Patterico's Pontifications


My Two Cents on the Decertification of the Iran Deal

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:56 pm

President Trump had a good day today. First there was the end of illegal “cost-sharing reduction” payments (subsidies) to insurers under ObamaCare — a laudable end to a totally extraconstitutional executive action by Obama. Hooray! Then Trump went even further and decertified the Iran deal. Double hooray!

Now. Let’s take a second and talk about the Iran deal. I for one have become sick of partisan knee-jerk reactions to every policy issue under the sun. So let’s avoid that sort of thing, and ask ourselves: why is the Iran deal bad, after all? Is it because Obama did it therefore it’s bad? Is it because Tougher Is Always Better in every situation, no matter what?

No and no. There are actual reasons, and I think it’s worth taking a step back and discussing them for a second.

After all, there is a halfway valid counter-view of this. We are not the only signatories to this deal. It’s a multi-party deal involving many of our closest allies (and a couple of countries that, um, aren’t). Many people across the world seem to think it’s our best chance to avoid Iran getting the bomb. And heck, even Gen. Mattis testified that he thought it was in our best interest to continue to honor the deal! And people are saying that America generally, and Trump in particular, will lose credibility when a deal that we negotiate is broken, simply because of a change in the person occupying the Oval Office.

Let me quickly deal with that last point first, before addressing the key shortcomings of the deal. This deal is in the nature of a treaty. The subject matter, the extent of the promises made, and everything else about it scream: TREATY. But it was not ratified by the U.S. Senate. It is not a treaty. And other countries have no business expecting us to treat this as a binding agreement in the nature of a treaty, when they know full well that the agreement has not gone through the treaty process.

On to what is bad about the deal. I’ll try to be less long-winded than usual and sum it up in two concepts: it’s a) too nebulous and b) not effective for its stated purpose.

The agreement appears to encompass secret side deals that Obama never made public. The delivery of cash to the Iranians in apparent exchange for hostages, our seeming promise to be less aggressive in Syria as a trade-off . . . these are things that don’t seem to be written down anywhere where we, the public, can review the terms. Yet it all appears to be part of whatever deal Obama struck. The bottom line is, nobody truly understands what all the terms of the deal actually are. Iran portrays some of the terms differently than Obama does, and there is no single comprehensive document that can settle the matter. This does not work.

And the deal is also ineffective, because Iran can still potentially develop nuclear weapons on military bases that are not truly covered by the inspections regime. In another of the numerous “side agreements” that Obama made, Iran can “inspect itself” when it comes the Parchin military site — which has been suspected of being a nuclear weapons production facility, but which isn’t if you trust the U.N., which I don’t. If the inspectors seek access, that access can be delayed or denied so as to make it ineffective if indeed it happens at all. That is not a good inspection regime, folks.

I’m not sure how much of this Donald Trump understands, but I have no doubt that many of the people around him understand it. Why Gen. Mattis is not disturbed enough by the lack of access to military bases to scrap the deal, I don’t know — but I think Trump is right that it is a one-sided deal (to the extent we know what’s actually in the deal), and needs to be renegotiated at a minimum.

There are more reasons the deal is bad, having to do with ballistic missiles, the lack of provisions dealing with Iran’s sponsorship of terror and other meddling in the Middle East, and so forth. But these are the main issues: the lack of clarity of the deal, and its total ineffectiveness.

So I applaud Trump’s move today. Not out of partisanship, but because I think it’s the right thing for America.

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

Trump: I Met with the President of the U.S. Virgin Islands

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:20 pm


And I will tell you I left Texas and I left Florida and I left Louisiana and I went to Puerto Rico and I met with the President of the Virgin Islands. These are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’ll be there, we’re going to be there, we have really, it’s not even a question of a choice. We don’t even want a choice. We’re going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they’ve gone through and they’re all healing. And their states and territories are healing and they’re healing rapidly.

Trump is the President of the U.S. Virgin Islands. He apparently met with the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. (The official transcript now reads: “and I met with the president [governor] of the Virgin Islands.”)

I don’t know why #CNNFAKENEWS says it was an “accident” rather than ignorance. Remember: he is, according to our Secretary of State, a f*cking moron.

I kid, I kid. (Not about the moron part, though.) This is nothing more than a goof. Everybody makes mistakes and there’s no point in making a huge deal out of it. Hey: it’s fun to take a smug guy and rub his face in his mistakes. It was fun with Obama and it’s fun with Trump — because they’re both pompous and self-important.

The part that both amuses and repels me is not so much Trump, but people’s reactions to him. Namely, the way that:

1) Certain elements of the left (hi, Big Media!) will jump all over this despite having excused or shrugged off all of Obama’s silly mistakes (57 states, anyone?); and

2) Certain elements of the right will excuse this or shrug it off, despite having gone absolutely insane over all of Obama’s silly mistakes.

I’m sick of the hypocrites on both sides. And as I laugh at Trump today, I laugh at them too.

P.S. Also — I’ll be honest here — just as I came to feel a deep and abiding contempt for those who joined the Obama cult of personality, I have come to despise those who have joined the Trump cult. If I can needle them, I will. Those people go absolutely bonkers any time I criticize Trump. And I enjoy trolling them. There, I said it. Their whiny aggravation is my joy. I’m not proud of it. But that’s the way it is.

So that gives me a little extra incentive to make fun of Trump when I can. Trumper tears are some of the tastiest tears on the market.

So please. Bring on the diatribes about how I lack respect for the man and the office. Lament how I have joined the ranks of those always criticizing Trump. Can’t you see? I’m doing it for you. And the more you whine about it, the wider my grin becomes.

P.P.S. Trumpers, don’t you think it’s kinda weird that he says “we love those people and what they’ve gone through”? I mean, why would he love what they’ve gone through? It seems like what they went through is bad. So why would he “love” a bad thing that they went through. It’s confusing. Help me out here, Trumpers!

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

Weinstein Co. Board Claimed “Shocked And Dismayed” By Harvey’s Odious Behavior. Seriously?

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:49 am

[guest post by Dana]


Here is the company’s statement regarding the reports of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior:

The Weinstein Company’s Board of Representatives – Bob Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar – are shocked and dismayed by the recently emerged allegations of extreme sexual misconduct and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. These alleged actions are antithetical to human decency. These allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board. Any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false.

If it were true that the Board had no inkling of what Harvey Weinstein was doing to women, it would seem that TMZ wouldn’t be reporting that his contract essentially allowed him to sexually harass women. As is being reported, the contract stated that if Weinstein was sued for sexual misconduct and the company had to pay out a settlement, Weinstein could still keep his job as long as he reimbursed the company for the amount and pay a pre-determined fine on top of that. If this was built into his contract, it certainly leads one to believe that the Board knew what he was up to with women. On top of that, because he would also have to pay a fine to the company with each settlement, Board members could actually profit from his predatory behavior while looking the other way. Win-win:

Harvey Weinstein may have been fired illegally by The Weinstein Company, a company that wrote a contract that said Weinstein could get sued over and over for sexual harassment and as long as he shelled out money, that was good enough for the Company.

TMZ is privy to Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other “misconduct” that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company’s out, along with a fine, and he’s in the clear.

According to the contract, if Weinstein “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct,” he must reimburse TWC for settlements or judgments. Additionally, “You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.”

The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a “cure” for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation — Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job.

The report goes on to note that that Harvey Weinstein could be fired if “indicted or convicted of a crime,” or if he committed a “material fraud against the company”. But:

Lance Maerov, the board member who negotiated Weinstein’s 2015 contract, said in an interview — and we’ve confirmed — the Board knew Weinstein had settled prior lawsuits brought by various women, but they “assumed” it was to cover up consensual affairs. The Board’s assumption does not constitute fraud on Weinstein’s part.

And here’s the kicker. Even if Weinstein had committed fraud by not fully informing the Board of Directors, the contract says before he can be fired he has a right to mediation and if that doesn’t work, he’s entitled to arbitration. He got neither.

The New York Times had this:

Mr. Maerov said that his chief concern had been whether Mr. Weinstein’s behavior posed a legal liability for the business, and that after receiving assurances that no company money was used and that no complaints against Mr. Weinstein were pending, he had approved the contract.

These people are amoral animals. Whether a sexual deviant preying on vulnerable young women, or money-grubbing fat cats willing to look the other way as long as they could profit off of Harvey Weinstein’s intimidating, inappropriate, and illegal behavior, their hands are all dirty.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


The Real Problem with Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

This week, Donald Trump has been in rare form on Twitter: telling citizens of our country not to expect help for too long; threatening broadcast licenses as retribution for content he dislikes; and the other usual jackassery.

OK, “rare” form is not accurate. “Everyday” form.

So are Trump’s tweets actually a problem? Allahpundit at Hot Air suggests that we shouldn’t worry about them so much, because you can’t take what Trump says seriously:

It’s ominous for any president to threaten a broadcaster’s license for “unfair” coverage but the hard fact is that most people simply don’t take POTUS’s Twitter farts seriously anymore. Journalists will hyperventilate and content-hungry hacks like me will churn out posts but we’ve already reached the “pay him no mind” point of his presidency. His authoritarian tendencies seemed frightening during the campaign at times because you never knew how much he’d indulge them if he became president. Now that we’ve had nine months to watch him, the answer is: Not much.

When I read that, I thought to myself: Allahpundit has a point . . . kind of. If you take “possible international destabilization due to world leaders overreacting to his tweets” out of the equation, Trump’s tweets aren’t that big a deal, it could be argued. After all, many Americans are by and large learning that their President is just a nitwit with a smart phone, and they tune him out. So what’s the harm?

And yet I didn’t find the argument convincing. And then I read David French, who says we do need to worry about Trump’s tweets because of the corrupting influence they have on grassroots Republicans. His piece is titled Trump’s Tweets Are Damaging the Republican Character. I almost didn’t write this post because French encapsulates so many of my thoughts so nicely. (But, as you’ll see, I do have a slightly different take in the end.) French uses Trump’s “maybe we’ll revoke your license” threat as a taking-off point:

It shouldn’t take a lawyer to note that any action to challenge “licenses” on this basis would be unconstitutional. It’s Civics 101: The First Amendment protects press freedom, and that protection is easily broad enough to encompass any effort to silence journalists simply because the president believes their work is “partisan, distorted and fake.”

Yet, incredibly, across the country rank-and-file Republicans react to such messages not by rebuking Trump but by trying to find a way to rationalize or justify them. Many go even further, joining Trump in his attacks regardless of their merit. These folks are degrading their political character to defend Trump, and the damage they do to their own credibility and their party’s in the process will endure long after he has departed from the political scene.

The controversy over Trump’s threats to revoke broadcast licenses is such a good example, I hope you’ll forgive me if I take a few extra pixels here and go on a bit of rant.

First, let’s clear way the chaff: the fact that NBC as an entity does not have a “broadcast license” itself, but member stations do, is not the Big Refutation people seem to think it is. (Take him seriously but not literally, people!) A President whose first urge, upon being confronted with news he doesn’t like, is to muse upon the ways that he can use the power of the federal government to lash out at the news organization . . . that is a problem, folks! I don’t care that he would actually have to go after individual stations instead, or that the FCC wouldn’t necessarily be on board.

The same would be true if he threatened to audit them. You can claim that, hey, the IRS is an independent entity — why, they would never go after people for political reasons! Yeah, I don’t find that reassuring, and neither should you. Yes, maybe the doltish chief executive has not yet found the best method for using the government he controls to retaliate against his opponents — but if that is his desire (and it quite clearly is), he’ll find it eventually.

But even if you don’t take the threat from Trump seriously, or literally, the fact that so many people support him on it is what I find terrifying.

As I looked around the Internet after reading Trump’s comments, I was appalled and disgusted to see many conservatives thoughtfully stroking their chins and waxing philosophical about the “public interest” and the alleged need of government to ensure that broadcasters are living up to their responsibilities. Hello! This is exactly the sort of defense that Harry Reid and Barack Obama have employed in the past as they threatened to regulate out of existence broadcasters who did not toe their line. And the very same people who used to decry this sort of thuggery now use the language of the left to defend Trump.

This isn’t supposition on my part, by the way. I have the evidence. Some of these Internet denizens have been around a long time. And they have compared identical leftist threats in the past to threats by the Mafia, or by thugs like Putin. I’m not going to personalize this by citing you chapter and verse. But as French says of the more wild-eyed Trumpers: “There is of course always a measure of hypocrisy in politics — partisanship can at least partially blind us all. But the scale here beggars belief.”

So where do I disagree with French? He says Trump has “damaged” the character of the Republicans who employ such staggering hypocrisy to defend him. Well, I’m not so sure their character was that unsullied to begin with. One could argue that Trump has instead “revealed” their character.

So which is it?

I think the truth is somewhere in between. Trump has not taken pure people and “damaged” their character. Neither has he taken purely evil and laughably partisan people and simply exposed them for what they are.

No, instead what he has done is bring out the worst in people.

I have quoted Alexandr Solzhenitsyn before to the effect that both good and evil lies within the hearts of most men. Almost all of us have the capacity to do great and good things — or to do very bad things. And leaders, by their own example and character, can bring those good or bad qualities to the forefront.

If you study world history and current foreign policy, or just human psychology, you know that people are sheep who tend to unthinkingly follow orders. They are perfectly willing to support the craziest and the most evil actions of leaders — leaders 100 times worse than Trump has ever shown himself to be.

As many wiser heads before me have mentioned, perhaps the most dismaying thing about the way that Germany knuckled under to Adolf Hitler is the fact that Germany was a bastion of culture and intellect. If it could happen there, it literally could happen anywhere. As Solzhenitsyn has said:

There always is this fallacious belief: “It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.”

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible anywhere on earth.

Idiots read allusions to Hitler or Stalin in a post like this and make the stupid argument that I am comparing Trump to Hitler or Stalin. It galls me to have to stop near the end of a post that is already very long to say: I am not making that comparison. That is not my point at all.

My point is this: there are many examples in history of people supporting really bad things. Don’t think you are different. And when you sign on to defend blatantly unconstitutional suggestions because you hate hate hate the media, you are surrendering a bit of your soul. You should be able to take on the media without agreeing to surrender to the government the terrible and terrifying power to silence them. And the fact that this does not appear likely to happen tomorrow does not mean it can’t happen next year. Or that it can’t happen here. Human nature is the same everywhere.

The real problem with Trump is that he brings out the worst in people. And bad things happen when the worst in people is brought to the surface.

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

Trump to End Illegal ObamaCare Subsidies to Insurers

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:07 am

The GOP turncoats in Congress won’t repeal ObamaCare. But Donald Trump — who is admittedly a moron, an anti-speech thug, and otherwise a generally wretched and narcissistic waste of oxygen — is accomplishing some really good stuff on the health care front. Yesterday morning came the expected executive order “expanding access to association health plans” which had the effect of making it easier for many to buy health insurance across state lines. More on how that could help here. And later this morning (Friday morning) Trump is expected to finally eliminate illegal cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies.

The New York Times portrays these moves in their typical apocalyptic fashion:

President Trump will scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers.

The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act — on successive days — could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.

Uh-oh! Looks like we have some leftist bias on display!

First, the money does not go to low-income people, but to insurance companies who are legally bound to provide the coverage. Second, you can call them “low-income” people if you like, but none of them are below the poverty line, or they would not qualify under the law.

But most critically, let’s recall that the cost-sharing payments to insurance companies were actually declared to be illegal — which we learn if we make it to paragraph 11 of the Times story:

The future of the payments has been in doubt because of a lawsuit filed in 2014 by House Republicans, who said the Obama administration was paying the subsidies illegally. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the United States District Court in Washington agreed, finding that Congress had never appropriated money for the cost-sharing subsidies.

Trump is now saying he is going to drop the Obama administration’s appeal of that decision. Which, good for him. Yes, he should have done all of this nine months ago. But better late than never. And if the folks at the New York Times were going to portray this honestly, they would tell people up front that these payments were never part of ObamaCare and a federal judge has so ruled.

It would be nice to see Congress follow up on yesterday’s executive order by passing a law ensuring that states must allow their citizens to purchase health insurance that meets another state’s regulatory regime. Contrary to the handwringing of the New York Times, elimination of unnecessary coverage and increased competition will drive down premiums, not drive them up. (Of course, the real problem here is mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions, which simply cannot be done by government fiat, as popular as it is. But that’s beyond the scope of this already long post.)

It would also be nice to see Trump follow up on today’s action by also blocking the equally illegal ObamaCare exemption for Congress.

But hey. One thing at a time. So far so good.

Trump has done a good job this week on health care. I don’t like him as a person and I never will, but I have always said that I will give him credit when credit is due. And today, credit is due.

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

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