Tag: Donald Trump

RFK No Way

While Congress holds hearings on Trump’s vehemently anti-liberty Attorney General nominee, another little bit of news slipped out today:

President-elect Donald Trump met with notable anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Tuesday, further stoking unfounded fears about vaccine safety and efficacy by asking the Democrat to chair a commission on the issue.

Kennedy, the son of late presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, told reporters after his meeting with Trump that the President-elect asked him to head a look into “vaccination safety and scientific integrity.”

Kennedy said he agreed to chair the commission.

Kennedy is a level 2 vaccine denialist: someone who says he is pro-vaccine but just wants them to be safe and to be guided by the science. This lie is betrayed by the years he has spent flogging anti-science kookery, claiming that preservatives in vaccines cause autism (they don’t) or that the vaccine schedule is too aggressive (it isn’t) or that there was a government conspiracy to hide the truth (there isn’t). He has compared vaccines to the Holocaust and continued to claim they cause autism long after the link has been disproved, pushing the anti-vax movie Trace Amounts on legislators trying to tighten up vaccine exemptions. This is not his only dip into conspiracy theory waters, as he claimed that the 2004 election was stolen. And he is on full-on climate hypocrite, calling for climate skeptics to be prosecuted while fighting against a massive wind project because he’d be able to see it from the Kennedy compound.

Trump has dabbled in these waters before but now he is elevating an anti-science thug to his Administration. Kennedy’s name has gotten him way too much slack. Trump isn’t the only person to kiss his loathsome behind. Time Magazine once named him a “Hero for the Planet” and Jon Stewart famously did an obsequious interview with him on The Daily Show. But Kennedy is undeserving of this respect. The only position RFK, Jr. should have in any administration is upside down with his head in a toilet.

Done Deal

I know this comes as a shock. I mean, after all, there were appeals for the Electoral College to overturn the election from Martin Sheen and Michael Moore. But, no, the Electoral College vote went … almost as expected:

Donald Trump has surpassed the necessary 270 votes in the Electoral College, the next step in the official process to become President.

Trump received 304 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 224. Six “faithless” electors voted for other candidates, costing Trump two votes and Clinton four. And Hawaii’s electors are still set to meet later Monday, with the state’s four votes expected to go to Clinton.

The results mean Trump — who lost the popular vote by more than 2 percentage points to Clinton — easily staved off a long-shot bid by opponents to turn Republican electors against him.

The Electoral College results will be officially certified January 6 during a joint session of Congress.

(Of course, I’m sure some crazy person will come up with a scheme whereby Congress could overturn the Electoral College.)

There were actually nine faithless electors today, matching the total of all election since 1912 combined. Two Texans voted for Kasich and Paul. Three Washingtonians voted for Colin Powell. One voted for Faith Spotted Eagle. One Minnesota elector and one Maine elector voted for Sanders but were overruled. And one Colorado elector voted for Kasich but was overruled.

And that is kind of amazing. I am a bit hesitant to read too much into the actions of nine people, but electors almost never do this. It was a protest vote, yes, but a protest vote with fire. It is a reminder that the 2016 election was a vote against political insiders and that the public will happily turn on Trump is he turns out to be just another insider in outsider clothing.

Hopefully, this will bring some closure and start to diminish the bad craziness we’ve seen from the Left since November 9. We need an opposition that has at least some of its marbles. And an opposition that is, for example, urging the Electoral College to overturn an election based on anonymous CIA claims that the Russians released some politically embarrassing information on the Democrats does not have its marbles.

Russia, Trump and the Election

Ulp:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.

In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.

The key allegation here is that Russia hacked both the DNC and RNC but chose only to leak the DNC e-mails to make Clinton look bad. Trump, of course, is denying this was the case.

A natural caveat: these are anonymous sources within the CIA. We don’t necessarily know that the report is accurate. I think a Congressional investigation is necessary before we draw any big conclusions. And I do think this should be investigated. The results of the Wisconsin recount put to bed the conspiracy theory that Putin hacked the actual election results. But the allegation that a foreign power is using hacking and selective leaks of information to influence our election is a serious one.

The key problem at this stage is that the Democrats are seeing this in strictly partisan terms which, unsurprisingly, makes it a partisan issue. LGF, having completed its decent into madness, is one of several sites demanding that the Electoral College refuse to elect Trump based on this. That is, they are demanding that the College — which last week they denounced as an undemocratic artifact of slavery — overturn an election based on anonymous report from the CIA that Russia favored the winning candidate. That we respond to a foreign attempt to destabilize our political system by really destabilizing the political system.

It’s hard to describe how insane that is. Even if these allegations are true, they do not make Trump an illegitimate President. We have had foreign powers trying to influence our politics forever, through economic and political pressure. The Soviets were masters at this, covertly funding “peace” movements and nuclear disarmament movements. In fact, KGB documents alleged that Ted Kennedy — folk hero of the Democrats — ASKED the Soviets to interfere in the 1984 election.

Whatever role the Russians played in this, they did not make Clinton one of the most dishonest and distrusted people to run for President. They didn’t make her lie about everything from Bosnian snipers to pneumonia. They didn’t make her bungle healthcare reform in the 90’s. They didn’t make her ignore Wisconsin and Michigan. They didn’t make her lose the trust of black voters. She did that all on her own.

Now if the investigation were to discover that Trump knew of Russia’s intervention and worked with them, that’s a different kettle of fish. That would be an impeachable offense. But that’s a very high bar to clear.

As it happens, I am concerned about Trump’s pro-Russia stance (his rumored State Department head is the CEO of Exxon and, like Trump, has numerous business ties to Russia). I am sure that Putin did favor him. We need to look into this (and into Trump’s business ties to Russia). But let’s not start the revolution just yet.

In The News

A few stories I’m following right now:

  • I’ve been critical of some of Trump’s cabinet choices. But my first impression of Mattis, the proposed Secretary of Defense, is positive. He opposes torture, supports a two-state solution for Israel, recognizes that the Iran deal is flawed but that tearing it up would be a mistake. His approach to Iraq was a big reason the surge worked and his musings show an active and sharp mind. He has been willing to praise or criticize politicians from both sides. Moreover, Trump said that one thing that impressed him was that Mattis opposes torture, which Trump ostensibly favors, and made a good argument against it. One of the big concerns with a President is that he will surround himself with Yes Men. Mattis is definitely not a Yes Man. He’s a good choice. But the thought process behind the pick is also encouraging.
  • Of course, he’s still thinking about Bolton for State, so it’s not all roses.
  • Trump sent out a tweet the other day saying that flag burning should be banned and come with a loss of citizenship. You can pretty much guess my response to this: I’m with Scalia.
  • Of course, Hillary Clinton her own damned self once co-sponsored an anti-flag burning bill. No matter what Trump does, let’s not lose sight of what the alternative was like.
  • Neither Obama nor Biden will attend Castro’s funeral. Good.
  • Trump’s deal to keep Carrier from shipping jobs to Mexico (actually, Pence’s deal) does not impress me. It’s a $7 million tax break specifically for Carrier to keep 1000 jobs in Indiana. It’s crony capitalism and an example of what we shouldn’t be doing. We have an entire economy run on backdoor tax breaks, regulatory holidays, subsidies and special dispensations. What we need to do is make America a better place for all businesses through comprehensive and universal regulatory and tax reform.
  • However, I suspect the Carrier deal is a preview of Trump’s Presidency. He’ll make a huge fuss about little things he does like saving a thousand jobs, to give the impression that he’s doing good (which, to be fair, all Presidents do). The real good will have to come from Congress, who have the power to unshackle our economy.

As Jane’s Law Turns

For the last eight years, you may have heard, the Right Wing has been crazy. At least, that’s what the media assured us. And to be fair, there was some craziness out there: conspiracy theories about Obama, the tendency to infer nefarious motives to Democrats, etc. But I saw this less as a manifestation of Right Wing insanity and more of a manifestation of Jane’s Law:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

You see, I’ve been blogging a long time, since Bush’s first term. And I remember how crazy the Left was when Bush was in power. I remember a plurality of Democrats thinking Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11. I remember them saying we invaded Iraq to enrich Hailburton. I remember the Bushitler signs. I remember the claims that Bush was “gutting” spending he was massively increasing. And I especially remember that the only e-mail threat I’ve ever gotten was from a liberal angry at something I’d written on Moorewatch.

Right now, the media is all up in arms about “fake news”, the supposed apotheosis of Right Wing insanity. I find this concern utterly hilarious from a movement that made fakes news shows like The Daily Show their standard bearers. I find it hypocritical from the people who made serial confabulator Michael Moore the most successful documentary filmmaker in history. I find it bizarre coming from the likes of Vox, which frequently writes factually challenged articles that play to their liberal biases. There was an NPR article that said that fake news sites don’t do as well with liberals (hello? The Onion?). But even if that’s true, it’s mainly because liberals have been in power for eight years, at least at the Presidential level.

So I’ve been wondering since the election: how long would it take for the Left to go nuts, now that they’re out of power? How long before Jane’s Law is applied in the other direction? The answer is: not long.

My canary in the coal mine is Snopes, whose debunkings have slowly been shifting toward debunking nonsense and fake news about Donald Trump (e.g., Ivanka said she’d mace him if he wasn’t her father). But the real manifestation is in the current push for electoral recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We’ve gone through several stages here of increasing insanity and hypocrisy:

  • Before the election, Trump complained that the system was rigged. Many left-wing sites did sterling work debunking this. They also mocked Trump as a sore loser and castigating him for questioning the integrity of the election and endangering democracy.
  • Then, last weak, based on poor analysis of election returns, a computer scientist started claiming that the election may have been hacked by Russia. He’s since backed off a bit since people who actually know stuff about elections pointed out that the “discrepancies” in the election returns were actually differences in demographics.
  • At first, this was ignored. Clinton didn’t touch it. Some said it probably wasn’t hacked but maybe we should recount just to be sure. But over the Thanksgiving break, the roof caved in. Jill Stein called for a recount in Wisconsin and raised $7 million from Democrats to … well, it’s not really clear what that charlatan is using the money for. But Democrats sure gave her a hell of a lot of it. Now the Clinton camp is joining in, kinda, and many Democrats are openly saying the election might have been hacked.
  • Of course, this is not portrayed in the same way Trump’s ramblings were. Suddenly, calling an election rigged isn’t threatening our democracy; it’s strengthening it! Calling for a recount in a state decided by 60,000 votes or more isn’t being a sore loser; it’s testing the system!
  • The hypocrisy reached full circle today. Trump responded to the recount requests by tweeting out quotes from Clinton criticizing his complaints about a rigged election. He then tweeted that he would have won the popular vote had not three million illegal aliens voted for Clinton. There is zero evidence to supports his allegation. It appears to have originated in a few random tweets. But suddenly, the same commentators who were solemnly calling for a recount started blasting Trump for having the temerity to question the election. How dare he!

Here’s but one example of the response picked almost at random:

Krugman, BTW, went on a multi-tweet rant the other night about how important it was that we do a recount to insure the integrity of the election.

The lack of self-awareness here is simply stunning.

Look, I don’t like Trump either. And I’ll admit that, on election night, I entertained the idea that a Russian hack was responsible for the surprising result. But by the next morning, I realized that I’d spent the last few weeks reading up on just how hard it would be to do that. Not impossible, but very hard. But even if you think a Russian hack were possible, how you can you go, in the span of a couple of days, from promulgating conspiracy theories to denouncing them? It’s madness.

Look, maybe the Russians did hack the election. And maybe millions of illegal aliens voted. But without evidence — not speculation, not random blips on maps, not random tweets — real, solid evidence, I’m not going to proclaim the election results to be a fraud. Prove either assertion beyond a reasonable doubt and I’ll happily eat some crow and then join the pitchfork parade.

But please don’t sit there and tell me how reasonable and rational you are when you embrace one conspiracy theory while swatting down another. And please don’t tell me how reasonable and rational you are when you give $7 million to a grifter like Jill Stein on the desperate hope that your conspiracy theory is real. Maybe there’s something to it. But you’re not carefully and calmly considering the evidence. You’re going down a rabbit hole into madness.

Turkeys And Drumsticks 2016

For nine years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

This may be the last of these. We’ll see. But this is the post I most look forward to every year.

Read more… »

Don’t Get Distracted

The current spat over Pence’s attendance to Hamilton is a perfect Trump distraction. In the last few days, two stories have broken that are more important.

First, Trump settled the Trump University lawsuits for $25 million. There’s no admission of guilt, which is standard for settlements.

Second, there are indications that Trump will not, in fact, put his assets in a blind trust but will enrich himself as much as possible from his presidency. Trump has said he will forgo a salary. But diplomats are lining up to get rooms at the Trump hotel. When foreigners donated money to Clinton’s Foundation to get an audience with her, we called it corruption. What do you call this?

(This is aside from some of his appointments, which have included some troubling names, to say the least.)

Let’s not get distracted by Trump’s twitter tantrums. There’s already a lot going on here. Some of it matters; some of it doesn’t. Let’s stay focused.

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.)

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.