Patterico's Pontifications

8/8/2017

President Trump Vows Fire And Fury, And Power Like This World Has Never Seen Before

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:48 pm

[post by Dana]

[Patterico and I each wrote a post about this. This is a combination of the two.]

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

“Lovely,” says our host.

One lunatic faces off against another. Each makes grand pronouncements from which it is difficult to back down.

What could possibly go wrong?

From North Korea to the US:

The president’s comments came as North Korea earlier in the day escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.

The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited to strident yet vague warnings, such as threatening retaliation “thousands of times over.”

“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”

Resolution 2371 was unanimously supported in a vote by the UN Security Council several days ago. As a result of its passage, “the regime of Kim Jong Un will be banned from exporting any goods or services. The BBC estimates that the sanctions will reduce North Korean exports from $3 billion to $2 billion annually. That $2 billion will be retained by continued illicit trading with nations such as China”. The sanctions also “ban[s] member countries from importing coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea. They also prohibit member nations from hosting any additional workers from the North above their current levels.”

After the president left the golf course to make his tit-for-tat fire and fury threat, North Korea made a threat of their own against Guam, which has two US military bases:

North Korea said on Wednesday it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles…
A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, said the strike plan will be “put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment” once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea also said it could carry out a pre-emptive operation if the United States showed signs of provocation.

Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.

On one hand, while John McCain believes the situation is serious, he warns that the president’s rhetoric is not helpful and that he should instead “walk softly and carry a big stick”. On the other hand, Tom Nichols thinks we all need to take a deep breath:

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Both reactions seem wise.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

ObamaCare Repeal Turncoat Dean Heller Will Face A New Primary Opponent

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:30 am

Unfortunately, he’s a “Make America Great Again” Trump-style opportunist:

Danny Tarkanian, the son of a legendary Nevada college basketball coach who has run for office several times, announced Tuesday morning that he will challenge Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada’s Republican primary next year.

Tarkanian announced his bid on “Fox and Friends,” where he criticized Heller as a “Never-Trumper” and said that his stance on the president helped Hillary Clinton carry the state.

“So many people have contacted me in the past few months, saying ‘You got to run against Dean Heller,'” Tarkanian said. “They understand, like I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office supporting President Trump. Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first Never-Trumpers in the state of Nevada, he was one of the most influential. He actually helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada.”

I have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I am thrilled to see any challenger to Dean Heller. On the other hand, I’m not sure Tarkanian is the guy we want to see in the Senate.

Heller was one of six turncoats on the repeal of ObamaCare. There has been no real vote to repeal ObamaCare. But on the closest thing the GOP has advanced this year, Dean Heller was a traitor.

In 2015, a repeal bill — one that repealed as much of ObamaCare as possible without 60 votes — was passed by a majority of the Senate. Among the people who voted for that bill were Dean Heller, John McCain, Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, and Rob Portman.

But of course such a bill was designed to be vetoed — and it was, by President Obama.

When it was re-submitted this year, Heller and the other five voted no. Because they knew that it would be signed this time.

With the “skinny repeal” vote, the GOP has managed to muddy the waters on who actually opposed ObamaCare repeal. There is a mythology that John McCain single-handedly killed any real effort to repeal ObamaCare. The GOP is complicit in that mythology. Let me clarify — which requires taking a step back and going back to the original House bill.

The original bill passed by the House, the AHCA, was garbage. It was essentially a codification of ObamaCare’s basic structure, with some tinkering around the edges, and some meaningless commitments to reduce Medicaid in the future — reductions that Mitch McConnell correctly told his members would never actually happen. That bill didn’t deserve to be passed by the Senate.

The final vote — the one that got the most publicity — was the vote on “skinny repeal,” which was not just garbage, but hot garbage. It was an effort to simply strip away unpopular aspects of ObamaCare and leave the ones people liked, even though it would create an immediately unsustainable insurance market and necessitate giant bailouts and subsidies.

Somewhere in between, the 2015 bill was re-submitted and voted down by Heller and the other turncoats. That was the real chance for real repeal.

But by putting the blame for its failure on a (probably terminally) ill octogenarian who will never run for office again, the GOP could allow other people to pose as being for repeal. Heller was one of those people. And it fooled the rubes, including the rubes at CNN, who today “report”:

Heller has recently drawn the ire of conservatives after he frequently criticized Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leading a pro-Trump group to briefly run anti-Heller ads. . . . Heller eventually decided to stick with Trump and backed his party’s efforts on health care, which ultimately failed.

That bolded sentence is 100% false. Heller once again posed as backing repeal — just like he posed as backing repeal in 2015. It is a wholly fraudulent position.

Does that mean Tarkanian is the answer? I am doubtful. He is a perennial candidate and my preliminary impression of him is that he has the policy chops of a Donald Trump, which is to say none. He criticized Heller over his opposition to the original House repeal bill, even though that was garbage.

Is Tarkanian the ideal candidate? No.

Will he make Dean Heller’s life miserable? Probably.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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

Memo To Employees From Google’s CEO Seems A Bit Inconsistent

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:06 am

[guest post by Dana]

In a quick follow-up to last night’s post about the Google memo, I wanted to post Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s own memo of response sent to employees:

This has been a very difficult time. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.

The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group—including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.

1. Google claims to strongly support the rights of employees to express themselves. And yet when one employee exercised those Google-given rights to express himself, he was fired.
2. How does the CEO know that the vast majority of employees disagree with Damore’s memo? Would they actually want to go on record agreeing and supporting Damore after seeing him be fired for exercising his Google-given rights?
3. It’s fair to debate what is in the memo per the CEO, and yet when Damore brought up what was fair to debate, he was fired.
4. It allegedly crossed the line by promoting harmful gender stereotypes, except that Damore simply suggested that innate differences between the sexes, to some degree, contribute to the low representation of women in tech, and then he provided options to work with that possibility to increase, or at least encourage a greater participation of women. He didn’t ridicule or threaten or harass anyone. This is what an intellectual challenge looks like.
5. James Damore, in exercising his Google-given rights to express himself, was directly attempting to “do his utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination”. He was attempting to open discussion, honestly and seemingly without fear of reprisal directly because of the words and assurances in Google’s own Code of Conduct.
6. In as much as some employees feel hurt and judged as a gender, it appeared that Damore was also feeling judged and possibly hurt for his non-leftist views and resistance to conforming to the prescribed political positions held by Google – even before he wrote the memo. Because his feelings of being judged were the result of the company’s political biases, and were in the minority, does that make them invalid?
7. While the CEO does not want employees to have to worry about opening their mouths, in retrospect, shouldn’t Damore have worried about opening his own mouth via a memo? Does that freedom from concern really extend to every employee and the positions and views they value and stand upon?
8. If employees holding minority views question whether they can really freely express their views (without fear of reprisal) because they already feel under threat, and they’ve just witnessed an employee holding similar minority views be fired for doing that very thing, why on earth would any concerned employees sharing similar views believe his claims?

The “author had a right express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions,” AND YET WE JUST TOOK MAJOR ACTION AGAINST AN EMPLOYEE FOR EXERCISING THOSE RIGHTS WHEN HE EXPRESSED HIS VIEWS.

–Dana

8/7/2017

About That Compelling Google Memo

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:25 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Yesterday I read an interesting 10-page memo written by a male engineer at Google. In the memo, which has gone viral, the unnamed writer dissects and challenges the organization’s intellectually restrictive environment and the efforts at “shaming into silence” those with opposing views. In the name of diversity, course. The writer explains:

People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.[2] Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. What follows is by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.

Fair enough.

In part:

Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.

The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.

Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression

Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression

Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

As you can imagine, heads are exploding over the suggestion that there might be a difference between men and women. In today’s culture, basic biology is seen as a passé social construct that demands dismissal or correction. So the suggestion that any difference between the sexes might actually exist and have an impact on the numbers of women represented in a particular field, must be wholly rejected. That, coupled with a rigid intolerance of speech (which is determined offensive), becomes utterly predictable and even tedious in its extreme manifestation:

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In the midst of the hysteria (mid 17th century (as an adjective): via Latin from Greek husterikos ‘of the womb,’ from hustera ‘womb’ (hysteria being thought to be specific to women and associated with the womb), Robert Verbruggen offers some simple clarity:

To wit: Men are more likely than women to find it rewarding to work with things rather than people; men are more aggressive and status-seeking than women and thus more likely to climb the corporate ladder and ask for raises; women rate higher on other psychological traits such as anxiety. These differences are all well-documented and will not shock anyone familiar with the research on them. And while there’s some debate about the extent to which these gaps are cultural instead of biological, there’s good evidence that biology does play a role at least some of the time. As the memo’s author writes, gaps like these are found across cultures, and for some of them we’ve identified specific biological underpinnings such as testosterone. The conclusion from this isn’t that Google should abandon the quest for diversity. Instead he (reports indicate it’s not a she) suggests ways of incorporating this information into Google’s efforts, such as making “software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.”

Then there is this part that addresses Google’s political biases and exposes the heavy-handedness of the authoritarians:

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

Left Biases
Compassion for the weak
Disparities are due to injustices
Humans are inherently cooperative
Change is good (unstable)
Open
Idealist

Right Biases
Respect for the strong/authority
Disparities are natural and just
Humans are inherently competitive
Change is dangerous (stable)
Closed
Pragmatic

Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

For the umpteenth time we see authoritarians reveal their fear of speech, and need to shut it down. Or at the very least, make it conform to an acceptable level of correctness. Also for the umpteenth time, the answer is never to shame any individual into silence. The answer is always more speech.

Anyway, Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance Danielle Brown responded to the memo:

We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company. Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

Yep. It’s always the pesky little qualifier that does speech in, no?

While Google employees are condemning the memo and calling for the writer of the memo to be fired, others are supportive – or as one employee reluctantly put it, “Honestly, more people have been agreeing with it than I would like.”

And clearly there are Google employees who actually get it:

“Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.”

“The fact that colleagues are calling for him to be fired—on very public forums—proves his point that there is an ideological silo and that dissenting opinions want to be silenced,” the second employee told Motherboard. “Why don’t they debate him on his argument? Because it’s easier to virtue signal by mentioning on a social network how angry and offended you are. Debate and discussion takes time.”

There is a report tonight suggesting that, based upon an internal memo written by CEO Sundar Pichai, the employee who wrote the original memo will be fired. Unnamed sources are claiming that the employee has already been terminated. Google has not confirmed the claim.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

UPDATE: The employee himself has confirmed he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”

Trump Attacks Blumenthal Over Vietnam — While ObamaCare Remains Unrepealed

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

Already the John Kelly era has brought a certain calm dignity to the White House. The president now seems to be getting his information presented properly, rather than through television. Best of all, there have been no new Twitter rants. Perhaps this means we have opened a new chapter — one in which the White House concentrates on priorities like tax reform and repealing ObamaC– hello! What’s this?

There he goes again. It’s not the first Twitter rant of the morning, either. (Susan Wright covered the earlier one.)

I think people in the heartland aching for ObamaCare repeal might have a different judgment as to who defrauded voters.

It should be noted: Trump is right about Blumenthal, of course. As the #FAKENEWS!! New York Times reported in 2010, Blumenthal often said things like “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam” and similar breast-beating statements suggesting he had served in the war. But he did not. He received at least five deferments.

So Trump was right. But, speaking of five deferments from Vietnam, Mr. Bone Spurs is not exactly the right person to be making this argument.

Josh Hammer sums it up nicely:

Oh, and by the way? Not that you didn’t already suspect this from the first Trump tweet above, but just to hammer the point home: guess why Trump is talking about Blumenthal today? You guessed it: because Blumenthal was on the teevee.

Blumenthal appeared earlier in the morning on CNN’s “New Day.” During that interview, the senator said he was “concerned” the Department of Justice is “weaponizing” laws after it announced a crackdown on leaks.

So much for the John Kelly era of A New Maturity.

Over the weekend, I had a post titled Trump Is Not The Victim Of A Slow-Rolling Coup; He Is The Victim Of His Own Incompetence. If you missed it, I encourage you to read it now. It’s your friendly reminder that Trump is not addressing ObamaCare; he’s watching teevee and tweeting — and maybe that’s a big part of why he’s failing.

It’s time to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, President Trump’s failure to date has been largely his own fault. Contemptuous of the notion of familiarizing himself with even a superficial level of policy detail, he can’t make the case for ObamaCare repeal the way Obama made the case for the law in the first place. Having created an absurdly chaotic White House by dint of his own lack of discipline and his obsession with television, praise, and his image, Trump is unable to fashion a legislative agenda that garners the votes he needs in Congress.

. . . .

[T]he media and the Deep State did not hold a gun to Trump’s head and tell him: “Do not learn about policy. Do not build a well-functioning White House. Instead, act like a narcissistic dummox. Watch television 24/7, tweet stupid nonsense as often as possible, and do your best to come off like a self-obsessed, amoral buffoon, so that your approval ratings tank and you can’t get anything done.”

Turn off the TV, put down your smartphone, and get to work, Mr. Trump.

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

8/6/2017

On That Lawsuit Saying The GOP Is A Racketeering Organization: A Dissenting View

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:30 pm

My RedState colleague streiff posted on Friday about a lawsuit filed by a retired attorney (who else?) accusing the GOP of doing THE RICO!!!1! As a reminder, here is a quote from the article streiff cited:

A retired attorney in Virginia Beach is so incensed that Republicans couldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act he’s suing to get political donations back, accusing the GOP of fraud and racketeering.

Bob Heghmann, 70, filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court saying the national and Virginia Republican parties and some GOP leaders raised millions of dollars in campaign funds while knowing they weren’t going to be able to overturn the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

The GOP “has been engaged in a pattern of Racketeering which involves massive fraud perpetrated on Republican voters and contributors as well as some Independents and Democrats,” the suit said. Racketeering, perhaps better known for use in prosecuting organized crime, involves a pattern of illegal behavior by a specific group.

streiff opined:

I think this is inspired and no matter what happens to this lawsuit–and I think a jury should be allowed to hear the case–other Republican lawyers across the nation should do the same. And they should also do it with the ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ bullsh**, too.

The GOP has used ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood to raise tens of millions of dollars with no intention of repealing one and defunding the other, not because the votes can’t be whipped, but because if they actually do those things they will have killed the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.

I strongly agree with the second paragraph of that quote. I think it is well stated and it is absolutely, positively, 100% correct. (By the way, I would add “repealing Roe v. Wade” among the list of things that the GOP claims as a goal for fundraising purposes, but does not actually want to achieve. More on that some other time.) I do not think it’s going too far to call what the GOP did a “fraud.” That’s strong language (although not so much in today’s rhetorical climate), but in this case it feels apt. The image of Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown comes to mind. Republicans promised repeal for seven years. The electorate kept giving them everything they asked for. They never had any intention of delivering. Yes, it was a fraud.

So what’s my problem? Calling it “fraud” does not mean it’s the sort of “fraud” that is actionable in court. And the use of the almost-always-abused RICO statute is the cherry on top. That’s the detail that confirms your suspicion that this lawsuit is insane headline-grabbing B.S. by an attention seeker.

Ken White at Popehat once had a lawsplainer about RICO. The short answer is: it’s never RICO. I’m going to clean up Ken’s language a little bit for our family site, but perceptive readers will easily fill in the blanks:

That’s not what RICO means. RICO is not a [expletive deleted]ing frown emoji. It’s not an exclamation point. It’s not a rhetorical tool to convey you are upset about something. It’s not a petulant foot-stomp.

RICO is a really complicated racketeering law that has elaborate requirements that are difficult to meet. It’s overused by idiot plaintiff lawyers, and it’s ludicrously overused by a hundred million jackasses on the internet with an opinion and a mood disorder.

Ken has a full and detailed explanation of what RICO actually is at the link. Suffice it to say: this is not RICO. This lawsuit is not going anywhere. Might the retired lawyer be able to extract a “go away” settlement? Sure. That happens all the time. Far more often than you may realize, in fact. Will he get the case to a jury, obtain a favorable verdict, and have that verdict upheld on appeal? Absolutely not. There is zero chance of that. None. Zilch. Trust me on this.

And what’s more, like many abuses of process to vindicate interests you agree with, it’s a gun that can be turned around and pointed at you at any time. Imagine a candidate who actually does believe in a bold political idea. Say Senator Mike Lee — who, unlike most GOP politicians, is a man of principle — runs on doing everything he can to reduce the federal debt. But then he fails to turn it around — because, frankly, in today’s climate, it can’t be turned around. Can some clown sue him for fraud?

The bolder your vision, the less likely you are to succeed. If a politician sees that any broken promise (no matter the reason it is broken) can lead to a lawsuit — worse, one that actually makes it past a motion to dismiss — that state of affairs will have an unintended consequence: causing politicians to make fewer bold claims. It is a situation that favors the status quo.

In the end, I think this is similar to that “is it OK to punch a Nazi?” debate that sprang up after that clip of a guy sucker-punching Richard Spencer went viral. In one corner, you had people who hate Nazis and enjoyed seeing one get his comeuppance. In another corner, you had people like me — who also hate Nazis, but believe that sucker-punching people for their speech is a bad idea, and a slippery slope that may result in the other side squelching speech that we want to protect.

I applaud this retired attorney’s argument that the GOP never meant to repeal ObamaCare. I agree with this 100%.

But he should not be suing over it.

Full disclosure: I probably have a different perspective on this from many, because I have actually been on the wrong end of a frivolous lawsuit alleging fraud and RICO violations for simply expressing opinions on the Internet. (I won — thanks for asking! — but it took years.) That sort of experience tends to make a person very, very skeptical about the motives of those who use the courts to make political arguments.

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

Trump Is Not The Victim Of A Slow-Rolling Coup; He Is The Victim Of His Own Incompetence

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:00 pm

The Strongman is never at fault.

When things go well for The Strongman, all credit goes to The Strongman. When things go poorly, it is not because he is ineffective and feckless. No, that cannot ever be true of The Strongman. If The Strongman fails, it is because Large Shadowy Forces are arrayed against him.

So when a leader portrays himself as a Strongman, there is one sure-fire way to know that he is failing: you start reading pieces arguing that he is being Undermined by Large Shadowy Forces.

And indeed, the notion of a “coup” against Trump has been popular lately, with one high-profile writer even publishing a fictional two-part series describing an actual military coup against Trump. The latest example of paranoia porn comes to us from Derek Hunter and it is titled: “We’re Witnessing A Slow-Rolling Coup”:

Whatever ends up happening there, one thing is for sure – the “resistance,” as it likes to call itself, is conducting a coordinated, slow-rolling coup against President Donald Trump.

The story won’t be that Trump was forced from office so much as it will be that Republicans let it happen. Which is just what the Democrats were counting on.

What is the evidence of a “coup” cited by Hunter? Basically, it’s a) leftist media bias and b) leaks from inside the government. Heavens to Betsy! Such things have never happened to Republicans before!

It’s not that leftist media bias doesn’t exist. I seem to recall it being a problem for one George W. Bush, and one George H.W. Bush, and one Ronald Reagan. I don’t think the media cared for Gerald Ford too much. Why, Deep State leaks and uniform journalistic hostility to the occupant of the Oval Office might have been present to some degree during the presidency of one Richard Nixon, don’t you think? Just a wee bit? Does that mean his resignation was the result of a coup? Um, no.

It’s time to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, President Trump’s failure to date has been largely his own fault. Contemptuous of the notion of familiarizing himself with even a superficial level of policy detail, he can’t make the case for ObamaCare repeal the way Obama made the case for the law in the first place. Having created an absurdly chaotic White House by dint of his own lack of discipline and his obsession with television, praise, and his image, Trump is unable to fashion a legislative agenda that garners the votes he needs in Congress. The release of transcripts of his conversations with world leaders make him sound like an uninformed idiot . . . because he is an uninformed idiot.

But any admission of fault does not suit the image of The Strongman. Garry Kasparov, who knows something about the behavior of actual strongmen like Vladimir Putin, who (unlike Trump) use government to murder people, warned about Trump’s tendencies in March of 2016:

Trump doesn’t talk much about policy and is incoherent when he does. This makes it difficult for the pundits to make useful policy contrasts with the other candidates. This is by design. When Trump’s lies and flip-flops are pointed out, he presses on twice as loudly as before. What Trump does talk about relentlessly, instead of policy, are simple words with positive connotations. “Strength”, “power,” “greatness”, “energy”, “winning”, “huge”, “amazing.” Trump delivers these words, over and over, with the bravura of a carnival barker and the righteous anger of the oppressed, the trademark combination of the populist demagogue.

Trump also refers regularly to how he will demolish any and all critics and obstacles, from entire nations like Mexico to elected officials like Speaker Paul Ryan. He doesn’t talk about boring things like legality or procedure or how any of these threats and promises will be carried out. Before anyone can even ask, he’s on to the next audacious claim. “It will be taken care of!” “He’d better watch out!” “We’ll take the oil!” “They’ll pay for it all!” “It will be amazing!” Bold, decisive, fact-free, impossible, who cares? His followers love it.

All of these rhetorical habits are quite familiar to me and to anyone who has listened to Russian media—all state controlled—in the past decade. The repetition of the same themes of fear and hatred and racism, of victimhood, of a country beset by internal and external enemies, of how those enemies will be destroyed, of a return to national glory. How the Dear Leader apologizing or admitting error shows weakness and must never be done. Inspiring anger and hatred and then disavowing responsibility when violence occurs. It’s a match. As is the fixation with a leader’s personal strength and weakness, intentionally conflated with national strength and weakness.

There lies the clearest and most dangerous similarity between Trump and Putin: the authoritarian instinct, the veneration of power over the values that direct it. Trump has repeatedly praised not just Putin himself for his “strength,” but other tyrants as well. In 1990, in an interview with Playboy, Trump criticized Mikhail Gorbachev for not having a “firm enough hand” and spoke with admiration for the Chinese government’s massacre of protesters in Tiananmen Square.

This was all obvious at the time, yet people seem to be shocked that this 70-year-old man acts the same way as President that he has acted his whole life.

I come back to Trump’s praise for the Chinese mass murder at Tiananmen Square again and again, because I think it’s an important window into his soul — or lack thereof. That, more than anything else, tells me that Trump sees himself as The Strongman. And Kasparov’s observation that “the Dear Leader apologizing or admitting error shows weakness and must never be done” is one of the key features of The Strongman. He is never at fault.

All of these pieces about a “coup” against Trump are just rank propaganda to protect the nation from considering the real reasons for Trump’s failure. If we have identified a common enemy, we can rally the forces against that enemy, and we need not have any talk about whether Dear Leader might have some blame for his own ineffectiveness.

Is the media biased against Trump? There is no doubt. Are there “Deep State” forces that have declared him the enemy? I am quite sure they have.

But the media and the Deep State did not hold a gun to Trump’s head and tell him: “Do not learn about policy. Do not build a well-functioning White House. Instead, act like a narcissistic dummox. Watch television 24/7, tweet stupid nonsense as often as possible, and do your best to come off like a self-obsessed, amoral buffoon, so that your approval ratings tank and you can’t get anything done.”

That’s all on Trump.

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

8/5/2017

The Coming Crash of the Government Debt Bubble (Revisited)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:00 pm

Yesterday, in my post about the latest jobs report, I said that “our massive looming government debt bubble” will “precipitate the biggest economic disaster of them all.” A commenter at RedState asked what I meant by a “government debt bubble.” I have talked about this before, but it is an important enough topic that it is worth revisiting.

In short, we’re in a bus speeding towards a cliff. We’re probably already past the point of no return. The bus is going over the side. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. About the only thing we can do is bail out of the bus before it goes over.

It’s going to be a hell of a crash. And the thing is, most of the occupants of the bus are acting like there is nothing wrong.

Let me introduce the topic by quoting myself from two days after election day, 2012:

First there was the stock market crash. In the 1990s, stocks kept going up and up and up. It seemed wonderful on one level. Everyone was watching their stock holdings grow and grow and grow. Everyone knew it couldn’t go on forever, but somehow it seemed like it might. So nobody seemed very worried.

And then there was a crash.

Then we had the real estate bubble. In the 2000s, property values kept going up and up and up. It seemed wonderful on one level. Everyone’s house value was skyrocketing. You could take out loans on the equity and do fun stuff. Everyone knew it couldn’t go on forever, but somehow it seemed like it might. So nobody seemed very worried.

And then there was a crash.

Now we have the government debt bubble. Government spending keeps going up and up and up. It seems horrific to us, because we are paying attention — but to most people, frankly, it seems wonderful. We’re getting all these government services and we don’t have to pay for them! It’s utterly unsustainable, and everyone knows it can’t go on forever, but somehow it seems like it might. So people don’t seem very worried. Certainly, they’re not worried enough to vote out of office someone who has exploded our national debt to unimaginable levels. [Note: I was referring to Obama, who had just been re-elected two days earlier.]

There is going to be a crash.

Now, there has been no major crash since 2012, and you could be forgiven for assuming that our economy is in decent shape, with the stock market booming and the jobs report looking pretty solid. And one could always reply to doom-sayers such as myself by saying: hey, the economy is cyclical. There probably will be a crash, but the fact that you predicted it doesn’t make you some kind of economic Nostradamus.

Fair enough. But here’s the thing about the popping of the stock market and real estate bubbles: 1) most people realized, deep down, that we were in a bubble at the time, if they thought about it for two seconds, and 2) while people may disagree as to why the bubbles inflated, there has been no question that the economic pain we felt afterwards resulted from the popping of those specific bubbles. In other words, the cause was clear enough even during each bubble that, after it popped, most people said: “We should have seen this coming. I mean, it was pretty obvious.”

And so it will be with the popping of the government debt bubble. We all know it’s happening. We all know this is unsustainable. Yes, there are leftist nincompoops like Matthew Yglesias who make cartoons about how we can painlessly inflate our way out of the predicament — but those people are idiots. The rest of us know this. We have to pay interest on what we borrow. That interest eats up a larger part of the budget each year. The only solution is massive taxation or inflation, either of which will ruin the economy.

And after the government debt bubble pops, people will say: “We should have seen that coming. I mean, it was pretty obvious.” You’ll hear some people say: “I didn’t realize it was going to get this bad.” But nobody — well, nobody except the Matt Yglesiases of the world — nobody sensible is going to say this came as a total shock.

But President Trump isn’t talking about what it would take to make a dent in the debt. That would take entitlement reform, frankly — and that’s the least popular topic on the planet. Indeed, preserving ObamaCare, our newest and shiniest entitlement, seems to be the top priority for our elected officials these days. Actually reforming entitlements is out. Get with the times, man!

Why talk about this today? After all, it’s not the fashionable topic of conversation. Palace intrigue at the White House, Russia investigations, transgender this that and the other, and whatever other stupid story of the day is occupying all the talking heads — that’s what brings in the clicks. I’m surprised you actually clicked on this post and read this far. It makes you among a distinct minority in this country.

And as long as only a distinct minority cares, we’re going to keep careening towards that cliff.

Once we leave solid ground, the flight through the air will be exciting and fun.

As long as you don’t think about what comes next.

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

8/4/2017

Who Can Take Credit for Today’s Solid Jobs Report?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

The Labor Department issued a solid jobs report today. 209,000 jobs were added to the economy, beating expectations. Unemployment is at 4.3%, a solid number.

(Of course, the unemployment rate is a virtually meaningless figure, because it doesn’t count people who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. The labor force participation rate, a far more meaningful figure, is at 62.9%, still near its 38-year low. But nobody will talk about that today. Republicans who remembered to look at that number in the Obama years will suddenly forget about it under Trump. And Democrats have never cared about that number.)

Partisans on both sides will of course reflexively claim that their respective Presidents deserve credit for today’s good news. Obama partisans will note that the unemployment rate represents a continuation of its downward trend since 2011. Trump partisans will say that Trump is president now and deserves the credit for what happens today.

The truth is, a single man is not responsible for the performance of the economy. But when that man is a U.S. president, he can have some effect.

Obama took what should have been a strong recovery after a bad recession, and turned it into a tepid one with the job killer ObamaCare. Full-time positions were decimated and the urge to build back was squashed.

Trump, for all the chaos of his White House, and his legislative fecklessness (notably his inability to move Congress on ObamaCare repeal), has nevertheless done one thing right: he has begun to reduce burdensome regulations on businesses. The expectation that this will continue, plus the prospect of tax reform, no doubt has a positive effect on the outlook for big business.

Trump partisans should be careful about taking credit for the economy today, however. We are in a clear asset bubble — one almost as obvious as the stock market bubble of the 1990s and the real estate bubble of the 2000s. The problem is that the current bubble encompasses both. Meanwhile, Trump is doing nothing about our massive looming government debt bubble, which will precipitate the biggest economic disaster of them all.

Nobody even talks about the debt any more.

A more immediate threat is the Fed’s decision to begin unwinding its balance sheet — a move that typically results in a recession. Whether that recession hits before or after 2020 will have a lot to do with whether Trump gets re-elected.

But hey. Enjoy the good news in the meantime.

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

8/3/2017

Special Counsel Mueller Impanels A Grand Jury

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:27 pm

[guest post by Dana]

[Since there is a whole lot going on with this evolving story, I’m just going to throw up some interesting links worth reading. You can chew them over as you see fit.]

From the Wall St. Journal:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

One year after the FBI opened an investigation, the probe is now managed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 elections, alongside the ongoing scrutiny of possible illegal coordination with Russian spy agencies and alleged attempts by President Donald Trump and others to obstruct the FBI investigation. Even investigative leads that have nothing to do with Russia but involve Trump associates are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate, according to two law enforcement sources.

Meanwhile, now that President Trump’s “red line” has been crossed , it’s not unreasonable to believe that there is now an increased likelihood that he will try to get rid of Mueller. Taking preventative measures, a bipartisan group of senators are working to prevent the President from ignoring the current rules about firing any special counsel:

Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, plan to introduce a measure Thursday that would bar the President from directly firing any special counsel — retroactive to Mueller’s appointment in May.

“The President would maintain the power to remove the special counsel, but we would just want to make sure that it had merit and have that back-end judicial process,” Tillis said Thursday morning on CNN’s “Newsroom.”

“And if there is a termination, we just want to make sure, through judicial review, that it was warranted,” he added.

The measure would also effectively shut down another avenue for firing Mueller — mandating that only an attorney general confirmed by the Senate would have the power to remove the special counsel. Trump has openly blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the federal Russia probe, leading to speculation he may try and find a new attorney general who would fire Mueller.

David French warns against taking this matter lightly:

The investigation is serious, and no one should just blithely assume it’s a “witch hunt.” No Republican or conservative should bank any portion of their reputation on defending a team that included Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort until we have greater awareness of the facts. Remember it was just one month ago that Republicans were confidently declaring that there was “no evidence of collusion.” That was before we saw emails indicating that Donald Trump Jr. would “love” to meet a purported Russian representative who intended to share “official documents” as part of a Russian government effort to support Trump. That was before we knew a meeting actually took place. There is just too much we don’t know to draw any conclusions on the merits, but a man like Mueller does not impanel grand juries lightly. This story is only just beginning.

Andrew McCarthy explains what Mueller’s Grand Jury means. In part:

The most significant conclusion we can draw from news that a grand jury has been impaneled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is that the so-called Russia investigation, officially, is a criminal investigation.

The purpose of a grand jury is to investigate a factual transaction or series of transactions to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. That makes it categorically different from a counterintelligence investigation. The latter, we have noted many times, is an information-gathering exercise geared toward understanding and thwarting the intentions and actions of foreign powers.

There is no need for a grand jury in a counterintelligence probe.

All that said, the fact that there is a criminal investigation does not mean charges are imminent, or indeed that they will ever be filed. There are virtually no limits on the investigative powers of the grand jury. Under our law, a grand jury may conduct a probe simply to satisfy itself that no crimes have been committed. That is to say, there is no evidentiary threshold that must be crossed before a grand jury can begin investigating. Contrast that with, for example, a search warrant or an eavesdropping warrant; those investigative techniques may not be used unless a court has first been satisfied that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

McCarthy concludes:

To be clear, I am not suggesting that the special counsel should be barred from investigating any crimes he reasonably suspects at this point. Nor do I mean to imply that the president is entitled to more favorable legal standards than any other American would be. But in the higher interest of his capacity to function as president and our capacity to hold our political representatives accountable, President Trump and the American people should be told whether he is suspected of criminal wrongdoing and, if so, what wrongdoing.

And finally, in the midst of this upheaval, President Trump is leaving tomorrow for a 17-day working vacation at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J. His time away coincides with renovations and maintenance work being done in the West Wing. His staff will be relocated to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door until the work is completed.

Added: Interestingly, today the Senate blocked President Trump from making any recess appointments…

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

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