February 21st, 2017

Trump, the MSM, and Swedish crime

So, first thing that happened was that Trump made an ambiguous and poorly-worded remark about Sweden’s crime and how it relates to immigration:

…[T]here’s also a problem with Trump that I see in [his statement] “you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” I understand the explanation. He meant that if you looked at TV the previous night, you could have seen a segment on Tucker Carlson that was about Sweden. That eliminates the confusion caused by his slightly screwy language that had lots of people wondering about something that supposedly had just happened in Sweden.

Trump isn’t just not lawyeresque in his speech (and since most people hate the way lawyers speak, they probably consider that a good thing); he’s often so imprecise and vague that the MSM and opponents can project whatever meaning they want into his statements. Now, this would happen anyway, but why give them so much of a golden opportunity? Why not make them work a little harder, and be less plausible in their misinterpretations?

But that’s not Trump’s way. I see it as a problem, although I’m sure a lot of Trump supporters see it as a plus, and see him as leading his opponents to make stupid statements themselves and having to correct them later. The trouble is that the correction doesn’t always reach all that many people.

So, what happened just a few hours after this particular war of words? Riots in areas of Sweden in which many immigrants live:

The [predominantly immigrant] neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather.

Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots with intention to hit a rioter, but did not strike his target.

The issue about which Trump was originally speaking was whether the influx of immigrants in recent years has increased crime in Sweden. The WaPo takes pains to offer a statistic that says no: “The newspaper Dagens Nyheter analyzed crime statistics between October 2015 and January 2016 and came to the conclusion that refugees were responsible for only 1 percent of all incidents.” But as Hot Air points out, that’s somewhat misleading:

Sweden’s overall crime rate is down since 2005 despite having admitted many thousands of migrants and refugees in the years since. Preliminary data for 2015-16 also shows no rise in overall crime, but it did show a rise in assaults and rapes accompanied by a drop in drug crimes and theft. (Sweden hasn’t published crime stats showing an offender’s immigration status for more than a decade.) One Swedish criminologist interviewed by the Times conceded that immigrants are overrepresented among offenders, “particularly in more serious and violent offenses,” but that many victims of crime are immigrants too, which is what you’d expect.

I think that perhaps the most interesting thing in that paragraph is that Sweden stopped compiling statistics on immigrants and crime over ten years ago. This had to have been purposeful. It certainly has had the effect of obscuring the issue and making it even more difficult to say anything intelligent about it. Lumping all crimes together and then seeing if there’s been a general increase or decrease tells you almost nothing about what proportion of crimes are committed by immigrants and what types of crimes are involved.

February 21st, 2017

Administration announces new illegal immigration enforcement rules

The headline in USA today announces “Homeland Security unveils sweeping plan to deport undocumented immigrants.” When I first read that, I assumed that this represented some sort of blueprint for going after “undocumented” (people who arrived here illegally) immigrants all over the US, which would be fulfilling one of the more controversial promises of the Trump campaign.

But instead it seems to be a plan to tighten up border security and to suggest that ICE actually deport more of the people authorities find as they first arrive and are detained. In other words, an end to (or at least a diminution of) “catch and release*”:

The memos require undocumented immigrants caught entering the country to be placed in detention until their cases are resolved, increase the ability of local police to help in immigration enforcement, call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents and allow planning to begin on an expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.

What percentage of Americans have trouble with that? Probably a lot fewer than with some sort of mass roundup and deportation policy. This announcement seems like a case of enforcing immigration laws in a way that makes it clear that if you want to enter this country you should come legally, under our rules. It doesn’t do much about changing the status quo for people who already came here illegally, and it doesn’t touch DACA either.

When you add the directive (as Homeland Security did) that “The memos make undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime the highest priority for enforcement operations,” it makes even more sense and is even less controversial. But naturally:

Immigration advocacy groups were crushed…

“These memos lay out a detailed blueprint for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Educational Fund, which advocates on behalf of immigrants. “They fulfill the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements and bring to life the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.”

But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says “What (Homeland Security Secretary John) Kelly has done is lay out a broad road map of regaining control of a process that’s spun out of control.”

Seems to me that with immigration we have three main issues. The first is how many legal immigrants we wish to let in and under what rules. Do we want to reform that process? Do we want to expand or to contract that number? How do we vet them, and who vets them?

The second issue is what to do about the illegal immigrants who are already here. And the third is what to do about those newly entering. It seems to me that these new Trump administration directives (and I have only read summaries and skimmed parts of them rather than reading the entire document) deal predominantly with that third issue. In so doing, the policy has a chilling effect on those entering illegally and planning to enter illegally. That chilling effect is almost certainly intentional. In addition, however—and with the assistance of the MSM and immigrant activists—it probably has the effect of striking fear into the hearts of those who are already here illegally.

It seems to me that the aim of the whole thing is indeed to “regain control of a process that’s spun out of control.” It remains to be seen how this will actually play out and be implemented in the real world—and whether further directives will be issued that expand the process and involve a great many of the people who are already here. I am sure, however, that even if all that happens is that deportation numbers increase among those who are newly arrived along the border, the press will treat us to an almost endless series of stories about their pathetic fate at the hands of those heartless ICE employees.

And many of the stories will be sad. But a nation has a right and a duty to make decisions regarding who to let into that country and under what conditions. If the people of the US wanted to let in many millions more immigrants from Latin America a year legally they could, although that would take changing the current laws on legal immigration. It’s about who gets to decide and whether reasonable laws will be enforced reasonably.

[NOTE: * “Catch and release” is the policy under which “many undocumented immigrants are processed by immigration agents, released into the country and ordered to reappear for court hearings.”

Here’s how well it workedin the past:

Historically, due to the lack of resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people, as well as the lengthy time period between apprehension and being ordered deported, catch-and-release was the de facto policy followed by ICE: those believed to be in violation of immigration status were released and given a date when they were to appear before an immigration judge for their deportation hearing. Knowing that coming to a hearing could lead to them being deported, many of these people simply failed to turn up to their hearings. In July 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis reported that at some federal immigration courts, 98% of the defendants failed to show up.

Which makes perfect sense. Why would they show up?

The policy was ended by the Bush administration in 2005-6, and reinstated in part in the later years of the Obama administration, although there’s disagreement about to what extent.]

February 20th, 2017

It’s General McMaster for National Security Advisor

This sounds excellent:

General McMaster is a former commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, my old unit. I served in Iraq with a host of guys who’d served under McMaster in the Battle of Tal Afar in 2005, and almost to a man they loved him. I never served under him (I came along for the next deployment), but many of the people I respect the most were with him during one of the Iraq War’s most significant urban battles and came away deeply impressed.

…Indeed, I’d call McMaster the Neil Gorsuch of generals…

With the exception of his loyalty hire of Michael Flynn, Trump’s key generals — James Mattis, John Kelly, and now H.R. McMaster — represent the best of modern military leadership. Their presence in the government is deeply reassuring. It’s now incumbent on President Trump to heed their counsel and give them the level of authority that they have earned.

That’s high praise indeed, particularly considering the source—David French, who’s not exactly been what you’d call a Trump fan.

February 20th, 2017

Well, I misplace my keys sometimes, too

Apparently there’s an eighth continent in the southwest Pacific.

A huge landmass, mostly submerged beneath the ocean, bears all the hallmarks of a continent, according to a new study published by the Geological Society of America. You may have heard of part of it: New Zealand…

The “Zealandia” moniker was coined by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk in 1995…

Luyendyk argued at the time Zealandia checked three of the four boxes to be considered its own continent. But now geologists say it checks all four: distinctive geology; a finite, defined area; crust thicker than the standard ocean floor; and elevation above the surrounding area. Zealandia apparently has it all.

The experts who penned the study, aptly titled “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent,” say if Zealandia had been mapped the same way scientists map Venus or Mars with current technology, we would have recognized it as its own continent much earlier.

Excuses, excuses.

February 20th, 2017

Fisk on Trump addiction

Despite the epic amount of Trump derangement syndrome expressed in this article (and the fact that it’s written by none other than Robert Fisk, the British journalist whose last name turned into a verb), Fisk actually has a point [in the following excerpt, I’ve edited out and substituted ellipses for all the Trump-bashing, and just left the parts I’m referring to]:

Eventually, when Donald Trump departs from us…I suspect we shall all feel the same as my landlord when the Lebanese war came to an end. For the really insidious nature of the Trump presidency, I fear, is not going to be the fury he engenders…but the enormous withdrawal symptoms that the world will suffer afterwards.

For Trump, let’s face it, is an addiction. Nothing will ever trump it. We all now need our evening fix – a mad press conference, laws hurled out of court, a square-jawed general brought low by an inane conversation with a Russian spy – just one more shot in the arm till the morning.

It’s much the same point I made back in December of 2015, albeit more briefly and less floridly. In contrast, Fisk goes on and on and on (and on and on and on…) about how batshit crazy Trump is—and how all his confederates are pretending he’s not, which Fisk finds bleakly amusing.

I am in agreement, though, that Trump is a sort of addiction—both for the MSM, his admirers, and his haters, in the US and in Europe and around the globe. Trump has always been a showman, so some of this is purposeful on his part. But not all.

Remember back at the beginning of the wild ride, when the media was considering Trump a joke and a flash in the pan? They still couldn’t stay away from him, because he was great copy. And now? For many on the right, whatever their quarrels with him, it’s satisfying to watch him do the things they’d long dreamed about and thought would never happen: appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court, for example, or tell off the press. Heady stuff.

For the left, it’s a kind of horrified fascination with someone so flamboyantly different, so beyond their wildest dreams in his combination of vulgarity and boldness, so initially improbable and even impossible as a president—a figure of fun and ridicule for them—and yet (at least for now) so firmly and horrifically ensconced in the Oval Office.

February 20th, 2017

Presidents’ Day: everybody gets a trophy

Today is Presidents’ Day.

Or is it “Presidents Day”? Or even “President’s Day”? You can find all those variations online, although if you parse them they mean very different things.

It was significantly easier before 1971, the year they consolidated Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays (no problem with the possessives there) into one holiday and moved it to the third Monday of February, where it floated around a bit in terms of dates.

I was surprised to learn that (at least, according to this site) it’s still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the feds. You could have fooled me—and the Post Office, whose website, in announcing the fact that post offices are closed today, refers to the holiday as “President’s Day.”

Note the possessive singular. No doubt it’s the nefarious Donald Trump again, giving out orders that it is his day and his alone! One president, now and forever.

It’s the singular, too, for whatever number of people will be gathering together to show how fervently and righteously (lefteously?) un-Trump they are in honor of what they are calling “Not my President’s Day.”

More on the history of the day itself:

By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies.

Of course, people are now free to celebrate whatever president they wish to honor. How about some of the more obscure ones? Let’s have a big trophy for everyone!

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.

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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