Category: Politics

OK, that was actually a good move

Everyone here knows that I have very little love for Ryan these dahys, but when he does something right, I will give him his props. From the article:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday persuaded Republicans to postpone votes on bringing back legislative earmarks until 2017 after reminding members of President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington.

House Republicans were set to hold a secret ballot on changes to their internal conference rules that would have allowed lawmakers to direct spending to projects in their districts under certain circumstances.

Based on what lawmakers were saying in the meeting, “it was likely that an earmark amendment would have passed,” according to a source in the room.
“Ultimately, the Speaker stepped in and urged that we not make this decision today,” the source said.

Behind former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republicans banned earmarks after winning the House in 2010 and have stuck by that policy despite grumbling from both sides of the aisle.

I am glad Ryan put an end to this terrible, terrible idea, and very impressed he did it for the right reason. I am really, really angry that the republican establishment douche-bags thinks it is time to bring back pork barrel spending now that they are in the majority. WTF, have you not glommed that the fact so many people voted for Trump was precisely this sort of statist waste, you fucking idiots?

With the GOP now set to control both Congress and the White House next year, some Republicans are agitating for change.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Tom Rooney of Florida filed an amendment to GOP rules that would ease the earmark ban by creating a new process for targeted spending.

A separate proposal by Rooney that focused more narrowly on Army Corps of Engineers projects appeared to have the votes to pass on Wednesday, several lawmakers said.

Not only no, but hell no. As was pointed out before: no matter how good the original intention of the idea – and I am not saying these people have good intentions at all, and suspect they are teeing this up this way precisely because they can get the votes from others that actually in this one case see this as a good move – it will end up abused.

Short cuts even for what some might believe to be good things, just leaves the door open for others that later come along, to do bad things, as a lot of liberals, driven psychotic because Trump inherited the government machine they just spent the last 8 years weaponizing to force thing their way, are now realizing.

Mo earmarking. Despite all the arguments that it is needed to make some thing move faster, this idiotic practice is all but guaranteed to devolve back into what it was: a machine to allow those that use that practice to collect campaign money by pushing for pork barrel spending at the tax payers expense.

Here is some advice Mr. Ryan: never let this shit come back under the “Drain the swamp” administration. if you do, I am going to assume you did that because you wanted to sabotage this move to defang the establishment.

The Trump Follies

I don’t know if you heard about this. But our nation is in horrifying crisis right now. Earlier this week, Donald Trump … and I can hardly believe I’m writing these words about a President-elect … last night, Trump ditched the media pool so he could enjoy a steak dinner.

Wait, what?! Seriously?

Look, I’m a big believer in transparency and they way Trump attacks the media makes me nervous. But .. this is really a non-story. Maybe if the press spent more time checking politicians’ claims and investigating their corruption and less time finding out how they wanted their steak cooked (Trump apparently likes his well-done. You know who else liked his steaks well done?), we’d have more trust of the media and a better government.

Ben Shapiro, who was driven out of Breitbart and been the target of vicious anti-semitism, has a great piece up deflating a bit of the hysteria currently surrounding the Trump campaign.

This week, the media have gone nuts over the appointment of Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon for White House Chief Strategist. I share their disapproval, but the allegations they’ve made about Bannon are unsupported by evidence. It’s not enough to say that Steve is a nasty human being (he is), that he’s interested in burning down Republican leadership for his own political gain (he is), that he wants to hollow out the traditional constitutional conservative movement in favor of a European-style far-right nationalist populism (he does), or that he pandered to the despicable alt-right at Breitbart News and mainstreamed them by doing so (he did). No, they have to claim that he’s Goebbels. They claim that he’s personally anti-Semitic and racist and a white nationalist and anti-Israel, without evidence.

This is ridiculous. And all it does is provoke defense from the right. For God’s sake, I’m now defending Steve Bannon! The media can’t stop their overreach, because everybody on the right is Hitler to the media, which means that Bannon must be Super-Duper-Hitler.

Considering the history here, this is admirable intellectual honesty from Shapiro. I share his dislike of Bannon and his having any role in a Presidential Administration. But do we need to pretend that the promotion of an Alt-Right asshole heralds a Fourth Reich? Is Bannon not bad enough just being what he is?

Even as a NeverTrumper, this all seems to be a bit hysterical. I made this comment yesterday on OTB:

I do think there is a problem with distinguishing between the very real dangers of a Trump Administration and the not-so-real dangers. Right now, we are being fed a broth of random floating fears (many of which could be applied to any Republican) rather than focusing on what specifically is dangerous about Trump.

Example: One of the things I’ve been hearing a lot over the last week is that marriage equality might be in danger. I understand the fear (to the extent that I can, being straight). But there are many things that have to happen in order for that to be in danger. The Courts are not going to want to revisit it any time soon (they revisit abortion, a much more contentious issue, maybe once a decade). The GOP has little interest in it anymore. So, yeah, I get it that people are nervous. But it’s really low on the list of things we should be worrying about right now. We need to focus on things like civil liberties, the budget deficit and the dangers to illegal immigrants, things that could become critical issues immediately.

This week, there have been numerous anti-Trump demonstrations on my campus. But they often seem to be protesting generic Republican stuff (abortion, immigration, spending cuts) rather than stuff that is specifically alarming about Trump (temperament, disregard for the Constitutional process, the Alt-Right).

Look, everyone needs to take a deep breath here. Donald Trump is going to be President for four years. Let’s not exhaust ourselves by obsessing over random names floated as potential cabinet members, steak dinners and hypothetical policies. If Trump does bad things — and I’ve never seen a President who didn’t — we need to fight him then, not burn up our energy now. Any fight for freedom — whether it’s lower government spending or civil liberties or marriage equality or whatever — is a marathon not a sprint.

Being worried is good. But being prepared is better. Look at what the ACLU is doing right now. They’re not suing Trump over vague rumors of policy. They’re husbanding their resources, raising funds, marshalling lawyers. That way, if Trump does something to violate civil liberties, they’ll be able to unleash a full arsenal of legal and political challenges. Look at Rand Paul. He’s open to working with Trump but has also made it clear that he will filibuster cabinet appointees he considers dangerous to liberty.

Look at the Tea Party. For all the criticism lobbed at them, they understood that opposing a President (and a Congress) is a long slog. They didn’t really get organized until specific policies like Obamacare came out. And, ultimately, this was why they were a powerful political force. They saved their energy for when it mattered. And while they didn’t stop Obamacare, they did help keep a public option out and did get the GOP to hold Obama in check.

Donald Trump has been President-elect for a grand total of eight days. Now is not the time to panic. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Look, I welcome anyone who is willing to oppose government power, no matter who is wielding it. I am willing to join hands with anyone of any political stripe who will support freedom. If there is a silver lining to this awful election, it’s that maybe our nation will become more vigilant, more aware of what’s going on, more supportive of checks and balances, more willing to descend on Washington when our government does something inimical to freedom. But mindless blasts of post-election panic are not the way to do that. Ken White, wrote this must-read the day after the election:

Donald Trump will be the President of the United States in January. I support and defend the United States of America. That means that, though I do not support Trump personally or based on policy, he is my President. He is the President delivered by the Constitution I love and want to defend. I wish him well — meaning that I wish for him the health and strength and resolve to meet the challenges he’ll face. I do not wish him success on many of his stated projects, but I hope that he will perform his Constitutional obligations effectively and to the benefit of the country. I will not be saying “not my President” but “for better or worse, my President.” Though I hope he will not succeed in many parts of his stated agenda, I do not wish failure on his Presidency, and I do not think that defeating him in the next election should be his opposition’s top priority. Our top priority should be opposing bad programs and policies he proposes, making the case for the rightness of our positions, and trying to use what consensus we can find to better govern America.

It’s a big, complex country. There are a lot of issues. You won’t be able to stand up for them all, nor should you try. I submit that every American appalled or outraged by President Trump’s election should pick an issue that is important to them, educate themselves thoroughly about it, and come together with fellow Americans to fight for that issue — to defend people in various circumstances who cannot defend themselves. The First Amendment remains my issue, and I will continue to ask for help defending it. More on that to come.

Look, I understand that a lot of people are nervous right now. A lot of Latinos wonder what’s going to happen with immigration policies. A lot of LGBT folk are worried about attacks on their freedom. Trump’s stances on law enforcement issues make a lot of black people nervous (and really should make everyone nervous).

But at some point, nervousness and hysteria have to give way to resolve. At some point, you have to focus your concern on specific issues and at specific times. I opposed Trump. And while I am willing to give him a chance, I suspect that he will propose policies I oppose vigorously. When he does, I will oppose them. Until then, it’s time to watch, wait and prepare.

Update: (More on the Trump hysteria from Slate Star Codex.)

What could have changed?

It looks like after 8 years of ignoring such things as an indiscriminate campaign of drone strikes against all sorts of shady ass-clowns or otherwise, and a massive escalation of US military “kinetic” activity that has left the Middle East on fire and in shambles, by President Nobel Peace Prize of all people, that we suddenly have a return to the good ole days where the usual scumbags that are part of one or another cabal of organizations anyone inclined to believe in apocalyptic conspiracy theories involving the one world government antichrist movement, and others like me that see it for the collectivist devil it represents, would point to. In this case it is the criminal ICC suddenly deciding that US forces are again committing war crimes. note the distinction this time around though. It is no longer the top guy, but “US Forces” that are being accused.

Battlespace prep, people. Nothing but the crooked globalists covering their collective asses. Why not the cries to get Obama, huh? Fuck em.

Put Away the Long Knives

First, a word about common decency and civility. I have written about this before but it bears repeating. Although not an Obama supporter I understood what his victory meant in 2008, I understood that whole hopey changey thing, that folks wanted a new direction, a new skipper at the helm, and I was willing to give this young dynamic articulate guy an honest chance at making a difference. Do I expect the same thing, the same reciprocity from all these whinny gloom and doomers that can’t even wait for him to get into the job first before their attacks, abso-fucking-lutely. Even if comity is not in your nature (how sad for you), can you at least admit that you have no idea how Trump will do?

Probably the biggest impediment to getting a handle on Trump, to gauge a philosophy or glean a political direction is that for his entire adult life he has been all over the map with issues, that, and his boast that he likes being unpredictable. He was a Democrat for most of his life, he has “evolved” on gun rights, abortion, same sex marriage, he is a protectionist and an isolationist, he won’t touch entitlements or social security, he has been a champion of single payer, he displays not even a rudimentary understanding of economics and has not voiced much concern for the debt owed by the nation, he has put way too much emphasis on his own council and instincts in place of policy experts to his own detriment, and his grandiose opinion of his own abilities to persuade other foreign leaders on his own, well that is just laughable.

And those are just his political peccadilloes, I could write an entire post cataloging all his personal character flaws, most notably a penchant to be impulsive and reactionary, meglomaniacal, thin skinned, requiring the adulation of those around him, lacking circumspection, and bombastic to a fault. Yes, Obama has most of these in spades as well, but this is a post about the new guy.

One encouraging sign is that of late he has revealed circumspection,has been more temperate, more subdued, even inclusive sounding in speaking to (and the promise of representing) all Americans. Yes, he still wants to drain the swamp, but even that is open to interpretation, does he want to take the existing apparatus and streamline it, make it more efficient and workable, or does he want to burn everything to the ground and start over. But as of today, nobody knows how he will mold the office, how he will address the folks, how he will interact with Congress, and how he will deal with our allies and adversaries.

Before talking about some of his picks so far, a word of caution to our left leaning readers here. When you say things like ,”His picks so far are all incompetents and nuts”, or link an article that starts off first sentence, “Trump will be a disaster for anyone that cares about human rights”, the conversation is over, period, yippie for you.

Everyone knows the toughest job in the WH is the Chief of Staff. He is the office manger, the ability to either succeed or fail for the president is determined to a large extent by how competent the Chief of Staff is. I think Priebus is a great pick, He has manged the GOP longer than anyone at a time when it’s very longevity or existence was being questioned and Trump’s win came about to a great extent because of Reince and his ability to get out the vote.

Keeping Newt close and involved is also a major coup. Like him or hate him, is there anyone alive today that is more familiar with the levers of government?

Rudy as Sec. of State, John Bolton as Director of National Intelligence, Sheriff Clark as head of Homeland Security, I even read somewhere that Pam Bondi is being considered as AG (Gowdy would be a better pick but he wants to stay in Congress, fine by me).

As stated before, I am not of fan of Bannon. He strikes me as the flip side of John Pedesta, a real snake in the grass. Bannon’s instincts are good even though he practices the politics of destruction. He needs to be kept on a tight leash.

I watched the House GOP news conference this morning, Paul Ryan said all the right things, oh and he is staying on as speaker, more good news. Ryan has a well crafted conservative agenda to put forward, whether this will be Trump’s agenda as well, who knows? One thing we know for sure, Trump will not be giving the car keys to Congress with little oversight on his part, to him and many of his supporters, they are still the establishment, thus still part of the problem.

Rhetoric, Meet Reality

I am old enough to remember the 1969 NY Mets, I saw Buster Douglas knock out Mike Tyson, witnessed the Miracle On Ice, and read about Leicester City defying the 5,000 to 1 odds of winning the Premier Cup. Now, we have a Trump presidency, equally odds defying. OK, now what?

Trump goes into his new job with a resume unlike any other past president. Never elected to anything, never was a leader of men in an armed conflict, his credentials lie in the promise to drain the swamp and in his ability to deal, to get things done. There is no past precedent that either of these will translate into success at leading the country.

Possibly the greatest gift one man can have in being successful as president is the ability to persuade;

The power to persuade is perhaps the most important aspect of the presidency that Neustadt writes about. The power of the United States government is vastly dispersed; the president cannot simply command and receive. Its much more complicated than that. Other levels of government have different constituencies and different sources of power and interest. The president is one man and needs others to get things done. The president must bargain and persuade others that what he wants is in their best interest. President Truman once said of President Eisenhower upon his election, “He’ll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike, it wont be a bit like the military. He’ll find it very frustrating.” Neustadt refers to the president in this respect, as a “clerk”, in which the president must balance differing interests. Just because the president wants something done does not mean that the others who also possess the power and authority will carry out his wishes. ” The presidents advantages are checked by the advantages of others. Relationships will pull in both directions. These are relationships of mutual dependence. The president depends upon the persons that he would persuade; he has to reckon with their need or fear of them (Neustadt 31).” The president must interpret to his colleagues how his policy will benefit them as well.

Trump will tell you that the power to persuade is right in his wheelhouse, hence the art of the deal, but if we assume that a General and a CEO can, by tint of authority, command action, a president has neither that ability or a servile public who by edict must obey. The art of the deal also involves priorities, compromises, and a changing of focus, getting the things done that are actually doable at the time.

Trump made a series of promises on the campaign trail, some of those promises you can see here.

The usual detractors here have already started on what they view as broken promises, promises mind you that he has no power as yet to either fulfill or abandon, but carping seems to be in vogue when a Republican wins, at anything.

Some of these promises I thought were pretty dopey when delivered so I am all for an “evolving” of position;

1) That Trump is going to bring back waterboarding ,”And a whole lot worse”, and that he has no problems with murderingkilling terrorist families. First off, I get the appeal of getting tougher with terrorism given what the last guy brought us. Naturally we want someone who can actually say the words Radical Islamic Terrorism, and we want someone who knows the value of capturing these guys and extracting valuable intel as opposed to just sending a drone over to bomb them (and the innocent civilian casualties that go with this type of indiscriminate warfare), and someone that understands that since the terrorists want to come here to kill us, to secure the borders. I am all for using enhanced interrogation techniques, but no torture, no waterboarding, and no bombing of terrorist families, walk all that back.

2) The Muslim ban. Again, given the squishy inability for the current guy to understand the actual threat at hand, this might appeal to some segments. But we can’t do it. I really hate it when the left tries to lecture us with ,”This is not in keeping with our values, this is not who we are”, a blanket Muslim ban IS an anathema to our values. I read an article last week how hundreds of Afghans and their families are on the run because they helped us as interpreters but now we have abandoned them to their fate, not allowing visas to immigrate to America, that just ain’t right. Many students from Muslim nations come to America to attend our universities (still the best universities in the world). America leads the world in technology and medical innovation, many folks involved with this are immigrants, we should not deny (or discriminate) immigrants from Muslim nations who want to come here and prosper. But this does not involve a massive refuge influx, we do not want to end up like Europe.

3)Imposing tariffs or starting a trade war with China. Smoot-Hawley, bad then and bad now. American products can compete globally, we just want a level playing field. Now renegotiating trade deals in fine, and our trading partners are fine with that.

4)Taxes. Saying you want to cut taxes will always get you noticed, Republicans like it because they think we pay too much already, and Democrats rail against it because they think the rich don’t pay their fair share anyway, both POV can be short sighted. There is no doubt that lowering corporate tax rates can spur growth, bring in more tax revenue, hire more people and spread prosperity across a greater swath of our population. And I am all in favor of a one time tax cut to bring repatriated money now kept oversees back to America to invest back in the business. But I worry about the growing deficit and Trumps general tax plan will indeed blow out the deficit. A concerted push towards simplifying the tax code and providing tax relief for job creators, small business owners, this will lift all boats, get more people working and bring more tax revenue.

5) Repealing Obamacare. First off, Obamacare is failing anyway, too many health service companies pulling out of the state exchanges. And what is left is so unappealing, higher premiums, larger deductibles and narrower provider networks. Trump has already said he likes 2 provisions of Obamacare, the pre existing condition provision and allowing young adults to stay on their parents policy. As a dad of a 21 year old, I like this as well. But the way Obamacare was shoved down our throat, a straight party vote rammed through at the dead of night, and the lies behind it ,”If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan”, I say trash the whole thing and start over. It may be petty, but he was such an abject failure and had so little regard (actual contempt) for those not sycophants of his, that he deserves what he gets. He wants a legacy, how about this, killing American exceptionalism and making us just like everyone else.

There are other Trump promises that need to be re configured, like abandoning NATO, threatening to pull troops out of South Korea and Japan if they don’t pony up more cash for their defense, or pulling troops out of other areas of the world and replacing them with nukes as if this is a reasonable alternative.

I suspect governing Trump will be much different from running for president Trump, that may not be a bad thing.

For the “Not my president” douchebags

Loser

Loser

BTW, read up on this, before you start spouting how it was the deplorables that elected Trump. These people voted for Obama, then saw what he did, hear how Clinton wanted to double down on the shit Obama did, and said fuck off. Of course to the left, that makes them suddenly people motivated by vile reasons…

Why Federalism Matters

Hmm. Not sure this blogging hiatus thing is going well, but … I had another thought on the election.

Right now, a lot of the liberal echosphere is in a tizzy because Trump, with a Republican Congress, might undo a lot of the things that Obama has done. I think such panic should be reserved until he actually, you know, does stuff. Right now, all we have are rumors of potential cabinet appointments (some of which, I agree, are alarming).

But … I do understand what they’re on about. Much of Obama’s legacy, such as it is, is fragile. But that’s in part because of the way he bypassed the process. The Iran Deal and the Paris deal, whatever you think of them, can be undone because they were never ratified by Congress. TPP can be rejected because Obama never bothered to get it through Congress. Obamacare could be undone because it was passed through reconciliation and has serious problems.

But here’s the thing: a lot of this “progress” could have been insulated from Trump had it been done at the state level. You want cap-and-trade? Try it out in your state. Socialized medicine? You can try, although Vermont and Colorado both rejected it decisively. Protections for LGBT Americans? Do it at the state level and Trump can’t touch it. Radley Balko has a great article in the WaPo about how criminal justice reform at the federal level may be dead, but is moving forward on the state level. And really, if mass incarceration is what worries you, the states are where you should be working since most prisoners are confined at the state level. Free college? Well, California once guaranteed free tuition at its universities. No reason it couldn’t do it again if balanced its books and got costs under control.

States can address police misconduct. States can address poverty. The only things states can’t address are foreign relations (trade, immigration, treaties) which are a federal concern.

You know why the Republican Party is so strong right now, controlling most of the states and Congress? Because they’ve been doing things at the state level. I don’t agree with all of the things they’ve done (e.g., abortion restrictions). But in doing so, they have built up formidable state political machines. And that has paid off not only in state and federal elections but in creating a deep bench of potential president candidates that could have run in 2020 had Trump lost (and will run in 2024).

The Democrats got lazy, too convinced that Obama was their deliverer and that they would control Congress and the White House forever. They thought they could deliver policy from on high. If they really want a “legacy” they need to embrace federalism. There are fifty states where they can try out their brand of progressivism. And most of it can’t be touched by Donald Trump or Paul Ryan or anyone else.

Federalism. It’s a good thing. And as a conservative-libertarian, I’m happy to devolve as much power to the states as the Left wants.

Update: A great tweet-storm from Iowahawk says this better than I could:

(For those of you not on Twitter, click that tweet and scroll down to read the whole thing.)

On Restraining Government

All right, I know I’m breaking my bogging hiatus after one entire day (almost), but I did want to make an important point.

One of the responses to concerns over what exactly a Trump Administration will do is to say, “Well, the system has checks and balances in it. Congress will have its say. The Courts will have their say. The system is very robust.”

This is, to put it mildly, high-falutin’ bullshit.

Yes, our government technically has a lot of restraints on its power — the Bill of Rights, checks and balances, the rule of law, SCOTUS. But these restraint are not laws of nature; they only work when our leaders observe certain political norms. And as we have seen many many many many times in the past, ambitious or dictatorial politicians can violate those norms whenever it suits them.

The Constitution was no impediment when Andrew Jackson (to whom Giuliani recently compared Trump) sent thousands of Native Americans to die on the Trail of Tears. The Court actually ruled against Jackson and he ignored it.

The Constitution was no impediment to Lincoln when he shut down opposition newspapers, imprisoned opposing politicians, coerced Maryland into not seceding and suspended Habeas. Quite the contrary, the Court and the Congress completely acquiesced.

The Constitution was no impediment to Wilson when he nationalized industries, jailed dissenters and imposed a draft.

The Constitution was no impediment to Roosevelt when he completely rewrote the Constitution, massively expanded government and stayed in office for life.

The Constitution was no impediment to Bush when he tortured people. Or Clinton when he started wars without Congressional approval. Or Obama when he expanded mass surveillance. It did not stop Kennedy or Nixon or Johnson or Clinton or Obama abusing the power of government to punish their enemies. And there is no constraint — formal or otherwise — over the President’s power to use nuclear weapons.

The Constitution is not a magic spell. It only works when our politicians observe certain norms and agree to abide by it. And it really only works when we the people force them to abide by it. And we the people have a really shitty record of holding politicians’ feet to the fire, especially when they are of our political tribe.

I’m not saying Trump is necessarily going to be a dictator. He’s not even President yet. What I am saying is that I’m not impressed by the safeguards built into the system and their ability to stop Trump (or Clinton, had she been elected) to do what they want. If you want these safeguards to work, the only way is stop being a piece-of-shit partisan and call out your side when it does bad things. Don’t make excuses. Don’t question people’s loyalty. Hold the politicians’ to the fire. Because that is all we have. Our liberty is too important for a trust fall exercise.

President Trump

I’ll have more thoughts later in the day, including some thoughts on the future of the blog. Right now, the popular vote is tied but Clinton could still win it slightly. So as far as the polling goes, it wasn’t entirely wrong. The result was off by 3 or 4 points, which is a big error, but not historic. The people who projected a 99% chance of a Clinton win, as I said, were too drunk on state polling.

Right now, the Left is melting down, proclaiming that this proves America is a racist misogynistic country. Maybe. But the fact is that only real victories the Democrats have had in the last 22 years — 2006 and 2008) were the result of the disastrous Bush presidency. The Republicans have piled up win after win in Congress and the State Houses. This year, they nominated a woman had trouble winning the NY senate seat in 2000, lost a gift-wrapped nomination in 2008 and was just humiliated by a semi-coherent hamster.

Maybe they need to rethink their approach to this whole politics thing.