Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cruising the Web

I'm not a fan at all of all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the State of the Union speech these days. It's become an opportunity for a president to brag about things that he may or may not be responsible for like the state of the economy while presenting wish list of what he'd like to accomplish if only he didn't live in our system that requires compromise in order for bills to get through Congress. The president's party will jump to their feet and cheer while the minority party will sit their looking glum and disapproving. The spectacle is one more bad precedent we owe to Woodrow Wilson who transformed what used to be a mundane letter sent by the president to which the joint houses would assemble and listen to while a clerk read it aloud. If you read those earlier addresses, they're a basic list of what happened during the past year. There is little preening or playing to a crowd since the only crowd that heard it was a bunch of bored politicians. But Woodrow Wilson was too full of himself to not grab the public stage and chose to give the SOTU in person. And now we have this entire spectacle. As Kevin Williamson wrote about the whole practice.
The first State of the Union address was delivered with befitting republican modesty by George Washington. Thomas Jefferson, forever guarded against royalist temptations, did the republic the great favor of replacing Washington’s speech with a letter to Congress, and for a wonderful century there was silence, with the State of the Union letter arriving in Congress with no more pomp and circumstance than IBM’s annual report to its shareholders. Woodrow Wilson, the closest thing this country has ever had to a genuine fascist in the presidency, reinstated the address, one of the many disfiguring scars he left on our body politic.

President Trump gave a surprisingly good speech last night. He was smart enough to appeal to the Democrats for compromise and to work together. He used personal stories to illustrate his arguments such as the story of the two girls murdered by illegal immigrants who are members of the murderous MS-13 gangs. It was a powerful moment and it gave another face to his positions on strengthening the nation's immigration system.

Though, for conservatives, as Jonah Goldberg notes, there wasn't much sense of fiscal reality.
But the most striking thing about the speech was how much it fell into an almost Trumpian version of compassionate conservatism — as if the tea parties had never existed. This was for the most part a conservative speech culturally and thematically. But except for some laudable bits about streamlining the bureaucracy and improving FDA policy, there wasn’t a hint of fiscal conservatism to it. Trump wants a huge increase in infrastructure spending and an end to the sequester for military spending, but he never mentioned the debt or deficit. Well, there was one mention of the word “deficit” — the “infrastructure deficit.” And he endorsed a new entitlement — paid family leave — while failing to mention any effort to reform the existing entitlements.

I’m not sure it matters politically. But I’m pretty sure it does economically and philosophically.
Well, Trump never, even pretended to be a fiscal conservative so that's no surprise. The worrisome thing is that, with neither party's leaders caring much about spending, we could see totally irresponsible spending breaking out over the next few years.

What was so remarkable during the speech was the attitude of the Democrats. It's tough to be the opposing party. They don't want to endorse the other party's president's policies or give him credit for his claimed victories. Gosh knows, the Republicans sat stony-faced for most of the past eight years of Obama's SOTUs. But usually they'll stand and cheer for the nonpartisan moments like supporting the troops or calls for educating the nation's children. But the Democrats are so committed to their #Resistance mode and so worried about angering their base by being seen to show any support for what Trump said that they had to sit their looking angry the entire time. Perhaps Trump and his team realized that and planned for him to make them look even worse by emphasizing how he is willing to compromise with them. Then the camera would shoot over to their hostile faces and it would seem that they were totally resistant to any such efforts to work together.

They couldn't cheer an economy that is growing and people getting bonuses from their employers because they're stuck with their predictions of catastrophe from the tax cuts. But still, this is good news for the American people and it isn't a good image to look so unhappy about it.

Should the Congressional Black Caucus look so unhappy at the news that black unemployment is down if they really care about those whom they claim to be fighting for? Or is it all about partisan posturing? Take a look at their faces as Trump cited the improvement in black employment and judge what these representatives really care about.

Some Democrats even refused to stand for the families whose two young daughters were murdered by MS-13. Is that the position that Democrats want to be on - refusing to oppose vicious gangs that murder ordinary people?

Those are the faces that Americans watching will have seen. Unhappiness at good news for Americans is not a great selling point for their party. And these moments came early in the speech so those people who tuned in for 15 minutes or so and then turned it off will have seen that reaction. They've put themselves in the position of seeming to want to resist good economic news for the country and for blacks and Hispanics.

How will that image of the party help those Democrats trying to win this year in Republican-leaning districts and states? Don't expect the RNC to ignore that message. They put themselves in the position to look like their opposition to Trump overrides their desire for good news for the country.

They couldn't cheer from his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital even though they voted for it themselves just last summer. But they didn't actually mean it so now they have to condemn Trump doing what they just pretended that they wanted to do.

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Of course, this was just one speech. Those who support what the President is pushing for in policy is holding their breath waiting to see how soon he reverts to form and starts tweeting out outrageous stuff. We've been burned too often thinking that we're going to be seeing a new presidential Trump. Sometime this week, he'll probably sign off on the GOP House memo and that will excite all softs of jabs at the Democrats and hits at those he perceives as his enemies. Bumps from SOTU appearances don't last long, so enjoy this seemingly "presidential" Trump for the minutes while it lasts. And just imagine what the past year would have been like if we didn't have the other Trump taking up all the air time.

I wouldn't be so impressed with CBS's insta-poll numbers that 75% of those who watched the speech approved what they heard. They were only polling people who watched the speech which would naturally be predisposed to liking Trump. I'm sure that those who don't like him weren't tuning in to watch. The party identification for the poll was 42% Republicans, 25% Democrats, and 33% independents. So that means that Trump won over Republicans who already agree with most of his policies and the independents who tuned in probably are willing to like some of those ideas.

JEryl Bier writes in the WSJ about the Democrats' Farrakhan problem." We recently learned that a journalist kept hidden a picture of Barack Obama hanging with the Congressional Black Caucus and Louis Farrakhan. That photo might have helped Clinton in her fight against Obama in the 2008 election if it had been public. She had even tried to make Farrakhan an issue in a debate but Obama had claimed that Farrakhan hadn't offered him any help. However, the CBC should also have to answer about their hanging with Farrakhan. Bier links to a video of the CBC meeting with Farrakhan after Katrina. It's all very friendly. Farrakhan is an ugly anti-Semite. Bier asks a legitimate question:
If Republican lawmakers were holding strategy sessions with Mr. Duke, their party would rightly be held to account. Why shouldn’t the Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus be held to the same standard?
what would the response be if Republican politicians had gone down to Louisiana and med with David Duke? We can all imagine the outrage.

Who did the Democrats think was going to listen to five different responses to Trump's SOTU?
Democrats and Independents are planning at least five responses to President Trump's inaugural State of the Union address Tuesday night, a sign of a healthy appetite among the left to rebut Trump on his big night.

On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said that he is planning a response of his own on various social media platforms soon after the speech. It is the second year in a row Sanders has given his own response to the speech.

While Sanders delivers his response, Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., is slated to give the official Democratic Party response to Trump. Kennedy was chosen last week for the official response by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

....The two Democratic leaders also announced that Delegate Elizabeth Guzman of Virginia will give the official Spanish-language response to Trump.

Additionally, two progressive figures within the party plan to give responses to the president. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a chief proponent of impeaching the president, is set to deliver a response on BET.

Former Rep. Donna Edwards is also slated to respond to the speech on behalf of Working Families Party, a progressive group. Edwards is a former member of Congress who gave up her seat in 2016 to run for the Senate, but lost to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., in the primary. She is currently running for county executive of Prince George County.
It's hard enough to listen to one response, much less five.

Gee, what a shame.
On Tuesday, Imad al-Alami, 61, one of the founders of the terrorist group Hamas, died as a result of accidentally shooting himself in the head.

Al-Alami, who was classified a "specially designated global terrorist" by the United States in 2003, was allegedly inspecting his own gun on January 9 when it supposedly discharged.

Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum told Israel National News that rumors that al-Alami had been assassinated were false.

Al-Alami served as an intermediary between Hamas and its supporters in the Iranian government; he was exiled from Israel in 1994, then represented Hamas in Iran for years until emigrating to Damascus in 2008. In 2012, he returned to Gaza. In 2014, during Operation Protective Edge when Israel went to war with Hamas after members of Hamas first murdered three Jewish teenagers, then struck Israel with rockets after Israel arrested Hamas leaders, unknown perpetrators broke al-Alami's legs, reportedly by throwing him from a high place.

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This is what happens when a nation doesn't have protections for freedom of speech.
Polish lawmakers voted Friday for a bill that would fine or jail people who blame the country for Nazi atrocities on its soil during World War II, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews at the Auschwitz death camp.

It comes as the country has become more nationalistic. Tens of thousands of people chanted and marched through Warsaw last year in an annual gathering of Europe’s far-right movements, and the majority party has sought to protect Poland's image.

The vote was condemned by Israel, where some leaders accused Poland of a form of Holocaust denial. “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, echoing the country's president and foreign minister, according to Deutsche Press.
You know, you can't change history by just passing a law to ban the truth.

This is so worrying.
Concern is growing in Iran over the fate of a woman who was arrested after a video of her removing and waving her white headscarf went viral during anti-establishment protests at the end of last year. Remarkably, the woman’s arrest came the same days as authorities in Tehran declared that women would no longer be arrested in the city for not wearing the hijab — a statement that activists hailed but simultaneously decried as misleading, noting that the stipulation only applied to women who had removed their hijab “accidentally.” Reports of the woman’s arrest were confirmed to BBC News by human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who added that the protester is a 31-year-old mother who has a 20-month-old child.

“Our investigations confirm that the young woman, whose name we still do not know, was arrested on that very same day,” wrote Sotoudeh on Facebook on Sunday. “She was released shortly afterwards but was arrested once again.”

Since January 17, a hashtag in Persian translating to #WhereIsShe has been used more than 28,000 times on Twitter, as social media users have grown increasingly concerned about the nameless protestor’s fate. Her picture also continues to be widely shared as part of the White Wednesday movement, in which Iranian women wear white in protest of compulsory Islamic dress.

Where are western feminists? There should be an outcry across the world pressuring Iran to release this woman. Sadly, feminists seem to just not care about oppressed women in the Middle East.

Noemie Emery fights back
against the Democratic argument that requiring recipients of Medicaid to work in return for their benefits. Liberals have been acting like this is some nefarious conspiracy of Republicans against poor people. But, as Emery points out, historically, government benefits have been tied to work requirements.
"Dollars, Cents, and Republican Sadism," said the New York Times and Paul Krugman. More ridiculously, Jonathan Chait perceived in this a Republican concern that the "privilege" of healthcare "is being extended to the wrong kind of people." Chait put this down to a warped ideology, but it’s the same principle that animated the Homestead Act, the G.I. Bill of Rights, and most New Deal innovations: The idea that things work better when people do things to earn their own benefits, that government dependency is harmful to the able-bodied and work-capable, and that something-for-nothing is seldom a bargain.

As a result, most federal aid programs through the mid-1960s had a buy-in of sorts that required commitment. Reciprocity was built into all of these systems, in which effort and aid were intertwined. The Homestead Act gave land to the people, but they had to work it; Social Security was built on a mixture of government funding and personal input; and the G.I. Bill required service to one's country. As George Will explains it, such programs made people "more able to fend for themselves." Until the mid-'60s, Will writes, federal aid for the able-bodied was a transactional matter, in which the state helped people rise, who then would give back when they paid more in taxes and improved the community.

Then came the era of love in the mid-1960s, and the idea you "gave back" disappeared. Unlike the New Deal, "much of the Great Society’s liberalism sought to demoralize policies, deeming repressive those policies that promoted moral behavior."
Democrats today are taking a position contrary to FDR's approach.
Where we are now would not surprise Roosevelt, who detested the "dole," and all that smacked of it, and knew all too well where it led. "We have here a human as well as an economic problem," he said in his State of the Union in 1935. "Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole our relief … is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. … Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers. ... We must preserve not only the bodies of the unemployed from destitution, but also their self-respect, their self-reliance, and courage and determination. … The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief."

Roosevelt, who could have stopped work himself when he lost the use of his legs at age 39, chose to keep working, saving himself and the world in the process.

Work isn’t slavery, nor is it a crime. It’s a human requirement. And this modest proposal is a good place to start.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Cruising the Web

Here's a column that we might not have expected to see in the NYT: "The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley." Kudos to Bari Weiss for discussing liberal hypocrisy in how they reacted to the slimy insinuations by Michael Wolff that Haley had slept her way to the ambassador's position at the UN. First she poses the contrafactual as to how the left would have reacted if Fox had reported the same story just with Samantha Power spending a lot of private time with Obama on Air Force One. Of course the left would react with horror.
Do I have to tell you what the reaction to this rumor-mongering would be? Heads would explode on every cable channel (except for Fox, of course, which would be calling for a special investigation). Editorials would issue forth condemning this gutter journalism as thinly veiled sexism. Some would insist that it be viewed as a #MeToo moment — unambiguous evidence of the deep discomfort men feel in the face of powerful women.
But the left, supposedly all woke to anything that makes things more difficult for women in the workplace has been rather quiet about this story. And then we get to the Grammys.
So it’s not difficult to imagine how Ms. Haley might have felt when she watched the Grammys Sunday night. At one point in the show, James Corden, the host, set up a bit in which various celebrities — Cardi B, Cher, Snoop Dogg, John Legend — audition to be the narrator of the audiobook version of “Fire and Fury.” The final reader, who slowly reveals her face from behind the hardcover, is Hillary Clinton.

Yes, the very same politician who, just two days before the awards show, was exposed as overriding the advice of her campaign manager in 2008 to protect a “faith adviser” who had repeatedly sexually harassed a young female subordinate.

I checked feminist Twitter. Would the Grammys be called out for hypocrisy? Or at least for tone-deafness? Crickets.
Instead, most of the Twitter commentary was criticizing Haley for commenting on the Grammys and saying it would have been better without the politics. But better to dump on the woman who had just been smeared by the author of the book that they were celebrating.
There’s a broader lesson here. For years, the fundamental complaint of the right in the culture wars has been that the left is hypocritical, and the Nikki Haley episode perfectly confirms the point: A prominent Republican woman is smeared. The author who does the smearing is celebrated by all the A-listers, including the most prominent Democratic woman in the country, who herself has a history of giving a pass (or worse) to men accused of sexual assault and harassment. And yet the arbiters of American culture cheer the Democrat and, in the words of the actor Don Cheadle, tell the Republican who has the gall to defend herself: “Sit down, girl. You’re drunk.”

In the Trump era, the left has smartly and justifiably seized a moral high ground that the right has abandoned by its embrace of the president. That’s a high ground the left cannot hold if it embraces subtle double standards that it would never accept for a moment if the woman in question was a Kirsten Gillibrand or a Kamala Harris.

When Matt Lauer subjected Hillary Clinton to a harsh interview, within 24 hours it was common knowledge that it was evidence of misogyny. But when Nikki Haley is smeared with the most base, sexist lie, it’s met with little more than a collective shrug.
Absolutely right. Perhaps the NYT readers will read this and feel a bit of shame. Maybe.... Nyah.

This is the great feminist champion that the Grammys were cheering.
Hillary Clinton personally "overruled" a recommendation that she fire a top campaign staffer accused of sexual harassment in 2008, her campaign manager at the time said Monday.

Patti Solis Doyle, who headed Clinton's presidential bid when a young female staffer accused senior adviser Burns Strider of repeatedly sexually harassing her, told CNN she urged Clinton to dismiss Strider, but the Democratic candidate rejected the recommendation.

"I was overruled," Solis Doyle said in her first public remarks since news of the harassment controversy was reported by The New York Times on Friday.

Strider, according to the Times, was kept on the campaign at Clinton's behest despite the allegations of misconduct. The Clinton faith adviser was docked several weeks' pay and told to undergo counseling in response, the Times reports. Strider went on to lead an independent organization that backed Clinton's candidacy in 2016.

Clinton addressed the controversy Friday on Twitter, writing that she contacted the former female aide to "tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard."
So every woman deserves to be heard unless they're accusing her husband or an aide she likes. How perfect that Clinton's faith adviser was harassing a young woman on the campaign. That's the guy I'd want giving faith advice. And then she overrules the recommendation to let go the accused harasser. So the victim deserves to be heard and then basically ignored.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is all over the place trumpeting her fierceness on sexual harassment..that is, until she's asked about the Clintons.
However, Gillibrand’s no-nonsense tone changed really quickly when she was asked about Hillary Clinton’s refusal to fire a 2008 presidential campaign aide who was accused of harassment.

“As you know, I think these things have to be dealt with whether you’re a Democrat, you’re a Republican, you need transparency, you need accountability,” she said. “But in that case I don’t know all the details.”

“The View” co-host Meghan McCain also asked Gillibrand to answer for the fact that she used to campaign with former President Bill Clinton even though he was accused of harassment and rape by several women.

“I think this moment of time that we’re in is very different,” Gillibrand claimed. “I think all of us, many of us, did not have that same lens–myself included–and there is a moment in time where we can actually do the right thing.”

“Do you regret campaigning with him though?” McCain pressed.

“It’s not about any one president,” Gillibrand responded.
Yeah, it's all about Republicans and expendable Democrats like Al Franken. Otherwise, she doesn't want to have to say anything. That's a vision in moral courage.

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Andrew McCarthy, a former prosecutor, explains why Donald Trump would be making a terrible mistake if he agrees to be interviewed by the Mueller investigation.
Trump is litigious and cocky. He has been in lots of lawsuits and has taken the measure of lots of lawyers. He may be very confident that he can handle an interview. He may be certain he has not colluded with Russia and thus convinced there’s no need to worry.

Trust me, though: He has not been sweated before like he would be in a special-counsel interview. It would be a mistake to assume that because Mueller’s team overflows with Democratic partisans, they are just like the political hacks Trump jousts with all the time. These particular prosecutors are extraordinarily good at what they do. They are not going to be cowed or charmed. If Trump agrees to speak to them, he will not be able to control the direction of the questioning; and if he loses his cool and says things that are dubious or flatly untrue, they will clean his clock.

In other words: Trump the man could walk out of an interview with Mueller in real jeopardy, despite walking into it in nothing more than a bad mood. Which brings us to our other client: Trump the president.
I just suspect that Trump's arrogance will lead him to think that he can come out the winner from such an interview. He is seriously delusional if he believes that.

Uh oh! A neat marketing gimmick to show a map of where people have been using fitness devices has ended up exposing where American troops are stationed.
Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State said on Monday it is revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities as a result of the revelations.

The existing rules on the privacy settings to be applied to devices such as fitness trackers are being “refined” and commanders at bases are being urged to enforce existing rules governing their use, according to a statement from the Central Command press office in Kuwait.
Let's just hope that our enemies aren't checking out this map, but don't count on it.

Usually, liberals are all about how the U.S. should follow what other countries do. They especially like it when the Supreme Court cites foreign court rulings to overturn capital punishment for those who are under 18 when they commit murder. But when it comes to banning elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, they're not so interested in what other countries are doing. Even the Washington Post acknowledges that there are only seven countries that allow abortions after 20 weeks based on the 59 countries that allow abortion on demand.
Only seven of the 59 countries allow elective abortions after 20 weeks, the group found: Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
And Canada, the NEtherlands, and Singapore allow abortions only up to 24 weeks. THey point out that 43 states have prohibitions on 20 to 24 weeks. But the Democrats oppose any such limitation. That would put us in the company of NOrth Korea, Vietnam, and China with no gestational limit.
This statistic seemed dubious at first, because it seemed extreme for just seven countries out of 198 to allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But upon further digging, the data back up the claim. We should note that some of the seven countries allow abortions after 20 weeks, but ban it after 24 weeks. And other countries have no federal limits, but legislate at the state or provincial level, similar to the United States.

Further, what is telling that research from both sides of the reproductive rights debate confirm this figure. It’s not easy to boil down complex abortion laws in a cross-comparative manner like this, and there are some minor caveats associated with this talking point. Still, we did not find the caveats rise to the level of One Pinocchio.

We award the elusive Geppetto Checkmark when a factoid surprisingly turns out to be true, as in this case.

I wonder if this will affect tourism to Cuba.
Nineteen American citizens have reported symptoms similar to those suffered by U.S. diplomats who had been identified as victims of alleged attacks in Cuba.

“Since September 29, the Department of State has been contacted by 19 U.S. citizens who reported experiencing symptoms similar to those listed in the Travel Warning after visiting Cuba,” a spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told the Miami Herald in an email.

“We continue to urge U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Cuba,” she added.

In late September, the State Department issued a travel warning advising Americans not to travel to Cuba because they could become victims of mysterious attacks such as those suffered by 24 diplomats and their families while they were stationed in Havana. The U.S. also removed most of the staff at its embassy in the Cuban capital.

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Matthew Continetti has some fun using the talking stick that senators were throwing a talking stick around Susan Collins' office when they were meeting there to try to resolve the government shutdown to keep them from all speaking at the same time. Until one senator threw it across the room and chipped a glass elephant. So they brought in a rubber ball instead.
I don't think the Washington press corps has grasped fully the meaning of this bizarre and darkly humorous incident. Here we have a select group of politicians who see themselves as representing the supreme values of the establishment—centrism, probity, thoughtfulness, politesse, bipartisanship, and friendliness to media—and they can't even use a talking stick properly. They try it, and a glass elephant ends up getting mortally wounded. They have to use a Nerf ball instead because Di-Fi might be injured. Elementary school kids of my acquaintance could conduct a meeting with less embarrassment and damage to personal property.
There's the metaphor. They can't use a walking stick and they can't negotiate a deal on DACA even when he proposed a deal that gave the Democrats what they wanted on DACA.
Since last September, Trump has said he wants to regularize the status of the "Dreamers," but in exchange for reforms to the immigration system on which he campaigned and was elected president. It's the second part of that sentence that Washington seems so eager to ignore or misread or ascribe to staff in a cynical and transparent attempt to drive a wedge between Trump and his subordinates. Yet Trump's position is reasonable and, after the shutdown exposed the Democrats' weakness, politically astute. He is not alone: There is the implacable fact of the House GOP caucus, the mainstream of which is steadfastly against amnesty and would oppose the initiatives of the Talking Stick Senators even if the president were somehow to morph into a Republican Luis Gutierrez.

Immigration, citizenship, borders, sovereignty, and national identity are thorny and uncomfortable and polarizing issues that divide not only both parties but also social classes. We'd rather not talk about them except in the most affirmative and clichéd ways. But they also increasingly seem to be the issues of the day, and deserve a much more serious and intellectually diverse accounting and debate than what went down in Susan Collins's workspace. We're not likely to get it, however. That image of the stick flying across the room says just about everything you need to know about our political class: its kitsch multiculturalism, its pretend seriousness, its infantilism, its conventionality, its bad aim, and its incompetence.

Jim Acosta of CNN beclowns himself again. First he tweeted out that Andrew McCabe was leaving his post voluntarily because he "was tired of being 'undermined' but Trump and WH was 'not happy' with him" Then 30 minutes later he tweeted out that McCabe was being forced out because FBI Director is "bringing on a new team."

Armageddon continues
An American flag flies next to signage at an Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station in Cherry Valley, Illinois. Exxon Mobil to invest more than $50 billion in the US over 5 years
14 Hours Ago | 00:58
Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, on Monday said it plans to invest an additional $35 billion in the United States over the next five years.

Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of Exxon, said in a blog post that the investment is partly due to recently passed corporate tax cuts. The announcement puts Exxon on the board with a number of other companies that have announced employee bonuses and investments following President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers' tax overhaul.

"These investments are underpinned by the unique strengths of our company and enhanced by the historic tax reform recently signed into law," Woods said in the blog post.

Arthur Herman revisits how media lies led to the myth that the Tet Offensive was a major failure for the U.S. Instead it was a significant American victory.
Hanoi’s decision to launch the Tet offensive was born of desperation. It was an effort to seize the northern provinces of South Vietnam with conventional troops while triggering an urban uprising by the Vietcong that would distract the Americans — and, some still hoped, revive the fading hopes of the Communists. The offensive itself began on January 30, with attacks on American targets in Saigon and other Vietnamese cities, and ended a little more than a month later when Marines crushed the last pockets of resistance in the northern city of Hue.

It not only destroyed the Vietcong as an effective political and military force, it also, together with the siege of Khe Sanh, crippled the NVA, which lost 20 percent of its forces in the South and suffered 33,000 men killed in action, all for no gain. By the end of 1969, over 70 percent of South Vietnam’s population was rated by the U.S. military as under government control, compared with 42 percent at the beginning of 1968.
But that's not what the media told us.
The American public knew none of this, however. Almost from the moment the first shots were being fired, skeptics of the war effort in the mainstream media, including CBS News icon Walter Cronkite, would use Tet to prove that the war wasn’t being won as the Johnson administration was claiming. They went further, representing the failed attacks on the U.S. embassy in Saigon and other sites as symbols of Communist success.

As the Washington Post’s own Saigon bureau chief Peter Braestrup documented in his book The Big Story, reporters caught in the fighting systematically used it to turn the reality of American victory into an image of American and South Vietnamese defeat (reporting for example that Vietcong had overrun five floors of the U.S. embassy when in fact the VC had never even gotten inside the building). Newsweek’s coverage of the siege of Khe Sanh showed 18 photos (out of a total of 29) of dead or wounded Marines or Marines huddling under cover, never mentioning that the Marines were steadily pushing back the NVA and inflicting heavy casualties.

That campaign of misrepresentation culminated in Walter Cronkite’s half-hour TV special on February 27, when he told his viewers with an appropriately glum face that Tet had proved that America was now “mired in a stalemate” — even as American forces were breaking the siege around Khe Sanh and clearing out the last resistance in Hue.
And the media's success in convincing the public that the U.S. was losing in Vietnam gave the media a sense of their own power.
After Tet, American media had assumed a new mission for itself: to shape the nation’s politics by crafting a single coherent narrative, even if it meant omitting certain relevant facts and promoting other false or misleading ones. In March 1969, after Richard Nixon’s election, the executive producer of ABC News told his Saigon bureau: “I think the time has come to shift our focus from the battlefield . . . to themes and stories under the general heading, ‘We are on our way out of Vietnam.’” One of those “stories” would be the massacre at My Lai, which actually took place in the aftermath of Tet but only became “newsworthy” a year later when the media was looking for ways to convince Americans that Nixon’s decision to stay the course in Vietnam was destroying their country’s moral standing — just as they had convinced them a year earlier that America’s major victory was actually a major defeat.

So while many in mainstream news outlets wring their hands today about a widespread lack of trust in media, it’s important on this 50th anniversary to remember the part they played in squandering it.

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More bad publicity for United Airlines - don't their employees have any sense?
A woman flying from Pueblo, Colo., to visit her dying mother one last time in Minnesota was removed from the plane over a ticketing issue.

Carrol Amrich was sitting on a United Airlines flight, waiting for the plane to take off when she says a flight attendant approached her and told her she had to leave.

Amrich was informed that her ticket had been canceled and she was escorted off the plane. Amrich pleaded with the attendants to let her stay on the plane, but she was allegedly told, “nobody flies for free,” The New York Times reported.

Once back in the terminal, Amrich called her landlord, Ms. Prelas, who had purchased the ticket for her because Amrich did not have the money for the last minute flight.
“I said: ‘Take my credit card. We’ll straighten this out later, but get her on that plane,’” Ms. Prelas said to The New York Times. The agent denied her request. United claims because the flight had already left by then.

Desperate, Amrich jumped in her car to drive to Minnesota. She traveled through the night, not even stopping to use the bathroom, she told the Times, but she didn’t make it in time. Her mother had died.
How terribly sad.

Reason notes how many times major media outlets used the phony statistic that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day - the result of research done by a 9-year-old kid!
Yesterday, I reported that the oft-cited, debate-driving statistic that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day was the product of a 9-year-old's guesstimations. Despite those shaky factual foundations, the 500 million figure has quickly spread, virus-like, across the media landscape and even into our shops and schools.

Visitors to the D.C. tea house Teaism—just a short walk from Reason's D.C. office—will be confronted with the questionable fact on a small poster adorning the restaurant's single-use straw dispenser, replete with a picture of a cute sea turtle. Meanwhile, impressionable children at the Mount Vernon Community School in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, are coming home with "Straw Wars" handouts citing the same dubious figure.

It's easy to understand how the school could have been led astray, given how ubiquitous this claim is in the media.
Look at the list. These are the same journalists who brag about their research and get so angry when conservatives criticize them for "fake news."
Let this serve as a reminder: A statistic's popularity does not prove its accuracy.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Cruising the Web

I've been trying to follow all the reporting and conjecture about the Russian investigation and what Mueller may or may not be trying to do. It seems a lot like when we had Kremlinologists trying to guess what the Soviet Union was planning based on who was on the wall reviewing the troops. The latest supposed blockbuster that has leaked out is the NYT's story that the President had ofdered Mueller to be fired last June, but had backed down when his White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign. There are some who are sure that this is evidence of Trump trying to obstruct justice. I'm still not convinced that talking about doing something and then being convinced not to do it is a crime. I'm just a layman, of course, but it seems that the President would have to take some action that actually obstructed justice instead of fuming about doing something and then being talked out of it. If I become furious and say that I'm going to murder someone, but my husband talks be out of it, I have not committed the crime of murder.

Politico has a round-up of legal experts on what this all means. Laurence Tribe thinks that there is more evidence of Trump's obstruction of justice than there was against Nixon in Watergate. He has been arguing since December in 2016 that Trump's impeachment "should begin on Inauguration Day." So, of course, he finds the Mueller story just more kindling to add to the fire. However, as Gene Healy points out, Tribe had quite a different approach to impeachment back in 1998.
What’s funny about all this is, when it was Bill Clinton’s political life on the line, Tribe nearly threw his back out trying to raise the constitutional bar for removal. In his November 1998 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Tribe insisted that “an impeachable offense must itself severely threaten the system of government or constitute a grievous abuse of official power or both.” Perjury and obstruction to cover up an illicit affair weren’t nearly grave enough.

Hell, back then even murder was a close call in Tribe’s eyes, if the president did the deed himself, for personal reasons. In his testimony, Tribe emphasized the fact that “when Vice President Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July 1804 . . . Burr served out his term, which ended in early 1805,” without getting impeached. “There may well be room to argue,” Tribe grudgingly conceded, that a contemporary president could be impeached for an extracurricular homicide — but that exception “must not be permitted to swallow [the] rule.” Whack a guy in Weehawken and we might have to let you get away with it; lie about him on Twitter, though, and you’ve got to go.
Other law professors have a different interpretation of what this newest story means. For example, Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School isn't convinced.
While interesting, I don’t think the Times’ revelations necessarily show that there is enough evidence at this point to seek an obstruction of justice charge against the president. To prove obstruction of justice, Mueller must still prove corrupt intent. We can anticipate that Trump will argue that he was not acting out of corrupt intent, but out of a mistaken belief that Mueller was somehow disqualified by alleged conflicts of interest. Of course, if interviews of those involved show that Trump’s claims were just a pretext, then that evidence might help prove Mueller’s case, but just the move to have Mueller fired might not be enough by itself.

Josh Blackman of South Texas College of Law in Houston addresses the question that I had had about whether wanting to do something, but not doing it constitutes a crime.
The question here is if the president could be punished for something he didn’t do. That is, could the fact that Trump sought Mueller’s termination, but changed course after his White House counsel threatened to resign, strengthen the case for obstruction of justice? The answer is no.

The president is surrounded by lawyers for a reason: to prevent him from making mistakes. Likewise, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution affords the president the power to “require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.” This provision ensures that the president can seek counsel from Senate-confirmed members of his administration, and lawyers in particular, about important legal questions.

Trump wanted to fire Mueller, and told his staff to do so, but after a threatened resignation, the president withdrew the order. This episode was not a public act, but an internal debate. It is not a federal crime, let alone an impeachable offense. Throughout American history, lawyers have consistently talked presidents out of making terrible decisions. We generally never hear about such stories, but the current White House is a sieve, where attorney-client communications spill out. In any event, we know that the process worked. Much to my pleasant surprise, President Trump—despite his mercurial bluster—consistently (but not always) listens to his lawyers.
Other professors think that this might be used as part of a pattern of behavior that indicates an attempt to obstruct justice. For example, here is Alex Whiting of Harvard Law School.
In an obstruction case against President Trump, it is unlikely that there will be a single piece of smoking-gun evidence. Rather, the case will be built on an accumulation of separate pieces of evidence that, taken together, will establish whether Trump had a corrupt intent to obstruct justice when he asked Comey to go easy on Flynn, and when he later fired Comey. Why? Because intent is almost always proved circumstantially. The only way to figure out what was inside Trump’s head when he acted is to look at what he said at the time, how he acted before and after, and his pattern of behavior with respect to the ongoing investigation of his election campaign.

The news that President Trump subsequently ordered Mueller’s firing—and backed down only after McGahn threatened to resign—adds considerably to an already very developed picture. Even before this news broke, there was compelling evidence that Trump in fact acted with a corrupt purpose when he took steps to derail the Flynn and Russia investigations. Remember: He cleared the room before speaking to Comey about Flynn, and he initially lied about his reasons for firing Comey. Those are not the actions of someone who believes he is properly exercising his power. Now we learn that even after the firestorm that followed Comey’s firing, Trump again tried to stop the investigation of his campaign, offering transparently specious reasons why Mueller had to be fired. Here then emerges a pattern of behavior: repeated attempts to stop the investigation accompanied by lies and false statements. What will Congress do when all of this evidence drops in its lap? Will they find some way to avoid drawing the obvious conclusions?
It's always difficult to judge someone's intent, especially with someone as mercurial as Trump. Rather than assigning malice and corrupt intent to his actions, I always lean to the pure stupidity explanation. He was angry about there being any sort of investigation into his actions and that of his family and campaign. So he ranted and started looking around ways to make it go away. Perhaps, his time on "The Apprentice" has gone to his head and he immediately wanted to fire somoene. So he tells the White House Counsel to fire Mueller. Then McGahn explains to him why that would be wrong. Trump still wanted to do it and so McGahn had to say he'd resign rather than do that. And, finally, rational heads prevailed.

Since Trump has a totally unjustified confidence in his ability to wing it in interviews, his lawyers have to be determined to keep him as far away as possible from an oral interview with Mueller's team. Bill Clinton, a trained lawyer, still created trouble for himself when he was interviewed by the special counsel. Does anyone think that Trump would be more circumspect and avoid a perjury trap?

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I'm teaching the unit on the Presidency in my AP Government class this week. One of the themes of the unit is the informal powers a president has, the powers not spelled out in the Constitution by which presidents have, over time, expanded their powers. And counter to that, we will be looking at what Congress has done to try to rein in the president and bureaucracy. I have a list of various measures that we'll be discussing, but I've come to see how the creation of inspectors general to report on the executive branch have come to play a key role. Susan Quinn writes at Ricochet to pay tribute to these stalwarts who have helped to expose problems throughout the bureaucracy. The law was created in 1978 and then expanded later. They are also tasked with overseeing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
Two of the most high-profile investigations that have taken place in recent years include the discovery of 6,400 emails either to or from Lois Lerner of the IRS, and the recent discovery of thousands of text messages that “disappeared,” originally generated by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The tenacity and findings of the Inspectors General across departments are to be lauded; unfortunately, action on those findings has been sadly lacking.
Few people realize that the information from Lois Lerner and the Strzok-Page texts came to light only because of the work of inspectors generals.
As a layperson looking at the Lois Lerner activities, as well as the more recent Strzok/Page situation, the following statements describe at least three violations:

Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election;

Solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency;

Engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle.

Since the evidence is clear that there has minimally been mismanagement and potentially extreme political bias in the execution of their duties, how can Congress ignore these actions? When will they condemn these activities and insist that they be held accountable? Why bother to have an Inspectors General Agency if there are not consequences for malfeasance?

It seems to me that we have the tools we need to prosecute individuals who blatantly defy federal law. Under President Obama, people chose to defy these restrictions and were essentially allowed to do so. Don’t you think it’s time for Trump, Sessions, and the DOJ to clean house?

SNL had some fun making fun of the reluctance of liberals to say what they really think about the whole Aziz Ansari story.

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Media bias shows up most perniciously in what they choose to cover or not to cover. For example, the media are basically ignoring the embarrassing responses that the Democrats had to the Republican tax bill.
The establishment media have saved Democrats from embarrassment by refusing to cover their struggling attempts to explain away the positive economic effects the Republican tax bill delivered for the working class.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats predicted the tax bill would be a disaster for the working class — “Armageddon” is how Pelosi described it — only to see more than three million American workers receive bonuses and pay raises as a result of the GOP tax cuts. Additionally, 90 percent of workers are expected to see an increase in take-home pay in 2018.
She's not the only one who talked like this. But, fortunately for her, the MSM have Pelosi's back.
But the establishment media have ignored the entire Democratic debacle. As of this article, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN have combined for zero articles about Pelosi’s “crumbs” comments, even as she has doubled– and tripled-down on them.
Now just imagine if a Republican had said something similar about working class people and how $1000 to $2000 a year is mere "crumbs."

Ross Douthat makes a reasonable suggestion to the Democrats - try to come to a compromise with Trump about DACA and immigration. He even has the nerve to suggest that there is a value to having White House immigration hardliner Stephen Miller in the discussions instead of having discussions between those politicians who agree basically on what immigration reform should look like. As Douthat reminds us - those bipartisan leaders are all on one side of the debate.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t represent the actual divisions in the country. Americans have become more pro-immigration since the 1990s, but there is still a consistent pattern when you ask about immigration rates: About a third of Americans favor the current trend, slightly fewer want higher rates, and about a third, like Miller, want immigration reduced.
They're not going to reach an agreement if they're only discussing reform among the third with whom they already agree. They keep waiting to finally win the argument and overcome the position of restrictionists.
But liberals have been waiting 12 years for that “eventually” to arrive, and instead Trump is president and the illegal immigrants they want to protect are still in limbo. So maybe it would be worth trying to actually negotiate with Stephen Miller, rather than telling Trump that he needs to lock his adviser in a filing cabinet, slap on a “beware of leopard” sign, and hustle out to the Rose Garden to sign whatever Durbin and Graham have hashed out.

Especially since last week, Trump and Miller actually made an interesting offer: an amnesty and even a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers, more generous than what many restrictionists favor and with no promise of the new E-Verify enforcements conservatives often seek, in return for a shift (over many years) to a skills-based policy and a somewhat lower immigration rate.

If you’re committed to the view that restrictionists can and must be steamrolled, you’ll respond to this offer the way many Democrats have — call it a “white supremacist ransom note,” punt on policy, and use the issue to rally your base in 2018.

But if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer: for instance, the same rough blueprint but with more green cards for skilled immigrants, so that Miller gets his cuts to low-skilled immigration but the overall rate stays closer to the status quo.

I don’t know if there’s a deal to be had along those lines; restrictionists might rebel and Democrats might simply not want a grand bargain with this president.

But a bargain that actually reflects the shape of public opinion, not just the elite consensus, can only happen with someone like Stephen Miller at the table.
The fact that so many on the left responded to the Trump proposal with contempt and accusations of racism indicates that they are less interested in some sort of compromise than they are in having the issue out there. Remember that Obama and the Democrats opposed immigration reform when George W. Bush proposed comprehensive reform back in 2007. Sure, there were many Republicans who opposed the proposal, but the Democrats were also reluctant to support the bill.

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Armageddon continues.
U.S. industrial conglomerate Honeywell International said on Friday that it expected to bring back at least $7 billion of the $10 billion in cash held overseas in the next two years, taking advantage of the newly enacted tax law.

Is anyone surprised that the NCAA under Mark Emmert was supine in face of reports of sexual assaults at Michigan State?
hough the NCAA has announced its intention to open an investigation into Michigan State’s athletic department, it remains unclear what exactly the purview of the investigation would be.

And, more importantly, why it’s taken so long to get involved.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was specifically alerted in November 2010 — six months after he was hired as the organization's president — to 37 reports involving Michigan State athletes sexually assaulting women.

Kathy Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, provided The Athletic with a copy of the letter she sent to Emmert urging him to better protect women with new, stronger gender violence policy measures.

And speaking of ignoring complaints about sexual behavior, Hillary CLinton's behavior when one of her campaign staffers was accused of sexual harassment seems rather typical for the woman who helped orchestrate the attacks on the women who accused her husband of sexual assault and other misbehavior. This is also the woman who ignored allegations against Harvey Weinstein when she was warned about him back in 2016 by Lena Dunham.
A senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request, according to four people familiar with what took place.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider. But Mrs. Clinton did not. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling, and the young woman was moved to a new job.

This is more evidence about why Coach Popovich is so smart to rest players. Bleacher Report looks at the role of fatigue in the unfortunate injury to Boogie Cousins.
That it occurred at the end of the fourth quarter isn’t a total surprise. According to a 2015 study by Jeff Stotts of, a site specializing in sports injuries, 64 percent of in-game ruptures in the NBA since 2005 happened in the second half of games. That finding follows this report: fatigue or overuse contributes to Achilles tendinitis and ruptures, according to the Cleveland Clinic and other studies.

Cousins was coming off the best stretch of his career, but looking at his minutes totals, it was also perhaps the most taxing. On Monday’s phenomenal 44-point, 23-rebound, 10-assist performance in the double-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls, the 6’11”, 270-pound center played a career-high 52 minutes. No player on either team played more than 47 minutes. Cousins tied for the highest total that any player has clocked in a game this season (along with Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons).

Cousins was clearly gassed after the game.

"My strength coach had the nerve to ask me, do I want to lift after this game? I almost lost it,” Cousins told the Associated Press’ Brett Martel after the game. “If I had some energy, we would have fought.”

The marathon outing may have been particularly grueling because he had been pushing his body into uncharted territory. Heading into that game, Cousins had been averaging a whopping 39.8 minutes per game in his previous 10 contests. He played in four overtimes in a nine-day span.

In sum, January was Cousins’ most taxing month of his career (in months with at least five games played)—he registered a career-high 38.3 minutes per game. Friday’s game was Cousins’ fourth in seven days.

Of course, peering through the annals of NBA history, plenty of centers at Cousins’ enormous size have averaged 40 minutes per game. If they could take it, why can’t today’s big men?

But minutes only tell half the story. Tim Duncan averaged 40.6 minutes per game in 2001-02 for a Spurs team that averaged 92.6 possessions per game. When you do the math using the NBA’s official data, Duncan played an estimated 78.3 possessions per game. Cousins this month? He was playing approximately 80.2 possessions a night when you factor in that the Pelicans have averaged 101.5 possessions, one of the speediest in the league. Such a pace would blow the doors off any Duncan team of the early 2000s.

What gets lost in the injury discussion is an appreciation of today’s high-octane pace of play and its effect on larger, heavier athletes like Cousins. The 27-year-old was in the midst of one of the most all-around dominant seasons in recent NBA history. He’s averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. But he’s also leading the Pelicans in three-point makes and steals.
More and more coaches should adopt the Spurs' practice of resting their players. And a player should not be afraid to demand that sort of approach from his team if he wants to have a longer career.

Could the producers of the Grammys think of any better way to alienate a third to a half of America than by reading aloud from Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury? Given that the book is recognized as mostly being tales told by Steve Bannon, they were basically giving a microphone to Steve Bannon, a man they all despise. But, hey, they apparently think that the people are out there panting for more political attacks mixed in with their entertainment.

Add in that Michael Wolff has recently made a very ugly, sexist smear against Nikki Haley by baselessly accusing her of having an affair with Trump to get her job in the United Nations, you'd think that, in this moment of supposed sensitivity to the barriers women face in the marketplace, they wouldn't want to endorse the author of such an ugly attack. But now. And will any of the glitterati class, patting themselves on the back for hashtagging #MeToo, have a word of condemnation for Wolff insinuating that Haley has slept her way to the top? Of course not.
On Bill Maher’s HBO program, Wolff — author of a best-selling, fact-challenged book on the first Trump year — recently claimed he’d omitted an “incendiary” incident because he lacked “ultimate proof.”

But he invited people to “read between the lines” of a paragraph near the book’s end; when you do, “you’re going to say ‘Bingo!’ ”

The political Twittersphere then went viral over a sentence claiming Haley “had been spending a notable amount of private time” with Trump on Air Force One. Bingo, they concluded: The president and his UN envoy are having an affair.

“Highly offensive,” “disgusting” and “absolutely not true,” replied Haley, adding that she’s only been on Air Force One once — with plenty of witnesses.

This is par for the course: Journalists across the spectrum have slammed Wolff’s reporting as slipshod. His professed rule: “If it rings true, it is true.”

But people tend to believe sensational tidbits that reinforce their worldview. And Wolff’s gossip gives other outlets an excuse to repeat unverified and even phony stories with no need to even try confirming them.

And so, at the height of #MeToo, Haley gets slimed by the age-old sexist suggestion that she’s sleeping her way to the top.

“I see it now, I see them do it to other women,” she said this week.

Test of feminist principle: Who’ll stand up to defend Haley and denounce this outrage?
Stephen Miller nails the hypocrisy of the whole crowd.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cruising the Web

Gosh, do Republicans have any better argument to convince voters to keep the House in GOP hands than Nancy Pelosi? She has such a tin ear for messaging. She keeps trying to tell Americans that getting $1000 in a bonus is just "crumbs." And former Democratic Party head Debbie Wasserman Schultz is also contemptuous of the idea that $1000 would mean that much to anyone.
Their comments were captured by the conservative group America Rising Squared at the #TrumpTax Town Hall at Florida Atlantic University sponsored by Not One Penny.

Pelosi said, “There’s a cartoon that I just love.... There’s a little mouse trap who’s got a little piece of cheese on there and there’s a mouse about to take it and that’s called the middle class. And around it are fat cats, they look a lot like elephants but anyway, around there. And that’s the thing. Get this little thing and we get this big bonanza. You get the crumb, we get the banquet.”

Wasserman Schultz added, “Frankly, if you look at the bonuses, which I haven’t heard of a corporate bonus more than $1,000 so far. Which by the way is taxed, so it’s not $1,000. And then you spread $1,000 over the course of the year – to think of about how much that is – of course they get it all at once. But I’m not sure that $1,000 (which is taxed, taxable) goes very for almost anyone.”
Check out Obama's White House trumpeted the tax cut extension that gave people $40 a month for the average family earning $50,000 a year. The White House solicited people to send in their own messages about what $40 a month would mean to them. So giving families $480 a month (Sorry - I meant $480 a year) was a major victory, but $1000 a year is just "crumbs." Do these people ever listen to themselves? And is the RNC deft enough to makes ads taking advantage of Pelosi's insensitivity to how ordinary people live.

I know that I just saw the increase in my paycheck for January and was quite happy to get those "crumbs."

Meanwhile, Armageddon continues to destroy all that is good in the country.
Home Depot (HD) announced on Thursday that it will pay its U.S. hourly workers a one-time bonus of up to $1,000 tied to President Trump’s tax reform.

Jeryl Bier reminds us of when the Obama administration thought getting $40 per paycheck was a big deal.

And then there is survey result.
A majority of small business owners, 63.8 percent, believe that President Trump's policies have helped their business, according to a survey from the Job Creators Network.

"This incremental investment in our associates was made possible by the new tax reform bill," Craig Menear, chairman and CEO of the company, said in a statement.

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I think this might be one of the first breaks we'll be seeing in the media praetorian guard that has protected Barack Obama came on the public stage.
A journalist announced last week that he will publish a photograph of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that he took in 2005 at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, but did not make public because he believed it would have “made a difference” to Obama’s political future.

The photographer, Askia Muhammad, told the Trice Edney News Wire that he “gave the picture up at the time and basically swore secrecy.”

“But after the nomination was secured and all the way up until the inauguration; then for eight years after he was President, it was kept under cover,” Muhammad said.

Asked whether he thought the photo’s release would have affected Obama’s presidential campaign, Muhammad said, “I insist. It absolutely would have made a difference.”
I don't know that one photo with such a hateful anti-Semite would have killed Obama's political trajectory. He didn't suffer much harm from being friends with a self-acknowledged terrorist, Bill Ayers. Jim Geraghty comments.
This is not the greatest scandal in journalistic history, but it is a pretty revealing anecdote. Obama met with Farrakhan. In the photo the two men are smiling; there’s no indication that Obama has or is about to confront Farrakhan about his long history of outrageous statements, anti-Semitism, claim that whites are a “race of devils,” declaration that “Hitler was a very great man,” labeling Judaism a “gutter religion,” and so on.

Louis Farrakhan is a widely detested figure, and he has earned this scorn. Barack Obama is too smart a guy to be oblivious about Farrakhan and what he believes and preaches. Obama didn’t have to go over and pose for a picture. He chose to do so. Obama almost certainly disagrees with Farrakhan’s outrageous and incendiary statements, but that disagreement wasn’t enough to get him to not pose and smile. Not is it plausible to believe that Obama didn’t know who Farrakhan was.

But the photographer knew this photo could be political liability for Obama. So he hid it. The motivation “I need to help Obama stay electable” overrode the motivation, “I have a duty to show the public photographs of things that happened.”
Geraghty reminds us how Obama denied he had anything to do with Farrakhan even when Farrakhan endorsed him against Hillary Clinton.
And of course, more broadly, liberals attacked any conservatives who contended that Obama and Farrakhan had a relationship. The Huffington Post, back in 2008: “A parade of clips of Louis Farrakhan spouting anti-white and anti-Semitic comments is justified by guilt by association with association, because Obama has no connection with Farrakhan but Obama’s former church had a newsletter that praised Farrakhan.”
Guy Benson thinks that the release of the photo might have made a difference.
Obama's 2008 presidential campaign was dogged by criticism of his radical associations -- ranging from a crackpot anti-American preacher whose church Obama attended for decades, to an unrepentant domestic terrorist at whose home Obama launched his political career, to a convicted felon and slum lord with whom Obama engaged in shady business dealings, to a longtime spokesman for the PLO terrorist Yassir Arafat (a video tape of Obama and Rashid Khalidi together at a party was suppressed by the Los Angeles Times, and has never been released). A picture of Obama smiling widely alongside avowed racist and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan would have been yet another major headache for his campaign, and very well could have hampered Obama's trajectory toward his once-improbable primary upset over Hillary Clinton. It may have caused agita among more general election voters who were contemplating whether to entrust their vote to an unknown political newcomer.
The story from the photographer is that Obama made a self-deprecating joke when the photographer said that he thought that Obama and Farrakhan looked alike and Obama replied "Well, he's much better looking than I am." Isn't that cute? And when Obama was asked about Farrakhan's endorsement, his reply reminds Guy Benson of another politician who didn't want to criticize a controversial figure who had endorsed him.
The TPM story concludes with a recollection of Obama publicly objecting to Farrakhan's racial bigotry and anti-Semitism when pressed, but declining to fully reject the infamous hate-monger's positive comments about...Barack Obama: "I did not solicit his support," Obama said, referring to Farrakhan’s praise for his candidacy. '[But] I can’t say to somebody that he can’t say that he thinks I’m a good guy."

This reminded me of Donald Trump's game of footsie with another grotesque bigot, David Duke. It took Trump far too long to unequivocally disavow Duke and the KKK (he eventually did), leading to intense media criticism, including from yours truly. Many of Trump's defenders and critics alike recognized this kerfuffle as an outgrowth of the then-candidate's pathological need for affirmation, and his aversion to harshly criticizing anyone who feeds his ego. It seems that on some level, the current president and his immediate predecessor share that same impulse....

Can you imagine the reaction if it emerged that Trump had met privately with Duke and praised him as a handsome man as they posed for photos, all smiles? And that the House Freedom Caucus pressured a photographer to never allow his documentation to become public? I think you can. And just so we're clear, Duke and Farrakhan are two sides of the same vile coin:
For over 30 years, Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI), has marked himself as a notable figure on the extremist scene, verbally attacking Jews, white people and the LGBT community. In recent years, Farrakhan has embarked on a wide-ranging campaign specifically targeting the Jewish community, which has featured some of the most hateful speeches of Farrakhan’s career as head of the NOI...Farrakhan used his platform to discuss the supposed role of Israel and Jews in orchestrating the 9/11 attacks, claiming that “Israelis had foreknowledge of the attacks” and that Jews were warned ahead of time not to come to work that day. He then went on to speak more broadly of Israeli control of the American government, stating that Israel and Jews “don’t fear America because they control it from within.”...Farrakhan received a standing ovation after telling his audience that “the Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, then you must be somebody.”
He's also hurled venom at white people -- calling them the "race of devils," the "anti-Christ, and "worthy to be hated" -- as well as the LGBT community. He is the moral equivalent of Duke, to whom Trump was linked because of Duke's praise of his candidacy, and Trump's opaque and dishonest responses to resulting challenges from reporters. By contrast, Obama said he opposed Farrakhan's spasms of hateful ideology, but hey, who was he to tell the guy to stop saying nice things about him? That, evidently, was an acceptable answer, and the issue disappeared. Beyond that, when the two men met in private, posing for a chummy photograph amid reported mutually-glowing banter, evidence of the occasion was confiscated and kept in the shadows for a dozen years. Extraordinary.

It's simply a fact that Barack Obama spent much of his early adulthood and fledgling political career marinating in a fever swap of far-left radicalism. Some evidence to that effect was intentionally censored by sympathetic journalists and media organizations, while other public revelations were drowned out by righteous shouting about the injustice of "guilt by association" attacks. If you thought Trump's episode vis-a-vis the Duke endorsement was problematic, as I did, surely Obama's deeper connection to Louis Farrakhan should be considered both appalling and revealing, no? If the former was disqualifying, so was the latter. Or am I missing something? Obama met, took a photo with, and praised Farrakhan as a sitting Senator, just a few years prior to launching a presidential bid. Multiple people were aware of this encounter (how was it okay for the Congressional Black Caucus to have feted such a figure in the first place, incidentally?), and took active steps to cover it up. Voters never learned of it, by design. Amazing. And now they tell us.

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This is how Democrats think
- if they decide something is bad, it's necessary to pass a law to stop it. There is nothing in human behavior not worth regulating, apparently.
Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California's lower house, has introduced a bill to stop sit-down restaurants from offering customers straws with their beverages unless they specifically request one. Under Calderon's law, a waiter who serves a drink with an unrequested straw in it would face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

"We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans," Calderon explained in a press release.

This isn't just Calderon's crusade. The California cities of San Luis Obispo and Davis both passed straws-on-request laws last year, and Manhattan Beach maintains a prohibition on all disposable plastics. And up in Seattle, food service businesses won't be allowed to offer plastic straws or utensils as of July.

The Los Angeles Times has gotten behind the movement, endorsing straws-on-request policies in an editorial that also warned that "repetitive sucking may cause or exacerbate wrinkles on the lips or around the mouth." Celebrity astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson (always up for a little chiding) and Entourage star Adrian Grenier have appeared in videos where an octopus slaps them in the face for using a plastic straw.
Yes, because Democrats are the party of the little man and nothing says supporting the little man than threatening to fine and jail waiters.

What is really funny is how the media report how many straws are used in America on a daily basis.
The actual number of straws being used is unclear. Calderon, along with news outlets writing about this issue—from CNN to the San Francisco Chronicle—unfailingly state that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day, many of them ending up in waterways and oceans. The 500 million figure is often attributed to the National Park Service; it in turn got it from the recycling company Eco-Cycle.

Eco-Cycle is unable to provide any data to back up this number, telling Reason that it was relying on the research of one Milo Cress. Cress—whose Be Straw Free Campaign is hosted on Eco-Cycle's website—tells Reason that he arrived at the 500 million straws a day figure from phone surveys he conducted of straw manufacturers in 2011, when he was just 9 years old.
Yes, that is not a typo - the statistic stems from some "research" done by a nine-year old kid.

Nikki Haley continues
to speak uncomfortable truths to the United Nations.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley launched a broadside Thursday at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, accusing him of indulging in “outrageous” conspiracy theories about Israel and lacking what is needed to secure peace in the region.

Haley made the remarks at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Middle East. She pointedly contrasted Abbas with leaders like the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whom she cited as a leader “willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths, and make compromises.”

“Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat?” she asked.

She cited a speech earlier this month in which Abbas tore into Israel and the U.S., rejecting any American role in talks....

“He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American president. He called for suspending recognition of Israel,” Haley said. “He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers.”

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and will to seek real peace,” she added.

She said that while the U.S. was “eager” to pursue peace, “we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what’s needed to achieve peace.”
It's such a pleasant difference from our previous Secretary of State who reportedly sent a message to Abbas to "hold on and be strong" during Trump's administration and "play for time...[and] not yield to President Trump's demands."

The Washington Post has a very nice story about the state of conservative magazines in the age of Trump. They profile all the major conservative publications and what stance they've taken on the Trump administration. Some are pretty critical; some are pretty supportive, and some are liable to praise what the administration does that is in accord with conservative principles and criticize what isn't and the President's temperament and more outrageous utterances and tweets. It concludes,
As much as their contributors may differ in opinion or even dislike one another, what unites these magazines — and distinguishes them from right-wing outlets like Breitbart — is an almost quaint belief in debate as an instrument of enlightenment rather than as a mere tool of political warfare. “There’s an argument on part of the right that the left is utterly remorseless and we need to be like that,” says Lowry. “That’s the way you lose your soul and you have no standards.”

As the Weekly Standard’s Labash sees it, disinterest — at a time when media outlets on the right “constantly applaud Trump like trained chimps, congratulating themselves that they’re part of some new revolutionary vanguard” — is the new subversion. “You want to be a revolutionary on the right?” asks Labash. “Tell the truth. Call honest balls and strikes. That’s become pretty revolutionary behavior in these hopelessly tribal times.”

With so many Americans today engaged in partisan war, any publication with a commitment to honesty in argument becomes a potential peacemaker. It also becomes an indispensable forum for working out which ideas merit a fight in the first place. This is what, in their best moments, the conservative magazines are now doing. None will realistically exercise much immediate influence on this White House. But perhaps what matters more is whether they’ll manage to influence the political discussion writ large. Ultimately, that won’t be up to Donald Trump but to those, of any political stripe, who have preserved enough modesty and curiosity to allow their views to be unsettled. Serious conservative magazines will matter a lot, if we want them to.
I appreciated such a fair characterization of conservative magazines and the recognition that there are these nuances among them. Not every conservative is a full-on Breitbartian courtier for Trump and not everyone is completely in the NeverTrump camp.

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Timothy Carney examines how General Electri is "the poster child of Obamanomics."
No company has spent as much on U.S. lobbying since 2000 as General Electric. And no component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed worse since 2000 than General Electric.

The company’s stock is tanking. Its profit margins range from sclerotic to negative. Its recent big bets on Europe and green energy are proving to be duds. GE has already sold off its appliance business and is trying to find a buyer for its light bulb business.

That’s not enough, according to some major investors, one of whom has called for a full breakup of GE.

It’s a sad state for a company that has represented industrial strength for more than a century. It’s also a telling epigraph for Obamanomics.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt kicked off the start of former President Barack Obama's administration with a letter prophesying a golden era of American industrial planning, ushered in by the bailouts and a new president who promised a “remaking” of America....

The letter bragged, “We have gained access to government funding programs that put us on equal footing with banks,” and described GE as “ a natural partner” with federal agencies, “as the role of government increases in the current crisis.” GE is “a particularly desirable partner for governments,” Immelt assured shareholders.

Whenever the Obama administration introduced a major policy initiative, GE was there hopping on board, looking to be the government’s partner.

When Obama created a “Jobs Council,” his jobs czar was Immelt.

When Obama in Spring 2009 announced big money for “Building a new system of high-speed rail in America,” GE hopped on board the train. “We are ready to partner with the federal government and Amtrak to make high-speed rail a reality,” GE declared at an event in May 2009. GE’s top rail lobbyist was Linda Daschle, wife of Obama mentor and former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
The list goes on and on. They kept saying nice things about Obama and his policies and they kept seeing benefits from those policies they were praising.
Heck, in 2013, GE actually became officially “Too Big to Fail,” designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council as TBTF. “Material financial distress at GECC could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability,” FSOC determined.

And yet, here we are. GE opened at $29.37 a share on Election Day, when the Dow was at 18,332.43. On Tuesday Jan. 23, GE closed at $16.30 (down about 45 percent), whereas the Dow closed at 26,210.81, up about 42 percent. The new CEO, John Flannery, has said he’s open to a breakup.

There are countless explanations for GE’s collapse, but here’s one: GE spent a decade chasing the shiniest new winner picked by government, instead of looking for lasting value as dictated by the market. Government can provide billions in stimulus and maybe even some regulatory protection from your competition, but it can’t create wealth or provide lasting value.

For all the hopeful talk of a post-bailout reset of capitalism in favor of the politically connected, it turns out that basic economics trumped Obamanomics after all.

This is an odd quirk
in how the tax laws work: Jimmy Garoppolo will take home more money from the Super Bowl from his share from having been on the Patriots' bench for several weeks than Tom Brady will get from actually playing in the game.
Garoppolo, however, should take home more pay than Brady a after income taxes. Garoppolo, unlike Brady, will not be travelling to Minnesota and will not be subject to Minnesota’s state income tax of 9.85%. Among states that have an NFL team, Minnesota has the second-highest income tax in the country after California (13.3%). Garoppolo, obviously, is no longer traveling with the Patriots; if he attends the Super Bowl it will only be as a fan and not for work.