Quotulatiousness

October 8, 2017

Despite the rhetoric, Trump can’t just “wave goodbye” to Puerto Rico’s debt

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the financial plight that Puerto Rico was facing even before the hurricane season began:

… the fact remains that Puerto Rico is not going to be able to pay all of its debts. Prior to the hurricane, the territory had $73 billion in outstanding debt, and a population of 3.4 million people. That’s approximately $21,500 for every man, woman and child on the island – just about enough to buy each of them a brand new Mini Cooper, provided that they don’t insist on the sport package or the heated seats.

Puerto Rico couldn’t afford to buy 3.4 million Mini Coopers before; they certainly can’t now that Maria has washed out so many roads. Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s GDP was around $100 billion, meaning that repaying its debt would consume nearly nine months of everything the island earned. And while there will probably be a brief bump in economic activity as disaster relief funds pour in and the destruction is cleared away, over the long term the hurricane represents a huge setback: businesses destroyed, people killed or injured, funds that could be generating economic growth instead diverted to simply replacing what has been lost.

So whatever President Trump does, or does not do, investors in Puerto Rican bonds are going to have to take a substantial haircut. The problem is, we’re not going to wipe out the debt entirely. And even if we could, it wouldn’t be enough to get Puerto Rico back to economic or fiscal health.

“If it’s that bad,” you may be thinking, “surely we ought to simply wipe out the debt holders? After all, they’re investment professionals. They can afford to take the loss; ordinary Puerto Ricans can’t.” The problem is that most of the folks holding Puerto Rico’s debt aren’t vulture hedge funds sitting on wads of ill-gotten gains; the overwhelming majority of the debt is held by ordinary folks who buy bonds or bond funds. Like, say, your parents. Or maybe you. And also, a lot of Puerto Ricans, who would be hit very hard if the value of their investments were wiped out.

How did Puerto Rico get so deeply into debt? Step forward the federal and Puerto Rican governments to take a bow:

The operations of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, for example, defy belief: It essentially gave unlimited free power to municipalities and government-owned entities, which used it to do things like operate skating rinks in the tropics. Everywhere you look, you see signs of a government struggling to perform basic tasks: collect taxes, maintain the infrastructure, improve the health system. In the jargon of development economists, the island lacks “state capacity”: It is simply unable to exert the amount of power over its operations that we on the mainland mostly take for granted.

But you can’t entirely blame the Puerto Rican government for the state of the underlying economy, which is what had plunged the island into a bankruptcy crisis even before the hurricane. For that you have to look to the federal government, which eliminated a tax break that had given companies incentives to locate in Puerto Rico, and then oversaw a financial crisis that sent them into an even deeper spiral. We also made sure that a relatively poor island was forced to adopt the federal minimum wage, which was too high for the local labor market. That has contributed to the 11.5 percent unemployment rate. And Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, leaving it unable to adjust monetary policy to overcome economic stagnation.

September 29, 2017

Judge Roy Moore as a sign that worse is coming

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR posted this to G+ yesterday:

Judge Roy Moore, a truly repellent creature who reifies every liberal’s fantasy of what fundamentalist conservatives are like (well, except for the racism – even Moore is not actually a racist), has won in Alabama against a candidate backed by the GOP establishment and Trump.

And I wonder if Democrats are too far gone to heed the warning.

You demonized the Tea Party, and you got Trump. If you neutralize or expel Trump as you dream of doing, worse is coming. Roy Moore is worse. Roy Moore is a sign. The conservative/populist revolt can no longer be contained even by Trump. The beast is loose.

Time to question your assumptions, Democrats (and establishment Republicans). The more painful and disruptive that self-questioning is, the more likely it is that your party might escape the destruction that is coming.

As the Instapundit often says, “Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.”

September 28, 2017

Back to the Moon in 2019?

Filed under: Space, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Charles Stross thinks a US circumlunar expedition is on the cards for just two years ahead, and he might well be right:

If Donald Trump is still president, US astronauts will return to circumlunar space around July 16th, 2019 …

That’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. It’s also 6-12 months on from the projected date of Musk’s translunar tourist trip on a Falcon Heavy.

I expect Falcon Heavy to be delayed a few months, minimum, because no new launch vehicle ever flies on time, especially a crew-rated one, but it’s currently due to fly around December this year for the first time, with a vehicle currently undergoing integration at Cape Canaveral and commercial orders for subsequent flights. It’s rather hard to describe it as vaporware at this point. The same goes for the Dragon 2 crewed capsule; it’s due for a first uncrewed orbital flight test in March 2018, and a crewed orbital test flight later in 2018.

[…]

I’m making this a prediction, however, because the POTUS factor.

July 2019 lies within the term in office of Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, depending whether impeachment/removal has happened first then). Trump is nothing if not an egomaniac, and offering him the opportunity to make a historic phone call to lunar orbit in front of the TV cameras is a guaranteed ego-stroke. Trump is of an age to have young-adult memories of Apollo and I can’t see the idea not appealing to him if he can take credit for it.

So I’m betting that this is how Musk will fund development of his lunar-orbit capability.

(Terms and conditions: prediction invalid in event of nuclear war, global environmental or economic collapse, Trump and Pence both being impeached, or a Dragon 2 capsule exploding in flight, because any of these things might impact the launch schedule.)

Note: Charles is quite a fan of the impeachment scenario, if you hadn’t picked that up from context. The fact that he’s very much not a Trump fan actually makes his prediction that much more striking: he has no interest or desire to see Trump get a propaganda coup to end his term in office.

September 24, 2017

We Read Hillary’s Book So You Don’t Have To

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ReasonTV
Published on 22 Sep 2017

Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened attempts to explain Trump’s upset victory in 2016 through a series of reasons which are not Hillary Clinton.

Rolling back the regulation tide

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the Trump administration’s attempt to rein-in the regulation machine of the US federal government and its many, many agencies:

One of the first things Trump did as president was to sign an executive order requiring that two regulations be rolled back for every new one that was promulgated. As a longtime advocate of rolling back regulatory complexity, I found a lot to like in this rule. Unless strenuous effort is made to regularly prune them back, regulations have a tendency to blindly grow until they have wrapped the economy so tight that nothing can breathe, much less thrive. Trump’s executive order forces us to do some very necessary maintenance.

Unfortunately, it’s a rather crude instrument for the job. It’s possible that nothing more nuanced would actually work; nuance and flexibility, alas, give regulators quite a bit of discretion to put off an annoying chore. Just the same, we should recognize the dangers of cutting with such a dull knife.

In agencies that are dealing with a genuinely new and disruptive force — one for which innovators need regulatory clarity before they can bring a product to market — such a strict regulatory requirement faces them with an unpalatable dilemma. Every new regulation that is vitally necessary means finding two regulations that aren’t. But each of those dusty old rules was created for a reason. Some of those reasons were bad; in some cases the rule never worked as intended; and in others the rule later became obsolete. But that does not describe all of our regulations. And imagine the brutal publicity that will ensue if someone dies or gets hurt in an accident that could plausibly have been prevented by a rescinded rule.

An even larger problem is that the “two for one” rule doesn’t really tell us about the relative quality of the regulations involved. An agency could satisfy that executive order by issuing a terrible, stupid, costly regulation that forced power companies to rip out their windmills, as long as it repealed two sensible and necessary regulations that (for now) prevent factories from dumping toxic waste into our watersheds.

Reducing regulatory complexity is an important goal, but it cannot be our only goal. We ought to strive for less regulation, yes, but also for good regulation, and for regulation that gives companies enough clarity to innovate and build their businesses. Unfortunately, while the Trump administration has proven enthusiastic about the first goal, we’ve seen much less talk about the others. And given how long it has taken for Trump to staff all the agencies he oversees, we haven’t really had the personnel to deliver on things like better regulation, even if doing so were the Trump administration’s main priority.

September 21, 2017

“Once Obama and his allies launched their domestic surveillance operation, they crossed the Rubicon”

Filed under: Government, Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Daniel Greenfield explains why the recent news on wiretapping Trump associates might yet bring about a Watergate for the 21st century, only with Obama team members in the defendant roles:

Last week, CNN revealed (and excused) one phase of the Obama spying operation on Trump. After lying about it on MSNBC, Susan Rice admitted unmasking the identities of Trump officials to Congress.

Rice was unmasking the names of Trump officials a month before leaving office. The targets may have included her own successor, General Flynn, who was forced out of office using leaked surveillance.

While Rice’s targets weren’t named, the CNN story listed a meeting with Flynn, Bannon and Kushner.

Bannon was Trump’s former campaign chief executive and a senior adviser. Kushner is a senior adviser. Those are exactly the people you spy on to get an insight into what your political opponents plan to do.

Now the latest CNN spin piece informs us that secret FISA orders were used to spy on the conversations of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The surveillance was discontinued for lack of evidence and then renewed under a new warrant. This is part of a pattern of FISA abuses by Obama Inc. which never allowed minor matters like lack of evidence to dissuade them from new FISA requests.

Desperate Obama cronies had figured out that they could bypass many of the limitations on the conventional investigations of their political opponents by ‘laundering’ them through national security.

If any of Trump’s people were talking to non-Americans, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could be used to spy on them. And then the redacted names of the Americans could be unmasked by Susan Rice, Samantha Power and other Obama allies. It was a technically legal Watergate.

If both CNN stories hold up, then Obama Inc. had spied on two Trump campaign leaders.

Furthermore the Obama espionage operation closely tracked Trump’s political progress. The first FISA request targeting Trump happened the month after he received the GOP nomination. The second one came through in October: the traditional month of political surprises meant to upend an election.

The spying ramped up after Trump’s win when the results could no longer be used to engineer a Hillary victory, but would instead have to be used to cripple and bring down President Trump. Headed out the door, Rice was still unmasking the names of Trump’s people while Obama was making it easier to pass around raw eavesdropped data to other agencies.

No matter how bad the information gets, I doubt that Trump will go after Obama personally — ex-Presidents have an unwritten constitutional privilege that way, I understand — but some of his former cabinet and sub-cabinet officers might well be sacrificed to minimize long-term damage to the Obama administration’s various legacies.

On the other hand, CNN hasn’t been having a lot of luck with their big breaking stories lately … this might be another one of those “lots of smoke, but no fire” situations. Democrats facing tough races in 2018 will be hoping that there’s no “smoking gun” there as far as criminal prosecutions are concerned.

August 28, 2017

“Convicting Arpaio of contempt of court was like busting Al Capone on tax evasion”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jon Gabriel on Il Donalduce‘s pardon of the world-class authoritarian scumbag and all-around thug, ex-Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio:

President Trump asked the crowd last week at his Phoenix rally, “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Had the hall been filled with an accurate cross-section of Arpaio’s former constituents, the answer would have been a resounding “no.”

Nevertheless, Trump pardoned the ex-sheriff on Friday, though he had not yet been sentenced and had shown zero remorse for his crime.

America’s self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” was convicted of criminal contempt of court last month after refusing to obey court orders. This most recent legal battle involved numerous federal attempts to get Arpaio to stop racially profiling residents of Maricopa County.

Not only did Arpaio refuse, he bragged about it. “Nobody is higher than me,” he said. “I am the elected sheriff by the people. I don’t serve any governor or the president.”

Many conservatives outside of Arizona celebrated his headline-grabbing antics, but they don’t know the real story. I’m a conservative Maricopa County resident who has lived under Arpaio throughout his decades-long reign. Arpaio was never a conservative; he just played one on TV.

I saw his love of racial profiling firsthand, especially on my daily commutes through the tiny Hispanic community of Guadalupe, Ariz. When conducting these “sweeps,” helicopters buzzed houses, an 18-wheeler marked “Mobile Command Center” was planted in the center of town, and countless sheriff’s deputies stood on the roadsides, peering into the cars rolling by. Being Caucasian, I was always waved through. The drivers ahead and behind me weren’t so lucky.

Washington’s laxity in border enforcement led many right-of-center Americans to appreciate more robust enforcement, even when it regularly included authoritarian scenes like the one in Guadalupe. But even if you turn a blind eye to the human cost of such race-based enforcement, Arpaio’s other misdeeds are legion.

August 19, 2017

How to Safely Watch The Eclipse or CNN

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 18 Aug 2017

Remy has a few helpful tips for safely watching large orange balls of gas.

Written by Remy. Produced by Austin Bragg

August 14, 2017

The NRA as a “domestic security threat”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kevin Williamson on the recent calls for the National Rifle Association to be viewed in the same way as the KKK, al Queda or ISIS:

Representative Kathleen Rice, a batty New York congressman — and, significantly, a former prosecutor — […] called upon the U.S. government to designate the National Rifle Association and its public faces, including Dana Loesch, “domestic security threats.” This demand comes in response to the NRA’s having shown a recruiting video in which Loesch criticizes sundry progressive bogeymen (the media, Hollywood, etc.) and calls upon like-minded allies to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” It was immediately denounced by the usual opportunistic nincompoops as a call to violence and sedition, even a call to overthrow the government.

It is of course no such thing. It’s a dopey bit of cheap PR hackery from an increasingly partisan NRA that has made the lamentable decision to branch out from what it is good at — its enormously successful and historically bipartisan campaign of agitation for gun rights — and go all-in with Trump (a fickle friend of the Second Amendment) and the kulturkampf associated with his movement. None of that adds up to “domestic security threat” or anything like a domestic security threat. The only thing the NRA or Loesch have done violence to is a decent respect for the limitations of metaphor.

“Domestic security threat” is a term without legal meaning, being a conflation of two terms that Democrats like to employ against their critics: “national-security threat” and “domestic terrorists.” That should give us some idea of what Representative Rice would like to see done in response to the “domestic security threat” she imagines. Recent precedent here is not particularly inspiring: The Obama administration assassinated an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for the grave offense of being “the Osama bin Laden of Facebook,” a phrase that would be hard to say without laughing in a context other than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.

Gun owners and gun enthusiasts have been targeted for some time by Democrats, who have insisted, among other things, that the federal government ought to suspend the constitutional rights of people put on a secret blacklist by the federal government with no due process and no course of appeal. Democrats dream of registries, property seizure, and other invasive measures reminiscent of the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century — so long as those tools of tyranny are used on their political enemies.

What are the possible offenses of the NRA? It is an organization that does nothing more aggressive than political organization and political communication. Its efforts are labor-intensive: Contrary to the ignorant assumptions that inform our political discourse, the NRA is a relatively small spender when it comes to campaign donations and lobbying, being at the moment the 460th-largest campaign donor and the 156th-highest-spending lobbyist. The NRA has long excelled at its core mission because it excels at arguing its case in public and at delivering the votes, particularly in tight House races. And it is for this — for ordinary political activism of precisely the sort that the First Amendment exists to protect — that Representative Rice and others seek to have the NRA punished as a criminal organization, or as a terrorist organization. That these authoritarian measures are cheered by people who still call themselves “liberals” suggests a widespread moral and intellectual failure among a significant portion of the American public.

July 31, 2017

“If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave […] ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Anthony Scaramucci is doing his very best impression of “Blake”, says Kevin Williamson:

Glengarry Glen Ross is the Macbeth of real estate, full of great, blistering lines and soliloquies so liberally peppered with profanity that the original cast had nicknamed the show “Death of a F***ing Salesman.” But a few of those attending the New York revival left disappointed. For a certain type of young man, the star of Glengarry Glen Ross is a character called Blake, played in the film by Alec Baldwin. We know that his name is “Blake” only from the credits; asked his name by one of the other salesmen, he answers: “What’s my name? F*** you. That’s my name.” In the film, Blake sets things in motion by delivering a motivational speech and announcing a sales competition: “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize? A set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired. Get the picture?” He berates the salesmen in terms both financial — “My watch cost more than your car!” — and sexual. Their problem, in Blake’s telling, isn’t that they’ve had a run of bad luck or bad sales leads — or that the real estate they’re trying to sell is crap — it is that they aren’t real men.

[…]

These guys don’t want to see Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. What they want is to be Blake. They want to swagger, to curse, to insult, and to exercise power over men, exercising power over men being the classical means to the end of exercising power over women, which is of course what this, and nine-tenths of everything else in human affairs, is about. Blake is a specimen of that famous creature, the “alpha male,” and establishing and advertising one’s alpha creds is an obsession for some sexually unhappy contemporary men. There is a whole weird little ecosystem of websites (some of them very amusing) and pickup-artist manuals offering men tips on how to be more alpha, more dominant, more commanding, a literature that performs roughly the same function in the lives of these men that Cosmopolitan sex tips play in the lives of insecure women. Of course this advice ends up producing cartoonish, ridiculous behavior. If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave like such a Scaramuccia, ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross.

What’s notable about the advice offered to young men aspiring to be “alpha males” is that it is consistent with the classic salesmanship advice offered by the real-world versions of Blake in a hundred thousand business-inspiration books (Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World is the classic of the genre) and self-help tomes, summarized in an old Alcoholics Anonymous slogan: “Fake it ’til you make it.” For the pick-up artists, the idea is that simply acting in social situations as though one were confident, successful, and naturally masterful is a pretty good substitute for being those things. Never mind the advice of Cicero (esse quam videri, be rather than seem) or Rush — just go around acting like Blake and people will treat you like Blake.

If that sounds preposterous, remind yourself who the president of the United States of America is.

Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man.

Update: I guess he came in third.

July 28, 2017

13 Reasons Jeff Sessions is a @$#/!

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Jul 27, 2017

Jeff Sessions is on the ropes with Donald Trump. Good.

The president is pissed because Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. But here are a baker’s dozen of reasons to hate the attorney general, including his obsession with restarting the war on pot, his call to jack up mandatory minimums, and his support for civil asset forfeiture. Then there’s his lack of interest in due process, willingness to subvert state’s rights when they conflict with his desired outcome, and desire to lengthen prison terms for non-violent criminals. Also, he might be some kind of statist elf.
—–
During Sessions’ confirmation hearings, Democrats claimed the former Alabama senator was unfit for office because he was a racist, charges that were never really substantiated. But Sessions’ voting record and policy agenda are more than enough to disqualify him from being the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton and written by Sarah Rose Siskind.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

Game of Thrones in the DC swamp, where nobody has read Sun Tzu’s Art of War

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kurt Schlicter offers some strategic advice to President Trump, illustrated by some recent Game of Thrones narrative (dunno how accurate, as I’ve neither read the books nor watched any recent TV episodes):

President Trump has done remarkably well so far, considering the hatred, contempt, and subversion he faces from members of his own party – much less the garbage he endures from the astonishingly inept and newly Russophobic Democrats. These nimrods’ bright idea for appealing to the deplorable people we call “normal Americans” is to take the New Deal and replace the adjective with “Better.” It has yet to occur to them to try not calling us “Jesus-loving gun freak racists who aren’t afraid enough of the weather and don’t believe women can have penises too.”

But it’s bad strategy to rely upon the lameness of your opposition. Instead, the president should be focused on launching a disciplined and overwhelming attack against the establishment to force his agenda through. But he’s not doing that. He’s messing up by going off on emotional tangents, and it will catch up with him.

[…]

Spoilers follow, so stop reading if you care.

Here’s the problem. The president has some huge challenges. He has limited combat power – yeah, he has a lot, and while it is still superior to his enemies, it is not unlimited. There’s a basic military rule of thumb that you break at your own peril. You do not split a superior force.

When you split a superior force, the enemy can then move to defeat you piecemeal. A superior force nearly guarantees a win. Take the guaranteed win. Grind out the victories. Don’t split your army.

They did in a recent Game of Thrones episode. The hot girl with the dragons met with the sort-of-hot woman with the three hard-six daughters, the bi-curious pirate chick, the sassy old lady who used to be Emma Peel, and the differently-abled person of shortness, and they came up with a war plan. It was a terrible war plan. They split their vastly superior force in two instead on focusing on the castle with the hot woman who was getting it on with her brother before she became a big enough star not to have to do nudity.

Terrible plan. Naturally, the enemy destroyed their fleet because they split their forces and ditched their dragon air cover like morons. I expect the producers thought it was super progressive to have the generals be all either women-identifying women or dwarves, but then they got thoroughly beaten by a cis-vertical phallo-person of pallor.

I’m not sure that’s the girl/midgetpower message they meant to convey, but whatev. The point is that when you lose focus and try to fight every battle, you risk losing every battle. The Sessions fight wasn’t strategically necessary – hell, “winning” would mean someone even worse because there’s no way the Senate will confirm anyone as AG that Trump actually wants.

Focus. Discipline. No one enemy can compete with the president, but a bunch of enemies can. Using the superior force at hand in a cunning, targeted way can bring back the winning. But uncoordinated, quixotic, emotion-driven lashing out? No, that’s what the Democrats and the Fredocons want from the president – mostly because they know from their own bitter experience how it leads to losing.

July 25, 2017

“‘Legal fiction’ sounds better than ‘lie’, but in this case the two terms are near synonyms”

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Instapundit Glenn Reynolds in USA Today on US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ passion for civil asset forfeiture:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to steal from you.

Oh, he doesn’t call it that. He calls it “civil forfeiture.” But what it is, is theft by law enforcement. Sessions should be ashamed. If I were president, he’d be fired.

Under “civil forfeiture,” law enforcement can take property from people under the legal fiction that the property itself is guilty of a crime. (“Legal fiction” sounds better than “lie,” but in this case the two terms are near synonyms.) It was originally sold as a tool for going after the assets of drug kingpins, but nowadays it seems to be used against a lot of ordinary Americans who just have things that law enforcement wants. It’s also a way for law enforcement agencies to maintain off-budget slush funds, thus escaping scrutiny.

As Drug Enforcement Agency agent Sean Waite told the Albuquerque Journal, “We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty. … It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”

“Presumed to be guilty.” Once in America, we had a presumption of innocence. But that was inconvenient to the powers that be.

As Tamara Keel said “Appointing Sessions was the opposite of ‘draining the swamp’; it was basically pumping in a whole bunch of vintage swamp water”

July 19, 2017

Conducting business in DC isn’t like some stagnant backwater like NYC

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

It’s no wonder that Il Donalduce‘s squad of family members and friends are finding all the quicksand in the DC swamp — there are rules of conduct inside the Beltway that you must know and obey to get things done:

The Trump family is no doubt canny about the dog-eat-dog landscapes of the Manhattan real estate lagoon. But when the Trumps arrived in Washington, as political novices they entered an entirely new swampland, with which so far they remain unfamiliar. Their transition down the coastal corridor is sort of like leaving a Florida bog of alligators and water moccasins and thereby assuming one is de facto prepared to enter the far deadlier Amazon jungle of caimans, piranhas, and Bushmasters.

Here, then, are some Beltway Swamp rules:

1) Improper Meetings. Always meet in his/hers jets, “accidentally” nose to nose on the airport tarmac. Style mitigates unethical behavior. When caught, claim the discussions centered around “grandchildren.” In contrast, never go to any meeting with a Russian anything. If one must meet a foreign official for dubious reasons, then a revolutionary Cuban, Iranian, or Palestinian is always preferable.

[…]

3) Opposition Research. The more outlandish and impossible the charge, the more it will be believed or at least aired on CNN. Rumored sex without substantial deviancy is not necessarily compelling (e.g., urination is a force multiplier of fornication). As a general rule, ex-intelligence officers-turned-private investigators and campaign hit men are both the most lurid and least credible.

4) Leaking. Assume that those who collect intelligence also are the most likely to leak it, the FBI director not exempted. The more the deep state recalls the excesses of J. Edgar Hoover, the more it exceeds them. Expect every conversation, email, and text to show up on the desk of one’s worst enemy—at least for a few seconds before being leaked to the press. The more a journalist brags on airing a supposedly smoking-gun leak, the less the public cares. In sum, leaks are more likely to be fabrications than improperly transmitted truths.

[…]

6) The Deep State. Signing legislation into law or issuing executive orders does not equate to changes in government policy. Assume that almost any new law or reform can be nullified by cherry picking a liberal judge, serial leaking, or through bureaucratic slowdowns by careerist and partisan bureaucrats. The deep state works with those who rapidly grow the government; it seeks to destroy those who grow it slowly. The most powerful man in Washington is a federal attorney. With a D.C. jury and an unlimited budget and staff, he can bankrupt most anyone with dubious charges, on the assurance that when they are dropped or refuted, the successful defendant is ruined and broke while his failed government accuser is promoted. The more conservative the target, the more likely his lawyer should be liberal.

July 7, 2017

“Donald Trump views the mainstream press with contempt, and the mainstream press returns the favor”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jacob Sullum on the tendentious relationship between President Trump and the mainstream media:

Donald Trump views the mainstream press with contempt, and the mainstream press returns the favor. Or is it the other way around?

Just as the president has trouble distinguishing between negative press coverage and “fake news,” the journalists who cover him tend to treat every inaccurate, unfounded, or even debatable statement he makes as a lie. That mistake, to which I myself am sometimes prone, clouds the judgment and damages the credibility of reporters and commentators who aspire to skepticism but too often settle for reflexive disbelief.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt recently catalogued “nearly every outright lie [Trump] has told publicly since taking the oath of office.” There are a lot of verifiably false assertions on Leonhardt’s list, but it’s an exaggeration to say every one of them is an “outright lie,” which implies that Trump knew the statement was wrong when he made it and said it with the intent of misleading people.

Take Trump’s preposterous puffery about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. “It looked like a million, million and a half people,” he said the next day in a speech at CIA headquarters.

Four days later, Trump was still marveling at the size of the crowd. “The audience was the biggest ever,” he told ABC News anchor David Muir on January 25, standing in front of a photo on the wall in the White House. “This crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes.”

Maybe Trump was trying to trick people into ignoring plain photographic evidence that his inaugural audience paled beside Barack Obama’s in 2009. But it seems much more likely that he was offering an emotionally tinged, self-flattering impression of his experience as he took the oath of office.

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