Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cruising the Web

With all the evidence that Americans are ignorant of the Constitution and certainly don't understand the First Amendment, I guess it shouldn't be any surprise that Donald Trump is also singularly ignorant about Freedom of the Press, but it is still discouraging to hear a president of the United States making such stupid and threatening comments about the press. It's one thing to talk all the time about #FakeNews. Presidents and politicians have complained about media coverage they didn't like going back to George Washington. Really. But now he's babbling on Twitter about trying to take away NBC's license.
Well, that isn't going to happen, but who would expect now for any evidence that Trump understands how the law works? It's just aggravating to hear a president even daydreaming about trying to influence a federal agency to go after a media entity he doesn't like. Nixon wanted to do that with the IRS to go after his political enemies and we despise him for that. That would have been one of the articles of impeachment against him if he hadn't resigned.

And Nixon wasn't the only one. Republicans still assert that it wasn't a coincidence that so many of Bill Clinton's political opponents had to undergo tax audits. Democrats repay those suspicions by making allegations against George W. Bush. The sainted FDR and JFK administrations also went after chosen opponents. And, of course, there was Lois Lerner and all the conservative groups the IRS under Obama went after.

Americans don't like presidents using federal agencies to target opponents. Even musing about using the FCC to go after a media critic should give conservatives pause. And Trump's fans should just pause and wonder how they'd like it if a Democratic president chose to go after their media favorites.

John Porter paints that picture and it should be enough to give any Trump supporter who doesn't care about the whole abuse of power thing to still realize that this is not good.
But let me ask you this. What if it’s not President Trump? What if it’s President Cory Booker or President Elizabeth Warren, and they’re talking about CRTV and #MugClub? Because that’s basically what he’s saying. Agreeing that it’s acceptable for a president from our tribe to say something like this only makes it easier and acceptable for the next president from the other tribe to do the same.

And we shouldn’t tolerate any elected official, let alone the President of the United States, to say anything that could weaken the First Amendment. That’s what Trump’s tweet this morning does. Now is not the time to celebrate Trump. We’re a nation of laws and rights. Not a nation of political hero worship.

Saying it’s ok for President Trump to say/do this is no different than saying it’s ok for President Bernie Sanders to shut us down for videos...

Trump continued on this theme yesterday. Oh, geez. It's not disgusting; it's the First Amendment. And who are these "people" who should look into it? When the head of the executive branch starts musing about "people" looking into stopping the press from exercising its freedoms, we should all get queasy.

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Ross Douthat takes on the ridiculousness of Steve Bannon's vow to go after Republican incumbent senators running for reelection by fielding primary opponents. Doesn't Bannon get that all this would do is help elect Democrats who aren't going to support Trump. They would prefer to impeach him and throw him out of office. Is Bannon too egocentric to have forgotten what happened in 2010 when Tea Party activists ran such sterling candidates as Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle who lost what were potentially winnable seats? Does Bannon think he would do any better? Of course he does, because Trump's unlikely victory and Roy Moore's victory in the Alabama primary have convinced him that he has the magic touch. Douthat reminds us that we have already elected people who came into Washington promising to shake things up when we elected senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. But they haven't been able to change things.
The ideological shake-up took the form of paper promises, not successful legislation. The end to D.C. business-as-usual just created a new normal of brinkmanship and gridlock. And when the Tea Party’s leaders — Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, above all — reached out to claim their party’s presidential nomination, they found themselves steamrolled by a candidate who scorned all their limited-government ideas and offered, well, Trumpism instead.
Alas when it comes to governance, Trumpism turns to have two fatal weaknesses: the dearth of Trumpists among elected Republicans, and the total policy incapacity of Trump himself. So having failed in his appointed role as Trump whisperer and White House brain, Bannon has decided to do the Tea Party insurgency thing all over again, except this time with his nationalist-populist cocktail instead of the last round’s notional libertarianism.
The Madisonian system isn't created to let a few senators come in and change everything. There will still need to be sixty votes in the Senate and agreement among disparate factions of the Republican Party in both houses. And, as Douthat points out, Bannon wasn't successful at marshalling those forces when he worked in the White House.
At the White House, Bannon did not manage to inject much heterodoxy into any part of the same old, same old Republican agenda. But he did encourage the president to pick racialized fights at every chance. On the evidence so far, his new grass-roots populism promises to be more of the same: a notional commitment to some nebulous new agenda, with white-identity politics and the fear of liberalism supplying the real cultural-political cement.

Especially because the would-be senators he’s recruiting are a mix of cynics and fanatics who seem to share no coherent vision, just a common mix of ambition and resentment. A nationalist-populist realignment might be possible in theory, and Trump may have even shown how it could work — but if you believe figures like Roy Moore and Erik Prince are going to succeed where Trump is obviously failing, I have some affidavits attesting to Harvey Weinstein’s innocence to sell you.
What Bannon and Trump don't seem to have is any sense of history or awareness of how things actually work within our system. Obama realized that after 2010 and 2012 and, instead, turned to government by executive decree. Is that what we really want? Douthat warns us that the real danger would be if Bannon latched on to a Trump-like candidate who actually knew how to govern.
Which is not to say Bannon is delusional. He and his allies are the latest group to recognize the void at the heart of the contemporary Republican Party, the vacuum that somebody, somehow needs to fill. The activists and enforcers of the Tea Party era tried with a libertarian style of populism. Paul Ryan tried with his warmed-over Jack Kempism. My friends the “reform conservatives” tried with blueprints for tax credits and wage subsidies. They all failed, and the Bannon crew actually got furthest, in the sense that they got the most unlikely figure imaginable elected president on something resembling their platform.

But now they, too, need to reckon with a reality that has confounded every kind of Republican reformer since Barack Obama was elected: Our politics are probably too polarized, our legislative branch too gridlocked, and the conservative movement too dysfunctional and self-destructive to build a new agenda from the backbenches of Congress up, or even from the House speaker or Senate majority leader’s office.

Our system isn’t really all that republican anymore; it’s imperial, and even an incompetent emperor like Trump is unlikely to restore the legislative branch to its former influence. So if you want to remake the Republican Party as something other than a shambolic repository for anti-liberalism, the only way it’s likely to happen is from the top down — with the election of an effective, policy-oriented conservative president (which Donald Trump is not), surrounded by people who understand the ways of power (which Bannon, for all his bluster, didn’t) and prepared to both negotiate with Democrats and bend his own party to his will.

I don’t pretend to know if such a presidency will ever happen. But if I were Steve Bannon, or any other Republican with a vision for the G.O.P. future beyond the hapless “governance” on display today, I would not be wasting my time trying to elect a few cranks and gadflies who will make Mitch McConnell’s life more difficult.

Instead I would be looking for the thing that too many people deceived themselves into believing Trump might be, and that Bannonite populism for all its potential strength now lacks: a leader.

Jeff Jacoby has a great column answering Democrats are up in arms that Trump ended the contraception mandate for employers who have moral objections. Many on the left act like we are now descending into a world of back-alley abortions instead of a situation when some employers won't be forced by the government to pay for providing coverage of what they regard as abortifacients. People can still pay for their own birth control.
News flash to Warren, et al.: There is no attack on health care, and no one in America is being deprived of birth control. You are losing nothing but the power to force nuns to pay for your oral contraceptives. As a matter of common decency, you should be ashamed of demanding something so outrageous....

As a matter of economics and public policy, the Affordable Care Act mandate that birth control be supplied for free is absurd. But ramming that mandate down the throat of Christian colleges, Little Sisters of the Poor, and others with grave religious objections was worse than absurd, it was unconstitutional....

It is disturbing to see “reproductive rights” hardliners react with such fury to treating nuns with respect and sensitivity. Especially since birth control will remain as available and affordable as ever.

Religious concerns aside, the new White House rule leaves the birth-control mandate in place. Trump’s “tweak won’t affect 99.9 percent of women,” observes The Wall Street Journal, “and that number could probably have a few more 9s at the end.” Washington will continue to compel virtually every employer and insurer in America to supply birth control to any woman who wants one at no out-of-pocket cost.

Yet there is no legitimate rationale for such a mandate. Americans don’t expect to get aspirin, bandages, or cold medicine — or condoms — for free; by what logic should birth control pills or diaphragms be handed over at no cost? It is true that a woman’s unwanted pregnancy can lead to serious costs, but the same is also true of a diabetic’s hyperglycemia. Should insulin be free?
That's what I've always thought. I have diabetes but Democrats aren't interested in mandating that the drugs I take are free. And those drugs are a heck of a lot more expensive than birth control.
By and large, birth control is inexpensive; as little as $20 a month without insurance. For low-income women who find that too onerous, the federal government’s Title X program provides subsidized contraception to the tune of nearly $290 million per year. American women are not forced to choose between the Pill or the rent. And access to birth control, as the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2010, was virtually universal before Obamacare.

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Josh Kraushaar knows that the Democrats keep lurching to the left and that the one hope that Trump has in 2020 is if they fully embrace their socialist tendencies and nominate someone so far out of the mainstream that Trump can capture the support of nervous votes in the middle. So Kraushaar is looking to the Iowa caucuses to save the Democrats from themselves.
But political timing and geography could end up giving Democrats a lifeline in the next presidential election: the importance of culturally conservative Iowa to the Democratic nomination process. For all the excitement being generated by politicians like Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, there’s a good chance that the state in the heart of America’s heartland could put a crimp in the best-laid plans of the Left.

Just look at the congressional Democrats who headlined Iowa’s famed Polk County Steak Fry last month. All three are relatively moderate: Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Nancy Pelosi for minority leader; Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine captain and Iraq War veteran; and Rep. Cheri Bustos, one of the few House Democrats to represent a district that Trump carried. The inclusion of leading pragmatists, at the event once hosted by former Sen. Tom Harkin, a strenuous progressive, was a far cry from the red-meat rhetoric attendees are used to hearing from aspiring presidential candidates.

Their message to the partisan Democratic audience veered from the pandering recited by so many of the party’s prominent progressives. To applause, Bustos proclaimed that voters “don’t want resistance, they want results,” chastising her party for being obsessively focused on Trump. Ryan slammed Democrats for becoming a “coastal party” that has lost touch with blue-collar workers. Moulton talked about focusing on the Trump voters that Democrats have struggled to win back. Just before the steak fry, the congressman went on MSNBC and tweaked protesting NFL players: “It doesn’t make me feel good to see people disrespecting the flag.”

To be sure, Iowa Democratic caucus-goers are predominantly liberal. Barack Obama’s upset in the 2008 caucuses propelled him to the presidency. But with culture overtaking the economy as the galvanizing force among the liberal base, many of the state’s Democrats aren’t biting. Iowa swung more dramatically towards Trump than any other state Obama carried twice, with 10 percent of self-identified Democrats casting ballots for the Republican. These voters largely support liberal causes, but they also want to hear their candidates talking about pocketbook issues....

Another important factor is how the Democrats’ growing focus on race and gender play in Iowa, where their own rank-and-file members are older and predominantly white. Iowa was one of the last states to elect a woman to Congress (in 2014), and she’s a Republican (Sen. Joni Ernst). It gave a historic victory to Obama in 2008, but he carefully steered clear of the divisive culture-war rhetoric so typical of current times. (At the 2007 Iowa Jefferson-Jackson dinner, Obama said the reason he was running was “to protect the American worker, to fight for the American worker.”)

That homogeneous environment will make it challenging for prospective progressive candidates such as Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Cory Booker of New Jersey to succeed in Iowa. Even Bernie Sanders won’t be guaranteed the same success next time around (if he runs) with more-moderate alternatives expected to be represented.

What’s ironic is that the partisan rules of the game that helped propel Donald Trump to the GOP nomination could end up saving the Democrats from the same extreme fate. The plethora of mainstream Republican candidates allowed Trump to win many primaries with narrow pluralities; a crowded field of Democratic progressives would give an edge to the few centrists expected to run. Superdelegates, who play a significant role in Democratic nominations, tend to keep the party moored to the middle.
It's a nice pipe dream, but somehow I don't see any of those three candidates winning a decisive enough victory to knock out the progressive candidates. Iowa might give a temporary bit of buzz to a more centrist candidate, but that would soon fizzle out as the campaign moved on.

For those who celebrated the death of Che Guevara, here is a reminder of why he was not cool even if there is a nice photograph of him.
Forget due process. During the Cuban Revolution, Che condemned to death many who had never been properly charged or given a lawyer. The New York Times estimated that in the first two months of the Cuban Revolution, there were approximately 528 firing squad executions. The Black Book on Communism cites a total of 14,000 executions by the end of the 1960s. Che was quoted in 1962 by the editor of the Revoluc√ćon, Carlos Franqui, as saying “We executed many people by firing squad without knowing if they were fully guilty. At times, the Revolution cannot stop to conduct much investigation.”[i]

Dissenters from the new regime, including unarmed civilians, were not tolerated. Che explained his approach to justice thus: “We don’t need proof to execute a man. We only need proof that it’s necessary to execute him.” He made no secret of his disdain for conventional legal standards, calling evidence and burden of proof “archaic bourgeois detail(s).”[ii]

....Che was a cold-blooded killer – and he enjoyed it. He said “a relentless hatred” toward the enemy transforms the men in his army into “an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine.” He even wrote to his own father that, “My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood…I’d like to confess, Papa, at that moment I discovered that I really like killing.”

Che was absolutely merciless when it came to seeing the revolution through, and was willing to countenance mass murder towards this end. “What we affirm is that we must proceed along the path of liberation even if this costs millions of atomic victims.”[iv]

In a speech before the United Nations in December of 1964, Che confirmed his government’s ruthless reputation, declaring, “Yes, we have executed, we are executing, and we will continue to execute.”[iii]
But, somehow these truths aren't enough for those who want to plaster his picture on their T shirts and posters. Historical ignorance thrives. They would benefit from reading this essay by Maria C. Werlau about "Che Guevara's Forgotten Victims."

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Those Twitter algorithms that supposedly find objectionable content and block it aren't just going after Marsha Blackburn. Now they went after actress Rose McGowan for tweeting about Harvey Weinstein's harassment of her and telling Ben Affleck to "f*** off" for his support of Weinstein. Really? That's what they find objectionable? It was temporary, but maybe they should examine their system since that was just crazy.