Friday, February 24, 2017

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post points how how much Trump's new National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster differs with Trump on policy. THey differ on whether or not Russia is a threat and whether we should be work within multinational organizations like NATO. When it comes to the best way to respond to Islamist terrorism, Trump just riffs idiotically without any real understanding of what he's bloviating about. McMaster helped design the most successful counterinsurgency effort our country has been involved in since 9/11.
McMaster and Trump have very different understandings of the right strategic response to terrorism. Trump has lamented that the United States did not take Iraq’s oil and quipped that terrorists’ family members should be targeted. By contrast, in Iraq, McMaster developed counterinsurgency doctrines in which soldiers worked not just to destroy targets but to protect populations and win local communities’ hearts and minds.

Trump speaks of terrorism and Islam as if they were nearly synonymous. On the record, he has stated that “Islam hates us” and that there is “tremendous hatred” within the religion itself. McMaster discusses Islam in a manner consistent with the tactful U.S. foreign policy formulation that’s been used over the last decade. He refers to militant Islamists with the moniker “salafi jihadists” — referring to the Islamist ideal of restoring a bygone glory. McMaster says such practices have a “perverted” and “irreligious interpretation” of Islam.

For McMaster, the sources of Middle Eastern angst are primarily political. He explains the Afghanistan and Iraq insurgencies through a narrative of grievances exacerbated by “ethnic, tribal, and sectarian polarization.” As a student of the 19th-century German military thinker Carl von Clausewitz, McMaster is wary of promising fast and cheap victories.
Promising "fast and easy victories"? That's Trump's usual M.O. for all policies. Perhaps, Trump will allow himself to learn from the man he just chose as his National Security Adviser. We can only hope.

Ben Shapiro has some very important advice for conservatives: don't assume, simply because a group or person is in opposition to the same groups you are, that those groups and people are your friends. Just because those on the left don't like someone, doesn't mean that conservatives need to embrace that person.
Unfortunately, many conservatives have embraced this sort of binary thinking: If it angers the Left, it must be virtuous. Undoubtedly, that’s a crude shorthand for political thinking. It means you never have to check the ideas of the speaker, you merely have to check how people respond to him.

That’s dangerous. It leads to supporting bad policies and bad men. The enemy of your enemy isn’t always your friend. Sometimes he’s your enemy. Sometimes he’s just a dude sitting there minding his own business.

You don’t have enough information to know.


The logic of “if he melts snowflakes, he’s one of us” actually hands power to the Left, by allowing leftists to define conservatives’ friends. It gets to choose whom we support. This isn’t speculative. It happened during the 2016 primaries, when the media attacked Trump incessantly, driving Republicans into his outstretched arms. The media’s obvious hatred for Trump was one of the chief arguments for Trump from his advocates: If, as his detractors claimed, he wasn’t conservative, then why would the leftist media hate him so much?
But it's not enough to be hated the MSM. That' doesn't mean that someone, er, President Trump for example, is automatically right and good in everything he says and does.
If the media opposed Trump with all their heart and all their soul, that must have been some sort of reaction to Trump himself.

It wasn’t, though. It was a combination of factors, including the fact that Trump was amazing press and the press thought Trump an unusually weak candidate. More-honest leftist commentators openly preferred Trump to more-conservative candidates such as Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

But Trump’s war with the media carried him to the nomination, and from there to the presidency.

In fact, Trump continues to live off of this backward logic. His press conference last week was no ballet of informational expertise and policy knowledge, nor was it a brilliant recasting of his policy successes. It was a blunderbuss attack on the media, entertaining in the extreme, occasionally daft, occasionally ridiculous. Yet many on the right immediately concluded that it was the most successful press conference in world history, not because it was successful with Americans per se — there was no evidence of that — but because it was a successful assault on the media, who had it coming.

Never mind if Trump lied to the media. They were angry. That showed it worked. Watching Chuck Todd fulminate and Chris Wallace rage and Don Lemon bemusedly tut-tut scratched conservatives where they itch — and it made Trump a hero.

None of this is to argue that Trump is a leftist or that conservatives are wrong to support many of his policy prescriptions. But if your standard of right and wrong is whether the Left hates it, you’re making a category error.

It’s not good enough to just be opposed by the Left – you must actually oppose the Left. We must ask what someone is fighting against, not merely whom. We must ask what tools they’re using — and we must insist they use the truth. Ideas and values matter more than identity.

But not anymore. The Left’s identity politics is focused on racial, ethnic, and sexual identity — aspects of identity that place you somewhere in the hierarchy of intersectionality. The Right’s identity politics comes with a label: enemy of the Left. So long as you’re wearing that button, you’re presumptively on our side and you’re nearly bulletproof.

Until it turns out that you’re not. Until we jump the wrong way because we substituted political laziness for a philosophy. Until we embrace somebody nasty because the other side hated him or her and stop caring about truth so long as the other side is triggered.
So many times, on Twitter or in comments from my blog's readers, people will criticize me for criticizing Trump and the basic argument is that Trump makes the right enemies. He's driving the media nuts and it's about time that someone did that. They're just sitting back and chomping on the popcorn enjoying his press conference because he's attacking the media. But that' isn't enough. There are actual policy changes that conservatives should want to see enacted. And we're going to need a president with political skills to help figure out the right policies and then how to push them through. And we're living in a toxic, partisan environment. It would be difficult for the most gifted politician to enact the sorts of policies on taxes, health care, immigration, regulatory reform that conservatives would like to see happen. Those conservatives who wish to see those policy changes take place should be asking themselves whether Trump's bluster and organizational deficiencies are furthering those goals, instead of thinking that having him attack journalists is sufficient fun for the next four years.

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Of course, the media deserve all the opprobrium that they receive from conservatives. Jonah Goldberg riffs on Mika Brzezinski's Kinsley gaffe this week when she said it was the mission of the press to "control exactly what people think."
Consider the hot topic of the moment: illegal immigration. The syndicate that distributes the column you are reading follows the AP Stylebook, which says that I am not allowed to refer to “illegal immigrants” (i.e., people who migrate illegally), but I can refer to illegal immigration (i.e., the act of migrating illegally). Kathleen Carroll, then the senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press, explained that the change was part of the AP’s policy against “labeling people.”

Many news outlets followed suit, using such terms as “unauthorized” or “undocumented” to describe immigrants formerly known as illegal.

The move was hailed by left-wing immigration activists as a great leap forward. And for good reason: It is part of their agenda to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration, and to make it sound as if objecting to the former is morally equivalent to objecting to the latter. But as a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an “unauthorized immigrant” and an “illegal immigrant” is nonexistent.

The media play these kinds of linguistic games all the time. Economics professor Tim Groseclose walks readers through countless examples in his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Partial-birth abortion virtually never appears without a “so-called” before it, and the procedure is virtually never described clearly. The word “kill” is almost never used to describe any abortion, despite the fact that this is what happens. Whenever some great sweeping piece of liberal social legislation is passed by Democrats, it’s a “step forward.” Whenever a law is repealed, Republicans are “turning back the clock.”

The language games are part of a larger tendency of journalists to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country.

In 2015, during the ridiculous hysteria over Indiana’s religious-freedom law (since revised), a news reporter went around a small town asking business owners about the law. The owner of Memories Pizza, Crystal O’Connor, said anyone could eat there, but they’d probably turn down a job to cater a gay wedding. The story was immediately blown up by national news outlets as proof of some prairie fire of anti-gay discrimination, even though no one had been discriminated against. Memories Pizza had to shut down.

My hunch is that O’Connor nodded along when Trump said the press is the enemy of the American people.

For those liberals trembling in fear about Trumpian authoritarianism, David French presents a thoughtful counter-argument that Trump is "trending less authoritarian than Obama.
Lost in most of the coverage of President Trump’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s transgender mandates is a fundamental legal reality — the Trump administration just relinquished federal authority over gender-identity policy in the nation’s federally funded schools and colleges.

In other words, Trump was less authoritarian than Obama. And that’s not the only case. Consider the following examples where his administration, through policy or personnel, appears to be signaling that the executive branch intends to become less intrusive in American life and more accountable to internal and external critique.
Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court is known for arguments against extended administrative overreach. Gorsuch has argued that the bureaucracy should not be making decisions that really belong in the purview of the legislative branch.
By overturning judicial precedents that currently require judicial deference to agency legal interpretations, the Court could put a stop to the current practice of presidents and bureaucrats steadily (and vastly) expanding their powers by constantly broadening their interpretations of existing legal statutes.

For example, the EPA has dramatically expanded its control over the American economy even without Congress passing significant new environmental legislation. Instead, the EPA keeps revising its interpretation of decades-old statutes like the Clean Air Act, using those new interpretations to enact a host of comprehensive new regulations. If Gorsuch’s argument wins the day, the legislative branch would be forced to step up at the expense of the executive, no matter how “authoritarian” a president tried to be.
The real reason that those on the left are so worried about certain policies enunciated by the Trump administration is for this very reason. Liberals prefer to have decisions made by unelected bureaucrats and judges rather than having the power that they've accrued in the past decades given back to Congress and the states.
Indeed, if you peel back the layer of leftist critiques of Trump’s early actions and early hires, they contain a surprising amount of alarmism over the rollback of governmental power. Education activists are terrified that Betsy DeVos will take children out of government schools or roll back government mandates regarding campus sexual-assault tribunals. Environmentalists are terrified that Scott Pruitt will make the EPA less activist. Civil-rights lawyers are alarmed at the notion that Jeff Sessions will inject the federal government into fewer state and local disputes over everything from school bathrooms to police traffic stops.

A president is “authoritarian” not when he’s angry or impulsive or incompetent or tweets too much. He’s authoritarian when he seeks to expand his own power beyond constitutional limits. In this regard, the Obama administration — though far more polite and restrained in most of its public comments — was truly one of our more authoritarian.
The contrast with Obama is stark.
Obama exercised his so-called prosecutorial discretion not just to waive compliance with laws passed by Congress (think of his numerous unilateral delays and waivers of Obamacare deadlines) but also to create entirely new immigration programs such as DACA and DAPA. He sought to roll back First Amendment protections for political speech (through his relentless attacks on Citizens United), tried to force nuns to facilitate access to birth control, and he even tried to inject federal agencies like the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) into the pastor-selection process, a move blocked by a unanimous Supreme Court. In foreign policy, he waged war without congressional approval and circumvented the Constitution’s treaty provisions to strike a dreadful and consequential deal with Iran....

Liberals were blind to Obama’s authoritarian tendencies in part because they agreed with his goals and in part because their adherence to “living Constitution” theories made the separation of powers far more conditional and situational. But authoritarianism is defined by how a president exercises power, not by the rightness of his goals. It’s early, and things can obviously change, but one month into the new presidency, a trend is emerging — Trump is less authoritarian than the man he replaced.
Boy, that sounds like a debate resolution that would really get people heated up. Authoritarianism, for some, is in the eye of the beholder. If you don't like Trump's policies, then you don't care how he's achieving them; he's still an authoritarian proto-fascist. If you like what Obama did, you don't care what means he used to achieve his ends. But not caring about how policies are achieved simply because you like the end result puts the country on a road to authoritarianism. Remember, the evasion of legislative solutions that Obama chose has set precedents that Trump and all the presidents who come after can emulate. That's why the Founding Fathers designed a system in which ambition can check ambition. As we're losing that, we're closer to an authoritarianism that should scare both sides of the ideological spectrum instead of being happy when the policies you like are the ones being enacted.

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Heather Wilhelm has some fun ridiculing the idea that leftist feminists have to have women's strike, ludicrously called "A Day Without a Woman."
If all goes according to plan, the Day Without a Woman will be actually a Day Chock-Full of Very Vexed Women Laser-Focused on Making You Late for Work. “The idea,” wrote the strike’s organizers in a February 6 group Guardian op-ed, “is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle — a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.”

Ooh, that sounds effective! Just kidding. It sounds kind of annoying. But come on, let’s not be cynical. It’s for such a good cause, right? It’s all focused on truth and justice and good government, and a bipartisan response to specific policies proposed by the Trump administration, right? Well . . . let’s ask the organizers of the march. Spoiler alert: Here’s where things get a little foggy.

“On March 8th, International Women’s Day, women and our allies will act together creatively to withdraw from the corporations that harm us and find ways to support the businesses, organizations and communities that sustain us,” declares the Women’s March website, profiling its “Day Without a Woman.” Further questions, according to the March’s Twitter feed, include the following: “Do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?”

Well! That’s strange. This seems like a standard, vague list of clich├ęd left-wing hobbyhorses, not a principled protest engaging current policy problems. Don’t worry, friends: Surely further research and reading will clarify things.

Well, okay, maybe not. Along with an end to “male violence” and, predictably, “a defense of reproductive rights” — in other words, abortion — “we also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labor rights,”

....The upcoming “Women’s Strike” — and the dozens of iterations likely to come after it — has made it clear that it now has little to do with Donald Trump. It’s the same old leftist song and dance, desperate for a new marketing pitch. It’s a protest movement that would likely decry any Republican president — even if she were a woman. Beware, ladies. Beware.
How about "A Day Without a Leftist"? Sounds like it would be about the same thing. And no one would notice or care.

Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Jim Kessler put forth an analysis in the Washington Post of why demographic changes in the United States have not led to a permanent Democratic majority.
Why did changing demographics not lead to electoral destiny for Democrats? Our report out this month provides several answers, starting with the fact that demographic change isn’t evenly dispersed. In our system of place-based government, unless millennials move to the rural South or the growing Latino population settles in equal measure across the Rust Belt, demography will take a long time. Take the U.S. House. Going into the 2016 cycle, the 159 House districts deemed safely Democratic by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report are already majority-minority. (The average is 45 percent white.) The 90 swing districts are 70 percent white — much closer to the breakdown in safe Republican districts, which number 186 and are 75 percent white on average.

The Senate is even more daunting, where 23 not very diverse states with 46 seats skew red, compared with only 13 states with 26 seats that cater blue. And despite Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote victory, Donald Trump won about 2,600 counties while she won 489. That might have been enough to keep the electoral college tally close, but it’s also a recipe for losing pretty much everything down ballot. So while national demographic numbers may continue to shift relatively quickly, they won’t significantly affect electoral outcomes if the changes are concentrated in the same cities and counties that already go blue.

“Demography equals destiny” also presumes voters are static beings with unwavering ideologies and consistent voting behavior. But voters aren’t merely reflections of their demographic characteristics, and it’s insulting to treat them that way. Young voters and voters of color aren’t monolithic liberal blocs who will always and reflexively support Democrats.


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Today is the 100-year anniversary of President Wilson being given the Zimmermann Telegram. That was the offer sent by the German foreign minister to German ambassador in Mexico offering an alliance with Mexico if they would attack the United States. They promised to help Mexico regain the land it had lost in the American Southwest after the Mexican-American War. The British intercepted the telegram and gave it to the Americans while making it public. The outrage over this helped pave the way for the U.S. to enter the First World War. Arthur Herman sees some lessons for the United States today from that long-ago diplomatic story.
What can we learn today from the Zimmermann Telegram? First, don’t underestimate America. In 1917 the Germans mistook self-restraint for weakness, and it cost them the war. Others would make the same mistake later: Japan and Germany in World War II, the Soviet Union at the start of the Cold War, al Qaeda on the eve of 9/11. Today Russia and China bid fair to make the miscalculation once again.

The second lesson is that conflicts will find America, even if America doesn’t seek them out. Just before his inauguration in 1912, Wilson remarked to a friend: “It would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs.” Yet two oceans didn’t make the U.S. safe from aggression then, and the danger is even greater in the age of ballistic missiles and cyber-attacks.

Wilson imagined he could keep the U.S. safe by staying aloof and above the fray. It took an intercepted telegram for him to realize that America had no choice but to act as a great power. One hundred years later, Mr. Trump should remember that Wilson’s realization has made the world—and us—safer.
Both my U.S. and European History classes just finished studying World War One. In both classes, at the end of the, unit, we listed all the political, economic, social, diplomatic, and cultural changes that emerged from that war. As I was writing all these consequences of the war on the board, it struck me that the changes for the U.S. and Europe resulting from this war were more momentous and long-reaching than from World War II. And just about none of them were predictable. Four empires collapsed and the tremors from those earthquakes coupled with the Russian Revolution are still being felt today. Not only was the map of Europe remade after the war, but so was the map of the Middle East as the Big Three drew boundaries of countries that had little correspondence to the ethnic divisions of that region. Ethnic and religious tensions today within Middle Eastern countries have roots at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

The economic position of the U.S. going from being a debtor to a creditor nation pushed us into being a great power whether we were able to realize it at the time or not. The changes for women and minorities rippled through society. Women achieved suffrage in many countries as a consequence of this war. Modernism in the arts, which had been beginning before the war, intensified and has altered all the arts since then, not for the better in my view. In the U.S, the reach of the federal government was stretched in ways that no Founder could have imagined, but progressives had been dreaming about. After a short hiatus in the 1920s, FDR would implement policies in the New Deal modeled on some of Wilson's policies put in place to run the country during wartime. When FDR asked in his first Inaugural address for "broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe," it was the model of Wilson in World War One that he was thinking of. So as we remember the Great War, the centennial of which we've been commemorating since 2014, let's not forget all the unintended consequences that few can imagine that will emerge from any war that we again involve ourselves in.