Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Cruising the Web

Would it surprise anyone that Donald Trump is one of the prime leakers from his own White House? After all, he did that when he was just a businessman; why would it change? That is the claim that Ronald Kessler makes in a new book on the Trump White House.
President Trump often is quoted anonymously in news reports as a senior White House official, according to a new book from reporter Ronald Kessler.

Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter who has reported on the Secret Service, made that claim in his book, “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game," which was released Monday.

“Trump phones Maggie Haberman of the New York Times directly, as well as Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, and Jonathan Swan of Axios, feeding them stories attributed to ‘a senior White House official,’ creating the impression that White House leaks even more than it already does,” Kessler wrote.

Kessler did not name sources for the claim, but as a businessman Trump was well-known for acting as his own spokesman using pseudonyms with reporters.

Despite an antagonistic public relationship, Kessler wrote that Trump craves positive coverage in the Times, and also in Time magazine. An unnamed aide told Kessler that Trump aims to win Haberman’s approval.

“He wants eventually to win her over,” the aide said. “The president subscribes to the general theory that a little love can go a long way. Even if a story will be bad, give it a shot and maybe it will come out a little better."
Of course, I don't know why we should believe anonymous sources any more than a "senior White House official," but it wouldn't surprise me one bit.

With all the brouhaha over Kevin Williamson moving from National Review to The Atlantic, the part of the story that I was saddest about was the demise of his podcast with Charles C. W. Cooke, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." I really enjoyed listening to Cooke and Williamson's meandering conversations about whatever popped into their heads or their comments on the news of the week. It was like eavesdropping on two really intelligent and witty friends whose opinions I mostly agreed with. It's such a shame that they couldn't find a way to keep it going and cross-pollinate it for the two magazines.

Bret Stephens, who faced a similar backlash when he moved from the WSJ to the NYT, writes a column in support of Williamson. Stephens points out that those opposing his hiring at The Atlantic are centering their criticism on three basic things that Williamson wrote out of all the tens of thousands of things he has written. He argues that we shouldn't be in the business of throwing people out of the realm of intellectual conversation over a few lines that offend us or with which we disagree.
We also live in an age — another one — of excommunication. This is ugly because its spirit is illiberal, and odd, because its consequences are negligible. Should The Atlantic foolishly succumb to pressure to rescind your job offer, you’ll still be widely read, presumably at National Review. If you’re really the barbarian your critics claim, you’re already through the gates.

The real question, then, isn’t what kinds of arguments are “acceptable.” It’s what kinds are, or ought to be, acceptable to liberals. In The Huffington Post, one writer proposes that the answer is none. This is the liberalism of the 9- year-old sticking fingers in his ears and saying: nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. Anyone still wondering how Donald Trump became president need look no further.

The wiser test of acceptability is whether an argument is thoughtful, thought-provoking and offered in good faith. That holds true even if the views aren’t politically representative. Last I checked, you and I were hired as columnists, not party ideologues or demographic segments.

David French also wrote last week in defense of Williamson in light of the similar vilification that met the hiring of Stephens and Bari Weiss at the Times or Megan McArdle at the Washington Post. For all those people clutching their pearls about Williamson working at The Atlantic, French reminds us of another writer there.
Even as Kevin comes under fire it’s important to remember that The Atlantic’s currently most celebrated and influential writer is National Book Award winner and MacArthur genius grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates. And if you want to read provocative paragraphs, Coates is most certainly your man. This is what he said about the police and firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the desperate quest to save the men and women in the Twin Towers on September 11: “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”

The first responders of 9/11. Not human.
He also criticized those who called for nonviolence during riots in Baltimore. But somehow, preaching against nonviolence is fine as long as the preacher is a liberal. Instead of calling for the excommunication of Coates, writers should engage with his ideas. You know - that whole idea of a "marketplace of ideas" that used to be the ideal for liberals? We've come a long way from that. And that is the seeming goal these days.
If strongly left-leaning but not specifically ideologically-purposed entities such as the Times, the Post, or The Atlantic do as their critics seem to wish and cleanse their pages of conservative voices their critics deem unacceptable, then the loss to American intellectual life will be immense. Writers who wish to enjoy intellectual freedom will soon find that they’re only truly “free” when working with people of like mind — a condition that contributes immeasurably to cocooning, polarization, and intellectual stagnation.

Those conservative writers who wish to reach different audiences will find themselves writing like politicians — parsing every word with an eye to how a hostile audience might read it five or even ten years from now. Who wants to read such careful, calculating prose? Are the thoughts even genuine? Or are they more like a long-running résumé, written for the purpose of advancing future employment?

Decide now, progressives, do you want any serious intellectual media space where conservative and progressive ideas clash? If you do, then you just might have to endure life alongside immense talents like my friend Kevin Williamson. If Ta-Nehisi Coates can see the virtues of his work, then perhaps there’s room for you to open your minds. National Review’s loss is The Atlantic’s gain, but even more importantly, the marketplace of ideas benefits from his transition. Give tolerance a chance.

Here is Williamson's first column for The Atlantic. He writes a discouraging obituary for libertarianism while reminding us how, a few years ago, the media was trumpeting "the libertarian moment" and Rand Paul was the up and coming politician. I have a mural on my wall of Newsweek and then Time magazine covers going back to 1998. It makes a fascinating auxiliary teaching aid when I'm teaching about recent history or making a point in my AP Government class to point to the wall as an illustration of that moment in the past 20 years. There is a cover story of Rand Paul from October, 2014 where he's labeled "The Most Interesting Man in Politics." Kids who are not sitting close enough to read his name on the cover often ask me who that guy is. When I tell them - they're clueless. They barely know who he is even though he ran for president in 2016. They certainly don't know why any one would title him "the most interesting man in politics." They know more about the Dos Equis guy as the "most interesting man in the world" than they do about Paul or libertarianism.

So Williamson is right
that the libertarian moment has passed us by. It doesn't seem to resonate with voters and the question remains if it ever really did. Ideas of a conservatarian fusion of conservatism and libertarianism now seems like a distant pipe dream.
The GOP finds itself in the throes of a populist convulsion, an ironic product of the fact that the party that long banqueted on resentment of the media now is utterly dominated by the alternative media constructed by its own most dedicated partisans. It is Sean Hannity’s party now.

The GOP’s political situation is absurd: Having rallied to the banner of an erratic and authoritarian game-show host, evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. are reduced to comparing Donald Trump to King David as they try to explain away his entanglement with pornographic performer Stormy Daniels. Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Chinese retaliation is sure to fall hardest on the heartland farmers who were among Trump’s most dedicated supporters.

On the libertarian side of the Republican coalition, the situation is even more depressing: Republicans such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who once offered important support for criminal-justice reform, are lined up behind the atavistic drug-war policies of the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose big idea on opiate abuse is more death sentences for drug traffickers. Deficits are moving in the wrong direction. And, in spite of the best hopes of the “America First” gang, Trump’s foreign policy has not moved in the direction of Rand Paul’s mild non-interventionism or the more uncompromising non-interventionism of his father, Ron Paul. Instead, the current GOP foreign-policy position combines the self-assured assertiveness of the George W. Bush administration (and many familiar faces and mustaches from that administration) with the indiscipline and amateurism characteristic of Trump.

Some libertarian moment.
There might be polls showing support for libertarian politics, but it doesn't mean the desire to enact truly libertarian policies.
But “libertarian” often means little more than “a person with right-leaning sensibilities who is embarrassed to be associated with the Republican Party.” (Hardly, these days, an indefensible position.) Libertarian sensibilities are popular because they enable the posture of above-it-all nonpartisanship, but libertarian policies, as Caplan and others have noted at length, are not very popular at all. Americans broadly and strongly support a rising minimum wage and oppose entitlement reform with at least equal commitment, and they are far from reliable supporters of free speech and free association or enforcing limits on police powers. Hence the peculiar fact that 2016 polling of Republican primary voters found self-identified libertarians backing the authoritarian Trump in remarkable numbers—59 percent in South Carolina—over more libertarian-leaning candidates such as Ted Cruz (17 percent in the same poll) or Marco Rubio (0 percent—ouch). By way of comparison, only 39 percent of self-identified independents backed Trump in that same South Carolina poll, 37 percent of self-identified Tea Party adherents, and 40 percent of voters in the oldest bracket (56-61). Self-described libertarians were not less likely to line up behind the authoritarian demagogue, but half-again as likely to do so. Self-professed libertarian voices such as Larry Elder have become abject Trumpists.

The Christian right was able to make its peace with Trump with relative ease, because it is moved almost exclusively by reactionary kulturkampf considerations. “But Hillary!” is all that Falwell and company need to hear, and they won’t even hold out for 30 pieces of silver. The Chamber of Commerce made peace, being as it is one of the conservative constituencies getting what it wants out of the Trump administration: tax cuts and regulatory reform. The hawks are getting what they want, too, lately: John Bolton in the White House and an extra $61 billion in military spending in the latest budget bill.
It's why those with libertarian leanings such as myself have been depressed to learn that the policies we support are not really popular even with Republican voters.
What are the libertarians getting? A man with Richard Nixon’s character but not his patriotism, an advocate of Reagan’s drug war and Mussolini’s economics who dreams of using the FCC to shut down media critics—and possibly a global trade war to boot. The Democrats are, incredibly enough, for a moment the relatively free-trade party and the party more closely aligned with the interests of the country’s most dynamic business concerns and cultural institutions. If the Democrats were more clever, they might offer the libertarians a better deal on trade, criminal justice, and civil liberties. Instead, they are dreaming up excuses to sue or jail people for their views on climate change, and the United States is for the moment left with two authoritarian populist parties and no political home for classical liberalism at all.
Well, that is certainly a way for Williamson to introduce himself to the The Atlantic readers. He calls out both parties and throws in enough anti-Trump red meat to maybe assuage their outrage that someone remotely conservative would write for their sacred magazine. And he's also right. There is no "libertarian moment" now in politics. And there is a whiff of authoritarianism on both sides.

An example of the authoritarian moment that we're living is is how state governments are regulating bars. Eric Boehm writes about what is going on in Virginia's regulations.
In the annals of weird state liquor rules, save a special spot for Virginia's happy hour regulations. Bars and restaurants are free to offer discounted drinks, and are allowed to advertise those "drink specials" or "happy hour" deals, like anywhere else. But the specifics can get pretty confusing.

For example, advertising "half-price drinks," is completely legal. Calling the same discount a "two-for-one special," is, however, a violation of state law and can get an establishment's license suspended for seven days.

The same punishment applies if a bar is caught advertising deals under terms like "Thirsty Thursday" or "Sunday Funday."

Weird, yes. But also possibly unconstitutional. A lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court argues that Virginia's happy hour advertising restrictions prevent business owners from communicating truthful information about their offerings, and makes it more difficult to attract customers. Geoff Tracy, who owns three businesses in the Washington, D.C., metro area (one of them in Virginia), the plaintiff in the lawsuit, says he cannot legally use the same advertisements for all three of his locations because of the Virginia law. Even posting those ads on social media or his restaurant's website could run afoul of the state law.
Apparently, the reasoning is that advertising low prices would maybe, possibly, appeal to teenagers. But the teenagers are already barred from buying alcoholic drinks whatever the price or advertising is. If they think the problem is that bartenders are ignoring those laws, then work on that instead of barring a business owner from informing his customers of the prices of his perfectly legal product.

The Washington Examiner looks at other laws across the country that are just as nonsensical as Virginia's laws. They note how ridiculous it is to have a law banning a business from telling the truth about its prices. But Virginia is not alone.
Virginia's ban isn’t the worst state law on alcohol. Eleven states ban happy hour altogether, infringing on entrepreneurs’ freedom to operate their business as they see fit. Maybe they could set up an "unhappy hour" for libertarians who want to weep at the extent of government overreach — just a thought.

In Utah, “Zion curtains” until recently separated bartenders and customers, because apparently watching your own drink get made is a threat to society. In Indiana, gas stations and convenience stores can’t sell beer out of refrigerators. In Ohio, “no [alcohol] advertisement shall represent, portray, or make any reference to Santa Claus.” C'mon! Seriously? How d'you think he got his ruddy complexion?

Until 2008, sangria was banned in Virginia restaurants. Until 2011, the state banned billboard advertisements for booze (which ended after a free-speech lawsuit brought by billboard business Lamar). Until last month, dogs could not accompany their owners if they were visiting a brewery or a winery. And not only are Virginia bars also required to serve food, they also have to make $45 in food sales for every $55 they make selling liquor-based drinks. (links in original)
And it isn't only the states that have these sorts of regulations.
But there are also silly federal laws about alcohol: The federal ban on home distilling is ridiculous, especially since homebrewing and home winemaking is legal. In his tomb at Mount Vernon, George Washington, once the largest whiskey producer in the country, is shaken rather than stirred by this nonsense.

Some regulation of alcohol is reasonable, but laws that stifle free speech and free enterprise are bad for the spirits, by which we mean whiskey, gin, rum, and brandy, as well as entrepreneurial spirits. At every level of government, lawmakers should take a sober look at the baloney about booze that is in their statute books and take action to allow beer, wine, and liquor to flow freely.

And I'm still trying to figure out that regulation on dogs.

Jon Gabriel is not impressed with the complaints of the teachers striking for mo' money. They are upset that some state leaders don't want to continue to drain their treasuries by funding over-generous teacher pensions.
Last week, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin gave each Oklahoma public school teacher a massive 15 to 18 percent pay raise funded by the largest tax increase in state history. To show their appreciation, teachers went on strike demanding even more money. Today, 200 Oklahoma school districts are shut down, with students going uneducated and parents scrambling for daycare....

The Kentucky legislature passed a bill to reform the unsustainable state pension system last week so today all of Kentucky’s public schools are closed and thousands of teachers are protesting at the state capitol. Almost no one in the private sector has a pension, but taxpayers aren’t allowed even to tweak the extravagant pensions of government workers.

In Arizona, teachers and students have mobbed the state capitol and the governor’s office demanding a whopping 20 percent raise. Various schools organized “sick-outs” last month, with teachers feigning illness to avoid doing their jobs. Now teachers unions are threatening a statewide strike unless their outrageous demand is met.

Like most non-government workers, I’ve gone years at a time without a raise. For the same reason, I have been laid-off due to a bad economy. A pension? As if. Yet I never picketed my various employers, stopped showing up to work, or demanded that my overtaxed neighbors pony up cash.

I’m sure that teachers believe they’re underpaid; pretty much everyone thinks they’re underpaid. But they should remember that the vast majority of taxpayers also are struggling and have been for a long time. These strikes aren’t harming politicians, but kids and their parents. And the last thing an angry parent wants to do is to give more money to people making their lives miserable.

Meanwhile, all the teachers are showing up at my kids’ charter schools here in Arizona. I expect that a lot of new students will be joining them in the fall.
And Arizona has some of the best charter schools in the country.

Last week a woman named Carrey Purcell had a column in the Washington Post about why she refuses to date Jewish men anymore. Basing her experiences dating two, count 'em - two, Jewish men, she figured she could stereotype all Jewish men and publish her conclusions. In her mind, there could have been no reason that any Jewish man would break up with her slim, blonde, pearls-wearing, martini-making self except for the fact that she's a shiksa. Amazingly, she contradicts this conclusion based on two data points with all the data on intermarriages by Jews that she cites in her own essay.

It's amazing that something like this can get published in a major newspaper. As Danielle Tcholakian points out, some editor had to choose to publish this in the Post.
Is the essay anti-Semitic? Yes. Is the writer? I don’t know. Is the editor? Also unclear — but the editor did choose to publish the piece. While the internet drags the freelance writer, per our 21st century customs, there was at least one editor, if not more, who approved this piece, who published it, who put it out into the world. Why? A yen for hate clicks? An inability to see all the logical flaws and anti-Semitism in it and respond to the writer with some constructive feedback? You’re making a judgment about an entire group of people based on two relationships that you say failed because of reasons unrelated to your faith. This is going to be read by a lot of people as anti-Semitic and reductive and also just not very smart.

Reactions on Twitter were not amused, but they were funny. I guess Jerry Seinfeld is right - Jews do make the best comedians. The funniest satire was from Talia Lavin (or as she calls herself "A Waspy Chick") in The Forward. Skip the original story and stay for the satire.
Hi there, readers! It’s me, a woman who will now cutesily compare myself to Carrie Bradshaw, as if I am simply a spunky newsgal, and not at all someone about to publish something astonishingly bigoted in a national newspaper. My editors did me no favors by choosing to publish this, but I’m going to go ahead and blithely hang myself out to dry anyhow! This is fun. I’m fun.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about why my two latest breakups are actually the Jews’ fault.

You see, I tried to date a Jew. Two Jews, actually — consecutively, possibly — but since I don’t name or differentiate them in any way, I’m just gonna call them, collectively, “Mr. Jew.” (Very Sex and the City, right? I’m fun.) Anyway, I cover theater in New York, and you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Jew or two around here. Not that I want to throw stones at Jews at all. Well, maybe a little, but it’s subconscious.