Patterico's Pontifications

4/13/2017

Thursday Night Music: Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:45 pm

He didn’t actually write one, of course — but he did write sketches, and Beethoven scholar used them to flesh out a conception of what the first movement would have sounded like:

I have always enjoyed this, just as I enjoy the attempts to realize the fourth movement of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.

This is not Beethoven, exactly — but if you have never heard it, you might be surprised. It’s neat.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Open Thread Musings

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

Yeah, I don’t have anything. After a week of vacation my “blog about whatever is going on even if it seems stupid” muscles are atrophied.

Looks like we killed some allies in Syria. Trump just learned that North Korea is not a simple issue from a ten-minute talk with the leader of China. I hope you weren’t too wedded to his positions on China as a currency manipulator, or replacing Janet Yellin, or the Ex-Im bank, or the importance of NATO, because he just flip-flopped on all that in one day (yesterday).

None of this really inspires me. There’s an erratic clown in the Oval Office, but you either already knew that or already refused to accept it, and in either case there’s nothing I can do about it.

What else? I had a nice trip last week. My parents’ second date was seeing “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera. (I used to think it was their first date but then learned that after they had agreed to go as their first date, they went to dinner once beforehand.) Last week my family saw the same opera with my mom in New York, so that was neat. We looked at schools for our daughter, who says she wants to move away from California for school.

We visited Cornell, and while touring the music building we ran into the man who, when I sang in the Sage Chapel Choir, had been the associate conductor. He told me that the choir disbanded 12 years ago. Nobody was coming to services any more. I denounced the godless campus to my family.

Colleges renovate everything — with all the money they are swimming in, from robbing hardworking parents of their savings (don’t talk to me about paying for college; it makes me angry) — meaning nothing looks like it did when you attended.

Also it was cold.

Anyway, talk about whatever. If anyone was on spring break last week with kids or whatever, tell us what you did. Tell us a lawyer joke, or any joke. You can talk about politics of course, but today it bores me.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/12/2017

Prepare Yourself for the Best Spring Read Imaginable

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:31 pm

[guest post by JVW]

In less than one week, what is likely to be the most interesting read this spring — nay, make that for all of 2017 — will hit the bookstores. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes promises to provide us with a backstage look at the magnificently glorious implosion of the Once and Future Inevitable Next President of the United States of America, Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, hdr22@clintonemail.com. Earlier today, The Hill ran an excerpt from the book that should have us salivating at the juicy gossip that awaits us. To whet your appetite, here are some great pulls from that excerpt:

Hillary was so mad she couldn’t think straight. She was supposed to be focused on the prep session for that night’s Univision debate in Miami, but a potent mix of exhaustion and exasperation bubbled up inside.

She’d been humiliated in the Michigan primary the night before, a loss that not only robbed her of a prime opportunity to put Bernie Sanders down for good but also exposed several of her weaknesses. [. . .] And now, Jake Sullivan, her de facto chief strategist, was giving her lip about the last answer she’d delivered in the prep session.

“That’s not very good,” Sullivan corrected.

“Really?” Hillary snapped back.

The room fell silent.

“Why don’t you do it?”

[. . . ] So for the next 30 minutes, there he was, pretending to be Hillary while she critiqued his performance.

Every time the Yale lawyer and former high school debate champ opened his mouth, Hillary cut him off. “That isn’t very good,” she’d say. “You can do better.” [. . .]

I’m sorry, but can’t all of you absolutely envision that entire scene, complete with the beta-males in her campaign walking on eggshells around her and Her Clintonic Majesty sneering and fuming as she rails at everyone in her orbit? And then some more:

In her ear the whole time, spurring her on to cast blame on others and never admit to anything, was her husband. Neither Clinton could accept the simple fact that Hillary had hamstrung her own campaign and dealt the most serious blow to her own presidential aspirations.

That state of denial would become more obvious than ever to her top aides and consultants during one conference call in the thick of the public discussion of her server. [The typical cast of Clintonian schmucks] were among the small coterie who huddled in Abedin’s mostly bare corner office overlooking the East River at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters. Hillary and Bill, who rarely visited, joined them by phone.

Hillary’s severe, controlled voice crackled through the line first. It carried the sound of a disappointed teacher or mother delivering a lecture before a whipping. That back end was left to Bill, who lashed out with abandon. Eyes cast downward, stomachs turning — both from the scare tactics and from their own revulsion at being chastised for Hillary’s failures — Hillary’s talented and accomplished team of professionals and loyalists simply took it. There was no arguing with Bill Clinton.

You haven’t buried this thing, the ruddy-cheeked former president rasped. You haven’t figured out how to get Hillary’s core message to the voters. This has been dragging on for months, he thundered, and nothing you’ve done has made a damn bit of difference. Voters want to hear about Hillary’s plans for the economy, and you’re not making that happen. Now, do your damn jobs.

“We got an ass-chewing,” one of the participants recalled months later.

My word, what I would have given to have witnessed those smug and entitled phonies and frauds being dressed down by King Sleaze His Loathsome Self! Can you imagine taking a verbal lashing from the likes of Bill Clinton and being so cowed that you dare not tell him where to shove his unsmoked cigar (no, Monica, I’m not talking about there)? Even as we quibble and kvetch about the mindless soap opera that the new administration is turning out to be, let’s all be thankful that this infamous band of horrible people were blessedly denied return access to the levers of state power.

Sometimes the pre-published excerpts from a book turn out to be the best bits, but I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more nuggets in this tome. Yeah, Jonathan Allen is an ex-Vox juiceboxer, but he does at least have the good sense to keep that item off of his amazon.com author page. Amie Parnes is something of a enigma, having no biography page at amazon or The Hill. The two of them collaborated on a book about Hillary Clinton two years ago that appears to be quite a bit hagiographical, but stories of abject failure tend to bring out the curmudgeonly cynic in all of us, so here’s hoping that this book is everything that I believe it can be.

And remember to buy it using Patterico’s amazon widget. Maybe we can do an online book club when it comes out.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

– JVW

Study: Support of Trump Now Considered “Conservative”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:30 am

Ain’t it great when an Official Study backs up something you already know?

In a paper presented last week at a conference in Chicago, two political scientists compared Republican senators’ voting records to their perceived levels of conservatism among grassroots activists. . . . What they found was that some of the senators with the most traditionally conservative voting records—like Arizona’s Jeff Flake, and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse—were viewed among activists as fairly moderate. Meanwhile, former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions—whose record is considerably more moderate than many of his peers’—was viewed as one of the chamber’s most conservative lawmakers.

The explanation for these discrepancies?

The paper’s authors—Daniel Hopkins, from the University of Pennsylvania, and Hans Noel, from Georgetown— have a theory: Sasse and Flake were both outspoken Trump critics during the election, whereas Sessions was one of the president’s earliest and most vocal cheerleaders.

Indeed, it appears many of the grassroots-level Republicans surveyed for the paper—the kind of people who make small-dollar donations to candidates, volunteer for phone banks, and staff local campaigns—believed that the more loyal a senator was to Trump, the more conservative he was.

Anyone who has opposed big-government policy positions held by Donald Trump and then been called a leftist knows this already. It’s not surprising. Public choice theory holds that citizens have little motivation to learn about the positions of public officials. Nor do they have much reason to learn free market economics, the history of the Constitution, or the less obvious nuances of policies that infringe on liberty (take Net Neutrality as an obvious example of that last point). Accordingly, the positions of the most visible politician from a party — such as the President of the United States — tend to be adopted by the vast majority of voters as the “right” position.

This is why it is so ruinous for Donald Trump to have become the standard bearer of the Republican Party — which is the reason I left it last May. Perhaps it’s also time to shed the meaningless mantle of “conservatism” — a word that has no real meaning when it is defined by Donald Trump — and exclusively refer to myself as a classical liberal. (This is a stance that has the added benefit of confusing Trumpers who don’t know the historical meaning of the word “liberal.”) The disease of Trumpism easily spreads — whether in the Republican party or in “conservatism” generally — when the president himself is its champion:

“If Trump is shaping and changing the next generation of Republican foot soldiers to think of conservatism as what he thinks it is … instead of what Paul Ryan thinks it is, he’s going to lead the party in that direction,” Noel said. . . . And as long as grassroots Republicans are demanding fealty to Trump from their elected leaders—lest they be branded “moderates” and made vulnerable to primary challenges—Trumpism has a good chance to flourish and spread throughout the GOP.

Massive infrastructure programs during a time of crushing debt. Support for unsustainable entitlements without reform. Health care provided by the government, and movement away from repeal of ObamaCare. Ruinous tariffs. These are the policies now deemed “conservative” by many members of the voting public. These are the goals that threaten to become part of the fabric of the Republican and even “conservative” belief system.

At times I feel like I’m standing on a beach, facing a fast-approaching 60-foot tidal wave of statism, and shaking a stick at it angrily as it rushes towards me. I know that any moment now I’m about to get carried by the giant wave and dashed against the rocks — but it’s too late to run. All I can do is hold my ground, stare it down, and hope that someday my example will mean something to someone else.

Happy Wednesday!

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

4/11/2017

Bloodying and Dragging Paying Customers: The United Airlines Fiasco

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:13 am

This is one way to “re-accommodate” a paying passenger:

I have no fascinating commentary on this story other than to note that the free market often beats government force. Here, an airline was overbooked — well, not exactly overbooked, as they needed the seats to fly four crew members to another city — and rather than offering an amount sufficient to motivate people to voluntarily give up their seats, they called in the cops. Today, as of this writing, the stock is plunging 3%. That’s $675 million in market capitalization. Even if the stock recovers, there’s the lawsuit and the reputational damage to consider. That alone should easily add up to millions of dollars.

Offering $1000 or $1500 to give up a seat looks better and better, huh?

UPDATE: Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back. I was rushed this morning and didn’t make the cross-post.

4/10/2017

White Woman Presumes To Speak For Native Americans

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:35 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Last week, editor-in-chief of Mother Jones Clara Jeffery decided if Pence wouldn’t eat dinner alone with women other than his wife, it meant he wouldn’t hire women for top jobs in the administration. A few days ago, Jeffery made another ridiculous assumption. This time regarding Native Americans:

Untitled

Gee, Clara, it’s mighty white of you to tell Indians what we think and feel, and that our place is at the table of perpetual victim. Because where else would it be, right??

Here, put this in your pipe and smoke it:

The tomahawk was created by Algonquian Indians and widely used by Native Americans and European colonialists alike. The iconic “pipe tomahawk” design of the colonial era was made using metal heads provided to tribes as gifts and goods from the British Navy.

Naming weapons and vehicles after Native American tribes and icons are a common practice in the U.S. military, including the Apache, Black Hawk, Iroquois, and Chinook helicopters and the Seminole and Mohawk airplanes.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

4/7/2017

Gorsuch Confirmed – Victory for McConnell

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:08 am

[guest post by JVW]

By a 54-45 vote with three red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, joining with 51 Republicans in voting to seat him on the court. Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia missed the vote due to health issues.

We have had ample reason to criticize Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in the past, but from the moment that we learned of the passing of the great Justice Antonin Scalia the majority leader has been nothing short of a conservative stalwart from how he handled Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to his ability to keep his caucus together and invoke the Reid Option in ending the Democrats’ filibuster. No doubt we’ll have reason to criticize him again down the road, but let’s take this moment to extend to him our most sincere thanks and congratulations for his fine work.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

– JVW

The Question Is: When Is An Act Of War An Act of War?

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:04 am

[guest post by Dana]

Since last night’s actions in Syria, I’m sure a number of us have been asking the same question. Charles C.W. Cooke certainly has, and he provides his thoughts about the issue. His observations are likely to be met with objection from certain corners.

Quoting David French, we are reminded of this:

If Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution means anything, it means that the president must obtain congressional approval before taking us to war against a sovereign nation that has not attacked the U.S. or its allies and is not threatening to attack the U.S. or its allies…. As Senator Paul said, “The first thing we ought to do is probably obey the Constitution.”

Well, plain and simple, we were not attacked nor were we threatened with attack by Syria.

Last night, in his statement regarding the air strikes, President Trump said:

Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

If we weren’t attacked, nor threatened with attack by Syria, were the strikes an issue of “vital national security interest of the U.S.,” or was the action a humanitarian issue as our response was compelled by the the grotesque assault on the Syrian people by the Assad regime? As Cooke points out, the arguments against this being an act of war run along the lines of, it’s just a “minor military operation,” or “a targeted strike,” or, as I’ve been reading, the airstrikes were simply a justified warning. No more, no less. And yet, consider this:

If a country were to lob 59 missiles at an U.S. military installation in the middle of the California desert, we would rightly regard that as an “act of war.” We certainly wouldn’t say, “don’t worry, it’s just a minor military strike.” Does the fact the Syria’s government is gassing its own people change that? No, it does not. Why not? Because the question here isn’t whether America is morally justified in hitting Assad’s air bases (it is), or whether doing so is a good idea (it may be), or whether America is a more virtuous country than Syria (it is). Rather, the question is of constitutional legality. If the United States had been gassing Americans in Hawaii at the time Japan hit Pearl Harbor, that strike would still have been an act of war — yes, even if Japan had used it as its casus belli – and Americans would have rightly seen it as such. We should not set a double standard when the roles are reversed. If we need to hit Assad, I’m open to the argument. But Congress must be asked for permission.

–Dana

Ted Cruz on Syrian Air Strikes, Then and Now

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:11 am

Ted Cruz, September 9, 2013 on proposed air strikes by President Obama: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike.

First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.

Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.

Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this ­Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.

The president and his secretary of state have repeatedly said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates an “international norm.” They insist it is critical that we send a “message” to Assad that his behavior is unacceptable. But it is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America.

That was Ted Cruz from 2013. I agreed with his reasoning then and I still agree with it now. Clear-eyed, principled, and well said. You can see why someone might like that Ted Cruz.

Cruz, however, is moderating his tone — now that we have a nominally Republican president who actually did commit an unconstitutional act of war against a foreign power (as Obama later did in Libya). Here is Cruz’s latest statement:

Much more deferential. What has changed? Only the president. Nothing more.

Trump wants to be perceived as a strongman. That means (among other things) sudden, ill-considered acts that have ramifications he hasn’t thought about. This is what folks like me warned against. If Donald Trump wants to be the toughest guy in the room, let him do it on his own and back it up with his tiny fists. He ought not use America’s military to make up for his own inadequacies. I’ll leave you with a few tweets that make the sort of clear statement Ted Cruz ought to have made — and still could make.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

4/6/2017

The Question Of What To Do About Syria (UPDATE ADDED)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:38 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In spite of President Obama’s “amateurish improvisation” when he drew a red line of warning in the sand to Syria, and national security adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry crowing about Syria voluntarily giving up their last stockpile of chemical weapons, we learned this week about a horrific chemical attack in northern Syria. The attack claimed the lives of at least 70 people, including 20 children, and with at least another 100+ being treated at various hospitals. While the UK and the White House blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloodthirsty regime for the gruesome attack, the regime denies any involvement.

Today, Reuters declared the obvious:

Untitled1

President Trump responded to the attack: PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies – little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines beyond a red line – many, many lines.

Today, during a presser, he elaborated:

“I think what Assad did is terrible. I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes. It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.”

Secretary of State responded today as well:

“With the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no rule for him to govern the Syrian people,” Tillerson told reporters. “The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires and international community effort, both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.”

Tillerson added that “those steps are underway” already.

He also had this warning for Russia:

It is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime[.]

It is now being reported that the U.S. is considering military options in response:

President Trump is weighing options for a military strike in Syria, a possible prelude to a major expansion of American intervention that officials said Thursday could serve as a response to a devastating chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government.

As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis prepared to meet with Mr. Trump in Florida to discuss military options, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson promised a “serious response” from the United States to the use of chemical weapons on Tuesday by the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Tillerson made it clear that the Trump administration saw “no role” for Mr. Assad to continue governing Syria.

American officials said the options ranged from a limited cruise-missile strike to destroy a relatively isolated military installation to a multiday offensive that could involve the use of American warplanes against a range of targets, including Syria’s extensive air defenses. One other possibility, experts speculated, might be to strike the airfield that Syrian aircraft used to carry out the chemical attack on the rebel town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Condensing a complex issue, and despite The New York Times reporting that “…foreign policy analysts said Mr. Trump risked looking indecisive if he did not act after declaring Wednesday that Syria had “crossed a lot of lines for me” with the chemical attack on civilians,” and despite that it is gut-wrenching to see so many innocent and powerless people being treated with such unfathomable cruelty by a madman, is increasing U.S. involvement in Syria or even going to war any kind of solution?

UPDATE:

President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike against Syria early Friday local time in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people on Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.

The attack, the first conventional assault on another country ordered by Trump, comes a day after he declared that the chemical weapons assault had “crossed many, many lines,” including causing the deaths of 27 children.

The missiles, fired from a U.S. Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, struck multiple sites, including the airfield where Syria based the warplanes used in the chemical attack, a Defense official said.

President Trump, opting to do what then President Obama wouldn’t:

The attack essentially follows the plan that the Pentagon had set in September 2013, according to a senior Defense official not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. That plan was devised after President Obama had set a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad had used the weapons that killed 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not order an attack. Instead, Assad agreed to turnover his stockpiles of chemical weapons, a pledge he obviously reneged on in light of Tuesday’s use of what experts believe was sarin gas on civilians.

Thanks to kishnevi for pointing this out.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Unconstitutional and stupid. I would have expected nothing less. Back to my hiatus. See you around April 10.

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