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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