Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cruising the Web

Are Trump and his aides stuck on stupid? While Trump is busy signing executive orders that fulfill some of his campaign promises and which appeal to many conservatives, he is distracting attention away from those actions by continuing to make wild statements about how he really won the popular votes. He has no evidence to back up his accusations that there were enough illegal votes that would cancel out Hillary Clinton's margin in the popular vote. But that doesn't matter - Trump can't stop himself from talking about this.

Allahpundit puts forth an explanation of why Trump would make claims that have been thoroughly debunked.
Push the outlandish claim, knowing that it’s outlandish or even because it’s outlandish, and maximize the cognitive dissonance that forces supporters to commit even more deeply to the idea of Trump as the ultimate truth-teller. The goal is to reach the point where literally any damaging or inconvenient information, even if true, can be dismissed as “media bias” or “fake news” by the White House. I think this is going to go exactly as Stephen Miller predicts, the same as it went when Trump claimed during the campaign that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after 9/11. If the claim can’t be verified in its totality, the defense will shift to verifying any part of it and then claiming that that’s close enough to the whole truth to mean that Trump was basically right and his lying, discredited media detractors wrong.
I think that is giving Trump too much credit for a strategic approach to disinformation. I'm more inclined to think that Trump sees something on the internet alleging that votes from noncitizens accounted for his loss of the popular vote and he liked that idea. He glommed onto it and just won't give it up since he galls him to have lost in any way. He just can't let it go even though I would suppose that everyone around him knows he needs to just STFU about such irrelevant matters. At this point, he's president and making decisions that should demand his focus and the attention of the country. But he just gets fixated on such a matter and can't stop himself from talking about it. It's a bizarre quality in a mature adult, but that's the way he is and one of the reasons why so many conservatives opposed his nomination. However, he won. I guess that has convinced him that his constant pushback against criticism whether based on faulty reasoning or not is a successful tactic. But he should remember that he only won in November because he was running against such a failed and compromised opponent. He might not have that good fortune in 2020 if he wishes to run for reelection. So he needs to start winning over those who didn't vote for him and keep the support of those who reluctantly voted for him over Hillary Clinton instead of metaphorically rubbing his thin-skinned obsessions in everyone's faces every single day.

William Galston writes to contrast Trump's and James Madison's views of the people.
In James Madison’s America, as opposed to Donald Trump’s, there is no unitary “people.” As Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, Americans are divided in myriad ways, into what he called “factions” and modern students of politics call interest groups. The causes of these divisions, Madison insisted, was “sown in the nature of man.” This is why the “causes of faction cannot be removed.” Conflict among the people is endemic and ineradicable, but all the combatants are equally part of the people.

So President Trump is not the tribune of a united people doing battle against the elites; he is the leader of a faction of the people to whose interests and convictions he has given effective voice. With some justice, he calls them the “forgotten men and women of our country.” They are the people who worked in the manufacturing sector that provided more than a quarter of all jobs in 1960 but today, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, provides less than 10%. Many of them have seen their standard of living decline; most of them fear that their children will do even worse; few have confidence that continuing on our current course offers any hope whatever. This is why they supported Mr. Trump in the states that turned out to be decisive this past November.

And now the president is determined to help them. “From this day forward,” he declared, “it’s going to be only America First. . . . Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” In one sense, there is nothing radical about this proposition. Barring the sort of corruption that the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution was designed to prevent, every American president looks first to the interests of his country and its people.

The question is what this means in practice. For example, according to the Agriculture Department, American farmers and growers export about 20% of what they produce, including more than 50% of rice and wheat and more than 70% of nuts and cotton. Policies designed to protect our manufacturing sector could easily end up harming our farmers. Mr. Trump received strong support from both the Rust Belt and the agricultural heartland, but their interests will be harder to reconcile in policy than in campaign rhetoric.
When in doubt, trust Madison's judgment. Of course, Trump is not the first president to imagine that he spoke for the people and that all who opposed him had unreasonable motivations, perhaps clinging to their guns and religion instead of following the righteous voices of their more enlightened leaders. Conservatives used to recognize that. But hey, conservatives also used to support free trade. How times change.

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Amity Shlaes, whose book, The Forgotten Man, is one of the best books I've read about the Great Depression, reminds us that there were two versions of "the forgotten man" back then - a useful reminder now that Trump has started talking about helping "the forgotten man."
It’s clear why Trump hopes to build a presidency on service to the “forgotten.” The quality of the economic recovery after the financial crisis of 2008 was poor, and to this day many Americans feel they are not back where they were in 2007.

It is all too obvious that the “too big to fail” doctrine favored Wall Street behemoths like Goldman Sachs, as has post-crash statute. Laws such as Dodd-Frank force all kinds of negative consequences upon smaller financial institutions -- call them forgotten banks -- as Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, noted at the confirmation hearing for Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for Treasury secretary and former Goldman executive.

So who precisely is this Forgotten Man?

In fact, two opposing Forgotten Men figure in American history. Which one Trump actually backs will determine what kind of presidency his ends up being.

The more familiar Forgotten Man was the brainchild of another populist campaigner, Franklin Roosevelt. During the 1932 presidential campaign, a point when two in 10 workers were unemployed, Roosevelt expressed concern for “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” The New York governor meant the poor man, whose poverty he blamed on a failure of Wall Street....
That is the version that Trump seems to be talking about now. In fact, just reading his inaugural speech, it is striking how much of it could have been delivered by Bernie Sanders. But, as Shlaes detailed in her book, there is another forgotten man.
Roosevelt’s is the first Forgotten Man who comes to mind now. But in those days, another version was just as familiar. That was the one captured by a legendary Yale professor named William Graham Sumner. His Forgotten Man was an anonymous figure, suffering the collateral damage of a project advanced to help the group identified as vulnerable. In Sumner's definition, he was “the man who pays, the man who prays, the man who is not thought of.”

A classical liberal in the U.K. tradition, Sumner therefore rejected any law for special groups: earmarks, targeted social programs, official interest-group organizations, narrow tax breaks. The professor especially abhorred protectionism, then also a plank in the Republican platform, because protectionism benefited a narrow group: New England industrialists. Sumner called protectionism "the ism which teaches that waste makes wealth."

Politically, the attractions of Roosevelt’s Forgotten Man definition are powerful. In his first term, Roosevelt delivered benefits to so many groups -- organized labor especially comes to mind -- that in his second election he took 46 of 48 states.

Economically, the record suggests that Sumner’s forgotten man is the more valuable. After all, the New Deal, as inspiring as it was, did not yield a strong recovery. FDR’s wildly pro-union legislation priced many workers out of the market, thereby failing the very poor Roosevelt had vowed to serve. High unemployment endured right up to World War II.

”Who is the forgotten man in Muncie?” asked an Indiana paper in the late 1930s, doubtless thinking of Sumner’s figure. “I know him as intimately as I know my own undershirt. He is the fellow that is trying to get along without public relief... In the meantime the taxpayers go on supporting many that would not work if they had jobs.”
Those are the forgotten men who came out in protests against TARP and bank bailouts and Obamacare. They were the people who first rose up in the tea party. Remember how it all began with a rant from Rick Santelli on CNBC. He was protesting the bailout of people who couldn't pay their mortgages.
On February 24, 2009, while reporting for Squawk Box from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli (who was briefly featured during Wednesday’s debate) went on a dramatic rant against President Obama’s Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, a stimulus package aimed at helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said. “How about this, president and new administration, why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”

Santelli drew rapturous applause from the floor traders—the “silent majority,” as he described them—when he added that the government should “reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water.”

A true showman in his element, Santelli then turned around to face his audience. “This is America!” he shouted. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The traders erupted in boos.
Of course, traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange aren't your typical forgotten men, but Santelli's rant and call for a new tea party resonated among people who felt that they had sacrificed to pay for their mortgages and shouldn't have to pay for those people who bought houses they couldn't afford. It sounded a lot like William Graham Sumner's forgotten man and his objections to certain government favoritism of one group over another would have resonated with the tea party. Somehow Trump is trying to conflate those two groups, FDR's and Sumner's forgotten men. As Shlaes points out, Trump's cabinet combines people with both approaches. Ideally, his policies will help FDR's audience without forgetting Sumner's.

The Washington Post had a story of went on within the Trump administration this weekend. They described how angry Trump was about the media coverage of the turnout at his inauguration. They report that Trump insisted that there be a "fiery public response" from his press secretary even though his aides and advisers wanted him to focus on his policy actions. Sean Spicer's embarrassing statement Saturday night was the result of Trump's demands. The Post story goes on to details within the administration and the ensuing disputes that have arisen. They detail who is arguing with whom. My thoughts as I read this story were that, "Wow, a whole lot of people are spending their first days of the new administration leaking to the Washington Post." A presidential administration is so immensely larger than a presidential campaign. If all these people are leaking within the first days of his taking office, it doesn't augur well for him to keep such debates and disagreements quiet as time goes on. I just hope that his reaction won't be to retreat to a small group of family and friends whom he trusts and discount any contrary voices. But I can see how a story like this one would make him paranoid about whom he can and can't trust within his own inner circle.

Ah, more evidence
that the Iranians have no intention of abiding by the deal they made with Obama.
Ukrainian authorities have reportedly seized a shipment of Russian missiles bound for Iran. And our good friends, the Russians are the ones supplying them. According to al-Arabiya:
Ukraine has announced that it has seized an airplane destined for Iran loaded with arms at Kiev’s Zhulyany Airport. The plane was reported on Sunday carrying Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles. The Russian agency Interfax confirmed that the weapons were discovered by Ukraine’s border police in Kiev’s airport following a search of 17 containers that were not registered in the flight’s cargo manifest. A spokesman said that three containers were found to be storing the missiles – which are lightweight, infrared guided anti-tank missiles – while the remaining storage boxes contained airplane spare parts. During an investigation, the airliner’s crew members – whose origin of either Iranian or Ukrainian has yet to be confirmed – denied knowledge of the weapons shipment.
The Ukrainians have released some imagery of what was captured.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action lifted sanctions on many weapons systems Iran says it needs for defense. Had it sought to import these weapons legally, it might have done so. There are two reasons for Tehran to import weapons with false manifests: Either the weapons are illegal and bust sanctions or they are meant for nefarious ends.

Secondly, this isn’t the first time Iranian authorities have been caught red-handed with weapons seized after they were omitted from manifests or deliberately mislabeled.

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THe rumors now are that Trump has narrowed down his list for Supreme Court nominees to Thomas Hardiman, Neil Gorsuch, and William Pryor. The CW seems to favor Neil Gorsuch, but Quin Hillyer gives eight reasons why he thinks Hardiman will get the nod. This is the most persuasive argument that he makes.
Third, Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, serves on the same circuit court as Hardiman and reportedly has recommended him quite highly to her brother. Personal connections matter a great deal to Trump.
Yeah, that sounds like something that could well be a determinative factor for Trump. You can read more about Hardiman here in Scotusblog's profile.

Politico looks at how Ted Cruz is trying to remake himself. As they report, Cruz was organizing to run in 2020 based on his assumption that Hillary would win in November. But once Trump won, Cruz evidently decided that he'd best help his political fortunes by working with both the GOP Senate leadership and with the Trump administration.
Having spent months reckoning with these new political realities, and feeling a certain weight due to his newfound national following, Cruz has concluded that it’s time to reinvent his role in Washington. The tea-party rebel who came to the Senate in 2013, and who masterfully exploited the GOP’s fratricidal tendencies en route to building a grassroots army, no longer has the luxury of pursuing purity for political gain. With a unified Republican government, and Trump poised to secure a list of policy wins that once seemed improbable, there is little appetite or incentive for ideological brinksmanship. Cruz intuitively understands this, and sees in Trump’s early presidency an opportunity to reset relations with a party establishment he’s battled since 2012.
Strange to hear Cruz is now becoming known as a "team player." And now Mitch McConnell is praising Cruz. Wow. What a turnaround. And Cruz is back to the amicable relationship he had with Trump in the primaries before Cruz insulted his wife and bizarrely linked his father to JFK's assassination. And now everything is just peachy-keen with his GOP colleagues.
Restitution can be found in doing the little things. Cruz called Trump two weeks ago, for instance, to give a heads-up on legislation he was introducing with Lindsey Graham that would defund the United Nations in retaliation for its resolution on Israeli settlements. It was a deferential show of etiquette that hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of his Senate career. Cruz had previously run the idea through Senate leadership, and then reached out to the unlikeliest of partners in Graham, who has been one of his harshest critics and who joked last year that Cruz could be murdered by colleagues on the Senate floor—and that members of the chamber would vote to acquit. “I want to apologize to Ted for saying he should be killed on the Senate floor,” Graham said during their eyebrow-raising joint appearance on Morning Joe. “I’m sorry, Ted.”

Cruz appears intent on building—and in some cases repairing—personal relationships with Republican senators. He started a weekly basketball game in the Russell Building, for example, and has been urging colleagues to attend. (Cruz is said to be a surprisingly good jump-shooter with miserable form.) Tim Scott has played, and Marco Rubio is said to be joining soon. In another development, Cruz, who has long used his back-corner booth at the Capital Grille to schmooze with activist leaders and think-tankers, has lately been inviting fellow senators.
I just wonder if he'd taken this approach when he first joined the Senate how differently he might be perceived. He might not have won the support with the Tea Party wing of the party, but he also wouldn't have a reputation for being the guy his colleagues couldn't stand. Cruz might have worried about his reelection challenge in 2018 and decided that he needed to change his image a bit and he also needed to be perceived as a Trump ally in order to forestall a primary challenge.

Here is clear evidence
that, contrary to Planned Parenthood's claims that they provide prenatal care, Planned Parenthood clinics across the country deny that they offer prenatal care. In several cases, they come right out and say that they offer abortions, but no prenatal care. It's pretty clear evidence. reports that they contacted 97 separate Planned Parenthood facilities across all 41 Planned Parenthood affiliates in states where undercover recording is permitted by state law and only three provided prenatal care.

One might wonder how they can so blatantly lie about the services they offer when the truth is readily available. I guess it just doesn't matter to their supporters so they can just lie and figure it doesn't matter. They and their supporters, including President Obama, also perpetuate the deception that Planned Parenthood offers mammograms. They'll do manual breast exams and then give women referrals for mammograms. But they don't provide them on site. That's why this claim earned Three Pinocchios. When liberals criticize Trump and his supporters for making assertions that just aren't so and are clearly refutable, they should acknowledge that their side sometimes performs similarly.

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Fox News has ended its contract with George Will to be a commentator in the roundtables on Bret Baier's "Special Report" and Chris Wallace's Sunday news show. It's not clear whether this is because Will's vocal criticism of Donald Trump. They still have Charles Krauthammer who was equally critical. Will was also quite critical of Bill O'Reilly's book, Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency. I thought O'Reilly came off terribly in those interchanges with George Will who exposed the shoddy research and faulty conclusions in the book about how Reagan was mentally damaged by the assassination attempt. You can read Erik Wemple's summary of the clash between Will and O'Reilly. Wemple also uncovered video evidence of how O'Reilly totally distorted the truth in one anecdote in his book. I hope that Fox didn't get rid of him because of his views or his willingness to make O'Reilly look like a fool. And I'm sorry that Will won't appear anymore on those roundtable panels. I always enjoyed his take on the news and how he expresses himself.

THe Free Beacon takes a page
from the Hillary Clinton advertising playbook by showing children listening to some of the crudity in the speeches at the Women's March in Washington. I thought it was effective when the Clinton campaign ran ads of children listening to piggish things that Donald Trump actually said in his own voice. I'm not sure how protests against Trump's crude behavior and language toward women is helped by using equally offensive language.

This is an interesting story about how jet lag affects baseball players. Strangely, it can hurt the home team more than the visiting team.
Over all the games in the 20 years, teams won about 54 percent of games played at home, showing a home-field advantage of 4 percent. But that edge was obliterated when home teams that were jet-lagged from traveling eastward played teams with no apparent jet lag -- an apparent result of seemingly small declines in performance.

After traveling eastward, jet-lagged home teams hit fewer doubles and triples, stole fewer bases and grounded into more double plays than when they weren't affected. The impact on doubles was about one fewer per every seven games, while the other effects were smaller.