Archives for: January 2017

It’s Gorsuch

Well, it was done like an Apprentice finale, but we finally got Trump’s nominee to replace Scalia: Neil Gorsuch. So far, the conservative wing is extremely pleased. Gorsuch is a textualist, an independent thinker and a good writer. He clerked for Kennedy. He’s another member of the Harvard-Yale axis, unfortunately. I will have to read up more but my initial impression is that this is a solid nomination by Trump.

I thought that the GOP should have considered Garland. And I think the Senate should move forward on Gorsuch. Grill him. Vet him. Question his rulings and opinions. That’s their job. But if he’s qualified and has not serious issues, he should be our next Supreme Court justice. I expect the Democrats to put up a bit of a fight but, as he’s replacing Scalia, it will probably not be too bad. If they’re smart, they’ll save it for if/when Trump has to replace a liberal or moderate.

Trump Fires Yates

A few thoughts on Trump firing Sally Yates, the acting AG.

First, he is well within his rights to do so. The Attorney General answers to the President and, if she won’t obey his instructions, should resign. I have frequently defended politicians who are criticized for legal arguments they made while attorneys general, pointing out that arguing the state’s position is their job, whether they agree with it or not. If Yates didn’t want to defend Trump’s EO, she should have resigned, as Elliott Richardson once did.

That having been said, his statement on the matter is a bit odd, referring to her “betrayal” and trying to argue for the policy. This is politics, not some personality cult. We had enough of that nonsense with the last President. But I guess we’re going to have to get used to these Trump temper tantrums.

Finally, if there is one candidate I hope can be scuttled, it’s Jeff Sessions.

President Clusterfrack

I said this in the comments on my last post, but wanted to put it above the fold. This is from Charles Cooke on the refugee ban:

The way that this was rolled out showed a staggering incompetence by the Administration. According to detailed reports, this was crafted by Rudy Giuliani as a way to get a Muslim ban through the side door. It was put out without vetting by the Office of Legal Counsel or the Department of Homeland Security (according to DHS, they were literally discussing on the phone when Trump signed the order). I know there are those of you who will say, “Good! Fuck the bureaucrats!” But those bureaucrats exist for a reason: to prevent screwups like this; to execute the President’s orders within the bounds of the law and the Constitution. The initial order exempted green card holders, but racist conspiracy-theorist Steve Bannon and Trump confidant Steve Miller overrode that. It was rolled out on a Friday with minimal instructions given to customs agents.

As a result, there was total chaos. Border agents had no idea what they were supposed to be doing and were detaining people at random, trying to pressure them into surrendering their green cards and asking them questions about politics. People in transit — including children, people visiting sick relatives, PhD students, volunteers who helped us in Iraq — were suddenly thrown into an unknown situation. Airports erupted in protests and confusion. There are even reports of federal agents refusing to comply with the court order to cease or the later DHS Secretary’s order to let in green card holders.

The engine of state is vast and complicated. You can’t just issue executive orders like you’re playing an online Be The President game. Our federal agents and agencies need what the hell they are supposed to be doing. Citizens, permanents residents and immigrants need to know what the rules are, not have the rug jerked out from them when they get off of a plane.

Had Trump said something like this: “One week from now, we will temporarily stop immigration from the seven countries that Obama designated as problems. Green card holders, dual citizens and those in transit will be allowed in. After we review our vetting procedures, we will consider whether or not to lift the ban,” people would have opposed it. But there would not have been the chaotic angry scene we saw this weekend.

(Trump is on Twitter saying that if he’d done this, a bunch of “bad hombres” would have rushed to get in under the ban. This is a monumentally ignorant thing to say. It is a very long and time-consuming process to get visas from those countries — to say nothing of booking travel. You can’t do it in a week. This a fantasy concocted to give post facto justification to his incompetence.)

Trump’s first week has been marred by these kind of unforced errors. And it may get worse, with him having elevated Bannon to the NSC in place of the DNI and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Is this what we elected? Is this what we want? Chaos, protests and confusion? A President who rules by executive orders put together by crackpots? Four (or God help us eight) years of blunders, mistakes and Constitutional violations?

Maybe some people want that. But don’t call it conservatism.

Someone got it…

I bet you in the future, that’s exactly how they will react to these tantrums..

The Wheat from the Chaff

Trump has been in office for one week, but it’s an eventful one. Before I get into the heavy stuff, I wanted to take a second to note that, on occasion, we all need to take a deep breath. Yes, some of the things he’s already done are misguided and some of his proposals are poor. He’s showing an alarming egotism and disregard for existing institutions, the law and the Constitution.

But … we’ve got 1460 days of this (at least). It’s important to figure out what to be alarmed by and what not to be alarmed by. Ken White has a great post on this, pointing out that the media and the American people have a tendency to react to stories of government abuse as though they are unprecedented, mainly because they weren’t paying attention while a President they liked was the in the Oval Office.

The urge to indulge in this habit under the thoroughly loathsome Trump Administration is overpowering. Trump and his underlings are scornful of rights and openly fantasize about abusing them. They require dedicated scrutiny. But not every ugly thing that happens now is the result of a Trumpism. Take, for instance, the concern about members of the press being arrested at anti-Trump protests. We should absolutely be vigilant for signs of the criminal justice system being abused to suppress the press and dissent. But cops have always indiscriminately arrested people at protests — including journalists — and falsified masses of improbable riot or assault or obstruction charges afterwards. Reporters have been charged plenty of times before. Sometimes it’s a reflection of law enforcement’s indiscriminate approach to arrests at protests and sometimes it’s a reflection of entrenched law enforcement hostility to press scrutiny. Is the latest incident actually a change — or is the press just noticing because this time they got caught up in it, and they are primed to expect tyranny?

Examples are legion, and not just in the criminal justice arena. Every day you’ll see old policies being cited as new Trump atrocities. Before it happened to Obama, and Bush, and so on ad infinitum.

I’ve decided to impose a 12-hour moratorium on tweeting or blogging any Trump outrage (unless it is something said or done by Trump or his surrogates). Because we’ve developed a huge problem with identifying real Trump outrages from phony ones. Just a few examples

  • Last week, the internet erupted because Trump had “scrubbed” pages from the White House website on climate change and LGBT rights. But it turned out that this was not unusual. When Trump assumed office, all of Obama’s web pages were moved to a new site and the only pages that went up were ones Trump’s team had put together. You could complain that this means LGBT rights and climate change are not priorities with Trump (which we already knew). But saying they’d been “scrubbed” was ignorant.
  • A day later, the internet erupted because Trump had declared his inauguration day a “National Day Of Patriotic Devotion”. This was creepy, but … Obama declared his to be a “National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation”. So this was ultimately much ado about nothing.
  • Yesterday, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced the “Doomsday Clock” to 2.5 minutes to midnight. This is utterly meaningless.
  • Yesterday, the internet also erupted because several senior State Department staff resigned. This is a bit alarming because Trump has not filled almost all the senior positions at State (and even the most ardent small-government conservative would admit that foreign relations are the Federal Government’s job). But, as Alex noted, the resignations were not unusual or unprecedented. In fact, most senior government officials resign when a new Administration takes office. Some are just held on for continuity.
  • There’s been a bit of hubbub over the Administration telling government scientists not to communicate with the public. It’s not clear how common this is or how extensive. I am very concerned that the Administration may be politicizing science. But this is not unprecedented — the previous Administration was more than happy to indulge in pseudo-scientific trafficking “studies”. For the moment, I am holding back on a full-scale blast until it’s clear what’s going on.

The problem with these pseudo- or semi-controversies is that they obscure really bad stuff the Administration is actually doing that is not in question at all. To wit:

  • Issuing an executive order last week that has HHS grant more waivers to insurance mandates under Obamacare. That may sounds good. But since insurance companies are still forbidden from blocking insurance due to pre-existing conditions, this is only going to enhance the insurance death spiral.
  • Wallowing in conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Trump is obsessed with his popularity and is now proposing a massive investigation into mythical millions of illegal aliens voting. If masses of illegal aliens voted in 2016, they were just as skilled as the mythical Russian hackers who supposedly stole the election for Trump. They somehow disguised themselves as well-established demographic trends, voted Republican down-ballot and concentrated all their power in California, which Clinton was going to win anyway. This fantasy of Trump’s ends in one place: a national ID card and national voter database.
  • Reopening CIA black sites and resuming torture. This was one of my biggest breaks with the Republican Party and remains so. The black sites create a space where torturers can operate outside of the law, outside of the Geneva convention and outside of the rules of war. And the CIA’s record in defense of their program — destroying evidence, lying to Congress, spying on Congress — is a huge black mark against them. Trump has decreed that torture “absolutely” works despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And whether it works or not, it is a violation of the law, our treaty obligations and basic human decency. He’s talking as though to defeat ISIS, we need to become ISIS.
  • Trump, a supposed Culture War moderate, restored the gag order that prevents NGO’s from getting money if they perform abortions or even counsel women about abortions. But he extended it further to all international health organizations, not just those involved with family planning. Organizations fighting HIV/AIDS could see their funding cut if they even mention abortion. (To be fair, this reeks of that Culture War dunderhead Pence. But Trump signed it, probably not knowing what he was signing.) This seemingly innocuous move could kill thousands, even potentially undoing Bush 43’s greatest legacy: the tremendous progress made in fighting AIDS in Africa.
  • Trump, as promised, banned immigration from several Muslim countries, including countries where we created the refugee crisis and applying even to people who helped us and are now at risk of retaliation. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, the ban does not apply to countries where Trump has business interests.
  • He continued to make false claims about surging crime, saying DC and Philadelphia are experiencing huge surges in murder (they aren’t). He also threatened to send in the feds to deal with Chicago, which really is seeing a surge of violence. But as Radley Balko pointed out, the Feds already did look into Chicago and concluded that the policing culture, which includes such “politically correct” things as black sites, beatings, smashed dash cams and cover-ups, is the biggest problem.
  • Trump cancelled TPP, to the delight of China and the despair of the people who would have benefitted. And he’s now supporting a “border adjustment tax” that will spike the cost of consumer goods. Yesterday, it was touted as the way Mexico will pay for his stupid wall although it does not such thing. And his angry tweeting about Mexico caused the Mexican President to cancel a meeting — not a good thing for our third biggest trading partner.

Since I wrote the above, I’ve been trying to think of anything good Trump has done in the first week. He froze regulations, which is sorta good but there are few on things like airline safety that we kind of need. He froze government hiring, which is fine. He removed the ban on the Keystone Pipeline, which is fine, but not nearly the economic stimulus he thinks it will be. That’s pretty much it and all stuff we could have gotten out of a generic Republican sans the bullshit.

Look, there are bunch of you that support Trump. I get that. But you can’t claim that a man who wants political control of science, torture, baseless investigations into supposed voter fraud, hard restraints on immigration, a global gag order on abortion and a thousand other policies that clamp down on us is, in any way, a supporter of freedom or the Constitution. I said before the election that Trump had the makings of a thug. We’re only a week in but I’ve seen nothing to make me reassess that opinion.

Thanks for disappointing me douchebags!

I was cautiously optimistic that the fake news media was finally delivering some good news when I encountered a WaPo article titled The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned. I read the leading paragraph:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

Needless to say I was fist-pumping and downright ecstatic that what probably amounts to one of the most ineptly staffed and politicized US government agencies was shedding useless dreck, and that it was all happening without Trump needing to tell someone to show these people their walking papers. I was hoping more of these useless collectivist credentialed dead weights would follow suit and also walk. Things could only get better. I am sure my coworkers thought I had gone bananas when I let out a guffaw and followed it up with a load “MOAR PLEASE!”. I had a bounce in my step and was feeling awesome most of the day until I ran into this:

Fake News Again

Way to let me down people. I actually hope more people take after these idiots that did the American people a favor by leaving, not just at state, but across the board (high hopes for those at the DOJ and the IRS). It will be a great thing for this country to get rid of these leftist nanny stater shitbags. They are honestly doing the country a favor by quitting.

Of course, the leftists, as this WaPo piece clearly shows, are acting as if this is something catastrophic. In their minds – for some explainable reason – these credentialed elite never-do-wells somehow are important, even thought they fuck up everything constantly, and Armageddon is sure to follow if they are no longer there to fuck things up. Talk about really not getting what is happening. I can hope that the ones that are left stayed more because they are happy the nearly a decade of nutty shit is over, but with my luck these are just the smarter people there (not really a compliment either), and thus, unwilling to risk their cushy government teat sucking job. They are at least bright enough to admit odds are high that they couldn’t do any other kind of work except in academia (that is a derogatory comment for the slow people here).

What’s obviously missing in this story: again?

Well, a few weeks ago it was some Hillary Clinton voters expressing their anger at the election of Trump to the office of the POTUS, by torturing a mentally challenged white teenager and live streaming it on Facebook. The horrific attack caused furor because it came at a time that the DNC operatives with bylines were desperate to create the illusion that America was under attack from the racists, misogynists, and other assorted evil people that the left want you to believe is the only reason Trump could beat crooked Hillary. They danced around what happened for a while, and we then spent days after with people actually telling us why 4 black teenagers brutally abusing a handicapped white kid while screaming “Fuck White People” and “Fuck Trump” didn’t amount to a hate crime or racism. The story disappeared from the news soon after that, obviously because it wasn’t the narrative these douchebags wanted to tell.

It looks like we have more of the same. Facebook was again used to stream the live rape of a Swedish woman bu three men for whom we never get a description. Trained like I am to pick up on these queues after decades of our DNC operatives with bylines doing the same when reporting on criminal or bad behaviors by the left, it became immediately obvious that the lack of details about the perps could only mean that there was another concerted effort to hide misbehavior by a group the left knows is trouble but would like to prevent us from knowing so. My first guess was that the lack of detail probably comes from pressure from the authorities not to divulge details that would embarrass the leadership cast or fear of retribution from the authorities. After all, in Europe, saying things that are not permitted, even when they are true, can and has landed people not just in trouble with the authorities, but behind bars. I did some digging, and in the comment section of this article dealing with the issue, it looks like someone has confirmed my suspicions. I expect them to end up paying for revealing information that the elites in Brussels have told the powers that be is taboo. All because the truth reflects horribly on them and what they are doing to the annoying and ungrateful serfs they are caring so hard for.

Keep it up you people. The more of this we see the more people will realize that the credentialed elite class should no longer be allowed near the leavers of power. Anyone willing to put their citizens in definite harm’s way in the name of an ideological vision and ideal, deserves the boot. I hope the Swedes go all Viking on the people doing this to their country.

Bizzaro World

So Trump’s inauguration was on Friday. It was obvious that the inauguration — while well-attended — was not as well-attended as Obama’s. There were visible open spaces on the mall, MTA ridership was down and ballpark estimates were low. 250,000 tickets were sent out but it looks like the total crowd was in about the half million range or a bit below. This would be massively less than Obama’s crowds, but close to what Bush drew. Estimates will come out soon (the Park Service no longer make estimates after Louis Farrakhan threw a fit over his “million man march” drawing “only” 400,000 people.)

For some reason, Trump and his supporters got in a tizzy over the low attendance numbers though. There were a number of arguments that could be made in Trump’s favor: the weather wasn’t great; Trump’s supporters are more working class; DC is a very heavily Democratic town; there’s less of a cult following of Trump; etc. But instead of doing that, Trump decided to go with an outright brassbound cringingly obvious lie:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer came to the briefing room Saturday to chastise journalists for their coverage of attendance at President Trump’s inauguration before leaving the briefing room without taking any questions.

..

“Inaccurate numbers involving crowd size were also tweeted,” Spicer said, his voice escalating in volume. “No one had numbers…because the National Park Service does not put any out.” He said the same applied to “any attempt to count the protesters today,” referring to the Women’s March on Washington that packed the National Mall area.

Despite the lack of numbers he cited, Spicer went on to assert “this was the largest audience to ever witness the inauguration period both in person and around the globe.”

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer said. He described what he considered unfair visuals from the event: “This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the mall…That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”

Later, Spicer blasted the reporting as “shameful” and “wrong,” calling them “attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration.”

Spicer cited false MTA ridership figures, made false claims about floor coverings (which were used in past inaugurations), blasted the media and then stomped out. You have to watch it to get the full flavor. He was angry. It reminded me of nothing so much as Bill Clinton wagging his finger at us and insisting he’d never touched Monica.

(Spicer also blasted Time for incorrectly reporting that MLK’s bust has been removed from the Oval Office. The reporter in question realized within hours that his view was obstructed and apologized for the error. Spicer accepted the apology on Twitter, then went out and had a hissy fit about it anyway.)

Look, I’m used to politicians lying. But never this blatantly, this stupidly or this angrily. It’s usually stuff like claiming small decreases in spending growth are “draconian cuts” that they’re the most transparent administration ever. It’s usually stuff they can weasel around. But this was an obvious lie, a ridiculous lie, the kind you would have expected for Baghdad Bob.

There’s a lot of theories floating around. Some people think Trump is gaslighting the country — trying to lie so much about little things that his lies about big things will be swallowed. Some people think he’s trying to distract attention away from other things (although the number of dumb Trump lies and dumb Trump scandals is so high, they’re guaranteed to overlap). I never ascribe to conspiracy, however, what can be ascribed to incompetence. Trump is just a dumb, venal, conceited man who desperately wants to think he is beloved and worshipped. Hence the hilarious claims that he won the election in the biggest landslide in history. Hence the bizarre claims that his approval numbers are rigged. Hence the surreal sight of a press secretary screaming at the press that a million and a half people attending the inauguration, apparently mostly disguised as empty reviewing stands. He desperately wants our admiration and worship, the two things he will never get. Because even if his Presidency goes exceedingly well … he’ll still be Donald Trump. He’s never going to be Reagan or even Bush 41. The most he can aspire to be is a low-rent Bill Clinton, a President we can say did a good job but was still a horse’s ass.

There is one real concern here, however. If the Trump Administration gets a reputation for dishonesty, it could create problems in foreign relations. If we need to reassure China that we have no intention of recognizing Taiwan, they need to believe that. If we have to mitigate a conflict between India and Pakistan, both sides have to trust us. If we tell the world that Iran has restarted its nuclear program, they can’t think we’re full of shit.

This reflexive flagrant dishonesty is going to bite us in the ass down the road.

Update: This nails it:

Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.

Sean Spicer is blowing credibility on an issue that means absolutely nothing. What’s he going to do when we’re on the brink of a war or something?