Monday, January 23, 2017

Cruising the Web

When will Trump and his people realize that they don't have to respond to every provocation from the left and the media? He's president now and has achieved what he set out to do when he came down that escalator. Now is the time to focus on what he is going to do that he's in the Oval Office. Instead, the Trumpians, led by his Baghdad Bob of a press secretary, Sean Spicer, called a special press conference Saturday night to attack the media for under-counting the turnout at Trump's inauguration. He was upset that the media and people on Twitter were contrasting photos from Obama's inauguration in 2009 and Trump's on Friday. Why should it be a surprise that more people turned out for President Hope and Change?

If Spicer felt it was necessary to push back, he could have argued that Trump's supporters couldn't necessarily have afforded to come to Washington for the inauguration since he won the votes of those who have suffered in Obama's America, yadda, yadda. Or he could have pointed out that Washington, D.C. voted for Clinton by 91% and Trump only got 4% and is surrounded by Democratic voters in Northern Virginia and Maryland so it was easier for Obama supporters to make it in for the inauguration. Or he could have just been quiet and let the whole thing die down as it would have within a day. But no. Spicer had to call a press conference and make false statements claiming that Trump's inauguration featured the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period- both in person and around the globe." This was demonstrably false, but I guess that doesn't matter when one is making claims about Trump. And, of course, this gave the media the opportunity to point out how so much of what Spicer claimed was just not true.

Why bother to lie so obviously about something that could be demonstrated to be a lie? Jonathan V. Last writes,
Crowd size does not matter. At all. It is not correlative with any conceivable marker of presidential success.
Last points to another lie that Spicer told during the campaign about John McCormack, another Weekly Standard writer, a lie that was also demonstrably proven to be a lie. This is not an auspicious start for Spicer's career as presidential press secretary.
Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can't peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it's not because there's some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you're a proven liar in public, you can't adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they'll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.
And what is also important is what this episode says about Trump.
What's worrisome is that Spicer wouldn't have blown his credibility with the national press on Day 2 of the administration unless it was vitally important to Trump.

And if media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he'd push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active.

You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.
Just as Trump can't stop himself from tweeting about an SNL impersonation or what Meryl Streep says about him has apparently inculcated the same thin-skinned attitude in his staff. That is not a good sign.

Ron Radosh explains
why this silly lie about crowd size matters.
How does Trump expect world leaders and Americans to believe him when he says something has happened that needs attention? Lying publicly about such an obvious thing like the crowd size is not going to gain him support when he needs it most.

Trump will undermine his presidency if he continues to resort to “alternative facts” when he doesn’t like something. This is not what Americans want to see in their president.

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Anne Applebaum explains the true facts, as opposed to the "alternative facts" from the Trump team about the feud Trump has had with the intelligence community. Trump has tried to pretend that this storyline was just a fake-news idea that the media came up with. Nope. He has questions intelligence conclusions whenever he didn't like the results. And the evidence is all there on his Twitter feed.
In fact, Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized the intelligence agencies during his transition to office and has questioned their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to aid his candidacy. He called their assessment “ridiculous” and suggested that it had been politically motivated.

After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about him, Mr. Trump alleged that the intelligence agencies had allowed a leak of the material. “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he asked in a post on Twitter.
We might wish that he hadn't attacked intelligence community and he may now wish he hadn't done so, but wishing doesn't make it so. And starting his administration off by lying about inauguration attendance, Metro ridership, the weather, and his relationship with the intelligence community is a sad, and avoidable, way to begin his presidency.

Ed Morrissey writes about those calling themselfs "The Resistance" where the goal is not just to oppose Trump but to deny that he is actually the president.
This grandiose and pretentious appellation insults those who actually have to live under authoritarian regimes, including Cuba, whose oppressed no longer have the promise of expedited asylum if they manage to reach the United States, thanks to the outgoing president’s actions in the final hours of his term.

Those who lose elections in free countries are the opposition, and can fix that by winning the next election. Instead of asking why they lost, the “resistance” decided to pretend the loss of an election amounts to oppression and have adopted the language of revolution to rally themselves.

That incendiary language didn’t just get adopted by a few on the fringe, but by many on the left, including some in the news and entertainment media.
Protesters set out to make attendance difficult at the "DeploraBall" organized for the night before the inauguration by Trump's supporters.
The event was organized by independent groups and didn’t include any incoming Trump administration officials.

Even so, protesters agitated against Trump outside, a demonstration that turned violent when some of them started throwing smoke bombs at police, who had lined up to keep the activists out of the celebration inside.

After two hours of rioting, police finally began using pepper spray to disperse the crowds, but not before some cops got hit with bottles. Some of the demonstrators set fires, while demanding Congress “impeach the predatory president.”

By the next day, the nation’s capital suffered widespread rioting. Hooligans smashed windows, set fires, threw bricks and attempted to block the entrances to the inauguration. More than two hours after the inauguration, a mass of rioters began setting fires on K Street. By 2 p.m., police had already arrested 90 people, and the unrest was growing.

The Daily Beast’s description of these protesters as “anti-fascists” stretches the definition of irony. The protesters weren’t demonstrating against any specific action by Trump, because he had not yet taken office at that time. They were protesting against his election victory and wanted it negated — and at groups like DisruptJ20, they used violence to try to get their way.

Democracy depends on the acceptance of election results. That’s actually a lesson the left insisted on teaching Trump’s supporters after the third debate, when Trump said he’d want to see the results first before accepting them....

American voters elected Trump, along with Republican majorities in the House, Senate and most state legislatures, to give them the chance to govern after eight years of Barack Obama. Whether that turns out to be a wise choice will be soon seen, and there will be plenty of reasons to debate and protest on specific issues along the way.

What we have seen in Washington this week is not a rational or lawful exercise of freedom of speech but a violent temper tantrum by those who will accept no governance other than their own rule, regardless of the expressed will of the electorate. That will be a lesson voters should learn and consider for the next election — and beyond.
One reporter writes about what he observed among the rioters.
Organized by the DisruptJ20 protest group, activists took aim at the alleged sexism and racism of the incoming administration. Practically speaking, that meant blocking security checkpoints, smashing windows, and torching at least one limousine outside the Washington Post building....

When words failed them though, protestors turned to rioting. Wearing black face masks, they smashed the windows of Starbucks, Bank of America, and a Bobby Van's steakhouse a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Private business didn't suffer all the damage, though. Suddenly enemies of public transport, liberal rioters trashed at least one bus stop—an indicator of the aimlessness of the whole thing.
Given that the people whose places of business and jobs they were disrupting were, in all likelihood, Democrats, I'm not sure that their actions achieved much beyond making a lot of people outside of the Beltline to associate anti-Trump activity with violent, purposeless action. Coming to a protest armed with crowbars and "rocks, bottles, flares and unknown liquids" is not behavior geared toward winning over voters.

Roger Simon is not impressed
with the Women's Marches this past weekend.
Excuse me if I don't get it. What exactly was motivating them?

Oh, right, Donald Trump, that vulgar misogynist who bragged about pu**y grabbing (asterisks to dissociate myself from Madonna, even though I'm aging too). I'm going to skip over the obvious - these same women almost all ignored Bill Clinton actually doing (not just mouthing off about) similar activities in the Oval Office, not to mention on numerous other occasions, some of which we know about and some of which we may not. Further, these women didn't have much to say -- no demonstrations, no marches, maybe a few hashtags -- when radical Islamists of various stripes regularly kidnapped large numbers of women (Nigerians, Yazidis, Kurds, etc., etc.) from their homes and took them as sex slaves, often beheading them after they finished raping them. Nor did they even pipe up when honor killings were going on in their own backyard.

I could go on. But those are just, shall we say, a few of the minor inconsistencies mixed with, perhaps, a soup├žon of cognitive dissonance. Something more must be motivating these hundreds of thousands of women.

Oh, yes, reproductive rights. Break out your clothes hangers. The Donald is going to bring back the era of backroom abortions

First of all, there is no indication that there would be a majority on the Supreme Court, even with a new Trump appointment, to overrule Roe v. Wade. Also, Trump seems to have come very late to the pro-life position, having been pro-choice all his life.

I have some friends and colleagues as well as a few students who attended the march in Washington. They very sincerely believe that women's rights are threatened in a Trump presidency. I respect their beliefs, but I just don't buy that dark times are descending upon America. I just finished teaching the suffrage movements in both my American and European history classes and was once again struck about how the complaints women have today are so diminished compared to what our forebears suffered. In fact, today it seems to me that it is men who are suffering more. They are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to graduate college, are more susceptible to opioid addiction, are more likely to have lost jobs in the recession, and are more likely to be involved in crime and be incarcerated. Instead, we have phony statistics about an epidemic of rape on college campuses and a wide pay gap between men and women.

As Matt Lewis explains, the celebrity-laden protests aren't going to help win over the voters whom the Democrats lost in November.
During the celebration of the peaceful transfer of power this weekend, we were treated to some crude and irresponsible comments from liberal celebrities: Madonna told Trump voters, “F—k you. F—k you,” and added that she had “thought a lot about blowing up the White House.”

Ashley Judd continued the trend, reciting a poem called “Nasty Woman” that was written by a Tennessee teen. “I didn’t know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets,” the poem declared. In a tweet, Cher called Trump spokesman Sean Spicer a “bitch.”
Meanwhile, some less famous progressives were getting into the act. “I will not stand idly by while a man named Donald Trump and his team attempt to thrust us back into slavery,” said Trump protester Eric Myers, according to The Washington Times.

Trump Derangement Syndrome is a real thing, and I suspect it will have counterproductive results for a party that might want to win back the White House someday (which would, presumably, require convincing at least some Trump voters to switch sides).

Here’s the problem: The more Hollywood liberals produce condescending videos, the more pretentious and preachy celebs like Madonna (or replace her with Lena Dunham or Meryl Streep… they’re basically interchangeable) lecture us at rallies and awards ceremonies, and the more protesters with signs and placards with the word “p*ssy” on them—the more I find myself liking Donald Trump.

And this is saying a lot. I’ve dedicated the last couple of years to speaking out against Trumpism. But if his adversaries are so odious as to drive me (an infamous Trump critic) into thinking maybe he is the lesser of two evils (or, at least, the less annoying!)―what do you think it is doing to working-class Americans?

Instead of appealing to middle America, progressives are using this opportunity to become more extreme and exclusive. A broad coalition of Americans concerned about the President Trump’s temperament and character might have included a diverse alliance of voices. Heck, I might well have been among them. Instead, pro-life women were disinvited from what was ostensibly a women’s parade.

The dirty little secret is that many on the left seem to believe that Trump was onto something. They believe that being nice and playing by the rules of civility and decency (where truth matters) are obsolete concepts. They believe that persuasion and bringing people together are just slogans.

So they fly their freak flag proudly and continue to alienate the working-class Americans who put Trump in the White House. It doesn’t seem like a smart political strategy.
And, as we'll be doing a lot over the next four years, the contrast to how the media cover a story about Trump to how they covered somewhat similar stories about Obama is startling.
We [the media] cover the massive crowds at a women’s march but not the massive crowds at the March for Life. We raise Cain when an obscure GOP staffer posts something unflattering about President Obama’s daughter, but we barely notice when writers and celebrities mock Trump’s 10-year-old son. Both stories get covered, but one story drives the news cycle.

Let’s take this past weekend as an example. If a liberal Democrat had been elected president and Republicans had staged a counter rally, how might that have been covered?

What if, instead of Madonna talking about blowing up the White House, it had been Ted Nugent saying that about an Obama White House? What if Scott Baio had tweeted about the Obama daughters? The coverage would have been ubiquitous and breathless.
Think of how the media covered tea party protests as if they were dens of fascism and contrast it to anti-Trump marches.

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Ilya Somin, in writing about Obama's Constitutional legacy, points out what he calls "the loaded gun Obama will leave Trump."
Perhaps the most important constitutional legacy of the Obama administration is one that does not get nearly as much attention as it deserves: by starting two wars without the constitutionally required congressional authorization, Obama established dangerous precedents that can be used by Donald Trump and other potentially unscrupulous successors. In the case of both the 2011 war against Libya and the still-ongoing war against ISIS, Obama relied on flimsy legal pretexts to to initiate wars.

To his credit, Obama has since admitted that the Libya intervention was his “worst mistake.” But he still refuses to recognize that it was unconstitutional, or that its dubious legal rationale had any connection to the sorry outcome.

In both the Libya and ISIS conflicts, the Obama administration stopped short of claiming, in the fashion of John Yoo, that the president has unlimited inherent power to start wars. But the rationales they relied on instead are not much better. In the Libya case, for example, the administration advanced the ridiculous theory that the Libya conflict was not a real war (or even a case of “armed hostilities” covered by the War Powers Act) because “U.S. operations [in Libya] do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces.” You don’t have to be a law professor like Obama to understand that launching numerous air strikes for the purpose of overthrowing a government qualifies as war, and certainly as “armed hostilities.” If it does not, all sorts of other large-scale military interventions can be justified on similar grounds. Similar problems arise from the administration’s attempts to stretch the 2001 and 2002 congressional authorizations for the use of military force to cover the conflict against ISIS. These too are holes that Donald Trump – or some other future president – could potentially drive a truck through.

Obama’s actions have, quite literally, left Trump a loaded gun he could potentially fire almost any time he wants to. Actually it’s an entire army of loaded guns, to say nothing of loaded missile launchers and aircraft carriers.
Every year I teach the War Powers Act to my students and they learn about what it says and how no president has acknowledged its constitutionality, but still complied with its provisions. Until Obama, until Obama. But that questionable constitutionality of the War Powers Act isn't why it's important for the president to get congressional approval for military action.
The constitutional requirement of congressional authorization is not just a legal technicality. It also helps protect us against initiating dubious conflicts at the behest of a single man, and increases the likelihood of success in those wars we do choose to fight.

President Obama would have done better to stick to the principle then-Senator Obama stated in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” We may yet have occasion to lament his failure to live up to his own principles here.

The Obama Education Department basically admitted, as they were on the way out the door, that the billions that they spent on education didn't achieve their goals.
One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.
Sometimes, money just isn't the answer.

The Washington Post has done the research to find that how many new presidents were able to fulfill their campaign promises of reversing the previous president's executive orders.
We used the National Archives’ Executive Orders Disposition Tables to determine how many executive orders were explicitly “revoked” or “superseded” by each of the 12 presidents who have served since Franklin D. Roosevelt. We counted reversals within newly elected presidents’ first 30 days in office. That count was quite low. Nine presidents reversed three or fewer in that time; Obama hit the high, reversing eight previous presidents’ executive orders within 30 days.

When we checked to see how many orders were reversed within a new administration’s first 60 days, the numbers were still relatively low. Six presidents still reversed three or fewer. Gerald Ford took second place, reversing 17, while Ronald Reagan took top place, reversing 22 of his predecessors’ executive orders.

What about over their entire terms? There George W. Bush takes top place, reversing 64 executive orders. The rest reversed 52 or fewer. Their annual averages ranged widely. Bill Clinton reversed 5.5 per year; John F. Kennedy reversed 10.3. Richard Nixon, Ford and George W. Bush each averaged eight or more reversals annually.
We'll have to see how Trump rates in this list. But that such a list even exists indicates that executive orders are not the method for permanent change.

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Apparently, Chuck Schumer went back on his word to have Pompeo's nomination to the CIA to be approved on Inauguration Day. He had protested the scheduling of six nomination hearings held on the same day. He negotiated with McConnell to postpone Pompeo's hearing one day in exchange for the promise to approve him on the first day. This led to an acrimonious confrontation between Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer.
The Senate reconvened after the inaugural ceremonies on Friday, with Pompeo's nomination set to come up at 4:50pm. Cotton angrily confronted Schumer about his broken promise. According to witnesses, Schumer told Cotton to lower his voice and asked him move off of the Senate floor to an adjacent hallway for a private discussion. "We need to take this out into the hallway," Schumer said. Cotton walked with Schumer but loudly rejected his first request. "Don't tell me to lower my voice!" he shouted, with an additional salty admonition tacked on for emphasis. Burr and Cornyn were present, as was Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and several aides.

Schumer told Cotton that the Senate had never previously confirmed a CIA director on Inauguration Day and if Cotton had been around eight years earlier, he'd know that Republicans didn't extend that courtesy for incoming president Barack Obama. "Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan," Cotton snapped. "So don't talk to me about where I was 8 years ago."

Cotton asked Schumer why he'd gone back on his word. Schumer claimed that he'd only been speaking for himself when he promised to let Pompeo through. "I said that I would not block him," Schumer said, emphasizing the personal pronoun, according to sources who witnessed the exchange. "I never said that I could speak for 47 other Democrats."
Schumer is now pretending that he doesn't speak for his entire caucus. So now the Republicans are saying they can't trust Schumer's word. I guess no one trusts anyone now in Washington.

This is an interesting story
about how two mathematicians back in the late 1950s figured out whether Madison or Hamilton had written the Federalist Papers whose authorship were disputed. They were able to apply textual analysis to figure out certain linguistic choices peculiar to each writer. And they did all this before the use of more modern computers to quickly count word frequencies. For example, Madison was more likely to use the preposition "by" than Hamilton while Hamilton was more likely to use "upon."