Thursday, January 26, 2017

Crusing the Web

John Podhoretz, no fan of Trump and a frequent critic of what Trump has said and done, has some thoughts that should worry Republicans about how Democrats might leverage the enthusiasm and dedication of the Women's marches to achieve electoral success much as the Republicans used the Tea Party movement.
It was no one’s march. It was everyone’s march. And it worked, I believe, for one reason: It had a simple message. That message: We don’t like Trump and his behavior toward women.

This is where one possible analogy to the Tea Party protests of 2009 and 2010 might hold. The Tea Party was about Obama’s rapid expansion of the size of the federal government and the fear of a growing Leviathan. That simple fear proved the perfect accelerant for various actions that led to the anti-Obama wave election of 2010. The existence of a grass roots movement encouraged serious candidates to take up the task of running for Congress in what had seemed a bad period for Republicans—the movement provided money, volunteers, and a core enthusiasm for the task. If Democrats can use the Women’s as a comparable accelerant to recruit candidates, particularly for the House, who have real connections to the Republican districts in which they are running and can frame their bids as a means of stopping Trump from working his will with an all-Republican Congress, they might really have something here.

This requires seriousness of purpose, calm, and focus. The current nervous breakdown is the worst possible atmosphere in which to make that happen.
Here in Raleigh, the NAACP hosted regular Moral Monday marches at the state capitol. They didn't end up defeating the Republicans in the state legislature, but they did help to so demonize Governor McCrory that he was narrowly defeated for governor by Roy Cooper in a state that went for Donald Trump. Their criticisms formed the basis of the campaign against McCrory and, I can tell you, resonated among my students who were quite aware of what they were saying. A similar nationwide movement organized against Trump and the Republicans in Congress could become a national movement. Remember that the out party does well in the midterm elections. Yes, the 2018 group of Democratic senators in red states seems dangerous for the Democrats, but if there were a national mood against the party in power similar to what we saw in 2010, seemingly endangered Democrats could scrape through.

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Byron York examines what the federal government could do if Trump sent them to Chicago as he tweeted he might do.
Two points. First, there is ample precedent of the Justice Department getting involved in local policing. That was, in fact, a major part of the department's mission under Barack Obama; more than 20 police departments around the country are under consent decrees reached after Obama Justice Department action against them. So Trump can easily dismiss the concerns of Obama supporters who protest that the federal government should not be meddling with local police.
Second, there are things the Justice Department could do that would likely help reduce the killing in Chicago. For some readers, Trump's tweet probably conjured images of troops in the streets. But some Republicans close to law enforcement have been thinking about what the feds might do to improve things in Chicago.
York provides a list of some suggestions of what Trump could have the Justice Department do. You can read the list and see if you think it would lessen the violence there. Heather MacDonald writes on the same theme to demonstrate that, for Chicago, 'the Feds' are part of the problem.
Mr. Trump is right to draw attention to the growing toll, but he is wrong about what the federal government can do to fix it. His call to “send in the Feds” is ambiguous, but the phrase seems to suggest mobilizing the National Guard. Doing so would require the declaration of a national or state emergency. However gruesome the bloodshed, there is little precedent for mobilizing the National Guard to quell criminal gang violence.

Civil order has not broken down in the Windy City; local authorities continue to deliver basic services in the gang-infested South and West sides. The homicide rate, relative to population, is higher in Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis. If Mr. Trump or his defense secretary, James Mattis, is going to declare Chicago a national emergency, those other cities deserve the same. And although Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked Mr. Trump for money, it’s unlikely he’d welcome troops.

If Mr. Trump’s reference to “the Feds” means federal law-enforcement officers, they’re already there. Local police in Chicago work on joint task forces with agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Trump administration could—and should—direct the U.S. attorney in Chicago to rigorously prosecute federal gun crimes, a focus that withered under President Obama’s denunciations of “mass incarceration” for minorities. But such a reorientation is a longer-term matter.

Policing is overwhelmingly a local function. As much as Mr. Trump, to his credit, wants to ensure that children living in inner cities enjoy the same freedom from fear and bloodshed as those in more stable neighborhoods, Washington has few law-enforcement levers to achieve that goal directly.

What Mr. Trump can do is end the federal government’s unjustified intrusions into local crime-fighting. He can start by announcing that his Justice Department will suspend negotiations with Chicago over a federal consent decree for the city’s police department.

A week before Inauguration Day, President Obama’s Justice Department released a shoddy report declaring the Chicago police guilty of a pattern of unlawful force. That report lacked the most basic statistical integrity and transparency; it failed to disclose any data that justified its conclusion. The feds recycled fabricated calumnies about the department, such as the outrageous claim that officers in Chicago do not care about solving black-on-black crime. It found police racism through the usual trick of ignoring crime rates.

Yet Mayor Emanuel has said, based on that ungrounded report, that he intends to sign a federal consent decree to put the Chicago police under a Justice Department monitor. Doing so would redirect scores of officers from fighting crime to writing reports. Federal monitors have an insatiable appetite for paperwork. Chicago taxpayers would likely face hundreds of millions of dollars in compliance costs, money that could be better spent hiring more cops and drilling them on tactics and communication skills.

Mr. Trump and his prospective attorney general, Jeff Sessions, should tear up the Chicago report and declare that the federal government stands behind proactive policing. The right message: The Justice Department will be vigilant in monitoring police abuses, but it understands that officers respond to the community’s demands for safety and order. Those demands come most fervently from high-crime areas, whose law-abiding residents beseech the police for freedom from drug dealers and unruly youth gangs. Messrs. Trump and Sessions should make clear that police officers need no longer fear that stopping and questioning people engaged in suspicious behavior will draw the condemnation of the federal government.

Thanks to the constant charge from the media and the previous administration that proactive policing is racist, 72% of law enforcement officers in a nationwide Pew poll last year said they had become less willing to question people engaged in suspicious conduct. In Chicago, pedestrian stops fell more than 80% in 2016, while narcotics arrests, a good measure of proactive policing, dropped 43%. The result of that reluctance in 2015 was the largest national homicide increase in nearly 50 years. Once the data are fully analyzed, a similar increase for 2016 seems likely.

How unsurprising is this? Trump has chosen which president's portrait he wants to hang in the Oval Office - Andrew Jackson. Of course. Analysts have been comparing Jackson and Trump for the past year. Time Magazine wrote,
With Donald Trump’s rise to power as America’s 45th President, those in search of an illuminating analogy have frequently cited the example of the seventh. Steve Bannon, now Trump’s senior White House strategist, has made this explicit, arguing that the Trump revolution is akin to Jackson’s populist insurgency in the 1820s and ’30s. There are, of course, surface similarities. Both movements gained popularity based on freeing the country from established, ossified interests with a promise to return the nation to greatness (in Trump’s formulation) or to Jeffersonian republican simplicity (in Jackson’s). Both startled the existing order (the Clintons and the mainstream media in Trump’s case; John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay in Jackson’s). And both had powerful personalities at the head of the ticket.
Jackson was also someone who personalized politics and never forgave his enemies such as Henry Clay for their perceived transgressions against him. He spent a good part of his first term mired in the Peggy Eaton scandal because he just couldn't stop himself from fixating on trying to get the wives of his cabinet officers to socialize with Peggy Eaton, the supposedly scandalous wife of his Secreatry of War. (By the way, I heartily recommend JOhn Marszalek's The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House as a wonderful read about this scandal and how it affected so much of Jackson's first term.) Hmmm, fixating on personal insults and perceived conspiracies against him and those he likes to the extent that a president wastes the time of his cabinet talking about irrelevant matters? Does that sound like anyone we know?

Eric Boehm finds similarities
between Trumps inaugural address and Jackson's first inaugural.
Trump's inaugural address on Friday was an extension of his populist campaign, and, intentionally or not, reflected Jackson's first inaugural address from 188 years ago. Both promised to reform the federal government, expand national infrastructure, and provide for a more robust military.

When he took the oath of office and delivered his first inaugural, Jackson claimed that his victory was a "demonstration of public sentiment" calling for reforms to "the patronage of the Federal Government," which Jackson said, "have placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands."

Sound familiar? On Friday, Trump promised that his administration would transfer power back to the people. "A small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he said. "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth."

....On Friday, Trump bemoaned the loss of "trillions of dollars" rebuilding infrastructure in foreign countries and called for building of "new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation." Jackson, too, promised the then-expanding United States a program of "internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the federal government."

Likewise, on foreign policy, Trump's promise to "seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," echoes Jackson. "With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms," the seventh president, presiding over a pre-superpower America, said. Perhaps a bit of that 19th century humility would be a good thing for America's foreign policy two centuries later.

Yet, if Trump sees himself as something of a modern day Jacksonian figure (and he has the hair for it, if nothing else), then there are other lessons for Trump to take from Jackson's first inaugural.

For starters, Trump could embrace the long-lost notion that the federal government should largely leave the states to their own devices—and here's some ideas for how he could do that—which Jackson supported. "I hope to be animated by a proper respect for those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have reserved to themselves," Jackson said, nodding to the U.S. Constitution's Tenth Amendment.

Those ideas were completely missing from Trump's inaugural—and from the campaign that preceded it. Sure, Trump said he wanted to give power back to the people, but the rest of his speech was a long list of ways he would use the power of the federal government to achieve various things.

Noah Rothman reminds the media that much of what they are complaining about from the Trump administration's approach to the media was pioneered by the Obama administration. They don't like Trump singling out CNN as "fake news" and find it somehow dangerous that a president would prefer one news outlet (Fox) over others. Well, Obama's administration definitely targeted Fox News.
The Obama administration was calling Fox “fake news” before “fake news” was a phenomenon. In October of 2009, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN that Fox was “not a news organization.” White House Communications Director Anita Dunn echoed Emanuel, saying that Fox “operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” “When we see a pattern of distortion, we’re going to be honest about that pattern of distortion,” said senior advisor to the president, Valerie Jarrett, when asked to defend the White House’s campaign against Fox.

Obama was still prosecuting the case against Fox nearly a year after the White House and the cable news network supposedly buried the hatchet. Just days before the 2010 midterm elections, Obama told Rolling Stone that Fox was cast in the mold of Hearst-era yellow journalism, and it pushes a point of view. “It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country,” Obama said.

When the administration allegedly tried to exclude Fox in a round of interviews with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg in 2009, it inspired other networks to rally to Fox’s side. They did so not only out of professional courtesy but fear the future such a precedent might yield.

Fox News was not discredited by the president’s efforts. Arguably, the campaign had the opposite of its intended effect. There is a cautionary tale here for those cheering on Trump’s attacks on the press, but also one for media professionals who seem to have forgotten the last decade.
Apparently, the Trump administration released a press release trumpeting positive press coverage it had received and reporters responded as if this was dangerous propaganda.
But this, too, is not an unparalleled abuse of the public trust; at least, not for those who remember how the Obama administration sold the public on the Iran nuclear accords in 2015.

The Obama administration’s “blog” content (now maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration), which includes former Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s “Regional Roundup: What America’s Newspapers are Saying About the Iran Deal.” The blog consisted entirely of favorable headlines from around the country reciting verbatim (and false) administration claims about the nuclear accord. “The Iran Deal” even had its own Twitter account which disseminated not only favorable press mentions but also crafted insipid pop culture memes to get the millennial generation jazzed about nuclear non-proliferation. Imagine the anxiety among journalists when the Trump White House mirrors this tactic.

The Democrats are really trying to address their deficiencies from the last election. Politico has the story with this hilarious headline.
Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people
And how are they learning to do so?

Manchin and nine other Senate Democrats are up for reelection next year in states that Trump won. Much of the event appears geared at figuring out how to turn people who supported Trump into Democratic voters in 2018.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), held a session on “speaking to those who feel invisible in rural America," according to the schedule. Other sessions were along similar lines: “Listening to those feel unheard” and “Rising America — They feel unheard too.”
You know, it might not be how you talk, but the policies you support. Just sayin'.

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David Harsanyi explains why the federal government shouldn't be funding the arts and TV shows. The Hill reports that the Trump administration wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National ENdowment for the Humanities and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Already we're hearing outrage from a lot of people who can't stand Trump in the first place. Harsanyi points out that the NEA gets $148 million a year from the federal government. That doesn't seem a huge amount for donors who like the NEA to kick in. All those Hollywood stars who will spend the next four years deploring Trump could throw in the money to fund the NEA if it's so important to them. Harsanyi points to some who are arguing that art is inherently political and that is why we need to fund it to keep it going.
If art is inherently political (it isn’t, but let’s go with it) why would liberals want Donald Trump to control its funding? Why wouldn’t the average free-thinking non-authoritarian want the state’s imprimatur removed from art, especially in a nation where there aren’t any limitations on free expression? What action could possibly undermine control freaks more than removing the state from the art business?

Of course, control is the very reason liberals love the NEA. That’s because the sort of art they fund occasionally “annoys” only a particular kind of person in America. And those people are rarely in charge even when Republicans are in the White House. The concern for free expression is contingent on the ideological message. If the NEA were staffed by social-conservative administrators who subsidized work with inherently political dissenting messages that included “abortion is murder” or “marriage is between a man and a woman” or “Islam is misogynistic,” the Left would be howling about how government shouldn’t be involved in art. And they’d be right.
We're sure to hear howls of outrage about privatizing PBS. In these days with entertainment coming from so many sources, why does the government have to fund one TV network?
It takes in $445 million in taxpayer dollars each year so that millions of upper-middle-class Americans can watch “Masterpiece Theatre” without having to pollute their eyeballs with a fast food or car commercial.

At some point in the past, public funding for a culture-heavy network like PBS probably made sense, since there were only three major networks monopolizing the airwaves with their mediocrity. Today, most Americans have an array of affordable cultural and educational programming available on their televisions.

Moreover, forcing an American citizen to pay for speech he finds morally or ideologically offensive is an “authoritarian” act.
I hadn't realized that PBS gets only about 155 of its funds from the government while NPR gets only 2%.
Good, so NPR and PBS, both which do some excellent work, can survive. I’m sure there are sizable audiences for well-made documentaries and British dramas. Monetizing them should not be difficult. PBS stations themselves will have to raise more funds or find other creative ways to survive.

Maybe other non-authoritarian entertainment companies might help them. Take Sesame Street, a show “which champions fairness and equality,” according to CNN. It was canceled after 45 years. HBO continued to run the show and allowed new episodes to run free on PBS nine months later. I think our three-year olds will be okay with the delay.
Or perhaps the millions that Children's Television Workshop rakes in every year in Sesame Street-themed toys can pick up some of the slack.

Patrick Courrielche writes about the help that artists need and that the NEA isn't structured to give them.
For the American arts to flourish—and for art to reach all Americans—artists must be able to make a living from their efforts. Silicon Valley has methodically dwindled the financial rewards that come with copyright protection. Musicians, photographers, authors and filmmakers have in many ways lost control of the distribution of their art—with search engines and social networks filled with unauthorized copies. Meantime, tech platforms have achieved historic growth using the work of artists as their own content.

User-generated content platforms have successfully lobbied for the continuation of “safe harbor” laws that shield them from the copyright infringement of their users, as well as legislation that has resulted in forced licensing agreements—to the vehement opposition of creators. The NEA hasn’t successfully addressed this critical challenge because the Hatch Act prohibits it from lobbying.

At the same time, foreign interests have been pillaging the work of American creators by establishing web communities and services that encourage piracy. These services are often accessible by both foreign and American citizens. Such activity violates American copyright law and hurts U.S. artists’ current and future financial prospects. Again, the NEA has not and largely cannot successfully address this modern challenge.

The NEA does perform some laudable work—reporting art-industry statistics and encouraging private funding—and those specific efforts should be continued in some capacity by the federal government. However, the agency as currently chartered cannot meaningfully challenge the systemic threats facing the arts. If the NEA cannot address these pressing concerns, why should it exist?

Oh, this is the attitude that will help the Democrats win back those voters they lost in 2016. Allahpundit points to the speech of one contestant to head the DNC, Sally Boynton Brown of Idaho.
“My job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt,” Brown said during a DNC candidate forum....

“My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, ‘oh, no, I’m not prejudice; I’m a Democrat; I’m accepting,'” Brown bellowed during the forum, which was hosted by MSNBC’s Joy Reid.

Brown began her three minute pitch by chiding white Democratic leaders over what she said is the party’s failure to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Black lives matter and it makes me sad that we’re even having that conversation, and that tells me that white leaders in our party have failed,” she lamented.

Among other jobs she said she will undertake as DNC chair is “[making] sure that [white people] get that they have privilege.”
I guess in the Democratic Party now, some people are less equal than others.

Allahpundit also comments on the study that Trump supporters are relying on to argue that there were millions of illegal votes cast in the election.
, there is indeed at least one study out there showing that illegals vote in high enough numbers to swing elections — very, very close elections, on the order of Al Franken’s razor-thin victory over Norm Coleman in Minnesota in 2008. Go back and read this post from 2014 for some thoughts on that study, which was genuinely alarming and important. The bombshell number from it was the claim that “More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote.” One of the researchers who compiled the data on which the study was based debunked the “14 percent” figure last year, though, claiming that it was a product of measurement error by the authors. The likely percentage of illegals who vote, the researcher claimed, is roughly zero.

Jesse Richman, one of the authors of the study, wrote a short post of his own last October in response to Trump citing his study repeatedly on the campaign trail. Yes, said Richman, some illegals vote — but not in great numbers:
Both sides of the debate on non-citizen voting have exaggerated our findings concerning non-citizen representation. There are many on the left side of that debate who have relentlessly sought to discredit our results and want to push the level of estimated non-citizen participation to zero. On the right there has been a tendency to misread our results as proof of massive voter fraud, which we don’t think they are. Our focus has been on the data rather than the politics.

We found low but non-zero levels of non-citizen participation in elections. These levels are sufficient to change the outcomes in extremely close elections, as we illustrated in the paper. But one should keep in mind that such elections can be swayed by any number of factors that arguably bias election results toward, or against, particular parties and candidates. Put another way, our results suggest that almost all elections in the US are not determined by non-citizen participation, with occasional and very rare potential exceptions.
When you’re talking about a spread of, say, 537 votes a la Bush/Gore in Florida 2000, yeah, that’s a moment to worry about illegals voting. When you’re talking about 3.5 million votes across the country? Nah.
Sure, have a federal study to look at vote fraud. Maybe we'll find out how Detroit had more votes cast in a 37 percent of their precincts than the number of voters noted by workers in the poll books. But Michigan is investigating this so I'm not sure why we need a federal investigation. I just don't know that anyone would have much faith in whatever such an investigation would find. If it found that there were indeed millions of votes that were cast illegally, would that convince most people or just those who already support Trump? And if it found out that there was very little voter fraud, would that appease Trump and his supporters?

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Politico asks "Why did Obama free this terrorist?" as the author, Zach Dorfman, reminds us of what a violent terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera was as a leader of FALN, a radical Puerto Rican independence group.

In fact, from 1974, when the group announced itself with its first bombings, to 1983, when arrests finally destroyed its membership base, the FALN was the most organized, active, well-trained and deadly domestic terror group based in the United States.
Lopez was a leader of FALN who had had a bomb factory in his home and instructed others on how to make bombs while also planning robberies and other ways to disrupt the country.
In May 1981, Lopez was arrested after police pulled him over for a traffic violation. He was caught with a handgun with a filed-down serial number and a fake ID. When investigators searched the Chicago apartment tied to his fake ID, they found bags of dynamite, blasting caps, a bomb timer, an automatic weapon and assorted paraphernalia, including a bomb-making manual for FALN members. He was eventually sentenced to 55 years in prison on a variety of charges, including seditious conspiracy, attempted armed robbery, explosives possession, car theft and weapons violations.

Although there was strong circumstantial evidence of Lopez’s participation in FALN attacks—he traveled to New York from Chicago the day before five bombs were detonated there in 1974, and left the city the day after, for instance—law enforcement officials were never been able to conclusively link him to specific bombings. The FALN’s tradecraft was unusually sophisticated, and the group conducted extensive countersurveillance before striking, which has allowed Lopez’s supporters, and supporters of clemency for other FALN members convicted of seditious conspiracy, to claim that the group consists of nonviolent offenders. This has the virtue of being true in the narrow, legalistic sense, and yet comprehensively false. (The FALN turncoat Mendez, for example, testified that Lopez masterminded a botched 1980 plot to rob an armored truck in Evanston, Illinois, with machine guns; Lopez assured Mendez “that they had done this type of job before and knew how it was done. They bragged in particular about a big armored truck job that they had done in New York.”)
Bill Clinton had offered clemency to FALN members. The offer of clemency was conditional that they FALN members “refrain from the use or advocacy of the use of violence for any purpose.” Lopez refused the deal. But despite his record and involvement with terrorism, his freedom had been an important cause for Democrats, especially those who represent districts with large Puerto Rican populations. It was a political act to free him, not an act of reasoned clemency for a criminal who refused to express regret for his actions.

Anthony L. Fisher writes at Reason
about what he learned from reading Donald Trump's books about how Trump will govern. He argues that we can see in Trump's books a lot of what we see in Trump today.
In his first book, the best-selling Trump: The Art of the Deal (1987), the man demonstrates traits still recognizable today. His world is already divided between winners and losers, great guys and jerks, classy ladies and phonies. His braggadocio over his many successes is matched only by his paranoia that "bullies" like then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch are out to stop him from receiving his due credit for restoring Central Park's Wollman Rink or to keep him from obtaining the necessary civic support to build "Television City," a commercial and residential real estate project which subsequent books will reveal as Trump's white whale: an obsession always just out of reach.

Then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo (and long-time Koch rival) is hailed as a "winner and a good guy," former President Jimmy Carter is ripped as "unqualified" but credited for having "balls" when he asked for what Trump considered an absurdly large donation to his charity foundation. Much as he fumes over China today, late-1980s Trump feels Japan is "screwing" the U.S. with a "self-serving" trade policy.
In another book, Trump: Surviving at the Top demonstrates Trump's tendency to fixate on someone he thinks has done him dirt.
He spends a great deal of the book laying out his battles with the singer-talk show host-media magnate Merv Griffin over a piece of property in Atlantic City that would become the Trump Taj Mahal, the largest casino in the downtrodden New Jersey beach city that went bankrupt only a year after opening and was finally put of its considerable misery last year. Trump also loves to cloak himself in the macho glory of the military and law enforcement, writing that he would "rather address a meeting of fifty FBI agents or Vietnam veterans than do a TV show."
Later in Trump: The Art of the Comeback, his memoir sounds like a report on his first week as president.
As ever, "get even," "be paranoid," and "go with your gut" are mantras repeated ad nauseum, and his loathing of "journalism—if you even want to call it that these days" is documented in a nasty letter written to then-New Yorker editor Tina Brown and an extended rant about Wall Street Journal reporter Neil Barsky's coverage of him.
So people hoping for some change in Trump's behavior, there doesn't seem to be much indication of anything like that. This is the way he's been all his life and he's not going to change now at 70 years old.