February 18th, 2017

La La Land

Anyone seen this movie? It’s up for a gazillion Oscars, and it’s a musical (of all things). So last night I went to see it.

I liked it more than I’d expected to. One of the more astounding things about the film is that its director/writer and composer are both just barely over thirty, and they’ve been pitching this thing for a long long time. They started working on it as roommates at Harvard, one in the film/media department and one in the music department. Now they are wildly successful, which is appropriate because the movie is (in part) about success in the arts.

Two things in the film I found to be excellent are Emma Stone’s incredibly natural and believable acting and Ryan Gosling’s piano playing. He was a musician before and has been since early in life, but he learned jazz piano for the movie in about three months of training, and his skill is now nothing short of impressive. And yes, it’s him doing all the ivory-tickling, as you can tell from the long and uninterrupted takes that showcase it.

Another noteworthy (and unusual) thing in the film is that—unlike the romantic duos in many movies—you actually believe that these two people love each other.

February 18th, 2017

Erythro­melalgia: hotfoot [Part I]

Here’s an article about a woman whose complaint was feet that were hot and red:

Melissa Curley Bogner was baffled: Why did her feet feel suddenly hot — in January?

The article goes on to describe her doctors’ befuddlement, their blind-alley treatments for infections and the like, before the patient herself Googled her symptoms and came up with several possibilities, among them erythromelalgia:

Another option was erythro­melalgia (EM), a rare and poorly understood disorder; the term literally means “red limb pain.” First described in 1878, the condition is characterized by red, hot and painful extremities, usually the feet and less commonly the hands.

Well, the doctors could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they’d asked me, because that was my leading theory the moment I began to read the article—actually, the moment I saw the photo that illustrated it:


Why? Because I had erythromelalgia for many many many years (at least 15, I’d say), beginning after I hurt my back in 1990. In those days, the internet wasn’t available, and my puzzled doctors (and I went to many, including experts on back injuries) had very little to say to me except that they weren’t familiar with it but in my case it seemed to come from a disturbance in the sympathetic nerves secondary to my back injury. I only discovered the name of the affliction many years later when I Googled the symptoms, just like Melissa Bogner.

There are many possible causes, but often no cause is found at all. I don’t think it’s quite as rare as the article says, but perhaps it is and I’m just sensitized to it and especially aware of it. It’s a strange affliction that can be mild or serious.

For over a decade, erythromelalgia was the bane of my existence (although not the only bane; see this), and I had to modify my life in many ways to deal with its burning pain: different shoes and socks (often sandals), sometimes putting feet in cold water, uncovering my feet at night and having a fan blow on them, avoiding heat in general, not being able to walk for too long, being unable to walk on the beach.

Doctors told me that in my case the temperature regulation in my feet had gotten its thermostat stuck on “on.” I’m not sure whether that’s a good explanation for all erythro­melalgia cases, but it certainly seemed to fit mine quite well, and that was the way I came to conceptualize it. At the time, there was no medication that could help. Later they discovered that for some people, drugs that usually treated epileptic seizures could be useful, but when I took them they were only marginally effective for me.

One of the many odd things about EM is that you can see it, and even other people can feel it. When mine was very active, for example, my feet would turn bright bright red, and if a person touched them he/she could almost feel the sizzle with the hand. So no one suggested I was feigning anything; it would have been quite a feat (pun intended) had I been able to do that.

The problem sounds trivial, perhaps. But it was not. In addition to being painful 24/7, it was frightening and limiting. It had started very suddenly one day about six weeks after my initial back injury. I had taken a bath and gotten out of the tub, and I noticed that one of my feet felt odd, sort of numb but sort of painful at the same time. These odd and difficult-to-describe sensations changed over time in an unpredictable manner (they are called paresthesias; I’ve described that aspect of things here in some detail). They have a creepy quality that adds to their awfulness.

An hour passed, and my other foot began to have the same sensations, so that now both were disordered and strange. It felt as though I were walking on scratchy wool socks, or had blisters on the soles of my feet, but my feet were bare and there were no blisters to be seen. I had no idea what was happening, and I was frightened.

Over time it did not go away, but it morphed in unpredictable ways. Some days were better than others, but in general the nights tended to be worse. I had to replace all my shoes and all my socks. The socks now needed to be super-smooth, and even then they felt scratchy. The shoes—well, no shoes were comfortable, but I found one or two that felt less uncomfortable (they tended to be ugly). When I walked on a treadmill (my usual exercise; it was wintertime) within five minutes or so the burning would start, and it would get worse for a while and then usually stabilize enough for me to be able to finish. After my walk I’d shower, soak my feet in cold water, lie in bed with a fan on them, and wait till they cooled down at least somewhat.

This lasted for over ten years.

[NOTE: This is the first part of a 2-part series.]

February 18th, 2017

Divorcing over Trump

Yes, it happens:

“It totally undid me that he could vote for Trump,” said McCormick, 73, who had not thought of leaving the conservative Republican before but felt “betrayed” by his support for Trump.

“I felt like I had been fooling myself,” she said. “It opened up areas between us I had not faced before. I realized how far I had gone in my life to accept things I would have never accepted when I was younger.”…

Sixteen percent said they have stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election – up marginally from 15 percent. That edged higher, to 22 percent, among those who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Overall, 13 percent of respondents said they had ended a relationship with a family member or close friend over the election, compared to 12 percent in October.

I find this incredibly sad. But not surprising.

February 18th, 2017

The courts rule on Trump’s intent and the “Muslim ban”

Those who say that of course Trump’s EO on immigration was meant to be a ban on Muslims are relying on Trump’s long-ago campaign statements as well as a more recent remark of his and some recent comments by advisor Rudy Giuliani. As an example of this type of reasoning, see this article by law professor Ilya Somin, quoting Brown University Professor Corey Brettschneider (writing here):

[A] closer look at the executive order’s origins makes clear that it is a direct assault on the fundamental constitutional values of equal protection and religious freedom. How do we know this? Because Trump’s adviser, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told us so.

Interviewed on Fox News on January 28 [2017], Giuliani explained how the administration’s immigration policy morphed from one that was obviously unconstitutional to one that is more subtly so. Host Jeanine Pirro asked, “Does the ban have anything to do with religion?” In response, Giuliani said, “When [Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’” “It,” in this case, of course, is a ban on Muslims. Giuliani’s admission is a textbook case of drafting an order in a way that avoids overt declaration of animus against a religious or ethnic group, while retaining the motive and much of the effect.

“Of course” it means a ban on Muslims, says Brettschneider, who feels this is so self-evident as to not need argument or proof to defend his position. But of course there’s no “of course” about it. That’s because (similar to President Bill Clinton so famously said about another 2-letter word that starts with “i”) “It depends what the meaning of it is.”

Brettschneider is apparently a mind-reader, because the meaning of “it” in Giuliani’s sentence is not clear. Giuliani could have meant “banning Muslims,” just as Brettschneider thinks. Or he could have meant “protecting us from terrorists,” which after all was the stated goal of the EO and even of the original suggestion by Trump to ban Muslims.

But you know what? We don’t have to guess what Giuliani meant by the word “it” there—we can look to the record, because there’s a video of the Giuliani interview. Here it is:

Here is a direct quote from Giuliani during that interview:

We focused on, instead of religion: danger, the areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion, it’s based on places where there are [sic] substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

I don’t know how Giuliani could have been more clear. Giuliani explicitly says what “it” means: the goal of banning the entry of people from places where terrorists come from and will be coming from (places which, by the way, had already been identified by Obama as such). But Somin calls the EO a “case of discriminatory motives hiding behind a vener [sic] of neutrality…an attempt to target Muslims without saying so explicitly.”

Neither Somin nor Brettschneider feels the need to discuss anything else Giuliani said in that interview except that one sentence they say is a clear and obvious admission of a Muslim ban intent. They don’t give us the whole quote and try to explain it; they act as though the sentence stood alone and they can explain it any way they want to. And of course (there’s that “of course” again) they are free to say something like “the it to which Giuliani referred was a Muslim ban, and we negate everything else he said in his explanation because we think it was a lie,” but to pretend that’s anything but their opinion, and that their conclusion is supported by Giuliani’s own words in that Pirro interview is to use a truncated quote to prove something that is simply not provable.

Their argument, such as it is, rests on believing the worst of Trump (and Giuliani) without proof, claiming Giuliani is flat-out lying here—and not even giving their readers the benefit of the full quotes, so the readers can decide for themselves. They are certainly free to think that, but as a logical argument it leaves a great deal to be desired.

In terms of the actual court rulings, the 9th Circuit didn’t rule one way or the other on the basis of religious discrimination. However, there was a subsequent case in Maryland, in which the ruling of the judge was that Trump’s EO was religiously discriminatory:

[On February 13], Virginia federal district court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a preliminary injunction against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, based on the fact that it discriminates against Muslims. Judge Brinkema’s opinion is especially notable because it is the first judicial ruling against the order based on the issue of religious discrimination.

The opinion relies on Trump’s own statements advocating a “Muslim ban,” and those of his adviser Rudy Giuliani as evidence of the discriminatory intent underlying the order.

So now we have a court relying on that Giuliani statement. Amazing.

Here’s the ruling. On page 6, the judge states that the government hasn’t provided any evidence about why the 7 countries were judged dangerous. I’m assuming the government argued in the same way it did before the 9th Circuit (which I’ve already discussed briefly in this post), the essence of which is that such information is not reviewable by the courts.

On pages 7-9 of the ruling we have a couple of Trump’s earlier statements, one of them going back to 2011, which is long before this campaign year—and that statement merely says there’s a “Muslim problem” and explicitly says that it’s not all Muslims and that “many Muslims” are fine. The court also offers a statement by Trump on January 17, 2017, in a Leslie Stahl interview: “Call it whatever you want, change territories [sic], but there are territories and terror states and terror nations that we’re not gonna allow the people to come into our country.”

Now, if anyone can take that inarticulate statement as clear evidence of some sort of intent at all, other than an indication that Trump is tired of all the nitpicking and questioning on the subject and is interested in preventing terrorists from coming into this country, then I submit that such a person is not being objective. In Trump’s heart of hearts he may hate Muslims, and religious animus may in fact be his motive for all of this. But I just don’t see it there, nor do I see an attempt to cover up that religious motive. All of it certainly should be considered highly insufficient as evidence. What’s more, Trump has made a great many statements (as did Pence and Giuliani), and many of them focus on terrorism. Must they all be ignored by the court as lies, and a few others cherry-picked and interpreted as negatively as possible to deduce evil anti-Muslim intent?

On page 9 of the record the court also offers Giuliani’s full statement in the Pirro interview (the video I posted above). Despite this, at the end of page 18 to the beginning of page 19 Judge Brinkema explicitly interprets the “it” (in that sentence of Giuliani’s I’ve already discussed) as meaning a Muslim ban. She explicitly rejects what Giuliani actually said in the rest of his statement, picking and choosing at will and interpreting an ambiguous word (“it”) to mean exactly what Giuliani said it didn’t mean.

Then Brinkema does something very similar with Trump’s “call it anything you want, we’ll call it territories, okay?” But it seems to me that in that interview Trump is indicating—at the point the interview was given, on January 17, 2017– that they—the media—are the ones still “calling it” a Muslim ban. Trump is saying that what he intends to do is to ban people from certain territories or terror states in order to prevent terrorists from coming here. Furthermore, Trump is not a lawyer and he is famous for the imprecision of his words, and this is certainly a very imprecise and unclear statement (unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate a transcript or video of this Stahl interview to get the fuller context, which could help).

At the end of page 19 Judge Brinkema mentions again “the dearth of evidence indicating a national security purpose,” But let me repeat that that dearth is not because there is no such evidence to be had, it’s because the DOJ is arguing in these cases that such evidence is not going to be introduced because the court’s demand for it is an improper usurpation of a power that rightly belongs to the executive branch and is not subject to judicial review.

It bears repeating that I’m not any sort of kneejerk Trump advocate. I criticized the EO initially for some of its omissions, in particular the lack of differentiation for green card holders. I most definitely criticized Trump’s “Muslim ban” statements during the campaign as overbroad, and I suggested a country-by-country ban or an ideological ban instead. But that doesn’t mean that I am free to interpret every ambiguous statement Trump has made since to mean that he’s just covering up some special lingering animus he has for Muslims. I think his true interest is in preventing terrorists from coming to this country. But what I really think is that the courts are using “evidence” of prior statements that are ambiguous at best, and that the EO should stand and fall on its own merits. The EO does exactly what it says it does, and the court should not be guessing at whether there is some sort of Trumpian thoughtcrime behind it.

Why am I going into all of this now? Well, Trump has recently said he will be issuing a new EO on the subject soon, an EO in which he will be abiding by the rules the 9th Circuit has set up. He’s got a team of lawyers drafting it. But what’s to stop a liberal or leftist judge from once again considering these prior statements of Trump’s about Muslim bans and territories and the Giuliani statement as well, and saying that—no matter how they draft that new EO—their evil old anti-Muslim thoughtcrime intent is what’s really behind it?

[NOTE: This post doesn’t even take into consideration some of the other important questions, such as the fact that the EO didn’t ban the vast majority of Muslims, and whether constitutional protections about religion even apply to prospective immigrants or visitors to this country who presently reside in other countries. I think there are are persuasive indications that the EO was constitutional in regard to these constitutional questions, but if I had tackled those things in this post it would have turned into even more of a tome than it already is.]

February 17th, 2017

Who is Chris Cillizza fooling?

[NOTE: I wrote the draft of this post before yesterday’s press conference, in which Trump certainly did call on hostile press representatives from liberal news outlets. So Cillizza’s very specific complaint (that Trump only called on friendly sources) no longer applies. But the more general points made in this piece still do, so I’m posting it anyway.]

Chris Cillizza thinks we should be scared, very scared.

Cillizza notes that President Trump has had 3 press conferences with foreign leaders so far, and that the format these usually follow is that a president takes two questions from the domestic press and one from the foreign press. He says that Trump has taken questions from the following outlets: NY Post, Fox, ABC 7 (Sinclair), Daily Caller, Christian Broadcasting Network, and Townhall. He then adds: “All six of those outlets are conservative or conservative leaning.” He also says that both Obama and Bush were different from Trump; Obama called on USA Today, WSJ, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg, and Bush called on AP, Reuters, NBC, Fox, AP, Reuters, CNN, NBC, and Fox.

Cillizza’s reaction:

…there is a difference in taking questions from outlets with a partisan lean and taking them from mainstream media outlets who are absolutely committed to playing it straight. If Obama had only taken questions from the Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Rachel Maddow, conservatives would be up in arms. And rightly so!

There is much to mull over in those two sentences. The first is Cillizza’s astounding assumption that—as opposed to Fox, the NY Post, etc.—news operations such as AP, NBC, AP, Reuters, and CNN “are absolutely committed to playing it straight.” He is supposed to be a person who keeps up with things, and as a journalist he cannot fail to have noted that polls indicate that the vast majority of people distrust the MSM and think it is biased.

Maybe, though, Cillizza thinks all those people believe it’s biased towards conservatives, and that it’s Fox they think is the one not “absolutely committed to playing it straight,” unlike all those others. Well, um, not really (results from a poll taken shortly after the 2016 election):

7 in 10 (69%) voters do not believe the news media are honest and truthful.
8 in 10 (78%) of voters believe the news coverage of the presidential campaign was biased, with nearly a 3-to-1 majority believing the media were for Clinton (59%) vs. for Trump (21%).
Even 1/3 (32%) of Clinton voters believe the media were “pro-Clinton.”

So the vast majority of people believe that the MSM is biased against Trump and against the right. They don’t seem to believe in that “absolute commitment” that Cillizza claims. In fact, many people would find Cillizza’s statement mildly amusing in a sadly ironic sort of way.

Cillizza goes on:

That’s a very dangerous precedent — and should worry you whether you voted for Trump, voted for Hillary Clinton or didn’t vote at all in the 2016 election. Why? Because the partisan press is not the same thing as the free and independent press. (That’s true of outlets on the right and the left.) The partisan press is playing to an audience who shares a certain viewpoint. The independent media is trying to hold power to account. That’s not the same mission even though those things do, sometimes, run in the same direction.

Hate Trump or love him, the idea that he is purposely freezing out mainstream media reporters because he doesn’t like the sort of questions they ask is chilling. Down that path lies nothing good for journalism — or democracy.

Ah Chris, Chris: welcome to 2017. We agree that “the partisan press is not the same thing as the free and independent press.” We just disagree that there is much of a free and independent press left.

By the way (this is just an aside, Chris) the independent media’s task is not to “hold power to account.” That’s a leftist meme; you might want to rethink that if you want us to believe you are impartial (not to mention how little “holding to account” the MSM did when Barack Obama was in power). The goal of an independent press should be to report the truth, find the truth, ferret out the truth, wherever it may lie.

Let me add, Chris, that we already went “down that path” long ago. You just didn’t notice it (or want to acknowledge it) because you weren’t the one being frozen out. That high and mighty “free and independent” rag you write for, the WaPo, isn’t thought of that way by most of America. But you want us to believe what you say rather than our lying eyes.

Perhaps you also forget when Obama excoriated Fox News in a rather Trumpian way. Let’s refresh your memory:

After months of taking incoming fire from the prime-time stars of Fox News, the Obama White House is firing back, charging that FOX News is different from all other news.

“FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican party,” said Anita Dunn, White House communications director.

“If media is operating basically as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing, and if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another,” Mr. Obama said.

And the White House has gone beyond words, reports CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Last Sept. 20, the president went on every Sunday news show – except Chris Wallace’s show on FOX. And on Thursday, the Treasury Department tried to exclude FOX News from pool coverage of interviews with a key official. It backed down after strong protests from the press.

“All the networks said, that’s it, you’ve crossed the line,” said CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid.

Tension between presidents and the press is as old as the Republic. FDR was so incensed by the war reporting of one New York Daily News correspondent he tried to present him with an Iron Cross from Nazi Germany. John Kennedy tried to get New York Timesman David Halberstam pulled out of Vietnam; and Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s assaults on the network press is legendary.

“We have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism,” Agnew said.

What gives this dust-up special irony is that FOX News success comes in no small part from its ability to convince its viewers that the “mainstream” media are slanted to the left. Now, the White House is arguing that the network is not a real news organization at all, and that has brought some mainstream media voices to its defense..

…Such as, for example, CBS (the source of that story). That’s how bad what Obama did was. And note all the other precedents for what you call “a very dangerous precedent” set by Trump.

Ah, but surely Cillizza wasn’t around when Obama’s Communications Director Anita Dunn called said Fox News would be treated as “an opponent” at “war” with the White House, and was not acting like a “legitimate news organization.” This set what would seem to be a bad precedent (unless a person thinks Fox is fair game because it’s not the independent and impartial source that the WaPo is). Well, it turns out the Cillizza was around; here’s what he had to say when Anita Dunn left her administration post and her deputy Dan Pfeiffer came in to replace her:

On Oct. 11, speaking on CNN, Dunn attacked Fox News as “a wing of the Republican Party.” Her comments sparked a fresh battle between the White House and the network. In response to the criticism, Fox News executive Michael Clemente said in a statement that Obama’s aides had decided to “declare war on a news organization.”

A source in the White House, who was not authorized to speak about strategy meetings, said at the time the Dunn went out front against Fox first and foremost because it was her job, but also because it potentially gave the administration the opportunity to distance itself from the flap with the Roger Ailes-led news channel once she leaves the communications job.

Pretty mild.

Translated: she was about to leave anyway, so she became the attack dog for Obama on Fox so that he could maintain plausible deniability once she left.

But my original question was: who does Cillizza think he’s fooling? My answer (and I bet many of you will disagree) is that I don’t think he thinks he’s fooling anyone. I think he believes what he’s saying. Fish don’t realize they’re swimming in water, and Cillizza (and much of the rest of the MSM) doesn’t see his own biases. After all, they are surrounded by people who agree.

February 17th, 2017

A cop-killing averted

Here’s how the situation began:

[Officer] Bardes and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper were at the scene of a car crash when Strother’s Toyota Camry swerved and drove along the left shoulder at what seemed to be at least 100 miles per hour, nearly striking the officers, a witness told the News-Press.

Believing the near-crash was intentional, officials said, Bardes chased the Camry southbound on I-75 until the driver stopped and got out of his car at an off-ramp.

There are witnesses to the following, as well as photos. Strother, the driver, managed to deck Officer Bardes, who fell to the ground, whereupon Strother straddled him and beat him. Strother was also reaching for the officer’s firearm. Then:

A few feet away, Ashad Russell, who had a concealed-carry permit, was also watching the attack unfold. Russell pulled his gun and approached, the review said. He told the attacker that “he would shoot Strother if he didn’t stop beating the deputy.”

On the ground, the deputy “pled for help and asked that Russell shoot Strother.”

Russell shot, and Strother died. Under Florida law, this is allowable “because [Russell] had ‘a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm’ to the deputy, the state attorney’s office concluded.”

And, as you might have expected, Strother’s brother:

…criticized the sheriff’s response to Strother’s death and questioned the details of the fight. “They are calling him a good Samaritan?” Louis Strother told the News-Press. “Was my brother armed?”

I guess trying to hit an officer with your car at high speed, and then trying to get his firearm while straddling and beating him isn’t good enough to be called “armed.”

Oh, and by the way: both Strother and Russell were black, and Bardes white.

February 17th, 2017

Trump’s presser: beauty in the eye of the beholder

I don’t usually listen to these things (I’m not an auditory person, as I’ve said before). However, late last night I watched most of Trump’s presser, and I must say it was entertaining.

But Trump has often been entertaining. It is one of his most salient characteristics. In this case he was entertaining at the expense of the press, and if members of the MSM were hopping mad at him before (and they were), now they are shrieking mad at him. And outraged.

For example, Chuck Todd: “This not a laughing matter. I’m sorry, delegitimizing the press is unAmerican.”

Ah, but attempting to delegitimize a president—now, that’s a wonderful thing.

Todd and many others don’t understand why to so many Americans it is a laughing matter at this point. Freedom of the press is sacred. But the press has become a monster, grown very used to “speaking truth to power” without much truth as long as that “power” they’re addressing is on the right, and to protecting power when it’s on the left.

The American people aren’t dumb, any more than Donald Trump is dumb. But the MSM has underestimated both.

The MSM has also become very used to wrapping itself in a cloak of “freedom of the press” sanctity. The press is actually still very free—and we (and presidents, too) are free to judge it on its merits. America has found the press very very wanting. America believes that the press has delegitimized itself.

At that Trump presser, the press didn’t know what hit them. That’s not surprising; they’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake about Trump, although at this point they should have caught on some time ago. They expected to encounter a fallen, broken man, and to administer a few more well-placed blows to his solar plexus. Didn’t happen.

I’ll send them a little message, except I don’t think many of them read me, but here it is: Trump isn’t dumb. He’s pretty canny, and he knows how to mock people, in case you hadn’t noticed. Like him or hate him, he’s a good comedian as well, and at least half the country already likes and trusts him. That’s more people than like and trust you, and that fact is not because of anything Trump has said about you, it’s about your behavior for several decades and beyond. And the more sanctimonious you act about yourselves, the more you will be hated.

What did I think of the press conference, besides the fact that it was entertaining? I thought that, between the insults and the jokes, on the substantive issues Trump was fairly articulate and he didn’t seem at all unhinged, although sometimes he exaggerated (this is Trump, after all). He seemed shrewd and aggressive, but totally in control of his faculties and not crazy in the least.

He also made some good points, which as far as I can see the liberal press is ignoring in all its outraged victimhood—for example, that Hillary might have reported it when she was given debate questions ahead of time, but she didn’t. Another good point was that all the brouhaha about Russia, which Trump considers “fake news,” could have the consequence of making any sort of actual rapprochement with Russia more difficult.

And as with most things Trump, his supporters will love this presser and his opponents will hate it.

[ADDENDUM: Oh, and right on cue, we have some seemingly fake news from the AP.]

February 17th, 2017

Tear down those walls!

Mull this one over:

Other New York City elected officials used the [deportation] raids to make a broader point. “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” shouted New York City Council members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin at a rally in Tompkins Square Park. City councilmember Carlos Menchaca posted on Facebook that the Palestine/Mexico refrain is his “fave new chant.”

Oh, those friendly Palestinians, just seeking to come to Israel looking for work and opportunity, and getting shut out by that nasty wall.

I’ve got an idea, Mendez and Chin and Menchaca. You first.

Let’s start with the locks on your doors. Oh, they’re there for protection, are they? I have news for you. So are those walls. One (Mexico) protects our borders from intruders who are not following the rules we have set up to let people into our “house”—our country, that is. The other (Israel) protects the lives of the people that live there from murderers who would kill them.

February 16th, 2017

I will not always be commenting on the Trump story du jour

Not every single day, anyway.

There is a repetitive pattern to it that has become extremely boring. “Boring” doesn’t mean “unimportant.” It’s important, and I will continue to cover these events and react to them and analyze them. But I will not hop to deal with every single one. I will not play continual whack-a-mole, as the pace increases.

The pattern? The stories all push the following lines about Trump: chaos/turnoil, the brave “resistance” (or “Resistance,” a la WWII) to him, innuendos of terrible wrongdoing without evidence, calls from random people for his resignation and/or impeachment, condemnation from the Times and its fellows for things that in Obama would have been ignored or praised, and the latest supposedly dumb and/or outrageous (or maybe actually dumb and/or outrageous) tweet from our Tweeter-in-Chief.

All I will say today about this is that Trump apparently gave a press conference in which he unloaded on the press. Good. That link I just gave illustrates that there was plenty of substance in the presser, too, including the fact that Trump says he will issue a new and revised immigration EO soon. Good.

February 16th, 2017

Coming out as a gay conservative

Since I’m always interested in political changers, I want to draw your attention to this brave soul. Chadwick Moore is a gay man of 33 who lives in Brooklyn, a “lifelong” liberal (I guess 33 years seems long when you’re 33) who recently wrote a piece for Out magazine on Milo Yiannopoulos. The article was neither pro nor con; he merely tried to be fair to him and present the facts.

Well, your can imagine the reaction. Yes, indeed: “Moore found himself pilloried by fellow Democrats and ostracized by longtime friends.” Here’s some of what Moore has to say about it:

Personal friends of mine — men in their 60s who had been my longtime mentors — were coming at me. They wrote on Facebook that the story was “irresponsible” and “dangerous.” A dozen or so people unfriended me. A petition was circulated online, condemning the magazine and my article. All I had done was write a balanced story on an outspoken Trump supporter for a liberal, gay magazine, and now I was being attacked. I felt alienated and frightened.

I laid low for a week or so. Finally, I decided to go out to my local gay bar in Williamsburg, where I’ve been a regular for 11 years. I ordered a drink but nothing felt the same; half the place — people with whom I’d shared many laughs — seemed to be giving me the cold shoulder. Upon seeing me, a friend who normally greets me with a hug and kiss pivoted and turned away…

My best friend, with whom I typically hung out multiple times per week, was suddenly perpetually unavailable. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he sent me a long text, calling me a monster, asking where my heart and soul went, and saying that all our other friends are laughing at me.

This got Moore to thinking, as well it might. He decided that maybe liberals weren’t as tolerant as he’d previously thought. And as he sought out more people on the right and spoke to them, he discovered they weren’t as intolerant as he’d previously thought. And he ended up here:

I finally had to admit to myself that I am closer to the right than where the left is today. And, yes, just three months ago, I voted for Hillary Clinton.

I’ve written before many times about political changers, both my own story and those of others (see right sidebar). All stories are different, and all are somewhat alike. Moore’s story is marked, I think, by its speed, but that sometimes happens (mine was slower). Sometimes political affiliation is a sort of house of cards, and knock one of the supporting pillars down and the whole thing collapses.

I think Moore’s experience was relatively quick because it began with the personal: his ostracization by people he had thought were his friends. This was a wake-up call—pow in the gut, where it hurts. For most changers, including me, it happens the other way around: first the political change (perhaps for reasons more abstract), then the coming out, and then the angry reaction of people once thought to be friends. For me, that angry group was neither as large as for Moore nor as vicious for the most part as what he reports, but it was still a very distressing and even shocking experience.

The sentence of Moore’s that struck home the most powerfully for me was this one, because it points out the surprise of seeing something one has never really seen (or experienced personally) before:

I realized that, for the first time in my adult life, I was outside of the liberal bubble and looking in.

Moore adds that what he saw was ugly. I don’t run in circles as extreme or as politically-oriented as Moore does, and my experience occurred around 2003-2004 in an atmosphere that was somewhat milder in general in terms of political polarization. However, it is a strange experience to be on the outside looking in, for the first time.

I kept wanting to say to my friends, “You know me! You know I’m not mean, or stupid. I’m the same person I always was!”

Sometimes I did say that. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) we remained friends. With some people I still can discuss politics without it turning into a confrontation. With some, we avoid the topic. But since I never really did discuss politics that much with people in general, it’s not that hard to avoid doing so now. Some people did stop talking to me, but it was a minority.

In that I’m more fortunate than Moore, who is a journalist in 2017, and a gay journalist at that. His friends are probably highly political and even more activist and to the left than most of my friends, and many of them are probably younger as well. That makes it harder for him. I applaud his courage. He’ll find a home on the right, I think, and realize it can for the most part be a welcoming place. Maybe he already has realized that.

February 15th, 2017

And then there’s…

I keep trying to cover other stories, but the media hue and cry about Trump’s possible Russian connections keeps shrieking to be heard to the exclusion of just about everything else.

But here are a few other things that caught my eye (and one related thing)—

(1) In a meeting with Netanyahu, Trump continues with one of the self-appointed tasks of his presidency, repairing relations with Israel. The article happens to mention that the two leaders have a relationship that “reaches back to the 1980s.”

That’s a long time ago. I haven’t been able to locate the exact context for their meeting and lengthy friendship, although it’s been alluded to several times. But Netanyahu’s Wiki entry contains some strong clues:

In 1976 Netanyahu graduated near the top of his class at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and was headhunted to be an economic consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, Massachusetts, working at the company between 1976 and 1978. At the Boston Consulting Group, he was a colleague of Mitt Romney [!], with whom he formed a lasting friendship. Romney remembers that Netanyahu at the time was: “[A] strong personality with a distinct point of view”, and says “[w]e can almost speak in shorthand… [w]e share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar.” Netanyahu said that their “easy communication” was a result of “B.C.G.’s intellectually rigorous boot camp.”…

In 1978, Netanyahu returned to Israel. Between 1978 and 1980 he ran the Jonathan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, a non-governmental organization devoted to the study of terrorism…From 1980 to 1982 he was director of marketing for Rim Industries in Jerusalem…[he was appointed] Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., a position he held from 1982 until 1984. Between 1984 and 1988 Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations…

It was while living in New York during the 1980s, that Netanyahu became friends with Fred Trump, the father of Donald Trump.


(2) You’ve heard of the deep state, right? Now we have deep earth:

A huge well of molten carbon that would spell disaster for the planet if released has been found under the US.

Scientists using the world’s largest array of seismic sensors have mapped a deep-Earth area, covering 700,000 sq miles (1.8 million sq km).

This is around the size of Mexico, and researchers say it has the potential to cause untold environmental damage.

The discovery could change our understanding of how much carbon the Earth contains, suggesting it is much more than we previously believed.

Here’s a map:

They’re not kidding, big.

But oh, never mind:

[The study’s leader]…told Mail Online: ‘The residence time of this carbon in the mantle is relatively large (nearly 1 billion years), so this reserve is not an imminent threat.’

Huh? Does he mean “long” instead of “large”?

The article keeps generating doomsday scenarios and then taking them back. But the mere existence of the thing is a good reminder of how fragile is our hold on predicting the future.

(3) From Andrew McCarthy:

So, in June 2016, the Obama Justice Department sought permission from the FISA court to conduct a national-security investigation against Trump insiders — and perhaps even Trump himself — on suspicion that they were acting as agents of a foreign power. The FISA application is said to have “named” Trump, though it is not clear whether that means the Justice Department was targeting him as a surveillance subject. Apparently, though, the application was so thin that even the FISA court, though notoriously accommodating of government surveillance requests, declined to approve a warrant.

Still the Obama Justice Department did not give up. In October, virtually on the eve of the election, it submitted a second FISA application — this one more narrowly tailored, avoiding mention of Trump himself. The FISA court granted this application. Indications are that the investigation is ongoing, targeting former Trump advisers Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page.

That, however, was before the election. It was after the election that the Democrats went into overdrive to solidify conventional wisdom that the election was not lost but stolen from them.

Not only did the IC put out its empty bag of a report. President Obama undertook to act on that report with vigor. It was thus on December 29 that Obama announced measures to punish Russia for what his administration studiously called its “interference in this fall’s presidential election.” He expelled 35 people described as Russian “intelligence operatives”; slapped sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies (the military and civilian spy services, the GRU and FSB (which used to be the KGB) respectively), three companies said to support Russian cyber operations, and four “cyber officials”; and shuttered two Russian-owned buildings (on Long Island and Maryland’s eastern shoreline) described as intelligence facilities.

Mind you, Obama had not taken decisive action for eight years, during which Russia annexed Crimea, consolidated its de facto seizure of Eastern Ukraine, propped up Assad, armed Iran, buzzed U.S. naval vessels, and saber-rattled in the Baltics. But now, on December 29, on his way out of office and desperate to shore up an empty political “hacked the election” story, Obama moved with a fury of purpose, making the narrative seem deadly serious.

It was in this frenzied setting that General Flynn made a stupid mistake. He picked up the phone and called Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

It seems inconceivable that Flynn did not consider the likelihood, the virtual certainty, that he was calling a wiretapped line. It is hard to quantify how dumb this was. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, is not just a long-time intelligence veteran. He was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). How could he not have realized that, even in the best of times, Russian officials are routinely monitored under FISA — and this, far from the best of times, was a time of high suspicion?

Oh, just read the whole thing. Please.

(4) Melania Trump is reported to be unhappy as First Lady. This report could be bogus, and Melania denies its allegations, but I’m inclined to believe it’s at least somewhat true. If so, I really wouldn’t blame her one little bit.

February 15th, 2017

Obama’s secret negotiations with Iran

John Hinderaker reminds us of the following:

…in 2008, while he was running for the presidency, Barack Obama deliberately undermined American foreign policy by secretly encouraging Iran’s mullahs to hold out until he became president, because he would be easier to deal with than President George Bush. I wrote about the Obama scandal here: “HOW BARACK OBAMA UNDERCUT BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN.” Check out the original post for links. Here it is:

In 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers,” was negotiating with Iran concerning that country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined: “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” What caused the talks to founder? The Times explained:

“Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.”

The Iranians held firm to their position, perhaps because they knew that help was on the way, in the form of a new president. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3. At some point either before or after that date, but prior to the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be much easier to bargain with than President Bush…

So Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened…

Please read the whole thing.

This is a direct parallel with the present allegations about Trump, except that it’s worse because (a) Obama wasn’t even elected yet; he was merely the nominee; and (b) Iran is a far more irrational enemy than Russia and this concerned a vital matter of policy. What’s more, of course, the press was on Obama’s side and therefore protected him to a great extent.

We also know, of course—because it was recorded by media, not by wiretap—that Obama assured Russia in 2012 that he would have more “flexibility” after the election, when he would no longer have to answer to the American voter:

Mr Medvedev, who steps down in May, said he would pass on Mr Obama’s message to his successor Vladimir Putin, according to an audio recording of comments the two leaders made during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr Obama says: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.”

Mr Medvedev replies: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you …”

Mr Obama retorts: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

The media didn’t seem to care much about that. Of course, he was already president then, so the person he was promising to undercut was his own previous self.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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