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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Scandal

The four constituencies, lead by a smarmy collection of Democratic politicians and supported by their trained hamsters in the media, keep telling us that "impeachment" is just around the corner, that Donald Trump "colluded" with the Russians in unspecified (and evidence-free) ways, that meetings with Russian business people, lawyers and government officials are prima facie evidence of "treason," that a special counsel and his a team of predominantly Democrat lawyers are absolutely, positively, unquestionably unbiased in their interminable "investigation." And because very few in the media ask any questions, their work is having a profound effect on Donald Trump's presidency (even as he succeeds in accomplishing significant things). This is the ultimate smear, and it will become the template for dirty politics going further into the 21st century.

But it turns out the the biggest scandal in American history has nothing to do with what Donald Trump did. Rather it has to do with a rouge FBI investigation of Trump the candidate and Trump the president. Kimberly Stassel has been one of the few investigative journalists who has the intelligence and courage to uncover it. She writes:
Everybody knew. Everybody of consequence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department understood fully in the middle of 2016—as the FBI embarked on its counterintelligence probe of Donald Trump—that it was doing so based on disinformation provided by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That’s the big revelation from the transcript of the testimony Justice Department official Bruce Ohr gave Congress in August. The transcripts haven’t been released, but parts were confirmed for me by congressional sources.

Mr. Ohr testified that he sat down with dossier author Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016, and received salacious information the opposition researcher had compiled on Mr. Trump. Mr. Ohr immediately took that to the FBI’s then-Deputy Director Andy McCabe and lawyer Lisa Page. In August he took it to Peter Strzok, the bureau’s lead investigator. In the same month, Mr. Ohr believes, he briefed senior personnel in the Justice Department’s criminal division: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz, lawyer Zainab Ahmad and fraud unit head Andrew Weissman. The last two now work for special counsel Robert Mueller.

More important, Mr. Ohr told this team the information came from the Clinton camp and warned that it was likely biased, certainly unproven. “When I provided [the Steele information] to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information,” he testified. “I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware. These guys were hired by somebody relating to—who’s related to the Clinton campaign, and be aware.”

He said he told them that Mr. Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected,” and that his own wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, which compiled the dossier. He confirmed sounding all these warnings before the FBI filed its October application for a surveillance warrant against Carter Page. We broke some of this in August, though the transcript provides new detail.

The FBI and Justice Department have gone to extraordinary lengths to muddy these details, with cover from Democrats and friendly journalists.
To be honest, I think there's a higher likelihood that the Dems will succeed in impeaching a sitting president (because he won an election they were certain he would lose) than there is that anyone will pay a price for the FBI scandal. The deep state protects it own, and with the help of the Democrats, is doing everything possible to sweep this entire scandal under the rug. This precedent is awful, and the country will not be better for it.

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

Investors' Business Daily comments of the scandal:
[The FBI and the intelligence agencies] started a dirty campaign operation against Trump, used it to spy on him, then opened a special investigation that probed virtually all areas of his life and business affairs, not just his supposed collusion with Russia. It [the dossier created by information Democratic operatives obtained from the Russians! Collusion, anyone?] originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Yes, but it found more-than-willing participants in the remnants of Obama's national security and intelligence Deep State.

None of this behavior is legal, of course. The politicization of the FBI and Justice are crimes, plain and simple. As Roger Kimball recently noted, this is not on a par with Watergate — it's far worse. Our system is tragically broken when government officials can lie and deceive in an effort to thwart an American election.

This is the stuff of Banana Republics, where rule of law means nothing. That's not America, where rule of law is everything. But if these crimes go unpunished, we will surely become a Banana Republic, too.
Look ... at the end of the day, there's a wing of the Democratic party that wants nothing more than a socialist state. One of the core strengths of such a state is a weaponized federal police force that does the bidding of those in power. This scandal indicates that has already come to pass.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Self-Preservation Machine

A growing number of Democrat and GOP establishment types are now expressing grave concern—almost panic—over the partial government shutdown. Their trained hamsters in the media follow suit: Every line at every airport—shutdown! An isolated case of food poisoning—shutdown! The Superbowl may be affected—shutdown!! and on ... and on. But for the vast, vast majority of Americans, the shutdown has little or no effect on their lives. And that's really what the establishment's hysteria is all about.

Roger Simon touches on this when he writes:
... the shutdown should be about much more than the wall and border security. Serious as they may be, they are what the shrinks call the "presenting complaint." The real issue is the function of government itself -- what's important and what's not. A shutdown can serve as a living laboratory for examining the question of what is actually worthwhile that is missing because of that event. I daresay that most outside the Beltway would be hard pressed to find anything. (A fair number of these people can get around the National Parks by themselves, especially in the days of GPS.)

Both sides fear shutdowns not just because of that nauseatingly tedious inter-party blame game, but more importantly because it exposes this bloat and who caused it (i.e., who paid for what). This is the Deep State in action, in the off-chance anyone hasn't noticed. What has been created by our government over decades is a self-preservation machine immune to the normal capitalist processes of creative destruction that have largely improved society over centuries, enriching almost everyone and extending life expectancy.
At it's core, the worry about the shut down is worry that the average citizen just might recognize that big government can be paired back—way back—and that nothing much will happen if it's done intelligently. That causes hysteria among Dems and some in the GOP. After all, if government gets smaller, their influence and power shrink and if that happens, well ... IT JUST CAN'T HAPPEN. The "self-preservation machine" must prevail.

After all, the last thing that Washington elites want the rest of us to ask is: "What's important and what's not."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tlaib

Imagine for just a moment if a GOP member of Congress—any GOP member of Congress—was photographed with a current KKK member who had recently advocated the murder or elimination of black people.

Media outrage would ensue, demands for resignation would be everywhere, the trained hamsters would paint the entire GOP as racist or "white supremacist" because of that congressperson, every GOP politician would be asked to condemn the offender. It would be a circus, and justifiably so.

Now ... let's consider one of the bright lights in the freshman Democratic caucus—Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.—who was recently photographed with a Palestinian "activist" named Abbas Hamideh. But Hamideh is not any activist. This one is a Hezballah sympathizer who a few years ago tweeted:
"Israel does not have a right to exist. The terrorist entity is illegal and has no basis to exist other than a delusional ISIS like ideology."
At least he's honest about his hatred for Jews and Israel. Betcha he, like a growing number of Democratic congresspeople, support the repugnant BDS movement.

So ... where's the media outrage, the demands for Tlaib's resignation, the effort to paint the entire Democratic party as anti-Semitic? And why isn't every Democrat politician being asked to condemn the offender?

We all know the answer. As long as Tlaib remains a progressive Democrat, as long as she represents intersectionality and the identity politics meme, as long as she condemns Trump, as long as she remains woke, she's on the side of the angels. Anti-Semitism? Pfffft.

UPDATE-1 (1/18/2019):
------------------------

There are so many examples of anti-Semitism on the hard-left of the Democratic party that "outrage" over any one Democrat politician's anti-Semitism would then lead to others—many others. Jeff Dunetz provides a detailed summary of some of the Democratic left's most egregious bigots: Ilhan Omar (Jews are "evil" — even CNN was aghast); Hank Johnson ((Jews are "termites," parroting noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakan); Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (pro-BDS, ignorant of Middle East history, "the Jews "occupy" Gaza," even though they turned it over to the palestinians years ago); Maxine Waters (a Farrakan groupie); James Clyburn (anti-Israel); Rashida Tlaib (see the main body of this post); Kirstin Gillibrand (a buddy of noted anti-Semite Linda Sarsour); Danny Davis (Farrakhan is an “outstanding human being”).

Gosh ... and here I thought it was only the GOP that was full of bigots and racists.

Where's the Dem leadership in all of this? Where is the condemnation from other Dems? Where are the Dem's trained media hamsters? Where's the SJW outrage? And why oh why don't Jewish Democrats speak out more forcefully against all of this?

UPDATE-2 (1/18/2019):
------------------------

To her credit, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has condemned the hard-left leaders of the Women’s March on Washington and accused them of anti-Semitism. I'm no fan of DWS, but she deserves kudos for her stance. I am, however, waiting for her to similarly condemn the anti-Semitism of the Dems listed in UPDATE #1.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Laboratory

The Associated Press reports that in a number of blue states and cities across the country Democrats are rolling out mini-versions of universal health care with their state. I think that's a terrific idea.

The country as a whole can use these progressive ideas as a laboratory and therefore, we can assess the effectiveness of such programs, their cost impact and economic benefits and problems, and the unintended consequences associated with implementation.

Let's consider a few examples of economic/social progressive policy implemented in a number of Democratic strongholds.
  • The progressive political leadership in Seattle (among other blue cities) has decided to mandate a "living wage." The consequences have been: (1) the flight of small businesses to locales where they can pay competitive wages that are not dictated by ideology as opposed to economics, and (2) a noted increase in the acquisition of automation to replace mostly young, first time workers who now must be paid, say $15.00/hr for jobs that were typically paid $9.00 or $10.00/hr.
  • In other Democratic cities and few states (e.g., California), the leadership has decided to make a statement about illegal immigrants and have offered them "sanctuary." The results have been mixed, and in some cases tragic. These cities and states have become magnets for illegal immigrants who have become a serious burden for already stressed social welfare and education systems. Known criminals are not referred for deportation and despite the magical thinking of more than a few progressives, those criminals do what they always do—be criminals, preying on property and the public.
  • In many blue states (e.g., Connecticut, Illinois, California) leadership has allowed unfunded public sector pension obligations to rise to a level that is unsustainable. The results have been ever-increasing taxes to cover payouts for existing obligations with no solution to cover long term obligations.
  • And in still other blue locales (San Francisco and Venice, CA come to mind), progressive leadership has decided to modify the manner in which homeless people people are treated by the law. Even homeless advocates admit that results have been less than ideal. Street crime is on the rise with some streets beginning to have a 'mad max' feel. Progressive residents of those locales are beginning to question the intelligence and efficacy of current policy.

These are all laboratories where we can observe the efficacy of Democrat policies. In the four examples noted above, those policies raise serious and concerning questions. But maybe it's too early, maybe they will lead to the social and economic utopia that Dems always promise but never seem to deliver. The new thrust toward universal health care is no different. So have at it, Dems. If your approach to universal health care works well in blue locales, if taxes remain under control, if health care delivery does not suffer, if new health care professions opt to remain in your system or decide to move elsewhere, if the quality of care improves—I'll be the first to suggest that we expand the approach nationally. But those are a lot of ifs—and if your past experiments with living wage or sanctuary or pensions or the homeless are any indication, the results will be mixed at best and ruinous over the long term.

Friday, January 11, 2019

$5.6B

As the stalemate concerning the border wall/barrier/fence drags on, it's worth examining just what the Democrats and GOP have been willing to fund in recent years. Tom Elliot provides a small list:
“Rural Utility Service.” This program costs taxpayers $8.2 billion/year and has no actual purpose after its original intent — bringing electricity to rural communities — was long ago achieved. It’s now being used to bring broadband access to small communities (usually with populations of less than 20,000) ... the majority of its projects are not completed on time or within budget.

Sugar Subsidies. America, as Democrats frequently intone, faces a health crisis. What they don’t tell us is that it’s largely of their own making, as Congress subsidizes the production of unhealthy foods like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Eliminating sugar subsidies alone would save $6 billion ....

Community Development Grants. These grants were created in the 70s to revitalize failing American cities. The program has almost always been plagued with dysfunction, with grants going to wealthy communities and other recipients failing to produce “accountability and results.” ... It’s elimination would save $15 billion over 5 years.

The United Nations. As the United Nation’s largest contributor, the U.S. in 2016 donated $10 billion to the U.N. As CAGW notes, reducing these contributions just 25 percent would create a savings of $12.5 billion over 10 years ...

Amtrak. Congress could sell Amtrak to the private sector where it would almost certainly be operated more efficiently, but instead it’s showered in billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies. Over the next five years, these subsidies will cost $9.7 billion.

Unused Real Estate. Congress appropriates money to maintain federal real estate that’s not actually being used ... Were selling this unused property prioritized, the 5-year savings are estimated at $15 billion. Simply maintaining the unused buildings annually costs $1.7 billion.

Foreign Aid. American taxpayers currently spend more than $50 billion a year helping develop foreign countries. Many of the recipients are not known for being America’s closest allies — such as Egypt, South Sudan, Uganda, South Africa, Russia, the Congo, Sudan, and Zambia ... Cutting these donations back just 10 percent would be enough to fund the wall.
Of course, funding the wall has nothing to do with its efficacy or the federal budget, or any other practical matter. It's all about not letting Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise. And that element of #Resistance appears to be more important to Democrats than: (1) the federal workers who remain furloughed, (2) the dreamers who just might be legalized in any compromise agreement that is reached, and (3) the illegal immigrants themselves who are indirectly encouraged to undergo hardship without reward because they're told they can just walk across the border (in places) with no barrier to stop them. But those constituencies are just pawns in a much larger and cynical battle that is as exhausting as it is ridiculous.

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

Victor Davis Hansen notes one of the many ironies that accompany the leftist narrative that demands open immigration when he writes:
[One of the] popular progressive narratives in both Mexico and the United States cite America for all sorts of pathologies, past and present. The United States is often damned for prior colonialism and imperialism, as well as current racism and xenophobia.

Why, then, would millions of people south of the border leave their own homeland and potentially risk their lives to encounter a strange culture and language, to live in such a purportedly inhospitable place, and to adopt to an antithetical system based on supposedly toxic European and Protestant traditions?

The answers to these two paradoxes are as obvious as they are politically incorrect and therefore seldom voiced. Life in Mexico [and other Central American countries] is relatively poor, dangerous and often unfree. In contrast, the United States is rich, generous and secure ...

More importantly, millions of Mexican citizens recognize (at least privately) that the United States is not the bogeyman of mostly elite critiques. Instead, it is one of the world's rare multiracial, equal-opportunity societies. It is generous with its entitlements even to those who cross its border illegally, and far more meritocratic than most of the world's highly tribal societies.

Maybe that is why millions of impoverished people from Mexico have left their homes in expectation that they will be treated far better as foreign, non-English speakers in a strange land than they will at home by their own government.
It is ironic that many socialist countries erect figurative and sometimes actual walls to keep their citizens in while we erect walls to keep uncontrolled millions from coming in illegally.

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

According to the Dems and their trained hamsters in the media, Donald Trump is anti-Immigrant. Odd then, that he unilaterally proposed an important modification to the H1-B visa program that would allow talented foreign university graduates (mostly in the STEM area) to remain in the United States and get full time employment and a potential path to citizenship after graduation. He tweeted:
“H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. “We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.”
Yeah, I know, progressives will claim that any immigration policy based on merit is "immoral" — after all, what makes more sense, allowing ten of thousands to cross our borders illegally and become an immediate drain on our social services or allowing talented immigrants to cross our borders legally and contribute. It's really pretty simple, if you think about it for half a second.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cynicism

Cynicism is the currency of modern politics. The GOP and Democrats provide numerous examples and the media, well ... they're less cynical than they need to be when it comes to their reporting on one of those two parties. Take the recent "reporting" of Little Jimmy Acosta of CNN—remember him? He's the "journalist" who threw a tantrum because the White House gave him a time out for not sharing his question time with other trained hamsters (and a few actual journalists) in the White House briefing room. But Jimmy won't be deterred. After Donald Trump's short but on-point oval office speech on border protection/security and illegal immigrants, little Jimmy tried to look clever by spouting what was almost certainly a pre-written and rehearsed line (sadly, little Jimmy just isn't smart enough to come up with stuff like this on the fly). Molly Hemingway provides more:
As soon as the speech ended, White House press corps mascot Jim Acosta recited his rather groan-inducing rehearsed line that Trump’s address “should have come with a Surgeon General’s warning that it was hazardous to the truth.”
For the past week, the prevailing media narrative has been that everything Donald Trump says is a lie—even stuff that's provably accurate is a lie. Opinions he espouses are lies. His spokespeople and cabinet members are liars. It lies, lies, lies, lies all the way down. Of course, according to a less than cynical media, the Dems NEVER lie about anything—even when, for example, they continually tell us that they're in favor of robust border security, as they call demonstrably effective physical barriers "ineffective."

On Monday night, it seemed that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were more concerned about government workers not getting their paychecks on time than they were about tens of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States every month. And in that case, they weren't lying. To them, an inability to keep big government open and running is a crisis, but a porous border that is becoming more porous with every passing year—nothing to see there, move along! Yeah, a cynical evaluation of the president's speech leads to the conclusion that it's just "scare tactics," sort of like suggesting that tens of thousands of furloughed government workers will be "homeless" next month because Donald Trump won't capitulate to Democrat demands to end the shutdown before they negotiate the border.

But back to Trump's lies, lies, lies and more lies and the fact checking conducted by the trained hamsters in real time as the speech was given. There were some comical results. WaPo fact-checked Trump and then tweeted:
"266,000 illegal aliens arrest in the past two years": the number is right, but misleading. It's important to note that the number includes all kinds of crimes including illegal entry and re-entry.
Oh. So "all kinds of crimes" (e.g., shoplifting, car theft, petty theft, assault, rape, armed robbery, drug arrests, etc., etc. etc. are all sort of okay. Nothing to be concerned about ... except that the people perpetrating them shouldn't be in this country in the first place. The WaPo has done us all a service in keeping Trump honest—except he was being honest. Oh well.

An then there was CBS fact-checking Trump who asserted the 1 in 3 women coming across the border illegally have been sexually abused by traffickers, other illegal immigrants or gang members. Outraged, the CBS crew told us that according to other reliable sources, 80 percent of all women crossing the border have been sexually abused in some way. For the innumerate, that's 8 in 10 women, and for the really innumerate 8 in 10 is a lot worse that 1 in 3. They made Trump's point for him! It is a humanitarian crisis.

Hemingway provides other examples of this media fact-checking idiocy, but a few points need to be made: When children die as a consequence of the harsh journey, when fathers or mothers or others put children in harm's way to gain entry, when women are abused regularly during their journey, when disease, hunger and danger pervades the journey, there is a crisis and no specious claims to the contrary change that reality. It isn't difficult to feel sympathy for the people who make the trek; it's easy to understand that they want a better life; it's even possible that parties that exhibited less cynicism might be able to help at least a small number of those people. But only through compromise. A significant percentage of left-wing Dems would, I think, prefer open-borders, but since the number of people in South America and elsewhere who want to come to the United States is greater than the entire population of the United States, and since the majority of illegal immigrants require one or more forms of public assistance, open boards are a non-starter, but they are a great wedge issue. Cynicism.

Hemingway provides a little background on Trump's position:
In the minds of many group-thinking reporters, Trump only cares about a wall. But if they would actually read the proposal he sent to Congress on January 6, they could read that he seeks the following things in addition to 234 miles of physical barrier:
  • 75 additional immigration judges and support staff to reduce the immigration backlog,
    750 additional Border Patrol agents,
  • 2,000 additional law enforcement personnel and support staff to address gang violence, smuggling, trafficking, and the spread of drugs,
  • 52,000 detention beds,
  • $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs,
  • $675 million for “Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology at inbound lanes at U.S. Southwest Border Land
  • Ports of Entry” to “allow CBP to deter and detect more contraband, including narcotics, weapons, and other materials that pose nuclear and radiological threats”

  • statutory changes to permit in-country processing capacities for asylum processing

“Fact” “checking” the president by saying that “actually” the drugs are coming through legal ports of entry when that is precisely what Trump’s counter-narcotics plan says is “raising credibility questions,” but not of the president.
The only solution to this mess is compromise.* Trump has demonstrated that he's willing to compromise, but not willing to capitulate. But it appears that the Dems would rather use furloughed government workers along with illegal immigrants as pawns in their attempt to resist Trump at all cost. The irony is that Dems were for the wall before they were against it. The only difference—now its Trump's idea so it has become "immoral," the harsh realities of our southern border be damned. Cynicism. FOOTNOTE: ------------------ *John Cass of the Chicago Trubune offers one reasonable suggestion:
We can’t have any sort of comprehensive [immigration] reform without addressing the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to this country illegally by their parents, who themselves crossed the American border illegally. They’re the Dreamers. They want to legally call America home. Why not let them stay? If they’re not in criminal gangs or possessed of violent criminal records, the Dreamers should be given legal residency. That’s what Trump and the Republicans should offer the Democrats. And in exchange, Democrats should give Trump and the Republicans the $5.6 billion for the wall. This is called compromise. Remember the word?
Heh. That's wasn't hard, was it?

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Medicare for All

The majority of all Democrats and the entire left-wing of the party (which is now a significant percent of the majority) have decided to take a little time out from demonizing Donald Trump's attempt to improve border security and reform our broken immigration system. After all, the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who enter our country monthly have an "absolute right" to health care, and what better way to provide it to them than a single payer system?

In addition to bankrupting the country while providing ineffective and wasteful services (that is, after all, what big government does), the single payer medical system envisioned by the Dems would have a number of unintended but quite predictable negative consequences, including but not limited to longer wait times by a system that is overwhelmed by demand and under-compensated by fiat. It appears that at least a few Dems actually understand this, but it doesn't matter. Big government in our lives is their goal, so ...

James Freeman writes:
After dismissing for years the idea that Democrats’ health care plans would lead to a government takeover, new House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth on Tuesday asked Congress’ top economist to sketch out the options for a government takeover. The Kentucky Democrat also implicitly sketched out the political game plan: enact socialized medicine before patients and taxpayers understand what they’ll be losing.

In a remarkable document that assumes short political memories, longtime ObamaCare cheerleader Mr. Yarmuth acknowledges that the coverage and cost control promised by Affordable Care Act backers never materialized. Mr. Yarmuth admits that many Americans are still uninsured and still “struggle to afford their health care costs.” Rather than exploring ways to allow more market competition in a health care financing system long dominated by Washington policy, Mr. Yarmuth instead asks in a Tuesday letter to Congressional Budget Office director Keith Hall how Washington can control all of the financing. Specifically, Mr. Yarmuth asks for a report on the “design considerations that policymakers would confront in developing proposals to establish a single-payer system in the United States.”

At a 2013 congressional hearing Mr. Yarmuth crowed that ObamaCare “is putting customers back in charge of their health care.” It was a cruel joke for patients who had their choices of plans and doctors taken away by the 2010 law. But now Mr. Yarmuth and his fellow Democrats aren’t even pretending anymore—they want Washington in charge.

In Tuesday’s letter Mr. Yarmuth asks for many details about how a government-run system might be structured and administered. But ironically—given that he is supposed to be overseeing the federal budget and his letter is addressed to an economist—Mr. Yarmuth makes it clear that he’s in no hurry to be informed on one particular aspect of such a system: price. Writes Mr. Yarmuth:
The report would not necessarily provide CBO’s estimate of the effects of any particular proposal for a single-payer system on federal spending or national health care spending but would, to the extent feasible, provide a qualitative assessment of how the choices with respect to major design issues would affect such spending.
Yes, for as long as possible Democrats would like to have a qualitative discussion in which they can talk about imagined benefits, rather than a quantitative discussion which can only result in historic taxpayer sticker shock.
Like most ideas that emanate from the Left, imagined benefits that are rarely, if ever achieved, always trump quantitative facts. In the magical utopian world of Leftists, big government is efficient, economical, and never, ever disposed to exert its control over those who must depend on it. There is never the possibility for fraud and abuse, and every employee is "essential". Big government bureaucrats never, ever strive for more and more budgetary money and they never, ever lie to benefit their growing fiefdoms. Regulations never, ever get in the way of small businesses. In fact, big government enhances personal freedoms. And all of those things are true, aren't they?

Aren't they?

Uh ... no.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

S.1

The Democratic party careens further and further left with each passing year and with each election. And because the hard-Left hates Israel and enthusiastically supports the repugnant BDS movement, party elders are scrambling to avoid losing support within the Jewish community and at the same time, obfuscating on the BDS issue and those left-Wing representatives that support it (think: newly elected Democrat Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar).

Enter Senate bill S1, the “Strengthening American Security in the Middle East Act.” The bill among other things, allows state and local governments to refuse to grant contracts to organizations and/or businesses that support BDS. The GOP leadership wants a vote on the bill, but the last thing the Dems want is to go on-the-record against BDS (they're using the government shutdown as an excuse to argue against the vote). Admittedly, many would vote in favor of S.1 and against BDS (good for them), but they'd infuriate their hard-left base. The growing numbers of Dems who want to vote against S.1 (think: Bernie Sanders) are suggesting that this is a free speech issue (that's B.S.).

A simple metaphor: Donald Trump wanted to restrict immigration from Muslim countries that had a strong and dangerous Islamist presence until better vetting of legal immigrants from those countries could be implemented. He was called unAmerican, a racist and an Islamophobe. Hold that thought for just a moment.

Mark Tapscott reports on comments made by Senator Marco Rubio, a GOP sponsor of S.1:
Rubio, one of the prime sponsors of S.1, blasted back at Sanders and Tlaib Monday morning, accusing Tlaib of anti-Semitism in a tweet:

“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line #BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel,”
followed within minutes by another arguing the BDS Movement has significant support among Senate Democrats:

“The shutdown is not the reason Senate Democrats don’t want to move to Middle East Security Bill. A huge argument broke out at Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS. A significant # of Senate Democrats now support #BDS & Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”
Returning to the metaphor I started earlier, let's consider BDS. By suggesting that Israel be boycotted and sanctioned and that investment in the one country in the Middle East that has a robust and growing economy be stopped, the hard left advocates the implicit destruction of that country.

All that Trump did was suggest the immigration from Muslim countries be stopped and he was demonized by the Dems and their trained hamsters in the media. What national Dems such as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (and others) are suggesting is the destruction of Israel. Does that make them unAmerican, racists, and anti-Semitic? The Dems can't have it both ways, although they always try.

BDS is a repugnant idea that conflates fantasy thinking with historical ignorance. It applies a double standard to a small country that is surrounded by Muslim countries that want it eradicated. BDS is blatant and vicious anti-Semitism, and anyone who adopts it as part of their ideology is despicable.





Character

It's pretty obvious that progressives in general and the Democratic party as a whole hate Donald Trump with a venom that has driven them close to or into derangement. They have called Donald Trump a racist, a misogynist, a bigot, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, unhinged, insane, and a dictator or facist or Nazi or ... They've done this so often and with such viciousness that many people simply tune them out.

But progressives and Dems are not along in their hatred of Trump. Within the GOP, there is an array of NeverTrumpers such as Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Peter Wehner, and many others who oppose Trump because of his "unprincipled" conservative approach, his bombast, and his "unpresidential style." They ball of all this into the general accusation of "lack of character." Unlike the Democrats who rely on the fantasy that Trump has accomplished nothing for the people of the United States, NeverTrumpers acknowledge that his administration has many important domestic and foreign policy wins, but that his leadership style is unacceptable.

It's this "lack of character" and unacceptable leadership style that have been the topic of two important commentaries offered by Roger Kimball and separately, by James Piereson.

Kimball responds to NeverTrumper Jonah Goldberg's accusation that Trump lacks character and that his presidency will end badly. He writes:
While acknowledging that the president is an imperfect man (but at whom can that criticism not be leveled?), I also defended Trump’s character. Quoting Cardinal Newman, I noted that character was a multifaceted attribute. A man, said Newman, “may be great in one aspect of his character, and little-minded in another. . . . A good man may make a bad king; profligates have been great statesmen, or magnanimous political leaders.” I believe President Trump has been astonishingly successful during his first two years. I believe further that his success is a testament to the strength of his character.

Responding to the defense that many other politicians, including the sainted Barack Obama, have done things that demonstrated a clear lack of character (e.g., lying about the ramifications of Obamacare or the reasons for Benghazi), NeverTrumpers accuse Trump defenders of "whataboutism". They argue, correctly, that two wrongs don't make a right, but that doesn't mean that we can castigate a man for his flaws and refuse to consider the counterweight of his real, tangible accomplishments. Kimball writes:
... Many people were surprised when Peter Thiel [a well known Venture Capitalist with focus on technology] declared his support for Donald Trump. He was just about the only Silicon Valley entrepreneur who did. One interlocutor, citing something unpalatable that Trump had done or said, asked Thiel how he could support Trump given his outré behavior. I don’t support him because of the things he does that I don’t like, Thiel said, but because of things that he does that I do like.

I think that is a mature and politically enlightened attitude.
I agree.

James Piereson also notes that NeverTrumpers suggest that "character is destiny" and that since trump has none, he will come to a bad end. Maybe. He then recounts the philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli:
The problem with this proposition, at least as it applies to politics, is that Machiavelli destroyed it five hundred years ago in The Prince, and thereby laid the foundations for modern politics. This is not to say that Trump’s character and norm-breaking style are unimportant or irrelevant to his performance in office, but that the general proposition (“Character is destiny”) is generally false as applied to political life. Trump may fail, but most likely for reasons unrelated to his character ...

Trump may be in greater control of himself than his critics give him credit for. The president likes to pose as a tough guy who enjoys a good fight, but how much of that is real and how much of it is a pose designed to have an effect? We know that this is a piece of his well-known negotiating style: let’s scare them first, and then we’ll get a deal more to our liking. This may be true as well of his name-calling and his twittering: it’s all part of a style he has adopted to achieve the ends he seeks because he thinks the “nice guy” routine is stale and does not produce results. There are some who think that Trump is “trolling” America, and liberals in particular, in order to get under their skin, draw a reaction, throw them off balance, and provide entertainment for his supporters. If that is so, then he has certainly achieved that goal. But that implies that he is engaged in an act, a presentation of himself, rather than an expression of his character ...

Is Trump perhaps, then, the ultimate Machiavellian, pretending to be a demagogue, a crude and tasteless public figure like many of our Hollywood celebrities, all for the purpose of achieving some large service on behalf of his country? That is also a possibility worth considering, in which case he would deserve to go down in history as one of the great actors of all time. In a strange way, Trump seems to know what he is doing, even if everyone else thinks he is unhinged or out of control. He also appears to be comfortable in his own skin, likewise a useful quality in a first-rate actor. After all, in a time when celebrity intersects closely with politics, it is possible to think that the Donald Trump we see on stage is not the real Donald Trump at all, but a public concoction made out both to satisfy and to confront the bizarre culture in which we live.
NeverTrumps and all Democrats view Trump in a overly simplistic manner. They hate his style and therefore reject anything he or his administration accomplishes by couching it in terms of any of the "isms" they perpetually hurl at him. For example, his attempts to reform immigration policy are characterized as "racism" or "immoral" even though every knowledgable person recognizes that our current policies are badly broken. But even worse, his most active critics never seem to offer alternatives that would appreciably correct the immigration problems Trump identifies. It almost seems they're happy to retry failed policies, to restate failed positions, and to recommend failed strategies have been proven not to work.

Their style may be more acceptable, but the end result won't be.

Monday, January 07, 2019

An Embrace

The foreign policy "Team of 2s" from the previous administration (i.e., Obama, Clinton, Kerry and their minions) professed to want to contain Iran and its hegemonic actions throughout the Middle East. Iran was developing nuclear capability (and still are), building medium and potentially long range missiles (and they still are), fomenting unrest in places like Yemen and Somalia (and they still are), supporting Islamic terror organizations like Hamas and Hezballah against our ally Israel (and they still are). So to stop all this, Obama's Team of 2s established a "deal" with Iran that did nothing to stop it and for icing on the cake, gave the mad mullahs $150 billion as a sweetener. Chants of "Death to America" did not abate.

Enter Donald Trump. For almost two years Trump's foreign policy team has been working to reign in Iran, destabilize their leadership and otherwise cripple their hegemonic intent. It's been a slog, but Trump & company have rejected Obama's "deal" to the horror of Democrats and a few establishment Republicans, reapplied sanctions, and otherwise rejected the mad mullahs. Although nothing of substance has yet been accomplished, a few very good things are happening. Iran has begun to suffer economic pain due to reapplied sanctions, major foreign companies are pulling out of the country, and most important, there's the potential for a quiet alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran.

For the Left along with other members of the four constituencies, an Israeli-Saudi alliance is somehow anathema, possibly because that's the intelligent tack that Obama's Team of 2s chose not to take. Why else has their been a concerted effort to demonize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the only Saudi ruler who has the courage to make such a bold move with Israel? Parenthetically, the Left in Israel is working overtime to unseat Netanyahu via a series of investigations—sound familiar?

But the Trump foreign policy team slogs forward. The Wall Street Journal comments:
A Netanyahu-Mohammed meeting would be a capstone of the Trump administration’s effort to isolate and contain Iran. The so-called Arab Street’s indifference to the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem is said to have given the crown prince the confidence to take his relationship with Israel public at the right time. On a more political level, it surely would divert public and media attention from problems currently besetting each of the three leaders involved.

For President Trump, it would be a respite from arguments over the government shutdown and his abrupt decision to withdraw from Syria. For Mr. Netanyahu, facing domestic political problems and a new election, it would be a dramatic breakthrough on the order of Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Jerusalem. And for Crown Prince Mohammed, it could restore some of his international luster, tarnished by the Khashoggi murder (in which the Saudis insist the crown prince had no involvement).

Such a meeting would offer only upsides for Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu. For Crown Prince Mohammed it would entail some risk. Openly cooperating with Israel without resolving the future of Jerusalem and its Islamic holy sites surely would provoke opposition from religious Saudis, though only sotto voce given the crown prince’s severe repression of domestic opponents. On balance it would appear he has achieved an international success without domestic repercussion.

For two years Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has worked to unite Israel and Saudi Arabia in a Mideast peace deal, ideally including full diplomatic relations. It isn’t clear the two countries are ready to go that far, but it does seem likely they are ready to leapfrog the intractable Palestinian issue and publicly cooperate with the U.S. to bring Iran to heel. Tehran’s growing influence in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and its intention to possess missiles that could reach the U.S., raises new alarms that militate in favor of a public Saudi-Israeli embrace.
No one knows if any of this will actually happen, but Trump has set the stage for an epic accomplishment that will benefit many Arab states, Israel, and the United States. At the same time, it will hurt Iran. If an Israeli-Saudi alliance comes to pass, it's just another example of an administration with a coarse and bombastic leader that is accomplishing significant things. If you look at substance, the Trump administration has accomplished more in the Middle East in two years than the previous administration accomplished in eight.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

She's A Woman!

In this era of identity politics and #MeToo, progressive politicians who are women are always victims of misogyny, while in the view of far too many left-leaning politicians and commentators, conservative women either: (1) don't qualify as "women" at all, or (2) are under the thrall of males in their life and simply do their bidding. This entire proposition is insulting to everyone involved, including progressive woman who are deemed unable to defend their political positions on their own without hiding behind "they disagree with me because I'm a woman."

Peter Beinart exemplifies this idiocy when he writes:
Read enough news reports about Elizabeth Warren’s declaration that she is running for president, and you notice certain common features. In its story on her announcement, The New York Times noted that Warren has “become a favorite target of conservatives” and that, in a recent national poll, “only about 30 percent [of respondents] viewed her favorably, with 37 percent holding an unfavorable view.” The Washington Post observed that Warren’s claim “that she was Native American” has “come under relentless attack from Republican opponents.” It also quoted a Boston Globe editorial that called Warren “a divisive figure.” On CNN, the election analyst Harry Enten suggested that Warren’s “very liberal record, combined with the fact that Donald Trump has already gone after her” has made her a—you guessed it—“divisive figure” whose “favorable ratings are not that high.”

These observations are factually correct. But they also help create a false narrative. Mentioning the right’s attacks on Warren plus her low approval ratings while citing her “very liberal record” and the controversy surrounding her alleged Native American heritage implies a causal relationship between these facts. Warren is a lefty who has made controversial ancestral claims. Ergo, Republicans attack her, and many Americans don’t like her very much.

But that equation is misleading. The better explanation for why Warren attracts disproportionate conservative criticism, and has disproportionately high disapproval ratings, has nothing to do with her progressive economic views or her dalliance with DNA testing. It’s that she’s a woman.
Yes, Warren is a woman, but Beinart's "better explanation" is a pathetic cover for the the true reason Warren polls so negatively among centrists and conservatives. She's a closet socialist, who unlike Bernie Sanders, doesn't even have the courage to state her big government, anti-capitalist, anti-business views honestly and directly—she hedges is the way of most sleazy pols. She's also strident, generally unlikeable, and questionably honest (think: her specious claim of Native American heritage) but all of that has nothing whatsoever to do with her gender.

It appears that Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media (e.g., Beinart) are prepping for primary season by attempting to blunt any criticism of their candidates—the majority of whom fit an identify politics mandate—by suggesting that anyone who questions a candidate's proposed policies (e.g., guaranteed income for all), criticizes a candidiate's positions (e.g., abolish ICE) or notes character flaws or questionable ethics is either a "misogynist" or a "racist" because—identity politics. That entire meme is becoming really, really tiresome.

In essence, what the Dems want are candidates who are untouchable—immune from harsh criticism. In the age of Trump, that's not gonna happen.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Four Things

Now that the Democrats are in control of the House of Representatives, their trained hamsters in the media can barely control their glee. Nancy Pelosi is being characterized as the nation's defender of morality and justice, fighting the simmering evil of Donald Trump. The newly elected socialist wing of the Democratic Party are being characterized as social justice champions.

But .. four things:

1. Jeryl Bier reports on the close relationship between rabid anti-Semite and black nationalist Louis Farrakkan and prominent Dems (e.g., James Clyburne, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters):
“The difference between Farrakhan and some members of the alt-reich whose heinous bigotry has received a lot of attention this past year,” CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted last February, is that “Farrakhan has a much larger following and elected officials meet with him openly.” Another difference is that with a few exceptions such as Mr. Tapper, the media don’t seem to care.
Couple that with the overt anti-Semitism of a few newly elected hard-Left House members, and you'd think the media would being asking questions. You'd be wrong.

2. Nancy Pelosi tells us that Trump's border wall is "immoral and ineffective." But if that's the case, why aren't she and her Democrat colleagues demanding that the entire collection of barriers, walls, and fences erected along our Southern border be torn down immediately. After all, if Trump's proposed wall is "immoral and ineffective," it's a little hard to understand why existing barriers are moral and effective. Of course, the Dems' trained hamsters in the media never ask Pelosi to explain her illogic.

3. The young socialists who have captured the imagination of progressives everywhere by suggesting Venezuelan socialist policies are touted as "uncompromising" and "fervent" in their desire to demonize "profit" and create government control over every aspect of our lives. But they have an edge. For example, in a speech after being sworn in, newly minted congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), is reported to have quoted her son on Donald Trump, saying: “Look mama you won. Bullies don’t win.” To which she replied, “You’re right, they don’t. And we’re gonna go in and impeach the motherfucker.” And the Dems talk in somber tones about "civility."

4. Following a roadmap they created during the Kavanaugh hearings, the Dems will launch "investigations" that are intended to destroy reputations and cripple or remove the sitting president. It is almost a certainty that driven by Trump Derangement Syndrome, the Dems will overplay their hand. We'll see.

The next time you see a media type talking about the latest Dem initiative to battle the evil Donald Trump, ask yourself this. Could leading Republicans get away with the association noted in Thing #1? Could a GOP House Speaker get away with the logical disconntect noted in Thing #2? Would a young GOP House member be given a pass if he or she said what Rashida Tlaib said, but about Barack Obama noted in Thing #3.? Would the GOP be given a pass to conduct hearings whose sole purpose is the politics of personal destruction discussed in Thing #4? I think not.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Retribution

In an political environment in which context and past history mean nothing, the the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media have amazingly short memories. Way back during the first term of the Obama administration, Republican leaders were rightly castigated for admitting publicly that they would work to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. The Dems and their media hamsters hyperventilated, suggesting that investigations into the weaponization of government agencies (think: the IRS scandal) or the debacle that is now known as Benghazi (think: lies about the reasons for four American deaths) were unjustified. They screamed about the intransigence of the GOP to move forward Obama's agenda; they bridled at any suggestion of government corruption (think Hillary's pay for play charity operation—The Clinton Foundation) or criminality (think: 30,000 deleted emails) was anything but politically motivated.

Fast forward to 2019. The Dems now proudly say their primary objective is the utter destruction of a sitting president, the investigation of not only real or perceived government wrong doing, but also of him and his family. They don't see the irony of their current position and never, ever would admit that they're doing exactly what the GOP did, but have elevated it in both viciousness and intensity.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal give us what I believe are reasonably accurate prediction for the next few years:
The 2018 Democrats ran on no discernible agenda beyond rejecting Donald Trump and all his works. The animating purpose of Congress will be investigations to damage, and perhaps impeach, the President to tee up total Democratic control after 2020.

Mr. Trump’s tax returns and foreign business dealings will get frequent star turns. Democrats think they can prove Mr. Trump has exploited his office for personal enrichment, or in some way that matters to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. If not, at least they’ll embarrass the Trump family. Ivanka and Jared should prepare for subpoenas and dives into their email habits and security clearances.

Democrats will also run investigations into payments to Stormy Daniels; the Administration’s policy of separating children at the border; and every consultation with a business about a deregulatory decision. House Democrats will trail every cabinet officer down to whether he ordered a cocktail on a commercial flight. This will present even greater problems in staffing federal agencies.

On policy, Mrs. Pelosi owes her speakership to the left and she will tilt that way. She is already facing a revolt on the left over a rules change to impose pay-as-you-go budgeting. Liberals think it will hamstring their spending plans. That’s fine with us since Paygo, as it’s known, was always more political eyewash than genuine fiscal restraint.

The real House tension will be between the new socialist vanguard and the 30 or so Democrats who won in GOP-leaning districts. It will be instructive to see how many defect from the Green New Deal or Medicare for All if Mrs. Pelosi dares to bring those to the floor.

One certainty is the end of pro-growth legislation. The trend will be toward higher taxes, more regulation and more harassment of business. The new House rules have already cashiered “dynamic scoring” that forced the Congressional Budget Office to think about how a proposal affects the economy. Dynamic scoring isn’t some GOP effort to prove taxes “pay for themselves” but a tool that informs lawmakers of economic costs and trade-offs and can improve policy.
What the Dems can't seem to process is what goes around comes around. They will establish a truly toxic political atmosphere in which the politics of destruction predominates. They may even succeed in the short term, but in the long run, they'll pay a very significant price. They think they'll establish a socialist "wall" (excuse the term) by creating a leftist utopia in which government controls every aspect of our lives (think: "medicare for all" or the "new green deal"). Because the Dems believe that all citizens (and non-citizens) will love the utopia they create, they will lock out those of us in the center or on the right from power in perpetuity. That's magical thinking, but then again, that's the stock in trade among many on the Left.

And when they lose power as their utopia crumbles—and that is certain to happen—there will be retribution. It won't be pretty, and it certainly won't be good for the country the Dems keep telling us is their primary concern.