Patterico's Pontifications


John Cornyn Brings Down the . . . Well, It’s Not a Hammer. What Is That Thing Anyway?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:01 pm

A noodle?

Cornyn has put his finger on the real problem with Congress trying to interfere with an active criminal investigation nearing the point of indictment:

It’s too trivial.

Nobody But This One Guy Who Was Already Charged With This Would Be Charged With This

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:23 am

Andy McCarthy: “no one who was not Donald Trump would conceivably be charged with this.”

ANDY MCCARTHY: Well, I think it’s clearly a misdemeanor. It’s one that shouldn’t be brought. And the attack on Bragg here, it shouldn’t be a defense of Trump, because it looks like this is a falsification of records. But the attack on Bragg ought to be that no one who was not Donald Trump would conceivably be charged with this. And then with respect to Bragg, the second part, where he’s being super aggressive, even though he’s incredibly not aggressive when it comes to like real crime in New York. This idea of trying to sort of bootstrap campaign finance violations on this, I mean, it’s first of all, most campaign finance laws are federal, which is not what the New York penal code is talking about, he’s apparently going to try to say, well, it could have been a violation of New York’s election law. Did Trump lose New York by like 30 points?

Michael Cohen was not just charged, but also convicted of substantially similar allegations. From the press release announcing his plea agreement:

The plea was entered followed the filing of an eight-count criminal information, which alleged that COHEN concealed more than $4 million in personal income from the IRS, made false statements to a federally-insured financial institution in connection with a $500,000 home equity loan, and, in 2016, caused $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election. COHEN pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.

. . . .

On February 14, 2017, COHEN sent an executive of the Company (“Executive-1”) the first of his monthly invoices, requesting “[p]ursuant to [a] retainer agreement, . . . payment for services rendered for the months of January and February, 2017.” The invoice listed $35,000 for each of those two months. Executive-1 forwarded the invoice to another executive of the Company (“Executive-2”) the same day by email, and it was approved. Executive-1 forwarded that email to another employee at the Company, stating: “Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.”

Throughout 2017, COHEN sent to one or more representatives of the Company monthly invoices, which stated, “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for” the relevant month in 2017, and sought $35,000 per month. The Company accounted for these payments as legal expenses. In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017.

As Andrew Weissman and Ryan Goodman write in the New York Times:

But does that mean the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as “Individual 1”). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted.

This is not a case of selective prosecution but of selective outrage on the part of McCarthy and his ilk.

McCarthy is right that “most” campaign finance laws are federal, and Cohen was convicted in federal court. But New York also has laws against misreporting campaign-related expenditures to influence the campaign. It’s a bit odd for an ostensible conservative to complain that an exercise of police power, typically a local issue, is being handled locally and not by the feds. But you say what you gotta say to get on TV, I guess.


Constitutional Vanguard: You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Piece

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:09 am

What did you do during the great Los Angeles rains, Daddy?

Well, son, I wrote this nearly 8,000 word piece with no real thesis.

Um, why did you do that?

Well, I had a bunch of new subscribers from Jonathan V. Last’s recommendation of a recent piece of mine about backing away from Twitter. Evidently I felt the need to drive most of those subscribers away! Weird, isn’t it?

I guess. Can I go outside and play?

Sure, son. Sure you can.


If there is a thesis to my latest Substack piece, it is that almost whatever you believe, there is often a pretty good counterargument . . . unless you restrict your beliefs to very simple and incontestable propositions like: “I should always strive to do the right thing.”

In the piece, I examine the arguments for things like: the notion that a writer should challenge his readers; the dangers of tribalism; the importance of expertise; the case for prosecuting Donald Trump; and the notion that Trumpism is worse than wokeness. But I also explore why a writer should reassure his readers; the importance of questioning expertise and conventional wisdom; the case against prosecuting a candidate like Trump; and the dangers of wokeness that make them potential harbingers of totalitarianism.

In short, there’s something there for everyone to hate. Hence the title.

In the course of the discussion, I recommend a few books and podcasts along the way, and engage in a rant or two. Here’s a sample:

One of the things that irritates me the most about Big Media is the sheeplike herd mentality that reporters and editors adopt about all conventional wisdom. Big Media positively sneers at anyone who bucks the Conventional Wisdom on any topic. Their attitude seems to be: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows . . . everything he needs to know, and the opinions of adversaries can always be safely dismissed as ridiculous.” In that way, Big Media is the anti-Mill (John Stuart Mill, that is) when it comes to questioning the conventional wisdom.

To take one glaring example: it is Conventional Wisdom that it is stupid for any politician to talk about entitlement reform. When have you ever seen anyone on a major network make the case, at length, in reasoned discussion, that the current path we are on is unsustainable? Anyone who even thinks of mentioning such a thing is ultimately bullied into claiming that they never really said such a thing (see: Rick Scott, Mike Lee, Ron DeSantis, and the list could go on and on). No major news anchor will ever have any of these people on and express sympathy for the undeniable fact that these programs can’t go on this way forever. Instead, they harangue them over and over: but you do want to reform entitlements, dontcha? Dontcha? Dontcha? Example:

And if any of these folks ever even hinted that it’s not a crazy topic to broach, the anchor would simply point out that the American people won’t stand for it and it’s very, very unpopular. Well, sure, in no small part due to the way that Big Media refuses to explain why it’s necessary.

Nearly 3000 words of the piece are free. It’s enough to decide if you do indeed hate it, as I warned you that you would, or if instead you want to subscribe to read the other 5000 words or so.


Happy Birthday to My Dad

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:01 pm

As I have done every March 17 since I started this blog, I am wishing my Dad a Happy Birthday.

It is a tradition to note my previous similar posts on this special day. And so, I am doing it again on this special day.

He would have been 98 today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:09 am

[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

Pope Francis weighs in on gender ideology:

Pope Francis has said that gender ideology is “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” today…“Gender ideology, today, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations,” Francis said in the interview published on the evening of March 10. “Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added. All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation…

While he is not writing something on gender ideology, the pope said that he talks about the subject “because some people are a bit naive and believe that it is the way to progress.”

He said that they “do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or diverse sexual preferences from what is already an anthropology of gender, which is extremely dangerous because it eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, both personal, cultural, and social, the diversities and the tensions between differences.”

Second news item

Poland takes the lead:

Poland on Thursday pledged it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO member to do so, in a significant move in Kyiv’s battle to resist Russia’s onslaught.

President Andrzej Duda said the planes – from about a dozen that it had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic – would be handed over in the coming days after being serviced.

“When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.


Duda said Poland’s air force would replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.

Also, more good news as Slovakia is stepping up too:

Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine, its prime minister has said, making it the second Nato member to announce such a shipment in 24 hours, after a similar move by Poland.

Meanwhile, Switzerland shames itself:

How far will Switzerland’s obstinacy in not helping Kyiv “militarily” – even indirectly – go? Since the beginning of the war, Switzerland has irritated its European partners by forbidding them to give Ukrainian forces the munitions it sold to them…

[The Swiss Army] will soon get rid of 60 Rapier ground-to-air defense systems, an anti-aircraft missile system developed by the British Aircraft Corporation in the 1960s for the British Army and the Royal Air Force. The Rapier entered service in 1971 and first saw action on the front lines during the Falklands War. Bern acquired 60 of them in 1980 (worth 1.7 billion Swiss francs at the time), which were modernized several times until recently, before being decommissioned and declared unfit for service at the end of last year.”

However, the report notes that while old, the missiles are not obsolete, and “could still be used “against low-flying targets…”

Several Swiss MPs are unhappy with the decision.

Third news item

In big news, Turkey’s President says he will support Finland’s admission to NATO:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden…“When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara following his meeting with Niinisto.

Meanwhile, Turkey is still a “no” on Sweden’s efforts to become NATO member as believes Swedens is being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations, including Kurdish groups.

Fourth news item

Bank saved by $30 billion investment by 11 banks:

As San Francisco’s First Republic bank has seen its share price fall and credit downgraded, some of the nation’s largest banks deposited $30 billion into the bank amid concerns depositors would continue withdrawing money from the banks en masse.

In a statement, 11 banks said they would make uninsured deposits worth $30 billion into First Republic Bank to shore it up. The deposits came from Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist and U.S. Bank.

Reportedly, some of the institutions that were part of the $30 billion deposit are interested in purchasing First Republic.

Fifth news item

Bipartisan Senate vote to scrap 1991 and 2002 Iraq War AUMFs.:

With the 20th anniversary of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq looming, the US Senate has begun the process of revoking the laws that allowed the United States to wage war against the Middle Eastern state in both the 1990s and 2000s.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to begin debate on a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana that would repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq.

The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 19 Republicans — ranging from self-styled nationalists like Sens. Josh Hawley and JD Vance to moderates such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — joining all Democrats in support of the bill.


Immigrant veterans who fought for the United States are still struggling to secure US citizenship 20 years since the war began…His case echoes those of hundreds of veterans, according to advocates, who fought for the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere on the understanding their service would help them gain citizenship but instead found themselves being deported to their birth countries.

Advocates say many fell into crime due to PTSD and other issues linked to their time in the military, and struggled to readapt to civilian life with insufficient support from government agencies.

Some veterans have since been granted citizenship, while others have given up trying to come back…Segovia Benitez is among dozens who are back in the country – some temporarily – after the Biden administration launched a program in 2021 to benefit deportees…But despite such initiatives and noted progress on the issue, advocates and former military personnel told Context the U.S. government continues to fail many foreign-born post-9/11 veterans 20 years since the start of the Iraq War.

Lawful permanent residents in the United States must generally live in the country for five years before applying to become a citizen, but the process is much quicker for foreign-born military personnel. They can apply for naturalization in as little as a year – and potentially less if they were on active duty during the “war on terror” declared by former President George W. Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Bush issued an executive order in July 2002 intended to streamline the naturalization process for non-citizens who serve during a designated “period of hostility”, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But advocates say the order was not properly enforced – leading many veterans of both conflicts to be deported on a variety of grounds – even for minor infractions in some cases.

Sixth news item

Excellent: Arrest warrant issued for President Vladimir Putin:

The International Criminal Court said Friday it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine.

The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.

Children as young as four months old were abducted…

Russia is a wee bit upset that the warrant has been issued:

The Kremlin said on Friday that an arrest warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Russian President Vladimir Putin was outrageous, but meaningless with respect to Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia found the very questions raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable”, but noted that Russia, like many other countries, did not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC.

This, this, this:

Meanwhile, Trump and DeSantis are the gift that just keeps on giving:

I knew this would happen. Useful idiots.


Seventh news item

Fear rules the day:

The survey sponsored by FIRE…asked almost 1,500 university faculty members about their views on campus civil liberties. The data show that faculty members today are more fearful than during the Second Red Scare, with 72% of conservative faculty, 56% of moderate faculty, and even 40% of liberal faculty afraid of losing their jobs or reputations due to their speech. Untenured faculty are more afraid than tenured faculty, with 42% of untenured faculty censoring themselves, versus 31% of tenured faculty.

“We’re finally seeing the extent to which faculty have lost their peace of mind,” said FIRE Research Fellow Nathan Honeycutt. “When professors across the political spectrum become terrified of losing their jobs for exercising their rights, true academic inquiry and diversity of thought become nearly impossible.”

Even more concerning are findings that suggest that faculty are not just afraid of overzealous administrators, but also of students and each other.

Sadly, this will no doubt resonate with commenter Simon Jester.

Eighth news item

JVW on the ongoing decline of Los Angeles:

Drug use is rampant in the Metro system. Since January, 22 people have died on Metro buses and trains, mostly from suspected overdoses — more people than all of 2022. Serious crimes — such as robbery, rape and aggravated assault — soared 24% last year compared with the previous…“Horror.” That’s how one train operator recently described the scenes he sees daily. He declined to use his name because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Earlier that day, as he drove the Red Line subway, he saw a man masturbating in his seat and several people whom he refers to as “sleepers,” people who get high and nod off on the train. “We don’t even see any businesspeople anymore. We don’t see anybody going to Universal. It’s just people who have no other choice [than] to ride the system, homeless people and drug users.”


The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported that between November and January there were 26 medical emergencies at the station, the majority of them suspected drug overdoses. Last year, there were six deaths and one shooting, nearly all related to suspected drug activity. Earlier this year, a 28-year-old man was fatally stabbed in a breezeway of the station.

Maintenance crews are often called out for repairs at the station, and when they return to their vehicle they often find it has been burglarized. Gangs control the area and police say many of the informal vendors on the sidewalks are part of the larger drug economy, wittingly or not. Some are forced to pay the gang taxes, others sell stolen property.

Cue the clueless social justice advocates who think it would be positively beastly to crack down on the miscreants:

Some board members and social justice advocates have argued for less policing on the system, saying that racial profiling targets many passengers.

“What will harassment and jailing people who use drugs do to address drug use rates?” said Alison Vu, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Community Transit-LA, a social justice advocacy coalition that wants the agency to eliminate contracts with law enforcement. “We’ve poured so much money into policing, without any measurable impact on care or safety for transit riders.”

Ninth news item

On defining “woke”:

As I was preparing to go onstage for an event recently, the moderator warned my co-panelist and me that the very first prompt would be “Please define the word woke for the audience.” We all sighed and laughed. It’s a fraught task, requiring qualification and nuance, because woke has acquired what the French philosopher Raymond Aron termed “subtle,” or “esoteric,” and “literal,” or “vulgar,” interpretations. Put simply, social-justice-movement insiders have different associations and uses for the word than do those outside these progressive circles. Before you can attempt to define what “wokeness” is, you should acknowledge this basic fact. Going further, you should acknowledge that as with cancel culture, critical race theory, and even structural racism, the contested nature of the term imposes a preemptive barrier to productive disagreement.

Chatterton Williams concludes (and I wholeheartedly agree):

But perhaps we can all agree, at bare minimum, to set ourselves the task of limiting our reliance on in-group shorthand, and embracing clear, honest, precise, and original thought and communication. If we want to persuade anyone not already convinced of what we believe, we are going to have to figure out how to say what we really mean.

This takes work as it rejects the laziness of catch-all-insider-phrases employed by both sides of the aisle. I want to do better. Put 10 people in a room, and ask them to define “woke,” and you’ll get at least 10 different definitions. And maybe even 15!

Tenth news item

While not conclusive, new study released on Covid origins:

A new analysis of genetic information conducted by an international group of researchers has found evidence to suggest that COVID-19 originated from infected animals sold at a market in Wuhan, China.

As first reported by The Atlantic, French evolutionary biologist Florence Débarre recently uncovered genetic data from the global virology database GISAID. The data had been submitted by Chinese researchers who collected the genetic sequences from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been scrutinized as being the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the name, thousands mammals were found to have been sold at the market, where they were kept in cramped and unhygienic spaces.

The genetic data suggested that raccoon dogs being sold at the market could have been carrying and shedding the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the time.

Have a great weekend!



Eric Garcetti Wins His Prize, But Dark Clouds Gather

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:57 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Eric Garcetti, a foolish nabob, inartful liar, and sad nonentity of a mayor for Los Angeles lo these past nine years, finally made it through a vote which allows him to keep the flame of his political ambition lit, if only barely:

Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was finally confirmed by a split vote in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, March 15, to serve as the United States ambassador to India, 20 months after being nominated by President Joe Biden.

Garcetti, who was confirmed in a 52-42 roll call, was nominated in July 2021, but his nomination languished for months in the Senate as some speculated that he knew, or should have known, about allegations of assault and sexual harassment committed by a former top aide to the then-mayor.

Victory for Garcetti, 52, was far from a sure thing. With several Democratic defections arising on Wednesday morning, Garcetti’s fate rested with allying with Republicans in the deeply divided Senate. He secured seven GOP votes to advance the nomination to a final vote.

For the record, the Republican Senators who voted to confirm were Cassidy (LA), Collins (ME), Daines (MT), Graham (SC), Hagerty (TN), Marshall (KS), and Young (IN). Independent Senators King (ME), Sanders (VT), and Sienema (AZ) all voted in favor of the nomination. Senators who did not cast a vote were Barrasso (R-WY), Booker (D-NJ), Cruz (R-TX), Feinstein (D-CA), Fetterman (D-PA), and McConnell (R-KY). Three Democrats, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Maizie Hirono of Hawaii, and Mark Kelly of Arizona, voted against confirming Mr. Garcetti. We’ll come back to them in a moment.

As we have discussed before, there was one brief moment in 2017 — back when dispirited Democrats were wondering how they could have lost to Donald Trump and who would become the party’s standard-bearer — when it seemed plausible that Mayor Garcetti could be the heir to the Obama movement, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that at the time he had barely finished his first term as mayor. But a spate of controversies surrounding city hall, which didn’t directly involve the mayor but helped advance the perception of a city and county government which was ineffective and corrupt, helped to undermine his support. At the same time, a general lack of progress on any of the important issues facing Angelenos — homelessness, urban decay, transportation, an unfriendly business climate — left a lot of locals with a sense that this mayor was something of a dud.

But what really hurt Eric Garcetti and nearly cancelled his ticket to New Delhi was the revelation that one of his closest aides had repeatedly sexually harassed staff, journalists, even police security while serving in the administration, and that the mayor himself may have known about this behavior yet failed to act:

An investigation requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last year concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Jacobs “sexually harassed multiple individuals and made racist comments towards others.” It also found it “extremely unlikely” that Garcetti was unaware of the behavior, saying that “by all accounts, Mayor Garcetti is very involved in the day-to-day operation of his office.”

The White House called the report a partisan smear.

Nevertheless, intense lobbying on the part of Mayor Garcetti and his supporters managed to sway the seven Republican Senators to support the nomination. Credit, such that it is, should also be given to the Biden Administration who patiently waited out the full 20 months, even resubmitting the Garcetti nomination once it expired, rather than moving on to another candidate. The Administration lashed out at the confirmation delay, complaining that India was too important of an ally to have the ambassadorship vacant for two years, but perhaps they could have thought of that before nominating someone so controversial with the decision falling to an evenly-divided Senate. Most of the seven Republicans who ended up voting for the new ambassador cited the prolonged vacancy and India’s strategic importance in Asia as the reason for their approval.

Even though Eric Garcetti is “back in the game” and now has a political job available for at least the next couple of years (he is said to be interested in running to succeed Gavin Newsom in 2026), this vote exposed some problems that he might face in future attempts at executive office. Sen. Hirono, echoing the Grassley Report, attributed her “no” vote to “information that was given to me in confidence, but very credible.” Now in the age of Christine Blasey Ford we shouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into confidential allegations, but given that this is an intra-party skirmish, we can expect this information to leak at some point when Ambassador Garcetti once again moves back to electoral politics.

So rather than a lean and hungry “young” (in Washington these days, everyone under 80 is a kid) lion heading to India to wow the locals and burnish his resume for a future run at executive office, we’re seeing a badly wounded deer limping away to rest and heal his wounds and hope that he returns to a much more favorable climate. As I wrote more than three years ago, Eric Garcetti’s biggest handicap is going to be that he accomplished very little in nine years at the helm of Los Angeles, and he simply doesn’t have the charisma or reputation to run on personality alone.



About Gov. DeSantis, Russia, Ukraine, and The Inevitable Either/Or Manipulation

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:54 am

[guest post by Dana]

As you know, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sent Vladimir Putin a reassuring message when he told pandered to some Republicans (2024, people!) on a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson (but of course!) and referred to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war as little more than a territorial dispute. His intentional minimization of what is actually taking place ignores the vicious battle that Ukraine is engaged in as it fights to keep from being forcibly subsumed by Russia and erased. It also ignores the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, the abduction of thousands of children who have been sent to Russia for re-education and adoption, the rape of Ukrainian women by Russian troops, the discovery of mass graves with the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainian women and children, some with their hands tied behind their backs, the targeting of civilian populations, and ultimately, it ignores the genocide. Trying to wipe out an entire population is not a simple “territorial dispute”.

Consider the difference between a “dispute” and an invasion leading to war:

Ukraine is a sovereign nation, recognized as such by the rest of the world. Ukraine’s borders are Ukraine’s borders. At the instigation of Russia’s murderous dictator Vladimir Putin, Russian forces invaded those borders. Russia has forced more than 8 million Ukrainians not just from their homes but from their country, has destroyed life-sustaining infrastructure, has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and tens of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel, and has sacrificed perhaps twice as many of its own conscripted soldiers, all on behalf of Putin’s power play.

A dispute is a mere difference of opinion. An invasion is the waging of war to gain territory or riches that are not one’s own. To call the invasion of Ukraine a mere dispute is to indicate there is a moral equivalency between the two sides. There isn’t. One is the aggressor. The other is the aggrieved.

And here’s the rub: DeSantis knows this. Most certainly. So all of this is to say that the political calculation behind DeSantis’s statements speaks to a willful decision to throw Ukraine under the bus for his own political advancement. This wasn’t an unforced error. This was an experienced politician determining how best to get ahead in what will likely be the political race of his life. And that is what I find so repellent. To dismiss a Western nation that is being erased by a brutal common enemy who poses a threat to the West at large is just unacceptable. It’s a short-sighted, cynical, and self-interested calculation he’s made, but unfortunately, one that will resonate with the America First Republicans.

DeSantis also told Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital national interest”. DeSantis is a smart guy. He knows that we have a security interest in seeing Putin defeated. Key Republicans know this, and even the Republican Policy Committee knows this:

Military aid for Ukraine is a strategic investment in the security of the United States. The U.S. has a willing and effective partner to help Ukraine stand up to Putin’s agenda while keeping his aggression farther from NATO borders. If Ukraine defeats Russia, this will save the U.S. from making larger-scale investments in Europe to deter Russia in the future. A weakened Russian military will be a good thing for the U.S., NATO, European, and international stability. As we and our allies buy new weapons to replace what is being sent to Ukraine, we will help modernize our military industrial base and fill the U.S. arsenal with newer weapons.

United States support to Ukraine also sends a clear message to America’s adversaries that we will not back down and that this kind of reckless rejection of the rule of law will have consequences. This is particularly notable as China’s desire to invade Taiwan grows more obvious. It makes clear that there are significant costs to pay for any authoritarian state that expects a quick military victory when invading its neighbors. We must leave absolutely no doubt in the minds of Russia’s, China’s, or any other nation’s leaders about U.S. resolve to support sovereignty and self-determination around the globe. Decisive military aid to Ukraine will accomplish this task.

So with that, I am troubled by DeSantis’s comments. I don’t believe he misspoke or had an oops! moment, or was confused. No clarification is needed. After all, this was a questionnaire, not a live interview. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he said what he meant, and he meant what he said. In light of this, one must ask why DeSantis has gone from a position of once pushing for aid to Ukraine, condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and asserting that the U.S. must send “defensive and offensive” weapons to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 to where he no longer considers Russia’s efforts to erase Ukraine a vital national interest? At the time, DeSantis even criticized the Obama administration for not sending arms to Ukraine and neighboring NATO countries. His current position becomes all the more questionable when one considers that DeSantis has actually already confirmed to us that Russia-Ukraine is indeed a vital national interest and why:

I think that when someone like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sees Obama being indecisive, I think that whets his appetite to create more trouble in the area. And I think if we were to arm the Ukrainians, I think that would send a strong signal to him that he shouldn’t be going any further.

Allow me a pre-emptive strike of sorts: If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I am not a Trump supporter and have criticized him over the years. Now seeing DeSantis’s politically self-interested flip-flop on foreign policy and minimization of the war in Ukraine, etc., I am not inclined to support him in 2024. But let me be clear: just because I don’t see myself supporting either Trump or DeSantis does not automatically mean that I support Joe Biden and will vote for him. That is a disingenuous and manipulative argument designed to force one into an either/or position. The false dilemma seems little more than a twist on the annoying “Gotcha!” game. Stop already. If the projected leading contenders for the Republican nomination are crappy individuals or crappy candidates or hold crappy views that voters can’t get behind because of their own moral, political, and philosophical viewpoints, then one should just see that as a disagreement with the voter, not as a sure sign that they will be voting for the opposition. I’m wondering if this all speaks to a Republican Party problem. Maybe more quality candidates should be a priority. Elevating the standards, rather than lowering them seems like a good idea. Especially as the Party already lowered them, and look what it got us. Anyway, I’m just saying that I refuse to play the game:


The Bailout of the Silicon Valley Bank Makes Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Totally Cool, Right? [UPDATED x2]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:36 am

[guest post by JVW]

UPDATE II – Well, this story just gets more and more fun. From Susan Shelly’s column at the Los Angeles News Group:

In the chaos of the first year of the pandemic emergency, at a time when the Legislature was working remotely, or not at all, Gov. Gavin Newsom had the idea to change financial regulation in California.

Don’t take my word for it. Straight from the horse’s mouth is this “background” from the website of the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI):

“In an effort to strengthen consumer financial protections in California, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed an initiative to modernize and revamp the current Department of Business Oversight (DBO), including an increase in staff and authority, to enhance its regulatory scope and become a national model for consumer protections.”

[. . .]

This adds up to a formula for greater political control of financial institutions in California. It means the regulatory terrorism familiar to so many other businesses in the state could now be applied to banks that failed to meet certain goals of “encouraging” innovation or “engaging” identified communities.

At the same time, the new laws opened the opportunity for some banks to curry favor with politicians by funding “innovation” that non-political number-crunchers had already rejected as a bad bet.

[. . .]

In California, banks could face administrative penalties from the regulatory agency run by an appointee of the governor if they fail to meet their obligation to “encourage” innovation and “engage” vulnerable communities.

By coincidence, or maybe not by coincidence, immediately after the DFPI’s new regulatory powers became effective on Jan. 1, 2021, Gov. Newsom asked Silicon Valley Bank to donate to the nonprofit California Partners Fund founded by his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

The bank didn’t say no.

The first $25,000 payment was made on Jan. 8, 2021. Three more payments of $25,000 each followed before the end of the year.

I’ve written in the past about the brave Mrs. Siebel Newsom, who overcame a childhood of privilege and tony private schools to become a documentary filmmaker who most certainly does not trade on her husband’s power to grant favors in order to feather her own nest. Nosiree. How we suffer these people is mystifying to me.

UPDATE – Oh, lookee here: it turns out that Greasy Governor Gavin Newsom lobbied the White House to bail out SVB, and probably didn’t disclose his own conflict of interest:

California governor Gavin Newsom lobbied the White House to bail out Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and later celebrated the decision after it was made public, without mentioning that the firm is a backer in at least three wine companies he owns.

The Biden administration “acted swiftly and decisively to protect the American economy and strengthen public confidence in our banking system,” the governor noted in an official statement released on Monday.

“Their actions this weekend have calmed nerves, and had profoundly positive impacts on California,” Newsom added. “California is a pillar of the American economy, and federal leaders did the right thing, ensuring our innovation economy can continue to grow and move forward.”

[. . .]

However, The Intercept revealed Tuesday that the governor failed to note in his official remarks that at least three wineries owned by Newsom – CADE, Odette, and Plumpjack – are listed clients of SVB. Newsom further glossed over his personal banking ties with the now-defunct firm and the fact that his wife, Jennifer Siebel, was the recipient of a $100,000 charitable donation from SVB in 2021.

The potential conflict of interest did not appear to be on Newsom’s mind when the governor’s office acknowledged over the weekend that he had been in touch with the White House and was directly involved in discussions over the failing bank.

“Over the last 48 hours, I have been in touch with the highest levels of leadership at the White House and Treasury. Everyone is working with FDIC to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible, to protect jobs, people’s livelihoods, and the entire innovation ecosystem that has served as a tent pole for our economy,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Somehow we just knew that a sleazy operative like Newsom would be lurking somewhere behind the scene, didn’t we?

—- Original Post —-

Those who have been following the whole Silicon Valley Bank collapse (two great explanations of what has happened are provided by David Bahnsen and at The Rational Walk, the latter of which is not behind a firewall) know that right now the blame game is going on in earnest. Were the financial issues caused by Trumpian deregulation and the reluctance of Republican Administrations to fully oversee (i.e., meddle in) the banking and financial services industry? Was it a matter of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who mostly support Democrat politicians and progressive goals taking advantage of the chumminess of crony capitalism and the Valley’s close ties with the Obama/Biden machine? Was the real problem ongoing inflation, an aftershock of the pandemic which has likely been exacerbated by the reckless economic policies of the Biden Administration? No matter the cause, this bank collapse has caused a great deal of angina in the financial industry as high-strung bankers wonder if this is the first falling domino in what could stir bad memories of 2008.

But that won’t stop various halfwits in the media and political world from hot-taking the crisis to their own ridiculous ends. Enter now CNN gasbag John Harwood who rides into battle to score a partisan point:

I’m not going to make the effort to pick apart the mindless inanity of this question since Charlie Cooke has already effortlessly dispatched with it:

[T]here is a general-welfare claim here in a way that simply does not apply to President Biden’s illegal student-loan order — which, if we’re drawing analogies, is akin to the Treasury deciding on a whim to bail out the healthiest banks in the land. The purpose of the federal government’s intervention with Silicon Valley is to prevent a broad-based run on the banks that ends up severely damaging, or even destroying, the economy. The purpose of Biden’s student-loan play is to give money to people who spent a lot of cash on a consumer product that they received in full, and who, for entirely selfish reasons, would now like to have both the product they bought and the money they spent obtaining it.

But the part that Harwood seems to overlook is that it just might be the Biden Administration who is playing politics with this decision. Harwood should be asking a more interesting question: Is the Biden Administration’s willingness to bail out the Silicon Valley Bank an attempt to justify his dumb plan for student loan forgiveness? Can’t you hear the President and his supporters arguing, “How can we possibly make whole the bank’s depositors but not the poor students trying to pay for their education?” There is actually an emerging consensus that saving SVB is a bad idea, with opposition coming from rightists and leftists in one of those fleeting moments of agreement when the two parties’ activist wings unite against the Washington establishment. It’s all for naught anyway, since the Biden Administration has decided to go through with the bailout. In his typically clueless way, the President insists that neither the taxpayer nor the bank’s depositors will bear the burden since the money will come from the Deposit Insurers Fund, a fund built on fees assessed to banks on a quarterly basis whose costs the banks somehow magically absorb and do not pass along to their customers.

Biden fans who try to justify the Treasury Department’s move by comparing this to the TARP bailouts of 2008 should stop and remember that those bailouts were enacted via legislation submitted through Congress and not ordered into existence by an increasingly autocratic Chief Executive. Also, the banks eventually paid back those bailout sums. When the Supreme Court blocks President Biden’s blatantly unconstitutional attempt to unilaterally cancel student loan debt there will naturally be pressure on Congress to “do something,” but I hope the GOP stays resolute and tells them to go pound sand.



President Biden And Gun Control

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:15 pm

[guest post by Dana]

President Biden’s remarks made today about his executive order expanding background checks:

Last year, after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, I signed into law…the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act…Today, I’m announcing another executive order that will accelerate and intensify this work to save more lives more quickly.

First, this executive order helps keep firearms out of dangerous hands, as I continue to call on Congress to require background checks for all firearm sales. And in the meantime…my executive order directs my Attorney General to take every lawful action possible…to move us as close as we can to universal background checks without new legislation.

I just — it’s just common sense to check whether someone is a felon, a domestic abuser, before they buy a gun.

The executive order…expands public awareness campaigns about the “red flag” orders…So more parents, teachers, police officers, health providers, and counselors know how to flag for the — a court that someone is exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening classmates, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that make them a danger to themselves and others and temporarily remove that person’s access to firearms…

The second thing it does — the executive order ramps up our efforts to hold the gun industry accountable. It’s the only outfit you can’t sue these days. It does that by calling out for an independent government study that analyzes and exposes how gun manufacturers aggressively market firearms to civilians, especially minors, including by using military imagery.

And it directs the Attorney General to…publicly release Alcohol, Tobacco, and…Firearms inspection reports of firearms dealers who were cited for violation of the law. That way, policymakers can strengthen laws to crack down on these illegal gun dealers and the public can avoid purchasing from them.

Third, the executive order improves federal coordination to support victims, survivors, and their families and communities affected by mass shootings the same way FEMA responds to your natural disasters…all around the nation…


Russian Jet Hits US Drone Over Black Sea

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:06 am

[guest post by Dana]

During routine operations over international waters, this happened:

A Russian fighter has collided with a US Reaper drone, forcing it down into the Black Sea, in what US forces called an an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept.

A US European Command statement said the collision happened…when two Russian Su-27 fighter jets flew up to the MQ-9 Reaper drone over international waters west of Crimea. The statement said the Russian pilots sought to disrupt the US aircraft before the collision.

“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the US statement said. “This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”

One of the Russian fighters then struck drone’s propeller “causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters”.

While National Security Council’s John Kirby said that it’s not unusual for Russia to “intercept U.S. aircraft” in this location, he also said that today’s downing of the drone was “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless”.


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