The Jury Talks Back

8/24/2018

Hey New York Times Reader: Have a Conniption Fit Over This!

Filed under: Uncategorized — JVW @ 1:07 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Because the moon must have passed through the Sixth House of Mars during its waning gibbous phase in the Chinese Year of the Dog or something, the New York Times Op-Ed page saw fit to commission a piece from Charles Kesler, the wonderfully prolific scholar and editor of the Claremont Review of Books. In his own delightfully contrarian way, Professor Kesler took up pen and paper (OK, finger and keyboard) to shock the delicate sensibilities of the prissy NYT crowd with a defense of the idea of wreaking havoc in Washington, DC. Headlined Breaking Norms Will Renew Democracy, Not Ruin It, Professor Kesler sets about scandalizing the cosmopolitan left:

Hardly a day goes by without President Trump being accused of breaking a presidential norm or two, doing something that no president has ever done — nor, it’s implied, ever ought to do.

He tweets. He runs down the F.B.I., the intelligence community, his own attorney general. He makes fun of other politicians. He hires and fires cabinet secretaries, lawyers and communications people with abandon. He revokes a former C.I.A. director’s security clearance. He fails to disclose his tax returns. He picks his Supreme Court nominees from a list prepared by outside groups. He alternately threatens and sweet talks foreign despots.

Guilty as charged — but so what? All norms are not created equal. Hence breaking norms is neither good nor bad except as the norms themselves are good or bad. We elect presidents partly to separate the wheat from the chaff: to energize government by shedding or retiring norms that no longer serve the public good, and by adopting fresh ones that do.

Professor Kesler then leads the reader through a learned disquisition on the period after the ratification of the Constitution, as the earliest United States governments were trying to figure out how to implement Articles I, II, and III and set up norms as to how our government would operate, lacking the traditions and enforced manners of the established European governments. He points out that not all of the protocols that were established by our first President, George Washington, were continued by his successors, even though we do generally acknowledge that the Great Man established most of the parameters of the office, as much by his humility and reticence as by his boldness and vigor. In a subtle yet pointed jab, Professor Kesler points out that two 20th Century progressive Democrats — Woodrow Wilson, beloved most especially by those who long for an aristocracy of the credentialed, and Franklin Roosevelt, the hero of the modern regulatory welfare state — are the most guilty of abandoning Presidential norms to further their own agendas. But from there he suggests that perhaps many norms ought indeed to be broken:

Presidents are often called upon to adjust norms; it’s almost part of the job. The crucial question is how the norms in question stand in relation to the Constitution and the common good. Are the norms President Trump is accused of breaking vital to American democracy and constitutionalism, or are they vital rather to the way government operates in contemporary Washington, which, like the way government was operating in the 1820s, may have surprisingly little to do with either democracy or the Constitution?

Most of Mr. Trump’s alleged transgressions, measured by those standards, seem picayune. They offend against the etiquette of modern liberalism and modern liberal governance, not the Constitution. For example, choosing from a list of potential Supreme Court nominees prepared by outside experts at his request, before deliberating with his advisers and interviewing several finalists, hardly amounts to a dereliction of presidential duty. And haven’t several Democrats subsequently called for a new court-packing plan to retake control of the judiciary — a far greater norm-buster than anything Mr. Trump has done or proposed?

While acknowledging that, yes, Trump often behaves in a crass and petulant manner, Professor Kesler ends his piece by reminding the reader that Donald Trump’s successors are under no obligation to adopt his blustering and bullying style, though they too might find it liberating not to be tied to what passes for conventional thought in a stultifying capital.

Besides, future presidents will be free to ignore or repudiate Mr. Trump’s views and his blunt manner of doing business. This occupant of the White House seems to enjoy breaking norms, and he has been conspicuously more successful at breaking them than at devising and blessing new ones for our troubled times.

But if he is to make America great again, President Trump will have to cherish his legacy as a norm-builder, too.

As we always say, read the whole thing, if only to let the NYT know that publishing conservative opinions is good for pageviews.

– JVW

8/23/2018

Manhattan D.A.: Maybe We Should Look at Who Authorized that Payment to Stormy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:10 pm

It’s unseemly to cackle. And yet I can’t seem to help myself:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.

Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.

State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.

Who did approve that payment? Surely nobody with the last name of “Trump.”

Surely!

Did Trump Know About the Cohen Payoffs in Advance? Of Course He Did

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 5:44 am

The Wall Street Journal has this tantalizing but ultimately unsatisfying tidbit this morning:

Michael Cohen had many reasons to play ball last weekend when his legal team sat down to talk to federal prosecutors.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office had testimony from Mr. Cohen’s accountant and business partners, along with bank records, tax filings and loan applications that implicated not only Mr. Cohen in potential criminal activity, but also his wife, who filed taxes jointly with her husband. Prosecutors signaled Mr. Cohen would face nearly 20 criminal counts, potentially carrying a lengthy prison sentence and staggering financial penalties.

Adding to the pressure, David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, provided prosecutors with details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with President Trump, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals.

They don’t explicitly say “advance” knowledge here, but that is certainly a strong possibility. Think about it. Do we truly believe that, in all the evidence that the feds seized from Cohen, they uncovered nothing to demonstrate advance knowledge? Gabriel Malor has a good explainer about the Cohen plea here, and this passage caught my attention:

Here, Trump says he did not even know of the payments until after the fact. Cohen counters that he made both deals under Trump’s express orders. Federal prosecutors would not have let Cohen plead guilty to facts that they did not believe to be true, so presumably there is additional evidence on this point that has not been made public yet. Keep in mind that Cohen has already released one recording of a conversation he had with Trump about paying McDougal, although that payment ultimately came from American Media Inc., not Cohen or Trump.

Ah, well. Trump’s taking it all in stride. He’s a chill customer — a cool cucumber, who displays grace under press– hey what’s this?

Dude, it’s 1:10 am in Washington D.C. Go the ^&(&* to sleep.

(I’m one to talk. I woke up in the middle of the night sneezing and gave up at about 3:30 a.m. and just decided to go ahead and get up, so that my wife wouldn’t have to listen to my sniffling and sneezing any more. Maybe Mr. The Donald was having a similar problem!) (Except that the chances Melania sleeps with him — literally or figuratively — are vanishingly small.)

Yeah, I think that “Individual 1″ seems worried. And not without some reason.

Gabriel’s column answers a lot of questions you might have about the Cohen plea, including the “why is it a crime” question:

Federal law generally prohibits corporations from making contributions or expenditures in connection with any election to federal office. Here, Cohen induced such a prohibited payment from American Media Inc. for the express purpose of influencing the election. By structuring the payment this way, Cohen also avoided having the payment show up in the campaign’s FEC filings.

Put another way, American Media Inc was contributing illegally to Trump’s election, and Cohen’s payment structure deprived the American public of information it was legally entitled to about a candidate for public office.

With respect to the second charge, federal law generally prohibits individuals from contributing more than $2,700 to a candidate (for the 2016 election cycle). Contributions include “expenditures made by any person in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate.” Here, Cohen made an expenditure well outside the $2,700 limit when he paid Daniels with the intent to influence the election and at the request of Trump.

Like the first campaign crime, by structuring the payment this way, Cohen (and Trump, if Cohen and federal prosecutors are to be believed) engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the public by hiding the payment despite mandatory disclosure laws.

I know it seems like nothing can touch this guy, but these payments were made just after the Access Hollywood tape broke — and that (in case you have forgotten) was what Joe Biden would call a Big $(^%*($& Deal. Trump even apologized for it, for God’s sake. If it then became public that he had slept with a porn star and a Playboy Playmate while married, it could have been a problem for him. In any event, the theory is that the public has a right to know about such payments, when they are made to influence a campaign. And according to Cohen (and possibly other evidence), they were.

I’m not sure if I’ve pointed it out yet, but this seems like a good time to mention this: remember the Cohen recording that has been released? (You can listen to it again here.) The recording starts with Trump talking on the phone to someone, and Cohen praising him for a “great poll.” But then Cohen starts talking about a New York Times effort to unseal his divorce records with Ivana. Trump yells at someone to get him a Coke, opines that the effort won’t be successful (Cohen agrees), and then this exchange happens at 1:58:

TRUMP: All you have to do is delay it for…

COHEN: Even after that, it’s never going to be opened.

Clearly, they’re talking about the election here. And moments later is when Cohen talks about the transfer regarding “our friend David” and Trump’s worry that “maybe he gets hit by a truck.”

It’s all about the election, and their pre-existing agreement with David Pecker that the story wasn’t going to run and that Pecker would be reimbursed. Here is Cohen telling the judge about it:

Count Seven

Count Eight

You can tell me all you like that you don’t care. Sure, it’s a violation of federal law. Who cares? The thing is, if there’s a blue wave, Democrats could retake the House. And then, I suspect, they are going to be all:

Meanwhile, Trump keeps talking like a mob boss. In his new interview with Ainsley “Communist Japan” Earhardt, Trump says that it “almost” should be illegal for people to receive deals to testify:

This whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair, because if somebody going to spend five years like Michael Cohen or 10 of 15 years in jail because of a taxicab deal, because he defrauded some bank. Campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he is going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that. And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get 10 years in jail. But if you say bad things about somebody, in other words make up stories, they just make up lies…They make up things and now they go from 10 years to they’re a national hero. They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing.

The hidden assumption here, of course, is that Cohen got a deal to testify. Which he didn’t. But since when do things like facts get in the way of Donald Trump word salads?

So yeah, Donald. Just keep repeating “NO COLLUSION” and “WITCH HUNT” to anyone who will listen.

The thing about this “witch hunt” is that some witches have been caught. And the Wall Street Journal article linked above reminds us of a fun tidbit about Michael Cohen:

Initially, Mr. Cohen seemed unlikely to turn on the president. Although their relationship was at times turbulent, Mr. Trump appreciated Mr. Cohen’s absolute loyalty. On the day of the raids, Mr. Trump called the move a “disgrace” and a “witch hunt.”

Huh. And now Mr. Cohen has pled guilty to eight felonies, and implicated the President of the United States as his co-conspirator in federal felonies.

How about that. Some “witch hunt.”

8/22/2018

Ken White on Trump, Cohen, and Impeachment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:29 pm

Our old friend Ken White of Popehat.com has a piece in the New York Times about the Cohen/Manafort one-two punch yesterday. Like me, he sees more significance in the Cohen developments — maybe enough for an impeachments:

This preposterous age of manic news cycles — Mr. Cohen’s admission came on the same day that Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud — weekly bombshells and improbable politics has left us deadened to amazing developments. So let me repeat it for emphasis and for history: The president’s personal lawyer pleaded guilty to a federal crime and testified under oath that the president told him to do it.

In the most explosive admissions, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to two federal campaign finance violations on behalf of — and, according to Mr. Cohen, testifying under oath, “in coordination with and at the direction of” — President Trump. The charging document describes a scheme to pay off Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, and the adult film actress Stormy Daniels to buy their silence about their affairs with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen admitted to arranging for American Media, Inc. — publisher of The National Enquirer — to pay Ms. McDougal $150,000 to keep her story quiet to protect the Trump campaign, thus causing a prohibited corporate campaign contribution.

Mr. Cohen also admitted to arranging to pay Ms. Daniels $130,000 for her silence. Because the payment was intended to influence the election by protecting Mr. Trump, this constituted an illegal contribution far in excess of the personal contribution limits.

Mr. Trump’s involvement wasn’t a necessary element to Mr. Cohen’s plea, but he supplied it anyway. That implicates the president directly in what might be called “collusion”: a conspiracy to commit a series of federal crimes, albeit not, in this case anyway, with Russians.

. . . .

For now, Mr. Trump’s status as president likely immunizes him from indictment and prosecution. But he’s not immune from impeachment, nor is he immune from being implicated as an unindicted co-conspirator in a raft of other indictments.

There’s plenty of counterspin available, of course. Trump is pushing the spin that Obama’s campaign ended up being fined for campaign finance violations. The difference is that nobody ever testified under oath that Obama ordered them to make the illegal payments. A lot of people are also shrugging this off because, hey, what isn’t against federal law amirite? To me, this just illustrates another corrosive aspect of having an immoral man and possible criminal in the Oval Office; tribalism requires that people abandon respect for morality and even the law itself.

Meanwhile, the capo di tutti capi is giving praise to his loyal caporegime for not bein’ a rat:

And the rest of us?

Like Ken, I was grinning big all night last night and still am today. I like seeing bad people brought down a peg or two.

You can save your dire pronouncements about a coup or a revolution. Barring a huge public change in attitude, Trump will never be removed from office. Impeached? Yeah, that could happen. But removed? Nah.

But if he got impeached, well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

8/21/2018

Reports: Michael Cohen Pleading Guilty Today

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:38 pm

New York Times:

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s combative former lawyer and fixer, on Tuesday reached a plea agreement with prosecutors investigating payments he made to women on behalf of Mr. Trump, a deal that does not include cooperation with federal authorities, two people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Cohen is expected to plead guilty to multiple counts of bank and tax fraud charges and campaign finance violations. For months, prosecutors in New York have been investigating him for those crimes and focusing on his role in helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

The United States attorney’s office announced that there would be a “proceeding of interest” in a case against a defendant identified only as John Doe, language that almost always indicates a guilty plea. One person with knowledge of the matter said the proceeding would be the guilty plea by Mr. Cohen.

So, he’s definitely not cooperating, then? The story says: not so fast. We don’t know.

The plea agreement does not call for Mr. Cohen to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, but it does not preclude him from providing information to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining the Trump campaign’s possible involvement in Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

Mr. Mueller could in the future seek a reduction in Mr. Cohen’s sentence if he substantially assists the special counsel’s investigation.

As of the time this post was published, it’s not inconceivable that Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort could both end the day as convicted felons. How about that.

Facebook Giving Users a Reputation Score

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:59 am

It sounds like a Black Mirror episode, but so far it appears to be internal. What it does, though — like the entire effort against so-called “Fake News” — is further ensconce fact-checkers in the role of arbiters of what’s true:

“One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles,” Lyons said in a follow-up email. “For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false-news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false-news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

The score is one signal among many that the company feeds into more algorithms to help it decide which stories should be reviewed.

“I like to make the joke that, if people only reported things that were [actually] false, this job would be so easy!” said Lyons in the interview. “People often report things that they just disagree with.”

Duh. The problem is, fact checkers also rate as “false” things they disagree with. Whether it’s Carly Fiorina correctly claiming she went from secretary to CEO, or an ad correctly saying Mary Landrieu was the deciding vote on ObamaCare, or the true statement that “Zero Planned Parenthood facilities are licensed to do mammograms” — “fact checkers” love to label true statements as less than true, if they don’t like their political content. I could go on and on and on and on. Fact-checkers get things demonstrably wrong, like saying Obama never ruled out running for President (he did).

And Facebook is trying to put them in charge of your online reputation.

If these scores become public and part of your profile — if this truly becomes a Black Mirror episode — someone is going to sue Facebook for calling them untrustworthy.

I might help fund a lawsuit like that.

8/19/2018

The Trump Administration, Summarized: “Truth Isn’t Truth”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:33 am

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 27

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?” (Who knows how near to me my end?)

Today’s Gospel reading is John 6:51-58, which continues last week’s theme of Jesus as the bread of life.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words, which remind the listener of Christ’s admonition in the Gospel passage that those who drink his blood have eternal life:

Who knows how near my end is?
It is known to dear God alone,
whether my pilgrimage on the earth
might be short or longer.
Time runs out, death approaches,
And finally it comes down to this,
that they will meet each other.
Ah, how quickly and swiftly
can my death-struggle come upon me!
Who knows, whether today
my mouth might not speak its last words.
Therefore I pray all the time:
My God, I beseech through Christ’s blood,
make my end good!

Happy listening!

8/18/2018

National Debt Hits New High, with Trillion Dollar Deficits Again on the Horizon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:52 am

Don’t pay attention to what Trump says. Pay attention to his accomplishments:

The U.S. national debt has increased by more than half a trillion dollars in less than six months, amid predictions that the U.S. is on the verge of returning to another explosion in government borrowing.

. . . .

The Treasury Department says the government is on track to have a total budget deficit of about $850 billion in the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

Fiscal 2019 is expected to be worse: The Congressional Budget Office predicts a budget deficit of just under $1 trillion.

The article says the $500 billion per five months rate of growth is “a relative improvement” that “reflects the surge of tax receipts that flowed into the government starting in April, when individual tax returns are due,” but says that the prospects for the longer term look grim.

Ah, well. Now that it’s “our” guy in office, it’s impolite to mention these things, isn’t it? Better to say it would have been this bad under a Democrat too and otherwise shrug. Or put all the blame on Congress and forget Trump has a veto. Whatever you do, don’t criticize Dear Leader!

That which cannot go on forever, won’t. We knew this during the Obama years. Now we must forget it.

Tribalism demands it.

UPDATE: To those who assume it would have been worse under Hillary: apply some critical thinking. Here’s a data point for you to consider. These were the deficits for the most recent Obama years:

Fiscal 2013: $680 billion
Fiscal 2014: $485 billion
Fiscal 2015: $438 billion
Fiscal 2016: $587 billion

Republicans pretend to care about deficits when a Democrat is in office. They spend like drunken sailors while a Republican is in office. Yes, Obama had horrific trillion-dollar-plus deficits before the numbers cited above — but he also came into office just after the Great Recession.

When I talked about the relative strengths and weaknesses of Hillary and Trump presidencies, I routinely said that judges would be one of the best aspects of a Trump presidency and the budget would be one of the worst, because of the tendency of Republican Congresses to care about spending only when a Democrat is in office. The mirror image would be true of a Hillary presidency — as to budgets and judges. Budgets would be better. The judiciary would be far worse.

Remember: Bill Clinton is the only president in forever to run a surplus. He didn’t do it alone. But Republicans behave more responsibly with Democrats in the Oval Office. That’s undeniable.

So spare me the lazy analysis that a Democrat would obviously have been worse. The facts don’t bear it out.

8/17/2018

Book Review: Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:26 pm

I recently finished listening to the audio version* of Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy.”

Goldberg’s central thesis is that the ideal state of Western civilization — capitalism, individual rights, pluralism, and limited government — is a “Miracle” that occurred very much by accident, and which could be easily lost. Partially the result of England’s island geography and unique cultural history, and partially the result of many other factors both named and unknowable, the Miracle deserves our gratitude, without which it cannot be preserved.

Goldberg writes in his usual style: very direct, clear, and approachable. He covers the history of the Miracle, its philosophical underpinnings, and the characteristics of modern society that are putting it at risk. Goldberg argues for the preservation of the Miracle, and against the forces that would undermine it, such as identity politics, nationalism, ingratitude — and, above all, tribalism.

To be sure, many of the principles Goldberg articulates are ones that I had heard before. Human nature has a tendency to be base and it takes civilization to overcome it. Virtue takes effort. Money and capitalism allows strangers to cooperate with one another, even across international boundaries, for the benefit of all. People want to be governed by a father figure, and any actions moving away from liberal democracy represent a reactionary tendency, towards our base nature of tribalism. The administrative state is a shadow government that poses a threat to our separation of powers and the legitimacy of our republic. These ideas are familar to me from years of reading libertarian and conservatarian writings. But not everyone has heard all these ideas, and seeing them all in one place is bracing even if you have seen them individually elsewhere.

One of the things I enjoyed about reading the book was picking up little bits of knowledge here and there that I hadn’t heard before. For example, Goldberg tells the reader about how those crazy biased cultural conservatives at Brookings have said that “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.” Another example: Goldberg notes that Robert Putnam, a Harvard sociologist, published a paper that (according to the words of its abstract) shows that “ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.” Interesting points both.

What I particularly like about the way Goldberg introduces such facts, however, is that he doesn’t use them to make mindless over-the-top partisan arguments. He just wants us to be aware of them for what they’re worth, and nothing more.

For example, the Brookings conclusion about two-parent families with biological children could be used as a mindless partisan cudgel against, say, adoptive parents, but Goldberg points out the obvious point that adopted children are way, way better off than kids in foster homes, so that is not the point. The point is that marriage is the traditional basic building block of civil society — and when we abandon the family’s responsibilities to the state, bad things ensue.

Similarly, the citation of the Putnam study about diverse neighborhoods could be used (and indeed has been used) in a mindless partisan fashion, as many alt right Trump cultists have done, to suggest that diversity is always and everywhere bad. That’s not even Putnam’s view, by the way, as a blog post at the Chronicle of Higher Education notes:

In the short term, [Putnam] writes, there are clearly challenges, but over the long haul, he argues that diversity has a range of benefits for a society, and that the fragmentation and distrust can be overcome. It’s not an easy process, but in the end it’s “well worth the effort.” Putnam cites the integration of institutions like the U.S. Army as proof that diversity can work.

Goldberg’s point is not at odds with a fair reading of Putnam — i.e., Goldberg does not argue that diversity is bad. Instead, he relies on Putnam to remind the reader that there are dangers in ignoring the trust and other civic benefits that come from an integrated society — meaning that conservatives ought to be cautious about demographic changes that are overwhelming and sudden, threatening to break down those trust mechanisms and other civic benefits. We should prefer instead a society where immigrants assimilate into the culture while bringing their own diverse elements and strengths into the mix.

I said earlier that many of the concepts are familiar, but Goldberg does articulate one profound insight that I had never before heard expressed in quite this way: nationalism is socialism. Nationalism, as opposed to patriotism, ultimately rests on the rejection of individualism in favor of identifying oneself as part of the nation. Any way you slice it, that is what socialism is: the empowering of the state in all its forms to the detriment of the individual. That’s an important concept to internalize these days.

Of course, Trump superfans who love them some nationalism won’t like being called socialists. But I have a dirty little secret for you: if you’re a true-blue dyed-in-the-wool Trump superfan, you’re unlikely to like anything about this book. When I say Trump superfan, I’m not talking about people who are reluctant supporters of Trump as a lesser evil than Hillary. I’m talking about true fans of the man; people who believe he is of unimpeachable moral character and who believe he can do no wrong. Yeah: you folks aren’t going to like this book in particular — or Jonah Goldberg in general. Or this blog. Or me.

So be it.

Which is not to suggest that this is nothing but a book in opposition to Donald Trump. Far from it. Sure: near the end of the book, there is some direct criticism of Trump and Trumpism — including a characterization of the more extreme forms of Trump worship as “identity politics for white people” — but that is hardly the meat of the book.

Instead, the book is a cri de coeur against the increasing wave of tribalism that we see infecting all aspects of our culture. It’s a manifesto of revulsion at the culture’s apparent rejection of the unique characteristics of Western society — the Miracle — that truly made America great. It’s an inspiring and edifying and entertaining book. And it’s worth your time.

*The benefits of the audio version include the fact that Goldberg reads it himself, which I enjoyed very much (although I recommend jacking up the speed to 1.25x). Also you can listen in the car, which (along with the gym and walks) is one of the main places I do my “reading” these days, since finding time to sit down with a hard copy of a book is not always easy. The main disadvantage of the audio edition is that when one sits down to write a review such as this, one is unable to easily go back and revisit the text to make sure one is accurately representing the author’s thoughts. I hope I have not done any violence to Goldberg’s ideas in this review.

8/16/2018

Kellyanne Conway: My Husband Is a Big Jerk. That’s Off the Record, Isn’t It?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:39 am

George Conway married Kellyanne Conway. He’s made up for that lack of judgment by bagging on Trump every chance he gets, on Twitter and elsewhere. Now, the Washington Post has a profile of the couple — and Kellyanne tried to sneak in some criticism of her husband while pretending to be someone else. Problem was, she forgot to make sure she was off the record first:

Me: You told me you found [George’s tweets] disrespectful.

Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows . . . as “a person familiar with their relationship.”

Me: No, we’re on the record here. You can’t say after the fact “as someone familiar.”

Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.

Me: No, that’s not true. That never happened.

Kellyanne: Well, people do see it this way. People do see it that way, I don’t say I do, but people see it that way.

LOL. This is the sort of soulless ghoul it takes to defend a man with the low character of Donald Trump. Thanks to the #FAKENEWSBEZOSPOST for the laugh of the day.

P.S. Jonah Goldberg tweets:

Jonah’s “Suicide of the West” is a good read that I’ll review here soon. I’m increasingly contemptuous of people who defend Donald Trump’s character, and have come to conclude that if you defend his character, you are almost certainly a person of low character yourself. Those who defend his character keep proving me right, day in and day out.

8/15/2018

President Trump Revokes Former CIA Director’s Security Clearance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 2:12 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Last month Paul Ryan brushed off the suggestion that President Trump was considering the revocation of security clearances for certain former intelligence officials, saying that that the president was just trolling people. Apparently the president wasn’t just trolling because today the White House announced it had revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance:

As the head of the executive branch and Commander in Chief, I have a unique, Constitutional responsibility to protect the Nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their Government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.

First, at this point in my Administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior. Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him. Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility. In 2014, for example, he denied to Congress that CIA officials under his supervision had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers.

Additionally, Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this Administration. Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos. More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our Nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in Government has ended.

The White House reportedly did not consult Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, about the decision.

Other former high-ranking intelligence officials are also reportedly being considered to have security clearances revoked as well, including:

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence
James Comey, former FBI director
Michael Hayden, former CIA director
Sally Yates, former Acting Attorney General
Susan Rice, former National Security Adviser
Andrew McCabe, former deputy FBI director
Peter Strzok, former FBI agent
Lisa Page, former FBI lawyer
Bruce Ohr, former Associate Deputy Attorney General
(Note: some of these individuals don’t even a security clearance to revoke, or have already had it revoked…)

Sarah Sanders questioned the need for continuing security clearances for those no longer in government service:

“More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended,” Sanders said. “Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.”

Allahpundit enlightens:

Just because someone retains their clearance to receive classified info doesn’t mean they retain their access to it. You can’t demand to see state secrets just because you’re cleared to see them. The administration has to make them available to you. And it hopefully goes without saying that having a clearance doesn’t shield you from prosecution if you’re caught sharing classified info with unauthorized recipients. In other words, if you were worried about Brennan leaking, today’s move doesn’t do much to reduce that risk. In all likelihood he had no access to any recent intel in the first place. And if people inside the administration were sharing it with him because they hate Trump, odds are they’re going to go on sharing it even after today’s action (although they can be jailed for doing so now).

Brennan, unsurprisingly, pushed back on the decision:

This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.

For examples of Brennan’s “speaking out” against Trump, you can scroll through his Twitter feed. Boy, there are plenty of examples.

–Dana

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