Category: Right Wing Idiocy

Bad for America? Maybe. The “Cure” Would Be Worse

So this happened:

Veteran TV journalist Ted Koppel analyzed the media’s role in the political divide in Trump-era America on “CBS Sunday Morning” — and had a pointed moment interviewing Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“We have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show,” Hannity told Koppel on camera, registering the veteran newsman’s doubt. “You’re cynical. … You think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?”

“Yep,” Koppel replied. “In the long haul, I think that all these opinion shows…”

“Really?” Hannity asked. “That’s sad, Ted.”

Koppel explained: “You know why? Because you’re very good at what you did and because you have attracted … people who have determined that ideology is more important than facts.”

I’m not a fan of Koppel and I think the cause he went on to blame for this problem — the demise of the Fairness Doctrine — is horribly misguided. But I think he has a point on Hannity and talk radio/TV in general.

Last year, Conor Friedersdorf wrote a great article on how talk radio precipitated the rise of Donald Trump:

Here are some of the cues and signals that even anti-Trump members of “the party” have sent to voters, over many years, that made the rise of a populist demagogue possible if not likely, and that Trump voters absorbed into their world views:

  • Career politicians cannot be trusted. This widespread conceit in “the party” has effectively made it impossible for candidates with governing records and public sector experience to be accepted by large swaths of GOP primary voters.
  • When the base doesn’t get what it wants, it is because of betrayal by party elites, never because a majority of Americans disagree with what the base wants.
  • Rhetorical stridency is a better heuristic for loyalty than core principles or governing record—and there is nothing disqualifying about extreme incivility (hence, for example, a buttoned up think tank giving a statesmanship award to Rush Limbaugh, a gleeful purveyor of bombastic insults).
  • Complaints about racism and sexism are always cynical fabrications, intended be used as cudgels against conservatives.
    Political correctness in governance is one of the biggest problems facing America.
  • Illegal immigration poses an existential threat to America.
  • President Obama has deliberately made bad deals with foreign countries to weaken America.

If any movement conservatives in the #NeverTrump crowd doubt that “the party” has sent all of those signals or cues, I’ll gladly expound on any of them. Taken together, it’s easy to see why a majority of an electorate that bought into those premises would be more attracted to Trump than to anyone else in the GOP field.

I would add to that list the claim that global warming is a hoax, unemployment numbers are faked, there’s a War on Cops, that opposing anti-terror policies is siding with the terrorists, that tax cuts pay for themselves, etc., etc. When people said “Trump says what no one else says” or “Trump tells it like it is” this is what they mean: that Trump reiterates the (often false) doomsday rhetoric of the conservative echoshere.

And now we’re reaping the results of this. Last week, we saw the utter immolation of Republican efforts to replace Obamacare. There are many authors of that disaster but a big one, as Josh Barro argues, was that Republicans spent years misleading the voters on Obamacare and pretending that healthcare reform was easy.

For years, Republicans promised lower premiums, lower deductibles, lower co-payments, lower taxes, lower government expenditure, more choice, the restoration of the $700 billion that President Barack Obama heartlessly cut out of Medicare because he hated old people, and (in the particular case of the Republican who recently became president) “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better” than what they have today.

They were lying. Over and over and over and over, Republicans lied to the American public about healthcare.

To be fair, many Republican politicians understood there would be trade-offs and crafted policies around those. But those policies were never implemented because the Republican base believed that Obamacare had to be repealed instantly, replacement or no replacement. Friedersdorf lays the blame for that on the commentariat:

Still, even the insight that Republicans spent years willfully obscuring the tradeoffs involved in health-care policy doesn’t fully explain the last week. Focusing on GOP officials leaves out yet another important actor in this debacle: the right-wing media. By that, I do not mean every right-leaning writer or publication. Over the last eight years, lots of responsibly written critiques of Obamacare have been published in numerous publications, and folks reading the aforementioned wonks, or Peter Suderman at Reason, or Yuval Levin, or Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, stayed reasonably grounded in actual shortcomings of Obamacare.

In contrast, Fox News viewers who watched entertainers like Glenn Beck, talk-radio listeners who tuned into hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and consumers of web journalism who turned to sites like Breitbart weren’t merely misled about health-care tradeoffs.

They were told a bunch of crazy nonsense.

He lists hysterical claim after hysterical claim. Death panels, forced fat camps, depression, slavery, the end of individual liberty. There were and are plenty of problems with Obamacare. But claiming it was the end of America was ridiculous.

The problem is not conservatives nor conservatism. The problem is faux conservatives like Hannity and Limbaugh and every other joker out there who has no solutions, no answers, no philosophy, no ideas … just acres of doom and gloom and anger. Conor talks about his grandmother, who spent her last years terrified by what she was hearing from right wing hacks like Hannity. I see it in my Trump-supporting relatives, who hear a constant deluge from Fox News about how doomed America is and how awful the Democrats are. It’s incredible disheartening. And it angers me to think of these jokers making millions by convincing millions of Americans that the end is nigh.

I don’t mean to downplay real concerns, which are legion. We are in a lot of debt. Obamacare is staggering around, avoiding a death spiral only because of subsidies. Crime appears to have spiked, especially in certain cities. Rural areas are hurting badly (see my earlier post on the opioid epidemic).

But lately the conservative commentariat has no ideas for how to deal with these problems. Only a steady diet of doom and gloom, blame-storming and uncompromising rhetoric. And yes, this is bad for country. It makes people fearful who have no need to be and it instills an us-vs-them mentality, turning people we disagree with into hideous villains who hate America.

It was not always so. Friedersdorf is a bit too young to remember but in the 90’s, there’s no question in my mind that talk radio hosts like Hannity and Limbaugh were a good thing. They served as a critical counter-weight to a very liberal media. Their broadcasts played a big role in the Republican revolution of 1994, the subsequent balancing of the budget, the passing of NAFTA and the destruction of numerous corrupt politicians.

However, something changed in the aughts. I’m not sure why exactly — I suspect it was 9/11. But the tone of conservative commentary began to be less positive and more negative. Liberals stopped being mocked and started being demonized. I stopped listening to Limbaugh because his show, which has always left me feeling upbeat and inspired, became a huge downer. Everything was awful. America was going to hell. Compromise was a bad word. And now we’re at the apotheosis of this: a Republican party that can’t get anything done because they can’t approach issues in any kind of a realistic way.

That’s not to let liberals off the hook here. It wasn’t conservatives who called half the country “deplorables”. It’s not conservatives who are writing off half the electorate as evil racist sexist monsters for having voted Trump. But liberal idiocy does not make conservative idiocy OK. No matter how bad the commentary on the Left gets, that does not excuse Hannity for being a demagogue who has worsened the debate.

I don’t know that there’s a fix for this. My gut feeling is that we are in the grip of a national fever of partisanship that has yet to exhaust itself. But I do want address one supposed “cure”, which I referenced above, because it’s becoming a bigger liberal talking point these days.

Koppel blamed talk radio on the end of the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC policy that Reagan killed in 1987 that had previously forced television and radio stations to present “both sides” of an issue.

Put bluntly, the Fairness Doctrine was an awful policy and it should stay dead. The only reason we should ever dig it up is to put a stake through its heart and make sure it stays dead. Consider:

  • The Fairness Doctrine was blatantly unconstitutional piece of garbage, no matter what the Supreme Court said. Having the government dictate what constitutes “fairness” in commentary is an invitation to abuse. And indeed, Limbaugh, in one of his books, noted several times where politicians — including Nixon — used the Fairness Doctrine to bludgeon commentators into shutting up about issues the politicians didn’t want discussed.
  • This is why Fairness Doctrines have long been rejected for newspapers and print media, despite the long history of partisan commentary therein (Thomas Paine was not known for his “Fairness”). The justification for the Fairness Doctrine the last time it was upheld was that radio and TV media are limited to only so many channels. So the government has to ensure that all views are represented. This view is nonsense, of course. Most cities have one, maybe two newspapers, both of which are liberal. By contrast, TV has innumerable stations, some of which — MSNBC, for example — are decisively liberal. In that light, the Fairness Doctrine is one of the most liberal of things: a solution running around in search of a problem.
  • People who want government to do things never seem to consider that the powers they give government could be turned against them. Let me ask you something, Fairness Doctrine-supporting liberals: do you really want to give that kind of censorship power to Donald Fucking Trump?! Does it never occur to you that he might decide that “Fairness” dictates that Samantha Bee needs to make more jokes about Democrats or SNL needs to mock Nancy Pelosi more? Can you, for once, consider what government power will look like in the hands of people you don’t like?
  • The Fairness Doctrine is not going to magically create a more skeptical and reasonable populace. This is an appeal to government policy as magic.

Ultimately, the Fairness Doctrine plugs into the Ultimate Progressive Conceit: progressives’ firm belief that they are the only reasonable people in the room; and that if people disagree with them it’s only because they’ve been brainwashed by nefarious forces. This is an outgrowth of the Marxism that underpins much of liberal thought. The Marxists maintained that Marxism was as scientifically proven as the Law of Gravity and, if anyone disagreed, it was because they were mentally ill or had been brainwashed by bourgeoisie interests.

But that is never the case. People disagree with Progressive ideas because they disagree with them. Sometimes it’s because the progressives have the facts wrong. Sometimes it’s because progressives’ logic is poor. Sometimes it’s because progressives are being irrational and stupid. And sometimes — most often — it’s because people disagree with progressives on values (e.g., progressives think it’s “fair” to take money from rich people and give it to power people; many conservatives think that’s the definition of unfair).

I am very concerned about the nihilist direction conservatism has taken. And I think that Sean Hannity and his ilk have played a large role in that and, yes, I think he’s been bad for the country in some ways. One can not behold the election of Trump and not be concerned with the direction we’re going.

But getting government more involved is not the answer. If you really think Trump is fascist, why on Earth would you give him the tools to implement fascism?

Faster please!

Trump’s new proposed budget leaves no doubt he is reprioritizing government and downsizing it, which can’t happen fast enough for me, but has the chattering class and the nanny staters all in a tizzy, is out.

President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce.

This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II, economists and budget analysts said.

The spending budget Trump is set to release Thursday will offer the clearest snapshot of his vision for the size and role of government. Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.

The cuts Trump plans to propose this week are also expected to lead to layoffs among federal workers, changes that would be felt sharply in the Washington area. According to an economic analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, the reductions outlined so far by Trump’s advisers would reduce employment in the region by 1.8 percent and personal income by 3.5 percent, and lower home prices by 1.9 percent.

“These are not the kind of cuts that you can accommodate by tightening the belt one notch, by shaving a little bit off of a program, or by downsizing a few staff here or there,” said Robert Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “These are cuts that would require a wholesale triage of a vast array of federal activities.”

All I hear is that he plans to roll back Leviathan, and then focus on government doing the things it is told are its responsibility in the constitution, but I am sure that the usual members of the vote-buying credentialed elite class, seeing their own lucrative scheme come under attack, will be howling in anger that this is happening. of course, I suspect – as the article points out – that Trump’s biggest challenge to get this done will come from the biggest bunch of freeloaders out there – congress:

Still, budget experts said it was unclear what the precise impact on many agencies might be because the departments could choose to implement reductions in a variety of ways.

Administration officials have also stressed that discussions are ongoing between budget officials and agencies, and that the size of the budget cuts remains fluid. Moreover, the cuts cannot take effect unless they are authorized by Congress, which could prove difficult. Lawmakers routinely rebuffed budget requests from President Barack Obama, leading instead to protracted negotiations between both sides.

Already, Democrats have vowed to fight Trump’s proposals, and some Republicans have also expressed unease at the size of the reductions.

The White House declined to comment publicly, but administration officials have signaled for weeks that large cuts will be part of the budget.

That the democrats – which have never seen either a government entity that is large enough or pisses away too much of the tax payer’s money on crap that adds no value but buy democrat politicians votes – would react to this plan like vampires would to holy water, holy symbols, or sunlight, was expected. But the added bonus here is that it will expose the democrat-light nanny staters in the republican establishment, for what they are. These politicians on the republican side need to stop acting like they care about fiscal responsibility and small government when they are no better than the democrats, and we need to know who they are so we can vote them out as well.

I hope he wins this fight and forces congress to show its hand. And I hope every budget that follows this one repeats the cycle. The best thing to prevent the current tyranny of the nanny state is a small government with little power outside of the duties the constitution allows it. A lot of our problems will fix themselves when you don’t have the political class, and an entire political party, selling favors with other people’s money.

BTW, for the people all confused by why suddenly after the democrats lost the election things like employment, consumer confidence, and future economic outlook are off the charts in positive territory, it is things like this that are driving that. People want less intrusive and abusive government, and most of us definitely want government out of the business of picking winners and losers.

Hawking says that without world government tech will destroy us!

That’s the claim he makes <a href=’http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/stephen-hawking-world-government-stop-technology-destroy-humankind-th-a7618021.html” target=”_new”>in this article. Meh, globalists are getting desperate and even people that are supposed to be intelligent are now talking out of their asses. I find it not just naive but ridiculous to put faith in an entity that couldn’t do the job even at the micro level of states. What, incompetent credentialed bureaucrats like the ones running the EU or the UN will suddenly discover the secret to doing things right? Talk about being delusional. Shit, if the tools that will be running the global government don’t kill us outright themselves, they will use this tech to enslave us. Maybe Hawking thinks that is preferable to his imagined alternative, but I don’t.

Tech won’t doom humanity. Idiots thinking that only they are qualified and know what is best in charge of tech is what will doom humanity, and you are far more likely to get that with a global government than you are without. You want a bunch of social engineering idiots that think their will can bend the laws of nature, humanity, and physics to be in charge? Shit, Obama had the intelligence people spying on everyone, including his personal and political enemies. The Eu is a bunch of unaccountable douchebags that have been screwing over the people of Europe while they live a high life. And the UN, well that is one of the world’s biggest criminal organizations ever. Why the fuck would anyone trust an even larger and more intrusive government to do anything but make things worse for us?

I guess this “cri de coeure” by Hawking is just another desperate attempt at replacing the panic inducing shit other pro-globalization types push, like AGW, to sell their shit sandwich. The globalists are freaking out that their dream is dying, but I see it as a great thing that it is. Credentialed tools should not be calling the shot based on the horrible performance they have produced so far. That’s the real threat to humanity.

If you had any doubts..

That they are basically dnc operatives with bylines, then here is the confirmation from one of them that got candid. Then again, this is PMS-NBC, and this sort of stuff is pretty standard with these progressive agents of the state that think us unwashed masses are too stupid to do our own thinking, primarily, because we will very likely not buy the bullshit these tools are selling for their nanny state credentialed elite top men.

I admit that while I am gleeful to see the dnc operatives with bylines that pass themselves of as unbiased media terminating any credibility they might have left with extreme prejudice and just lap it all up, that part of me is concerned that the damage they are doing affects all media. Feeling generous I will make the premise that while a healthy dose of skepticism is something leftist only seem to have when the issue in question challenges their dogma – with the caveat that the call for safe spaces and limit on speech & thought that has become the deciding driver behind the left’s current tantrum, proving that far too many of them refuse to engage or allow any sort of thinking period – I am worried that the other side will also be lulled into complacency.

I get a good laugh when the usual suspects on the left that allowed Obama to out-Boosh Boosh for 8 long years – in every area they complained and called for criminal charges be brought against the Booshies for before – and then, simply because he was their guy, now want to make the case that support for Trump is just more of the same, instead of seeing that is happening specifically because people have been turned off by the clear hysteria and the constant sabotage from them. heck, they been attacking the guy, doing a 180 from the very things they ignored or defended Obama on, and making up shit since even before the guy took the oath! The media has destroyed their credibility trying to support the sabotage from the left and the establishment, which hate the fact they and their beliefs that progress is them ruling over the idiot masses, has been upended. And they are getting more desperate with every failed pooh flinging attempt that serves to not only entrench people on the other side but turn off those that are not blood drinking radical leftists.

My concern is that if we can’t trust and believe anything from anyone, and are left only listening to whatever echo chambers validate our own beliefs (and before any of you leftist pretend that problem is with the other side, I refer you again to which side is really calling for the control of thought and speech, and it definitely is not Trump or his people), we are going to have problems. While I don’t expect the left to ever be able to do anything but that – if they leave the echo chamber and actually have to really think things through, they are no longer going to be able to stay on that reservation without losing their grip on reality – I worry that if Trump really ends up unaccountable, we will get trouble. of course, the fact that it is their very sabotage and hysteria that takes us there will never sink in with the progressive shit flinger crowd.

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.

Gutting the Ethics Committee

What?!

House Republicans, overriding their top leaders, voted on Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to effectively kill the Office of Congressional Ethics was not made public until late Monday, when Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change. There was no advance notice or debate on the measure.

The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.

Among other things, the changes would destroy the independence of the OCE, making them answerable only to Congress. It would also bar them from investigation criminal matters or talk to whistleblowers.

When the Republican revolution happened in 1994, it was driven, at least in part, by the hideous corruption of the Democrats (see., e.g., Dan Rostenkowski). One of the things that made me happy was the GOP immediately changed the way Congress did business, increasing transparency and accountability, making laws apply to them as well as the public and cracking down on perks. This is an ugly step in the opposite direction.

Speaker Ryan has spoken against this measures as has Trump. We’ll see how it does when it comes up for a full vote.

Update: Shortly after I posted this, the GOP withdrew the rules change.

Pizza Panic

Earlier this year, Seattle police claimed to have broken up a vicious sex-trafficking ring. The media breathlessly reported that girls from Korea were being trafficked into this country to become sex slaves and that Sigurds Zitars was the ring-leader of this sexual slavery ring.

It was garbage. It turned out just to be ordinary prostitution. Whatever one thinks about the morality and legality of prostitution, it’s not the same as sex slavery. None of the girls were being held against their will. Almost everyone involved pleaded out to charges of promoting prostitution or patronizing a prostitute.

Except Zitars. Unable to deal with being branded a sex slaver, he killed himself.

I bring this up because right now there is a furor over the so-called Pizzagate, a wild allegation that the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in DC is a haven for child sex trafficking. The evidence for this accusation is … basically nothing. You can read the link to Vox to see how this built up and it’s basically made out of whole cloth. It’s crazy.

But this craziness became all too real this weekend when a gunman showed up at the pizzeria to enact justice. Fortunately, he was able to be talked down and realized he’d been duped.

The press has been going crazy about this, talking about “fake news” (although this came from conspiracy sites, not fake news sites). But there’s another villain here: our national hysteria over sex trafficking.

Our media constantly uncritically repeat all kinds of myths and lies about sex trafficking: they claim there are 300,000 child sex slaves in this country (false), that the average prostitute gets into the business at age 13 (false), that hordes of sex slaves are trafficking into town for the Super Bowl (false). Many of these lies appear on websites run by our own governments. Breathless stories about sex traffickers trolling malls and hardware stores in search of victims are uncritically repeated without so much as a thought.

More to the point, ordinary prostitution is conflated with sex trafficking constantly. The federal government runs Operation Cross Country stings that mainly arrest consenting adults, for example. It’s gotten so absurd, that independent escorts have been prosecuted for trafficking themselves.

Unlike the Pizzagate business, however, these myths are pushed by mainstream politicians and the mainstream media. They demonize people like Zitars without knowing all (or any) of the facts. These myths serve to support a “War on Sex Trafficking” that, in many ways, is replacing the “War on Drugs” as a way to seize money and put people in prison. None of this is ever questioned. None of this ever put to the test. The media has invested more resources in debunking one crazy 4Chan theory than an entire massive law enforcement structure designed to crush people voluntarily exchanging money for sex.

As my friend Maggie McNeill said, here is the real story: our national hysteria over sex trafficking finally hurt a friend of the powerful. This war is damaging the lives of thousands of consenting adults every day. But they don’t matter because they’re not politically connected. The owner of this pizzeria is a friend and fund-raiser for Clinton. So suddenly, miraculously, it’s a national crisis.

So yeah, let’s talk about conspiracy theorists and the people who pass on their crazy conspiracy theories. Let’s talk about Alex Jones and 4Chan and all that. Let’s acknowledge that this pizzagate business if a fabrication that is making life hell for an innocent person. But let’s also talk about the trafficking hysteria that fed into this and that results in guns being pointed in the faces of consenting adults every day.

Because until we talk about that, this Comet Ping Pong business is just another example of how crushing people’s freedom is fine … until it happens to the elites or their friends.

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.

President Pay-to-Play

Collectivists, but especially collectivist elites, hate capitalism – I mean real capitalism, where the people involved in a transaction do so of their own free will and without any government coercion or theft to influence the deal – because it limits their opportunity for graft. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that it was during the presidency of Bill Clinton that we started not only offshoring so much American manufacturing and know-how, often with the Clintons making big money from it. Do you remember the Chinese military contribution to Bill’s campaign that gave China access to both nuclear technology and critical missile technology to accurately deliver the nukes under the guise of trade? Several decades of expensive R&D and close to a trillion dollar of technology and know-how went to China for a measly $2 million to Bills campaign.

We should have known then that this was the direction America was heading in. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the sector making the most money today is the one that sells favors. And revelations like this one, clarify why that is the case:

I wouldn’t want to be standing too close to this Doug Band guy anytime soon, especially not before the election Nov. 8.

Another thing I wouldn’t want to do is have to write a life insurance policy for Doug Band. In case you haven’t been paying much attention to the inner workings of the Clinton Foundation as detailed in the WikiLeaks dumps, Doug Band’s role is summed up nicely in this headline from the L.A. Times:

“An aide says he once arranged for $50 million in payments for Bill Clinton.”

Fifty million! And now it’s all laid out, in public documents, by Doug Band himself. Far, far beyond a reasonable doubt, if you want to get technical about it. Even James Comey could make this case — but he wants to keep breathing, too.

These latest leaks really do explain the whole breathtaking pay-to-play aspect of the Clinton Foundation. Band is bragging about his prowess as an extortionist, although he prefers to call it “the unorthodox nature of our roles.” But he does point out with some pride that his shakedowns, I mean charitable outreaches on behalf of Bill Clinton, “guided more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years.”

Wow! Whatever happened to, “Never write when you can speak, never speak when you can nod, never nod when you can wink”?

These people didn’t just write it down, they emailed it out, on unsecure servers.

Amazing enough that the mobsters running this racketeering enterprise are totally out in the open, not even bothering with masks. But the outfit’s capo, or consigliere, is the odds-on favorite to become the next president of the United States.

Everybody trying to understand this Clinton Foundation grift is asking themselves, “How come nobody ever thought of this kind of mega-scam before?”

My answer would be, earlier racketeers dreamed of such a grift, but they quickly realized they could never get away with it. They would have been locked up faster than Al Capone or Whitey Bulger.

But these are the Clintons. They make the Kennedys seem law-abiding. And we are no longer in “America,” we live in a banana republic, where everything is for sale, from the top down.

Our new money making economy is no longer about making things of value, but about selling favors, shuffling around paper at a huge cost, and in general paying off grievance mongers and their ilk. Basically what we now have an elite class that fleeces us all. They make massive amounts of money trading favors and blowing massive amounts of tax payer money on bureaucratic morass while the rest of us that still are productive get told we need to give up even more of what we make so they can keep doing what they are doing.

Trump may be a douche, but the Clintons are fucking criminals of the highest order. And all the focus on the bullshit about Trump being a poor candidate or running a poor campaign, the fantasies that other candidates would have done better, or the concern that Trump is a dirty talker, whatever your real motive for attacking him while ignoring the fact the Clintons make him look like a boy scout, only serves to help usher in an even more incompetent presidency than that of Obama.

Ask yourself why this campaign is about Trumps inadequacies and not about the issues and the Clintons corruption. If your take on it is that’s Trumps fault, then you are a dupe. Yes, you are. You either have been manipulated by a corrupt and beholden media and social machine into ignoring the obvious and focusing on irrelevancies, or you are holding a grudge and as people driven by emotions always do, make a an impulse driven mistake. Yeah, most of us might not like Trump, but cutting your nose off to spite your face, and handing Clinton the presidency is a bad idea. That is unless you like what is going on today and have convinced yourself this is all good, or is better than a Trump presidency, for some reason only you fathom, and that it all wont blow up in our face. Of course, if you are one of those idiots, then appeals to logic and facts matter little to you anyway. Me, I want the establishment that exists today to die an ugly death for what they have done. Both parties are corrupt.