Friday, February 17, 2017

Cruising the Web

Gosh, has it only only been one month since Trump was inaugurated? Doesn't it feel like it's been months? It seems like every day there are several massive news stories, kerfuffles, scandals, outrages to get everyone all worked up. It's exhausting to try to keep up. Imagine how the politicians on Capitol Hill or the members of Trump's staff must feel.

His press conference yesterday continued that pattern and condensed it all into 77 minutes. Fortunately, I was at work so I didn't have to watch it - just listen to excerpts on the news. It was entertaining and interesting - that's for sure. For anyone who thought or predicted that Trump would change once he became president, can now admit that the man will never change. What we saw in the campaign is the person we're seeing today. He had some news that he could have let be the major story and perhaps change the storyline from controversies surrounding his administration. Instead he ranted about the media over and over. Perhaps that appeals to his supporters. I know that I have no ability to predict accurately how people will react to Trump since I was wrong over and over again since he came down that escalator. A lot of those who voted for him hate the media so they'll be thrilled to listen to his attacks. However, if Trump wants to get reelected, he has to win over some of the people who didn't vote for him. He can't depend on running against such a damaged candidate as Hillary Clinton again. Remember that only a few thousand votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania moving the other way would have lost the election for Trump. He has to appeal to those voters with accomplishments, not rants about the media. Trump would do better to have more focus to talk about what he's trying to accomplish instead of distracting everyone with talking about the media. He should know that journalists can't resist talking about whatever he says about them and all other news will be lost amidst all the brouhaha over his words about the media. They're eternally solipsistic so they have trouble focusing on anything else if Trump says anything about them.

Allahpundit borrows a metaphor to describe what Trump's press conference is like.
I’ve mentioned it before but one of the best descriptions of a Trump presser I’ve read came early on in the campaign from Leon Wolf, who compared it to a military jet firing off “chaff” to divert heat-seeking missiles. There were so many colorful, noteworthy, ill-informed, sometimes flatly mendacious bits of news emanating from Trump every few minutes, Wolf noted, that when it was over commentators frequently wouldn’t know what to focus on. There were too many lights in the sky to find the most newsworthy targets. Today’s hour-plus presser was that all over again, except it was a presidential news conference and Trump was hitting on all cylinders, across an array of topics so wide that it felt like he touched on every major news story of the past three weeks. CNN was reduced to gawking that it was “a stunning moment in modern American political history.” Watching it and trying to pick out the newsiest stuff felt like playing an extremely advanced level of “Missile Command,” with stuff raining down faster than your eyes can follow. How do you make sense of Trump riffing on Flynn and Russia and the media and whether the people at Republican townhalls are “not the Republican people that our representatives represent” and about 15 other topics for 77 minutes? The only safe thing you can say about today’s spectacle, I think, is that it confirmed your view of Trump, whatever that view may be. If, like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, you’re a diehard Trumpist, it was Trump Woodstock. If you’re not, it was Altamont.

Michael Goodwin in the New York Post thought that Trump's press conference will play wonderfully with his supporters.
The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kids’ stuff next to his high wire act.

Next time, the White House ought to sell popcorn.

Amid feverish reports of chaos on his team and with Democrats fantasizing that Russia-gate is another Watergate, Trump took center stage to declare that reports of his demise are just more fake news.

Far from dead, he was positively exuberant. His performance at a marathon press conference was a must-see-tv spectacle as he mixed serious policy talk with stand-up comedy and took repeated pleasure in whacking his favorite pinata, the “dishonest media.”

“Russia is a ruse,” he insisted, before finally saying under questioning he was not aware of anyone on his campaign having contact with Russian officials.

Trump’s detractors immediately panned the show as madness, but they missed the method behind it and proved they still don’t understand his appeal. Facing his first crisis in the Oval Office, he was unbowed in demonstrating his bare-knuckled intention to fight back.

He did it his way. Certainly no other president, and few politicians at any level in any time, would dare put on a show like that.

In front of cameras, and using the assembled press corps as props, he conducted a televised revival meeting to remind his supporters that he is still the man they elected. Ticking off a lengthy list of executive orders and other actions he has taken, he displayed serious fealty to his campaign promises.

Sure, sentences didn’t always end on the same topic they started with, and his claim to have won the election by the largest electoral college margin since Ronald Reagan wasn’t close to true.

Fair points, but so what? Fact-checkers didn’t elect him, nor did voters who were happy with the status quo.

Trump, first, last and always, matches the mood of the discontented. Like them, he is a bull looking for a china shop. That’s his ace in the hole and he played it almost to perfection.
Perhaps. I just keep thinking about his need to expand his support beyond those people who voted for him enthusiastically. And he won't win them over just by attacking the media.

Ben Shapiro comments,
The right celebrates that Trump keeps hitting the media with a hammer. The left is shocked that Trump has a hammer. Given today’s press conference, neither is completely wrong....

Trump led off with a recitation of all the wonderful things he’s done so far. “I’m here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” Trump explained. He then cited polls showing his popularity. He got defensive, of course, because Trump hates criticism – he ripped on the media, as per his usual arrangement, and said that “many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth” (Fact check: true); he also stated that the rollout of his immigration and refugee executive order was “very smooth” (Fact check: false), and that his administration was running “like a fine-tune machine” (Fact check: he just fired his National Security Advisor three weeks in).
As Shapiro summarizes, Trump then proceeded to blame Obama and the media for any perception that things aren't going well. After all, why should anyone believe the media when they messed up predicting the election. Then he went on to complain about their attacks and leaks about Mike Flynn which leaves the mystery as to why he fired him. And he obfuscated about whether his aides had talked to Russia during the campaign and continued to refuse to say anything bad about Putin. And the bizarreness of his answers continued.
To really experience the full glory of the Trump presser, it has to be watched. Trump certainly isn’t going to lack for ratings. And him doing the same routine that got him here won’t alienate his base of support – and him hammering the media into oblivion will help him greatly. But Trump’s wildly varying tone, his defensiveness, his lack of grasp of the issues, his confusing answers about the Flynn firing – none of it is likely to reassure voters who feel confused by the chaos of the last two weeks.
The WSJ is actually rather sanguine about Trump's performance yesterday.
He said he was “making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you”—before he went on to call the media “dishonest,” “false, horrible, fake” and filled with “such hatred” for him.

One reporter went as far as to accuse Mr. Trump of “undermining confidence in our news media,” and, duh, his goal was to use an East Roomful of journalists as his foil. They seemed to recoil aesthetically from how he communicates—with his exaggerations, unrehearsed digressions and streams-of-consciousness, or unconsciousness as the case may be.

But Mr. Trump’s larger message is reasonably clear and coherent. He exposed himself to press scrutiny and answered multiple pointed questions on Russia and other controversies. President Obama tended to filibuster at his press events, and he’d have reached perhaps the third question by the 60-minute mark.
At some point, he needs to do more than just take on the right enemies within our political system in attacking the media and Democrats. He has to demonstrate actual competence in accomplishing worthwhile goals.

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Jonah Goldberg rejects the commonly-held misconception that "Middle East conflict" refers only to Israel and the Palestinians.
The term has always been a misnomer, making it sound like were it not for the Israeli–Palestinian dispute, the Middle East would be all peace and harmony. The Economist once ran “A Chronology of the Middle East Conflict” that was all about Israel and Palestine. It began in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration and ended with the election — apparently for life — of Mahmoud Abbas to the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2005. During that time there were dozens of conflicts in the region — cross-border wars, civil wars, rebellions, revolutions, massacres, etc. — that had nothing to do with Israel.

The Islamic State is still in Syria, Libya, and Iraq. The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is finishing off the rebellion against his regime with the help of the Russians and Iranians. Amnesty International released a report last week accusing the Assad regime of executing some 13,000 people in a single prison. Approximately 4.8 million civilians have fled Syria and an estimated 400,000 have been killed. The Syrian-refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon is straining those relatively moderate states beyond their capacities.

The latest news in the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy war in Yemen: The Saudis say Iran supplied the missiles Houthi rebels have been firing deep into Saudi territory.

Turkey is rapidly transforming itself into an authoritarian state, and Egypt isn’t far behind. The Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere always seem moments away from asserting their independence. And then, of course, there’s al-Qaeda and all the other terrorist groups — which hate Israel, to be sure, but don’t really focus on it.

The Middle East has always had much bigger problems and, often, much bigger conflicts than those having to do with “the Zionist entity.” Indeed, it is precisely because of those problems and conflicts that rulers in the region chose to magnify the Israel–Palestinian conflict into the Middle East conflict in the first place. Demonizing the Jews is always a useful distraction from domestic dysfunction and oppression.

Noah Rothman reports on a very intriguing initiative by the Trump administration.
The Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib reported on Tuesday that administration officials are in talks with at least five Arab nations to form a mutual defense alliance. It would include an intelligence-sharing regime with the Israeli government.

“The alliance would include countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are avowed enemies of Israel as well as Egypt and Jordan, which have long-standing peace treaties with Israel,” Abi-Habib reported. The alliance’s core objective would be to formalize and expand upon the Saudi-led coalition currently executing strikes on the Houthi militia in Yemen. In broader terms, the founding of a majority Sunni alliance with the operational assistance of Israel that has one core mission: Contain a resurgent Iran.

This kind of informal military alliance between Arab nations and the state of Israel would have been inconceivable prior to the Obama administration. The Obama presidency’s pursuit of a nuclear accord with Iran and its reliance upon Tehran-backed militias in Iraq catalyzed a sea change in Middle Eastern politics. Bilateral diplomatic and commercial relations between Israel and states like Saudi Arabia, which refuses to acknowledge the Jewish state’s existence, have unfrozen with remarkable alacrity. This kind of once unthinkable cooperation is directly attributable to the acute threat posed to the Sunni Arab states by Iran. More important, new Israeli-Arab collaboration has exploded a myth that still pervades the global diplomatic community: The idea that peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without first resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It would certainly be a new moment in the Middle East.

It woulds like Trump's first choice to be his national security adviser, Admiral Robert Harward, doesn't want any part of joining the Trump administration. It's a real shame. The guy sounded like he had a wonderful background from having lived as a child in pre-Revolutionary Iran to his service as a Navy SEAL and retired three-star admiral in the Middle East. Since so much of our military efforts against terrorism these days is based on the special forces, it would be good to have someone with that background. I liked that he was close to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, one of Trump's best picks in his cabinet. A pairing of Mattis and Harward would have added some more stability to Trump's administration. And face it, someone who parachuted in to his own retirement party just sounds sorta cool. But it's also reasonable that someone with such a background just might not want to serve in the Trump White House which hasn't been so far a model of organizational impressiveness. And I can well understand why he might not want to take a job unless he was given complete control over his own staff.

But Mr Harward is said to have turned Mr Trump down. “Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality,” said one person with first hand knowledge of the discussions between Mr Trump and Mr Harward. The second person said Mr Trump had asked M r Harward to return to the White House for another meeting to try to change his mind....

One of the people familiar with Mr Harward’s decision said he was concerned about whether the top advisers around Mr Trump would allow him to install his own staff on the NSC — particularly after suggestions that KT McFarland, Mr Flynn’s deputy, had been asked to remain.
And this is a less polite description of why he's turned down the job.
A friend of Harward's said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems so chaotic. Harward called the offer a "s*** sandwich," the friend said....

A senior Republican familiar with the process said "a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority" was central in Harward's decision.
It's so typical that we're getting all these leaks about who was being considered for the job and what that person's reaction is. I can understand why someone of Harward's reputation doesn't want his last act to being part of whatever seems to be going on in the Trump White House. I just regret that someone of his caliber isn't going to be there to help right the ship.

And stories like this don't help the matter.
Several White House staffers were dismissed Thursday morning after failing FBI background checks, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Some of the aides were "walked out of the building by security" on Wednesday after not passing the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions for security clearance.

Among those who won't be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former chief of staff to Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.

She's among others who failed to pass the intensive background check, which includes questions on the applicant's credit score, substance use and other personal subjects.

We're seeing part of the problem of an administration that probably didn't expect to win the election and had a lot of turmoil in its transition team as they started out with Chris Christie and then got rid of him. That's one of the reasons why they had this debacle with Andrew Puzder and the stories that came out about his having an illegal immigrant working for him whom he paid under the table and whatever went on in his divorce. If they had performed the sort of "extreme vetting" that they want for people looking for visas to come here on their own nominations, they would have uncovered some of these red flags. And there that story she told on Opray of his having abused her and then later claimed that she made up while they were in the midst of an ugly divorce and custody battle. There was a somewhat similar story that Ivana Trump told when she and Donald were getting divorced - that he had forcibly raped her. Later, she retracted the charge and has supported his run for the presidency. I'm just wondering how many women make up such stories while in the midst of acrimonious divorces. I know a man whose wife also claimed sexual abuse charges of their small daughter while they were getting divorced and arguing over custody. Having known this man all my life and knowing what a delusional woman his wife was, I have no doubt that she made that up. I just wonder how often women do that in divorce proceedings and what defense the men have over such horrid allegations. Of course, there are many men who do abuse their families, but these women who do lie or who told the truth and then retracted the story perhaps being paid off make it so hard for judges to determine what really happens in families and harm the women who actually were abused if judges start to think that a not insignificant number of women are just making up stories of abuse.

That's just something I was thinking about when I read Puzder's of wife's allegations and then her retractions. It's similar to how the lies told by the young woman behind the Rolling Stone rape allegations at the University of Virginia and other college students who make false claims of being raped because they are upset that they had drunken hook-ups make life and justice so much harder for the real victims of abuse and rape.

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Historian Gene Kopelson, author of Reagan's 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK, and Reagan's Emergence as a World Statesman, tells the story of how Ronald Reagan confronted student opposition when he visited Yale University while governor of California. There was a lot of hostility from professors and students.
Reagan took it all in stride. He viewed the controversy as an opportunity to inject traditional American values into young minds. Reagan taught a number of classes during the week and met with several hundred students.

While playing billiards with a small group of students, Reagan discussed minorities, small government, and how to win in Vietnam. Reagan succeeded in opening the minds of some of them to other points of view: When the all-white male students in the billiards room complained to Reagan about how society was treating blacks, Reagan pointed out that in California, there was a different minority group, Americans of Mexican descent, that had far worse problems; he said that he was trying to help them. When the students wondered where Reagan was getting his Vietnam advice and why had he not sought out elite thinkers from the Ivy League, Reagan answered that he had been discussing the war — with leaders from Cal Tech, California’s aerospace and defense leaders, and Stanford. The students seemed shocked that there might be other points of view besides those originating from within liberal eastern academia.

The high point of Reagan’s weeklong visit was his final speech, at the Yale Political Union, where there was an overflow crowd. Reagan did not deliver his usual campaign and fundraising speech about bringing small government to Washington, D.C. Instead, he analyzed the entire controversy of his visit and the intolerance of the Left. Reagan addressed the issue head-on. He looked directly at the few professors in the audience and forcefully told them and all the students that their job was not to indoctrinate. Their job, and the mission of the university, was to expose their students to many different points of view and to let the students decide for themselves.

Reagan clearly saw that if conservatism were allowed the chance to compete freely in the arena of ideas, its major tenets of individual freedom and small government would almost always win. But if young minds were exposed only to leftist ideology, then conservatism wouldn’t have much chance. At the end of his speech, Ronald Reagan indeed had succeeded in changing minds: He received a standing ovation.
Who would think that we'd look back to the 1960s for civility on college campuses?

Chinese students at the University of California, San Diego have figured out how to use Americans rhetoric to try to get their way.
Chinese students are joining their peers on American campuses in getting woke. Their cause? Defending the official line of the Communist Party.

On Feb. 2, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) formally announced that the Dalai Lama would make a keynote speech at the June commencement ceremony.

The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as an oppressive figure threatening to divide a unified China. A group of them now plans to meet with the university chancellor to discuss the content of the upcoming speech.

The awkwardness doesn’t end there. As the aggrieved students have trumpeted their opposition, their rhetoric has borrowed elements from larger campus activist movements across the United States. The upshot: What Westerners might perceive as Communist Party orthodoxy is mingling weirdly with academia’s commitment to diversity, political correctness, and other championed ideals....

Comments from Chinese students on Facebook were also couched in rhetoric commonly used to rally for inclusivity on campus. One simply read #ChineseStudentsMatter. Some argued that the invitation goes against “diversity” and “political correctness.” Others contended the university was acting hypocritically by inviting an “oppressive” figure like the Dalai Lama while fostering a climate of anti-racism and anti-sexism.
Well, at least they've learned something here in the U.S. - how to play the victim card to try to silence those with whom they disagree.

And here is another example of what some foreign students think they can accomplish at an American university - silence those with whom they disagree.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, spoke at Columbia University on Tuesday and was met with waves of student protestors who silenced him seven times.
Even before the event began dozens of pro-Palestinian protestors stood outside chanting, “Danny Danon you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Once inside things didn’t calm down, more pro-Palestinian students interrupted Danon screaming, “We’ll be free from the river to the sea, Palestine!”
Ryan Girdusky notes this contrast.
It’s worth noting that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of the world’s leading Holocaust deniers, spoke at Columbia in 2007 and was not interrupted once.






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Kid Rock as a Senate candidate?
Really? The Michigan GOP doesn't have anyone else to put up against Debbie Stabenow? Though, I guess if Al Franken could be in the Senate, I guess a Senator Rock (or Senator Ritchie) could be possible.

Charles Krauthammer is mystified
why Mike Flynn lied about talking to Russia about sanctions before he was actually in office. If that was all it was, it wasn't such a big deal and he could have told the truth and it would have blown over.
The harm was not the calls but Flynn’s lying about them. And most especially lying to the vice president who then went out and told the world Flynn had never discussed sanctions. You can’t leave your vice president undercut and exposed. Flynn had to go.

Up to this point, the story makes sense. Except for one thing: Why the cover-up if there is no crime? Why lie about talking about sanctions? It’s inexplicable. Did Flynn want to head off lines of inquiry about other contacts with Russians that might not have been so innocent? Massive new leaks suggest numerous contacts during the campaign between Trump associates and Russian officials, some of whom were intelligence agents. Up til now, however, reports The New York Times, there is “no evidence” of any Trump campaign collusion or cooperation with Russian hacking and other interference in the U.S. election.

Thus far. Which is why there will be investigations. Speculation ranges from the wildly malevolent to the rather loopily innocent.

At one end of the spectrum is the scenario wherein these campaign officials — including perhaps Flynn, perhaps even Trump — are compromised because of tainted business or political activities known to the Russians, to whom they are now captive. A fevered conspiracy in my view, but there are non-certifiable people who consider it possible.

At the benign end of the spectrum is that the easily flattered Trump imagines himself the great dealmaker who overnight becomes a great statesman by charming Vladimir Putin into a Nixon-to-China grand bargain — we jointly call off the new Cold War, join forces to destroy the Islamic State and reach a new accommodation for Europe that relieves us of some of the burden of parasitic allies.

To me, the idea is nuts, a narcissistic fantasy grounded in neither strategy nor history. But that doesn’t mean Trump might not imagine it — after all, he maintains that if we had only stayed in Iraq to steal its oil, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State. And if this has indeed been his thinking about Russia, it would make sense to surround himself with advisers who had extensive dealings there.

I believe neither of these scenarios but I’m hard put to come up with alternatives. The puzzle remains. Why did Flynn lie? Until we answer that, the case of the cover-up in search of a crime remains unsolved.

Dag. Fourteen medial of honor recipients are publicly taking Senator Richard Blumenthal to task for his hypocrisy over Judge Gorsuch. They remember, if the media don't, that Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam when he actually spent the war off the battlefield.
You recently called upon your Senate colleagues to subject Judge Neil Gorsuch's record to "extreme vetting," questioning both his qualification and biography. The Senate certainly has the right and obligation to closely review any nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Conversely, it is our right as Americans and veterans to scrutinize your hypocrisy in doing so.

We are veterans of the Vietnam War. We fought alongside our brothers in arms, many of whom died or were gravely injured there. We saw the treatment meted out on us and our fellow military personnel upon our return, yet we never questioned our commitment to our nation's freedom. But perhaps more relevant to this discussion is that we know you were not there with us.

The fact you repeatedly and consistently claimed to have served in Vietnam is a gross case of stolen valor in our opinion. You obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970, at least two of which were seemingly political favors to you so that you could avoid joining us in a war zone.
They provide several examples of his having said, while campaigning for the Senate, that he served in Vietnam and what he faced coming home from the battlefield when he actually never served overseas as finally he had to admit.
We recognize that military service of any kind is valuable to the protection of our nation's freedom. There is no shame in engaging in "Toys for Tots" campaigns, recycling efforts, or assisting in the improvement or construction of various facilities, which appears to be a fair description of the bulk of your duties during the Vietnam War.

What is offensive to those who fought in a most brutal conflict, some of us who were captured and tortured by our enemy, is any comparison of those most brutal experiences to the ones of people like you who never even sniffed the air in Vietnam.

You should be proud that you shared a uniform with so many brave souls who endured the hardships of war, but instead you chose to attempt to deceitfully and craftily join their ranks with your intentionally vague statements and false claims. Quite simply, it is impossible to "misspeak" about having seen a war.

Valor is too uncommon a commodity, and too precious a virtue, to be stolen by those who have not paid the high price for freedom. We recognize that some concerns over any appointee, especially the Supreme Court, are honest and legitimate.

You, sir, are neither.
Excellent.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cruising the Web

What is worse about this story - that intelligence officials are taking it upon themselves to not give information to the commander-in-chief or that they're now leaking about it to the media?
U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.
Re
In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.
I can't stand the way that Trump has blasted the intelligence services from the campaign through the post-election period to now as president. I can understand why they're wary of him. But I can also see why Trump is angry at all the leaks coming out the intelligence community. There is something so disturbing at how politicization has taken over everything, even agencies that should be totally nonpartisan. The story is chock full of anonymous sources. The only source named is Democratic Representative Adam Schiff who reports that anonymous sources have told him, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, about their concerns sharing information with the President.
“I’ve talked with people in the intelligence community that do have concerns about the White House, about the president, and I think those concerns take a number of forms,” Mr. Schiff said, without confirming any specific incidents. “What the intelligence community considers their most sacred obligation is to protect the very best intelligence and to protect the people that are producing it.”

“I’m sure there are people in the community who feel they don’t know where he’s coming from on Russia,” Mr. Schiff said.
So how are we to judge a story based on anonymous sourcing and a Democrat's observations? I have no idea.

William A. Jacobson points out at Legal Insurrection how little we actually know about connections between the Trump campaign/administration and Russia.
I don’t know whether Donald Trump or his aides had any improper contacts with Russian Intelligence officers.

Neither do you, or the media. The Intelligence Community might know, but they have provided zero facts either officially or through leaks to prove any improper, much less illegal, conduct took place.

Instead, we have trial by innuendo based on there being “contacts” between Trump campaign aides and Russian intelligence.


Here is what we don’t know even from the leaks as reported in The NY Times and CNN:

Who had the contacts? With whom were the contacts? When did they take place? Is there evidence the campaign aides knew they were talking to intelligence officers. Were they talking about the campaign or unrelated business?

And most important, What was said?

We do know from the NY Times and CNN leak reporting of the leaks is that there is no evidence so far of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

In this fact-free environment, imaginations and malicious intentions can run wild. We have round-the-clock media and social media speculation and frenzy throwing around terms like impeachment, treason, and so on.

It is, in some ways, worse than harmful facts, because there is no clear accusation against which to defend, and no factual basis upon which the public can judge.

If Donald Trump didn’t do anything improper or illegal, I think this will ultimately backfire on the intelligence community. That community either is participating in or turning a blind eye towards those among it who are trying to sabotage the elected president.

If Trump is innocent, he has no choice but to go to political war with the intelligence community, because right now he is receiving political death by a thousand cuts. I think that the 60 million people who voted for him will stand by his side.

If Donald Trump did do something improper or illegal, then the intelligence community is doing the nation a disservice by leaking fact-free innuendo. There presumably are mechanisms whereby factual information could be provided to Congress or persons lawfully allowed to see such information so that we can judge based on facts. Or if you are going to illegally leak, then at least illegally leak facts.

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John Hinderaker contrasts all this speculation over whether or not the Trump team had contact with Russian government officials with the yawns over Obama contacting Iran's leaders during the 2008 campaign. To tell the truth, I'd missed that story and am amazed at how little coverage Obama received for contacting one of our nation's main enemies (whatever Obama believed) before Obama was even elected.
In 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers,” was negotiating with Iran concerning that country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined: “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” What caused the talks to founder? The Times explained:

Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.

The Iranians held firm to their position, perhaps because they knew that help was on the way, in the form of a new president. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3. At some point either before or after that date, but prior to the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be much easier to bargain with than President Bush. Michael Ledeen reported the story last year:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.


So Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened: Obama abandoned the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium, so that Iran’s nuclear program has sped ahead over the months and years that negotiations have dragged on.
And, as president, Obama delivered on his promise to negotiate a deal that would make Iran happy. Shouldn't that be a big scandal? Of course not, because it concerned Obama. If the Trump campaign was collaborating any way with Putin's government, that's a true scandal, but so was Obama undermining the sitting president's negotiations with Iran to promise them a better deal if he got elected.

ABC's Matthew Dowd has access to a clause in the Constitution that I've never heard of. According to him, Trump is violating a section of the First Amendment that mandates that a president take questions from the mainstream media.
Following today’s presidential press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ABC News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd took note of the outlets that President Trump called on today and in his past few press conferences.

Today Trump called on Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich, which kicked off more criticism of the White House for their choice of outlets to call on at these press conferences.

Dowd added this afternoon that Trump is “shutting down part of the First Amendment by not taking questions that are going to be any way antagonistic in this.”
I guess that is the Call on ABC at Press Conferences Clause. So was the New York Times' JEff Zeleny violating the Ask Tough Questions Clause when he asked Obama at a news conference what had most surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled him as president?

As Benjamin Freed argues in The Washingtonian, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans which reporter gets the first question.
Like the best stories about any presidency, stories like the Post‘s came from deeply established sources, document sleuthing, and careful analysis. So who really cares who gets first dibs on questions?

Was the media so outraged when a top Obama aide, Ben Rhodes, bragged about manipulating the media about the Iran deal?
In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
The Washington Post reported on Rhodes' methods in manipulating a media that he has such contempt for, but without this sense of outrage that we're seeing over whom Trump and Sean Spicer call on in press conferences and briefings.
Rhodes, 38, said in the article that it was easy to shape a favorable impression of the proposed agreement because of the inexperience of many of those covering the issue.

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

.....Rhodes’s assistant, Ned Price, told the newspaper that the administration would feed “color” — background details — to their “compadres” in the press corps, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

In the article, Rhodes speaks contemptuously of the Washington policy and media establishment, including The Washington Post and the New York Times, referring to them as “the blob” that was subject to conventional thinking about foreign policy.

“We had test-drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like [the anti-nuclear group] Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked,” Rhodes says.

Did Matthew Dowd think that that violated the Do Not Manipulate the Media Clause of the First Amendment?

Allahpundit points to Purple Strategies' Rory Coopers Twitter feed for some more examples of MSM softballs lobbed at Obama.









I would prefer that Trump and Spicer took questions from a wide range of media outlets instead of trying to call on only journalists from conservative outlets. But I'm also happy that he's not doing interviews with a youtube blogger whose specialty is blogging from her bathtub where she eats Fruit Loops.

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Eric Felton warns against individuals in the FBI following the extremely distasteful path of J. Edgar Hoover.
To hear New York Times correspondent Eric Schmitt tell it, his FBI sources are dishing confidential information from their investigations of Donald Trump's team out of selfless concern for the country. "Many of them are taking risks in order to confirm information that they feel is important for the American public to know," Schmitt told BBC Newshour host Julian Marshall this morning.

"Are they alarmed, the intelligence agencies," Marshall asked in response, "because they believe that Mr. Trump is possibly putting the security of the United States at risk?"

"To be blunt," Schmitt said ominously, "yes."

There are other possibilities, among them to be blunt) that intelligence bureaucrats are looking out for their own interests against a president who has not only announced his opposition to all Washington bureaucrats, but has something of a row going with the intelligence agencies. Could it be their motives are less selfless than self-serving?

We seem to have forgotten the bad old days when J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was untouchable because of the threat the Bureau posed to politicos who fell afoul of the director. There were the many filing cabinets—no one quite knows how many (one moving man who had to lug them down stairs later testified they were some three dozen cabinets stuffed with file-foldered documents)—full of material of a compromising nature about politicians and political leaders.
Felten reminds us of Hoover's habit of blackmailing politicians with the information that the FBI had collected on them. We thought that such sleazy use of FBI investigations was behind us, but now we have the media cheering on the leakers because they're attacking the Trump administration.
Such things could never happen again, of course. It's quite inconceivable that domestic intelligence agencies would ever seek to protect their prerogatives by leaking against politicians deemed unfriendly to the security bureaucracy. It's quite inconceivable that modern politicos would be put on notice that they might be the objects of surveillance—and that the surveillance could be used against them by the agencies they supposedly oversee. It's quite inconceivable that the FBI would ever again have anyone in their pocket.

Yes, inconceivable—in the Princess Bride usage.

Those now so eager to use, and be used by, the FBI against President Trump might want to consider the damage done to democratic institutions when domestic intelligence agencies start to freelance.

But then the DNC has figured out the real problem with today's FBI - how the TV show "Designated Survivor" portrays the FBI. They're irritated that the show isn't going far enough to criticize James Comey.
The Democratic National Committee is expected to vote next week on a resolution that condemns the ABC drama "Designated Survivor" in an apparent effort to mock and criticize FBI Director James Comey.

The party's resolution committee will consider the motion during its annual gathering in Atlanta next week.

"Whereas, the ABC TV show 'Designated Survivor' portrays a fictional FBI Director as being blackmailed into confessing to a crime he did not commit, and ... Whereas, the portrayal of this situation is unbelievable and could result in the undermining of faith in the FBI..." the resolution states.

"Whereas, Director Comey demonstrated in the recent 2016 election that he does not need to be blackmailed to engage in illegal partisan actions, and ... Whereas Director Comey's infamous, partisan, and illegal letters resulted in the election of the man some refer to as 'not my president," the resolution continues....

herefore, be it resolved, that all US citizens are encouraged to have the same respect for the FBI as Director Comey demonstrated with his illegal actions.
Oooh, dang! That will show Comey!

Two clerks for Neil Gorsuch who say they are from opposite sides of the political spectrum write to say what they learned from working for Gorsuch. One important lesson was the importance of writing clearly.
Judge Gorsuch reinforced the importance of accessible and clear writing, devoid of legalese. His opinions are analytically rigorous and enjoyable to read. “Writing takes work,” he taught us, but we should never aim to “write like a lawyer.”
I give my students each year a research assignment to write about a Supreme Court case from the past 50 years that they think was decided incorrectly and argue why the justices made a mistake. As part of their research, they have to read majority opinion and dissent(s). This can be tough task for 10th graders. Through the years, quite a few have commented on how they enjoyed reading Scalia's opinions because he wrote clearly and they could understand his points and enjoyed the little jokes he would sprinkle throughout his writing. They might not agree with his position, but they appreciated being able to understand his points. Adding another justice to the Court who will write clearly is certainly a plus.

The two clerks point to some other lessons they learned. THey praise Gorsuch's efforts to see both sides of an argument, something that, apparently, some lawyers don't do.

South Carolina workers at Boeing
just don't want to be unionized.
After a day of voting by thousands of Boeing workers and tallying by national labor officials, officials announced Wednesday night that Boeing workers would not be joining the International Association of Machinists union.

Boeing officials issued a statement Wednesday night saying of the 3,000 people who could vote, 2,828 voted. Of those, 74 percent voted against joining the union.

“We will continue to move forward as one team,” said Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of BSC. “We have a bright future ahead of us and are eager to focus on the accomplishments of this great team and to developing new opportunities.

IAM leaders expressed their disappointment at the result.

“We’re disappointed the workers at Boeing South Carolina will not yet have the opportunity to see all the benefits that come with union representation” said IAM lead organizer Mike Evans. “But more than anything, we are disheartened they will have to continue to work under a system that suppresses wages, fosters inconsistency and awards only a chosen few.”

Months of heated debate and constant advertisements for and against the union came down to Wednesday night's results.

Follow
North Charleston ✔ @NorthCharleston
Results of the union vote at Boeing South Carolina. Workers vote NO to union representation. https://twitter.com/jonostrower/status/832042828939227136 …
8:45 PM - 15 Feb 2017 · North Charleston, SC
3 3 Retweets 11 11 likes

Boeing has been outspoken about its opposition, saying the union does not have workers' best interests in mind. The aerospace giant says expensive union dues will do more harm than good for North Charleston workers.

The arguments appeared to have worked. IAM officials commented on the flood of ads on radio and TV in a statement Thursday night.

“Boeing management spent a lot of money to make sure power and profits remained concentrated at the very top. The company’s anti-union conduct reached new lows,” said Evans. “The IAM remains committed to getting Boeing South Carolina workers the respect, wages and consistency they deserve.”

Union officials argued that employees deserve better pay, more benefits, and secure contracts from Boeing.

The decision by Boeing's workers precedes President Donald Trump's first visit to South Carolina on Friday. During the campaign, Trump warned workers at the Boeing facility that without him as president, Boeing would be closing up shop and moving to China within five years.

The White House has not released a statement on the vote.

“Friday we will mark the most recent incredible accomplishment in the proud history of the BSC team with the rollout of the first 787-10,” said Robinson-Berry. “It is great to have this vote behind us as we come together to celebrate that event.”

South Carolina has the lowest percentage of union members in the United States.

According to NLRB rules, workers must wait at least one year before they can hold another vote. IAM officials say they plan on staying close with Boeing South Carolina workers during that time and see what they can do to help them moving forward.

“Ultimately it will be the workers who dictate what happens next,” said Evans. “We’ve been fortunate enough to talk with hundreds of Boeing workers over the past few years. Nearly every one of them, whether they support the union or not, have improvements they want to see at Boeing. Frankly, they deserve better.”


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The preoccupation of California politicians with future climate change doesn't seem to have done much to help them face the effects of the climate today.
When it rains in California, it pours. Five years of drought have given way to floods, mudslides and now a massive failure at the state’s second biggest reservoir. While spending billions annually to fight climate change, Democrats in Sacramento have left the state ill-prepared for local weather fluctuations.

Nearly 200,000 people in Northern California were urged to evacuate their homes this weekend after Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways caved amid a storm surge. The emergency spillway, which hasn’t been used since the dam was finished in 1968, was needed to prevent flooding after a football-field-sized crater developed in the main spillway.

It’s unclear why the spillways eroded. Both were designed to handle flows 20 to 40 times stronger than those which occurred when they started to crumble. Green groups are blaming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for re-licensing the dam in 2005 without requiring fortifications, which regulators said were unnecessary. So much for progressives’ belief in regulatory infallibility.

The storms pummeling the state this year also contradict forecasts of a new climate normal of persistent drought. California is on track for its wettest winter on record. Snowpack is running about 180% of the statewide average and more than double the norm in the Southern Sierras. Rainfall around Los Angeles is twice the historical average, and groundwater basins in the Central Valley are beginning to refill. This sudden turn of climate events is consistent with California’s cyclical weather patterns.

Yet the state lacks sufficient infrastructure to store the excess precipitation....

Yet plans for additional surface storage—Temperance Flat Dam, Sites Reservoir and Shasta Dam expansion—have been at a standstill for years. The projects would cost about as much as the high-speed rail from Shafter to Madera and about half as much as California’s Medicaid expansion on an annual basis.

The real impediment is green folly. Soon after California voters approved a water bond in 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dashed raising the Shasta Dam, claiming it would harm endangered species’ habitat. Yet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says more water storage could restore threatened salmon downstream.

President Trump on Tuesday approved Governor Jerry Brown’s request for emergency aid, but he ought to finance Oroville Dam repairs in part from the state’s $8 billion rainy day fund. California’s politicians should worry less about the uncertain temperatures in 2100 than its water needs in the here and now.
It's a shame that ordinary California citizens have to pay now for their politicians' monomania on climate change and high-speed rail to the detriment of infrastructure needed for today. And since California really has nearly $8 billion sitting in a rainy day fund, why should federal taxpayers have to bail them out when it actually, you know, rains?
Even as his state budget plan detailed the reemergence of a potential deficit in the near future, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday presented lawmakers with a fiscal blueprint that projects the state's cash reserve will grow to $7.9 billion.

The passage of Proposition 2 in 2014 strengthened the state's existing rainy-day budget reserve, a savings account first created by voters in 2004. In essence, the new law requires both a larger amount to be set aside each year and the paying of a portion of the state's long-term debts.
Well, that's fiscally responsible after years of being so irresponsible in the promises of government pensions and other spending. But now it seems we're going to pay to bail them out for their bad planning.

This is one precedent
I'm glad to see broken.
President Donald Trump will not pick brackets for the 2017 men's and women's tournaments. The White House has notified ESPN that the president will pass on making the picks this year.

The network said in a statement Wednesday: "We expressed our interest to the White House in continuing the presidential bracket. They have respectfully declined."
Good. Keep Trump and all politicians far away from all sports. I know how it irritated me to see ESPN fawn over Obama when he made his picks as if that was something of import. I can imagine how Trump foes would hate to see him on ESPN explaining why he doesn't think Gonzaga can win it all.

Ah, just what parents pay to send their children to college to learn.
Students at a predominantly white small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania will wear white pins shaped like puzzle pieces for one month to remind themselves of their white privilege.

The Elizabethtown College Democrats launched the campaign over the weekend in order to remind white people who don’t experience racism that it still exists, the local CBS News affiliate reported.

“People of color every day have to wake up and think about race,” Aileen Ida, president of the College Democrats, told the TV station. “They have to think about how it affects their life, what they have to do for it to not negatively affect their life. And as a white person, you don’t even have to think about it.”
She said notion that we live in a post-racial world is a “misconception.”

It turns out that the Trump administration is not the only group to inflate crowd-size numbers. The Democrats leading "Moral March" gatherings in North Carolina seem to have quadrupled the actual size of the crowd showing up for a #moralresistance march in Raleigh a week ago.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz explains why we should truly be concerned about the methods used by those withing the government who leaked information to get Mike Flynn to resign. We can not like Flynn and think, as I do, that the Trump administration will be better off with someone else in that position and still be troubled by what happened.
In one sense, the larger system of American checks and balances worked: The Trump White House couldn’t ignore the Flynn problems because they went public. On the other hand, the officials who made the problems public did so using raw information that was in their possession for reasons we don’t yet know and may not have any right whatsoever to know.

This information might have come because the US intelligence community has an active interest in the Russian official to whom he talked.

Or it could have come because the FBI had been pursuing some sort of secret investigation and had received authorization to monitor and track his calls and discussions.

If this was intelligence, the revelation of the Flynn meeting just revealed something to the Russians we shouldn’t want revealed — which is that we were listening in on them and doing so effectively.

And if it was an FBI investigation, then the iron principle of law enforcement — that evidence gathered in the course of an investigation must be kept secret to protect the rights of the American being investigated — was just put through a shredder.

Keeping our intelligence-gathering assets hidden from those upon whom we are spying is a key element of our national security.

And as for playing fast and loose with confidential information on American citizens: No joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you.
If our intelligence officials are listening in to the Russian ambassadors conversations and realize that they've overheard his talking to an American, they're not supposed to listen to the American's side of the conversation. Or, if they do, they're either supposed to go to a FISA court to get a warrant to do so or Flynn is already under investigation, perhaps for his suspected ties to the Russians. Whatever the answer, this is classified information that shouldn't be leaked to the media for political purposes. Do we really want to be in a system when members of the intelligence community with access to intelligence are leaking selected bits in order to bring down a political foe?

The Free Beacon is reporting that the effort to bring down Flynn was led by former Obama officials who feared that Flynn would help Trump to dump the Iran deal which Obama and his aides regard as his leading foreign policy achievement. If true, and it's based on the sorts of anonymous leaks that also exposed Flynn so we can be skeptical, this is truly disturbing.
The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump's national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.

The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn's credibility, multiple sources revealed.

The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration's efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration....

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House's official narrative about Flynn, which centers on his failure to adequately inform the president about a series of phone calls with Russian officials....

However, multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.

"It's undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him," said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. "This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters."

The Free Beacon first reported in January that, until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement. This included a former Iranian government official and the head of the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has been accused of serving as Iran's mouthpiece in Washington, D.C.

Since then, top members of the Obama administration's national security team have launched a communications infrastructure after they left the White House, and have told reporters they are using that infrastructure to undermine Trump's foreign policy.

"It's actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today," said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. "They know that the number one target is Iran … [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced."

Flynn had been preparing to publicize many of the details about the nuclear deal that had been intentionally hidden by the Obama administration as part of its effort to garner support for the deal, these sources said.
If the fear is that the Trump administration will expose the secret deals with Iran, why would that fear end with Flynn's departure? Who knows what his last bit of advice was for Trump as he exited the administration? If there were secret deals that the Obama administration committed this government to in order to get Iran to agree to a deal that seems to have benefited only Iran and which they've already broken, then shouldn't we know about them, especially if such deals included extra sums of money, reportedly $1.3 billion, given to Iran about which the Obama administration then misled the American people.

Eli Lake writes in Bloomberg about what he calls "the political assassination of Michael Flynn."
In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama's incoming national security adviser and Iran's foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.
Exactly.

Damon Linker adds at The Week,
But no matter what Flynn did, it is simply not the role of the deep state to target a man working in one of the political branches of the government by dishing to reporters about information it has gathered clandestinely. It is the role of elected members of Congress to conduct public investigations of alleged wrongdoing by public officials.

What if Congress won't act? What if both the Senate and the House of Representatives are held by the same party as the president and members of both chambers are reluctant to cross a newly elected head of the executive branch who enjoys overwhelming approval of his party's voters? In such a situation — our situation — shouldn't we hope the deep state will rise up to act responsibly to take down a member of the administration who may have broken the law?

The answer is an unequivocal no.

In a liberal democracy, how things happen is often as important as what happens. Procedures matter. So do rules and public accountability. The chaotic, dysfunctional Trump White House is placing the entire system under enormous strain. That's bad. But the answer isn't to counter it with equally irregular acts of sabotage — or with a disinformation campaign waged by nameless civil servants toiling away in the surveillance state....

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

It is the role of Congress to investigate the president and those who work for him. If Congress resists doing its duty, out of a mixture of self-interest and cowardice, the American people have no choice but to try and hold the government's feet to the fire, demanding action with phone calls, protests, and, ultimately, votes. That is a democratic response to the failure of democracy.

Sitting back and letting shadowy, unaccountable agents of espionage do the job for us simply isn't an acceptable alternative.

Down that path lies the end of democracy in America.


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Heather Wilhelm explains why the slogan that Hillary Clinton and others have been quoting that "the future is female" is so damaging.
What does “the future is female” even mean? Is one half of the human race going into hiding? Fading into irrelevance? Will they be rocketing off to outer space, hunched inside Tesla-designed capsules, never to be seen or heard from again?

Imagine, if you will, an audience of little boys — let’s pretend they’re second- and third-graders — forced to sit in an auditorium and listen to Hillary Clinton’s short speech. They swing their legs. They fidget a bit. “The future is female,” Clinton declares, beamed in on a giant screen. What are they supposed to think, other than that girls matter more than they do?

Fortunately, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, Clinton isn’t exactly destined to live as a leading trend-setter and guru for America’s young men. Unfortunately, we don’t need to force America’s cohort of young males into goofy feminist conference rooms for them to hear her message. All they need is a brief dip into our culture at large.

Take Disney’s “Dream Big, Princess” campaign, which informs cartoon viewers that girls can and should do anything they want in life — Astronaut! President! Celebrity chef! — while boys merit no mention at all. Other ad campaigns take a darker note, suggesting that men and women are constantly pitted against each other in the demolition derby of life, rather than partners who work together....

The irony of Clinton’s gender-centric “future is female” declaration thickens when you remember that the political Left has spent the past few years rabidly insisting that gender is fluid and that gender identities can shift. Well, whatever. Consistency be darned: At this point in history, the Left seems to have one gear, and that gear is identity politics.
Do these feminists even care about little boys? Are there still girls who grow up thinking that their future is limited because they are females? In over a quarter-century of teaching at the middle school and high school levels, my experience is that girls are just as personally ambitious as boys, perhaps more so. No one is giving them a message in school that they can't perform as well as boys in any subject. In fact, the opposite is true. There are programs geared to help girls in science and math, especially at the middle-school level. Speakers are brought in to tell girls that they can do anything they set their minds to. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to be in special education classes and to fail classes and whole grades. Remedial classes are more likely to be populated by boys. They're more likely to drop out of school. Instead of all this phony rah-rah cheering for girls, how about some honest concern about boys?

Noemie Emery exposes the emptiness of Democrats' criticisms that Trump hasn't picked more women and minorities in his cabinet. As Emery reminds us that Republicans rarely get credit for choosing women and minorities because the left doesn't regard conservatives as real women and real minorities.
No sooner do they elect or appoint a female, Hispanic, black and/or Asian to any post whatsoever than that person loses all authenticity as a member of whatever group he or she may belong to. Thus they become, in the eyes of the press and the Democrats, an imposter, a sell-out, a traitor, a Quisling, a monster, a fraud.

On Feb. 8, Sen. Tim Scott took to the floor of the Senate, reading aloud (omitting those with the "n-word" in them) the messages that had come his way from liberal Democrats, saying he had gotten used to them in his years in politics, but that they had rattled his staff and his friends. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was depicted (by a black magazine) as being a lawn jockey, and Condoleeza Rice (by a prize-winning cartoonist) as Prissy in "Gone With The Wind."

The press constantly profiles conservative female and non-white public figures as if they had personality disorders that explained this divergence. In 2001-2003, Democrats repeatedly filibustered George W. Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to the United States Court of Appeals because they didn't want the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court to be a conservative. Gloria Steinem described Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson as a "female impersonator," and the recent post-inauguration "Women's March" on Washington refused to admit pro-life feminists as sponsors, on the grounds that they were not "women" at all.

In fact, the current definition of what "diversity" means — a system in which each "group" is owed and is guaranteed a certain determined number of seats at the table, no matter who fills them — is directly opposed to the term's original meaning, which is that if each individual is given his chance to prove his own merits, a mix of some sort will prevail.



David Harsanyi argues
that, despite all the problems in the early days of the Trump presidency, one piece of luck for Trump is that #TheResistance has emerged as the main face of his opposition. The question isn't how unpopular Trump is, but what are views of him if he's juxtaposed with his opposition.
. A more revealing question pollsters might ask people is: But do you “like” any better Chuck Schumer or Elizabeth Warren, pussy-hatted marchers griping about the patriarchy, or the totalitarians blocking Education Secretary Betsy Devos from walking into a public school?

That’s the choice #TheResistance — whose mantra, let’s face it, has synched with the national Democratic Party — has created for many moderate Republicans, right-leaning independents, and movement conservatives concerned about Trump. Which is to say, they offer no choice whatsoever. They offer plenty of hysteria, hypocrisy, and conflating of conservatism with Trumpism for political gain....

It’s true that Trump doesn’t exhibit prudence, reliance, or inherited wisdom. Yet — and I know this is exceedingly difficult for Democrats to comprehend —neither does the alternative. If liberals were serious about convincing Republicans to abandon Trump in toto, they’d have something better to offer than Donald Trump.
Harsanyi points out that anti-Trumpers are angry that conservatives aren't as angry as these Trump critics think they should be about the Trump presidency.
But if it’s a zero-sum choice they’re offering, that includes picking Neil Gorsuch over Planned Parenthood; tax cuts over teachers unions; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran’s Holocaust deniers; deregulation of the bureaucratic state over legislation, or forcing progressive cultural mores on everyone. And so on.


The average Resistance fighter might dislike Trump. They hate conservatism. By treating even the most milquetoast, run-of-the-mill cabinet nominee as Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened to America, The Resistance gives conservatives the space to defend long-standing political positions such as school choice, immigration enforcement, and deregulation. I imagine many Republicans would happily hand over the scalp of more Michael Flynns if it meant creating a more stable and experienced administration. But they also understand that people who treat DeVos like a bigger threat to the republic than Steve Bannon will never be placated. Those who spend weeks after the election acting like the Electoral College was some kind trick pulled on the country are not interested in “rule of law.” They’re interested in Democrats.
I noticed during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies that each president sank a bit in the polls when there was no visible opponent to them. Clinton's numbers perked up when he was seen in contrast to Gingrich and the Congressional Republicans. Bush did better when the time for the 2004 election rolled around and people started thinking of him in contrast with John Kerry. And Obama's numbers ticked up both when he had Mitt Romney as a foil and then at the end of his presidency when he was seen as a relief compared to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

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Kevin Williamson ponders
those on the left who make politics such a big part of their lives that they put "no-Trump" or "no-Republicans" clauses into their housing ads. Such people are so deeply buried in politics and ideology that they are letting it color every other aspect of their lives.
In this, they are very similar to the Hillary Clinton–voting Manhattan balletomanes who seethe that they must endure being seated in the David Koch theater. David Koch’s brand of libertarianism is mild and constructive, and it has about as much to do with ballet as Keith Olbermann has to do with astrophysics. But for the fanatic, even to hear the name spoken is unbearable.

Imagine being so mentally poisoned and so spiritually sick that you feel the need to organize a protest at New York–Presbyterian Hospital because the institution accepted $100 million — the largest gift in its history, being put to purely philanthropic health-care purposes — from someone whose political views are at odds with your own. Imagine what it must be like to feel that doing that is a moral imperative. Imagine sitting down to listen to a Beethoven string quartet and being filled with paralyzing anxiety that the cellist might not share your views on the Arab–Israeli conflict.

(I’ll bet Beethoven had really regressive views about gay marriage. And who knows what Bach or Bernini thought about tax policy?)

Imagine being willing to take a stranger into your home only on the condition that he did not vote for the man who won the 2016 presidential election. One of those Trump-excluding roommates mentioned in the Times insisted that this discrimination was in the interest of the Trump voters, too, who would be unhappy in a household full of “raging liberals.”

Meditate, for a moment, upon the word “raging.”

The people who believe that there can be no art, literature, culture, or life apart from politics are people who do not understand art, literature, culture, or politics, and whose lives are sad and sadly deficient.

A Buddhist writer once described two kinds of material unhappiness: the absence of what one desires and the presence of what one despises. But the Buddha was known to associate with worldly men and their unclean enthusiasms in much the same way that Jesus slummed around with prostitutes and tax collectors, instructing us by example to seek after lives that are as large as our love and not as small as our hatred. The people who close their doors against those who simply see the world in a different way, who scream profanities at Betsy DeVos or chant “You should die!” at Jewish musicians, are people who cannot rise far enough above their own pettiness to understand that the thing they fear is the thing they are.

Some in the media are so bummed that they can't bring down Neil Gorsuch so they've decided to attack his dead mother instead because they are critical of her record as EPA chief back in the 1980s when Neil Gorsuch was a teenager.


Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage
exposes the hypocrisy of Nike with their new ad about equality.
Sports, interestingly, is the ultimate meritocracy, nothing matters but your ability to play well. And I think everyone reading this would agree. Race, gender, sexual interest, religion, none of it matters. If a lesbian atheist who advocated for anarchy could play quarterback as well as Tom Brady, she'd be starting in the NFL. If a gay, transgender Muslim could score goals like Messi, he'd/she'd be playing soccer for $50 million a year.

Teams and fans don't care what you believe if you can average a triple double, put up a perfect passer rating, score goals in soccer or the NHL or hit 45 home runs a year in baseball. All that matters is your production. But, you know, that's actually an incredibly conservative position -- sports is the ultimate meritocracy, the primacy of an individual's talent outweighs everything else. All that matters is individual talent.

So Nike is advocating for a situation that already exists in American sports -- we are all already equal between the lines. The best man, or woman, wins. And by wins I mean makes millions of dollars and gets to star in a television commercial about equality even though your talents are not equal with anyone else's which is why you're rich and in a sports commercial and everyone else is not.

But if Nike truly believes that "Equality should have no boundaries," shouldn't overseas virtual slave labor not exist in Nike factories? Or, better yet, shouldn't Nike make its product in America and treat American factory workers, the same people who it's asking to pay $175 for new LeBron shoes for their kids, equally under American law?

....So salute to Nike for believing so deeply in equality that its paying its average factory worker in Indonesia $3 a day. While you're busy sharing this ad and praising the company for embracing equality everywhere just be glad that you were born in America and don't have to work for $3 a day making LeBron James's shoes in an awful factory in Indonesia.

But remember, y'all, "Equality should have no boundaries."

I guess that tagline is more likely to sell shoes for Nike than the truth -- "Our profit margin has no morality and knows no boundaries."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, there is the first administration casualty - National security adviser Michael Flynn has resigned. I wasn't convinced that his talking to Russian officials before taking office was such a terrible thing, but you can't be lying to the vice president and sending him out to unknowingly tell lies on your behalf. Perhaps Trump will realize that he needs to pick someone who doesn't have such ties to Russia and disregard for how things need to be done when working for a president. Rumors are that David Petraeus might be called in for being Flynn's replacement. Since Trump and the Republicans made such a big deal about Hillary exposing national secrets with her private server, this might cause a few embarrassing moments to explain why he's picking someone who actually confessed guilt in sharing classified information with his mistress/biographer. But the National Security Adviser doesn't have to be confirmed by the Senate. Up to his spectacular fall from grace, everyone admired Petraeus. I'd trust his advice on national security more than Flynn's who seemed to play to the worst instincts of the President.
Flynn, long a controversial figure in the national security establishment, was widely disliked by Trump's more establishment aides, who said he fueled Trump's conspiracy theories and distrust of the intelligence community. But he had maintained Trump's support, as the president believed he was loyal and had insight into military affairs. He was also particularly close to Stephen Bannon, the president's top strategist and a philosophical and strategic adviser with a vast sway on the presidency.
Bringing in someone who is more independent and is not an ally of Stephen Bannon is all to the good.

Politico is reporting that there are other possible names in the mix.
For the moment, the job was in the hands of 72-year-old Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr., widely known as Keith Kellogg. The former general, a combat veteran of Vietnam and later a leading figure in the transition government of Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, had been appointed in December to his NSC position.

The most notable name in the mix was that of Petraeus, who was briefly considered for secretary of state during the transition but was passed over in part because of his 2015 conviction for mishandling classified information.

Trump has long admired Petraeus and sought his counsel. "Trump likes him, he respects him," said a person close to Trump.

Petraeus did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Earlier Monday, sources close to the White House said Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was involved with the search, though a senior White House official disputed that. At that time, other names mentioned as possible replacements included: Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser under President George W. Bush; Tom Bossert, who also served as a national security aide under Bush and now oversees cybersecurity under Trump; Adm. James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts; and Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly.

Hadley, who served in previous Republican administrations, also did not respond to a request for comment. During the campaign, he declined to sign letters issued by mainstream Republicans criticizing Trump’s most provocative stances. He said at the time that he felt that should Trump win it would be advisable that he feel comfortable turning to experienced members of the party’s foreign policy establishment for advice.

Stavridis, a former commander of NATO, emailed POLITICO that he has not heard anything from the White House. “All quiet in my nets,” the retired admiral said.

As the WSJ points out, there are a lot of questions about how the national security officials ended up eavesdropping on the conversation that Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador.
Mr. Flynn is a retired general who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency, so surely he knew that his Dec. 29 call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak would be subject to electronic surveillance. U.S. intelligence services routinely get orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor foreign officials. But under U.S. law, when they get those orders they are supposed to use “minimization” procedures that don’t let them listen to the communications of Americans who may be caught in such eavesdropping. That is, they are supposed to protect the identity and speech of innocent Americans. Yet the Washington Post, which broke the story, says it spoke to multiple U.S. officials claiming to know what Mr. Flynn said on that call.

The questions someone in the White House should ask the National Security Agency is why it didn’t use minimization procedures to protect Mr. Flynn? Or did it also have a court order to listen to Mr. Flynn, and how did it justify that judicial request?

If Mr. Flynn was under U.S. intelligence surveillance, then Mr. Trump should know why, and at this point so should the American public. Maybe there’s an innocent explanation, but the Trump White House needs to know what’s going on with Mr. Flynn and U.S. spies.
A second question is why security officials were leaking the contents of this phone call to the media. Is that going to be a regular occurrence simply because Trump is the one who is president? The head of the House Intelligence Committee is now calling for an investigation of all the national security leaks about Trump and his administration.
The leaks include reported details from phone calls between President Donald Trump and the leaders of Australia and Mexico; from the intelligence community investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign; and most recently from conversations between National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S....

But the release of information from the Flynn phone calls also appears especially problematic, because when the intelligence community captures phone calls of an American inside the U.S., even if the discussion involves a foreign national (in this case an ambassador), steps must be taken to shield the American caller's identity.

"If [the conversation] was picked up inadvertently, then that would have had to been approved by someone in the last administration to actually unmask his name so that the FBI or intelligence officials knew who it was on the other end of the phone talking to the Russian ambassador," Nunes explained. "If in fact the press reports are right, someone made the decision to deliberately listen to General Flynn's phone calls and that is, I think, unprecedented, unwarranted, and flat-out wrong."

Former NSA analyst and whistleblower Bill Binney confirmed to Fox News that surveillance programs that touch on leadership are highly restricted.

"I think it is compartmentalized, meaning a small circle, less than 100 [people would have access to the intelligence]," Binney said. "They are supposed to minimize the American side. ... All presumed U.S. citizens have rights under the Fourth Amendment."

Nunes said the timing may be significant because the authorization to unmask Flynn was likely taken under the Obama administration, as the phone calls occurred in December. The committee chairman said the issue goes beyond politics because it is also undermining the relationship between a president and world leaders.

"I think all foreign leaders now are going to be worried that this is going to somehow leak out. I think it has done tremendous damage to [America's] reputation around the world, and no one's talking about it -- and this is because someone in the national security apparatus decided to leak this out. It's very, very serious," he said.

Simply revealing the contents of the calls can have the effect of what the intelligence community calls "burning the source," because the parties involved know beyond a doubt the U.S. government has the ability to track the conversations. The leaking of information about the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. race points to the possible compromise of even more sensitive collection sources.

"If the shoe was on the other foot here and this was a Democrat, you can imagine Democrats in the House and the Senate would be going crazy - if this happened to someone within the Obama administration from one of our national security agencies," Nunes said.
That's exactly right and it shouldn't continue. Leaking about fights among Trump's advisers is one thing, but using the power of the intelligence community to eavesdrop on a member of the incoming administration's conversation with the Russian ambassador and then leaking it to the media is something else altogether.

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Kyle Smith explains why boycotts for political purposes seldom work.
With few exceptions, boycotts don’t work. There are too many of them, they’re too broadly targeted, our attention span is too short to remember what we were supposed to be outraged about months ago, and most people don’t drag their politics into the store with them when they’re looking for beer, duck boots or a blender.

Today Trump haters are trying to convince you to boycott products from L.L. Bean, KitchenAid, Gucci, Nike, Uber and many other corporate mainstays including Trident (for advertising on “Celebrity Apprentice”), Amazon (for selling Trump brand products) and Starbucks (for renting space inside some of Trump’s buildings). Targeting the progressive-minded Starbucks — whose CEO Howard Schultz was dubbed “the liberal Donald Trump” by The Atlantic — for being too Trump-friendly sounds like the kind of insane micro-distinction you’d encounter in 1937 Madrid, when hundreds of people were killed as one far-left group attacked another far-left group in the middle of a war against fascists.

Right-wing boycotters, of course, have also been busy. They staged a Twitter war against “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” after one of its writers blasted Trump on social media and pointedly said the Empire was “a white supremacist (human) organization.” (The movie only went on to gross a billion dollars.) They tried to take down Kellogg’s (whose stock price is higher than it was when it ran afoul of Trump fan site Breitbart.com) and Budweiser (over their multicultural Trump-trolling in a Super Bowl ad).

Some Trumpsters even started a #BoycottStarbucks movement of their own, inspired by the company’s promise it would hire 10,000 refugees in solidarity against Trump. Trump fans also agree that Amazon should be boycotted, because Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has been mean to Trump. “You mess with Trump, your [sic] messing with the silent majority!” reads a petition calling for the boycott on Change.org.
That's a lot to keep up with. I know that I use Amazon way too much to boycott it over anything political. I'm not going to inconvenience myself just because someone associated with a company said something that I disagree with.
The value of boycotts is, like the value of anything else, linked to scarcity. If the millions of Americans who hate Trump could focus their anger on one target, they might be effective. But when new boycotts and anti-boycotts are starting up every day, in the name of every cause, who can keep track of them all? The boycotters wind up limiting their influence to a handful of political monomaniacs, the kind of people who put up seven Facebook posts a day on the same topic.

Boycotters are fighting against a tide of human desire for products that are convenient, well-made or just simply delicious. At lunchtime every weekday in Midtown, you can see the lines out the door for Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain whose CEO opposes gay marriage and which just last year earned a public denunciation from Mayor de Blasio, who said, “I’m certainly not going to patronize them, and I wouldn’t urge any other New Yorker to patronize them.” The franchise will soon open its fourth location in town, so even in this bastion of liberalism, mouth-watering poultry beats politics. Chickmate!

SNL took a break from bashing Trump to ridicule the virtue signaling going on in the Super Bowl ads. And they really caught the self-congratulatory mood among these companies that figured that trumpeting their support for immigration or equal pay will somehow translate into more sales for their products. Just as I won't boycott a company if I disagree with them, I'm not going to purchase something that I wasn't planning to purchase just because they pretend to really care about some public issue.

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Columnist Christian Schneider scorns Senator Tim Kaine for connecting school voucher programs to Virginia's appalling history of massive resistance to school desegregation by allowing white students to go to segregated private schools. Kaine is ignoring the history of the modern school choice movement had at its foundation efforts to help minority and at-risk students.
Perhaps Kaine inhaled too many jet fumes on his campaign trips around the country last year, but his attempt to equate school choice with segregation is appalling. When African-American leaders like Howard Fuller and Wisconsin state Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams pushed for Milwaukee school choice in the late 1980s, they weren't white supremacists; they were trying to figure out how to deliver the best possible education to Milwaukee's black children.

Fuller told me that prior to passage of the choice program in 1989, Milwaukee's black leaders had been through a series of struggles to try to improve the education of poor black children in Milwaukee. He and other reformers had tried to get MPS to address the issue of why poor black children were not being educated, including creating a completely separate school district. "For us, the move to vouchers was the continuation of that struggle," Fuller said. "It was always about trying to educate kids."

n fact, the primary reason school choice programs exist is to give minority children access to the same private schools that wealthier white kids have always been able to attend. Multiple studies in the early 2000s concluded that public school children in choice-friendly cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland were more likely to attend racially monolithic schools than children in those cities' private, religious schools. Educational choice is a tool of integration, not the other way around.
So Democrats who need to oppose school choice efforts because they're the tools of the teachers' unions who are going to the mattresses to block any efforts to give parents the choice to pull their students out of regular public schools. So they have to demagogue the issue instead of confronting the real issues plaguing public school.
In fact, the primary reason school choice programs exist is to give minority children access to the same private schools that wealthier white kids have always been able to attend. Multiple studies in the early 2000s concluded that public school children in choice-friendly cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland were more likely to attend racially monolithic schools than children in those cities' private, religious schools. Educational choice is a tool of integration, not the other way around....

With DeVos, Democrats finally found their mustache-twirling villain — a wealthy woman willing to spend money on causes meant to help poor children get better educations. Over a decade ago, DeVos helped fund the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities, a pro-school choice group made up of African-American activists. At the time, Democrats (many of whom send their own children to private school) lined up to support the group; future New Jersey senator Cory Booker, then the mayor of Newark, even served on BAEO's board. Yet with the bright lights shining last week, Booker voted against DeVos' confirmation.

On the very day that the Senate confirmed DeVos by a slim one-vote margin, news broke that the Chicago Public School district had sent all 381,000 of its students home with a letter blaming Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Republicans for the district's woes. It is these union-dominated districts that Democrats are so desperate to protect, and which DeVos' activism threatens. (On the day of the Senate vote, liberals circulated lists of senators who had received campaign contributions from DeVos, well before she ever knew she would be a candidate for Education secretary; they seemed less interested in Democrats who received millions of dollars from teachers' unions and voted against DeVos.)

"People just lie," Fuller told me when I asked him about Kaine's attempt to tie voucher schools to segregation.

Buzzfeed, no liberal mouthpiece, reports on the worries of Democrats that they don't know how to talk to the sorts of voters who voted for Trump and Republicans for Congress in November.
Democrats have historically said their economic platform should be able to bridge rural and progressive voters, but the last three elections have shown that they’re still struggling. The party hasn’t held control of the House in six years and since Nancy Pelosi gave up her gavel, they’ve lost the Senate and the White House as well. Once again, members are thinking about how they can communicate more effectively, but they’re coming up with few answers.

The question was at the top of many members’ minds as more than 130 House Democrats, roughly two-third of their membership, came to Baltimore for a three-day “issues conference” this week, the theme of which was “Fighting For All Americans.”

But some Democrats say that while the party wants to fight for every American, they’re still not reaching a lot of them. Rural voters, in particular, are fleeing the party and tough losses in 2016 have some members urging the party to rethink its strategy.
“This is exactly why we lost,” one frustrated Democratic member told BuzzFeed News in a text message during a presentation at the retreat in which the member said people were clearly bored. “Trump thinks in visuals and what sells. We’re listening to an MIT prof give a dissertation with graphs on rumors that has no bearing in reality!”

Governor Jerry Brown is going to have to answer some questions on why his administration didn't do much to help repair the Oroville Dam, despite warnings, that has now developed a giant sinkhole in its spillway and is threatening the nearly 190,000 residents and all the farmland it feeds.
In 2005, advocacy groups led by Friends of the River urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order the state to reinforce the dam’s earthen walls with concrete, citing the erosion risk, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The agency rejected the request on the recommendation of the state Department of Water Resources and local water agencies, which would have been on the hook for improvements that could have cost as much as $100 million.

Reinforcing the Oroville Dam was not included on Mr. Brown’s $100 billion wish list of projects prepared last month at the request of the National Governors Association in response to Mr. Trump’s call for $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements, CNBC reported.

One project that did make the list: California high-speed rail, a pet project of Mr. Brown’s with an estimated price tag of $100 billion that has become for state Republicans a symbol of out-of-control government spending.
Governing is about making choices among varying needs. Governor Brown has prioritized his own spending sinkhole of high-speed rail which even Slate has ridiculed.John Fund wrote last year about how Claifornia's high speed rail is "a fast train to fiscal ruin."
Voters in 2008 narrowly approved initial bonds to finance the project, but that was when it was projected to cost $33 billion and travel 220 miles per hour. Now it has lost the support of key figures such as Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a likely successor to Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, and Quentin Kopp, former head of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Kopp says the current plan is a betrayal of what was approved by voters. He says it has morphed into a “slow-speed” project that is likely to cost upwards of $80 billion, or 40 times the federal government’s annual subsidy for all of Amtrak.

But train supporters refuse to give up. Last year, they broke ground on an initial 119-mile segment of the train’s route in the state’s sparsely settled Central Valley. The main reason they forged ahead with the ground-breaking was to avoid having to return Obama stimulus money, which the state had pledged to do if nothing was built. The first segment of track will run from Madera to Bakersfield, a stretch that fewer than 3 percent of the line’s potential ridership can use. It is essentially a train from nowhere to nowhere, ridden by almost no one.

Just last week, the Obama administration quietly approved a four-year “adjustment” in the initial segment’s construction schedule, admitting that it won’t be finished until 2022 at the earliest, rather than 2018 as originally planned.

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Some opponents of Trump hate him so much that they're now spreading their animus to his four-year-old grandson. Seriously.
Upper East Side moms are having a spirited online debate over whether to boycott a school where a grandchild of President Trump is a student.

One of the anonymous contributors to UrbanBaby.com said her son had gotten into Buckley [School], but she didn’t want to send him there because a son of Donald Trump Jr.’s (likely 4-year-old Spencer Frederick) is said to be going to kindergarten there in the fall.

“They will be in the same classroom and I don’t think I can deal with this. Birthday parties, etc.,” the mother wrote.
Another mom replied: “It’s an innocent kid. It’s not like he can help the family he was born into. The hate must run really deep with you.”

A third mother wrote: “You almost have to decline. It sounds like it will drive you crazy . . . You want to spend nine years worried that DS [darling son] is getting infected with Trumpism?”
How demented is that? Sure, it's just a few people online, but the fact that people are even thinking this way betrays an obsession with politics that is spreading even to Kindergartners is really rather sick.

My students are turning in the rough drafts of their history research papers this week and I was just giving them a lecture on plagiarism and how seriously we teachers take plagiarism. So it's demoralizing to see professionals get away with what should be considered academic sinss such as plagiarism and making up data.
A federal agency that funds scientific research nixed punishments recommended by its own ethics watchdog for some academics who plagiarized and manipulated data in grant proposals and taxpayer-funded research, public records show.

The inspector general for the National Science Foundation identified at least 23 instances of plagiarism in proposals, NSF-funded research, and agency publications in 2015 and 2016. It found at least eight instances of data manipulation and fabrication in those years. NSF officials disregarded recommended sanctions against some of the scientists and academics implicated in those findings. Though many were temporarily barred from receiving additional federal funding, nearly all will be eligible for taxpayer support and official roles in NSF-funded research in the future.
How lame is this?
One researcher found to have plagiarized from five sources in an NSF grant proposal told investigators that she "was never instructed regarding use of quotation marks while a graduate student in the U.S."
Who gets through graduate school without learning about not plagiarizing? Come to my school and we'll help you out.