• Towards a More Sensible Asylum Policy

    August 18, 2019 // 5 Comments

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    Posted in: Trump


    America’s asylum laws, meant to help the most vulnerable, have instead become a clogged backdoor for economic migrants. The Trump administration is restoring asylum to its correct role in American immigration policy. It is a long overdue, right thing to do, but almost nobody is satisfied. Here’s why.

     

    Asylum is a very old concept, dating back to the ancient Greeks. It recognizes a person persecuted by his own country can be offered residence and protection by another country. The actual conditions vary considerably across the globe (the U.S. will consider Female Genital Mutilation grounds for asylum while in many nations it is an accepted practice), but in most cases asylum is offered to people who face a well-founded fear of persecution if sent home on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group.

    The definition of those five protected grounds have also varied greatly based on shifts in American domestic politics. Since 1994 for example, LGBT status has been, and remains under Trump, a possible claim to asylum. Domestic violence was granted consideration as grounds under the Obama administration, only to be rolled back under Trump.

    But even as those criteria have changed with political winds, asylum has never been about simply wanting a better life. Poverty, for all its horrors, has never fallen within the protected grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group, though is often assumed to by progressive journalists without access to the Internet and some Democratic legislators from the Bronx.

    A theoretical “perfect” asylum case in the U.S. might be a prominent Chinese democracy advocate finally granted permission by Beijing to lecture in the U.S. As he arrives, his government announces he will be arrested upon his return to China for intellectual crimes against the state, and per the State Department, likely subjected to torture.

     

    The reality of 2019 is the asylum system has evolved into a cheater’s backdoor, a pseudo-legal path to immigration otherwise not available to economic migrants. They lack either the skills for working visas, or the ties to qualify for legal immigration under America’s family reunification system. So they walk to the border and emptily ask for asylum, taking advantage of previous administrations’ look-the-other-way “solution” to their ever-growing numbers. Affirmative asylum claims, made at ports of entry, jumped 35 percent in the last two years even as refusal rates for those cases along the southern border run into the 80th percentile.

    It works — for them. A Honduran on the border who says he came to work is sent back almost immediately. However, should he make a claim to asylum, the U.S. is obligated to adjudicate his case. Since detaining asylum seekers and their families while the processes play out over at time years is expensive and politically distasteful (kids in cages!), until recently most asylum seekers were instead released into American society to wait out their cases. They became eligible for work authorization if their cases extended past 150 days, as almost all do. The number of pending cases in early 2019 was 325,277, more than 50 times higher than in 2010.

    Eventual approval rates for all nationalities over the past decade average only 28 percent (some place the approval rate as low as 15 percent and argue it is because of unfairness in the system, rather than illegitimate claims. Others claim the approval rate, however low, is bogus, reflecting clever coaching by immigration lawyers instead of legitimate fears), and after denial the applicant could either refile as a defensive asylum claim, or simply disappear into the vast underground of illegals.

    Previous administrations’ plans to create expedited asylum processes proved ineffective as numbers endlessly just increase to fill the available opportunities. Simply making a claim to asylum has been enough to live and work in America in one status or another. Trump is changing that.

     

    The most visible change is detaining asylum seekers and their families at the border instead of releasing them into society to wait for their cases to be processed. Detention is a deterrent to economic migrants making false claims to asylum, statistically somewhere between seven to nine out of 10 persons plus their families.

    The next change was for the Trump administration to negotiate for asylum seekers to wait out their processing times not in American society or in a detention facility, but in Mexico, a program called the Migrant Protection Protocols. People at the border make their asylum claim, and are then nudged a step backward to wait for an answer in Mexico. This relieves the U.S. of the costs, monetary (the House just voted an additional $4.6 billion to be spend on beds and baths for detainees) and political.

    Mexican officials estimate about 60,000 people will be sent to Mexico by the end of August under the Migrant Protection Protocols. The policy seems to be effective in weeding out economic migrants as many, denied the chance to work off their debts in America to the human traffickers they paid for the journey north, choose to return home to Central America and abandon their previous sworn assertion such a return would imperil their lives.

    A more significant Trump change to U.S. policy is to bring it in line with the European standard (“Dublin Convention“) of country of first refuge. Most of Europe subscribes to this model, which requires asylum claims to be made in the first country that can offer refuge. The idea is a person legitimately fleeing a repressive government would want safety as soon as possible. If the person is really just an economic migrant, this will stop him from “forum shopping” to see if the economic benefits are better in Italy or Austria. Or Mexico versus the United States.

    In the American context, if someone is fleeing gang vengeance in Honduras, Mexico would become his refuge even though his cousin needs help in the restaurant in Chicago. The U.S. will thus not consider asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States (the order is being challenged in the courts.)

    To put the plan into practice, U.S. reached a deal with Guatemala for that nation to take in more asylum seekers from other Central American nations. The U.S. is expected to sign similar agreements with El Salvador and Honduras. The U.S. has had an identical but little-noticed arrangement in place with Canada for many years, allowing the U.S. to not consider asylum applications from persons who did not apply first while in Canada. Despite the media hysteria about cruelty, the idea is nothing new.

    The impact of these changes will be significant. Though Mexico does not yet have a formal safe third country agreement with the U.S., its Commission for Aid to Migrants projects 80,000 asylum requests this year, up from only 2,137 five years ago. Mexico and other Central American nations are expected to also become a place of first refuge for the many Haitians, Cubans, and Africans who previously just passed through their territory en route to America.

    This illustrates an ancillary benefit to moving some of the costs of housing migrants to Mexico, and asking for more asylum processing by Guatemala and other nations: it gives them a reason to police their own borders. Until recently, there was no incentive for these countries to stop migrants headed north, and indeed much incentive to pass on the problems by opening their own borders to northbound traffic. This same thinking allowed human traffickers and drug dealers to operate with near impunity.

    Following all this, the newest change concerns derivative claims to asylum. Spouses and minor children of those approved for asylum continue to be granted asylum alongside the principal. AG Barr, however, recently overturned a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals saying a Mexican adult man could apply for asylum on the basis of his father being targeted by a cartel. Previous administrations held such an adult, while obviously not a dependent minor, would still automatically “inherit” asylum as the member of a particular social group, his extended family. Barr says now the adult can still apply today for asylum, but has now to prove his case independent of his father.

    Barr’s decision is in line with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ruled victims of domestic violence would no longer be considered members of a particular social group, i.e., all abused women of say Honduras, and were thus not eligible for asylum based simply on a claim to have been such as victim. Sessions determined each woman would need to prove a specific case of persecution and not simply assert she was a victim of a crime sadly endemic to many Central American societies.
    Americans broadly favor immigration in general. But the gap between orderly immigration and unfettered immigration based on how many people can slip through physical holes in the border and loopholes in the law has grown too wide, to the point where a quarter of the 45 million foreign-born people currently in the U.S. arrived here illegally. Some 60 percent of likely voters support efforts to “prevent migrants from making fraudulent asylum claims and being released into the country.” As Europe has acknowledged and America is learning, modern immigration comes with considerable social and political costs, and those will be accounted for by society one way (good and thought out) or another (violent and chaotic.)

    As David Frum melodramatically wrote to encourage his fellow progressives to abandon garbage “policy” like abolishing ICE and throwing open the borders, “if liberals won’t enforce borders, fascists will.” Rewriting that a bit, if Congress will not reform immigration policy in line with a broad national consensus, then whoever is in the White House will, albeit in a piecemeal fashion. The result is Obama’s DACA reforms didn’t outlast his administration, and if a Democrat wins in 2020 Trump’s changes to asylum processing will be rolled back. Nothing gets permanently resolved that way, and it needs to be.

     

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  • Mass Shootings: Memo to all Washington Post Staff

    August 5, 2019 // 31 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Democracy


     
    Update 2019: For the youngsters out there, here’s something I wrote in 2013 after some mass shooting nobody even remembers from six years ago. About the only thing that needs changing if I were to resubmit the article today would be to throw in some blah-blah about social media (not a big deal in 2013) and Trump (also not a big deal in 2013). Otherwise, same story.
     

    Update 2013: My article, below, was intended as satire, but yet another very real mass shooting took place just a few hours ago in Chicago, leaving 13 more wounded and dead.

     
     

    (Sorry, it’s been a few days since the last shooting, so this may no longer be timely. This memo was found near the Washington Post offices, with the words “Watergate Uber Alles” scrawled across it in what appears to be human blood. I have been unable to confirm its authenticity, but while reading it a person identifying himself as a Washington Post reporter recently reassigned from foreign correspondent to the Style section came up to me begging for spare change and said it “looked real.”)

    TO: All Washington Post Staff

    FROM: Jeff Bezos, owner

    SUBJECT: Coverage of Mass Shootings
    —————————————————————–

    It seems that mass shooting is more than a passing fad now, so we need to regularize our coverage. This is not only for consistency’s sake, but also, given recent and future staff cuts (don’t worry, most of those laid off from the paper will be offered positions at Amazon’s New Delhi hub), to save time and money. Here are the new SOPs. Anyone not following these will feel a Zappo up the backside from me.

    On the Day

    1) Psychotic killers will be referred to as “shooters.” Anything bigger than a handgun, a “long rifle.” Any long rifle, shotgun, lengthy piece of wood, etc., will be an “assault rifle” or a “military-style weapon” starting in para two. Try to use the word “tactical” whenever possible. The shooter will have worn “military-style clothing” regardless of whether or not the photos show him in a Hello Kitty t-shirt.

    2) While fresh photos of grieving relatives are crucial, specific interviews are a waste of resources. Recycle. Anyone who was in the military in any form is a “veteran who survived combat tours only to ironically meet his demise at home.” Anyone over 28 years old will have “left behind children.” Quote a neighbor as saying the deceased was a regular guy/gal who liked to barbecue, coached Little League, that kind of thing. Throw in a hobby– “He loved fly fishing” or “…his beloved taxidermy collection.” Even if the dude was a convicted drug dealer murderer, in death he was “a good man, well-loved by his pit bull and customers.”

    3) The “shooter” was not a good man. He had an (undiscovered until you dug it up) history of mental illness, though throw in in the lede that he purchased his long gun, assault rifle, grenade launcher or cluster munition legally. Quote a neighbor as saying the shooter “seemed like a regular guy, you know, kept his lawn nice and all.” Quote his mom saying she didn’t know where things went wrong for him, then have her reference unironically the thirty strangled cats she found in his room.

    4) Somebody will need do something “incredibly brave.” Use a cop if necessary, but it’s much better if you can tell about some ordinary office worker who did an extraordinary thing. Quote him/her as “just doing my job” if a cop, “I did what I had to do” if a civilian.

    The Days After

    5) The President will go on TV and say what a tragedy, a nation grieves, blame Congress and/or the other party for inaction, need to possibly think about someday looking into gun control, yadda, yadda but you know, Second Amendment and all that. Just use the last speech’s text again. If presidential approval ratings are below 50%, he’ll appoint a blue ribbon commission to look into this terrible day. When Obama leaves office, remember to change the name.

    6) Re-run the editorial about gun control. If it doesn’t fit in the front section, drop Family Circle from the comics page for a day and stick it there.

    7) Next day, run a photo of flags at half-mast (might as well leave ’em there to save wear and tear!), and print a couple of letters to the editor. Same cranks write in every time so don’t spend a lot of energy on this. Second Amendment, need to have armed guards in schools and public restrooms, think of the children, the violence has to stop, etc.

    Finally, don’t milk it. These stories are good for a day or two, maybe a little more if local, but nothing past that unless a celebrity is involved. Don’t worry about filling the space, there’ll be another mass shooting coming soon enough.

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  • Dems are Shorting White Voters in 2020

    August 3, 2019 // 12 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     

    The cornerstone of progressivism, and one of the reasons Democrats are likely to lose the 2020 presidential race, is their misunderstanding of white privilege. It leads inexorably to devaluing the voters needed to clinch the Electoral College.
     
    The basic idea is whites are ahead of other races economically via privilege, an amorphous term including access to good colleges, sympathetic treatment by cops, better terms on mortgages, and more. Kanye scores big money-wise, but when he tries to get a cab he’s just another black guy, while taxis compete for me to be in their back seat.

    Not sure? David Brooks of the New York Times says “Racial equity has become the defining issue of the moment.” In fact, white progressives are now further left on race and diversity issues than the typical African-American voter, what one very white man calls The Great Awokening and feels is comparable to the abolitionists in the North who demanded civil war to right racial wrongs.

    Elsewhere, the Times wants to impeach Trump for racism. That article claims Democrats’ problem is their “obsession with Robert Mueller and his tedious investigation — an investigation all but irrelevant to the racist agenda that animates Trump’s political project.”

    The problem with this victim-washed vision of 2019 America (not a good era for subtlety overall) is white is not enough, never has been. I learned this during my 24 years at the State Department. I was a diplomat, about as privileged a job on paper as you can get. But inside the State Department (and don’t think while it is different today it is all that different) being white was only a third of the bargain. The criteria for upward mobility was “pale, male, and Yale.” Being white (the pale part) was a great start, but only if you were also a man; women suffered in promotion rates and even then only in less-desirable job categories (girls are nurses, boys are doctors.) But white and male got you only to the front door. The “good” jobs required the right background.

    A sort-of proud graduate of The Ohio State University (somehow Harvard feels no need to call itself The Harvard) my privilege only went so far. Some animals are indeed more equal, and I couldn’t fake it. They knew each other. Their fathers knew each other. They had money, well, parents with money. No surprise the State Department has been sued successfully over the years by its woman diplomats and its black diplomats. We Big Ten alums however never got our class action together and so muddled mostly in the middle levels.
     
    The idea white, or even white and male, was enough has always been laughable. America did not welcome our grandpas; it shunted them into slums and paid them as little as possible to work for male, pale and Yale owners. Check how many Irish died digging the canals around New Orleans. Read how immigrant children were worked in factories decades. The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act used phrenology to exclude Italians. It was so horrendously racist Hitler praised it in Mein Kampf.

    Now in the world of 2019 mentioning the Irish triggers someone with purple hair and a neck tattoo in Elvish to shout slavery was worse. It was. But applying a rank-order to suffering disguises the reason this ideology will drag the Democratic party to likely defeat in 2020: it is about more than race. What progressives call white privilege is mostly wealth privilege, with a lot of unrelated things chucked in to fill out the racist argument, basically everything bad that happens to black people from airplane seating scrums to what color the director is of the next superhero movie as if every moment today is a hot summer morning in 1968 Birmingham.

    The candidates then either dismiss what they call white angst as a Fox narrative or condemn it as white supremacy, Nazism, fascism, the words having lost specific meaning. Dems gleefully crow about changing demographics that will turn America into a non-majority nation soon enough, and celebrate the end of privilege as the country depletes its stock of Caucasians. They fail to see the salient statistic of America is not that the 61% who are white is falling, but that a tiny, tiny percentage, the top 0.1% of households, now hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%.

    And every white voter in every swing state knows that, even if the candidates do not. And every one of those voters knows that the solutions the Democrats propose will not help with it (they are also unlikely to fix racism.) Mayor Pete’s Douglass Plan provides billions for black businesses and colleges, Kamala Harris proposed a $100 billion plan for black homeownership, everyone on CNNMSNBCNYTWAPO favors reparations, and all the candidates support free medical care for illegal immigrants, but not so much for those they see as already having too much, who actually have just a little more but not enough.
     
    Nothing excuses the at times dangerous behavior of Trump and some of his supporters (but it does explain why this hasn’t hurt the president politically.) Yet declaring all Trump supporters racist is far too crude an understanding. Many feel they are under attack from progressives who fail to see their economic vulnerabilities. Instead of Barack Obama (Columbia University ’83, Harvard Law ’91) talking about hope and change for everyone, they hear the Dems dedicating themselves to over-correcting racial wrongs not committed by any of the people who now feel as if they are being punished for those historical sins. They witness Democrats scolding them into resentment over what little more they have than others.
     
    Democratic hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand failed to sell this version of white privilege right at Ground Zero for economic inequality, Youngstown, Ohio. Youngstown was archetypal postwar America, a midwest city built around a now-dead steel industry. It was a racially-mixed city, not only statistically, but in reality. The now-gone union jobs paid living wages to whites and blacks and allowed people to buy homes on each others’ streets, same as they worked together in the mills. It was workers’ privilege.

    Gillibrand was asked at a campaign stop “This is an area that, across all demographics, has been depressed because of the loss of industry and the opioid crisis. What do you have to say to people in this area about so-called white privilege?”

    Her answer, praised on CNN as “powerful,” was a wandering narrative about how while white privilege didn’t spare the questioner unemployment, the loss of her house, her son to opiods, and her soul itself at the hands of rapacious inequality, the black folk in Youngstown had it worse, ’cause the white supremacist cops would bust a black kid for weed while a white kid would walk away. It was the perfect answer for a progressive media hit. It was the worst possible answer if a candidate wanted some of those Ohio votes. Gillibrand stumbled on to say she understands families in the community are suffering, “but that’s not what this conversation is about.”

    The answer was thin soup to a women who lost a son to opioids. Opioids now rank just below suicide as a cause of death in America, as if the two were unconnected. More die of opioids now in America than car crashes, and more die of opioids than police violence against POC. In 2017, Ohio had the second highest opioids death count in the U.S., 4,293. And how much time will the issue get at the next Democratic debates?

    Gillibrand, standing in as the poster child for progressives, likely cares nothing of September 19, 1977 in Youngstown, Black Monday, when 5000 steelworkers were laid off, or of the 50,000 who lost their jobs after that. The town never recovered, trauma which helped put Reagan and then Trump in the White House. She doesn’t see what Trump sees, and what Ronald Reagan saw. The problem is not black and white, it is up and down. The people of Youngstown understand this in their bones and to the amazement of progressive media, they support Trump even when he is ineffectual in helping, because at least he understands. He would never tell them their economic problems pale in comparison to racism.
     
    It is time to admit racism is not the core problem, the one candidate Pete Buttigieg claims “threatens to unravel the American project.” It is in 2019 an exaggeration driving a key Democratic strategy, betting the White House on a pool of voters with a history of unreliable turnout (since the 1980s blacks turned out in higher numbers than whites, percentage-wise, only for the Obama elections) against any hedges toward a body of whites they devalue.

    This is a risky strategy. It alienates too many, challenging too many others (older Americans of all races historically produce 30-40% higher turnout rates than the youngest voters) to vote for the party that denounces Thomas Jefferson as a slave holder, and throws its own Vice President emeritus and poll-leader under the racism bus while Barack silently lets it happen. Voters meanwhile wonder when the reparations for their lost jobs and homes will come. They know Dems won’t represent them if elected; as whites, their literal existence is painted as the cause of a problem Dems claim to want to solve.

    The Dems can’t reassess because to discuss racism in any but the Party’s own terms is more racism. Dissenters are racists, or at least noncompetitive. Mayor Pete who in January said “Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” now leads the charge with racism. Argument is ended with “Oh, so says a white person.” Whitesplaining! It’s like saying only doctors who have cancer are allowed to treat tumors.

    Writes The New York Times‘ Charles Blow in a column that uses “racist” or “racism” more than 30 times: Americans who do not concede that Trump is a racist—are themselves racists: “Make no mistake. Denying racism or refusing to call it out is also racist.”
     
    In Wall Street terms, the Dems are shorting white voters. A short means betting against something. If you are short on Microsoft, you make investments which will go up if Microsoft goes down. Dems think white voters have little value, and are betting against them with exaggerated claims of white supremacy. Along the way they assume all “people of color” will fall into place, believing what resonates with young, ever-so-offendable urban blacks will also click with their older rural relatives, as well as with Latinos who trace their roots from Barcelona to Havana to Juarez, and why not, Asians. If that sounds simplistic, never mind inaccurate and a bad idea, you may want to short the Dem’s for 2020.
     
    BONUS: If any of this sounds basically like the same strategy Dems are using now to shun people as misognyist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic, you may be right.

     

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  • So a Republican and Democrat Walk Into a Bar…

    July 29, 2019 // 12 Comments

    Tags:
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     
    So a Republican and Democrat walk into a bar and start to talk about the upcoming presidential election.
     

    Republican: We negotiated a deal with Guatemala which will reduce false asylum claims on the southern border.
    Democrat: We lost our shit over Baltimore this week.

    R: We passed tax reform in line with campaign promises.
    D: A man touched many butt without consent in 1983.

    R: Full exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction, witch hunt.
    D: Well, we’re looking into it. We need more evidence. We’ll see.

    R: We’ve got Trump.
    D: We’ve got Biden and like 20 more. There’s a full list somewhere on line.

    R: We oppose Obama care.
    D: Um, since we want to replace it with Medicare for All, I guess we sorta do too. But not really, it just has to go away after we supported it for a decade and through the last election.

    R: We appointed two Supreme Court judges.
    D: Merrick Garland was unfair.

    R: The economy is roaring. Stocks at all time highs.
    D: Obama did that.

    R: Fundamentals are very strong, plenty of room for more interest rates cuts if needed.
    D: It’s gonna crash.

    R: We held the line for our base on 2A.
    D: We exploited the Parkland kids.

    R: We built the Wall.
    D: We won the popular vote.

    R: We pushed the Muslim ban through the Supreme Court.
    D: AOC and her squad tweeted about that from their last sleepover. They made a prank call to the White House after midnight, too!

    R: We made significant changes to asylum processing.
    D: We complained about that on Twitter and on Colbert.

    R: We put kids on cages.
    D: We complained about that on Twitter in ALL CAPS.

    R: You got anything at all?
    D: Most of our candidates have prefered pronouns now.

    R: We’re interested in smaller government.
    D: We hate men.

     

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  • Suicide Watch Time

    July 27, 2019 // 8 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump

     
    The people who for three years were led around to believe Trump would not be in office for the 2020 election are starting to lose their shit, slowly realizing they have been lied to. Check this from Salon:

    “When he’s finished putting down your dog, Trump is going to take away your health care, raise your taxes, eliminate your job, take away your right to an abortion, limit your right to vote, turn your air and water brown, cut your Social Security and Medicare, and tell you if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

    Trump is going to kill your dog? You’d think this was satire, or maybe a bad effort in exaggeration. But no. Next paragraph:

    “Is it an exaggeration? A scare tactic? Are you kidding? We already know all this stuff is true, and we don’t need “facts” to surmise that if given half a chance Trump and his minions will find some way to make euthanizing shelter animals easier and more profitable. For Donald Trump and the Republican Party he leads, money and cruelty is who they are.”

    The rest of the article is the standard recycling of the last three years’ tropes, the disproven Russian stuff, and all the accusations of racism, fascism, hatred of browns and blacks, we’re on the cusp of Wiemar. You’ve seen it all before.

    I am genuinely worried about people. I think a good half of America needs to be on suicide watch come November 2020.

     
     

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  • Missing Line of Questioning in the Mueller Hearing…

    July 24, 2019 // 10 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     

    Missing line of questioning in the Mueller hearing.
     
    Somebody: Mueller, you say your report did not exonerate Trump. In your career in law enforcement and as a prosecutor, how many certificates of exoneration did you issue?
     
    Mueller: Um, none.
     
    Somebody: How many times anywhere in America has a prosecutor issued a memo, certificate or other document of exoneration?
     
    Muller: Never. Such things do not exist. That’s not how this works. Our job is to gather information and prosecute or not. We either bring the case to court, or drop it.
     
    Somebody: So WTF are you talking about exonerating or not exonerating one person who was the subject of your investigation?
     
    Mueller: (Silence)
     
    Somebody: You just said “Our job is to gather information and prosecute or not.” So in Trump’s case, you did not prosecute. Isn’t that the functional equivalent of exoneration?
     
    Mueller: Can I go to the bathroom now please?
     
    Somebody: Speaking of exoneration, isn’t our system based on a presumption of innocence? In other words, Trump is innocent — pre-exonerated I guess — until proven otherwise, which you did not do. Are you saying Trump was not presumed innocent, that you in fact started with him “possibly guilty” until you say he is or is not?
     
    Mueller: I gotta go.
     
    Media: Mueller Refuses to Exonerate Trump!!!!!

      

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  • 15 Questions for Robert Mueller

    July 24, 2019 // 14 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America, Trump


     

    You know that movie with Bruce Willis and the kid who says “I see dead people?” In the end it turns out everyone is already dead. Now imagine there are people who don’t believe that. They insist the story ends some other way. Maybe there’s missing footage! Spoiler Alert: the Mueller Report ends with no collusion. No one is going to prosecute anyone for obstruction. That stuff is all dead. We all saw the same movie.

    Yet there seem to remain questions to be answered. And while it is doubtful the stoic Robert Mueller will ever write a tell-all book, or sit next to Seth and Trevor dishing, he may be called in front of Congress. Here’s some of what he should be asked.
     
    1) You charged no “collusion,” obstruction, or any other new crime. In simple words tell us why. If the answer is “The evidence did not support it,” please say “That one.”
     

    2) Your Report did not refer any of the crimes in the first question to Congress, the SDNY, or anywhere else. Again, tell us why. If the answer is “The evidence did not support it,” please say “That one again.”
     

    3) Despite you making no specific referrals to others for action, the Report states “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of the office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” Why did you include such restating of a known fact instead of either a direct referral or nothing? Many people have read that line to mean you could not indict a sitting president and so you wanted to leave a clue to others, in Congress, to exercise some role. You could have spelled it all out — “this all is beyond my and the AG’s Constitutional roles and must/can only be resolved by Congress” would have worked. Why not?
     

    4) Many readers of the Report believe they see clues (one footnote looms as the grassy knoll of your work) the specific reason you did not indict Trump was because of DOJ/OLC guidance against indicting a sitting president. In other words, absent that specific guidance, would you have indicted the president? If so, why didn’t you say so unambiguously and trigger what would be the obvious next steps.
     

    5) When did you conclude there was no collusion/conspiracy/coordination between Trump and the Russians such that you would make no charges or indictments? You must have closed at least some of the subplots — Trump Tower meeting, Moscow Hotel project — months ago. Did you give any consideration to announcing key findings as they occurred? You were clearly aware inaccurate reporting continued, damaging to the public trust. You allowed that to happen. Why?
     

    6) But before you answer that question, please answer this one. You did make a rare pre-Report public statement saying Buzzfeed’s story claiming Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress was false. You restated that in the Report, where you also mentioned (Vol I, p 198) you privately told Jeff Sessions’ lawyer in March 2018 Sessions would not be charged. Since your work confirmed nearly all bombshell reporting on Russiagate was wrong (Cohen was not in Prague, nothing criminal happened in the Seychelles, etc), why was it only that single instance that caused you to speak out publicly? And as with Sessions, did you privately inform any others prior to the release of the Report they would not be charged? If only some but not all were informed, why was that? What standard did you apply to these decisions?
     

    7) A cardinal rule for prosecutors is not to publicize negative information that does not lead them to indict someone — “the decision does the talking.” James Comey was strongly criticized for doing this to Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Yet most of Volume II is just that, descriptions of actions by Trump which contain elements of obstruction but which you ultimately did not judge to rise to the level of criminal chargeability. Why did you include all that so prominently? Some say it was because you wanted to draw a “road map” for impeachment. Did you? Why didn’t you say that? You had no reason to speak in riddles.
     

    8) There is a lot of lying documented in the Report. But you seemed to only charge people early in this investigation with perjury (traps.) Was that aimed more at pressuring them to “flip” than justice per se? Is one of the reasons several of the people in the Report who lied did not get charged with perjury later in the investigation because by then you knew they had nothing to flip on?
     

    9) In regards to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where derogatory information on Clinton was offered (but never given) you declined prosecution, citing in part questions (Vol I, p 186) over whether such information constituted the necessary “thing of value” that would have to exist, inter alia, to make its proffer a campaign finance violation. You don’t answer the question in the Report, but you do believe information could be a “thing of value” (the thing of value must exceed $2,000 for a misdemeanor, $25,000 for a felony.) What about the withholding of information? Could someone saying they would not offer information publicly be a “thing of value” and thus potentially part of a campaign law violation? Of course I’m talking about Stormy Daniels, who received money not to offer information. Would you make the claim silence itself, non-information, is a “thing” of value?
     

    10) You spend the entire first half of your report, Volume I, explaining it was some combination of “the Russians” who sought to manipulate our 2016 election via social media and the DNC email hacks. Though there is a lot of redacted material, at no point in the clear text is there information on whether the Russians actually did influence the election. Even trying was a crime, but given the importance of all this (some still claim the president is illegitimate) and for future elections, did you look into the actual effects of Russian meddling? If not, why not?
     

    11) Everything the Russians did, in Volume I, they did during the Obama administration. Did you investigate anyone in the Obama administration in regards to Russian meddling, what was done, what was missed, could it have been stopped, and how the response was formed? Given Trump’s actions toward Russia would follow on steps Obama took this seems relevant. Did you look? If not, why not?
     

    12) Some of the information you gathered against Michael Flynn was initially picked up inadvertently under existing surveillance of the Russian ambassador. As an American person, Flynn’s name would have been routinely masked in the reporting on those intercepts to protect his privacy. The number of people with access to those intercepts is small and list-controlled, and the number inside the Obama White House with the authority to unmask names, i.e., reveal it was Michael Flynn, not AmPerson1, is even smaller. Yet details were leaked to the press and ended Flynn’s career. Given the leak may have exposed U.S. intelligence methods, and given that it had to have been done at a very high level inside the Obama White House, and given that the leak directly violated Flynn’s Constitutional rights, did you investigate If not, why not?
     

    13) The NYT wrote “some of the most sensational claims in the [Steele] dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove. Mr. Mueller’s report contained over a dozen passing references to the document’s claims but no overall assessment of why so much did not check out.” Given the central role the Steele Dossier played in parts of your work, and certainly in the portion of the investigation which commenced as Crossfire Hurricane in summer 2016, why did you not include any overall assessment of why so much did not check out inside such a key document?
     

    14) Prosecutors do not issue certificates of exoneration, and have no obligation to “exonerate” people they consider for charges. The job is to charge or drop a case. That’s what constitutes exoneration in any practical sense. Yet you have as the final line in a report that does not charge anyone “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Can you explain why that line was included, and so prominently?
     

    15) Near the end of the Report you wrote “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” You argue elsewhere in the Report because Trump is a sitting president he cannot be indicted, so therefore it would be unjust to accuse him of something he could not go to court and defend himself over. But didn’t you do just that? Why did you leave the taint of guilt without giving Trump the means of defending himself in court? You must have understood such wording would be raw meat to Democrats, and would force Trump to defend himself not in a court with legal protections, but in a often hostile media. Was that your intention?
      

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  • 2020: 100 Points for Slytherin!

    July 23, 2019 // 5 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Democracy, Trump


     

    Under Plan A Democrats imagined their way into believing they would never have to run against Trump in 2020, or that he would limp to the finish line so battered, with the country in such shambles, that it would be no contest.
     

    We saw the near-final act of Plan A when Robert Mueller’s testimony, scheduled for July 17, was postponed for some unknown reason. That it’ll be close to four months since the report came out when Mueller testifies (he’s already said he will say nothing not already in his report anyway) tells the story of how massive a failure the Dems’ attempt to oust, derail, or impeach Trump has been.

    Yeah, there’s still time on the clock, but even the loyal fans are leaving their seats early. They remember similar collapses of the story line for Stormy Daniels (the case is now “dormant”), the emoluments clause (Trump just won a major case), but-his-taxes, Puerto Rico, the National Enquirer, Kavanaugh, security clearances, Putin’s secret agent stuff, all the president’s flipping men, the end of NATO, etc. Democratic strategists are left hoping a convicted pedophile saves them with dirt on Trump, or maybe Mueller breaks out in Tourette’s Syndrome at his someday hearing and demands impeachment. You can only announce the world is ending 7 or 8 or 27 times before people start to have doubts.

    The incessant hyperbole has left the electorate numb. It reached its anti-peak (for now) on July 4, when a garbled speech by the president was whipped into “Tanks on the Mall” and a rehearsal for “Triumph of the Will II: More Triumphant.” Detainee facilities became concentration camps, with America pitched as the new Wiemar to Millennials still searching for Wiemar, misspelled, in Wikipedia.

    Instead, the economy is strong. Wages are up. Job reports are robust. Stocks are at all-time highs. Trump is polling the best in his tenure, and matches Obama at this same point in his presidency. And here are 12 economic models showing incumbents under similar economies won. The Dems in response are stuttering to claim Obama fixed the economy via time travel, or hoping America falls into recession putting millions out on the streets to own Trump.

    Of the many other disasters the Democrats hoped for — race war, civil war, war with China/Iran/North Korea/Venezuela, all the end-of-democracy stuff – Trump didn’t start the fire. There has been no Washington-led regime change in Libya triggering massive refugee flows and resetting EU political balances. Trump is likely to be the first president since WWII not to start a new conflict while in office.
     

    The Democrats need a Plan B. That appears to be Joe Biden, essentially a test crash dummy with “Not Trump” written on its face in Sharpie, a candidate with all the energy of one of those animatronic presidents from Disneyland. No voter will fall in love with Joe, be impassioned by him or whatever message he gets around to. Biden is someone to settle for. That makes turnout a problem. Remember the Gore, and then Kerry, juggernauts which failed to defeat an empty George W. Bush?

    All in a way a shame, because the current primary is the one the Dems should have had in 2015. Had the DNC not put in the fix for Hillary, it is more than possible Biden (or Bernie) would have beaten Trump. In 2016 neither carried the progressive baggage and purple state fears to the degree they do now. Plus they would have run against the theoretical Trump, the really scary one who was going to start all those wars, implement Handmaiden’s Tale, and wreck the economy, instead of the noisy but in the end mediocre Trump of record.

    So on to Plan C, “Operation Fresh Faces.” That gets off to a slow start with Bernie. In 2015 he was full of transformational ideas, now diluted into the mainstream so you can support the gist of Bernie and not have to explain to your friends why you’re voting for a Seinfeld outtake.

    The rest seem to be devoted to alienating as many mainstream voters as possible. Kamala Harris (along with Warren, Sanders, and others) wants to eliminate employer-based health insurance, something over 70% of Americans who have such insurance are satisfied with. Only 13% of Americans prefer a system with no private plans. Are the Dems going forward with a 13% policy idea? Or will they try (again) to sell a flawed Obama-era insurance program as the gold standard?

    All the Dem candidates are also sure the economy is a mess. Yet a poll shows 71% of Americans say the economy is very or somewhat good. At the debates, several candidates advocated for gun confiscation. All promoted restriction-free abortions when the majority of Americans see the issue as more nuanced. Harris made 1970s discussions of school busing a centerpiece while the other candidates happily promoted open borders and free healthcare for illegal immigrants, apparently in the misguided notion illegal immigrants are the largest Democratic voting block left. And that was on the smart night: the earlier debate featured talk about publicly-funded abortions for pregnant trans men. The answers on most other topics sounded like they’d been run past HR first.

    Cory Booker is now campaigning to be your best black friend if you’ll choose him as VP. His latest move as Mayor of Crazytown was a stunt where he led deported migrants, Moses-like, back into the U.S.

    Kamala Harris imagines herself a contender, unaware she will likely lose the chance even at VP when the party asserts itself for Biden or maybe Warren. She seems to be sticking in the race too long with low numbers and saying too many naughty things to have a shot at VP herself. Warren is a woman of free-dom – free college, free medical care, a magic wand to do away with $1.5 trillion in student loans, maybe a pony for the kids. And everyone loves reparations. Who’ll pay for all this? Um, “the wealthy.”

    Mayor Pete? He hoped to run as a warrior, smiting LGBT hate at every step when most non-media people just tuned him out. He confessed to failing to fix the police force in South Bend, a wane admission when you’re asking to run the whole country. Buttigieg has his own give away, the (Frederick) Douglass Plan, which includes $10 billion for black entrepreneurs, $25 billion for black colleges, and a goal to reduce the prison population by half. He stresses this is in addition to the reparations he also supports.

    Beto, Robin to Pete’s Batman, is murmured to now be an intern on the Hickenlooper campaign; you gotta get some experience somewhere. The Pelosi-AOC sideshow (AOC daily sounds like a whiny undergraduate sure she knows more than the professor) alongside all this inspires little confidence in how a Democratic government would get anything done post-2020.
     
    Who is going to vote for these people? Harris in particular made an aggressive move to alienate purple voters, putting Americans on trial for views they held in the past on things like busing. Joe Biden stood in for everyone who may have felt one way then, and another way now, but realizes in 2019 they are being teed up as the enemy. There’s no answer possible in 2019 when you’re called a racist; it ends every discussion. A purple voter may legitimately wonder how they might be treated under a Harris administration. Is it payback time? It seems a very short-sighted strategy for a candidate, an even worse one for a leader.
     
    A lot can change in the 15 months until the election, but will it? Trump is Trump is Trump. Anyone studying his first years in office unemotionally knows outside the daily faux-atrocities the media credits him with via “sources” and “reports” he is mostly tweets. He is very good at sounding like a Red State warrior while actually doing little. Expect more of the same; after all, it has worked so far.

    That leaves Plan D. No matter what the media will say, Texas and Georgia are not in play for a national election. Neither are California and New York. The election rests with purple voters in a handful of states. Yet the Democratic party seems to think it can win without any of the 35% of Americans who call themselves moderates. It drifts in a belief Twitter is real life, “likes” are votes, and Dems should all be running for president of social media. That’ll just end up with as many surprised by the results in 2020 as were in 2016.

    The party’s last hope is to hope there are enough Trump Haters who will vote for whomever the Dems shovel up, to overcome the purple voters who either stay home, or are so frightened of what progressives have in store they will treat Trump as the devil they know.

    Trump as the safe candidate, think about how that came to be. For those keeping score, it is 100 points for Slytherin at this point.
     
    BONUS:

    In case all that does not terrify purple voters enough, the media meanwhile is presenting AOC, elected with an 11% turnout against an opponent who did not campaign, as the new, new face of the party. Elect a Democrat in 2020 and see who is waiting in the wings!

    Ocasio-Cortez daily sounds more like an undergraduate so sure she knows more than the professor, shouting Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are racists (did Barack know?) even as Congressional Black Caucus members are accusing a progressive group aligned with Ocasio-Cortez of trying to oust African American lawmakers.

    Nancy Pelosi seems to be the first in her party to understand AOC and her ilk are not leaders, though too many pretend they are. They mirror their contemporaries whining on social media. Government isn’t a job or a duty, it’s just a platform from which to “raise awareness,” a Millenial phrase meaning to be deeply offended about the most recent shiny object online, and then doing nothing about it.

    These progressive voices dominate because in 2019, who in the Democratic body politic is allowed to disagree with bleating about oppression? Progressives have become rhetorical bullies, demanding other ideas be shouted down. It sounds good on Twitter, but imagine how poorly it echoes across kitchen tables in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
      

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  • A Broken Asylum System, and How We Ended Up With Kids in Cages

    July 17, 2019 // 8 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Other Ideas, Trump


    How did we end up with kids in cages? We put them there, across multiple administrations, and created a politicized immigration and asylum system that constrains better options. So time to stop saying this isn’t who we are and start looking beyond the hysteria.

    There are givens. Immigration restrictions are not inherently racist. All countries have borders. They have to so they can make decisions about who can enter their country and who can be a citizen.

    No nation allows people to simply move in. Every border globally is designed to place a barrier in between those allowed and those who are not. At the same time, most economies depend on the cheap labor of immigrants. For most of the developed world, labor needs are worked out via a points system that admits a regulated number of workers with designated skills coupled with border enforcement. The U.S. instead focuses on “reunification,” with family members legally in the country petitioning for relatives with unknown skills to immigrate (do we get the brother with the 4.0 GPA or the one with 3.0 murders under his belt?) Our borders have historically then been left porous to ensure an adequate number of exploitable workers. But since the number of people drawn to work usually exceeds the demand, our immigration laws also place speed bumps in front of the many, many people around the globe who want to try their luck. Inevitably you end up with kids in cages.

    Bill Clinton’s 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act set new records for immigrants detained. Next up was George W. Bush’s 2005 Operation Streamline, a zero-tolerance plan to prosecute all illegal entrants. But to avoid the logistics and negative optics, the program made exceptions not written into the law for adults traveling with children. Nature finds a way, and more and more economic migrants arrived with somebody’s child in hand as a Get Out of Jail Free card. Fewer kids in cages, but more illegals.

    Obama initially prosecuted only those found illegally entering more than once. Caught off guard by an influx of asylum seekers from Central America, the administration in 2014 established then-legally permitted family detention centers to hold parents and children — potentially indefinitely — in cages as a means of deterring others. There were also children held alone in cages when they arrived without parents, or in the hands of human traffickers, or when their parents were criminally dangerous. The program ended only because of a 2016 court decision ordering the release of most of those hostage families and largely prohibiting family detention facilities. Adult men, women, and children, would be caged separately in the future.

    The whole Obama program got little media attention, although kids were in cages, mostly at the same facilities in use today. The holding facility at Clint, for example, currently a focal point for progressives, has been open since 2013. It was set up specifically for children. Fort Sill, Oklahoma, housed Japanese-American detainees during WWII, 1200 immigrant children during the Obama years, and will reopen to again take in immigrant children for Trump. Immigrant rights activists dubbed Obama “deporter in chief” for having deported more immigrants than any president. He still holds the title because his administration deported more migrants per year than Trump.

    While many children at the border are with parents, others arrive with human traffickers, some on their own. “Children” can include everyone from infants to 17 year old “boys,” and the dangers of housing those vulnerable people among adults of all types should make it obvious why the law is written as it is. While on the face a nice solution sounds like “parents with their own kids,” imagine the terrible things that can happen when children and adults are detained together.  Also under Trump, parents arrested at the border are criminally charged with illegal entry. Due process laws do not allow children to be kept with the parent because the child is not being criminally prosecuted.

     

    Trump set out in April 2018 to prosecute every illegal crosser, first or tenth time, with or without kids, the letter of the law. There had been a growing rise in the number of people from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) along with Mexico. For example, the border patrol detained 6,405 unaccompanied children in May 2018, up from 4,302 in April. In comparison with May 2017, the number of unaccompanied children soared by 329% and parents migrating with kids as a family surged by 435% in 2018.

    By law now children and adults cannot be detained together; it was allowed during the Obama years and earlier under the Flores Settlement. Most parents arrested at the border are criminally charged with illegal entry. Due process laws do not allow children to be kept with the parent because the child is not being prosecuted. Overall, interpreting what these laws say must be done versus can be done to end up at what should be done draws some very fine, politically-motivated legal lines.

    What is clear is by ending the various catch-and-release, and ignore and don’t catch policies of his predecessors, Trump triggered the next variation on an old problem. With no legal avenue to immigrate for work, and with border enforcement stopping many from simply walking north and blending into the estimated 11 million illegals already in the U.S., a vast number of economic migrants now ask for asylum. They are aided by for-illegal profit asylum cartels, staff from a Democratic Congresswoman’s office, and volunteer American lawyers.

     

    Asylum applicants must demonstrate if sent home they would be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. The definition of those five protected grounds has varied based on American domestic politics. For example, since 1994, LGBT status has been a possible grounds of asylum. Victims of domestic violence were granted consideration for asylum under the Obama administration, rolled back under Trump. However, asylum never has been and was never intended to stretch to security or economic situations affecting blanket-like most everyone in a country. “Wanting a better life” has never been grounds for an asylum claim.

    However, economic immigrants without legitimate claims to asylum have long taken advantage of slow processing by American authorities. A Mexican man caught on the border who says he came just to work may be sent back almost immediately. However, should he make a claim to asylum, the U.S. is obligated to adjudicate his case, however frivolous (there are potential expedited processes.)

     

    The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires those seeking asylum be detained while their cases are processed. But for logistical and political reasons, prior administrations simply released most asylum seekers into American society to wait. Asylum seekers become eligible for work authorization if their case has been pending for more than 150 days, as almost all do. Trump has directed the letter of the law be followed, ending this catch-and-release system. He also has negotiated for many asylum seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico instead of working the while in the U.S.

    The problem is the backlogs are unresolvable. Affirmative asylum seekers, such as most of those now at the border, apply administratively through DHS. The number of such pending cases as of January 2019 was 325,277, more than 50 times higher than in January 2010. Defensive seekers are those applying for asylum once facing deportation or removal for some reason, including being denied under an earlier affirmative application. These cases go through the courts. As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending. The average wait time for a hearing was a staggering 721 days.

    The approval rates for asylum claims are low, and always have been. Some recent figures for Mexican claimant approvals are 12%, Salvadorans 21%, Honduras 22%, and Guatemalans 26%. Those countries account for more than 40% of asylum applications, and have for some time. The high refusal rates, while up under Trump, are not at odds historically. In 1984, only 3% of asylum cases from El Salvador and Guatemala were granted, even as U.S.-sponsored wars raged there. Approval rates for all nationalities over the past decade average only 28%, skewed high over recent years by waves of cases designed to pander to general U.S. voters (Chinese pro-democracy applicants) and evangelical voters (Chinese anti-One Child Policy applicants.)

     

    But as we talk there are still kids in cages. None of this is to defend the conditions in detainee camps. Those are a result of a sudden shift in implementation of immigration law coupled with a lack of infrastructure planning, driven by a president who impulsively wants to be seen as “tough” facing down a problem, all backed by an asylum system no longer suited for the conditions imposed on it. Conditions can be quickly improved, and the House just voted $4.6 billion to do that.

    But we need also acknowledge the dangers in 2019 of hysteria, driven by media and progressive politicians exploiting the situation to paint themselves as liberating another concentration camp on the road to Berlin, when the immediate solutions are more in line with hygiene kits and child care workers. And no whataboutism. Under Obama we tolerated kids in cages. Without that tolerance then we would not have the intolerant situation now.

    But there are deeper dangers. Progressives don’t want to fix Trump’s logistical mistakes (AOC and others voted against the recent humanitarian funding increases.) The camps must not be made more humane, they say, they must be closed. Deportations must not be limited, they must be ended by decriminalizing illegal entry. Free medical care for illegal immigrants. Asylum to economic migrants. Abolish ICE. Open borders.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s immigration policies resonate with important sectors of the public. Some 60% of likely voters support efforts to “prevent migrants from making fraudulent asylum claims and being released into the country.” This does not grow from racism or white supremacy (Latinos support much of the Republican immigration agenda), though using those words is an easy way to blame people impacted by decades of imposed change and delete them from the conversation on how to do better.

    The driver seems to be the imposition by elites of an uncounted number of illegal immigrants with unknown skills and unknown criminal backgrounds to have an unknown impact on the places they choose to settle. Do we get the guy with the 4.0 GPA or the one who committed 4.0 murders? We are destined — required — to take the bad with the good, scatter them around the country, and hope for the best.

    So when economic turmoil in Mexico during the early 1990s pushed migrants north, just as war in Central America drove them in the 1980s, and gang violence does today, in America there is no plan. Tired, consumed, with resources stretched, there was a backlash building Trump sensed and acted on. As Trump was unprepared at the border and told DHS to make do, America for decades has been unprepared and told to make due. A de facto open border similar to 2015 Europe imposed by progressives would have the same effect here as there, leading to a new, even more conservative backlash.

     

    The peak year for legal immigration to America was 1907. Your great-grandfather entered an agricultural and rapidly industrializing nation desperate for workers with no time to waste putting kids in cages. To get them out today we need more than olde timey nostalgia and modern outrage. We need a 21st century asylum and immigration policy.

     

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  • Here’s Where 2020 Stands If You’re a Democratic Strategist

    July 11, 2019 // 18 Comments

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    Posted in: 2020


     

    So to sum up at this point if you’re a Democratic strategist:
     

    — The economy is strong. Wages are up for the first time in a long time, job reports strong, stocks at record highs. Your move: Obama did it via time travel! Backup plan: hope the economy collapses and America falls into a major recession putting millions on the streets to own Trump.

    — All your efforts to defame/oust Trump have failed: Russiagate, Stormy Daniels, pee tape, obstruction, emoluments, get the taxes, SDNY, etc. You are down to hoping a convicted pedophile saves you with dirt on Trump.

    — New Hope: Robert Mueller breaks out in Tourette’s Syndrome at his hearing next week and demands impeachment.

    — Strategy of last three years to promote new hysterical end-of-democracy meme each week appears not to be working.

    — The media is presenting AOC as the new face of your party, shouting that Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are racists (Did Barack know?!?) She daily sounds more like an undergraduate who is so sure she knows more than the professor based on a long talk over a joint with her boyfriend about Marxism.

    — A large number of Americans have concerns about immigration but your platform is to ignore them and demand open borders, abolish ICE, and free medical care for illegals.

    — Trump keeps refusing to start a new war (China, Venezuela, Iran, NKorea…)

    — Your candidates imagine a statistically tiny number of people on Twitter represent public opinion, semi-anonymously “liking” some bumper-sticker statement. The results in 2020 will thus surprise them, as the results of 2016 did, and the Russians will be much harder to blame the second time.

    — Bernie Sanders is campaigning from a park bench while feeding pigeons, Cory Booker is running for vice president of Crazytown while Twitter debates Kamala Harris’ blackness and school busing from the 1970s. Biden is polling slightly behind a crash test dummy with “Not Trump” written on it in Sharpie. Still ahead of the Other Guy from Wham!

    — Most Dem strategists still not sure if they should delete Hillary’s number.

    — The women’s soccer team vote is locked up, so some good news.

     

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  • Will Reparations Change the Future?

    July 9, 2019 // 13 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump

    Though the idea of slavery reparations was first proposed in 1865, Congress held a hearing this month on the topic. There’s a campaign against Donald Trump after all.

    The hearing featured intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates and second tier celebs like Danny Glover laying out a long history of horrible actions by the government and dark elements of our society. What was missing was what has been missing since 19th century efforts to pay freed slaves directly failed: how handing out money now fixes anything. It will not change the past and no one has made clear how it will positively affect the future.
    Reparations in their earliest form were proposed after the Civil War, when the federal government sought to give 40 acres of land and a mule to each freed slave. That idea died with Lincoln, as his successor canceled the program.  The concept never really went away (old age pensions were considered for former slaves in the 1880s), but took on new life when, in every Congress from 1989 until his retirement in 2017, John Conyers introduced a bill, HR 40, concerning reparations. The fanciful numerical designation itself was a reference to the original failed attempt with those 40 acres.
    Now nearly every 2020 Democratic candidate (but not Joe Biden) supports some version of the bill’s basic goal, a commission to hold hearings to study the idea of reparations. Any actual payments are a long time coming. But in a campaign all about Not Trump, spotlighting divisive racial issues no one will have to actually act on is a key strategy. Expect the issue of reparations to be wielded in the Democratic primaries and then disappear under the cloak of electability in the general election.
    At the most recent hearings, Ta-Nehisi Coates was the key witness, framing the need for reparations around the moral imperative of the continued impact of slavery: “Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy.” Coates became famous writing “The Case for Reparations” in 2014. It is cited by candidates as a foundational text, and as such formed the core of his recent testimony. Upon examination today it seems more intent on prioritizing moral purity and ideology via indignity above making any “case.” It conflates historic lynchings with modern notes of “land taken from black families has become a country club” where the reader is left to assume blacks are not welcome. Generalizations and stretches to irrelevance always makes a weak argument.
    Coates believes most of all in our current day “black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth” and says “whites” (everyone from an alcoholic homeless guy to Bill Gates) are doing better. He dismisses any personal responsibility on the part of blacks as  “cultural pathology” and mocks statements like those from African-American Michael Nutter, former mayor of Philadelphia, scolding black men: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of” as “trenchant racism.”
    Coates and others in this debate find an awful lot of racism in a country that just a few years ago elected a black man twice to the presidency.  But to explain away Obama, whose existence upsets an otherwise continuous recalibration of suffering from plantation days to the “virtual lynching” of Colin Kaepernick, Coates claims without example “In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama won by being twice as good and enduring twice as much.” No details about Barack enduring “twice as much” while growing up in the suburbs, attending Hawaii’s most expensive private prep school, then Columbia, then Harvard, then the Senate. Somebody is going to have to pick up that ball for Kamala Harris, who with a Jamaican dad and Indian subcontinental mom, both with Phd’s from Stanford, and who lived her teen years in Canada, and married to a white Jewish attorney, will need to rewrite her own middle class suburban experience into something much more tragic.
    We get it. Coates’ America is and has always been based on black and white, even as he and others sometimes strain to connect the horrors of the Middle Passage with whatever struggles they imagine guys like Obama went through at Harvard. But Coates’ essay is “The Case for Reparations.” You would expect it to make such a case beyond the simplistic “our relatives suffered a lot, we still suffer in ways connected to all that, so white people give us something.”
    But Coates stops there, angry as hell, as do others who argue for reparations today. Coates’ attempts to move from the emotional and ideological to something concrete — exactly what would paying reparation accomplish — dead-end.  Anyone can have thoughts, many content themselves with strong feelings, but what matters is thinking critically. At one point Coates claims reparations would close the wealth gap between blacks and whites, a naive statement in a nation where since 1980 incomes of the very rich (the .1%) grew faster than the economy, about a 400% increase, while the other 90% (of all races) fell behind. Whether your housing is subsidized via a mortgage tax deduction or Section 8, you’re still depending on the people in charge to allow you a place to live.
    Coates has also tried the abstract, to redefine reparations as “the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences.” Another proponent mused about the “liberating power that can be unleashed by this kind of introspection.”  A Ken Burns-Spike Lee Netflix series could fulfill those reparations with no government involvement, but no one is demanding that.

    If reparations are really some sort of delayed moral rebalancing, the idea is cheapened when it comes with an Amazon gift card (others have suggested things like zero-interest loans for black home buyers, free college tuition, money to black-owned businesses, elimination of cash bail, etc.) The amateurs are also at play through a website where blacks make financial requests for whites to fulfill as “a way to counteract their privilege.” Organizers of a “Reparations Happy Hour” invited POC to a bar and handed them cash donated by white people who were asked not to attend. The aim was to make attendees “feel as if their pain were valued and understood.” Georgetown University today giving preferential admissions treatment and scholarships to African-American kids, funded by an increase in tuition, all to make up for the school once owning slaves seems aimed more at making Georgetown feel less guilty (and silencing the critics) than any righting of historical wrongs.

    The idea is further cheapened when people argue against anything due anyone else, how this must be a black thing or nothing. Somebody has to be The American Victim in the hierarchy of victims, with the power that commands in what’s become a nation of church ladies, so leave out the others who sleep on a mountain of bones: Chinese held as effective captives in the western desert and worked to death building the railroads, Irish laborers killed by malaria in the New Orleans swamps, Jews denied asylum and sent back to the Holocaust, Italian child laborers in the textile mills, Appalachians poisoned in the coal mines, generations of underpaid women denied the vote, Hispanics relegated to inner city slums, and Asians chased away by Ivy League schools. If you prick them Ta-Nehisi, do they not bleed?

    Crudely expressed as “My ancestors didn’t own slaves and your’s didn’t pick cotton,” the reality is the horrors of slavery were committed by a limited number of whites. Only about 5% of the slaves taken from Africa ended up in America. Less than one-quarter of white Southerners held slaves, with half of those holding fewer than five in bondage. The vast majority of Americans had nothing to do with slavery, and many American trace their lineage to people who arrived after any of the discriminatory acts Coates testified on.

    The modern-day rebuttal, everyone is in on it because slavery was the prime mover to discrimination of blacks and whites have profited from that is betrayed by reality. While today percentage-wise more blacks live in poverty than whites, that means little in terms of actual lives when the mouths to feed are counted: twice as many whites are impoverished in America, some 14 million, than blacks. It is hard to claim “white privilege” is spread broadly across our unequal economy. “But some are more unequal than others” is an awkward cornerstone of the reparation argument which holds all whites profited.

    Yet all that aside, we are always still left with the core question: what is the value of paying reparations, to one group or all of them? The self-referential truth is reparations something something heal us. History is far less clear.
    Following World War II Congress created the Indian Claims Commission to pay reparations for seized land. Any good intentions were lost among the lack of accurate records showing who owned what when, and in the end the Commission produced 43 volumes of decisions which showed they paid out less than $1,000 for each Native American. But double, triple, x10 the amount, the unfair part. Could you argue those reparations would have changed much about the state of Native Americans? Percentage-wise more Native Americans today live in poverty than blacks. The suicide rate for Native Americans was more than 3.5 times higher than for others, due to high rates of poverty, substance abuse, and unemployment. What did reparations fix?
    There was the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948, which paid for property lost when the owners were forced into internment camps, and a second piece of legislation passed in 1988 which paid out $20,000 with a formal apology to each Japanese-American survivor. The money went to anyone who spent any time in an internment camp but not to the relatives of internees who died before the legislation was passed. What good was done by this moral gesture years after the offenses remains open to discussion; it certainly has not stopped actor George Takei from making a post-Star Trek career out of being a victim.
    (Though more complex, Holocaust reparations from Germany are largely limited to direct survivors. Though I lost relatives in the Holocaust and can share family stories of suffering passed down, I have no standing to make a reparations claim against the present German government.)
    There’s nothing wrong with moral gestures per se, but when you’re talking about opening the public purse, a little practicality is in order. If you’re going assign a dollar value to righteousness, it’s reasonable to ask what the money buys. Does racism end in America? Do angry whites quit hating blacks? Do people who relish their victimhood trying to barter it into entitlement? If we accept black leaders‘ judgement there is an ongoing de jure and de facto impact of slavery today do those also go away? Or when it is all said and done, do we just drift back into “conversations” about race, and the outrage machine shifts to promoting something else as a ideological purity test? Does anything really change in return for a sociological, financial, and political event on the scale of reparations?
    No. The political reality is reparations for slavery in 2019 are a medigenic feel-good solution driven by progressive vote pandering seasoned with whytepiople guilt, money in search of a problem it won’t solve. Reparations are an easy way to silence critics — see, we did something, leave us alone (looking at you, Georgetown.) Yet the cynicism which accompanies such conclusions is only part of the problem.

    Talk about reparations that have no chance of coming to be is an excuse to avoid the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing, the much harder work of making sure schools are not separate and unequal, the much harder work of rehabilitating young men coming out of prison every year, and the much harder work of lifting millions Americans of all races out of poverty. Those challenges will not go away with reparations. Focus on the issues that will directly address those problems. Alongside that, it is hard to find a model in which you can practically administer and sustain political support for reparations. America is complicated, as this is not just a black/white society, less so every year. So politically how do Latinos feel if there’s a big investment just in the African American community, and they’re looking around and saying, “We’re poor as well. What kind of help are we getting?”

    Does that make me a racist? Before you answer, the last paragraph isn’t my words. It’s what Barack Obama had to say about reparations. He wasn’t invited to the latest hearings and his thoughts are very much missing from the dialogue today.

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  • What are We Losing our Sh*t About This Week?

    July 2, 2019 // 12 Comments

    Posted in: Uncategorized


     
    What are we losing our sh*t about this week?
     

    — Trump tried to make peace with North Korea;

    — Ivanka is a living version of Pokemon Go and thus destroying the global liberal system;

    — The goddamn stock market continues to do well dammit;

    — Busing from the 1970s;

    — Whatever AOC tells us to be upset about (currently concentration summer campers or something);

    — A really important hashtag;

    — The president is going to participate in July 4 stuff with tanks;

    — The U.S. census may undercount the number of illegal aliens represented by Democrats;

    — A typo in one of Trump’s tweets;

    — Betsy Ross flag on sneakers means another 250 years of slavery for Nike child workers;

    — Old VHS tape found in the closet was not rewound, no way to fix that now.

     
    BONUS FUN! Elephants eat vegetation, have legs, and breathe air. So do grasshoppers. There are so many similarities!

    But elephants are not grasshoppers. The differences matter. So stop sounding ridiculous claiming a military-themed July 4th event and detention camps as we’ve had for multiple administrations mean we are at the same threshold as the Germans in 1933.

      

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  • North Korea: Call it Diplomacy 101, Not a Photo Op

    July 1, 2019 // 1 Comment

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Iran, Trump


     

    You have to negotiate with your enemies. Fact of life, whether they are autocrats or segregationist Senators. They “have” what you want, the power to stop you from achieving your goals. And of course you have to give something up, nobody surrenders power or nukes for free. This is nothing new. Call it Diplomacy 101.
     
    Yet in 2019 stupidity has been weaponized, so people who deplore the lack of progress in Congress now discover they hate Biden because he worked with certain Senators decades ago. And people who criticize Trump for gutting the State Department argue against diplomacy, trying to dismiss small steps with North Korea, or China, as photo ops, playing at being naive that diplomacy happens in small steps.

    The latest is the attack on Trump because he might “allow” North Korea to keep some nuclear capability even after some U.S. sanctions are rolled back. Well, North Korea has had nukes since 2006, so that means Bush, Obama, and now Trump have “allowed them.” Once a nation goes nuclear, they largely get to decide what they are allowed to do. Ask Israel.
     
    One might also look at the Iran nuclear deal Obama made for perspective. It was a good thing, reduced tensions in the Middle East, and would have helped set the stage for more complex relations with the United States had Trump not canceled it, or had Obama had the political oomph to have created a formal treaty and not an “agreement.” Iran reduced its nuclear threshold state, but was never required to go to zero.

    The news today shows how easy it was for Iran to ramp up from Obama-negotiated levels. So the idea Trump might seek a reduction in North Korean nuclear capability is in line with Obama’s deal with Iran, though of course any reduction of actual weapons in Korea is a bigger step forward than just a step back on capability in Iran. And even that took 20 months for Obama to pull off. In the end, if North Korea reneges on any agreement, sanctions removed can be reimposed.

    People demanding Trump bull into a room and say “Nukes, number one and we’re done” want the process to fail. Wipe clean the cartoon image of Kim as a madman. North Korea currently has nuclear weapons as the guarantor of its survival; that is a starting point, not a debatable one. If the United States and South Korea want the North to give up those weapons, something has to replace them as that assurance of survival. The ask here is extraordinary—only one nation in history that self-developed nuclear weapons, South Africa, has ever given them up, and that was because their purpose, the survival of the white apartheid regime, disappeared into history.

    A new magic word dominates the MSM, “legitimacy.” Despite their near-universal hatred of Trump, when convenient he is apparently important enough somewhere to be able to bestow Legitimacy” on foreigners, which can be a bad thing vis-a-vis North Korea. The Etruscans, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Eritreans, and Everyone Else from A to Z have been conducting diplomacy with adversaries of all flavors, titles, and moral standards since before the word was even invented by the French. A leader whose family has been the sole ruler of his nation for seven-some decades, who controls nuclear weapons, whose country has a seat at the United Nations and embassies in multiple countries around the world, already meets any practical test of “legitimacy.” Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons exist whether or not he meets a sitting American president, or ex-presidents Clinton and Carter. The only chance those weapons might someday be gone rests on such meetings.

    There is also a fear fanned by the MSM Trump will somehow give something important away, as if he might sign over the deed to Oregon to Kim late one boozy night. Negotiations are of course rarely an even exchange. But how long will you sit at the table if someone else seems to win every hand? Everyone has to at least feel they can win, so they don’t have a reason to cheat and thus stay in the game. Even when stakes are high, the good news is that it’s hard to give away “the store.” The store, whatever form it takes, usually isn’t something that can be irrevocably stopped, boxed up for shipment, or destroyed forever. Never mind the checks, balances, and bureaucratic brakes built into something as complex as the United States government, or even what may appear to be mostly a one-man-rule system. Diplomacy 101 encourages a thoughtful approach to score keeping, knowing the score only really matters at the end anyway.

    Diplomacy is almost always a process, rarely a singular event. The media trying to trick us into imaging one or two or ten meetings which do not resolve a problem is failure willfully overlooks the history of the Cold War, with its many steps forward and backward, but which more or less held the peace. That latter point — the absence of war — is the standard of measure, not what one thinks of Trump.

    History provides another example, Richard Nixon’s summit with Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung. That 1972 meeting ended over two decades of isolation between two nuclear-armed countries, and is universally hailed as brilliant diplomacy. But looking back, the main takeaway, the Shanghai Communique, is full of vague phrases promising to meet again and somehow make “progress toward the normalization of relations” and “reduce the danger of international military conflict.” The status of Taiwan, which had almost brought the Americans and Chinese to war, was dealt with in almost poetic terms, able to be read with multiple meanings.

    There was no timeline for anything, no specific next steps listed, nothing about China’s horrendous human rights situation. It took seven more years before full diplomatic relations were restored, yet scholars see the visit as one of the most impactful ever by an American president, to the point that the term “Nixon to China” is now shorthand for a breakthrough leaders’ meeting.

    The China agreement (and the one in Iran) was reached the old-school way, by sitting down at a table over many months and negotiating. Diplomats consulted experts. People in suits, not in uniform, did most of the talking. The process, perhaps unfamiliar to a post-9/11 generation raised on the machismo of “you’re either with us or against us,” is called compromise. It’s an essential part of a skill that is increasingly unfamiliar to Americans: diplomacy. The goal is not to defeat an enemy, find quick fixes, solve every bilateral issue, or even get even for Otto Warmbier. The goal is to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution to a specific problem. Such deft statecraft demonstrates the sort of foreign policy dexterity American voters have seldom seen exercised.

    Also now take a moment to think this through from the North Korean side (know your enemy.) It would take a blind man in the dark not to notice one obvious fact about the Greater Middle East: regimes the U.S. opposes tend to find themselves blasted into chaos once they lose their nuclear programs. The Israelis destroyed Saddam’s program, as they did Syria’s, from the air. Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya went down the drain thanks to American/NATO-inspired regime change after he voluntarily gave up his nuclear ambitions. The Israelis and the U.S. took a serious shot at Iranian nuclear capability with the STUXNET virus. No one could miss how North Korea’s membership in the regime-change club wasn’t renewed once that country went nuclear. Consider that a pretty good reason to develop a robust nuclear weapons program — and not give it up entirely. Let’s also note the world has lived with North Korea as a nuclear state for some 13 years, through three U.S. administrations and a change of leadership in Pyongyang.

    Any nascent agreement reached does not make North Korea and the United States friends. It does, however, open the door for the two countries to talk to each other and develop the kinds of financial and trade ties that will make conflict more impractical. After more than seven decades of hostility, that would be no small accomplishment.

    Future Trump-Kim-Moon tripartite negotiations (and please don’t underplay the role of South Korea’s Moon in all this) may lead to a better peace, it may set the stage for a next generation of leaders, or it may be just an asterisk in the history books alongside the sit-downs in Singapore and Vietnam when judged years from now. But to mock it for partisan political reasons this week is to prove one’s own ignorance of how these things work.

      

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  • Bullies Like Me

    June 30, 2019 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Democracy, Trump

    Harvard revoked a Parkland student’s admission, a survivor kid who supported the Second Amendment. Two former Central Park 5 prosecutors lost their jobs 30 years after the case, because of a Netflix movie released last week called “When They See Us.” By the time you read this, the Left will have forced another voice off Twitter, and bullied another small business for offending their rules on gender and cake.

    I learned about bullying in a small Ohio high school you never heard of, both by being bullied and in some of the most shameful days of my life, as a bully myself. I came to understand bullies are frustrated by their own lack of power (there’s always someone bigger going after them) and, unable to do anything to the real target, find someone weaker to torment. It is never meant to be a fair fight. There’s also a third element, the adult in the room who stays quiet and lets it all happen. A football coach or room monitor in my high school, the elders at Harvard in 2019 America.

    Trying out for football at my high school meant being bullied by the varsity. If you were lucky they only stole your food and made you embarrass yourself singing to the group. For others, it was sodomy with soap bars or caustic creams smeared in your jock. It went on after the coaches would mysteriously disappear during certain practice breaks. Some guys quit the team, some just endured, some sought empty relief bullying others. I was in that last group, mercilessly teasing a poor kid weaker than me, during lunch periods when the room monitors would mysteriously disappear; nobody really liked him. I was cruel in a way I wish I hated then the way I hate it now. He was an easy target who I thought 44 years ago was a way for me to feel better. I couldn’t beat up the varsity football team who humiliated me, so that kid was their surrogate. Nothing I have done before or after makes me more ashamed.

    I know about bullying. So let’s not pretend what is happening around us, politically driven by the Left, is anything but bullying. Deeply frustrated the living embodiment of anti-progressive values was elected in 2016 over a candidate genetically created as the Successor in the post-Obama utopia, the Left went looking for someone weaker than them to work out its rage on after Trump proved too tough a target (see the Mueller Report, now three months old, so ineffectual most in Congress see no need to even read it.)

    One writer made the frustration clear: “America finds itself in the grip of an endless and inscrutable daily mystery: How is it possible that the president — whose chief occupations seem to be tweeting, lying, lying about what he tweeted, watching television, and committing crimes — is not on the hook for anything? Not for the lying, and not for the criming [sic], and not even for the endless truculence and meanness.”

    So the Left picks on kids now because they can’t get Trump. Harvard, dismissing how its past presidents brought their slaves to live on campus and how it filled its endowments from the exploitation of slave labor, never mind its decades of discriminatory practices against Jews and other “undesirables,” takes away Parkland survivor Kyle Kashuv‘s scholarship because a couple of years ago he used the term “n*ggerjock” in texts to “friends,” who then sent those to Harvard Admissions demanding his head. Use the wrong words, no matter how long ago or in what context — my high school coaches called us f*ggots when they felt we weren’t working hard enough — and it is not your action which is attacked, it is you. Kyle Kashuv is a racist now and forever and literally it appears beyond reeducation. Like the guy who hit that one home run junior year and thinks he is forever a baseball player.

    (As an aside, imagine some people you once texted as friends, screenshotting those messages and then sending them on to the school you were going to attend, hoping to wreck your academic world.)

    Kashuv of course was one of the Florida Parkland kids, those celebrity school shooting survivors, but not one of the nice ones who stood beside George Clooney and demanded an end to the Second Amendment. Kyle supports gun rights. So while his ostensible sin was a teenage wasteland version of racism, his actual transgression was being an easy surrogate for Trump. Meanwhile, Twitter played the role of the leering varsity players standing in a semi-circle cheering on the violence being done to a freshman.

    Same for Harvard’s Ronald Sullivan, a lecturer at their law school, and faculty dean at one of Harvard’s residential houses for over nine years. He was fired for serving on #MeToo poster child Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. The bullies who attacked him claimed his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women (Weinstein has yet to go to trial and thus would be presumed innocent in some alternate universe) disqualified Sullivan from “serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.” Sure thing. Except Sullivan was really fired as a surrogate for Weinstein who is a surrogate for Trump, who still managed to get himself elected after bragging about pussy grabbing. Harvard law school’s adults stood silent in practice while teaching classes in theory about how a robust defense of even the worst defendants is a cornerstone of justice.

    Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer prosecuted the Central Park 5 in 1989, helping wrongly convict five juveniles of rape. Fairstein kept her job at the NYC District Attorney’s office until 2002, and went on to write 20 best-selling novels. Lederer is still a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and had taught law at Columbia for the last seven years. However, a week after a Netflix dramatization which took liberties with the facts (among other things, the movie ignored evidence some of the teens were likely accomplices in the rape and committed other violent crimes ) of the 30-year-old case came out, online mobs and university students successfully demanded Fairstein’s publisher dump her, and Columbia force Lederer to resign. Ken Burns’ more careful documentary about the same case didn’t call forth the same fierceness, but then again it came out in 2012 in the warmth of the Obama years. Today, Fairstein and Lederer are the designated surrogates for Donald Trump. Trump, who in the 1980s shot his mouth off about nearly everything in his hometown of New York City, is being blamed for helping unfairly convict the boys because of statements he once made. People are demanding he, along with Fairstein and Lederer, issue an apology.

    In Washington DC, another author was driven out by bullies. Her offense was reporting a black worker (breaking the rules by eating on the Metro) a crime of racism in 2019. “See something, say something” is the mantra unless it involves squealing on a POC, when it becomes fodder for the anti-Trump bullies. The Metro worker, who claimed she was “humiliated” by all the attention she got for breaking the rules, didn’t face any disciplinary action.

    The same bully mentality is in force against small businesses who chose not to bake cakes for LGBT couples; the same bullies who celebrate the First Amendment’s lack of applicability to social media making decisions on who to allow in the store demand the power of the courts when it favors them. Even when the courts  ultimately actually defend the bakers, the Leftist bullies relish the power to bankrupt offenders with legal fees, or try to crush them with mob-driven boycotts. The literal Heckler’s Veto has found a home with the bullies as they successful shouted down Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, Richard Spencer, and others.

    Among many black writers (one labels himself a “wypipologist“), Caucasians from Canada to the Caucasus mountains are mocked for all that they do, now surrogates for Trump. “Woke” female comedians use the same calculus when they make jokes about small hands, micro-penis’ and boyfriends who can’t satisfy them. If anyone tries to defend themselves (“um, you know we’re not all like that”) the bullies swarm with accusations of mansplaining, privilege or the catch all, whataboutism.

    The attempted political assassination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the most extreme example of bullying by the Left. There certainly has never been a more obvious Trump surrogate (though Paul Manafort is a close second): Kavanaugh the misogynist, Kavanaugh the gang rapist, Kavanaugh the serial liar, Kavanaugh the Old Straight White Man (apres Trump, a slur in itself.) The Left’s goal wasn’t to show the nominee was unqualified as a jurist, but that he was unqualified as a human being, to humiliate him with innuendo and gossip in front of his family and the nation hoping he’d quit the team. Due process and a modicum of fairness? It wasn’t supposed to be a fair fight.

    The Heckler’s Veto on social media is a national past-time, where, frustrated by Trump’s instinctive skill for the medium, bullies use their malleable Terms of Service to deplatform people whose ideas they hate as hate speech. We have lost the ability to even understand the term hypocrisy anymore. Political commentary meanwhile has devolved into name calling. Samantha Bee called Ivanka a “feckless c*nt” and Stephen Colbert referred to Trump as “Putin’s c*ckholster” in ways my old coaches, or any schoolyard bully shouting f*ggot, would have understood.

    The conventional wisdom for those bullied is you’re supposed to fight back. But any good bully creates a situation where the victim can’t. Whether backing him into a toilet stall with three big football jocks as he’s abused or leaving no avenues of appeal while gloating how the First Amendment and the coach who somehow sees nothing won’t protect him, the bully assures his victim’s humiliation. Everyone else just stands back, not wanting to get involved, humiliated themselves by their lack of courage or concern.

    But it is actually all for society’s own good, you see. In 2019, the bullies gild themselves as striking blows against racism or sexism, as if solving those societal problems needed just one more gun-loving Florida kid kicked to the curb. My tormentors claimed it was all part of toughening us up for the football season, and about building comradery as they too had once been humiliated as freshmen. It was actually all for our own good.

    It is not good. Take those feelings of emptied self-worth and humiliation felt as a victim, and multiply them across a society. Remember how you felt standing by doing nothing while it happened, and spread that through an electorate. Think over how watching those coaches look the other way made you feel, or when the media picked up the chorus that the kid, the prosecutors, whomever, deserved it for being a “racist.” Oh, we are something terrible.

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  • Biden Who? Luckily Kamala Was So There.

    June 28, 2019 // 5 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     
    For those keeping score in the Dem debates, it is 100 points for Slytherin at this point.
     
    Biden, who knew? Biden, hiding in open sight for eight years inside the Obama White House, turns out to be some evil bastard segregationist out to make black people feel bad today about stuff from 40 years ago. Barack must have facepalmed last night learning this was going on right under his nose. I bet Michelle was shouting “Told you so!” from the kitchen. Poor Joe, never even saw the pitch that hit him in 2019. It ain’t yer time, kid.

    Luckily Kamala was there. She explained growing up in suburban California, then moving to Canada for high school, with a Jamaican dad and an Indian subcontinental mom, both with PhD’s from Stanford, and later herself marrying a white Jewish entertainment lawyer after she graduated from the University of California law school, was basically the equivalent of the Middle Passage.

    Here in the People’s Republic of New York City, Harris’ self-pity was met with huzzahs to rename Central Park after her. I’m sure the same in most of California.

    Kamala Harris (along with Warren, Sanders, and others) want to eliminate employer-based health insurance, something over 70% of Americans who have such insurance are satisfied with. Only 13% of Americans prefer a system with no private plans. Are the Dems going forward with a 13% policy idea?

    All Dem candidates are also dang sure the economy is a mess and Trump is the cause. Yet a CNN poll shows 71% of Americans say that the economy is very or somewhat good. And that was on the smart night. The earlier Democratic debate featured talk about publically-funded abortions for pregnant trans men, which makes very little sense even if you support, serially, trans people, abortion, public funding for medical care, and hell, pregnancy. Each question about race or gender was answered as if the whole thing was being run past HR first. Meanwhile, as Harris made 1970s discussions of school busing the centerpiece of her campaign the other candidates happily promoted open borders and free healthcare for illegal immigrants, apparently in the misguided notion illegal immigrants are the largest Democratic voting block left. About all that was left was for each candidate to virtually award AOC a year of their lives so she’d be old enough to run unopposed for the presidency.

    All great moves if you are running for President of Twitter. But as someone in the Dem party must be vaguely aware, swing voters in a handful of states are likely to decide the 2020 election. If such a person exists in the party, they really need to ask which part of the assassination of Biden, and Harris exaggerating her personal suffering to proclaim herself America’s Official POC, will get them any of those votes so, so necessary to beat Trump.

    One other thing which stood out is the contrast between Obama and his wanna-be successors. Obama always at least spoke inclusively; he never threw away any voters by criticizing them, making them feel wrong, or guilting them. He wanted all of America, or at least its votes if you want to be fully cynical.

    Hillary started reversing that, most notably with her infamous comment Trump supporters were deplorables. She would see them in hell, unemployed and choking on the smoke from their coal fires. The current crop of Dems is all in with that. To a person they projected the idea that supporting Trump meant you were a white supremacist misogynist racist nazi who they would seek to throw aside in the name of progressivism. You’re all on the wrong side of history because you live in a red state, own a gun, or voted Republican. The fuck you extends to an attempt to defranchise many with feints toward ending the Electoral College. Who needs South Dakota after that? Better to reroute the tax dollars to progressive enclaves anyway.

    What’s different is the attack on the people themselves, who they are. It is the very nature of politics to spar over ideas and positions. But what Dems have devolved into is attacking people because they hold certain beliefs. You may support a Republican tax policy and that doesn’t just make you wrong on economics, it makes you a racist white supremacist. The ultimate expression of this comes with support for the Second Amendment; you don’t just disagree on how to regulate arms, you have blood on your hands over Parkland, you child killing bastard. It is a good way to organize a mob, and a terrible way to treat fellow Americans, and really poor way to expand your voting base.

    Harris in particular made many white Americans feel on trial for views they held in the past on things like busing (and her autobio version of events was far from true.) Joe Biden stood in for every purple voter who may have felt one way then, and another way now, but realizes in 2019 they are being teed up as the enemy. Offering redemption and acknowledging growth is not on the menu for these Democratic candidates. A purple voter may legitimately wonder how they might be treated under a Harris administration. Is it payback time? It seems a very short-sighted strategy for a candidate, an even worse one for a leader.

    Also, Bernie and Beto who? Jeez, that was easy.
     
     

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  • Believe Women

    June 25, 2019 // 3 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump


     

    A person challenging my desire to apply critical thinking to the recent rape accusations by E. Jean Carroll against Trump asks if I would believe my own daughter if she claimed Trump raped her.
     

    Of course I would believe my family members. I would be foolish, however, to expect the same from you. I have decades of intimate personal knowledge of them and their morals, and can read their facial expressions. I witnessed their silly childhood lies and taught them myself the value of truth.

    The problem is that’s not how society works, and so we have courts and juries and standards of evidence when someone accuses another of a terrible crime. People lie. People exaggerate. People misremember. People tell the truth. Yet we are forced to judge strangers, and so we created a system of laws and rules to do that, built around the now-quaint notion of innocent until proven (not accused) guilty.

    An imperfect system, of course, but the alternative is to simply allow emotions to control things: we hate Trump, so anything bad about him is true and anything good is not by default. That’s what #BelieveWomen translates to in this context.

    Would you want your child judged that way, by emotion, if they were accused of something?

     
    So instead of asking us all to simply believe or not believe things (which is what children do with Santa and the Tooth Fairy) a civil society asks for evidence. Witnesses, whose credibility is assessed. Physical things to examine. We ask why someone waited 26 years to report something, and know there can be both righteous and devious reasons why. We seem post-2016 naively unaware of how assuming true is as invalid as assuming false.

    We should be doing this in 2019 because one time in American history we “believed women” uncritically concerning sex crimes. That was in the dark racist South, where a woman claiming she was raped by a black man was always believed, with often no collaboration or evidence required, and the black man’s protests he was innocent were seen as proof he must have done it (nothing to fear, nothing to hide!) The victim’s word alone hung men when emotion controlled and prejudiced judgement.

    Those horrors occurred in a an environment when critical thinking was replaced by memes and generalizations, such as over-sexualized blacks living in anticipation of taking a white woman because we all “knew” that’s who they were, right? Today we point to Trump’s hyperbolic pussy grabbing remarks and middle school locker room bragging as much the same, the equivalent of the black rapist whistling at his victim on a street corner last week as proof he was the attacker. The sex was consensual? Of course he’d say that. They all lie, don’t they? Simply producing more accusers without adding any evidence is trying to manufacture credibility via the old trick of making the lie big enough that it must be true.

    We should with that history be extra careful when accusations are timed and shaped to fit a specific political narrative, whether those accusations are for rape or treason. Christine Blasey Ford appeared exactly when the left needed her in the Kavanaugh hearings (and the media chooses to forget the other accusers the Dems brought forth, including one represented by carpetbagger Michael Avenatti, where shown to be lying.) After decades, E. Jean Carroll emerges as the 2020 campaign begins. Victimhood is often monetized in our present version of America, and motive always a factor in any human interaction. At some point a critical thinker should be compelled to consider the timing and motive more broadly and in a larger context than the application of a Twitter hashtag and an ideological catch-phrase.

    This is not a new thing in an America that traces its origins to the Salem witch trials through the Jim Crow South to the McCarthy era, where the accusation someone was a Communist was enough to destroy a career or drive a good man to drink or suicide. In each instance not only was an accusation accepted in lieu of evidence, in many cases the accusation was accepted as sufficient even when evidence to the contrary was presented. There were plenty of people who profited, directly in Salem as the witches’ land was sold for pennies on auction, and during the McCarthy years by being a good stooge. Ronald Reagan advanced his own political career quite nicely by outing fellow actors as “Commies” to help populate the blacklists.

    A society that incentivises personal destruction via mere finger pointing creates dangerous opportunities for bad people directly, and for other bad people willing to manipulate those with more good intentions than conscience. About all that really changes is what the accusations consist of, what crime is untouchable and indefensible in each era: witchcraft, black equality, Commie disloyalty, rape itself. In each case denying guilt is twisted into proof of guilt by the standards of each time period.

    The latter group sadly includes much of the media today. Desperate to take down Trump, they seize on any accusation however fanciful, disregarding information which doesn’t fit the narrative in support of the goal, destroy him. That sentence could in fact sum up the last three years of Russiagate, where rumors became headlines as journalists abandoned standard of proof and gossip became fact when laundered via the phrase “according to sources.”

    Truth? After sending Robert Mueller off with unlimited time and funds to discover the truth, when it did not fit the narrative it was simply discarded, and the media went about telling us all what Mueller meant to say. There have always been bias of support among journalists, but not for many decades have they actively sought to end a presidency, and with so little solid ground beneath them (Nixon destroyed tapes directly implicating him, in his own voice, in felonies then refused to hand over transcripts following a subpoena upheld at the Supreme Court versus Trump telling some guy to fire another guy who Trump had Constitutional authority to fire but in the end nobody got fired.)

    Of course these things happen in the press, or at hearings, any non-judicial setting will work (no one will argue the Jim Crow-era courts of the Deep South, with their all-white juries, represented a judicial setting.) To condemn someone without evidence, with only accusation, demands an unlevel playing field. So it is a biased press, a hearing run by a bully, a religious setting in Salem, or as some Democrats salivate over, impeachment proceedings where they set the rules and famously relish the idea that the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors they’ll hold Trump accountable for are defined by them in the moment.

    It can happen in the whole, as with Trump and Russiagate, it can be very-narrow as with Kavanaugh, or even a kind of pot shot, a trial balloon, such as when Cory Booker, as if he was Gandhi himself, shamefully accused Joe Biden of being a racist because he talked of Congressional compromise with members whose ideas Cory hates. Latter effort was particularly pathetic, given Biden’s two terms as Vice President serving a black chief executive. Racists don’t spend eight years working under a black guy.

    Yeah, it’s all different but it is at its core all part of the same. The Left is seeking not to beat Trump politically, but to end him, erase him, jail him, destroy him. That’s why 2020 candidates rightly talk about the end of democracy, grave threats to the Republic — they are attacking its foundations by accusing Trump of attacking its foundations. A mob demanding vengeance against powerful figures will seize on any excuse, however obviously politically framed and evidence-free, to get it. The current rape accusations, Russia rumors, etc, are not the end. Expect more.

    These are difficult times, and the easiest thing is to give in. It can be hard to be seen as “supporting Trump” when in fact you are supporting a higher principle, and a guy like Trump falls into the world as an extreme challenge to that principle of justice. But if we are to be better versions of ourselves, feelings alone cannot drive policy or action. We have to distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not. But in 2019 not many are interested in such fine points. They are just angry. But when reasoned discourse yields to a mob, well, then the mob is in charge and history has many examples of what dark roads that leads down.

    There is plenty to dislike about Trump, and he is an easy target, basically writing his own punchlines (which is why late night is so boring, they just repeat Trump’s own tweets.) But for good Americans, these times are a reminder justice, law, process, critical thinking, and all the rest exist for the hard cases, not the easy ones.

     
     

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  • Deplatforming: Break Up the Teach Giants and Save Free Speech

    June 21, 2019 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America


     

    In an age of deplatforming and amid howls for censorship, the viability of free speech is at stake. Antitrust laws to break up the tech giants may be the last, best hope in this ideological war.

     

    The First Amendment doesn’t restrain censorship by private social media companies. Progressives today revel in their new-found power to enforce their own opinions through deplatforming. That only works because the platforms matter as near-monopolies; no one cares who gets kicked off MySpace. If you end the monopolies, you defang deplatforming. Trump is preparing to unleash the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as antitrust warriors against the tech giants. That just might save the ability to hear ideas outside of echo chambers of bullied consensus.

    For much of American history media published things (on paper, then on radio, movies, TV, art shows, the Internet, etc.) and the First Amendment as law and as a cultural touchstone protected political thought. Nice thoughts you and your grandma agreed with and vile thoughts from ideologies your grandpa fought against. As in “I disagree with what you say, but will fight for your right to defend it.”

    Then social media hit some kind of cultural saturation point around the 2016 election. People couldn’t produce and consume enough opinion, and even traditional media dumped old-timey reporting in favor of doing stories based on what others posted online. It was a mighty climax for the Great Experiment in Free Speech, no filters, no barriers, a global audience up for grabs. Say something interesting and you went viral, your thoughts forever alongside Edward R. Murrow’s, Rachael Maddow’s, and the candidate herself.

    Donald Trump then did away with near-universal agreement over the right to speak, driven by a false belief too much free speech helped him get unjustly elected. Americans began not just to tolerate, but to demand, censorship to protect them. First they came for Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, and few shed a tear. When Twitter initially dragged its feet banning Alex Jones, a “journalist” from CNN helpfully dug through Jones’ tweets to find examples of where he broke the rules. Free speech had been weaponized, using platforms like YouTube to put Alex Jones’ thoughts alongside Edward R. Murrow’s, Rachael Maddow’s, and the candidate herself.

    Jones (and soon Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, Ann Coulter on campus, et al) had few friends outside his own supporters, so it was easy to condone his deplatforming. But that was only round one. Progressives discovered those first deplatformed voices were just the tip of a white supremacist iceberg, a legion of hate that sought to stomp out immigrants, people of color, the 50% of the population who were women, all shades of LGBT, and perhaps democracy itself. And what was fueling this dirty fire, allowing these men to organize (what the Bill of Rights calls “freedom of assembly” the deplatforming community calls “coordinative power”), raise money, and spread their bile (deplatformers call it red pilling)? Social media. Someone needed to do something about all this free speech before it was too late and America (re-)elected the wrong president again.

     

    Somewhere along the way progressives realized people who largely thought like them controlled key platforms in America. Offline that included college campuses. Jeff Bezos could simply buy the Washington Post to silence some voices and amplify others. Advertisers could shift corporate funds to put political thought they disliked out of business. Authors could have books pulled and lose long-standing contracts. And none were bound by the 1A. But social media was where the real action was. Twitter, with a tweet, could silence what once were inalienable rights. The sparse haiku clarity of the First Amendment was replaced with groaning Terms of Service that meant whatever the mob wanted them to mean. The freedom to speak on social media no longer existed independent of the content of speech. And thus the once loathed Heckler’s Veto, the shout-down, was reimagined as the righteousness of deplatforming, the online equivalent of actually punching Nazis to silence them. And the 1A bullies were thirsty.

    So there was nothing to prevent deplatforming journalist Steven Crowder for calling Vox writer Carlos Maza a “lispy queer Latin” on YouTube. In fact, Maza successfully campaigned across social media to get YouTube to demonetize the other journalist when the site initially hesitated. YouTube then announced an update to its hate speech policy broadly prohibiting “videos alleging a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion” and deleted the classic documentary studied in every film school, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will. YouTube also deplatformed history teachers for uploading archive material related to Adolf Hitler, saying they breached the new guidelines banning hate speech.

    The site previously sent entire genres down the Memory Hole, banning “videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination.” That purge deplatformed News2Share, a site which covered everything from pro-Assange protests to 2A supporters rumbling with Antifa. YouTube proudly asserts since 2017 it has reduced views of “supremacist” videos by 80%.

    Gab was threatened by Microsoft with the cancellation of its web domain because of two “offensive” posts made by a minor Republican candidate. Facebook/Instagram banned “white nationalist and separatist” content, including at one point documentaries from Prager University. It also deleted posts from veteran journalist Tim Shorrock criticizing the New York Times’ coverup of American support for previous South Korean dictatorships. Facebook allegedly now has an office dedicated to watching what its users do outside of Facebook, looking at their work as journalists, what they say off-line, what tattoos they have, to determine whether they should be allowed to participate on Facebook. Pintrest deplatformed groups and messed with searches involving anti-abortion content. Twitter in turn suspended the accounts of those who blew the whistle on Pinterest in retaliation.

    Google refused ads for a gala featuring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, something they claimed was in violation of their policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising.” Google company sees itself at the nexus of ideological war, declaring, “Although people have long been racist, sexist, and hateful in many other ways, they weren’t empowered by the Internet to recklessly express their views with abandon.”

    Google might soon add its terms of service to the First Amendment. A leaked document from the tech giant argues that because of a variety of factors, including the election of Donald Trump, what we call the “American tradition” of free speech may no longer be viable. The report lays out how Google can serve as the world’s “Good Censor,” a stern hall monitor figure protecting us from harmful content and, by extension, dangerous behavior, like electing the wrong president again. And all this comes not a moment too soon — the Southern Poverty Law Center claims it has taken “blood in the streets for tech companies to take action.” More simply put, the group just says “tech supports hate.” There are many more examples of those deplatformed.

    But why wait for someone to commit hate speech when technology allows deletion when hate is largely still a thought crime? Google developed a tool called Perspective which aims to root out “hate speech” before it spreads. The software uses machine learning to spot “toxic” content in online conversations to preemptively redirect their trajectory. The tool, designed to monitor comments section, could also be deployed against content creation in real time. As you type.

    Websites too right of center have serially lost their web hosts and gone dark. Website security company Cloudflare “woke up … in a bad mood and decided to kick [a hate site] off the Internet.” On another site, parents who started a petition questioning their local school’s transgender policy were deplatformed. I was deplatformed by Twitter. There are many more examples. Mashable claimed overall 2018 was the year “we cleaned up the Internet,” while Vice announced deplatforming “works” and celebrated censorship of fellow journalists.

    A version of deplatforming has moved off-line as well. The ACLU — the ACLU which once stood by actual Nazis because the beautiful concept of free speech was so much more important than whatever dumb stuff those Nazis said in Skokie which no one remembers anyway– started applying an ideological/political litmus test to which free speech cases it would support following Charlottesville. Some people are now deplatformed out of the justice system.

    Though the bulk of deplatforming is aimed at right of center voices, there are examples from the left, often cited as “good news” that “see, this isn’t a progressive jeramaid.” But in fact more censorship is not a good thing for free speech, however equally distributed. And this is not as much a slippery slope question as it is ideological warfare. Progressives want to eliminate the opposing ideas. They have no problem with free speech that, for example, criticizes religion, or sends drag queens to read to children in public libraries. Flag burners are welcome! Conservatives, not so much.

     

    Two visions of free speech have overtaken America. One is now widely dismissed as dangerous because it fought for a marketplace of ideas that could include hate speech, while another danced a jig because America’s new censors are ideologically sympathetic corporations currently supporting the progressive agenda. The latter group is comprised of people (some 69% of American college students believe intentionally offensive language should be banned) seemingly unable to project a future where those corporate censors’ might support a different set of views. Instead, as a mob today they gleefully point to a viewpoint as “hate speech” and let @jack purify it away.

    It is very important to underline there is no law against hate speech. Hate speech is an umbrella term used by censorship advocates to describe anything they don’t want others to be able to listen to or watch. It is very flexible and thus very dangerous. As during the McCarthy-era in the 1950s when one needed only to label something “communist” to have it banned, so it is today with the new mark of “hate speech.” The upshot is that apart from some very narrow definitions of violence-inducing words, the obligation exists to the concept of free speech independent of the content of that speech. This is also one of the most fundamental precepts of free speech in a democracy. There need be no protections for saying things that people agree with, things that are not challenging or debatable or offensive; free speech is not really needed for the weather and sports parts of the news. Instead, free speech is there to allow for the most rude, offensive, hateful, challenging stuff you (or your neighbor, your political party, your government) can imagine.

    The Founding Fathers, themselves now seen as misogynist slave owners except the scrubbed version of Hamilton, had left a ticking time bomb inside the Bill of Rights. You in fact could not punch nazis to silence them without going to jail. The 1A protected hate speech! There is no justification for restricting speech so that people are not offended. Speech may offend, indeed that may be its point, but bad ideas are then defeated by better ideas. Yet today Google (and Facebook, Twitter, and their successors) seem to perceive these old ideas as more outmoded than the powdered wigs the Founders wore when they wrote them.

     

    What to do? Efforts to extend the First Amendment to entities like Facebook, arguing they are the new public squares (seven of 10 American adults use a social media site), have been unsuccessful.

    Trying to classify social media companies as “publishers” has also been unsuccessful. They insist they are “platforms.” They say they are like the phone company, which lets you talk to a friend but exercises zero control over what you say.

    Being a platform is desirable for Facebook and the others as they have no responsibility for the content they print, no need to create transparent rules or appeals processes for deplatforming, and users have no legal recourse. Publishers,on the other hand, are responsible for what they print, and can be taken to court if they print something libelous or maliciously false.

    Social media’s claim to be a platform and not a publisher is based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That section however was predicated on social media companies being neutral public forums in return for offering them legal protections against being sued over content they present. Companies like Twitter now want it both ways – they want the protection being a platform like the phone company offers but after the 2016 election they also want to ideologically manipulate their content as publishers do.

    Breaking through the platform-publisher question will require years of court battles. The growth of much of the web is driven by the lack of responsibility for the content third parties chuck online. It is a complex situation when applied to everything from knitting site hosts to Nazi forums, and across international borders.

    Yet social media entities’ control over speech is so significant a more immediate solution is demanded. Google owns 90% of the search market, three quarters of mobile and 70% of desktop browsing, and along with Facebook, 50% of online ads. YouTube dominates video. Facebook makes up two-thirds of all social media, with Twitter holding down most of the rest. Large enough on their own, the platforms also work in concert. One bans say Alex Jones, most of the others follow and then whomever is last to act is chided into action by the mob and threatened with advertiser boycotts. Eventually (as with Jones) Venmo and Paypal also cut them off.

    With legal and legislative solutions ineffectual for preserving free speech online, enter the major antitrust enforcement agencies of the executive branch. The Department of Justice is preparing to investigate Google’s parent company Alphabet, while the Federal Trade Commission is doing the same for Facebook. The goal may be to break the tech giants into multiple smaller companies, as was done at the dawn of mass electronic communication in America.

    Monopolies on speech first appeared as national media appeared, in the form of radio stations linked into networks. For the first time, an opinion expressed on air in New York was broadcast everywhere. The once-mighty Mutual Broadcasting System successfully filed a complaint which led to a Supreme Court battle claiming NBC and CBS controlled the national market. NBC was ultimately forced to split into two networks, Red and Blue. Regulation followed. The 1934 Communications Act required broadcast licensees to operate in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” This translated into things like the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters to cover politically important issues, ensuring various points of views are given equal time. The public-interest obligation also protects against one company controlling all the stations in a market.

    The end of social media mega-companies, with none big enough to silence effectively any significant amount of free speech, would be a clumsy fix for a problem the Founders never imagined – citizens demanding corporate censorship because they didn’t like the results of the last election. It is nowhere near the comprehensive solution of an expanded First Amendment a democracy should grant itself, but in a world where progressives fail to understand the value of free speech it may provide enough of a dike against censorship to hold the waters back until reason again takes hold.

     
     

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  • A Mini-Lesson in US Immigration History

    June 11, 2019 // 7 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Other Ideas


     
    I am dying of stupidity reading progressive “takes” on immigration.

    Abolish ICE! Every country in the world that has the means to control its borders does so. The US is no different. Every country that can has rules about who it accepts and in what numbers. You, for example, cannot just pick up and move to Canada ’cause you wanna. The merit (points-based) systems progressive decry as fascism are used by “fascist” countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, across the EU, etc.
     
    But muh grandpa came to this country without on $1 in his pocket and no English and was welcomed!?!?!

    Our period of unfettered immigration into the US was brief, with any serious volume occurring from about 1870-1920 (Ellis Island opened in 1892, replacing the previous main processing facility in New York, Castle Clinton), and coincided with a huge demand for unskilled labor driven by industrialization, western expansion as we killed off the Native Americans and needed to fill their lands with farms, and the end of slavery coupled with efforts to not readily allow those freed slaves into the new economy. At the same time, horrible conditions in, serially, Ireland, eastern Europe, and Italy made waves of people available to immigrate into really horrid conditions waiting for them in the US.

    As for numbers, and the fear that the US is no longer “welcoming” immigrants, the numbers reveal the truth. The peak year for admission (adjusted for one-time special programs such as those in place post-Vietnam) of new immigrants was 1907, when approximately 1.3 million people entered the country legally. The number has hovered around a million a year for the past two decades. During the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s legal immigration was about half what it has been since. Illegal/undocumented immigration numbers have swelled dramatically since the 19th century as cheaper travel and rising prosperity across much of the world has made travel easier and more possible for many.

    We did not “welcome” your grandpa; we shunted him into slums and paid him as little as possible to work in dirty and dangerous jobs for us, all the while calling him kike, polack, greaseball, hynie, and the rest. No one cared about preserving immigrant culture; newcomers faced enormous pressure to abandon their native languages and learn English if they wanted better jobs. They could either isolate into ghettos or assimilate into the mainstream culture. The latter if they wanted to get ahead. Google how many Irish died digging the canals and building the levees around New Orleans. Read up on how immigrant children were worked in factories before you wail about “concentration camps” on the Mexican border that no longer feature sports programs.

    “Not who we are?” Bullshit, it is who we always have been.
     
    Those were unique historical circumstances and our (lack of) immigration laws in the period matched. The race-based restrictions which followed just happened to coincide with economic changes and eventually the Great Depression that required fewer unskilled workers. Racism played a part in deciding which immigrants to cut, but not in the decisions to cut immigration.

    In simple words: Most of what people believe about immigration is myth. Myth is a bad basis for policy. Immigration policy, like economic policy, defense policy, etc., is meant to help the nation. It is not a global charity (that’s refugee policy, a separate thing.) When immigration helped the nation, it was matched to our economic situation. The current immigration laws, which favor relatives of those already here regards of their skills and abilities, do not match America’s current economic need for highly skilled workers. We should adjust the laws to fit the current circumstances as we have done before.

    It is just too easy to forget history and apply 2019-think to what really happened. So please don’t.

     
     

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  • What Mayor Pete Won’t Tell You: The Role of Military Service in the 2020 Election

    June 8, 2019 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Afghanistan, Trump

    What is the role of military service in the 2020 election?

    As another Memorial Day passed, Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized Trump for reportedly considering pardons for several service members accused of war crimes, calling the idea “slander against veterans that could only come from somebody who never served” (those pardons never happened; fake news?) The 37-year-old Democrat mocked the president, saying “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan.” Mayor Pete defended NFL national anthem protests noting “Trump would get it if he had served.” He claims he “put his life on the line” for those rights.

    He gets away unchallenged with these shots because critical thought on military service is the third rail of journalism. But context matters. Pete Buttigieg did all of six months in 2014 as a reservist deep inside Bagram air base, mostly as a personal driver for his boss, locked and loaded inside a Toyota Land Cruiser. It is unlikely he ever ate a cold meal in Afghanistan.

    On the campaign trail, Pete refers to himself “as the first veteran president since George H.W. Bush.” Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton was a platoon commander in the initial company of Marines to enter Baghdad in 2003, returning for a total of four combat deployments. Tulsi Gabbard did two full tours in the Middle East, one inside Iraq. She volunteered to become the first state official to step down from public office to serve in a war zone, 10 years before Pete. So if you wanna measure for size, bro, the line forms behind Seth and Tulsi.

    Everyone at war has different experiences, and unless you’re the dude who held bin Laden’s still-beating heart in his hand (and then took a bite out of it), someone had it tougher than you. But Mayor Pete is milking it for all it is worth politically, stretching a short tour into civics lessons he suggests one just can’t get any other way.

    But if Mayor Pete is going to make much of his service as part of his public biography, and especially if he wants to invite comparisons among himself, other candidates, and other presidents, then his short military tenure cannot be treated as bullet-proof. As one vet put it, “If he’s going to use his combat time as a discriminator, then it gets to be evaluated.”

    Veteran (Bosnia, Iraq 2004-6, 2008-11, Afghanistan 2011-12) and now podcaster Pete Turner writes “I give Mayor Pete all the credit in the world for deploying. However, there is a difference in the quality and severity of the types of combat veterans. Mayor Pete is more of a combat tourist than a warrior. People with one short combat tour, with access to that delicious fresh baked bread they made daily at the Bagram Air Force base, need to ease up on their warrior status.”

    “He went to war, that’s commendable and honorable. But that’s where it stops. People with his pedigree of deployment acknowledge that they spent a short tour and barely got away from their desk. They certainly don’t lean on that service as a credential for presidential candidacy.”

    Mayor Pete, however, might be the first to suggest even a little service produces a better man than none at all, clearly his opinion of the man dubbed “President Bone Spurs.” Buttigieg, alongside the New York Times (who interviewed the aging daughters of the now-dead doctor who diagnosed Trump), has called that medical diagnosis a fraud and “an assault on the honor of this country.”

    Maybe so. But for those who like comparisons, current front-runner Joe Biden received five student draft deferments, the same number as Dick Cheney, and in 1968 when his student status was wrapping up, was medically reclassified as “not available” due to having had asthma as a teen. In his autobiography Biden describes his active childhood, being a lifeguard, and playing high school football. His Vice Presidential physicals mention multiple aneurysms. Asthma, no. There’s no record of the New York Times tracking down Biden’s dead doctor’s daughters to investigate medical draft fraud.

    If military service is important and Vietnam-era medical deferments open to question, maybe Mayor Pete should also be talking about Biden alongside Trump. And if you are learning about Biden’s multiple deferments for the first time, ask yourself why.

    Left out of all of this is context. American men of a certain age all had to make a choice about Vietnam. They made those choices not in the jingoistic context of 2019 when we all Support Our Troops and wave away concerns about righteousness with slogans like “Love the Warrior, Hate the War.” Instead, 60% of men in the Vietnam generation took active measures to qualify for a deferment, while up to 90% National Guard enlistments (domestic service instead of Vietnam) were draft-motivated. Trump’s (Clinton’s, Cheney’s, Biden’s, Sanders’, Bush’s, et al) story is “surprisingly typical of his generation,” wrote one historian.

    The Vietnam-era military was not a widely loved institution. Many veterans, at least when they spoke about it back then, were more ashamed than proud, and actively encouraged young men to avoid serving. Families were weary of sending sons to Vietnam, from where over 58,000 Americans never came home (compared to under 7,000 dead in the 18 years of the War on Terror and its sequels.) The military was wounded by failure in Southeast Asia, drugs, and racism. Vietnam was the era of fragging, soldiers killing their own officers, in numbers far lower than movies would have you believe, but which left officers living under threats far greater than any Lieutenant Buttigieg could conceive of in Afghanistan.

    Down one path or another more than 15 million men of Trump and Biden’s generation sought to avoid military service in Vietnam. So in that context Buttigieg should also mention Bernie Sanders, who applied for conscientious objector status until he aged out of the draft. Mitt Romney received both student and religious deferments to avoid Vietnam.

    When Bill Clinton’s student deferments ran out, he sought help to faux register with a local reserve unit, and then to hide his draft paperwork until he left for England. Clinton as president refused to discuss in detail his various maneuvers to avoid service, which allegedly included an attempt at renouncing his citizenship at the American Embassy in London. Clinton wrote to one man who purposefully delayed his case to thank him for “saving me from the draft.”

    Context matters. As the New York Times said when he was running for president, “Bill Clinton worked to avoid the draft, at times cleverly, but in ways that accorded with accepted common practice among others of his generation. Against that history, this Vietnam echo looks like an irrelevance that ought not distract New Hampshire voters from judging Bill Clinton on his merits… to single him out as some sort of devious draft-dodger does him, and the anguish of Vietnam, an injustice.”

    The Times’ 1992 point is more valid when talking about Trump than the hit pieces they write in 2019. During the Vietnam War-draft era, most who could afford college or to pay the right doctor could get a deferment. Others took a middle road, the George W. Bush‘s and Dan Quayle‘s who joined National Guard units and got credit for some form of service without the stain of Vietnam on their nice clothing.

    For those without money, failing their physical by gaining or losing substantial amounts of weight, or claiming to be gay, worked. Bruce Springsteen made his own success outwitting Army doctors a reflective centerpiece of his Broadway show. One hundred thousand Americans left for Canada, breaking the law to avoid service (President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon to them.) Some 3,250 refused to cooperate with the draft and went to prison.

    In the end only 2.2 million men were drafted during the Vietnam War period out of an eligible pool of 27 million, meaning some 9 out of 10 found an alternative. And in the end no Vietnam vet (see John McCain and John Kerry) has ever been elected president, and two who dodged the draft were.

    Like hauling out old yearbook photos to sanctimoniously judge them in the Pure Light of 2019, Pete Buttigieg is wrong to compare his service to anyone but his peers, because the real questions didn’t end when the draft did in 1973. It would be more important for Pete not to use Vietnam-era actions as a hypocritical political cudgel, but to tell us why he volunteered to serve and why Obama, and now Booker, Harris, Warren, O’Rourke, and the rest did not. Though a draft didn’t force them to decide, they decided. Though they did not face the legal issues of an earlier generation, the more important existential ones – what do you owe your country, what is the value of service, who goes in your place when you stay home to focus on college and career – get sharper as they get even easier to dodge.

    The post-Vietnam candidates now seeking the presidency followed much the same path of privilege as the one Buttigieg selectively despises, but have done so without their choices being questioned. Maybe it’s time to do that.

    Peter Van Buren, a 24 year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan.

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  • Mueller’s Public Statement: I Am Done With This

    May 29, 2019 // 8 Comments

    Tags:
    Posted in: 2020, Trump

    I just watched Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first and apparently only press conference on his two year investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump administration. The story is there is no story. Mueller basically said “read my Report if you want to know what I think.”
     
    Mueller was explicit he neither found Trump did not commit a crime nor did he find Trump committed a crime. Both sides of the debate will choose the half of that sentence that supports their position, but Mueller made clear he purposefully did not take a position. He simply reported what he learned in his investigation. In cop-talk, just the facts, ma’am. Mueller said “we concluded that we would not reach a determination — one way or the other — about whether the president committed a crime… We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the attorney general.”
     
    Actual indictment of the president was never even actively considered under existing Department of Justice guidelines. The action was not considered because legally it could never be taken (Mueller categorized indicting a sitting president as unconstitutional) so the Report is basically on purpose a conclusion-less summary of two years of investigation. He could have but did not say he would have indicted had the law allowed that.
    Mueller made clear he could have indicted others (“co-conspirators”) besides the president under the law. He did not. We can stop talking about Don Jr., et al, and the Trump Tower June meeting, now.
    That new Michael Wolfe book claiming Mueller once prepared an actual indictment against Trump but discarded it is thus clearly and totally false. The Guardian newspaper claiming it saw the actual indictment text is fake news. Mueller’s office issued a separate statement making that clear as well.
     
    Mueller hands his information to the world without comment. Today he made crystalline he did not say, suggest, or imply it was a road map, intended as the rough draft of impeachment, or anything else, though he could have. It just is the results of his investigation. Full stop. Anyone from this point forward who insists they see further intent hidden in the Report is falsely putting words into Mueller’s mouth and ignoring what he said today. That goes especially for 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren who said “Mueller’s statement makes clear what those who have read his report know: It is an impeachment referral, and it’s up to Congress to act.”
     
    Mueller said he would not add any additional info or comment if he were to testify. He said he plans no further public statements which would add to or comment on the report itself. He made clear he had no outstanding feud with Attorney General Bill Barr.
     
    Mueller is Done. Out. Gone. History.
     
    This will spin forever, but it seems very hard for Democrats to drag this steaming pile of ambiguity into actual impeachment hearings, though they will talk about that and hold sub-hearings of some kind through 2020. 

    Much is already being made of Mueller’s not finding Trump innocent. The option to indict we know was never on the table. Legally the option to say Mueller found no crime did exist. But Mueller did not conclude either way. “Not declared innocent” is not the same as “Found guilty.” Mueller is a smart guy, a plain speaker. He has had lots of time to say what he wants to say, in clear terms, both across a 448 page report and his carefully prepared remarks today. He is under no pressure to speak in riddles so we should not slip riddles into his words. Sometimes just what he said is all he said. Cherry-picking words, or worse, implying meanings inside of those cherry-picked words, is poor scholarship when Mueller has said in so many ways “I am presenting facts, not conclusions either way.”

    Mueller’s public statement did remind me of every exasperated professor I have had who, midway through his lecture and after a dumb question, sighed and said to the students “you didn’t do the reading, did you? This was all in the book already.” Justin Amash stated “The ball is in our court, Congress.” But he ignores that it always has been. If the House wants to impeach, they have had all the information they are ever going to have in front of them, in whole or in part, for two months now. Fish or cut bait.

    Mueller will not be their star witness. Mueller will not be their human smoking gun.

     

    Here’s how it looks if you’re a Dem strategist:
     
    — Two years of claiming Trump worked with Russia proved empty. Zero. Your move is to hope everyone just forgets you ever mentioned it.
     
    — Mueller found no smoking gun, indicted nobody with his Report. He said today he would not be your star witness, your human smoking gun. He isn’t going to help you. Your move is to hope everyone just forgets all that “Mueller Time” stuff.
     
    — Everything you can try and impeach on you have more or less had in your hands for two months/two years already and done nothing with. You don’t have a move.
     
    — You’ve been whipping your base into impeachment fever, and you will lose in the Senate if things ever even get that far. Your move is to hope Twitter goes away soon.
     
    — You can hold investigations, hoping Maxine Waters can uncover what Mueller, the FBI and the NSA missed. Your move is to hope she has a stroke on live TV and gather some sympathy votes.
     
    — The election is in 17 months and all you got is Joe Biden who leads in the polls based apparently and solely on name recognition. Nobody is motivated by Joe Biden. Your move is to run a crash test dummy with “Not Trump” written in Sharpie on the face. Other options include running The Other Guy from Wham!, the third dude to play Shemp in the Three Stooges, whoever registered Joe.Biden@gmail.com first, the Borat guy dressed as Joe Biden or any black woman willing to change her name legally to Joe Biden.
     
    — Meanwhile, 12 economic models predict Trump will win anyway. Your move is to hope people don’t notice the economy is doing well.
    — Your strongest player right now is Justin Amash. You should run him against Maxine Waters.

    I’ve read the full Mueller Report. It is not hard to understand in its whole, though passages read in isolation can be ambiguous. If you isolate say one footnote to the exclusion of the other 448 pages you can perhaps convince yourself the conclusions are unclear. But it takes that kind of effort in self-delusion.

    The problem is many Americans don’t want to believe what it says, and so claim there must be more to it all, some hidden meanings. They had been convinced by the media there must have been some huge Russian-Trump conspiracy (“the Manchurian Candidate”) made up of a dozen Grassy Knolls like the June 6 Trump Tower meet, Cohen in Prague, the Alfa server, the pee tape, etc. Those are all false, irrelevant, or not crimes.

    To be told by Mueller there is nothing he found to indict Trump on simply triggers so much cognitive dissonance that people cannot believe what they read in the Report. The same dissonance prevents them from not trusting Mueller, who was elevated to superhero status by the media. So if Mueller must be right and the Report doesn’t scream Impeach! then the conclusion is there just has to be somehow more.

    Sort of like how many of those same Americans refused to accept Trump won the election now coming on three years ago. He could not have, they believed, so they started down this tunnel to find an answer that did not require them to accept the truth.

    By the way, this is all a bad thing for a country.

     

    To try and get Dems to understand how wrong what is going on is, let’s try this: think back to Comey and his statements reopening the Clinton investigation in summer 2016. Then look at Comey and Mueller vs. Trump. What you are seeing is the Deep State inserting itself into our political process.

    With Clinton, it was a powerplay. She was going to win, they believed, and the reopening of the email investigation was a way to remind her that her entire time in the White House was owed to the Deep State allowing her to get away with her email server. A brush-back pitch in baseball terms.

    With Trump, it was a coup, a bureaucratic assassination attempt. He wasn’t supposed to win and the Deep State was thrown onto defense.

    They didn’t always succeed in their various efforts, and made missteps with unintended consequences, but focus on what they tried to do — change the course of events and control the president, whomever she or he ended up being. Watch out, because the same actors will be smarter, smoother, and better at it the next round.

     

    So I called the local prosecutors’ office and asked how many certificates of exoneration they’ve issued this year, or any year. Seems they don’t do that.
     
    I asked if they do not find sufficient evidence to prosecute a case, then what happens? Turns out absence of evidence to prosecute, they don’t prosecute. They just end the case. There can be all sorts of reasons sufficient evidence does not exist that you might think are good or bad or mean whatever you think they mean, but in the end it all adds up the same way. Case closed, everybody goes home. There is no system where the prosecutor goes to court anyway and says to the judge “No evidence to move forward on your honor, but I’d like to speak in riddles and code about what we really mean.”
     
    Amazing system. Turns out it is all based on this idea of “innocent until proven guilty.” I checked; they don’t have another system.

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  • Happy Hypocritical Memorial Day from Mayor Pete

    May 27, 2019 // 5 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


    “In his interview on ABC, Buttigieg criticized Trump for reportedly considering pardons for several U.S. service members accused of war crimes, calling the idea ‘slander against veterans that could only come from somebody who never served.'” (NOTE: These Memorial Day pardons of “war criminals” the media has been talking about for weeks have not actually happened. Check your fake news folder…)

    The 37-year-old Democrat then ratcheted up his attacks on Trump, mocking the president’s past role on the reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice in a another interview. “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg said. He called Trump’s medical deferment for foot bone spurs during the Vietnam War “an assault on the honor of this country.”

    Pete has also defended those ancient history kneeling NFL national anthem protests, saying “Trump would get it if he had served,” explaining that military service is all about defending the Bill of Rights on a personal level. In his autobiography, Pete makes much of having spent time in “an imminent danger pay area,” basically the current official pay status classification for most of the mideast. On the campaign trail, Mayor Pete pitches himself “as the first veteran president since George H.W. Bush.”

    Hurrah!

    Mayor Pete Buttigieg did all of six months in 2014 as a reservist deep inside Bagram air base, mostly as a driver for his boss, all high speed, locked and loaded inside a civvie Toyota Land Cruiser. It is highly unlikely he ever ate a cold meal.

    Everyone who spent time in war had different challenges and experiences, and unless you’re the dude who held bin Laden’s still-beating heart in your hand (and then took a bite out of it), someone certainly had it tougher and rougher than you.  But Mayor Pete sure is milking it for all its worth politically, stretching a short tour as close to not being in the military at all into leadership and civics lessons he suggests one just can’t get any other way. He has stated he has “more military experience than anybody to walk into that office on day one since George H.W. Bush.” His service, to him, makes him uniquely qualified among all current candidates of both parties, and if you question it then well, maybe that’s un-American.

    The thing is if Mayor Pete is going to make much of his service as part of his public biography, and especially if he wants to invite comparisons between himself, other candidates, and other presidents, to draw lessons on leadership and courage from his experience, then his short military tenure cannot be treated as bullet-proof. He wants us to look. We’ll look. As one veteran put it, “If he’s going to use his combat time as a discriminator, then it gets to be evaluated.”

    Veteran (Joint Endeavor Bosnia, Iraqi Freedom 2004-6, 2008-10, New Dawn Iraq 2010-11 and Enduring Freedom Afghanistan 2011-12) and now podcaster Pete Turner writes “I give Mayor Pete all the credit in the world for deploying. However, there is a difference in the quality and severity of the types of combat veterans. Mayor Pete is more of a combat tourist than a warrior. People with one short combat tour, which meant minding a desk, with access to that delicious fresh baked bread they made daily at the Bagram Air Force base DFAC cafeteria, need to ease up on their warrior status. He’s clearly a combat vet, but discussing it, as he does, is cheapening his experience.”

    “Here’s the truth. If he was to go outside the wire, he’d be a liability to any patrol. I don’t mean to be unfair or unkind but, whatever ‘contribution’ he delivered would at best be forgotten the moment he stepped forward off the battlefield. He went to war, that’s commendable and honorable. But that’s where it stops. People with his pedigree of deployment acknowledge that they spent a short tour and barely got away from their desk. They certainly don’t lean on that service as a credential for presidential candidacy.”

    Mayor Pete might be the first to suggest even a little service produces a better man than none at all, clearly his opinion of the current president who the media has dubbed “President Bone Spurs.” Buttigieg, alongside the New York Times (who interviewed the aging daughters of the doctor who diagnosed Trump for its story), has called that medical diagnosis a fraud.

    Maybe so. But for those who like comparisons to Trump, current Democratic front-runner Joe Biden received five student draft deferments at the peak of the Vietnam War, same number as Dick Cheney, and in 1968, he was reclassified by the Selective Service as “not available” due to having had asthma as a teen. In his autobiography, Promises to Keep, Biden talks alot about his active childhood, his work as a lifeguard, and his high school football career. Asthma, no. His Vice Presidential physicals mention is multiple aneurysms, but are silent on asthma.

    If military service is important and Vietnam-era medical deferments open to question, maybe Mayor Pete should also be talking about Biden alongside Trump. And if you are hearing about Biden’s multiple deferments for the first time here, ask yourself why. Better yet, ask your favorite MSM person why not, perhaps after they’ve done their most recent “Candidate Bone Spurs” punch piece.

    Left out of the shallow jibes Buttigieg tosses at Trump (but withholds against Biden, against whom he is actually currently running) is context. American men of a certain age all had to decide what they were going to do about Vietnam. They did it likely unaware of how a young man’s decisions might affect an old man’s life. They also made their choice not in the post-9/11 jingoistic context of 2019 when we all Support Our Troops and wave away concerns about propriety and righteousness with slogans like “Love the Warrior, Hate the War.”

    The Vietnam-era and especially the post-Vietnam military was not a widely loved institution, and was actually despised by a wide swath of the country. Families were weary of sending sons to die in Vietnam, from where over 58,000 Americans never came home, compared to under 7,000 in the 18 years of the War on Terror and its sequels. Even those who served in the military of that era characterize it as a broken institution wounded by failure in Southeast Asia, drugs, and racism. Vietnam was the era of fragging, soldiers killing their own officers, in numbers far lower than movies would have you believe, but which left officers living under threats far greater than any Lieutenant Buttigieg could conceive of in Afghanistan. The draft which Trump and Biden avoided ended in 1973 and the U.S. military slowly clawed its way to again becoming a professional military under an all-volunteer system.

    But before that Bernie Sanders, also seeking the Commander-in-Chief job, did not go to Vietnam. He applied for conscientious objector status until he aged out of the draft.

    Bill Clinton received multiple draft deferments to stay out of Vietnam. When his student deferments ran out after changes in the law, Clinton sought help from powerful relatives first to falsely join a local reserve unit, and then to hide his draft paperwork until he left for study in England. Clinton as president refused to discuss in detail his various maneuvers to avoid service, which allegedly included an attempt at renouncing his American citizenship at the American Embassy in London.

    As the New York Times generously wrote of Clinton when he was running for president, “Bill Clinton worked to avoid the draft, at times cleverly, but in ways that accorded with accepted common practice among others of his generation. Against that history, this Vietnam echo looks like an irrelevance that ought not distract New Hampshire voters from judging Bill Clinton on his merits… to single him out as some sort of devious draft-dodger does him, and the anguish of Vietnam, an injustice.”

    The Times’ 1992 point is more valid when talking about Trump than the hit pieces they write in 2019 about him “dodging the draft.” During the Vietnam War-draft era, anyone who could afford college or to pay the right doctor could avoid the military with student and medical deferments, and many — including Trump, Biden, Cheney, and Clinton — did. Others took a middle road, the George W. Bush’s and Dan Quayle’s (George H.W. Bush’s vice president) who joined domestic National Guard units and got credit for some form of service without the stain of Vietnam on their nice clothing. A handful followed inner warrior-poet drives, and ended up drawing long from that experience — think Oliver Stone and John Kerry.

    But most significantly, about one hundred thousand of Americans left for Canada, breaking the law to avoid service. President Jimmy Carter issued an unconditional blanket pardon to all of those men on his first day in office as a controversial part of healing the divides in America following the Vietnam war. Alongside those hundred thousand men working today as gas station attendants and corporate CEOs, Trump, Biden, Cheney, and Clinton take their places. Indeed, in the end no Vietnam vet (with John McCain and John Kerry at the top of the list) has ever been elected president, and one who dodged the draft was. That’s what context looks like.

    Like hauling forward old yearbook photos from one era past to judge them in the New Light of 2019, Pete Buttigieg is very wrong to compare his service to anyone but his own peers. In that sense, let us remember Obama, Pence, Booker, Harris, Warren, O’Rourke, and the rest chose not to volunteer.

    Meanwhile, 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard did two full tours in the Middle East, one inside Iraq. In 2004, Tulsi volunteered to become the first state official to voluntarily step down from public office to serve in a war zone. One might better compare Tulsi, and Buttigieg, who had the option and chose to serve to others of their own post-Vietnam world like Obama, Booker, Harris, et al, who did not.

    And FWIW, I spent a full year in Iraq, stationed at two Forward Operating Bases.

    So if you wanna measure for size, Pete, the line forms right behind Tulsi…

     

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  • Amash is Wrong, Pelosi (So Far…) is Right on Articles of Impeachment

    May 26, 2019 // 1 Comment

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Democracy, Trump


    Even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tries to put impeachment talk on the back burner within her own party, Justin Amash became the first Republican Congressman to call for it. This weekend on Twitter, as the Founders intended, Amash wrote “Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”

    Amash goes on to say impeachment simply requires “an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.”

    Of course tweets are not Articles of Impeachment to be voted on, Mueller’s Report specifically does not indict Trump for obstruction, the Report does not state the reason for not indicting Trump is because he is president, and the Constitution does not include “careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct” as grounds for impeachment.

    People may not like any of that, but those are the starting and ending points on impeachment and simply repeating an alternate version cannot change things. So this all may be little more than grandstanding by Amash.
    But alongside Amash’s tweets are dozens of similar bleats from politicians and blasts from the media demanding Trump be impeached. Cheerleaders gloat impeachment isn’t a judicial process but a “political” one, their main takeaway being less rigorous standards apply (Amash stated there is no obligation to show even probable cause a crime was committed to impeach, you can just accuse willy-nilly) and somehow that’s a good thing. Many express near-joy the constitutional requirement for impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” isn’t defined in the law so it can be anything a partisan House wants it to be heading into an election. Somehow that’s also a good thing for a democracy they otherwise see under threat.

    What the calls for impeachment show in amplitude they lack in detail, the specifics Trump must be impeached for. You know, like when a case goes to court instead of when one is trying to make headlines? The so-called best versions, as with Amash, simply refer back to Mueller’s own didn’t-reach-indictment non-conclusions and leave it there, as if the Report says something clearly it does not even say obliquely. The worst ramble about the end of democracy, damage to the Constitution, corruption, and cite the libretto from Hamilton as their snappy summation. What they all do, from Amash to Trevor Noah, is rely on assumed agreement with their audience Trump is guilty. Of something.

    The only specific pseudo-justification comes from a sub-group who kinda admits the Mueller “road map” is a bit fuzzy on actual guilt, but who sees impeachment proceedings as some sort of super-investigative process that would take another shot at finding chargeable crimes.

    This strategy becomes clearer when one looks at the real road map: Democrats and the media have been trying to remove Trump from office even before he took office. The Electoral College was going to not vote him in, or the Emoluments Clause or the 25th Amendment would shove him aside. The path forward jelled in early January 2017, even before the inauguration, as strategic leaks from the intelligence community pushed Russiagate to the fore. Trump was a Russian agent, the Manchurian Candidate. The nice folks in the Deep State would investigate, and their Report would segue smoothly into impeachment proceedings just in time for the 2020 election season.

    After the Report showed there was no collusion or conspiracy with the Russkies, the Democrats and media pivoted as one, literally overnight, claiming (failed) obstruction of a Report which cleared Trump of treason, that was the real crime all along. The only problem was the Report did not support obstruction as grounds for impeachment either. So in a wink of an eye, the new plan was for the House to subpoena documents, call witnesses, and conduct a re-investigation into whatever it was Mueller failed to uncover.

    This belief in the investigative magic of the House ignores the vast powers already brought to bear, including the surveillance which proceeded Mueller’s work and provided the fodder for those early perjury traps against Flynn, Papadopoulos, et al. Mueller used the threat of jail time to pressure people into cooperating, in the end producing little actionable material. The House thinking it will find the smoking gun Mueller missed also ignores the entrapment ops the FBI ran against the Trump campaign, which also produced little beyond excuses for more surveillance.

    The Democratic/media actions post-Report — making up their own versions of what Mueller meant to say — beg the question of why not just ask Bob Mueller? The White House is not blocking his testimony, and the House has not subpoenaed him. Still, no testimony is scheduled while “negotiations” take place between Mueller and the Committees. For a nation supposedly in crisis there doesn’t seem to be too much of a rush. The Report has been out for close to two months.

    Or maybe Democrats are not in a hurry to call Mueller because they don’t want to hear him answer why he did not indict anyone new. Maybe Dems don’t want to have Mueller say how early he realized the Steele Dossier was garbage but still kept silent? Maybe Dems don’t want Mueller talking about the origins of the Russia investigation? Maybe the Dems really don’t want Mueller to testify at all. Leave him off-stage, where they can put words into his mouth. Those are sharp questions when the simple answer, just ask Mueller, is replaced by a complex set of subpoenas and judicial challenges under the shadow of impeachment proceedings.
    And with that it is time to take a deep breath and consider what impeachment is really about.

    Impeachment allows Congress to overturn an election. And that is a very, very big deal. The Constitution vests ultimate power in The People. Throwing their choice out via impeachment is in a way the ultimate undemocratic act.

    What impeachment also is not is a midterm check of “fitness.” It is not a constitutional pause for a referendum on how the president is doing. It is not a way to resolve differences of opinion, policy or propriety. The Founders were well aware how parliamentary systems could easily expel leaders with votes of no confidence in such situations, and chose something very different for America. They gave great sanctity to having a president serve his full term. And in our entire history no president has been forced from office.

    Impeachment is also not a way to bypass other investigative tools to allow a partisan House to poke around inside a president’s decisions, pre-election business deals, and personal life, or to amass info short of actual impeachable evidence as campaign dirt on the public dollar.

    This final conception of impeachment, an expedient to get around Trump refusing to comply with various subpoenas, is particularly odious. The claim we are in a constitutional crisis because the White House is contesting document requests, what Nancy Pelosi calls Trump’s “self impeachment,” is nonsense. Contesting subpoenas thought to be too broad or irrelevant is an inherent part of due process and is nothing new or unique to the Trump administration. What would be unique is to open impeachment hearings as a work around to having the courts rule, as they anyways have, on the muscle-tussle between executive and legislative branches.

    The closest the United States ever came to forcing a president out of office was with Richard Nixon in 1974, and much is being made in 2019 that one of the charges against him was obstruction of justice. But the two are very different.

    Nixon’s obstruction had clear underlying crimes behind it, as Republican operatives broke into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate building, and made a similar break in to Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. The latter, often left out of “Watergate” history, was to gather blackmail material or discrediting information to use against the Pentagon Papers’ leaker.

    Amash is playing you with a straw man argument; anyone who went to law school, read the Mueller Report which explains this or Googled obstruction knows an underlying crime is not required. Underlying crimes are not necessary to charge obstruction per se, but their presence indicates the seriousness and depth of what obstruction sought to hide. In the absence of underlying crimes, i.e., in Trump’s case no collusion with Russia, you’re left to wonder what the president would have sought to obstruct the investigation for. Unlike in Nixon’s case, there was nothing for it to find. That raises the question of evil intent, the “why” which is necessary to charge obstruction. If there was no underlying crime why obstruct? The lack of underlying crime also raises the political stakes. The House really thinks it will be supported in trying to impeach the president over a… process crime?

    Nixon’s obstruction took the form of paying cash from a slush fund to the operatives to buy their silence or to have them commit perjury. Nixon sought information from the CIA to use against his enemies. He personally and unambiguously ordered a cover-up. His own White House counsel testified against him. Watergate burglar James McCord stated in writing his testimony, some of which was perjured, was compelled by pressure from the Attorney General. Audio tapes of Nixon actually committing these acts existed. Nixon defied a Supreme Court order to release the tapes, erased some especially discriminated audio “accidentally,” considered destroying the tapes entirely, fired the Special Prosecutor who drove that process, and attempted to seize control of the investigation via a new prosecutor in what has come to be called the Saturday Night Massacre. Now that is what real obstruction, and the evidence to prove it, looks like.

    All of the above preceded actual Articles of Impeachment. By the time the case was moving to the Senate for a decision, there was no need for pundits to speculate on road maps, no need for explainer articles, no dots left to connect, and Nixon was pressed to resign by a bipartisan group. It makes the current situation — a Report which does not charge obstruction, with no underlying crime, serving as the basis for the House to re-investigate those same non-events via a scattershot of subpoenas and testimony — seem silly.

    Nancy Pelosi is right to put the brakes on impeachment. Not because of some political calculation, but because turning the Constitution’s provision for over-turning an election into a hunt for dirt, or as a way around the check and balances of the courts, chips away at the foundation of democracy.

     

    BONUS

    I admire Amash for his principles. So I would very much welcome him laying out reasons for his opinion Trump committed an impeachable offense in obstructing justice, a conclusion Mueller, Barr, and Rosenstein did not reach. All Amash did was send out a couple of tweets. I, too, have read the whole Report, as have many others, and do not see chargeable crimes. So Amash needs to do more than tweet a conclusion because the clarity he sees in the Report text is not shared widely enough to allow him to just say trust me on this.

    Amash in his tweets also criticizing the Attorney General for writing a misleading summary of the Report. This is weak. We now have the Report, and so Barr’s summary two months ago is old, old news. The portions of the Report dealing with obstruction have few substantive retractions, and are apparently clear enough Amash himself has read them and concluded Trump is guilty. So explain why, Justin, and stop distracting with criticism of water passed under the bridge.

    Showing how far down the rabbit hole Derangement Syndrome can take someone, here an author is suggesting Congress arrest Attorney General William Barr for failing to hand over the full Mueller Report, or fine him. And if he doesn’t pay the fine, she suggests Treasury withhold his paycheck. Like someone with that illness that makes you involuntarily shout and curse at people, I really don’t think the people who write these articles understand how silly they look, and how the voters who struggle with healthcare, earning a living, and all that, hold them in contempt for being so out of touch.

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  • Dear Nancy Pelosi:

    May 23, 2019 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     
    This could all be over in an afternoon.

    Nancy Pelosi, subpoena Mueller. Ask him one question: “Why didn’t you indict Trump for obstruction?”
     

    If Mueller says “the evidence was not there,” this is over. Shut up and have the 2020 election.

    If Mueller says “I intended Congress to weigh the evidence via impeachment hearings,” open the hearings that same hour.

     
    For the rest of us, ask yourselves why the Dems ignore the simple resolution above in favor of endless name calling, contempt motions, legal challenges, and a likely Supreme Court fight. Are they afraid of Mueller’s answer?
     
     

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  • A Short History of Impeachment, 2016-2019

    May 22, 2019 // 3 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump

     

    After Mueller failed to deliver a smoking gun on Russia, the media and progressives pivoted to a whole new arena, obstruction. Forget the last two years of Russia-baiting, our bad!

    When Mueller failed to charge Trump with obstruction, they made up a string of explanations: road map, hidden duty call to Congress, he would have except president, etc., none of which Mueller actually made explicit when he could have.

    The Report has been out for two months. Nothing has come of it. Reality stands as no charges filed. About the most noise has come from various Dems announcing this is a constitutional crisis as they try to restock the warehouse of broken impeachment dreams.

    Reminder: It’s been almost three months since Michael Cohen‘s public testimony about Stormy Daniels, much longer since his behind-closed-doors version to Congress. Nothing has come of it. The big flip was a flop.

    Mueller doesn’t want to testify. Maybe he has no interest in people trying to put words into his mouth for partisan purposes under the guise of information gathering. He might just point to the Report as his final word.

    Anyway, no matter, impeachment is the only answer. Delete Trump’s account to save the United States! Trump is Hitler, etc., etc.

    The new meme is the House will need to re-investigate obstruction, delve into taxes and pre-election business, and with Putin gone, dig around looking for something Mueller missed to impeach on. Maybe a perjury trap for Don Jr? Disbar Sekulow? Cohen said Trump under-valued some real estate in the 1980s! Deutsche Bank, that sounds nasty. Fine Bill Barr, no arrest him. Gotta be something.

    That’s called Going Back to Square One.
     
    OK, OK, the taxes. Let Twitter see Trump’s taxes and they’ll find all the crimes the IRS audits have missed. We swear there’s something in the taxes, please let us have just a peak.

    Nancy Pelosi calls this all a cover-up, without any specifics of exactly what the president is covering up. Something. The Mueller Report took two years, is based on FISA surveillance, FBI undercover work, 500 witnesses, more than 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communications records, and 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence. Pretty bad cover-up. Taxes? What crime or action are you accusing Trump of hiding? Pelosi doesn’t know. She’s claiming a cover-up of something she believes must be hidden there, without any evidence anything is there, and without acknowledging the IRS has had the taxes forever and charged nothing. The FBI can get a warrant for the taxes today, if they can show probably cause. Which Pelosi apparently cannot.

    When Trump invokes due process to block that overly-broad process, they claim that is a new form of obstruction and maybe they can impeach on obstruction of investigation into the investigation of obstruction.

    So, a process crime as the basis for overturning the 2016 election three years into Trump’s term. Even impeaching over a blow job seems to make more sense.

    While fretting over the end of the rule of law, Dems signal they might open impeachment hearings as an expedient way of going around the courts’ ruling on the validity of their scattershot subpoenas. The justification is the Supreme Court justices are now partisan hacks who can’t be fair. Blocking Merrick Garland’s appointment was unfair. Also the Senate are partisan hacks who won’t vote against Trump no matter what and that’s not fair. Trump didn’t even win the popular vote. None of this is fair to Dems.
     
    Meanwhile, per a Reuters poll, 57% of Americans think impeachment is preventing the government from addressing other issues of concern, the kitchen table stuff that drives elections.

    The mania over an impeachment process which will end in a political whimper will drive a deep sense of failure within Dem voters. The 24/7 urgency will be paid off with… nothing much. Discouraged voters are not motivated voters, especially if Biden is the best they are offered.

    Someone at the DNC might also ask how this unabashed desire to see blood drawn from someone surnamed Trump will play out with potential 2020 purple voters. It is entirely possible that the electorate is weary and would like to see somebody actually address immigration, health care, and economic inequality now that we’ve settled the Russian question.

      

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  • Write ‘Yer Own Trump Article: The OpEd-o-Matic

    May 18, 2019 // 9 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump


     

    With all the talk of how many jobs have been created during the Trump administration, little attention is paid to one vibrant industry his time in the White House spawned: writing apocalyptic Op-Ed pieces.
     

    You know the ones, articles predicting whatever the news of the day is will be The End of Democracy. Alongside the New York Times and Washington Post, whose Op-Ed pages are pretty much daily End of Days each day, practitioners include chicken little regulars Maddow, Lawrence Tribe, Malcolm Nance, David Corn, Benjamin Wittes, Charles Pierce, Bob Cesca, and Marcy Wheeler.

    You’d have thought after almost three years of wrong predictions (no new wars, no economic collapse, no Russiagate) this industry would have slam shut faster than a Rust Belt union hall. You would have especially thought these kinds of articles would have tapered off with the release of the Mueller Report, but it ended up while Mueller wrote no conspiracy and charged no obstruction, the dang report turns out to be chock-a-block with hidden messages, secret road maps, and voices speaking in tongues (albeit only to Democrats) about obstruction.

    We’ve gone from thinking the president is literally a Russian agent (since 1987, the last year your mom and dad dated!) to worrying the attorney general is trying to obstruct a House committee from investigating a completed investigation into obstruction by writing a summary not everyone liked of a report already released. But the actual content is irrelevant. What matters is there is another crisis to write about! The Op-Ed industry can’t keep up with all the Republic-ending stuff Trump and his henchworld are up to.
     
    Help has arrived. Now anyone can write their own fear mongering article, using this handy tool, the OpEd-o-Matic. The GoFundMe for the AI-driven app version will be up soon, but for now, simply follow these simple steps to punditry!
     
    Start with a terrifying cliche. Here are some to choose from: There is a clear and present danger; Dark clouds gather, the center cannot hold; It is unclear the Republic will survive; Democracy itself is under attack; We face a profound/unique/existential threat/crisis/turning point/test. Also, that “First they came for…” poem is good. Be creative; WaPo calls the present state of things “constitutional nihilism.” Snappy!

    Be philosophical and slightly weary in tone, such as “I am in despair as I have never been before about the future of our experiment in self-rule.” Say you’re sad for the state of the nation. Claim time is short, but there just may be a chance to stop this. Add “…by any means necessary.”

    Then choose a follow-on quote to reinforce the danger, maybe from: The Federalist Papers, especially Madison on tyranny; Lincoln, pretty much anything about “the people, government, test for our great nation, blah blah;” the Jack Nicholson character about not being able to handle the truth; something from the neocons like Bill Kristol or Max Boot who now hate Trump. Start with “even” as in “even arch conservative Jennifer Rubin now says…”
     
    After all that to get the blood up, explain the current bad thing Trump did. Label it “a high crime or misdemeanor if there ever was one.” Use some legally-like words, such as proffer, colorable argument, inter alia, sinecure, duly-authorized, perjurious, and that little law book squiggly thingy (18 USC § 1513.) Be sure to say “no one is above the law,” then a dramatic hyphen, then “even the president.” Law school is overrated; you and Google know as much as anyone about emoluments, perjury, campaign finance regulations, contempt, tax law, subpoenas, obstruction, or whatever the day’s thing is, and it changes a lot. But whatever, the bastard is obviously guilty. Your standard is tabloid-level, so just make it too good to be true.

    Next, find an old Trump tweet where he criticized someone for doing just what he is doing. That never gets old! Reference burning the Reichstag. If the crisis you’re writing about deals with immigration or white supremacy (meh, basically the same thing, amiright?), refer to Kristallnacht.

    Include every bad thing Trump ever did as examples of why whatever you’re talking about must be true. Swing for the fence with lines like “seeks to destroy decades of LGBTQIXYZ progress” or “built concentration camps to murder children.” Cite Trump accepting Putin’s word over the findings of “our” intelligence community, his “very fine people” support for Nazi cosplayers, the magic list of 10,000 lies, how Trump has blood on his hands for endangering the press as the enemy of the people, and how Trump caused the hurricane in Puerto Rico.

    And Nixon. Always bring up Nixon. The context or details don’t matter. In case Wikipedia is down, he was one of the presidents before Trump your grandpa liked for awhile and then didn’t like after Robert Redford showed he was a clear and present danger to Saturday Night Live, or the Saturday Night Massacre, it doesn’t matter, we all agree Nixon. Jeez, Nixon.
     
    Focus on the villain, who must be unhinged, off the rails, over the edge, diseased, out of control, a danger to himself and others, straight-up diagnosed remotely mentally ill, or under Trump/Putin’s spell. Barr is currently the Vader-du-jour. The New York Times characterized him as “The transformation of William Barr from respected establishment lawyer to evil genius outplaying and undermining his old friend Robert Mueller is a Grand Guignol spectacle.” James Comey went as far as describing Trump people as having had their souls eaten by the president. That’s not hyperbole, it’s journalism!

    But also hold out for a hero, the Neo one inside Trumpworld who will rise, flip, or leak to save us. Forget past nominees like the pee tape, Comey, Clapper, Flynn, Page, Papadopoulos, Manafort, Cohen, Mattis, Kelly, Barr, Linda Sarsour (replace with Ilhan Omar,) Avenatti, and Omarosa to focus on McGahn. He’s gonna be the one!

    Then call for everyone else bad to resign, be impeached, go to jail, have their old statues torn down, delete their accounts, be referred to the SDNY, be smited by the 25th Amendment, or have their last election delegitimized by the Night King. Draw your rationale from either the most obscure corner of the Founders’ work (“the rough draft, subsection IIXX of the Articles of Confederation addendum, Spanish language edition, makes clear Trump is unfit for office”) or go broad as in “his oath requires him to uphold the Constitution, which he clearly is not doing.” Like Pelosi, mention how Trump seems unlikely to voluntarily cede power if he loses in 2020.
     
    Cultural references are important. Out of fashion: Godfather memes especially about who is gonna be Fredo, ‘bots, weaponize, Pussy Hats, the Parkland Kids, Putin homophobe themes, incest “jokes” about Ivanka, the phrases the walls are closing in, tick tock, take to the streets, adult in the room, just wait for Mueller Time, and let that sink in. Period. Full Stop.

    Things you can still use: abyss, grifter, crime family, not who we are, follow the money. Also you may make breaking news out of Twitter typos. Stylistically anyone with a Russian-sounding name must be either an oligarch, friend of Putin, or have ties to the Kremlin. Same for anyone who has done business with Trump or used the ATM in the Deutsche Bank lobby in New York. Mention AOC somewhere because every article has to mention AOC somewhere now.

    Finally, your OpEd should end either with this House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler faux Kennedy-esque quote “The choice is simple: We can stand up to this president in defense of the country and the Constitution and the liberty we love, or we can let the moment pass us by. History will judge us for how we face this challenge” or, if you want to go old school, this one from Hillary saying “I really believe that we are in a crisis, a constitutional crisis. We are in a crisis of confidence and a crisis over the rule of law and the institutions that have weathered a lot of problems over so many years. And it is something that, regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum, should give real heartburn to everybody. Because this is a test for our country.”

    Crisis. Test. Judgment of history. Readers love that stuff, because it equates Trump’s dumb tweets with Lincoln pulling the Union together after a literal civil war that killed millions of Americans in brother-to-brother conflict. As long as the rubes believe the world is coming to an end, you might as well make a buck writing about it.
      

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  • Social Media is Not Real Life: A Tale of 2020

    May 16, 2019 // 6 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: 2020, Trump


     
    (I fully support a woman’s right to abortion. The following is about how power works.)
     
    Repubs: We installed two Supreme Court judges, and Ginsberg won’t live forever. We have 2-6 more years to get a third on the court.

    Dems: We cosplay Handmaiden Tale costumes. You can buy them on Amazon. And the rat in the Arthur cartoon is gay, major victory for LGBT rights, yes.

    Repubs: During the Obama terms, we won back 1,000 state seats (including governorships) that have allowed for abortion bans to be enacted in multiple states. At the beginning of Obama’s term, you Dems controlled 59% of state legislatures, while now it’s only 31%, the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. Same for governorships: when Obama took office Dems held 29 governor’s offices and now have only 16, the party’s lowest number since 1920.

    Dems: Obama was the first black president you know.

    Repubs: We passed legislation in Alabama and other states in line with our goals.

    Dems: Didn’t you see Left Twitter erupted over that? Late night tore Alabama apart. Did you see Sam Bee’s fierce rejoinder?

    Repubs: We won important races in Georgia and Florida.

    Dems: We protested on social media how that was unfair.

    Repubs: We held the line on gun control for our base.

    Dems: The Parkland Kids were on the cover of Time magazine in the dentist’s office.

    Repubs: You guys are all about checking boxes — first black this, first openly gay that, and calling those achievements. OK, they are, in a way, but they are often empty in the long run if they don’t produce actual legislative change alongside symbolic change. Obama, in one example, did too much by executive action and altering the ways rules are interpreted inside the bureaucracy. As with DACA, it was all too easily unwound as soon as he left office. Power works in certain ways, under certain systems. In the U.S., getting laws passed means understanding where action resides to get something changed, and securing that seat or office. Dems have for too long relied on the deus ex machina of the Supreme Court to impose from above what is often opposed, or at least not broadly supported, from below. This creates a reverse wave of anxiety, which will find its outlet in events like the election of a guy like Trump.

    Dems: We made same-sex marriage the law of the land whether you pigs like it or not. We’re gonna force open borders, too.

    Repubs: People are anxious over immigration. They worry about jobs, and they worry about societal change being forced on them. They worry the government has no policy on all this, and these things are just left to happen to them.

    Dems: Abolish ICE. Anyone who doesn’t support open borders is a racist fascist hater. We don’t need them in our party.

    Repubs: Trump’s gonna run on his record you know, strong economic growth —

    Dems: Obama did that.

    Repubs: — got the wall, lots of things his supporters like. You’re scaring more voters away than influencing them by prioritizing legislated social change too fast over kitchen table economic issues —

    Dems: Trans rights are human rights, you pig.

    Repubs: — You’re alienating members within your own party with crazy ideological and race hate memes. You’re telling white people they are unwanted. You’re throwing away too many potential voters in swing states.

    Dems: We’re not done fighting over 2016 yet so don’t talk about swing states. Trump is now obstructing the investigation into the last time he obstructed! We’re going to arrest Bill Barr! Just ask AOC!

    Repubs: You let the media choose the face of your party, and so you end up with people who talk and look “right” but accomplish little — Linda Sansour, AOC, Beto, Mayor Pete. There’s a new one all the time. It’s hard to take you seriously.

    Dems: Um, Biden.

      

    BONUS ADVICE

    Dems must create — quickly — a broadly supported, positive agenda, something people can vote for, get excited about, rally around. A negative agenda, essentially destroy Trump or elect whichever old white guy they throw up as the nominee who is not Trump, divides the party and is uninspiring to voters. The certainty Trump is guilty of something (obstruction, tax things, whatever) is not shared across the country, and the clarity of evil the media sees in the Mueller report does not exist for many purple state voters. The Obama lesson (lost on Hillary) was inspire or retire.

    Biden, running on nothing but he’s not Trump, does not inspire. Bernie is Bernie, looking kind of goofy and sounding repetitive when in 2016 he looked fresh and inspiring. The rest are flashes in the pan, media-made K-Pop wanna be’s, or at best immature and reaching too high too soon and should be running for Senate seats.

    The Dems seem to be betting the house on impeachment even as the number of Americans who say Trump should be impeached is at 45%. Some 42% said Trump should not be impeached.

    But at the same time, 57% said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. That 57% included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

    Do Dems really want to bet those odds against the economy? There have been more job openings than job seekers for 13 straight months. Workers without college degrees have seen significant gains in their wages. Productivity growth is up, unusual at this point in an almost decade-long expansion. There are no obvious bubbles in tech, real estate or other industries, and the stock market has mostly recovered from last year, and last week.

    The reality is captured in a NYT headline The Economy That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen. Unemployment is 3.6%, a 50-year low. Average hourly earnings are up 3.2% over last year. Inflation is a low 1.6%.

    The standard drone of the media/Dems Trump would crash the economy, or that any positives only the few, or that gains would not last, or that all credit is due to Obama have proven weak. About as weak as claiming, still, post-Mueller, Trump won because of Russia and still needs to be impeached for, well, something, just wait, we’ll find it.

    But don’t leave out the ultimate Dem kamikaze ticket, where Hillary is called in from the cheap seats at the convention when no vote can chose a winner. Biden slides right into his traditional VP slot beside her. They’ll make a nice couple at Trump’s third and fourth inauguration.

      

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  • Mueller Press Conference?????

    May 14, 2019 // 4 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Trump


     

    Mueller: There was no conspiracy. I’m not charging anyone with obstruction. That’s it, thanks everyone.

    Media: But there was a conspiracy, right? And you meant to charge obstruction, correct?

    Mueller: No, it’s all written down. No and no.

    Media: You meant to create a road map? Intended Congress to unfriend and impeach? See, it’s all in this footnote you wrote, here, on page 86. If you transpose every other letter it spells it out in Latin…

    Mueller: You didn’t read the report, did you?

    Media: Well, no. But we knew what it was SUPPOSED to say, so we made up our own version that ignores the broad conclusions, using selective out-of-context quotes other people told us about. The ending came out more correct that way.
     

    Mueller: I’m leaving, you people are crazy.

    Media: We’d also like to argue about the summary from a couple of weeks ago that doesn’t matter anymore.

    (sound of flask opening, then door slamming as Mueller leaves)

    Media: This is a Constitutional crisis.

    (sound of keys jingling, shiny object seen in foreground)

    Media: Trump’s taxes from 1984!
     
    FADE TO BLACK. VERY DARK BLACK.
      

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  • Democrats Need to Stop Dry Humping the American Dream

    May 13, 2019 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Democracy, Economy, Minimum Wage


     

    Economic inequality could be the signature issue for Democrats, one that speaks to purple voters, progressives, and maybe even some current Trump supporters. But the Dems do not seem to understand this. They need to decide if they are running as a party of governance, or just one of protest.

    On economics, an issue voters reliably care deeply about, Trump’s approval rating is 58%. Rarely is an incumbent defeated under a strong economy. While many factors affecting the economy are long waves, with decisions made one or five administrations ago rippling forward, the reality is the president in office gets the credit on election day. That payoff is due to be collected by Donald Trump. Throw in his tax changes, that he is the only president since the fall of the Soviet Union to not start a new war, and his red-meat-to-the-base wins on immigration and Supreme Court appointments, all coupled with the whimpering end of Russiagate, and you have a candidate with lots to crow about.

    On the other side, “Not Trump” will be enough for the Whole Foods base. But Democrats appear willing to punt too many other votes for lack of a message about what they might do if elected. The recent Politico headline “Biden Goes Light on Policy, Heavy on Emotion” is not good.

    Meanwhile, economic inequality, the disparity at the heart of our nation, is shaping whether America will remain something of a pluralistic democracy, or complete its descent into a modern form of feudalism where 0.01% of Americans effectively control the rest of us. That’s could be a very powerful anti-Trump message.

    Yet the Democrats’ version is erroneously based on economic inequality being a minority POC issue, maybe something to address via reparations or more social justice programs. Dems scold into deep resentment the vast numbers of white midwesterners stuck in poverty (who lean Trump) as too stupid to vote in their own self-interest. They lean on tell-us-what-we-want-to-believe books like Hillbilly Elegy (due out as a Ron Howard film for 2020) to reinforce the concept of meth-addled yokels.

    The Democrats are simultaneously throwing away an issue that resonates with progressives: economic inequality drives the search for scapegoats, the handmaiden of racism and hate. It has to be someone else’s fault I’m not doing well, because “they” get free food from the government or because of immigration policies which take my job away to give to “them.” Reduce economic inequality and you will reduce its societal ills is a very powerful anti-Trump message.

    Using government money to reduce economic inequality goes against the ethos of many. But we have underestimated the societal disruption economic inequality created in America even as we mark a surge in deaths of despair from alcohol, suicide, and opioids, Robert Merry, writing in The American Conservative, calls our time “definitional” and wonders if the polity will hold. While we wait for everyone to lift themselves up by their bootstraps, we are missing what a volatile people we are, and have ceded our darkest tendencies to those who manipulate them for their own gain. We have become too violent and too well-armed and too goaded by social media to let the market sort this out.

    Yet according to a CNN poll, 71% of Americans still rate the nation’s economic conditions favorably. Democrats must explain to Americans while things are not visibly bad on the surface, they are fundamentally not good for about 90% of us. Silliness like “Trump might still crash the market” or “Obama deserves the credit” simply encourage the short-term thinking that drives that CNN poll. Democrats need to explain the long term — the top 0.1% of households now hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%, and it is only getting worse. The share earned by the top 0.01% rose from 0.5% in 1973 to 3.3% in 2010. Something that threatens the financial life of 90% of us is a majority, not minority, problem.

    Economic anxiety, more than what the left imagines as racial or cultural uneasiness, lies deep in the Heartland. Trump spoke to it in 2016 in the guise of promises to bring back coal mining’s glory days, raise tariffs, and slow immigration. Democrats should speak sense to that anxiety. The answer should be infrastructure.

    Bernie Sanders loves infrastructure. Elizabeth Warren wants to rebuild the middle class. Biden’s liked it since he was VP. Infrastructure underlies other candidates’ plans for guaranteed incomes and assured jobs. It’s hard to find anyone against infrastructure. But no one has presented something sweeping, linear, and encompassing enough to reach at economic inequality. This isn’t about jobs per se – unemployment is at a near-50 year low – but about how we live. Earnings for non-management, private-sector workers reached their peak in 1973, the high water mark of the middle class out there in Youngstown and South Bend, left today dry heaving about what’s still called the American Dream.

    The response comes from the last time economic inequality was this bad. America needs a new version of the 1935 Works Progress Administration (WPA) to build roads, bridges, and rail lines. A new WPA to create jobs people can do without significant training (not everyone can learn to code) and which pay living wages with real healthcare. Get echelons of people too used to chronic under-employment used to working for a living again. People working multiple jobs should not need food aid as many do today.

    Almost every community in the United States got a new park, bridge, or school under the WPA, never mind airports, train stations, over 600,000 miles of roads, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Hoover Dam. Upgrading all that after 80 years to improve lives is a powerful message. Fight growing racism and hate with the self-respect work gives. You don’t need to create an enemy if you don’t see yourself as a victim.

    The Democrats flirted with something like this recently, after Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with Trump to “agree” on a $2 trillion infrastructure initiative. But peek behind the curtain and it’s just rhetoric. Despite knowing the House controls the budget, Pelosi almost immediately crossed her arms and declared it is Trump’s job, not hers, to figure out how to pay for it. The whole thing appears to be a cynical ploy to claim “Because Trump” we can’t have nice things.

    Let how to pay for it become part of the Democratic platform. But the message better be more sophisticated than “were gonna tax the rich” because voters have been burned too many times, when “the rich” ended up being themselves paying higher taxes while the benefits fell to those below. The real rich, the 0.01%, seem to always have a loophole. This simplistic message is particularly dangerous in 2020 when many purple voters fear what progressives might do unfettered (Free medical care! No more college loans! A pony for everyone, just look under your seats!)

    The thing is the money is already there, or at least has been when we wanted it to be. The WPA over eight years used about 6.7% of the era’s GDP to pull the nation out of a full-blown depression with some 20% unemployment. Currently the U.S. spends about 3.3% of its GDP on military.

    But we don’t need that much. The U.S. spends $70 billion a year on food aid for 40 million Americans; repurpose some of that into living wages so people can earn their supper. During the last few wars, reconstruction and the building of infrastructure for Iraqis ate up $60.45 billion. The total for the same failures is more than $154 billion in Afghanistan, with the counter still running at about $9 billion a year on such projects. Only the most inane pundit could call such re-appropriation “anti-military” instead of pro-American; no much-needed bridge for you, Middleton, Ohio, we’re gonna build it in Helmand Province instead. The Obama-era American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with its more modest goal of a short-term stimulus not intended to address inequality, spent $105.3 billion on infrastructure. Unemployment is obviously much lower today, and the goal – better jobs to nudge economic inequality – is different. Those numbers would make an accessible start.

    Some 64% of Americans agreed with an earlier Trump proposal to improve U.S. infrastructure (75% support spending federal money to improve infrastructure when the idea was polled without Trump’s name.) Infrastructure spending also has bipartisan support: 78% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats agree with the need for more.

    Democrats must tell voters what they’ll do, instead of just saying one day it may be Not Trump in the White House. Infrastructure has bipartisan support, will reach purple voters and progressives, and address fundamental problems. The impact of the WPA is long, a bright moment in our history when government raised people out of depression. Imagine the power of owning that legacy.

     
     
    BONUS:

    The Gini coefficient is a measurement of the income distribution within a country which shows the gap between the rich and the poor. Zero represents perfect equality (everyone has the same income) and one representing perfect inequality (one person earns the entire country’s income and everyone else has nothing.) A higher Gini coefficient number means greater inequality. America overall (GDP) earns money in the same range as most European nations, but has a Gini number more in line with Russia, China, and chunks of the third world. That is an unique situation globally. Here are some more hard numbers.

     
    This article by Paul Krugman in the NYT goes to great lengths to create the spurious argument it is Republicans who despise the slack jawed yokels even more than the Democrats do.
     
    Matt Bennett of the center-left group Third Way put it clearly “There are things about this economy that are very popular — low unemployment, a lot of jobs, there’s been some real wage increase. We attribute zero of that to good Trump policy. But he will claim credit. What that means is that [Democrats] need a very clear economic narrative that resonates deeply with the voters that we have to win, and we better not be caught up in our own blue bubble world.”

     
     

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  • The Mueller Report, Anti-Climatic Climax Edition

    May 1, 2019 // 7 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump


     

    With the release of the redacted report, #MuellerTime should be over. There was no collusion with Russia. No one is going to indict anyone for obstruction or anything else. Believing there are still more questions than answers at this point means one refuses to accept the answers. Trump is going to serve his full term and voters will decide if he gets another.

    Mueller ended conclusively the three year Russiagate tantrum, and choose not to pursue obstruction via indictment or a direct referral to Congress for action. He could have, but he did not. That should be it.

    But it won’t be. Mueller’s inclusion of dissenting information on obstruction, information that portrays unbecoming conduct by the president which does not rise to the level of evidence of any indictable crime, allows Democrats to decide where to take this next. Mueller has not tossed the ball to a Democratic Congress to play out its Constitutional check and balance role so much as he handed dirt to Democratic politicians to use as they see fit. It’s an odd end for the righteous Robert Mueller, twisting the tools of justice and the state to slander.

    Everything that happened over the last two years was because Democrats, the media, and the FBI falsely conflated Russia’s actions with Trump’s, and then imagined Trump committed serial acts of obstruction to cover up something he never did.

    The Report was issued in two “volumes” of roughly equal length. Volume I focuses on Russian interference in the election. Volume II focuses on obstruction of justice.

     
    Russiagate

    Volume I concludes two important but mutually exclusive things are true: 1) the Russian government, under Obama’s watch, tried to influence the election via social media and by obtaining the Democratic National Committee emails and 2) no American, including members of the Trump team, colluded, cooperated, or coordinated with that effort. The Report (Vol I, p 2) is clear the Trump campaign reacting to or even anticipating released materials was not criminal. Any crime would have required coordinated interaction, not merely two parties, in Mueller’s words, Vol I, p 2 “informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”

    Though the report does not mention it, an analogy might involve the Clinton campaign and the infamous Access Hollywood tape. The campaign may have heard the tape was going to leak, and certainly exploited its release, but that does not create “collusion” (used here as shorthand, not as a legal term, which of course it is not) between Clinton and the leaker.

    The Report also means there is no credibility left to the Steele Dossier or almost all of the reporting on Russiagate. None of the subplots matter outside the Washington-Twitter-New York corridor because they didn’t happen or they did not constitute a crime. Not the Trump Tower meeting, the Moscow Hotel Project, the polling data, the Alfa Bank server, the changed Republican platform on Ukraine, Jeff Sessions meeting Ambassador Kislyak, the meeting in the Seychelles, Dmitry Klokov (not) Putin’s go-between, Cohen (not) in Prague, Manafort (not) meeting Assange, Trump (not) ordering Cohen to lie to Congress. The contacts between Russia and Trump associates were exaggerated, falsely reported or proved to be of no consequence.

    All that should be in the headlines but isn’t, because of a new focus on obstruction of justice.

     
    Obstruction of Justice

    Volume I of the Report deals with actions taken independently by the Russians that had no coordinated connection to Trump’s own actions or decisions. The second half of the Report deals with obstruction of justice, events that happened because there was an investigation into collusion which itself never happened. Obstruction, like a perjury trap, is a process crime, which only exists because an investigation exists. As with most of Mueller’s perjury convictions in this saga, there was no underlying crime.

    And as with collusion, we already know the ending on obstruction. Mueller did not indict because the evidence did not support it. Attorney General Barr, and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, by law the actual intended recipients of the Report, agreed with Mueller. Some of Trump’s actions were lawful or, while troublesome or even immoral, were not criminal. Most significantly, Mueller could not indict on obstruction because it was not possible to determine Trump showed the legally required corrupt intent. All of that precedes any consideration given to DOJ/OLC advice a sitting president cannot be indicted.

    If Mueller had a obstruction case he could have made he would have made it. Mueller could have specifically recommended indictment and made explicit the complex legal issues around presidential obstruction meant a decision was beyond his and the Attorney General’s Constitutional roles and must be addressed by Congress via impeachment or through the Supreme Court. He could have indicted any number of people in Trump’s inner circle, with a sealed indictment against post-White House Trump. He could have said DOJ will not charge a sitting president so I couldn’t indict because of that alone, therefore I explicitly created this road map for impeachment to guide the next step.

    None of that happened. Mueller had no reason to speak in riddles, show restraint, send signals, embed hidden messages or hint at things. Mueller could have swung in any number of ways but instead found reason to leave the bat on his shoulder. Volume II should have ended there.

     
    Dissent

    But it seems obvious from reading the Report stories some of Mueller’s team saw evidence of obstruction which they found “alarming and significant” were true. Barr did a great disservice in omitting at least mention of this from his summary, as it forms the bulk of Volume II and will fuel nearly everything that happens next.

    Despite no indictment, the Report outlines ten instances containing elements of obstructed justice by Trump, with a big suggestion (Vol II, p 8) someone may want to look again. Apparently not everyone on Mueller’s team agreed with the boss’ conclusion the evidence was insufficient, and Mueller chose to allow what is essentially dissent Talmudically contradicting his major Volume II conclusion to be baked into his own work.

    Mueller was tasked with making an unambiguous decision to prosecute or not. He made it, and then included pages of reasons suggesting he might be wrong even as he also found space to say the dissent might also be missing the key element of intent. There is no explanation (save perhaps politics) for this confusing, ambiguous, and jumbled departure from traditional prosecutorial judgment. The final line (Vol II, p 182) reads like a Twilight Zone script: “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Are there prosecutors somewhere in America who do issue specific statements of exoneration when they drop a case?

     
    Firing Comey

    One focus of the dissent is on Trump firing FBI Director James Comey. For this is be obstruction, Trump would have to have fired Comey with the corrupt intent to impede the investigation. The Mueller Report is clear that was not what happened. Despite the public messaging the firing was related to Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email case, the Report shows Trump was angry at Comey for stating to him privately he was not under investigation but refusing to say that publicly, as Comey had done (once) for Hillary. Vol II, p 75 “Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the president’s decision to fire Comey was Comey’s unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation.” That’s not obstruction of justice, it’s presidential rage.

    Yet elsewhere the Report says something more… leading to set up the argument for obstruction post-Comey. Vol II, p 7: “Some of [Trump’s] actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts” but then adds “At the same time, the President’s position as the head of the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses — all of which is relevant to a potential obstruction-of-justice analysis.” It was even clearer elsewhere. Vol II, p 157: “[we] found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations.”

    Mueller’s team concluded Trump lawfully fired Comey, did not break the law in doing so because the intent was not to obstruct, but it was still dirty play, “undue influence,” not a crime but still something that Vol 2, p 2 “presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.”

     
    Trump Post-Comey

    That serves as the introduction to the second argument for obstruction, Trump’s actions post-Comey. Ironically, while Trump was not under investigation when he fired Comey for refusing to say that publicly, Trump was placed under investigation by the FBI (for obstruction) after he fired Comey.

    The Report suggests Trump’s post-Comey actions (broken down into ten episodes) would have constituted obstruction if seen as a pattern of behavior, not as the discrete acts the law focuses on, and if they had included the critical element of corrupt intent. Those “if” words are doing all the work because there was no corrupt intent. Mueller said so.

    So if Trump could not take his obstructive actions to cover up his crimes with Russia because they did not exist to be covered up, i.e., corrupt intent, why did he act in ways that appear designed to disrupt the investigation? Mueller answers the question. Vol 2, p 61 “Evidence indicates that the President was angered by both the existence of the Russia investigation and the public reporting that he was under investigation, which he knew was not true based on Comey’s representations. The President complained to advisers that if people thought Russia helped him with the election, it would detract from what he had accomplished. Other evidence indicates that the President was concerned about the impact of the Russia investigation on his ability to govern. The President complained that the perception that he was under investigation was hurting his ability to conduct foreign relations, particularly with Russia.”

    If you will believe Mueller, Trump was concerned about his ability to govern, about as far from corrupt intent as you can get. At the pre-release press conference, Barr agreed with Mueller’s assessment. Trump knew, and Mueller came to know, that he did not collude with the Russians. To show corrupt intent, Mueller would have had to prove Trump was trying to stymie the process which would clear him. And yes there can be obstruction without an underlying crime but that requires even clearer evidence of corrupt intent, which on its face is counterproductive.

     
    Endgame

    Prosecutors don’t issue road maps for others. They make a binary decision, to charge or drop a case. Not charging is a conclusion and the only one that matters in the end. The Report is not a pretty picture of power being exercised. But Trump did not commit a chargeable crime, and in between some muddled dissent text, Mueller the prosecutor said so by not indicting him.

    Politicians, however, are bound by a different code. They can conduct investigations, hold hearings, and file articles of impeachment whose only purpose is to drag Trump through the Benghazi-like muck. They desperately seek but will never achieve a climax to this desperately anti-climatic Report. The Democrats know they have no chance of impeaching Trump. The question is, by playing at trying, do they think they have a better chance of defeating him in 2020?

     

    BONUS REDACTION-O-RAMA

    For more complete lists of Russiagate stories which were once headlines but are now debunked by the Mueller Report see here and here.

     

    No matter how much guessing about what’s under those black redcation bars may emerge, this will never be the horcrux that defeats the unacceptable 2016 election. Trump is going to serve his full term (for good measure there won’t be any Emoluments Clause prosecution or invocation of the 25th Amendment, either) and the voters under the same Electoral College system that’s been in place for over 200 years will decide if he gets another four years.
     

    At his news conference before releasing the Report, Attorney General Barr said any campaign interaction with WikiLeaks could not amount to a criminal conspiracy because WikiLeaks’ publication of the emails was not a crime so long as it did not help Russia hack them. That is the same standard the United States applied to the New York Times, et al, and Wikileaks for nearly a decade. It is the standard being used publicly against Julian Assange; his indictment focuses on his helping hack classified materials, not publishing them. Anything else impinges the First Amendment.
     

    The redacted information covers a standard four categories generally kept from the public: grand jury details, classified information, material related to ongoing investigations, and passages that could defame third-party figures (i.e., those investigated and cleared) caught up in Mueller’s probe. Demanding those things be made public is a strawman argument by Dems. A judge has already denied a preliminary injunction requiring the Justice Department to release the report. The Justice Department will make a less redacted version of the report, with more information on the pending Roger Stone case, available to a limited number of Congresspeople. Democrats have refused to look at it, demanding the full, unredacted report or nothing.
     
    Transparency in government is always a good thing. But in this instance, Dems motives in demanding the unredacted report are making two statements, neither supported by facts, just rage: Barr has been partisan and unprofessional in making these standard redactions, a coverup, to protect the president, and Mueller has missed something important hidden in the redactions the Dems will catch. In reality, the purpose of seeing the unredacted report, and the underlying data, and the… (there will never be enough) is to provide fodder for leaks Democrats hope will score political points or serve as good-enough excuses to keep the investigations going until the election. Classification and proprietary have the value of a paper bag in the rain to them. Trump, they believe to their core, had to have said or done something at least embarrassing and the Dems wants to see that in the Washington Post. The same thinking, by the way, applies to efforts seeking Trump’s taxes.
     

    And as for the gunman-on-the-grassy-knoll theory that the real evidence is hidden in the redactions, no matter how light they are, much of the obstruction investigation did not involve grand jury testimony. White House officials cooperated with Mueller specifically to avoid grand jury appearances. That means that information from key officials, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, and former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, could be included in the report. The White House did not invoke executive privilege to block the release of any of that information. Asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen at a hearing last week if he would redact information to protect the interests of Trump, Barr said he would not. As for those such redactions, “I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders.” Lastly, Mueller and his team assisted with the redactions and could have pushed back at any point, including leaks. They have not done so.
      

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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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  • Is 2020 Already Decided?

    April 24, 2019 // 27 Comments

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump


     

    Does anyone in the Democratic Party understand the 2020 election is going to hinge on purple voters in a handful of key states? After years of culture warfare the red and blue bases are set. Electoral College, not midterm, math applies. It is easy to predict a close vote deciding the election.

     
    If the Dems have any inkling of all this, then it is unclear why their primary candidates are talking about things like reparations, Mayor Pete’s hubby, why we must have a woman president, that AOC/Omar (D-Late Night) are the future (and maybe they are; all flash and no substance, D-Late Night), how Stacey Adams got cheated and so deserves to be at least a Senator, identity politics, trans- anything or #MuellerPutinTaxGate. While many purple voters do care about LGBT rights and having a woman in the White House, it is less clear they will vote that way when other issues are of concern.
     

    Democrats run a real risk of under-emphasizing the gulf between social media and the real world. If you fell from outer space and only had Twitter to help you understand this election, you would be convinced the electorate is demanding a female, black, left-handed nominee to drive through a legislative agenda centered on banning hate speech. A significant portion of the MSM lives in that world, so disgusted by Trump that some three years into his administration they still cannot accept the idea that people actually voted for him (Esquire’s political columnist adds an asterisk to the word president* to signify the election was bogus.) Post “Trump is literally Hitler ya’all” and thousands will “like” and agree into a self-reinforcing coma. They’re missing that Democrats who do not share political content on Twitter are more likely to identify as moderate or conservative. In fact, early polls suggest gender and race are not decisive factors for Democratic voters. Too few people talking to each other create narrow, and wrong, impressions that may prove fatal for 2020.

    The central Democratic plank — Trump Bad Man — is not what Dems expected it to be at this point in the 2020 campaign. Russiagate collapsed. There will be no obstruction trials, no impeachment hearings on afternoon TV. Trump is still the only president since the end of the Soviet Union who hasn’t yet dragged the country into any new war, and he has toned down some of the pre-existing ones. The economy did not collapse. A trade war did not devastate any place. Trump got 57 miles of the wall paid for, and had the Supreme Court validate his “Muslim Ban.” Trump continues to enjoy strong ratings on the economy and for combatting terrorism, two issues of heightened importance in family-oriented suburbs. The Resistance piffed away, achieving little while its Hollywood heroes molested each other. The Women’s March ate itself over infighting. And all the Dems have to go into Michigan with is “we still haven’t seen his taxes.”

    Dems did take control of the House and have done what… with that power? Pelosi, who has tamped down the impeachment rabble and dropped shade on her angry freshmen, seems to have a better sense of this than most. All purple voters who chose Dem in the midterms been is more empty talk of socialism, demands for less white supremacy, and a need for more investigations. Plus a quickly-failed Green New Deal alongside lots of anti-Israel chatter that can alienate a potential Jewish voting block in battleground Florida. The Dems could have made a decent DACA-for-the-Wall deal, and gone into 2020 with a popular victory for some of the most vulnerable immigrants. Instead they got just the wall, and watched Trump declare a national emergency over their dead body to get it. At the same time, what Obama recently labeled a “circular firing squad” haunts the party, with the guns aimed right now at Joe “I’m Your Handy Man” Biden. Who is pure enough? Let’s ask Al Franken!

    House Democrats pushing for the release of the Mueller report say they are oddly not hearing much interest on the subject from their constituents back home. “The vast majority of what I hear is about kitchen-table issues,” a Michigan representative said. Because while the Dems may not have much to offer up, the voters indeed have their own lists.

     

    People are anxious over immigration, and many uncomfortable with Trump’s actions. But unless the Dems come up with specific answers to that anxiety they will punt away the issue. There is no doubt communities across the midwest and elsewhere have been dramatically affected by immigration. Some for the better, some less so. Cultural values have been challenged without anyone seeming to care. It is not a new story in America, but it does matter, because purple voters understand the impact on their communities and they see it daily. They are well-aware the New York Times pundit’s  great-grandfather came over from Poland with five dollars in his pocket, hell, their grandfather came over from Poland with two dollars in his pocket. Even if the media won’t ask the hard follow up questions, they’ll still exist in voters’ minds.

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is traveling here and there announcing she is today “ashamed” of immigration positions she supported just a few years ago, solid Trumpian things from blocking certain benefits for undocumented immigrants to establishing English as an official language. She proclaims her 180 degree change of view hoping to win the primary so she can downplay in the general election how she proclaimed her 180 degree change of view. It is unlikely purple voters will see this as the serious leadership on immigration issues they crave.

    Multiple candidates say they will abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE. Every country on earth controls its own borders in some fashion. So abolish ICE. And then?

    Purple voters don’t live in the multicultural holiday camp of Brooklyn, and know it is not 1900 anymore with an economy demanding millions of new farmers and manual laborers. They understand not everyone agrees, but also know you can’t tell groups of people what they believe is just wrong, racist, and un-American, at least not and expect their votes. Dems tried and failed to enact gun control legislation by saying people who owned a hunting rifle in Iowa were complicit in killing children in Florida. Nobody wants to see kids in cages. But “We’re not Trump” by itself only goes so far.

     

    Claiming the economy is in shambles is also a bad strategy when it plainly is not. It makes Dems look out of touch. The economy is doing very well for the band of purple voters who have 401ks; the DOW was at 18,000 when Trump took office and it’s above 26,000 now. Yes, yes, Obama helped but that’s not how credit gets apportioned on the ballot. You don’t have to agree with them or even understand it fully, but many are convinced they accept food stamps because they have to while other people accept them because they are lazy. It’s not about jobs, it’s about good jobs somehow still isn’t the message. Got infrastructure plans? Less well-off purple voters understand economic inequality at a gut level; most Dems sell it as a minority problem pandering for black support and forget many of those purple voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are poor and very white.

    Many voters know there is no such thing as a mass of POC as white Dems imagine it. This is a false construct Dems are wasting energy on. There is, in just one example, a real cleavage between established later-generation Hispanics and new arrivals (55% of Hispanics believe immigrants’ illegal crossing of the border with Mexico is an important problem. Some 97% of foreign-born Hispanics in America identify as Hispanic, while only 50% of fourth-generation or higher Hispanics do.) Few Asians outside of social media traps imagine they have much in common with urban blacks. Every Asian immigrant, for example, expects his kids to live in the suburbs someday. He’s too busy with three jobs to spend time complaining about how unfair things are.

     

    People need help with healthcare. But at some point Medicare for All has to move beyond a tweeted slogan and explain how the government will simply do away with the multi-billion dollar private insurance business, force doctors to change how and how much they are paid, explain how to legislate drug prices, and institute price controls for all medical services to keep the system from going broke (you need all those parts, that’s how it works in other countries.) And of course, explain how to pass the legislation and then fund all this. “We’ll tax rich people” makes as much sense as “We’ll ask Beyonce to set up a really big GoFundMe.” “Check my web page for the details” is not going to be 2020’s killer debate line.

    In 2016, both Sanders and Trump stood out from other candidates for their willingness to frame the campaign as an existential struggle, using terms like “revolution” and “movement” to drive home their anti-establishment credentials. With Democrats now seeking to redefine themselves after more than two decades of dominance by the Clintons, such terms have become the norm. Purple voters may easily see such words as code for too-left, too-progressive ideological politics they are wary of backing.

     

    While the effect on purple voters is unclear at present, “Whither Bernie” looms large. The 2016 Bernie never imagined he’d do much more than use the primary to air his signature issues of healthcare and economic reform. That’s why in the beginning he didn’t run against Hillary so much as alongside her, always gentle on her tender spots like those damn emails. But his message about Wall Street excesses and income inequality resonated. Bernie 2020 starts with a large block of serious supporters and some good ideas. But it is very hard to see how a guy five years older than Trump who talks about socialism is going to fare. Last time around the Dems buried Sanders in a rigged primary and lost many of his supporters. It is unclear how the eventual Democratic nominee (you don’t really think the DNC will run an independent old man with no corporate love, do you?) will handle him this time around to try and retain those voters. It is also unclear how many voters will be hesitant to back Bernie, wondering in the end which other candidate they’ll be traded to this time.

     

    It’s a primary, so candidates think they are talking mostly among friends to the Base. But in a 24/7 always-on world statements now are amplified and will be remembered. This is an old story for Republicans, who in the past used to say crazy racist things to small rural groups to win primary votes, and then try to clean up their act back in town.  The old “must do X to get nominated and then renounce X to get elected” paradigm doesn’t work anymore.

    A good example is Mayor Pete, who has made a little set piece out of calling out Mike Pence. Pete recently said “If you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is with my creator.” Who is Pete talking to here? Homophobes are not going to change their minds, and evangelicals are not going to be brought over by being told their reading of God’s word is wrong. Nope, Pete is pandering to a small segment of the Democratic base focused on LGBT issues. Once upon a time that was a workable strategy, different approaches for different audiences. But not today. How is his approach going to play to purple voters worried about a broad range of pocketbook issues? If Mayor Pete, who so desperately wants to be this year’s Plain Spoken Warrior Poet from the Heartland, ends up in front of possible Trump voters in Ohio explaining he won’t be The Gay President, he’ll lose. Ask around; how’d that I’m going to be The Woman President thing work out in 2016?

    So here it is: Democrats, if you want a better chance at winning in 2020 instead of just congratulating yourselves you were right while recounting the popular vote, tone down the Trump hate. Stop emphasizing identity politics. Have specific plans to offer on immigration, infrastructure, and healthcare. Talk about economic inequality more broadly, and STFU about socialism. Be very careful what you feed the base in the primaries lest you have to walk it back in the general election. Pay more attention to real life purple voters and less to social media. Get your angry freshman women off and your candidates on the front pages. Resolve your Bernie problem well. Stop alienating the very voters who can push you to victory.

     

    At this early stage, Joe Biden (age 76 to Trump’s 72, lost twice) and Bernie (lost once, age 77) seem like the best the Democrats have and that’s pretty sad. It’s still very early days, but we’re watching Dems set the stage to blow it.

     
     

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