Russia’s government — but that US investigators found nothing to show they’d discussed the US election, or that anyone on Team Trump was even aware of any effort by Moscow to influence it.

Oh, and the Times also reported Jan. 19, “Intercepted Russian Communiques Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates.”

How many times can the Times recycle the same stuff and still call it news?
As many times as required to re-enforce a very dubious narrative, I suppose.

UPDATE-2:
--------------

The Washington Examiner provides a list of media errors over the first month of the Trump presidency. In most cases, these are fueled by bias and hostility toward Trump, rather that the everyday errors that all media organizations make. They write:
The press has a problem, and it seems to be getting worse. Whether through bias, sloppiness, or sheer panic, the mainstream media has dropped its standards since President Trump was sworn in.

Rather then adjusting adeptly to Trump's easy relationship with the truth and his tendency to abuse members of media, by dialing up their standards, a significant number of journalists have tripped over themselves recently to repeat every bit of gossip and half-cocked rumor involving Trump and his administration.

The rush to get these supposed scoops out in the open, whether in print, on television or on social media, has, of course, produced a rash of shoddy reporting.

Now this isn't to say that all coverage of this new administration has been slipshod. Rather, it's to say that there has been a disturbing and unusually large number of stories that have turned out either to be overhyped, inconclusive, half-true or flat-out incorrect. There have also been a number of reports whose sourcing is so thin, that to believe them would be to take a major leap of faith.
Or a major desire to discredit this administration in its first weeks in office.

UPDATE-3
---------------

It is literally insulting to listen to media types express mock outrage over Trump's wholly accurate characterization of them as "the opposition" and "dishonest." Here's a little reference material that compares the media's treatment of Michael Flynn's telephone calls and the death of four Americans at Benghazi along with the near-instant cover-up that ensued. Julie Kelly writes:
Fun fact: While Trump press secretary Sean Spicer fielded 55 questions on February 14 related to the Flynn debacle, Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney received only 13 questions from reporters on September 12, 2012 [the days after the Benghazi attack], three of which were set-ups to blast Mitt Romney’s criticism of the administration after the attack. 55 to 13.

So as we now suffer through yet another patch of media mania, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated claims about how Trump hearts Russia, as well as the daily beatings endured by Spicer, let’s reminisce to when the media and Obama’s press flaks spun, deflected—even joked about golf and “Saturday Night Live!”—less than a week after Benghazi.

The day after Hillary Clinton’s deputy had that call with key Capitol Hill staffers, including advisors to senators Durbin, Feinstein, and McGaskill, to dispute the notion the attack was about an anti-Muslim video, here’s what Carney said: “I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible.”
Nah ... what's "disgusting and reprehensible" is a biased media somehow characterizing itself as a victim when criticized by this president.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the Name of Peace

For eight years, the previous administration tried to force Israel into a suicidal "peace agreement." It made no demands on the palestinians, avoiding even the suggestion that they stop their eliminationist rhetoric toward Jews and Israel, not to mention their regular terror attacks, corruption, internal violence and a whole list of other sins. Using techniques and policies that had proven ineffective and/or counter-productive, the past administration, along with their crew of incompetent diplomats (think: Clinton and Kerry) tried its best to coerce Israel into national suicide. Thankfully, their best efforts didn't succeed.

Now, Donald Trump has decided to take a fresh approach, abandoning the previous president's overt hostility toward Israel and its prime minister and replacing it with understanding, support, and friendship.

Benny Avni comments:
While [Prime Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu] was routinely called upon to take political risks for the sake of peace, no similar demand was made to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose political weakness made officials nervous about pushing him too far. He couldn’t possibly make bold moves like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state or giving up on the demand to flood it with more than 5 million Arab descendants of refugees.

While not shutting the door on the two-state solution, Netanyahu sidestepped it.

“Rather than labels, I want to look at substance,” he said, adding a question about the proposed Palestinian state: “Will it be Costa Rica, or will it be Iran?”

Trump didn’t force Netanyahu to swear allegiance to the “solution.” Instead, he hinted, “We are going to make a deal that might be even a bigger and better deal than people in this room understand.”

Rather than leaving it at that, Netanyahu spelled out the new strategy — a regional approach that involves, he said, “our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace, and peace with the Palestinians.”
It's pretty obvious that a "palestinian state" will not be Costa Rica and might very well become a mini-me of Iran. The palestinians have taught generations of children to be anti-Semites, corruption will strangle any attempt at an effective economy, the culture of victimization encouraged by the international Left will make any palestinian state a permanent welfare state supported by the international community.

Although the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media would never, ever give Trump any credit, his "whatever" approach for the Israeli-palestinian conflict just might offer some possibilities. Avni writes:
Trump insisted that this so-called outside-in strategy — making peace between Israel and existing Arab states before creating a new Arab state — “hasn’t been discussed before.” But in 1991, Bush 41 gathered leaders of Arab states in Madrid, Spain, for a conference that tried just that.

It didn’t succeed then. Can it now?

Leaders from the Maghreb to Arabia — including most prominently Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan — have tightened cooperation with Israel recently. They’ve realized that Israel threatens them much less than ISIS or Iran.

Hence, as Trump said, “We have some pretty good cooperation from people that in the past would never have even thought about it.” But while those leaders cooperate with Israel on arms, intel and other ways to fight common enemies, they only do so — so far, at least — behind the scenes.
A "solution" will only evolve out of regional action—no one, not the United States or the EU or Russia or anyone outside the region—can impose a settlement to this issue. Although it's a long shot, "Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan" along with the Israelis are the only parties that can get this done. And the Palestinians? Maybe they're the party that should be asked to make serious compromises—all in the name of peace, of course.

Monday, February 13, 2017

No Trump Clause

For just a moment, think of yourself as a 20-something who is looking for roommates in a major urban area. You use your favorite app or jump on Craig's List and read:
ROOMMATE WANTED: Two open-minded women looking for a roommate to share expenses and adventures. Nice neighborhood, nicer apartment. If you're tolerant and fun, please let us know. No Trump supporters need apply.
What the NYT calls the "NO Trump clause" has become increasingly common over recent months. It certainly isn't wrong for roommates to pick those they want to live with, but it seems pretty intolerant to assume that someone's political preference would preclude even a conversation to see if interests outside politics might coincide.

For the Left in the Trump era, it seems that there is no life outside politics. Kevin Williamson writes:
Earlier this week, I expressed what seemed to me an unobjectionable opinion: that politics has a place, that politics should be kept in its place, and that happy and healthy people and societies have lives that are separate from politics. The response was dispiriting but also illuminating ...

[An] objection came from a correspondent who demanded: “What if politics greatly impacts every facet of your life?” That would be an excellent question if it came from some poor serf living in one of the states our American progressives so admire, such as Cuba or Venezuela, where almost every aspect of life is under political discipline, where government controls whether you eat — and, indeed, whether you breathe. But if you live in the United States and politics greatly impacts every facet of your life, you have mental problems, or you are a politician. (But I repeat myself.)
In the big intrusive government (B.I.G.) world of the Left, politics does in fact control every aspect of one's life. That's because BIG is intended to control every aspect of your life and politicians (progressive, of course) control politics. That is the problem.

As the Left continues its seemingly never-ending hysteria over Trump, the people around him, the nominees he proposes, the policies he suggests and the words he uses, you'd think that all of these things "impact every facet of one's life." But everyday life goes on—job, family, friends ... even your search for a roommate.

The anti-Trumpers are the first to tell you that tolerance, love, open-mindedness, and acceptance of others are dominant aspects of their lives. Yet none of those things seem to matter when they encounter someone with a differing political view. As Williamson noted, to many on the Left, everything is political, and when the politics bends out of their immediate control, there is a level on anger that is astonishing. He continues:
But, as Robin Hanson put it, politics isn’t about policy.

What it is about is tribe, which is what makes all that conflation of racism and bigotry with political difference so amusing. Political prejudice is not the moral equivalent of racial prejudice, but they operate in very similar ways, as anybody who ever has spent much time around a genuine racist or anti-Semite knows. Taxes too high? Blame the blacks. Not making enough money? Blame the Mexicans. Foreign policy seem overwhelmingly complex? Blame the Jews. Whataburger gave you a full-on corn-syrup Coke instead of a Diet Coke? Blame the blacks, Mexicans, Jews, subcontinental immigrants . . . somebody. Racism and anti-Semitism are metaphysical creeds, and those who adhere to these creeds see the work of the agents of evil everywhere. For them, there is no world outside race and racism.
If the last sentence of this paragraph sounds vaguely analogous to the rantings of some Democrats over the past few months; if everyone who has a different political view is a racist or a bigot or a white supremacist, if every appointee is vaguely evil, if every tweet or side comment is one small step towards a authoritarian future, then you just might begin to understand that prejudice cuts both ways—and although some don't realize it, it's prejudice that drives many of the actions of the so-called "#resistance."


UPDATE:
-----------------------

Even some Democrats are beginning to push back against the outrage machine that spawns things like the No Trump Clause. Allan Richarz comments:
With so much outrage and so little time, what is a socially conscious progressive to do? If the reactions post-election are any indication, the answer is to adopt a preening, self-righteous sense of moral outrage — an extremely counterproductive approach for those opposing the likes of Donald Trump et al.

If Democrats and progressives wish to serve as credible opposition over the next four to eight years, it is necessary to drop the self-promoting outrage theater popular among activists and develop a more mature, fact-driven approach.

The histrionics in response to President Trump’s election have been, in a word, unseemly. I’m not talking about the laudable Women’s Marches or demonstrations against Trump’s immigration executive order, but the angst-ridden thought-pieces on mothers “paralyzed” at the thought of raising a son in Trump’s America. The help lines for college students unable to deal with Trump-voting relatives at family gatherings. All against a backdrop of perma-apoplexy on social media in which privileged, upper-middle-class white college students unironically take on the affectations of one living in Nazi Germany ...

In the rush to become the most ideologically pure progressive in the room, all sense of perspective is lost. There is a tendency to see Trump as a crude caricature — an intemperate, thin-skinned, incompetent neo-Nazi bully. Much how Democrats “misunderestimated” George W. Bush as a Texas rube, there is similar peril in this myopic view of Trump. This is particularly true considering Trump’s penchant for tweaking critics, ability to carefully curate controversy and his often deft manipulation of the media.
Many Democrats are becoming the boy who cried wolf—tiresome ideologues who tell us the apocalypse has come or is coming. And when it doesn't, people simply stop listening.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reform

The Ninth Federal Circuit surprised no one by allowing the injunction against the administration's travel moratorium to remain in place. The progressive judges on the court asked government lawyers whether they could point to a terrorist attack by a first generation Muslim immigrant, while Congressional Democrats asked the same question of the new DHS secretary. It's the wrong question.

Progressives also contend that any travel moratorium that would preclude travel by mostly Muslim immigrants is religious discrimination. It's the wrong contention, and here's why.

There is no question that Islam has a significant religious component, but when practiced by a significant percentage of Muslims (not a majority, but polling indicates between 15 and 25 percent), Islam also has a significant political component that is virulently anti-Western and intolerant of other religions or systems of belief. It's called Sharia and it is—flat out—antithetical to American values. It is intolerant of free speech, homophobic, religiously intolerant, misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, violent and cruel—not to mention wholly totalitarian.

When we conduct "extreme vetting" of immigrants from Muslim countries, the key question should focus not on support of Islamic terror, but on whether the immigrant supports Sharia law. If he or she does, then that Muslim's world view is antithetic to our own and entry should be denied. Not on religious grounds, but on the grounds that Sharia, a totalitarian political ideology that is virulently resistant to any attempts at assimilation, represents a clear and present threat to our many freedoms. Proponents on Sharia have no right whatsoever to immigrate, and the privilege of entry should be denied.*

Andrew McCarthy comments:
Islam must reform so that this totalitarian political ideology, sharia supremacism (or, if you prefer, “radical Islam”), is expressly severable from Islam’s truly religious tenets. To fashion an immigration policy that serves our vital national-security interests without violating our commitment to religious liberty, we must be able to exclude sharia supremacists while admitting Muslims who reject sharia supremacism and would be loyal to the Constitution.

Second, sharia supremacists are acting on a “voluntary apartheid” strategy of gradual conquest. You needn’t take my word for it. Influential sharia supremacists encourage Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa to integrate into Western societies without assimilating Western culture. The renowned Muslim Brotherhood jurist Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who vows that “Islam will conquer Europe, conquer America,” urges Muslim migrants to demand the right to live in accordance with sharia. Turkey’s sharia-supremacist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, admonishes that pressuring Muslims to assimilate is “a crime against humanity.” The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 Muslim governments that purports to speak as a quasi-caliphate, promulgated its “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam” in 1990 — precisely because what the United Nations in 1948 presumptuously called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is neither “universal” nor suitable to a sharia culture.

Voluntary apartheid does not require insinuating terrorists into migrant populations. It requires insinuating assimilation-resistant migrant populations into Western countries.

When Democrats try to demonize the Trump administration for correctly recognizing the threat of Sharia (although Trump has not enunciated that threat well), their question about Islamic terrorism perpetrated by immigrants should be flipped with a question to them. As McCarthy puts it:
The government must vet aliens for sharia-supremacist ideology. ‘Do you think Islam needs reform?” Wouldn’t it be interesting, wouldn’t it get us to the crux of the immigration debate, if our best news anchors — I’m looking at you, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier — would put that question to every major politician in Washington?
It would be interesting to hear the response of a Chuck Schumer, or an Elizabeth Warren or even the past president. If they answer in the negative, that will tell us more about their concern for our "values" that any other thing they profess to believe.

Footnote:
---------------

* Before those social justice warriors who might read this column get the vapors, a quick thought experiment: A virulent adherent to right-wing neo-Nazi ideology from, say, England wants to immigrate to the United States. When asked about his views at the American Embassy, it quickly becomes apparent that he is intolerant of free speech, homophobic, religiously intolerant, misogynist, anti-Semitic, violent and cruel. He also denies that the Holocaust happened. He also suggests that Mein Kampf should replace the Constitution as our guiding document. Should the neo-Nazi be granted a visa?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

CFPB

Following up on my previous post on Elizabeth Warren, I think it's fair to state that the "silenced" Senator is violently against the exorbitant salaries paid to corporate big wigs and is a very strong in her concern about income inequality. It surprising then, to learn that an agency she and the previous president created in 2011—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—pays its many employees exorbitant salaries. Conveniently, Warren worked to place the CFPB within the Federal Reserve Bank, so that normal limits on government (read: taxpayer-funded) salaries don't apply. How convenient.

Consider the following, researched by Richard Pollock:
The Senate majority and minority leaders are paid $193,000 annually. Two hundred and one CFPB employees outdo Sens. Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer in pay.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin receives $223,000 per year, but that’s less than what 54 CFPB employees are paid.

Another 170 CFPB employees earn more than the secretaries of defense and state, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. All cabinet salaries are capped at $199,700, but not at the bureau. Thirty-nine CFPB employees earn more than the $230,000 paid to Vice President Mike Pence.

A total of 198 CFPB employees also earn more than their ultimate boss, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellin, who is paid $201,700.

Overall, 449 CFPB employees get at least $100,000 per year and 228 CFPB are paid more than $200,000, according to publicly available 2016 data.
This is a classic example of why zip codes in the Washington, DC suburbs exhibit some of the highest per capita income in the country. Oh ... by the way ... 100 percent of the political donations made by employees of the CFPB went to Democrats. No surprise there.

But there's a larger question. Exactly what real benefit does the average taxpayer derive from the CFPB? Even more important, does the work performed by CFPB employees justify salaries in the $100,000 to over $200,000 range? Funny that Senator Warren is oddly quiet on these questions. I suppose she's far too busy "persisting." My view is that we should all #LetLizSpeak on this issue. It would be illuminating for sure.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

#LetLizSpeak

Senator Elizabeth Warren views herself as a left-wing champion of the people—a lioness who has the courage to criticize special interests, evil corporations, big banks, "Wall Street," big oil, and any other entity that doesn't fit nicely within her socialist ideology. Anyone who disagrees with her stridency is a racist or a misogynist or a bigot or an Islmophobe.

Yesterday, Warren initiated a planned stunt to gain attention for herself. Knowingly violating an arcane Senate rule, she introduced 30-year old criticism against Jeff Session, now confirmed as Attorney General. When warned that she was in violation, the lioness persisted and was asked to sit down. Oh ... my. Liz was "silenced."

Here's Chris Stirewalt's comment on the stunt:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave her underwhelming re-election bid a shot in the arm with a high-profile attack on her colleague from Alabama, Jeff Sessions.

The Massachusetts senator was booted from the marathon debate over Sessions’ appointment to be attorney general for quoting a 1986 letter from Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta. The letter calls Sessions “reprehensible” for his prosecution of a civil rights activist on voter fraud charges.

Do not waste your time on the question of whether Senate rules permitted Warren’s silencing. After all, she got exactly what she wanted. Spend your sympathy elsewhere.

Warren was ready to go with a social media livestream and a hashtag, #LetLizSpeak, to make the most of the moment. But, press coverage of the event still must have surpassed even her wildest expectations, including doozies like this one. Not since Wendy Davis’ trod the aisles of the Texas state Senate in pink Mizuno tennis shoes has the political press been so agog about legislative maneuvering.

In the end, this will matter about as much as Davis’ 2013 filibuster or her fellow Texan Ted Cruz’s “Green Eggs and Ham” moment of the same year.

Democrats who already hated Sessions and thought him racist will feel virtuous and develop new depths of admiration for a woman they already adored. Republicans will despise her more fully, and most people just won’t care.

But if this is the direction Warren and her party are heading, President Trump can remain in his bathrobe, or whatever loungewear the White House claims he prefers, content in the knowledge that 2020 will be a shoo-in for him.
Warren represents the worst in a politician—an opportunist who acts obnoxiously, is then gently spanked, and then characterizes herself as a victim for acting obnoxiously. The Wall Street Journal comments:
HRH Warren isn’t a victim, even if she enjoys feeling she is, and Republicans aren’t trying to get her to “shut up,” as if that’s possible. She knowingly broke protocol and said Mr. Sessions was “racist” and prosecuting “a campaign of bigotry,” among other gross, false and personal insults that Democrats now feel entitled to hurl. Our guess is that Ms. Warren wanted to be punished so she could play out this political theater.

A question for Republicans is whether Mr. McConnell enhanced the Warren brand by responding to her provocations in this way. She already has a formidable platform but the story dominated Wednesday’s news. Then again, sooner or later Mr. McConnell had to send a signal that Senate rules can’t be violated with impunity.
Warren is a true social justice warrior—making a lot of noise, energized her rabid supporters, but accomplishing almost nothing in the end. Her convenient hastag—#LetLizSpeak—is, as Stirewalt suggests, something that the GOP should do. She might energize her band of supporters, but I suspect, her strident (and sometimes unhinged) language causes the majority of people who will be voting in 2018 and 2020 to just shake their heads in dismay.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ritualized Hysteria

Why is it that most liberal Supreme Court nominees, Elana Kagan comes to mind, are typically vetted by the senate and are then approved reasonably expeditiously.* Sure, some GOP members felt compelled to vote against her nomination, but given that she replaced another left-leaning justice, most Republican senators did not hyperventilate. They acted like adults, entered a debate, and then acquiesced to the president's nominee.

Fast forward to Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch. He replaces another conservative court member, so the balance of the court is unaffected. He has impressive credentials and was approved to the federal bench by unanimous Senate vote. But now—he's the devil.

Carrie Severino comments:
This is really getting old. I refer, of course, to the left’s now ritualized hysteria over Republican Supreme Court nominees.

The hysterical opposition has almost nothing to do with the particular nominee a Republican president names. After all, left-wing groups once attacked David Souter and Anthony Kennedy with the same fervor they are now employing against Judge Neil Gorsuch. And Democratic senators were promising to filibuster even before they knew who the nominee would be.

The “radical” Gorsuch, don’t you know, is a threat to safe water, food, drugs, consumers, investors and workers, an "affront to all who care about women's health and rights and about stopping discrimination." The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge will also roll back "protections for women's access to health services" and has shown "a disturbing attitude toward police brutality and workplace anti-discrimination laws."

The left’s response to a nominee of Gorsuch’s caliber makes plain that the issue in their confirmation battles is not the judge. How could it be? The Senate unanimously confirmed this graduate of Columbia, Harvard Law and Oxford University to the appellate court just ten years ago. His opinions there have been models of precision and erudition, principle and collegiality. Small wonder that liberals who know him, like Neal K. Katyal, President Obama’s former acting solicitor general, are making the case for Gorsuch's confirmation.

No, all the hysteria is about the proper role of judges – and how judges should judge – in our system of government.
As the never-ending Democrat tantrum over their upset election lose continues, it looks like the Dems in the Senate have embraced "ritualized hysteria." Rather than picking their fights, they and their supporters spend millions of dollars as well as their limited political capital opposing Gorsuch (not to mention Trump's cabinet appointees), not with intelligent debate, but using what the left always uses when it can't win an argument—demonization. Their problem is that to the public outside the coasts, this looks petty and infantile—maybe that's because that is exactly what it is.

Footnote:
----------------

* Please, spare me the argument that Merrick Garland was not considered during the previous president's last year in office. This approach represents long standing precedent and was espoused by prominent Democrats such a Joe Biden when GOP presidents were in office.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Rather

Remember Dan Rather? He was a superstar reporter for CBS who allowed a progressive political agenda to get in the way of solid reporting. Rather didn't like George W. Bush—not a bit. So when he was presented with a clearly fraudulent letter indicating that Bush has tried to avoid air national guard service, he ran with it. There was only one problem—it was what we now call "fake news." Rather was forced to resign from CBS. To this day, he claims he was right in his crusade against the GOP president.

We're seeing an awful lot of Rather-like activity in the main stream media. Don Surber presents a compendium of only some of the many "fake news," anti-Trump stories that the Democrat's trained hamsters in the media have aired and published during the first month on 2017. Here's a snippet (links are provided in the original article):
The Washington Post reported: "The head of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, said Friday that he has been ordered removed from his command effective Jan. 20, 12:01 p.m., just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president."

Turned out this was standard operating procedure.

The Sunday Times of London reported Trump would meet with Putin at a summit at Reykjavik. That was a lie.

Bloomberg reported Trump said NATO was obsolete. He meant its mission, and he also said NATO was “very important to me.”

CNN said Nancy Sinatra was upset that "My Way" would be sung at Trump's inauguration. She tweeted: "That's not true. I never said that. Why do you lie, CNN?"

Habit.

Time magazine's reporter tweeted Trump removed Martin Luther King's bust from the Oval Office. False. Two minutes later he apologized.

CBS News: "Most protesters arrested on Inauguration Day will face felony rioting charges, federal prosecutors say."

Masked people throwing rocks and burning a limo are not protesting. They are rioting.

Then there were the two headlines on January 23. CNN at 7:30 p.m.: "US investigating Flynn calls with Russian diplomat."

Washington Post at 8 p.m.: "FBI reviewed Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador but found nothing illicit."

That was quick.
I have on numerous occasions noted that the media is no longer trustworthy. The unhinged reaction to Trump by a significant percentage of supposed "journalists" does nothing to change that perception.

But it's not only fake news, which is often discredited in social media and other on-line sources. It's also omission—that is, important stories that are simply omitted from reporting in main stream media outlets.

As an example, consider the on-going problems that uncontrolled immigration from the Middle East has caused throughout Western Europe. Reports of serious crime, sexual assault, rioting, and the like, not to mention continuing arrests associated with Islamic terror cells are at best under-reported and typically, receive no coverage whatsoever in U.S. main stream media. That's because these stories do not coincide with the prevailing narrative that Middle Eastern immigration presents no threat whatsoever.

The main stream media is sick and dying. That's unfortunate, but in this case, the patient has no one to blame but itself.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Party of "No"

Donald Trump has been president for all of 14 days. His style is, well, Trumpian—coarse, reflexive, and sometimes grating. During these two weeks, he has done some really dumb stuff, but he has also done some things that are lauded by the majority of the country—beginning to re-establish border controls, taking a harder stance on terrorist-sponsor Iran, reducing regulation across the board, re-examining trade deals, approving pipelines that actually improve environmental protection rather than destroy it, ... the list is actually quite long for only 14 days. He has appointed generally impressive people to his cabinet and has nominated a truly impressive judge for the Supreme Court.

The Democrats, however, see absolutely, positively nothing good in all of this. Potential DNC chair, Keith Ellison (himself a very questionable character) has already characterized Trump's administration as a "failed presidency." That's like saying that after the N.Y. Mets lose the the season opener, the remainder of their season will be a disaster. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have likewise suggested that Trump's presidency will be characterized by "incompetence and chaos" (not recognizing the irony of this charge given the less that stellar performance of the previous administration).

David Cantanese comments on all of this:
In the frenzied opening days of the rebellious Trump era, top leaders in the Democratic Party have taken a posture of relentless, immovable, caustic opposition – assailing the commander in chief at every turn and often employing extreme rhetoric to punctuate its impact. It is a cold-blooded approach that's required for this precarious moment, they say, given the severe changes Trump is attempting on everything from how the U.S. should deliver health care to who should be allowed to become an American citizen.

But there's a risk in outright, perpetual obstruction as well and it's simmering below the surface in conversations between Democratic lawmakers, leaders and strategists as the party debates the most effective path forward: If Democrats protest everything with hair-on-fire outrage, will anything end up sticking with the American public beyond their infinite indignity? If they cry wolf every 12 hours, will the effect of their urgency wane over time? Instead of presenting an alternative vision, will they end up looking simply like a party of outrage?

"We need to be guided by a positive message about economic growth for everybody and a country that includes everybody," says Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has expressed concern about the party's focus in reacting to Trump. "We can't respond to everything. You have to decide what to respond to based on what your vision for the country is."
At the moment, it appears that the Democrat vision is clouded by hysteria, anger, and deep regret. They continue to dig the hole that Hillary Clinton began. They reinforce the notion that they are the party of the political elites by smugly rejecting the country's middle. They, not the G.O.P., are grievously out of touch and as a consequence, they have become what they once condemned—the party of "no."

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Free Speech

Yesterday of group of left-wing "anti-fascists" rioted at UC Berkeley, rather than allowing an conservative Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, to speak on campus. NPR reports:
In a statement, the university said: "The violence was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest."

It said that at the time more than 1,500 protesters were gathered outside the event.


A university should be a place where free speech and free inquiry reigns, where speakers can present ideas without being intimidated or shouted down, where administrators cannot summarily disinvite speakers because their views are arbitrarily considered offensive by a small number of students, where an arbitrary speech code that defines accepted terminology is shunned, where active and robust debate is encouraged. That is not what exists in the modern university setting. At school after school, Leftist thought police (in the form of student groups and many activist professors have succeeded in controlling the ideas that are espoused on campus. Anyone who disagrees with their totalitarian mindset is branded a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, or any of the other epithets that substitute for intelligent debate among the Left.

The Goldwater Institute—a conservative think tank—takes a number of positions I disagree with, but it has produced a worthwhile white paper that suggests model legislation to help change the totalitarian political atmosphere that pervades many American colleges and universities. They write:
In order to protect the increasingly imperiled principle and practice of campus free speech, this brief offers model legislation designed to ensure free expression at America’s public university systems. It is hoped that public debate over these legislative proposals will strengthen freedom of speech at private colleges and universities as well. The key provisions in this model legislation are inspired by three classic defenses of campus free speech: Yale’s 1974 Woodward Report, The University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report, and the University of Chicago’s 2015 Stone Report.

The model legislation presented and explained in this brief does several things:
  • It creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
  • It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
  • It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
  • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  • It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
  • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
  • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.
Taken together, these provisions create a system of interlocking incentives designed to encourage students and administrators to respect and protect the free expression of others.
In general, I am against federal legislation of this type. However, if a college or university accepts federal taxpayer funding (and almost all do) it would appear reasonable that the institution establish some basic protections for free speech, if it still wants to avail itself of such funding. If it feels that "safe spaces" and restrictive speech codes are more important, that's fine. But it then forfeits its right to be supported in part by the taxpayer.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

SCOTUS

The battle over Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee has begun. Federal Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is Trump's choice, and in this case, the new president's pick is a very good one. Gorsuch has an impressive legal CV, is said to oppose the expansion of executive privilege (something that should sound very good to Democrats), and is a constitutional scholar in the Antonin Scalia mold. Of course, the left-wing outrage machine began its lament within seconds of the announcement: Gorsuch is "out of the mainstream" (meaning he is not liberal Justice Elena Kagin or Ruth Bader-Ginsberg), he's "extreme and dangerous," he's to take a "stolen seat", referring to the GOP's political decision (with much precedent) not to allow the past president to nominate a justice in his last year in office), and of course—Trump! Note the preprinted signs in the photo below—obviously a grass roots response :)


But the Dems better be careful. The Washington Post, surely not a friend to Donald Trump, provides some adult advice to the Democrats, many of whom are now officially unhinged. They wrote this yesterday, before the nominee was announced:
Emotionally satisfying as [Senator] ... Merkley’s approach [a filibuster for four full years to ensure that Trump appointed no one] might be, it would be mistaken. We say this not because it is contrary to the Democrats’ own best interests, though that is probably true, too: Filling the former Scalia seat won’t tip the court’s ideological balance, yet provoking Republicans to resort to the filibuster-abolishing “nuclear option” would leave Democrats disarmed of that weapon against a second Trump pick should another vacancy arise during his presidency.

Our objection is rooted, rather, in our belief that the Supreme Court confirmation process needs to be protected from partisan politics to the greatest extent possible and that a scorched-earth Democratic response to any nominee, regardless of the individual merits, would simply deepen that harmful politicization. Yes, Mr. Trump seeks to fill the court’s vacancy to his liking, on the basis of a thin electoral college-only victory. Still, however narrow, his victory was legitimate and he does have the clear constitutional prerogative to make the choice.

Let Mr. Trump do so. Then let the Senate expeditiously but thoroughly probe that nominee on his or her legal qualifications, as well as jurisprudence. And then let the Senate vote — yes or no. We advocated that approach consistently for the past five nominees to the Supreme Court, going back to 2005. This group includes two Republican picks — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Alito — and three Democratic ones — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and Mr. Garland. It is a formidable list; we hope Mr. Trump nominates someone worthy of joining their company.
WaPo's advice is appropriate. It's mature and well-reasoned, and I hope that the Democrats follow it. But there's so much unfocused  and unhinged anger, I'm not sure they will.

I was opposed when Harry Reed invoked the nuclear option that allowed Democrats (who believed they would be in power forever) to ram lower court nominees through the Senate. I am equally opposed to the nuclear option when applied to a Supreme Court nominee. But then again, the Democrats are currently so angry, they just might try to follow the path of a filibuster for four full years to ensure that Trump appoints no one. If that happens, the GOP will likely go nuclear. I'm against that move in principle, but I will understand the reasons for the nuclear option (thank Harry Reed) if the Dems become true "obstructionists"—a dirty word to them until they lost power.

UPDATE:
-------------------
David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman provide a detailed analysis of Neil Gorsuch's legal viewpoint and opinions. It is highly complementary and will give you a good understanding of the man and his approach as a judge. Read the whole thing.