Patterico's Pontifications


Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:58 am

[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

Loose lips sink ships and all that:

Former President Donald Trump acknowledged on tape in a 2021 meeting that he had retained “secret” military information that he had not declassified, according to a transcript of the audio recording obtained by CNN.

“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump says, according to the transcript.

CNN obtained the transcript of a portion of the meeting where Trump is discussing a classified Pentagon document about attacking Iran. In the audio recording, which CNN previously reported was obtained by prosecutors, Trump says that he did not declassify the document he’s referencing, according to the transcript…The transcript of the audio recording suggests that Trump is showing the document he’s discussing to those in the room. Several sources have told CNN the recording captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document.

“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.”

Trump was complaining in the meeting about Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. The meeting occurred shortly after The New Yorker published a story by Susan Glasser detailing how, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, Milley instructed the Joint Chiefs to ensure Trump issued no illegal orders and that he be informed if there was any concern.

“Well, with Milley – uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” Trump says, according to the transcript. “They presented me this – this is off the record, but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”

“All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”

“Secret” and “confidential” are two levels of classification for sensitive government documents.

Second news item

Trump attorneys Jim Trusty and John Rowley step down:

Trusty and Rowley also said they will no longer represent Trump in a pending federal criminal probe into his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

Third news item

Mitt Romney, consistently reasonable and thoughtful::

“Like all Americans, Mr. Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The government has the burden of proving its charges beyond a reasonable doubt and securing a unanimous verdict by a South Florida jury.

“By all appearances, the Justice Department and special counsel have exercised due care, affording Mr. Trump the time and opportunity to avoid charges that would not generally have been afforded to others.

“Mr. Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so.

“These allegations are serious and if proven, would be consistent with his other actions offensive to the national interest, such as withholding defensive weapons from Ukraine for political reasons and failing to defend the Capitol from violent attack and insurrection.”

Fourth news item

More aid to Ukraine as the spring offensive is underway:

Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new security assistance package, underscoring the unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine. This package, which totals up to $2.1 billion and includes critical air defense and ammunition capabilities, is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI)…

The capabilities in this announcement include:

Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
HAWK air defense systems and missiles;
105mm and 203mm artillery rounds;
Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
Laser-guided rocket system munitions;
Support for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

Fifth news item

Brutal and heartbreaking account from Ukraine:

Winter was hell. Now a new hell has begun.

You know how psychologically, if you are hit once, it hurts. The second time you get hit, it doesn’t hurt as much. And the third time, when you are hit like that, it seems to be the norm.

But then a new constellation of events forms: your friends and relatives are fighting at the front line, and you begin to lose them. A close friend died before the New Year. It was a time of crazy grief for me. A new emotional phase begins, when you can’t understand why. You saw death in the beginning, but now it touches you directly.

Before, just a few rockets came down during air raids. Now, the Russians have developed their tactics to intimidate civilians. We face near-nightly barrages around Kyiv. As soon as the attacks start, all the car alarms go off. We wake up to horrible explosions. You watch the huge red balls flying, and you don’t know where they’re headed. On one night last month,¹ for example, the Russians launched six Kinzhal missiles, nine Kalibr-type cruise missiles, three anti-aircraft ballistic missiles, six Iranian suicide Shahed drones and three Orlan-type reconnaissance UAVs. During a recent attack, my balcony doors were blown out by the shock wave.

When the raids start, we all run to the basements. Sleepy children are picked up by their mothers and carried. We sit there for three or four hours. By then, it’s morning. You come back to the house, have a coffee, take a shower, and go to work. The first time, you can do it. By the third day, you don’t have the strength anymore.

Everybody talks about stress, all the time. It’s a pain we share. We had more or less already adapted to the lack of electricity and such things. We took precautions; we bought generators and some other equipment. We warmed up in each others’ apartments so there was as little space as possible to heat. But now that a more psychological phase of the war has begun, we hardly sleep at night, and we still have to go to work during the day. In these conditions, you come to an emotional dead end. You don’t understand what to do next.

Everyone tries to think about something else. At work, I look at my colleagues, and we have no energy at all. The management suggested that we should all take five days off to go to the mountains somewhere—maybe the Carpathians or Poland, where we won’t hear the explosions every night. We can’t go for a break in the woods closer to home, because they have all been laid with mines.

For many, our nervous system is at its limit. I take sedatives both for sleep problems and psychological problems. The most horrifying thing, it turns out: you can’t live without a future. You live and you don’t know what awaits you. You don’t know how to organize your daily routines, or how to plan anything. You have no future, and this makes life eerie and terrifying.

Sixth news item

Bipartisan concern in Congress over potential LIV/PGA merger:

The PGA Tour’s planned merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf has sparked a surprise bout of bipartisan harmony on Capitol Hill: Conservatives and liberals are uniting to thrash the deal.

Some lawmakers are calling for congressional investigations. Others are looking to the Justice Department and other federal regulators to first explore the case for blocking the move on antitrust grounds. Only after regulators act, they say, is there likely to be appetite for Congress to enter the picture — even as a majority of its members are openly wary of the deal.

Scores of members of Congress have criticized the golf mega-merger, warning that it would help consolidate the Saudi government’s U.S. influence despite deep bipartisan concerns about its human rights record.

What a difference a money makes:

Many are also calling PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan a hypocrite, noting that he said one year ago, “I think you’d have to be living under a rock to not know there are significant implications” to players aligning themselves with Saudi Arabia.

Seventh news item

Texas putting buoy barrier in Rio Grande:

Texas is set to deploy a buoy barrier in the Rio Grande as part of plans to deter migrant crossings, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.

He shared the news after he signed six bills related to border security. Funding will come from $5.1 billion approved by the state legislature to secure the border.

“What we’re doing right now, we’re securing the border at the border,” Abbott said. “What these buoys will allow us to do is to prevent people from even getting to the border.”

The first 1,000 feet of buoys will be deployed at Eagle Pass, which Steve McCraw, director of the state’s Department of Public Safety, called “the center of gravity for smuggling.” The first deployment will cost under $1 million and will begin “pretty much immediately.” Officials did not share a more specific number for the cost of the barrier.

Officials hope the buoys will act as a deterrent to prevent migrants from entering the water. While there are ways to overcome the buoys, which can range in size, it will take a lot of effort and specialized skills.

Eighth news item

House reaction to Trump being indicted is about what you would expect:

For comparison, go back and read Mitt Romney’s response (#3).

Ninth news item

The federal indictment against Donald Trump has just been unsealed. You can read it in full here.

The charges:

The 44-page indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleges that Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents.” The indictment names Walt Nauta, an aide to Trump who served as a White House valet, as a co-conspirator.

The indictment lists 37 counts in all against Trump:

31 counts of willful retention of classified documents
1 count of conspiracy to obstruct justice
1 count of withholding a document or record
1 count of corruptly concealing a document or record
1 count of concealing a document in a federal investigation
1 count of scheme to conceal and one count of making false statements and representations.

At least four of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Have a good weekend.


Down to the Wire on Student Loan Forgiveness

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:26 am

[guest post by JVW]

Earlier this the week, Congress passed a measure in a bipartisan vote (ok, it was two House Democrats joining their Republican colleagues and two Senate Democrats and one independent, Krysten Sinema, voting with Republicans) to roll-back President Biden’s arguably illegal Executive Order which provided many student loan debtors with up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness, $20,000 for those who received loans geared towards low-income families. On Wednesday, President Biden vetoed the legislation, subjecting us to one of his typically grouchy and demagogic justifications:

Unsurprisingly, the President employed the standard Democrat trick of comparing student loans to the PPP loans which were offered to small businesses during the pandemic. This is pretty much claiming that forced closures of businesses by the government, under penalty of prosecution, are very much equivalent to the entirely voluntary decision to enroll at an institution of higher education and run up debt chasing a degree. This has been one of the most insipid talking points that Democrats have come up with to defend their gross overreach, and it deserves absolute derision from anyone observant enough to realize how inapt the comparison truly is.

During the negotiations last month over the debt limit, there was at one point a rumor of a compromise in which the White House would further scale back the program, currently estimated to cost at least $400 billion and up to $1 trillion over ten years, in return for the GOP agreeing to codify it into law. Republicans rightly concluded that the Supreme Court is fairly likely to determine that the President lacks the authority to unilaterally impose this program without the assent of Congress. In the end, the only mention of student loan forgiveness in the debt ceiling compromise is that the White House and Congress agreed that the freeze on loan repayments will be lifted no later than the final day of August, nearly 42 months after it was implemented.

And this ambiguity on the fate of loan forgiveness coupled with the resumption of required debt payments has the left freaked out. A piece by David Dayden at The American Prospect is downright livid that our hip, young, progressive college graduates might not get Uncle Joe’s big wet (pervy) kiss on the cheek:

By the end of this month, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not 43 million student loan borrowers will see between $10,000 and $20,000 taken off their debt load. But regardless of the Court’s opinion, by the fall, anyone with a remaining loan balance will need to make monthly payments again, for the first time in three and a half years.

[. . .]

That leaves the administration in the dicey position of managing a consequential rollout (affecting more than three times as many Americans as the Obamacare exchanges) with an enormous potential downside. Millions of young people who have voted for Democrats in record numbers in the past two elections will endure what will feel like a new financial obligation of hundreds of dollars per month. And if the history of the student loan program is any guide, the process will overflow with errors, mistakes, and frustration.

Very helpfully, Mr. Dayden lays his cards on the table from the onset: Student loan repayment is going to suck, and it is going to hit a key voting constituency for Democrats. It’s good to know that principle and policy wisdom is secondary here to an exercise of raw political power. Democrats don’t usually say that sort of thing out loud. More from Mr. Dayden:

The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), which is tasked with managing this impending chaos, has no additional funding to do it, and its budget was already inadequate. But some advocates argue that resources are just a tiny part of the problem. “I’m not aware of any instance where a creditor restarted a 40-million-account portfolio. That’s at a scale that finance doesn’t operate in, let alone government,” said Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC).

[. . .]

“Even if we dumped all of the money in the world on them, they couldn’t get this right,” added Thomas Gokey, an organizer with the borrower advocacy group Debt Collective. “Only good things happen when the payments are kept off, and only bad things result from turning them back on.”

Amazing, isn’t it? Even if given unlimited funding, the government would fail at managing the portfolio of the millions of student loan accounts, at least according to an activist for debt forgiveness. Coming in strong with “the government is going to fail at this task, so they might as well just throw in the towel” is quite the flex for an ideology which wants the same government to manage virtually every aspect of our lives, from our education to our health to our employment to our families to our retirement. But nobody ever tried to claim that there was much intellectual consistency in progressive dogma. Moving on:

If you want to see an example of how this might spiral out of control, look no further than the Medicaid purge now happening across the country. The end of the pandemic-era continuous coverage requirement meant states could resume eligibility checks that can drop people from the rolls. Dozens of states are now eagerly doing so, with hundreds of thousands losing coverage—with most of the cuts happening due to procedural reasons rather than enrollees actually lacking eligibility. So if the renewal form went to the wrong address, or the state website for re-enrolling doesn’t work, or you just didn’t hear about the new termination process, you’re out of luck and kicked off your health insurance.

All this tends to tell me is that staunch progressives do indeed want everyone to be entirely dependent on one government program or other, and they don’t want the citizen to have any obligation to actively participate, other than being told by the government what to do and when and where to do it. The idea that asking people to go back to work and stop relying upon pandemic-era handouts is anathema to this worldview, whether it be in the area of health care or in education.

Writing in response to Mr. Dayden’s argument, Noah Rothman makes clear why the progressive argument is a whole lot of hooey:

We are supposed to feel bad not just for borrowers who will experience administrative errors but anyone who took on student-loan debt. After all, these are people with “a high propensity to spend,” Dayen adds. True enough. Research indicates that the student-loan-debt pause led borrowers to take on even more debt. Restoring a regular debt-repayment schedule will provide younger voters with a clearer picture of their financial obligations. The activists hope those voters will thank Democrats for the education in fiscal responsibility by throwing them out of office on their ears.

Take a moment to contemplate the point being made at the link in the preceding paragraph: Despite what the left earnestly wants you to believe, forgiving debt doesn’t really allow for young people to move out of the family home into their own living spaces, pay off credit card bills, and save for the future, it simply encourages them to take on debt in other areas. Many progressives, recognizing this fact, like to portray this as Millennials helping to stimulate the economy and thus speed up our recovery. Imagine that. I wouldn’t mind having the government “forgive” a mortgage payment of mine, and I promise to use the savings for a Hawaiian vacation to help the islands goose their tourism back up to pre-pandemic levels. That is the sort of tortured logic that we’re hearing from the debt-forgiveness crowd. They are, as Mr. Rothman rightly describes them, “self-righteously rapacious.”

When this crowd is smacked down by the Supreme Court (here’s furious knocking on wood coming from me), don’t expect the pressure on the Biden Administration to end. Loan forgiveness advocates are now saying that if the 2001 HEROES Act doesn’t allow the President to forgive hundreds of billions in loan debt, then the 1965 Higher Education Act ought to do the trick. Joe Biden, who spent long enough in the Senate to theoretically have developed respect for the legislative branch’s role in costly spending proposals, deserves to be pestered by these grown-up children and if he decides in his Rooseveltian delusions to take a second bite at the apple, then impeachment proceedings ought to begin immediately.


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