Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cruising the Web

Democrats are quite buzzed about the prospects of impeaching Donald Trump. Some are speaking out wherever and whenever they can to cast the most suspicious interpretation on whatever story has been leaked to the media to make Trump and his guys look bad. Each new story is trumpeted as not just evidence of naivete or stupid, but some sort of high cream and misdemeanor. That's all very exciting if you're part of #TheResistance, but there are other liberals who are starting to seriously consider whether they really want to get rid of Trump and bring in Mike Pence as the new president. For example, Robert Azzi writes in the Concord Monitor that he doesn't want Trump impeached because he fears a President Pence more than President Trump. As others on the left do, he buys into the image of Pence as a member of some sort of Christian fifth column to undermine the entire country.
Pence is the real thing. He’s much smarter than Trump, has better hair, has much more government experience, and he unrepentantly embraces and advocates for an unreconstructed Christian supremacist America.

Pence is neither Trump’s counterbalance nor Trump’s bridge to the establishment – whatever that means. Pence is the tip of the spear for a Christian Dominionist movement envisioned, as Betsy DeVos says, to “advance God’s kingdom.”

Pence is to be feared by women, by immigrants and by communities of color – by anyone non-white, not-born again, non-evangelical Christian.

Pence is to be feared by scientists and educators. In 2014, he told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd he didn’t know if humans’ role in climate change “is a resolved issue in science today.” He has said that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”
He goes through a parade of horribles that Pence believes or has said. In the same vein, Cliston Brown writes at about how Pence is "smarter smoother, and could do far more damage." Even more notable for Brown is the thought that the Democratic Party will benefit across the board running against Trump.
Even if it were possible—and I still maintain, with 24 House Republicans and 19 Republican Senators needed, that it is highly unlikely—the absolute stupidest, most self-defeating thing Democrats can push for right now is the impeachment and removal of President Trump.

No. Keep him in office. Politically, Trump is the goose that’s laying a treasure trove of golden eggs. Let him spend four years making such a toxic wreck of the Republican Party that disgusted voters won’t want to get anywhere near the GOP for a decade. Let him finish the job that George W. Bush started and turn the party into a smoldering ruin at last.

Let’s be honest. Given the absolute lack of anything resembling effective leadership, strategy or a coherent message in the divided, cacophonous train wreck that is the Democratic Party, letting the Republicans immolate themselves is the Democrats’ best and only play at the moment. The Democrats are like the basketball player that can’t create his own shots; he only scores when the other team coughs up the ball and gives him an open layup. Unless and until the Democratic Party figures out that it needs to rid itself of its clueless, tired leadership and consultants that haven’t had a new idea since about 1965, the only way for Democrats to win is to cash in on Republican screw-ups.

Four years of Donald Trump could end with Democrats in control of the White House, both chambers of Congress, a majority of governorships, and a number of key state legislatures that we could not dream of winning back through our own efforts. And the timing is perfect. The 2018 and 2020 elections are the ones that will determine who draws the new Congressional and legislative maps in 2021. The Trump Trainwreck presidency could put Democrats in a position to control the country for a decade.
Hey, the Republicans can understand that argument given how their party benefited from Obama's presidency. That's exactly how the Republicans gained control of so many state legislatures in 2010 and then the control of redistricting.

Rolling Stone writer Stephen Rodrick also writes in the New York Times
about how he doesn't want Pence as president.
It is possible that we could replace the most flamboyant and flamboyantly unqualified president in history with the most quietly unqualified and unexamined president since Warren Harding. (He has never answered whether he believes in evolution, but the evidence is not encouraging.)

Mr. Trump was the bloated Macy’s parade float that no one thought had a chance, and not a lot of time was spent investigating his generic sidekick holding the ropes.

Mr. Pence was elected governor of Indiana in 2012 with less than 50 percent of the vote. Many of the politicos I talked to in Indiana described him as ambitious for the sake of ambition, with no ideological compass other than his evangelical Christianity. They thought that, unlike the previous governor, Mitch Daniels, Mr. Pence was interested in the job mainly to check off executive experience on his presidential-candidate résumé.
Really? How examined was Barack Obama? Calvin Coolidge? Sure Eisenhower had defeating Hitler on his resume, but as far as politics, people didn't even know if Eisenhower was a Republican or a Democrat and both parties requested him to write in 1952. How examined were his political beliefs?

We get it. Liberals despise Pence as much or more than they do Trump. But, as Jim Geraghty writes, if the Democrats truly believe that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, then they shouldn't worry about Pence's supposed Christian supremacism.
If this effort is entirely about holding a president accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors, then the political views of the vice president shouldn’t be relevant. But if this effort is mostly about liberals’ exploring every possible avenue to get the policy outcomes they want . . . well, then it makes sense to hear debate about the impeachment decision focused on the criteria of partisan self-interest. If Democrats win control of Congress in 2018 and suddenly discuss impeaching Trump and Pence simultaneously, the cynics will be vindicated again.

At the core of the epic melodrama in American politics is the fact that Democrats simply cannot believe Donald Trump won 1.4 million votes in Wisconsin, 2.97 million votes in Pennsylvania, and 2.27 million votes in Michigan, and with that, the presidency. Yes, it’s terrible the way the Electoral College snuck up on Hillary Clinton’s campaign like that, and it’s a crying shame that no one bothered to tell her strategists how the presidency is won.

The effect of this widespread denial of an election outcome is a bizarre sort of Groundhog Day repetitiveness in our national politics: The biggest issue of 2018 will be an attempt to undo the outcome of 2016.

There have been lots of rumors for the past few weeks that Trump was going to have some sort of staff shake-up. As the WSJ writes, it doesn't matter who is brought in if the man at the top is the one causing the chaos.
It’s impossible to run a communications operation, or a policy shop, if the top man prefers chaotic, make-it-up-as-you-go management.

Take two recent examples. In late April Mr. Trump decided after consulting with a couple of advisers that he wanted to unilaterally withdraw from Nafta. No staff preparation. No warning to Mexico or Canada.

As word spread that the announcement was imminent, other aides and business leaders swung into action to prevent it, including pleas to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call the President. Mr. Trump stood down, but the result was wasted political energy and economic uncertainty.

Then there was the fire drill over Mr. Trump’s tax plan. The White House National Economic Council had been working to develop a plan to send to Congress, but suddenly the President announced publicly that he wanted it rolled out in days. The result was a one-pager that moved in the right policy direction but was easily attacked for its lack of details. Mr. Trump may have wanted to galvanize his team, but the drill wasted time and did little to build a Republican consensus in Congress.

This is apparently how Mr. Trump likes to govern, and he has built a White House tower of Babel in that image. Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, has too little power and must read constantly that his job is in jeopardy. Steve Bannon is supposed to be the keeper of the populist flame, but his coterie of allies leak relentlessly against economics aide Gary Cohn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner is a loyal, calming influence, but the family tie means he is hard to fire and complicates relations with others in the Administration. Sean Spicer is supposed to explain what’s going on to a hostile press corps when he hasn’t been told the facts, which might be contradicted by Mr. Trump in any case....

The rest of Mr. Trump’s White House reshuffle should be aimed at delivering on his campaign promise to pass reform legislation and spur faster growth. Either give Mr. Priebus the power to run the White House, or hire someone Mr. Trump will trust to impose order on competing factions.

Tell Mr. Bannon to stop the guerrilla warfare or get out. There are plenty of conservatives who can counter the liberal instincts of Mr. Kushner and Ivanka in White House councils, starting with Mike Pence. Why not give the Vice President more policy authority?

Mr. Trump also needs a formal policy process for debating legislative initiatives like health care and tax reform. Members of Congress tell us they have no clear idea whom to talk to with a question about specific policies. This compounds the internal confusion because Congress and other outsiders will bombard everyone on the senior staff. Lt. Gen. McMaster seems to have built this process on foreign policy, but it isn’t clear Mr. Cohn has the same authority on the domestic agenda.

The larger reality is that Mr. Trump is wasting the precious asset of time. He has a shortening window for legislative achievements before the 2018 election. Presidents typically get a staff who reflect their governing style, and if Mr. Trump can’t show more personal discipline, the fair conclusion will be that he likes the chaos.
It all sounds very nice, but it's not going to happen as long as Trump continues to prefer the chaos of his own mind from the top on down. He would have to change his personality and a 70-year old man isn't going to do that. This is the guy we saw throughout his campaign. Why would we expect anything different in his management style?

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A recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill writes about what he experienced as a conservative on campus. While some professors encourage students to examine the arguments on all sides of an issue, there were still others who refused to allow conservative views to be expressed in class. Speaking up in such classes or answering test questions with anything other than the prescribed biases will harm a student's grade.
A little over two years ago, Michael Munger, chair emeritus of Duke University’s political science department, wrote a Martin Center article on this very topic. His concern, however, was not just for conservative students like me who are frustrated by the frequent repression of thought and opinion by university professors, but also for our liberal peers. These students almost never have their core beliefs, values, and political ideas challenged in the classroom. Munger had been inspired by John Stuart Mill, who once said:
[The] peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
I have seen firsthand how ideologically-driven professors have, in some instances, robbed conservative students of grades and opportunities rightfully earned. But I also have seen something that will likely be far more pernicious in the long run—liberal students avoiding the sort of “collision with error” that would help them to distinguish truth from falsehood, and sound arguments from emotional or otherwise flimsy ones.

[B}y preventing our future leaders from learning how to rationally discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions, colleges will have undermined, at least to some degree, our social fabric and our continuing experiment with self-government.

Heather Mac Donald, who has had her own experiences confronting the intolerance of college students, writes about how so many colleges now have abandoned their responsibility to transmit knowledge in favor of ideological indoctrination. She reviews the episode at Yale a couple of years ago when the administration basically caved to the ginned-up student outrage that a professor had dared to question the dictates on avoiding supposedly insensitive Halloween costumes. The president of the university, Peter Salovey responded in a truly craven fashion.
His goal for Yale today is to combat "false narratives."
He proclaimed the need to work “toward a better, more diverse, and more inclusive Yale” — implying that Yale was not “inclusive” — and thanked students for offering him “the opportunity to listen to and learn from you.” That the shrieking girl had refused to listen to her college master — or to give him an opportunity to speak — was never mentioned; she suffered no known repercussions for her outrageous incivility.

Salovey went on to pledge a reinforced “commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination have no place,” implying that hatred and discrimination currently did have a place at Yale. Salovey announced that the entire administration, including faculty chairs and deans, would receive training on how to combat racism at Yale and reiterated a promise to dump another $50 million into Yale’s already all-consuming diversity efforts.

If ever there were a narrative worthy of being subjected to “stubborn skepticism,” in Salovey’s words, the claim that Yale was the home of “hatred and discrimination” is it. There is not a single faculty member or administrator at Yale (or any other American college) who does not want minority students to succeed. Yale has been obsessed with what the academy calls “diversity,” trying to admit and hire as many “underrepresented minorities” as it possibly can without totally eviscerating academic standards. There has never been a more tolerant social environment in human history than Yale (and every other American college) — at least if you don’t challenge the reigning political orthodoxies. Any Yale student who thinks himself victimized by the institution is in the throes of a terrible delusion, unable to understand his supreme good fortune in ending up at one of the most august and richly endowed universities in the world.
But the reality of what is truly occurring on college campuses is ignored by the constant cries of racism and sexism. As Mac Donald explains this focus on grievances ignores what a college should really be trying to accomplish.
The most urgent task of any college is the transmission of knowledge, pure and simple. American students arrive at college knowing almost nothing about history, literature, art, or philosophy. If they aspire to a career in STEM fields, they may have already picked up some basic math and physics, and possibly some programming skills. But their orientation in the vast expanse of Western civilization is shallow; they have likely been traveling on a surface of selfies and pop culture with, at best, only fleeting plunges into the past.

A postmodern theorist, the prime product of today’s university culture, would immediately object that there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. But this hyper-sophisticated critique is irrelevant to the problem of widespread student ignorance. There exists a bedrock of core facts and ideas that precede any later revisionist interpretation....

A less precious antecedent to Salovey’s “false narratives” paradigm is the progressive-education mantra from the late 1990s that “critical thinking” should be the goal of education. The Internet has made the allegedly mindless transmission of facts obsolete, the educrats proclaimed, since students can always look up such boring things as facts on the Web. Instead, schools should cultivate in their students the capacity to “think critically.” A typical exercise was to have students “deconstruct” an advertisement to expose all the ways that big bad corporations were trying to dupe consumers. The “critical thinking” idea conveniently let teachers off the hook for failing to teach their students anything, by declaring that there was nothing substantive that needed teaching anyway....

In the realm of daily politics, it may be fair to say that we are awash in false narratives. But the past is filled with accomplishments that are not “narratives” or not “false” in the sense intended by the phrase “false narratives.” These accomplishments should be approached with humility and reverence. The task of both scholar and student should be to understand them on their own terms.

Conservatives have, of late, stressed a process-oriented notion of education that shares certain similarities with the “false narratives” approach. This emphasis reflects their understandable revulsion at the silencing on campus of politically incorrect views. Education should be about reasoned debate and the airing of all opinions in the pursuit of the truth, critics of campus political correctness say. Students should take courses from professors who challenge their views and should attend lectures by visiting scholars whose ideas they find uncongenial, Princeton professor Robert George recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Students should not be so “deeply in love with [their] opinions” as to not listen to “others who see things differently,” George asserted.
My hope is that this is a transient moment on college campuses and the pendulum will swing back to a more reasonable state of education. However, it's taken several decades for colleges to descend to this level; the reversal is going to take a long time, if it ever does happen.

This 8-1 Supreme Court decision
is a victory for common-sense civil court proceedings.
In the case, BNSF v. Tyrrell, eight of the nine justices essentially lowered the boom on venue shopping in plaintiff-friendly states that have nothing to do with a case. The basic idea is that at least under the federal law in question, out-of-state plaintiffs cannot just sue wherever the laws or the courts are most favorable to plaintiffs.

Two plaintiffs had tried to sue a railroad company in Big Sky Country's courts for on-the-job injuries under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The company is not incorporated in Montana, nor did the injuries occur in Montana, nor were the plaintiffs from Montana. Yet the Montana Supreme Court had ruled that the cases could go ahead, reasoning that BNSF does business in Montana and has thousands of miles of track in the state.

This led to a federal appeal and today's ruling, which could have a dramatic effect on where plaintiffs are allowed to file lawsuits. It is currently not uncommon for plaintiffs' lawyers to shop for the most friendly venue possible, even when that jurisdiction has absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand.
Justice Sotomayor dissented because she thinks it will give an advantage to corporations, particularly foreign corporations making it difficult for the plaintiffs who will have to " sue in distant jurisdictions with which they have no contacts or connection."
sue in distant jurisdictions with which they have no contacts or connection."
It's clear that Sotomayor cares only about obtaining a result that satisfies her version of social justice regardless of any connection to the law or even common sense.

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Every time I read a story about a successful missile defense test such as occurred yesterday, I remember how scientists and Democrats ridiculed the whole idea of missile defense and laughed at Reagan's proposal as "Star Wars" and said he believed he lived in a movie universe. And now we have this:
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully shot down a dummy warhead in space over the Pacific Ocean Tuesday during a test of a missile defense system that would protect the country from intercontinental ballistic missiles like the ones being developed by North Korea.

"During the test, an ICBM-class target was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands," said a statement from the agency. "A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision."
It's funny, when I'm covering Reagan's presidency in my American history classes, the kids know about this being called "Star Wars," but they don't know that this was a term of derision. They have no idea that the program was controversial or that experts were predicting that nothing like missile defense could ever be successful. Granted what we have now is not exactly what Reagan envisioned, but it's way more than experts thought could be done. We still have a long ways to go in perfecting the system, and we would have been even further along if Democrats hadn't worked so hard to block it and slow it down.

Monica Showalter comments on the loans that Venezuela's failed socialist government has garnered so they can stay in power.
Venezuela is a socialist hellhole, but it seems to defy Lady Thatcher's iron dictum of socialist regimes: that eventually you run out of other people's money. It's easy to see why: Chavistas have learned to manipulate the international debt markets, quite unlike other communist dictatorships that came before them. They're well aware of Lady Thatcher's summary and apparently have learned from history. So instead of scrapping the failure that is socialism and creating value, which would require capitalism, they borrow cash from capitalists abroad. Russia and China have bought a lot of their issued debt. Chavista elites have bought a lot of it, too. Hedge fund speculators have dipped right in, and so have U.S. investment banks.

Goldman Sachs in particular has been taking heat for buying $2.8 billion in Venezuelan debt. The Venezuelan debt purchases pay Goldman 30 cents on the dollar, which isn't a good deal for the country, money-wise, but it's discounted because no one thinks Venezuela can really go on as it does. For Chavistas, this isn't a problem, since paying the bonds back is someone else's problem down the road. They intend to enjoy the cash now. But the bond issuance and its willing buyers in the markets do prop up the Chavista regime and undercut Venezuela's democratic opposition – even as the country starves for lack of food and medicine. The cash will likely go to Russia and China to pay for their loans to Venezuela. In short, Goldman's purchase wasn't any ordinary sovereign bond buy; it was a lifeline to the Chavista regime.

The Chavistas, being communists, don't particularly believe in paying their bills. They've defaulted on food bills, on oil supplier bills, on medical bills, on airline bills to private companies.
Goldman will never get that money back. Their interest seems to be less about making an intelligent investment, but propping up a tyrannical socialist government. It is inexcusable.