Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump has a history of taking a position that may be popular among conservatives or Republicans and then saying something so extreme as to be repellent. It wasn't enough for him to talk about limiting immigration, he had to talk about building a wall that the Mexicans would somehow be forced to pay for while he would somehow round up and deport all illegal immigrants while letting the "good" ones back in. He went beyond questioning the wisdom of accepting refugees from Syria to saying that all Muslims should be barred from immigrating to the U.S. Concern about our trade with China isn't enough for Trump; he has to say he'd slap a 45% tariff on their imports. Making a firm pledge to fight terrorism isn't enough for Trump; he has to say he'd order our military to torture prisoners and target the families of terrorists. And now he's made a mess of pretending to be pro-life by telling Chris Matthews that he believes that"there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions. Trump has always said that he was pro-choice up to now when he's running for the Republican nomination and has to pretend that he is pro-life. If you read through the transcript, you can see Trump's total incoherence on the issue. He just says that it's a complicated issue. It's only when Matthews presses him that Trump says that he'd punish the women. Oh, and he wouldn't punish the man. Of course. Trump takes the most extreme and repellent position possible.

So Trump, answering a question he had clearly not thought about before, answered on the fly and came out with something incoherent and so extreme that very few even on the pro-life side would agree with him. Most pro-lifers would reserve punishment for the doctor, not the mother.

What a mess! This is what happens when someone who has not thought about issues just improvises. He says something ridiculous and then his campaign has to come out later with a statement that attempts to pretend that Trump's position is something totally different from what he originally said.

Yet again Trump is doing terrible damage to Republicans. The Democrats will rush to hang Trump's incoherent position around the neck of every Republican who is pro-life. As Ian Tuttle writes, "the Republican presidential contest has veered into Todd Akin territory." This will be portrayed as the Republican position whatever any candidate actually says or believes.
But while people are sure to spill gallons of ink on that question, thanks to Trump, it’s irrelevant — because Trump doesn’t mean what he said. Donald Trump has no considered opinion about what should happen in the hypothetical situation in which abortion is completely outlawed. He’s never given it a moment’s thought. Read the transcript of his exchange with Matthews. He’s not substantively “right” or “wrong.” He’s utterly and completely incoherent.

And it’s utterly and completely infuriating. In one minute and thirty-two seconds, Donald Trump has managed to apparently validate every far-flung accusation of retributive, bloodthirsty woman-hating that abortion opponents have tried to fend off for 40-plus years. In ninety seconds, Trump gave Democrats a political millstone that they will cinch around the neck of every pro-life politician for the rest of this election season. Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, Emily’s List have all already issued breathless statements. Hillary Clinton has sent out a tweet with her personal “—H” signature. It doesn’t matter that, one hour later, Trump out-and-out reversed himself. They got their soundbite, and it will be played on loop, to the ululations and I-told-you-sos of Cecile Richards and Sally Kohn and the rest, for years.

But is anyone surprised? This is what Trump does — and it’s the reason conservatives, real, genuine, sincere, life- and liberty-loving conservatives, should not simply be exasperated with Trump; they should be furious with him. They should be enraged with every single one of the endorsers who has facilitated this man’s rise. They should be incensed with every pundit and talking-head who has aided and abetted and excused him.

Because this has been the pattern for months now. Donald Trump makes some idiotic comment about a subject he’s never considered — torture, Islam, the First Amendment, health care, women, &c. — and then real conservatives, who have actually rubbed two brain cells together thinking about these subjects, have to spend the next day, or week, or month, putting out the fire, assuring everyone that, no, conservatives don’t actually think like this.

It’s exhausting, it’s absurd, and it should end. Donald Trump’s statements are not intended to be “true” or “false”; they’re not intended to represent what he actually believes, because he doesn’t believe anything. He doesn’t intend his proposals as serious ideas, to be debated and refined and maybe even executed. His utterances are placeholders. They’re strictly intended to fill space in this interview, or at that rally. Self-contradiction doesn’t matter. If one argument is blown up, he’ll switch to another. This is how a cult of personality works. The statements are irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the speaker. If Trump says the sky is orange, there’s no point trying to convince him it’s blue.
The man is ignorant and he just wings it. And it's clear that Trump is incompetent at winging it. And he has tarred the pro-life movement with a position that no one believes; but it is what pro-choice critics of the pro-life movement accuse them of believing. And that cartoonish portrait of the pro-life movement will be portrayed as their actual position. As Matt Lewis writes,
Hillary can now demagogue the issue, telling women that “Not only do Republicans want to force you into a dark alley, but they also want to put vulnerable women in jail, too.” Trump has proven immune to Republican attacks, but one gets the sense that this could later become a “Todd Akin” moment, at least, if he’s the nominee.

In a week when news of his attacks on Heidi Cruz and Michelle Fields have dominated headlines, Donald Trump’s latest move might widen the gender gap more than anything else he’s done.

If Trump didn’t exist, Democrats would have to invent him.

No wonder he doesn't want to do any more debates. His incoherence is exposed when he talks off the cuff. But his supporters don't care. But he makes himself even more poisonous as a general election candidate.

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Trump got an interesting question at the CNN townhall as to what he considers the top three functions of the U.S. federal government. His answer was standard liberal rhetoric.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says that the top three functions of the United States government are security, health care, and education.
Of course, no true conservative would say that health care and education are federal responsibilities. But Trump is not a conservative and so his natural instinct is to say something liberal just as his instinct is to criticize Scott Walker for not raising taxes enough. Do all those people supporting Trump because he says he will get rid of Obamacare and Common Core know that he wants to replace them with Trumpcare and Trump Core?

This answer leads Allahpundit to ask a question that I've wondered about.
I ask this question not to troll but in earnest: Does Trump know basic civics? I’m sure he knows the most basic basics, like the three branches of government, but would he be able to explain in a sentence or two, for instance, why someone who favors federalism believes most functions of government are best handled at the local level? Hillary Clinton is no federalist but I’m sure she at least understands the argument for it. Does Trump? When he said a few weeks ago that judges “sign bills,” was that a simple brain fart or does he really not understand the distinction between legislative bills, judicial orders, and majority opinions/dissents? I honestly don’t know. Everyone acts annoyed when reporters get pedantic with presidential candidates by quizzing them on their knowledge of baroque facts, like who the prime minister of Malaysia is, but Trump really does put out the vibe sometimes that how the basic machinery of government operates in the United States is a secondary concern to a would-be president. Just this morning he told ABC that he’d look to fill Supreme Court vacancies with judges who “would look very seriously at [Hillary’s] email disaster,” which on one level is just some perfunctory trolling of Hillary and another level is incoherent. How would a judge prove that he’d take allegations of mishandling classified information seriously? Is there a judge across the whole country who wouldn’t? Doesn’t it fall to the FBI to “look very seriously” at mishandling classified info, not an appellate judge who’d realistically only end up weighing in on the legal niceties of any eventual prosecution? No wonder this guy doesn’t want to debate Cruz one on one.
Add in Trump's assurances that the military would follow his orders even if they violated both national and international law. Or his claims of what he could do as president that would never, ever get through Congress such as banning Muslims from entering the U.S. or rounding up all illegal immigrants. He has an exaggerated idea of the powers of the president that exceeds even Barack Obama. He would have flunked my A.P. Government and Politics class.

Jonathan Tobin ponders what Trump's defense of Corey Lewandowski tells us about what a possible Trump White House (perish the thought!) would look like.
Let’s concede that all presidential staffs are hostile to reporters that aren’t prepared to recycle administration spin. But there’s a difference between hostility and violence. As with the candidate’s open encouragement for his supporters to attack demonstrators at his rallies (something that Lewandowski has also done), a Trump White House would be one where anyone that refused to play along would be at risk in one way or another.

But though the focus of this controversy has been about how Trump treats the press (something about which most people don’t care), this is about more than just the treatment of the media. It also illustrates the way Trump does business and how he and his staff view the world.

This is not just the “culture” of violence encouraged by Trump. When presented with the damning truth about an incident, any normal candidate would assess the situation and look to cut its losses. But not Trump. That’s partly because of his belief that, if everyone says to do something, then he must do the opposite in order to preserve his outsider brand. But more than that, Trump’s bare-faced lies that are contradicted by a tape, an audio transcript, and eyewitnesses also illustrate how he operates in a bubble that is a closed circle indifferent to the facts as much as it is to perception.

Worse than that, it also shows a Stalinist streak in which the leader believes his words, no matter how ridiculous, are more powerful than even the demonstrable truth. Again, such an administration wouldn’t be the first to be at odds with the facts as we’ve seen over the last eight years with President Obama and his team. But the sort of behavior we’ve seen from Trump takes the workaday mendacity of Obama and morphs into the sort of 2+2=5 madness that seems straight out of the world of Orwellian totalitarianism. Not only would there be nothing sacred in a Trump White House, it would also be a place where the lies of reality television would be united with the awesome power of the federal government.

While a staffer bruising a reporter may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, when it is in the service of a celebrity personality cult, it takes on a more sinister tone. In a White House led by a man who would employ and then defend Lewandowski, anything is imaginable when it comes to not merely lying to the press, but it also shows just how far it might go to suppress the free press and the truth.

A president that would personally threaten a competitor’s wife, as well as sanction both the roughing up of a reporter and then lying about her, is one that is capable of anything. It doesn’t merely show how minor incidents could become unmanageable international incidents. It also gives us a hint of authoritarianism that would chill democracy in the manner of a Vladimir Putin. As bad as Obama has been, a President Trump would be a man that appears to be even less willing to act within the constraints imposed upon the executive by the Constitution than his predecessors.

Like everything else about Trump, the Lewandowski business makes for riveting television. But it also illustrates that a Trump administration would be more of a horror film than a reality show. T

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It's not front-page news, but Obamacare's death spiral is getting worse.
A new report from Blue Cross Blue Shield finds that those who signed up for ObamaCare in 2014 and 2015 had higher rates of various diseases and used “significantly more” medical services in their first year of coverage.

For example, new enrollees were 25% more likely to have hypertension, 32% more likely to have coronary artery disease and 94% more likely to have diabetes. They had far higher rates of ER visits, prescriptions filled and hospital visits.

This could be seen as a sign of success. After all, ObamaCare forbids insurers from denying coverage or charging people more for preexisting conditions. So presumably it’s an indication that all those who had been locked out of the old market really needed the coverage.

But to work, ObamaCare had to also bring in more young and healthy people to offset the costs of the older and sicker and keep insurance premiums down. Otherwise, the market would enter into a “death spiral,” in which higher premiums drive more healthy people out of the market, pushing rates up still further.

That was precisely what happened in several states that had already experimented with ObamaCare-style insurance reforms. And it’s why ObamaCare included an individual mandate and the sizable penalty for not signing up.

It’s clearly not working as promised. Enrollment data released by the administration in early March shows that just 28% of ObamaCare enrollees are 18-34 years old. That’s the same share as in ObamaCare’s first year, despite a huge increase in the penalty for not having insurance.

And the Blue Cross report shows that average spending per enrollee in the individual market jumped 12% between 2014 and 2015, suggesting that the ObamaCare pool is getting sicker, on average, not healthier.

As a result, insurers have been reporting huge losses on ObamaCare plans, and have been jacking up rates to try to cover them. And the uninsured rate climbed in the last half of last year to just shy of 12%, according to a quarterly Gallup survey. (That, by the way, is not far from the 12.8% uninsured rate Census recorded in 1988.)

In other words, the ObamaCare market is failing in just the way its critics predicted. Which is why the solution isn’t to bail insurers out, boost government subsidies, mandate more benefits, or try other ways to paper over ObamaCare’s flaws. The solution is to chuck it and start over with free-market reforms that have been shown to work.
The longer we wait to get rid of this disaster, the worse for the insurance companies. Obamacare is killing them.

Several Democrats, lead by Patrick Leahy, want an investigation into claims that Israel is carrying out illegal murders of Palestinians. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is having none of it.
"The IDF and the Israel Police do not engage in executions. Israel’s soldiers and police officers defend themselves and innocent civilians with the highest moral standards against bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them," he wrote.

"Where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who’ve been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists? This letter should have been addressed instead to those who incite youngsters to commit cruel acts of terrorism."
How typical that these Democrats would believe such propaganda against Israel yet not demonstrate an equal concern for the many, many murders of Israelis by Palestinians.
Focusing on Israel, Senator Leahy wrote: "Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have reported what may be extrajudicial killings by the Israeli military and police of Fadi Alloun, Saad Al-Atrash, Hadeel Hashlamoun, and Mutaz Ewisa. There are also reports of the use of torture in the cases of Wasim Marouf and Ahmed Manasra."

All of the supposed victims named in the letter either carried out, or attempted to carry out, stabbing attacks against Israelis.

Manasra is a particularly notable case of false propaganda. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas first claimed that Israel "executed him in cold blood" after Manasra critically wounded two Israelis. He was quickly proven to be a liar, though, when Hadassah Medical Center showed that he was not only alive but receiving medical treatment in the same hospital that treats terror victims.
But what do facts matter when there is Israel-bashing to be done? These ten Democratic senators are displaying the same moral blindness that has polluted the United Nations for decades. Shame on them.

IBD explodes "the pernicious myth of the oppressed European Muslim."
Fact is, Belgium’s government has been extremely generous toward its Muslim population. Most of its welfare goes to Muslims, and it even subsidizes their mosques and imams.

Many of these young Muslim men who supposedly can’t find gainful employment don’t want to work. Why would they, when welfare checks are normally 70% to 80% of their income?

Not having a job is a conscious decision. Many see it as their religious duty not to make any economic contribution to the “kaffir” state hosting them. By not holding regular jobs, they have time to make “hijrah” to Syria, where they can train for jihad and return with other “skills” like manufacturing nail bombs in safe houses unmolested by authorities (who agree not to make raids at night out of respect for Muslim neighborhoods).

Far from being mistreated, Belgian Muslims are one of the most pampered minorities in Western history.

Lest it offend its burgeoning Muslim population, Belgium has “de-Christianized” its Christian holidays. The holiday previously known as All Saints Day is now referred to as Autumn Leave, Christmas Vacation is now Winter Vacation, Lenten Vacation is now Rest and Relaxation Leave and Easter is now Spring Vacation.

Meantime, it’s allowing the construction of massive mosques, including one with a 60-foot minaret that will automatically light up during calls to prayer. Authorities even let Muslim hate-preachers sermonize at the subway stations in Brussels, including one known to approach young Muslims and persuade them to go and fight in Syria.

Heavily subsidized by Belgium’s overgenerous welfare system, North African immigrants have little incentive to integrate. Instead they turn inward, creating Islamic no-go zones divorced from and hostile to Western society.

Sharia4Belgium is one of most popular youth organizations in the country. Its young Muslim bullies go around harassing non-Muslims to comply with Sharia law on the street, banning the smoking of cigarettes, the use of alcohol and the sale of pork. Women who don’t cover up get pawed, or worse, raped.

The problem isn’t intolerance. It’s the multiculturalist socialist paradise that the entire European Union affords Muslim immigrants.

As a result, welfare is abused by Muslims across Europe — some 80% of Muslim immigrants to Europe are on the dole, and more than half are “economically inactive.” Muslims claim disability more than any other group.

In the EU capital of Belgium, as well as neighboring Netherlands, Muslims are roughly 5% of the population yet consume 40% to 60% of the welfare budget. Belgium spends more on unemployment benefits than any other country outside Denmark.

European society isn’t oppressing Muslim immigrants. Far from it. It’s coddling them, providing them a comfortable living.

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David Marcus has an interesting theory
about how Trump is "gaslighting" America based on the play and movie in which a husband convinces a wife that she is going crazy.
Donald Trump has been playing this game on the American people, or at least a meaningful portion of it, for five months now. Telling us that Trump University was a success. Telling us that he only worked with the mafia because everyone in his business had to. Telling us that his campaign manager Corey Lewandoski never touched Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. Then telling us so what if he touched her....

In Hamilton’s play, there is a detective called Detective Rough. He takes a dim view of the abusive husband’s explanations. He thinks the poor woman is being taken for a ride. And he works diligently to find out exactly how. He tries to figure out what the abuser has to gain. And he finds something.

Sadly, Hamilton was much better at exposing the conjuring of gaslighters than today’s media. Time and again the news media has given Trump a pass when he says things that are flatly false. Trump knows very well that he is not winning the lawsuits against him regarding Trump University. In fact he recently complained about an unfair Hispanic judge who was hurting his case. Faced with blatant falsehoods, however, the haircuts just continue their interviews.

When Trump says he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning, then audio shows he did agree with it, that has to be dealt with. When a journalist says “You said this,” and then he argle bargles about celebrity and “who knows what anybody said,” that journalist needs to shut down and focus straight on that. This happens approximately never.

What actually happens is that the interviewer finds some subtle way to express admonishment to viewers, but smiling Donald keeps on smiling. They move on to another subject—agreeing, as it were, to disagree. As if both points of view have validity, when in fact one is demonstrably false. It is in that moment, when they move on to the next subject, that Trump wins.

This moment occurs every time Trump is interviewed. At a certain point the anchor gives up. So what if he’s lying and we know it. We have to get along here. And maybe I’ll look like I’m a bully, like that Megyn Kelly, if I press it too hard. Maybe freaks on Twitter will look for every picture of me. Maybe they will call me a whore and pretend I slept with my boss. That’s exactly what happened to Amanda Carpenter. But who knows, right? It’s all a rich tapestry....

The way to deal with a person who is gaslighting is to cut them off. Full stop. There is no negotiation. There is only a severance, at least until the abuser can deal with reality. Thus far the news media has been unwilling to cut this cord. But if Trump lies and you know it’s a lie, you have to stop the interview. When he points at a red wall and calls it blue, you have to shut down the feed.

Sadly, a reality-based philosophy of journalism has yet to emerge. But I would suggest one principle for its creation. When someone insists a lie is the truth they must accept reality, or they must not be invited back.