Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cruising the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is an unequivocal no.

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

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

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

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

Down that path lies the end of democracy in America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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