Patterico's Pontifications

10/19/2017

Another World Leader Seeks to Solidify His Cult of Personality

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

The major countries of the world increasingly seem to gravitate towards cults of personality. Some leaders’ cults are more successful than others, of course. Vladimir Putin enjoys an approval rating of greater than 80% — aided by the fact that if you vociferously disapprove of him in public, you may go to jail or worse. Donald Trump, hampered by the annoying free-speech features of our republic, must slog on through with a decidedly less impressive 38% approval rating, forcing him to depend on a hardcore set of rabid partisans to carry the torch.

China’s Xi Jinping is more authoritarian and more successful. Judging from the results of the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress so far, Xi is well on his way to becoming the next Chairman Mao. The Guardian reports:

China’s communist leader, Xi Jinping, looks to have further strengthened his rule over the world’s second largest economy with the apparent confirmation that a new body of political theory bearing his name will be written into the party’s constitution.

On day two of a week-long political summit in Beijing marking the end of Xi’s first term, state media announced the creation of what it called Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

“The Thought is … a historic contribution to the party’s development,” Zhang Dejiang, one of the seven members of China’s top ruling council, the politburo standing committee, told delegates at the 19th party congress, according to Beijing’s official news agency, Xinhua.

Liu Yunshan, another standing committee member, said the elevation of Xi’s Thought into the party’s list of “guiding principles” was of “great political, theoretical and practical significance”. “All members of the party should study hard Xi’s ‘new era’ thought,” he was quoted as saying.

Xi has made it quite clear that, despite the expansion of free market activity in China, there will be no concomitant expansion of political freedom. Xi has consolidated power by jailing his political opponents under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign. Now, with this Maoist establishment of a school of thought in his name, Xi will effectively be an emperor.

In unrelated news, Xi and Trump are reported to get along well.

I recently read Red Scarf Girl, a book recommended to me by Mark Hemingway. The book is Ji-li Jiang’s memoir of experiencing Mao’s Cultural Revolution as a young girl of 12. The book is incredible for its description of the wave of utter insanity that washed over China in those years. The country had already experienced the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s Orwellian name for the economic program that killed over 50 million people. But of course nobody talked about that — and while the threat of going to jail and being tortured loomed over everyone’s heads, one should not minimize the genuine love that many people seemed to feel for Mao. You either loved him or pretended to love him, and Mao didn’t much care which. Even if you loved him, a neighbor who didn’t like you might make up a story about you — and if that happened, you were done. You would be made to confess thoughtcrimes you had not committed. You would be tortured until you fabricated stories about the guilt of friends and neighbors who had never helped you do anything.

I highly recommend the book. After I read it, my daughter chose it as a book to read and report on for school. Children need to learn about such cults as they begin to form their opinions about the world.

Cults of personality are real things, and you don’t just read about them in history books. They are going on in the world right now, as we speak. If I seem to worry about even a hint that one could be developing here, it is only because I have read Red Scarf Girl, or Bukovsky, or Solzhenitsyn.

Xi rules over a population of 1.4 billion people. That’s over four times the population of the United States. Information is tightly controlled. By contrast, some of the things we rail about here in the U.S. — a biased news media, leftist protests, and the like — are imperfect signs of the strength of our republic. As bad as our #FAKENEWS!! media often can be, Chinese dissidents can only dream of having a media as free and independent as ours. As annoying as it can be to see people “take a knee” to convey disrespect for our country, in China conveying that same disrespect will get you tossed in jail.

Public opinion polls show that a plurality of Republicans would give the federal government the power to shut down news organizations that the government determines are fabricating stories. One of our states is poised to elect a man to the U.S. Senate who believes it is illegal for football players to kneel during the national anthem.

This is insanity. It is not Cultural Revolution level insanity. But it’s inching along that path.

If you love liberty, now is the time to let your voice be heard. Don’t be a cultist. Join the group that believes in freedom.

We have cookies.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/18/2017

Confirmed: Trump Didn’t Send that $25,000 Check Until the Story Broke

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:14 pm

The necessary background for this is in Andrea Ruth’s post from yesterday evening. Trump had phoned the dad of fallen soldier Sgt. Dillon Baldbridge, and the dad said that his ex was getting the Pentagon’s $100k death benefit, while dad was nearly broke. In a seemingly magnanimous gesture, Trump promised to pay the dad $25,000 of his own personal funds. Dad later opened the mail and saw a card of condolence from Trump — but no check. Trump’s spokeshole was asked about this and she said the check was, um, in the mail. Also: HOW DARE THE MEDIA POLITICIZE THIS DAMMIT?!?!?!

So when was it actually sent? You guessed it: yesterday. The same day it hit the news:

President Donald Trump sent a $25,000 personal check to the family of a fallen soldier the same day that The Washington Post reported that he had promised the soldier’s father a personal donation during a June condolence call but never followed through.

A White House official confirms to CNN that the President sent a personal check Wednesday to the family of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge Wednesday. Baldridge, 22, was killed in June by an Afghan police officer.

Had the Washington Post not reported it, he was never going to send that man a dime. Not one thin dime.

This would be shockingly tawdry behavior, if we hadn’t seen it before. Remember when Trump ran like a baby from confronting Megyn Kelly in the debate just before Iowa? He used a fundraiser for vets as his fig leaf, and promised a cool million to veterans’ charities. Trouble was, he never had any intention of actually paying. The checks were sent only after David Farenthold of the #FAKENEWSBEZOSPOST shamed Trump into it.

Donald Trump has the morals of an out-of-control three-year-old. I’d say he should be ashamed, but he lacks the capacity for it. The people who should really be ashamed are the people who defend him when stories like this break. But they obviously lack the capacity for shame too.

If you’re unwilling to condemn this as bad behavior, don’t ever talk to me about the behavior of any other politician from any party ever again. Criticize their policies all you like. But you have forfeited any right to be taken seriously on the issue of character, if you can’t stand up and say: “Wow. What a s**tbag this guy Trump is, with this particular move.”

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Trump Denies Democrat Congresswoman’s Account of Call to Widow

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:45 am

I updated my previous post on this, but it probably deserves its own post. The background, from the #FAKENEWSJEFFBEZOSPOST, is here:

In his call with Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, Trump told her, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” according to the account of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was riding in a limousine with Johnson when the president called and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

Wilson recalled in an interview with The Washington Post that Johnson broke down in tears. “He made her cry,” Wilson said. The congresswoman said she wanted to take the phone and “curse him out,” but that the Army sergeant holding the phone would not let her speak to the president.

The White House neither confirmed nor denied Wilson’s account. “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private,” a White House official said in a statement.

Or are they? This morning, Trump has tweeted that the Democrat Congresswoman lied and that he has proof:

We’ll see. Somehow, I doubt we’re going to get the proof. Trump also implied he had a tape that would prove James Comey lied about what was said in a private meeting. I have yet to hear that tape.

In any event, I don’t think anybody wants to hear a tape of a conversation between Trump and the widow. I certainly don’t. It’s one of the darker moments of this lady’s life under any circumstances, no matter what was said, and no recording of it should be splashed across the news. If the Congresswoman, an apparent friend of the family, lied about the conversation, Trump could quietly provide the tape to journalists, who could get the accurate quote on the record. Tweeting that he has proof is not necessary — just like invoking the death of John Kelly’s son was not necessary.

I worry that this all ends up putting the widow in the crosshairs. Trump’s army of deplorables would not hesitate to send her death threats if she said something uncomplimentary about Dear Leader, you know.

There’s really no way this ends well. Which is usually the case when President Donald J. Trump is involved.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/17/2017

David Harsanyi on Checks and Balances and Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:49 pm

David Harsanyi has a nice post at The Federalist about the way that Donald Trump has tended to limit executive power:

Say what you will about Donald Trump — and there’s plenty to say — he may be the first president in memory to actively limit his own branch’s power. Though far from perfect, on immigration, on funding issues, on international agreements, and on the regulatory state, the Trump administration has relinquished executive power.

So while civility, competence, and rhetoric matter, and none of those issues should be ignored, neither should the administration’s numerous actions that have helped reestablish some appropriate checks and balances.

Harsanyi cites the announced phase-out of the illegal DACA executive order, the announced intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord (a treaty-like document never ratified by the Senate), and the abolition of illegal cost-sharing reduction payments (read: subsidies) to health care insurers. In each case, Trump rolled back an illegal action by Obama.

It’s not all champagne and roses. Harsanyi does not mention the Syria missile strike — widely praised by many hawks, but in my view still an act of war without Congressional authorization. Trump’s initial executive order on immigration was a clear overreach born of sloppiness, targeting legal immigrants already in the U.S. as well as others. And I have no illusions that Trump is philosophically interested in limiting the power of the executive branch, as opposed to simply undoing whatever Barack Obama did. Harsanyi’s link to “and there’s plenty to say” slams Trump for threatening NBC in a way no President has a legitimate power to do. I’m sure there are other examples of overreach.

Still, there are positive signs cited by Harsanyi. I’m not going to get too carried away, but they are worth noting. Credit where credit is due. Hey, even a repulsive jackass can guard the sheep.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Trump’s Monstrous Insensitivity to the Families of Fallen Soldiers: Two Related Anecdotes

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 pm

Susan Wright mentioned earlier that U.S. President Donald J. Trump made some phone calls today to the families of military personnel killed in Niger on October 4. Trump made the calls after facing questioning about what was taking so long. Here’s how one of those calls went:

U.S. President Donald Trump told U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Tuesday that “he knew what he signed up for …but when it happens it hurts anyway,” when he died serving in northwestern Africa, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens.

“Yes, he said it,” Wilson said. “It’s so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it.”

In related news, Trump today invoked the death of the son of his Chief of Staff John Kelly today to make a cheap political point:

“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said.

The Washington Post tonight reports on just how much Kelly doesn’t like his son’s death being used for political purposes:

For the past seven years, Gen. John F. Kelly has gone out of his way to keep the death of his son free from politics.

He did not talk about him when — just four days after his death in southern Afghanistan — Kelly found himself commemorating two other Marines killed in combat, in a moving speech in St. Louis. In fact, he specifically asked the officer introducing him not to mention his boy, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, who was killed instantly when he stepped on a land mine while on patrol in 2010, according to a Washington Post report.

. . . .

Kelly has been private about his son’s death, even though both his and his sons’ military service clearly inform his thinking on White House foreign policy and national security decisions, which to him are not merely intellectual exercises, several White House officials said.

Kelly has previously resisted White House efforts to link children’s deaths with politics and policy.

Is Kelly upset? You be the judge:

Since joining Trump’s West Wing team, Kelly is almost always at the president’s side for public appearances. But he was notably absent Tuesday from a Rose Garden news conference with Trump and the Greek prime minister.

The White House offered no explanation of why Kelly was not in attendance.

I’d like to think he told the President that if he ever uses the memory of his son to make a cheap political point again, he’ll be looking for a new Chief of Staff.

Then again, maybe Donald Trump replied by telling Kelly: “You knew what you signed up for.”

UPDATE: Trump tweets that the Democrat Congresswoman lied and that he has proof:

Trump also implied he had a tape that would prove James Comey lied about what was said in a private meeting. I have yet to hear that tape. So: we’ll see about this proof.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Hospital Delays Toddler’s Surgery After Dad’s Arrest

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:57 am

[guest post by Dana]

Making a toddler pay for the sins of his father just isn’t right.

AJ Burgess is a 2-year old toddler in need of a kidney transplant. Testing revealed that not only is his father, Anthony Dickerson, a perfect match, he is, in fact, “a 110 percent match”. However, the necessary surgery is being delayed because Emory University Hospital is requiring a waiting period to see if Dickerson complies with the conditions of his parole:

Burgess, who only weighs 25 pounds at age 2, spent 10 months in a neonatal intensive care unit. Dickerson was tested and proved to be the perfect match to give his son a kidney, WGCL-TV writes.

“He made it his business to say, ‘Once I get out, I’m gonna promise to my son that he can get a kidney,” A.J.’s mother Carmella said.

As soon as Dickerson was released from prison, he was about to go through the steps to donate his kidney on Oct. 3. However, he returned to jail for violating his parole again for possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies, according to WGCL-TV.

According to AJ’s mother, Carmella, the hospital informed her that it would be another 3 or 4 months before AJ’s father, who has a history with the criminal justice system, could donate the needed kidney:

“The lady said we need your parole information and your probation info. He said ‘why?’ We need you to be on good behavior for three to four months before you can give your son the kidney. And January 2018 we will think about re-evaluating you basically,” Carmella said.

It’s puzzling because it appears that the parole violation wasn’t an issue at first:

That didn’t initially seem to be an obstacle. A letter to the Gwinnett County jail from Emory’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program requested his temporary release.

“If Mr. Dickerson could be escorted to Emory for blood work and a pre-operative appointment tomorrow, September 29, we will be able to continue with the scheduled surgery,” the Sept. 28 letter says.

But then Burgess received a letter from the hospital saying the surgery would be delayed until Dickerson can provide documentation from his parole officer showing compliance for the next three months.

“We will re-evaluate Mr. Dickerson in January 2018 after receipt of this completed documentation,” the letter said.

Here is the statement released by Emory Healthcare after being questioned about the situation:

“Emory Healthcare is committed to the highest quality of care for its patients. Guidelines for organ transplantation are designed to maximize the chance of success for organ recipients and minimize risk for living donors”, the statement read. “Because of privacy regulations and respect for patient confidentiality, we cannot share specific information about patients.”

The family fears that AJ will not be able to wait the three of four months given his declining health. According to Carmella,”A.J.’s body is failing and he needs bladder surgery”. The family has set up a petition page in hopes of urging the hospital to proceed with the surgery before January 2018:

My 2-yr-old son’s dad, Anthony, was cleared at Emory University Hospital as a 110% match for giving our son his left kidney.

But Anthony went to jail last month for violating his parole, & now he is being denied the chance of giving Anthony Jr. his kidney.

We feel that the hospital is only focused on dad’s behavior & not focusing on The More Important Part…which is our son getting his father’s kidney so he can begin to live a healthy life. Dad making a mistake shouldn’t affect his ability to help his son.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Russia Collusion Proved!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:34 am

The Hill:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

We’ve all heard about the corrupt Uranium One deal. This story talks about a second decision that has received less attention: “approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp.” The story has too little detail for my taste about the specifics of millions being routed to the Clinton Foundation. Is this a reference to payments we already knew about, or new revelations? I’ve read the story a couple of times and it’s still not clear to me.

Still, the fact that someone connected to these payments was involved in bribery seems like a big deal. This information clearly would have jeopardized the Russian nuclear expansion deals — not to mention Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. The fact that we are just learning this now is pathetic.

The exclamation point in the headline is irony, of course. No “collusion” between Hillary and the Russian government has been proved. But it stinks. It stinks to high heaven. At a minimum, the story illustrates the corrosive effect of foreign money being routed to entities connected to a political official. (Unless that official is Donald Trump, of course. In that case it’s OK and everybody will defend it or ignore it.)

I hope the story prompts an independent investigation. More likely, however, partisans like Hannity will scream about it and oversell the story, while Big Media will yawn and fail to follow up. And it will become a partisan football, just like everything else in this overly politicized nation.

Yay!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

10/16/2017

Tonight’s Grammar Question

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:50 pm

[guest post by JVW]

To be precise, shouldn’t it be “I too”?

– JVW

Biloxi School District On Killing A Mockingbird

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:09 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The Biloxi Public School District has targeted the eloquent, Pulitzer Prize winning classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” for removal from the district’s eighth grade curriculum because it made some people “uncomfortable”. Oh, the bitter irony. But given that making sure students feel comfortable seems to be the goal at public institutions of education these days, I guess you could say that Biloxi is right on point:

Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.

“It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”

When asked Thursday morning if the book had been pulled from the course, Superintendent Arthur McMillan issued a statement five hours later that said: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”

McMillan did not answer any questions on the issue.

It is believed that the use of the n-word, which appears almost 50 times in the book, is what prompted the decision. According to the American Library Association, the renowned classic “was the 21st most-challenged book in the United States for the first decade of the 21st century”. Yet, context is everything:

“What exactly is a n—– lover?” Scout asks her father in “Mockingbird,” which is set in 1930s Alabama.

“It’s hard to explain,” replies the father, a lawyer who spends much of the book defending a black man falsely accused of rape.

“Ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves,” he tells Scout. “It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

The decision to take this book off the curriculum list appears to have been made devoid of understanding the context in which the n-word is used.

It’s mind-boggling that in 2017, the school district – an entity predominantly made up of professional educators charged with educating their young charges – has opted for censorship rather than bravely leading students through the many troubling, rich truths that the story has to offer about racial inequality and injustice: a story depicting life in the segregated South, with the sympathetic main characters being an honorable black man who finds himself falsely accused of rape, and an equally honorable white man, who in spite of tremendous odds and public sentiment against him, comes to the defense of the accused. And all the while, three children learn that loving one’s neighbor as oneself and treating them with the same respect with which they wish to be treated has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s skin color.

As a concerned reader wrote to the Sun Herald:

“I think it is one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard, in that the themes in the story humanize all people regardless of their social status, education level, intellect, and of course, race. It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”

A quick perusal of the Biloxi Public Schools school board meeting agenda for tomorrow, Oct. 17, doesn’t list the removal of the book as an item of discussion (or vote) on its agenda page.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

10/15/2017

Jimmy Kimmel Does Not Want to Talk to You

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:00 pm

Turns out Jimmy Kimmel thinks he is better than you, and doesn’t care that he alienated you with his tearful lecturing about ObamaCare and guns:

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel said he would perform the same emotionally-charged monologues about healthcare and gun violence “again in a heartbeat,” despite a drastic reduction in Republican viewership of his show.

“Three years ago, I was equally liked by Republicans and Democrats,” Kimmel told CBS’ “Sunday Morning” of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” which has aired on ABC since 2003. “And then Republican numbers went way down, like 30 percent, or whatever. And you know, as a talk show host, that’s not ideal but I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

I used to like Jimmy Kimmel. He had a show called “The Man Show” with Adam Carolla, and I used to get together with a group of guys and watch it every week. It was fun. Now, Kimmel is just another annoying Hollywood guy — worse, a manchild who cries at the drop of a hat. On “The Man Show” they would have taken men who cried about political issues and beaten them with a Louisville Slugger for our entertainment. (OK, not really, but you see what I mean.)

Kimmel’s brand of self-righteousness has reached the point where he doesn’t even want to talk to you:

Critics like conservative commentator Ben Shapiro have slammed Kimmel for parading as a “moral arbiter.”

“I’m not. I mean, I agree with him. I’m nobody’s moral arbiter,” Kimmel told CBS. “You don’t have to watch the show. You don’t have to listen to what I say.”

A defiant Kimmel added that he doesn’t say “I don’t mind” because he preferred “everyone with a television to watch the show.”

“But if they’re so turned off by my opinion on healthcare and gun violence then, I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t want to have a conversation with them anyway,” he continued. “Not good riddance, but riddance.”

If I can get serious for a second: this is a big part of the problem with our country. People don’t want to talk to other people just because of their opinions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to talk to people who are abusive or rude. I don’t want to talk to people who are giant hypocrites. I don’t want to talk to people whose principles appear or disappear depending on whether they’re defending Trump or Obama or some other worthless politician.

And often, certain political opinions go hand in hand with abusive attitudes, rudeness, hypocrisy, or lack of principle. But not always.

If, for example, you defend Trump on his threats to NBC, citing in your argument the public interest, I will want to know whether you made similar arguments when Harry Reid or Barack Obama made similar threats. If you are consistent in the application of your principles, and if you can address the issue politely and respectfully, without using weapons like aggressive mischaracterization and/or irrationality, I’m happy to talk to you — no matter how wrong you might be. You might be my political opponent, but we can still talk about it. We’re both Americans, after all.

If, by contrast, you’re a hypocrite who applies different standards to both sides, calls people names, and is otherwise abusive — now I’m tuning you out. I’m blocking you on Twitter and refusing to engage with you in comments sections. I don’t care whom you support.

So: I will never decline to talk to anyone simply because they have a defensible but different opinion than I have. That sort of retreat into partisan enclaves is a big problem in this country. The Jimmy Kimmel attitude is wrong for dialogue and wrong for the country.

I expect better from a guy who co-hosted “The Man Show.” And if this is his attitude, I hope his show suffers for it, until he learns to be respectful to people who respectfully disagree with him.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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