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Updated: 5 hours 49 min ago

Mike Rowe: There’s nothing more annoying than celebrities sharing political opinions

7 hours 47 min ago

Mike Rowe, best known for his work on the show Dirty Jobs, was challenged to say something about what took place in Charlottesville by someone who claimed he was staying silent because offering an opinion wouldn’t be good for business. Instead of denying it, Rowe admitted he did worry about falling into a trap where, no matter what you say, someone is offended. He went on to say there is nothing more annoying than celebrities offering political opinions:

Since we’re being candid, allow me to say how much I dislike your post. Everything about it annoys me – your smug and snarky tone, your appalling grammar, your complete lack of evidence to support your claims, and of course, the overarching logical fallacy that informs your entire position. What really bugs me though, is the fact that you’re not entirely wrong. It’s true; I haven’t shared any political opinions this week, in part anyway, because doing so might very well be “bad for business.”

What can I say? I work for half-a-dozen different companies, none of whom pay me to share my political opinions. I run a non-partisan foundation, I’m about to launch a new show on Facebook, and I’m very aware that celebrities pay a price for opening their big fat gobs. Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Milo Yiannopoulos…even that guy from Google who just got himself fired for mouthing off. There’s no getting around it – the first amendment does not guarantee the freedom to speak without consequences. And really, that’s fine by me.

So no – I’m not going to share my personal feelings about Charlottesville, President Trump, or the current effort to remove thousands of statues of long dead soldiers from the public square. Not just because it’s “bad for business,” but because it’s annoying. I can’t think of a single celebrity whose political opinion I value, and I’m not going to assume the country feels any differently about mine.

Rowe does eventually defend his mikeroweWORKS campaign for skilled trades that don’t require a four-year degree and argues that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about what is happening on campus:

Millions of reasonable people – Republicans and Democrats alike – are worried that our universities are doing a poor job of preparing students for the real world. They’re worried about activist professors, safe spaces, the rising cost of tuition, a growing contempt for history, and a simmering disregard of the first amendment. These people are concerned that our universities – once beacons of free speech – now pander to a relatively small percentage of students who can’t tolerate any political opinion that challenges their own.

That’s dangerously close to being a political opinion. Still, even if the motive for not saying more is admittedly self-serving, Rowe has a point about celebrities weighing in with their (frequently ill-informed) opinions after every national tragedy. For those of us who follow the news closely, it’s like white noise that adds little substance to any discussion. I think most people just tune it out. Most celebrities who think people care about their political opinions could use a dose of Rowe’s humility.

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Trump to hold campaign rally as protesters descend on Phoenix

8 hours 28 min ago

Not every Trump rally merits a red-font headline but this one does, just because the odds of chaos inside and/or outside the arena tonight are unusually high. There are many shadows hanging over this event — Charlottesville, immigration, a possible pardon for Joe Arpaio, a looming clusterfark pitting Trump against his own party’s leadership over Jeff Flake’s reelection bid. Per the NYT, at least one local Antifa pack has called for “an anti-fascist & anti-colonial contingent against Trump’s rally” but they’re only one of several groups who are planning to show:

Several opposition rallies and marches have been planned, according to the Arizona Republic. By Tuesday, more than 3,900 people had indicated on Facebook that they would attend one event, Protest Trump Downtown Phoenix, across the street from the convention center. Another 2,700 said they planned to attend White Supremacy Will Not Be Pardoned, organized by the Puente Human Rights Movement.

Another rally, Never Again: Jews and Allies Against Hate, was planned by David Schapira, a Tempe city councilman, and State Senator Robert Meza for the State Capitol earlier in the afternoon. A church in Phoenix also scheduled a march from the convention center to the Capitol Tuesday evening.

The mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, asked Trump last week not to hold this rally, then asked him again in a WaPo op-ed published this morning. Stanton’s a Democrat so 90 percent of his “concern” is garbage partisan posturing, but not quite 100 percent. Obviously, with feelings running hot after Charlottesville and plenty of Trump supporters in a red state like Arizona willing and able to come out to meet Antifa thugs, there’s potential for another ugly scene on an American city’s streets.

Inside the arena, meanwhile, only Trump knows how tense things might get. This could be a placid, kumbaya-style clean-up of his Charlottesville comments of 10 days ago, building on the theme of national unity he set forth last night in his speech at Fort Myer about Afghanistan. Or it could be a total Trumpian sh*tshow in which he decides to riff about the bad rap given to some of the “very fine people” among the alt-right. Given how much the president enjoys playing to the crowd at his rallies, I’m guessing the subdued option probably isn’t the one he’s going with. Nothing would rev up the crowd quite like a surprise pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, something Trump has openly discussed with reporters lately, but the word as of this afternoon was that it’s not happening:

Trump will NOT pardon Joe Arpaio, per @nbcnews. Just announced on AF1 gaggle.

— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 22, 2017

Or rather, it’s not happening tonight:


Just talked to Joe Arpaio about AF1 gaggle on pardon.

"He didn't say he's not going to do it," Arpaio told VICE. "He said *tonight*"

— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcS) August 22, 2017

Holding off on a pardon is the prudent move politically, as Democrats are ready to use it to prosecute the case vis-a-vis Charlottesville that Trump is a racist playing to the worst elements of his base. “Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers worry that a pardon could deepen the racial wounds exposed in the last week and compound the president’s political problems,” as the Times delicately put it. I’m sure, if Trump had his druthers, he’d invite Arpaio onstage for a theatrical display of presidential clemency to roars from the crowd, but he’s going to cut his losses after a tough 10 days. Arpaio’s not even invited to tonight’s rally. I suspect the pardon will come eventually, just in a lower-profile setting and more opportune time.

What about Jeff Flake, though? It’d be bizarre for Trump to pass on a chance to flame his archenemy in the Senate in his own backyard, especially with Flake opponent Kelli Ward and her supporters begging for some presidential recognition. Trump gave her a boost on Twitter a few days ago but an endorsement at a nationally televised event would mean much more. It would drive Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans crazy too, which is reason enough to think he might do it:

As Trump prepares for a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, some expect him to expand on his support for Ward and searing criticism of Flake — and perhaps even make a formal endorsement.

That possibility has unnerved Republicans inside and outside the White House. Some worry about straining the president’s already tenuous relations with congressional Republicans at a time when they face several key challenges this fall: raising the debt ceiling, passing a spending bill and tackling their top policy objective of new tax legislation. Others looking ahead to next year’s midterm elections think Trump may even be putting the Senate GOP majority at risk.

Allies of Flake, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), are vexed by Trump’s posture. At a minimum, they think he is needlessly creating a costly primary that will suck resources away from other targets on a map ripe for gains.

My guess is he’ll do the politic thing and steer clear of mentioning Ward, although he probably won’t be able to resist throwing a few jabs at Flake. Remember, even Trump’s own advisors are baffled that he’d tout “Chemtrail Kelli,” as that McConnell-aligned Super PAC calls her, when there are more credible Arizona Republicans who might pose a more serious primary challenge to Flake. The more Trump raises her profile, the more he risks muscling other contenders out of the race, leaving Flake with a better chance of winning than he might otherwise have. If anything, tonight would be a perfect moment for Trump to mention one of those other, more credible candidates and start muscling Ward out instead. Whatever happens, there’s a nonzero (significantly higher than zero, in fact) chance that we’re going to see a sitting president attack a sitting senator from his own party in his home state 15 months before a very tough reelection campaign. If Democrats end up with 51 seats after next year’s midterms and Flake ends up out of a job, remember this night as one that may have helped hand control to the other party.

On the other hand: Dude?

Trump is set to speak at 7 p.m. local time, which is 10 p.m. ET. Buckle up.

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Govt. union rep: Employees only have to be “available to work” to get paid

9 hours 7 min ago

We recently talked about the difficulty that VA chief David Shulkin ran into when attempting to fire one of his people who had been found to be grossly negligent. That person was Brian Hawkins, who had been deemed incompetent in leadership and guilty of mishandling patient records, including sending some of them to his wife’s personal email accounts. Hawkins wasn’t out of work long after the MSPB agreed to hear his appeal. He’s now back on the job awaiting final disposition of his case.

It’s not just the VA where we’re having trouble cutting out the deadwood, however. This report from the Washington Post has at least one real eye opener in it. The head of the Treasury has been made aware of problems at the Patent and Trademark Office. Over there, a number of workers were found to be falsifying their time reporting, billing the government for hundreds of thousands of dollars for time not worked. In some of the most severe cases, workers put in two hours of time, then had the audacity to charge the government for a full day plus two hours of overtime. Only one person has managed to be fired in that scandal and that case may be put on hold also.

Sounds like this should be fairly easy to clean up, right? Not so fast. Enter Harold Ross, president of Local 243 of the National Treasury Employees Union. He doesn’t see any reason for disciplinary action because even if his union members weren’t on the job, they were available to work. (Emphasis added)

A union official denied any impropriety, saying his members “were available to work” but often finished their tasks quickly and awaited more assignments, a practice that went on for as long as a decade.

“My employees are not in the wrong,” said Harold Ross, president of Local 243 of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents the unit. “They produce fast. They’re available for the whole time. All of a sudden, management wants to come against them.”

Patent office spokesman Paul Rosenthal said in an email the agency does not comment on specific personnel cases.

For the umpteenth time we see the disconnect between reality and how things work in the union world. Saying that your people are “available to work” doesn’t mean that their employer should be paying them. It quite literally means that they are doing nothing because otherwise they wouldn’t be “available,” now would they? Further, arguing that they “produce fast” doesn’t mean a thing. Efficiency is wonderful, but if you finish all of your work and the employer has no more work for you to do, that means that the employer has too many workers. Even if they hadn’t been falsifying their time sheets and ripping off the taxpayers, they should have been cut loose until the workload matched the number of employees on the job.

I invite these government worker union leaders to go try that in the private sector. If I need three guys working full time and you start billing me for fifteen workers because the other dozen are “available” at any time, I’m taking you to court immediately. And you’ll lose. Sadly, in Washington, this guy will probably come out on top and get back pay for all of the fraudulent union workers to boot.

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Trump’s campaign pollster: McConnell’s favorability collapses among Republicans, now -17

9 hours 48 min ago

A companion piece to last night’s post about that gruesome PPP poll out of Kentucky that had McConnell’s approval at, ah, 18/74. No typo: 18/74. In his home state. A red state. Tony Fabrizio, who worked for Trump’s campaign last year, decided to test McConnell’s standing among Republicans nationally, not just in Kentucky. How did he stack up to the president and to his counterpart in the House, Paul Ryan?

How does a 25-point net drop in two months grab you?

In last 7 weeks, @POTUS image among GOP -14 net, @SpeakerRyan -9 net, but @SenateMajLdr -25 net! @VP image stays statistically the same.

— Tony Fabrizio (@TonyFabrizioGOP) August 22, 2017

If there was any doubt whether the GOP base would primarily blame Trump or McConnell for the failure of “skinny repeal” in the Senate (and there was never much doubt), that should remove the last shreds. This news won’t help McConnell either:

In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.

During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

If rank and file Republicans come to view Trump and McConnell as an either/or proposition, guess which one they’ll choose. There’s a spillover effect from that on approval of Congress, too:

For all the D.C. beltway types wringing their hands about @POTUS and the GOP base. Republicans in Congress are the ones losing the base.

— Tony Fabrizio (@TonyFabrizioGOP) August 22, 2017

From 68/32 in June to 54/46 now. Oof. Trump had better be out there nonstop next fall banging the drum for Republicans to turn out, as I don’t think the ol’ magnetic McConnell charisma is going to get it done this time. Although note that Trump has slipped too among GOP voters, if not nearly as much as Congress has. A 75/25 split among the president’s own party sounds strong, but it isn’t really; Will Jordan of YouGov notes that that’s about what Bush was pulling after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Oh, one other number from Fabrizio: Asked about Steve Bannon’s departure, Republicans split 30/7 on whether it made them more or less likely to support Trump. Forty-eight percent said it didn’t matter at all. That looks like good news for the president, but remember that the seven percent who said it makes them less likely to support the president are probably from Trump’s core Breitbart base while the 30 percent who say it makes them more likely may well be from the Trump-skeptic contingent of the GOP who are disinclined to support him regardless. Could be a misstep.

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Slate offers defense of Antifa

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 23:21

More than a week after the events in Charlottesville, some in the media are finally starting to wake up to the reality of the violent left-wing mob known as Antifa. The New York Times and CNN have run profiles of the group and some reporters have gone on record noting they were acting violently in Charlottesville, not unlike the Nazis they oppose. So naturally, Slate has jumped into the debate with a piece offering a fond defense of one particular Antifa group run by a man named Daryle Lamont Jenkins:

Jenkins, 49, is a black man who has devoted his life to fighting white supremacists, sometimes literally. He is the founder of the One People’s Project, easily the most mainstream and well-known anti-fascist, or antifa, organization. (Its motto is “Hate Has Consequences.”) Unlike other left-wing groups that track the far right, One People’s Project—which Jenkins runs with the help of a network of about 15 volunteers—confronts its enemies, whether that means getting in their faces at protests, doxing them, or contacting their employers. A volunteer named Laura, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, described her work with OPP as “antifa CIA.”

Author Michelle Goldberg doesn’t deny Jenkins’ group (or Antifa in general) is violent, she just tries to humanize the violence. Here she offers a joke from James Anderson, one of the producers of the Antifa website It’s Going Down:

It’s certainly true that antifa refuses to eschew violence. According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, left-wing counterprotesters assaulted at least two journalists in Charlottesville. “The riot is our version of the strike,” said Anderson, even as he acknowledges a disconnect between some of antifa’s tactics and its goals. “Step one, broken window. Step two, we don’t know. Step three, classless and stateless society,” he said wryly. “I don’t think it works like that.”

I’m sure the residents of Portland, where Antifa did $1 million in damage as part of this idiotic campaign aren’t laughing, neither is the owner of the limo which was torched on inauguration day. Even Goldberg feels the need to create some distance between herself and the subject of this puff piece:

For many liberals—a category in which I include myself—antifa’s willingness to use violence and eagerness to shut down right-wing speech seem both morally wrong and strategically obtuse…

Some progressive groups that work to stem the growth of the far right worry that antifa plays into their enemies’ hands. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a guide for college students about how to deal with alt-right figures on campus. It urges students to avoid confrontation with visiting right-wing speakers, and to instead hold separate, alternative events.

But the main thrust of this piece isn’t to condemn Antifa, it’s to give them a chance to make a case for their own necessity:

On Saturday in Charlottesville, when antifa did turn out, many of the peaceful progressive protesters credit it with defending them. West, who was demonstrating with a group of clergy, told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, “[W]e would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists.” Charlottesville pastor Seth Wispelwey, who was standing next to West at Saturday’s demonstration, told me that at one point the clergy were charged by a “battalion” of armed white supremacists, with the police nowhere to be seen.

If the police in Charlottesville failed to do their jobs (and they arguably did) that’s on their leadership. Take it up with the mayor. But that doesn’t mean the behavior of a left-wing goon squad using threats and violence in the streets should get winking approval. I’m not at all surprised that Slate wants to humanize and justify left-wing rioting, but responsible people should condemn this behavior, not attempt to offer excuses for it.

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Liberal columnist very concerned over the President’s mental health

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:41

Not that long ago we talked about the Goldwater Rule, which holds that mental health professionals aren’t supposed to openly diagnose public figures who they have not personally examined. One splinter group of physicians decided they would make an exception in President Trump’s case because… #RESIST, but the vastly larger professional organization which most of the doctors in that field belong to is holding the line in the interest of accuracy and professional standards.

That keeps us covered for all of the shrinks out there. But what if your medical credentials are somewhat less… substantial? What if, rather than going to college in a pre-med discipline, followed by medical school, residency and all the rest of that tedious nonsense, you decided to get a degree in journalism from , let’s just say… the University of Michigan? Is it then safe for you to begin offering very public diagnoses – or at least the suggestion that such diagnoses be done – of the President of the United States?

Well, if you happen to be Eugene Robinson, member of the Washington Post editorial board, the answer is a resounding yes. After offering a bevy of previously cited examples of ‘reasons President Trump may be unstable‘ derived from quotes made largely by politicians, Robinson makes it abundantly clear that he’s not speaking metaphorically, as in, that guy’s nuts!

I have spoken with people who have known Trump for decades and who say he has changed. He exhibits less self-awareness, these longtime acquaintances say, and less capacity for sustained focus. Indeed, it is instructive to compare television interviews of Trump recorded years ago with those conducted now. To this layman’s eyes and ears, there seems to have been deterioration.

Again, the people making this diagnosis in support of Robinson’s claim are “people who have known Trump for decades” but it’s not specified what they do for a living. Are they doctors? If so, one hopes that the President was not actually a patient of theirs or they’ve broken a very serious rule. But I somehow doubt it. If the author could actually get a qualified psychiatrist to say something like that it would be on the front page of the WaPo every day for the rest of Trump’s time in office.

Robinson then goes on to aver that he is, “not professionally qualified to assess the president’s mental health.” Not being one to let a little thing like professional qualifications stand in his way, he finishes up with this:

It is uncomfortable to talk about the president’s mental health. But at this point it is irresponsible not to.

First of all, discussing his mental health when you have zero, zip, nada in the way of qualifications is actually incredibly irresponsible. But let’s just put that aside for a moment and assume that you can. Now what do you plan to do about it? Because I don’t hear you offering a suggestion as to how you might get an actual professional evaluation which might lead to some sort of 25th Amendment action or whatever it is that you’re hoping for. All you’re really doing is generating headlines and fodder for liberal cable talk shows and that’s not going to help the prospective patient or the nation at large.

Unless… oh, wait. Is that what you were angling for all along?

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Hmmm: Netayahu gov’t plans “Christian Media Summit” in Jerusalem

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Does the Israeli government really need a “Christian Media Summit” for religious broadcasters and journalists? The affinity between the evangelical Right in the US and the state of Israel has remained strong for decades. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu’s taking no chances, or maybe he sees an opening to further his negotiating stance on peace talks ahead of Jared Kushner’s full-court press. Ha’aretz calls this the first official event that aims at this specific segment of the primarily American media:

Reflecting its desire for closer ties with the Christian evangelical right in the United States, the Israeli government has embarked on a campaign to cultivate influential journalists who serve this community.

Hoping to explain the country and its often-controversial policies to this new target audience, the government is sponsoring and subsidizing a first-of-its-kind “Christian Media Summit” in Jerusalem. About 140 reporters, editors and publishers, representing roughly 70 media outlets, have been invited to the four-day conference, which will be held in mid-October. The government will be paying for the room and board of all the participants, according to information provided by the sponsors.

The conference is being sponsored by the Government Press Office (which operates under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. Participants are scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, among other dignitaries, during their visit.

In one sense, it’s a no-brainer. Yes, evangelicals already support Israel, and journalists from this segment of the industry are inclined to that direction, too. The purpose is less to woo them than to arm them with the information needed to report favorably on Netanyahu’s policies and actions. The resources and sessions noted by Ha’aretz’ Judy Maltz make that purpose clear — “Reporter’s Notebook for Covering Israel and the Middle East,” “Resources for Telling the Israeli Story,””Israel and the Fight Against Radical Islam,” and so on. The conference will also include a trip to at least one major settlement, and a museum that focuses on Christian Zionists.

It’s also not an entirely original idea, although the focus of it may be. The late Shimon Peres put on several annual Israeli Presidential Conferences under the banner Tomorrow, two of which I covered under similar arrangements. However, these were more straightforwardly conferences with a broader mandate than what Ha’aretz’ Maltz reports here. They mainly consisted of debates across the entire spectrum of both Israeli politics and policies, with a special emphasis on strategies for peace. Netanyahu participated in those as well, but it’s safe to say based on the celebrities that participated in them that it wasn’t aimed at American evangelicals.

On the other hand, this might get a little touchy for both sides. Private organizations already conduct tours and conferences for Western journalists for these same purposes (and presumably on both sides of these policy issues). Having the government as a sponsor might create an appearance of being co-opted for the journalists, and Netanyahu’s direct efforts to connect with American conservatives could have some political blowback at home. Remember that the center of Israeli politics is significantly leftward of the center in American politics, and Netanyahu has to play a careful game to keep his parliamentary base as broad as possible. There is also at least some suspicion about the motives of American evangelicals’ support for Zionism too (being apocalyptic rather than solely about a Jewish homeland), which could create at least a little bit of trouble for Netanyahu, too.

The first such summit will take place in October, if this goes off according to plan. We’ll certainly hear plenty about it if it does, and see whether Netanyahu gets his “good ambassadors” as a result.

Addendum: To be a little more clear, the only real problem for the journalists involved would be if they didn’t fully disclose the arrangements. The aim appears to be working with people already inclined to support these policies. The issues of disclosure aren’t much different than it would be from working with private organizations.

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Dakota Access Pipeline developer sues Greenpeace over ‘eco-terrorist’ campaign

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 21:21

Energy Transfer Partners, the developer behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, has sued Greenpeace and several other groups for what it calls a ‘campaigns of misinformation.” ETP argues in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that environmental groups are running a racket designed to raise money by emotionalizing issues. ETP’s press release is here but it actually tones down the language of the court filing a bit. From the filing:

This case involves a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct, inflicting billions of dollars in damage…

In its simplest form, this model has two components: (1) manufacturing a media spectacle based upon phony but emotionally charged hot-button issues, sensational lies, and intentionally incited physical violence, property destruction, and other criminal conduct; and (2)relentlessly publicizing these sensational lies, manufactured conflict and conflagration, and misrepresented “causes” to generate funding from individual donors, foundations, and corporate sponsors. These putative “environmental” groups accept grants and other consideration from foundations and special business interests who use the groups’ environmental mantle to advance their own ulterior agendas…

Under the “Greenpeace Model,” raising money and the network’s profile is the primary objective, not saving the environment. “Issues” are selected according to which oneswill generate maximum publicity and donations, irrespective of the environmental merits. As amatter of course, the campaigns are based upon fabricated evidence and witness accounts. Greenpeace has staged phony photo-ops, and fabricated false GPS coordinates representinglocations and events that never occurred to support its campaigns, deceive the public, and elicitdonations.

The entire filing is over 175 pages long. It argues environmentalists mounted a massive fake news campaign against the company and adds that the lies led directly to acts of vandalism against equipment and threats against individuals:

Additionally, Enterprise members and those they incited and directed by the lies disseminated by the Enterprise, have taken other extreme measures to sabotage the pipeline, including repeated acts of arson on construction equipment and pipeline destruction. In August 2016, three fires were reported in Jasper Country, Reasnor, and Mahaska County, Iowa. In each instance, heavy equipment, including bulldozers and backhoes, were intentionally burned. In total, the fires caused almost $2 million in damages. In October 2016, unknown individuals set fire to construction equipment along the pipeline route near the town of Reasnor, Iowa, causing more than $2 million in damages to construction equipment.

Later the filing offers this summary of damage caused to the company, which it says totals “hundreds of millions of dollars”:

The Enterprise’s scheme has inflicted enormous damage on Energy Transfer’sreputation and business operations. The scheme’s dissemination of negative misinformation devastated the market reputation of Energy Transfer as well as the business relationships vital to its operations and growth. Industry participants important to the businesses including creditors, investors and shippers — paid close attention to the Enterprise’s negative publicity campaign and were understandably influenced by it in their dealings with the Company. As a result of this misconduct, Plaintiffs suffered no less than hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

I’m not an attorney so I won’t attempt to judge the validity of this lawsuit, but ETP is challenging the entire structure of the environmentalist left by tying the big name groups to the behavior they incite on the front lines of these conflicts. No doubt all of this will be great for Greenpeace’s fundraising in the short term, but if any of the claims made here hold up in court the results could be dramatic.

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Alan Dershowitz: Antifa is “trying to tear down America”

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 20:41

I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but Dershowitz is going to end up on Trump’s staff eventually, probably in the stable of lawyers doing Russiagate defense work. Trump can’t have failed to notice that he’s on Fox and CNN regularly defending the president (however well-caveated) and criticizing his enemies. His broadside at Antifa near the end here is both righteous and true, although he cleverly folds it into a sharp critique of Trump himself. I feel obliged to speak out against Antifa, says Dershowitz, because I’m a man of the left and they claim falsely to speak in my name. The president had the same obligation with respect to the alt-right after Charlottesville (a point I’ve made myself) and he whiffed.

Come to think of it, maybe Dersh won’t be working for Trump after all.

His analogy between tearing down Confederate statues and Stalin’s habit of expunging disfavored politicos from Soviet history sits uneasily with me, although I think he’s referring to extreme tactics like rampaging mobs tearing down monuments physically and breaking them up. Stalin wanted to whitewash the collective memory of Russians by excising his political enemies from it. Most critics of Confederate statuary have the opposite impulse — they see the monuments themselves as a whitewash of history. Uprooting public testaments to the slave regime’s “gallantry” is a step towards a crisper understanding of the past. But the line is tricky: One could (and some do) make the same argument about statues of Washington and Jefferson, that a reckoning with their slaveholding can’t begin until history is cleansed of idolatry towards the Founders. I think the fear of SJWs running roughshod over Lee and stampeding towards Mount Vernon and Monticello is overstated, but American higher education being what it is, it’s not groundless. The left tends not to worry overly much about discernment when it’s in idol-smashing mode.

Mike Pence had an interesting suggestion for monument mania:

EARHARDT: You’re in favor of keeping those monuments?

PENCE: I think that — obviously, I think that should always be a local decision and, with regard to the U.S. Capitol, should be state decisions. But I’m someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments. What we ought to do is we ought to remember our history. But we also ought to celebrate the progress that we’ve made since that history.

You know, when I walked back in 2010 across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis, arm and arm, and we remembered Bloody Sunday and the extraordinary progress of the civil rights movement, I can’t help but think that, rather than pulling down monuments, as some are wont to do, rather than tearing down monuments that have graced our cities all across this country for years, we ought to have been building more monuments. We ought to be celebrating the men and women who’ve helped our nation move toward a more perfect union and tell the whole story of America.

Not every monument to Washington or Jefferson requires a prominent reminder that they held slaves, but ones that purport to recount their entire life story — like Mount Vernon and Monticello — obviously do. I don’t think that same principle works with CSA statuary since slavery isn’t just “part” of the story; it’s the casus belli in a war the Confederacy was created to wage. It’s like trying to solve the problem with a statue to U.S. General Benedict Arnold by adding a plaque that begins, “Oh, by the way…” Arnold’s treason isn’t part of the story, it’s the main detail in the story. Whether the similar problem with Confederate monuments could be solved by erecting statues to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, or to American slaves generally nearby, I don’t know. Something for the local community to ruminate on.

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That new federal anti-leaking program is really… something

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 20:01

President Trump has made it clear for a while now that he’s fed up with leaks coming from inside his administration. Under the covers (at least to a certain degree) there’s been a program underway to discourage federal workers from airing their dirty laundry to the media. With that in mind, new posters have been showing up around various federal agencies warning people about the damage which can come from such activities. This, of course, has the usual list of suspect up in arms, with warnings about discouraging legitimate whistle blowers from coming forward. (Government Executive)

Wall posters at the Energy Department‘s headquarters warn employees that “Every leak makes us weak.” The campaign forms part of the governmentwide “insider threat” program aimed at deterring release of classified information, but whistleblower advocates are crying foul, pointing to the posters’ failure to distinguish between illegal leaking and employees’ rights to disclose waste, fraud and abuse.

The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight last week in a letter sent to Energy officials as well as the Office of Special Counsel called the campaign a “potential violation of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.” The group asked OSC to investigate.

“Even if inadvertent, deterring whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks makes the federal government less effective and less efficient,” wrote POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian to acting Special Counsel Adam Miles.

Here’s one of the posters in question which have been going up around the Department of Energy under Rick Perry.

I’m not going to deny that there’s a valid argument about whistleblowers here. You definitely don’t want your employees to be hesitant about exposing actual corruption and wrongdoing on the part of their own department (or even simple wasteful practices) if positive feedback to their supervisor or the Inspector General’s office doesn’t’ produce any results. Unfortunately, far too many are seemingly unable to draw a line between legitimate exposure of government wrongdoing and hazy (or even baseless) gossip which does nothing more than give the media something to chatter about for the next news cycle while not highlighting any actual corruption, waste, fraud or abuse which could be corrected.

While coming up with a substantive definition to use in a policy manual might be difficult, the difference between hot takes or gossip and legitimate whistleblowing should be one of those things where you know it when you see it. If you found out that a contract had been awarded to your manager’s daughter-in-law who had no experience in the business under discussion and nobody was reviewing it, you’d want to risk telling that to a reporter if nobody at the IG office would listen to you. But running off to chat with the New York Times because you overheard two senior officials in your office arguing over what a jerk the President’s son is, well… that’s not whistleblowing. You’re promoting gossip and derailing the department’s mission and message.

Think these posters are going to help? Naw. I’d be more interested in seeing who got the contract to print them, myself.

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Today’s hot topics: Media’s worst-week obsession, the never-ending campaign story, celebrity mob actions, aaaand …

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 19:26

Today on The Ed Morrissey Show (4 pm ET), we have another great lineup for the news of the day! The show will be streamed on Hot Air’s Facebook page and embedded here and on the show page for those who are not on Facebook. (If it’s muted, right-click the video and choose Unmute.)

Join us as we welcome:

The Ed Morrissey Show and its dynamic chatroom can be seen on the permanent TEMS page. Be sure to join us, and don’t forget to keep up with the debate on my Facebook page, too!

How can Republicans and conservatives keep the momentum going? Find out in GOING REDpublished in April from Crown Forum!

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Missouri state senator who wished for Trump’s assassination removed from all committee assignments

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 19:21

Maria Chappelle-Nadal is the Missouri state senator who wrote “I hope Trump is assassinated!” on social media last Thursday. Ed wrote about the story Friday and, at the time, there were calls for Chappelle-Nadal to resign. She still hasn’t resigned but she has been removed from all of her committee assignments in the state senate. From KSDK:

Tuesday morning, Senate Democratic Caucus leader Sen. Gina Walsh said Maria Chappelle-Nadal is a “distraction” to senators and released a statement saying she has been removed from all committees.

“It is important that the Missouri Senate conducts their work without distractions. With that in mind, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal has been removed from her committee assignments. This will help to ensure the success of the Senate, and the state, going forward,” she said.

Following this story has been like watching someone fall down a flight of stairs. First, Chappelle-Nadal said her comment was wrong but defiantly refused to apologize unless the president apologized for his comments about Charlottesville:

In another interview, Chappelle-Nadal doubled-down on her refusal to resign citing other legislators’ bad behavior:

Chappelle-Nadal defiant in calls to resign over Trump assassination post

— FOX2now (@FOX2now) August 18, 2017

By Sunday, Chappelle-Nadal was singing a different tune saying, “I made a mistake and I’m owning up to it.” She promised it would never happen again:

Senator Chappelle-Nadal who openly wished for the assassination of Trump issues a fake apology.

No excuse! She must immediately resign.

— Tennessee (@TEN_GOP) August 22, 2017

Being removed from all of her assignments does not mean Chappelle-Nadal has lost her job. The state senate could remove her with a 2/3 vote, something Governor Eric Greitens has already endorsed. Chappelle-Nadal only has one year left in office. After that, term-limits will prevent her from running again.

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Video: A dozen Cleveland Browns kneel for national anthem before exhibition game

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 18:41

Aren’t the Browns looking for a quarterback? (Aren’t they always looking for a quarterback?) Because I know a free agent who’d fit right in.

Andy McCarthy’s had enough…

I'm the fan the NFL needs to keep. And I will have no problem not watching. Good luck.

— Andrew C. McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) August 22, 2017

…and Reason’s Ed Krayewski has had enough of the Andy McCarthys having had enough (profanity warning):

Confederate statues should never come down because fuck your feelings but if a ball player kneels you can never watch the sport again. OK.

— Ed Krayewski (@edkrayewski) August 22, 2017

Compromise possibility: No more kneeling during the anthem but we replace statues of General Lee with statues of Kaepernick, the wokest mediocre QB who ever lived. Don’t laugh — apparently, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, he’s a more significant historical figure than Clarence Thomas is.

Two interesting wrinkles about last night’s demonstration apart from the sheer size. One: The players noted afterward that they weren’t just kneeling, they were praying “for the people who have been affected [by racial and social injustices] and just … for the world in general.” If the anthem displays mutate from pure politics to politics plus faith, some fans might be more inclined to let them slide. Two: For the first time a white player joined in the kneeling, tight end Seth DeValve. Seahawks DE Michael Bennett, who’s also boycotting the anthem this year, said a few days ago that the debate over the protests wouldn’t change until a white player got involved. Well, now you’ve got one. I don’t anticipate it changing. What they really need is a mega-star to get fully behind the idea, but the NFL arguably doesn’t have one of those right now. Aaron Rodgers, maybe? The mega-stars are all in the NBA. Get LeBron or Steph Curry to start boycotting the anthem, someone whom fans simply won’t be able to tear themselves away from watching, and maybe that’s a game-changer.

Or maybe the sheer volume of people participating in these protests will acclimate fans to them. When it was just Kaepernick, it was a controversy and an affront. Now that it’s a bunch of randos on the Browns, whatever. Most fans at home are getting a beer or taking a leak during the anthem anyway.

The strong-form libertarian solution here, of course, would be to cancel the playing of the anthem before the game altogether, as there’s no obvious reason why a private sports event should feature a ritual tribute to the United States. I wonder how it would work out for the league if Roger Goodell went full Rothbard and ordered that. Here’s video of last night’s protest plus DeValve commenting afterward.

#Browns TE Seth DeValve explains why he participated in the prayer during the anthem

— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) August 22, 2017

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We’d like a word with your woke 8 year old if that’s okay

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 18:01

This is a phenomenon I’ve been noticing in more liberal media outlets (and particularly on Twitter) for a while now, but it involves some rather “delicate” questions. How many times have you seen stories where (generally liberal) parents push stories about how their elementary school aged children are terribly upset with Donald Trump or some other conservative over this or that news story, policy position, speech, or other related activity? It may not be a daily thing, but it’s getting close to that stage.

David Rutz at the Washington Free Beacon finally rips off the bandage this week and says what I’m guessing many of you were already thinking. Yeah.. right. Your “woke elementary schooler” is really upset over all of this, we’re sure. And they came up with such ideas all on their own. Pull the other one, guys… it’s got bells on it.

Yesterday my 9 year old saw some footage from Charlottesville. Then she asked me if there would be a second Holocaust.

— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) August 18, 2017

This particularly annoying bit of commentary is part of a meme you may have heard of called the “woke eight-year-old” (in this case, nine-year-old). It was met with the best of Twitter: withering sarcasm and loathing for nauseating sanctimony…

Bragging about how precociously progressive my child is, AND getting my own smoking take out there? Double victory!

Let’s state the obvious: When pundits tweet out these little stories, all they’re doing is sending out THEIR opinions, but doing so in a way that a) makes them look like great parents for raising such emotionally advanced children and b) shields them from criticism. Because what kind of jerk is going to attack a CHILD, for God’s sake?

David has assembled a vast collection of sardonic responses to some of these “woke 8 year old” announcements, along with additional examples of the same from various authors. It’s an amusing collection if you’d care to take a few moments to browse through. But it also brings up the frequently unexplored question (or should I say accusation) underlying all of this.

Just how awful are we if we respond to some of these claims by calling Horse Hockey (to keep this PG-13) and demand a bit more proof?

I still have some experience with the real world of seven, eight and nine year olds, not only by virtue of having been one back in the dark ages, but from continual exposure to a collection of relatives who are still in the business of spawning. And for the most part, almost all of these stories are complete nonsense. I’ll grant you that by the time they get to high school, a lot of America’s students are probably more politically engaged and vocal than we were in my day. They’re exposed to a lot more news via their connected devices and peer pressure to discuss such issues.

But a kid in third grade? I’m calling BS unless you’d care to back it up. There are two obvious answers, neither of them particularly attractive for the claimant. The first (and worse) is that you’re making the story up out of whole cloth to either make your point with extra emotional punch or to simply make yourself look like a better parent. (As David suggests above.) The second is that your kid may have actually said something along those lines, but only because you’ve been inundating them with talking points they probably don’t even grasp and coaching them to say such things. Whether you’re doing it to indoctrinate them in “approved thinking” for later or simply to get a good story out of it makes little difference.

But perhaps I’m wrong and you’re raising some sort of savant. What say we put it to the test? This is where it gets tricky because it’s bad enough to be using your own child to score political points to begin with. Dragging them further into a counterpoint argument is likely inexcusable. But if we could, I’d love to find someone tweeting one of these claims and ask them if they’d care to bring their child in immediately for some closed door, filmed questions from a child psychology professional. (Just to make sure there’s no additional psychological damage being done.) Can the child give simple definitions of the words they are using? Do they know who the people they are naming really are by more than name? Do they grasp the underlying policy issue in a way in which they can explain it in basic terms understandable by most children? And finally, where did they get their information? Are they watching MSNBC every hour of the day when not in school or is it all coming from the parent?

Obviously nobody would want to volunteer to put their child through something like that and in the real world we shouldn’t demand it. But we can at least ask the people making these claims if they’re really comfortable with what they’re doing to their kid’s mind at an age when they should be outside skipping rope or riding a bike.

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Washington Post perspective: Liberals should stop being free speech absolutists

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 17:21

The Washington Post published a piece today offering a perspective on free speech by history professor Jennifer Delton. I’ve read this piece twice now and I’m still not sure I follow it. Partly because it seems to be on both sides of the issue and partly because the author’s arguments seem self-contradictory at times. The piece opens with a dilemma for college administrators:

Here’s the dilemma college presidents face in the fall: Either uphold free speech on campus and risk violent counterprotests, or ban conservative provocateurs and confirm the “freedom of speech” crisis on campuses.

A few paragraphs later the author writes this:

As college presidents try to figure out whether the First Amendment protects conservatives’ right to create political spectacle and instigate violence, it might be useful to recall another time when American liberals were forced to sidestep First Amendment absolutism to combat a political foe: the 1940s, when New Deal liberals purged U.S. communists from American political life.

I’ve highlighted that phrase because it’s a cheat. In the first paragraph, the author puts the danger down to “violent counterprotests.” That’s a reference to the actions of left-wing groups in response to speech, i.e. what we saw at Berkeley. But a few paragraphs later, responsibility has shifted to the right for instigating the violence. Instigating it in what way? By speaking?

Once you’ve made the leap to blame the right’s speech for the left’s violence, it’s only a short hop to the claim that maybe the left should “sidestep First Amendment absolutism.” Delton’s main thrust is that some speech is actually part of a grand conspiracy which justifies treating it differently:

Historians remain divided about the pros and cons of American communism, but most agree that the party often operated in secret and that it was directed and funded by Moscow. Communists denied this, of course, but the party’s activities were the basis of Hook’s contention that the CPUSA was a conspiracy, and thus not protected by the First Amendment — although its ideas were. Hook didn’t think that the state should ban the Communist Party (which would be unconstitutional and ineffective), but that private citizens and institutions should shun and expose communists, denying them the opportunity to further their political agenda.

Is there a grand conspiracy behind both Milo Yianoppolis and Ben Shapiro speaking on college campuses? These are two individuals who have been publicly at odds with each other for some time. In any case, if we translate Delton’s advice to the modern day, she seems to be recommending that progressives treat the right’s speech on campus as a conspiracy which thereby justifies doing exactly what the left is already doing, i.e. denying their opponents opportunities to speak. She doesn’t use the phrase “hate speech” to justify this, but the outcome is the same. This next bit may be my favorite though, continuing where the last paragraph left off:

Subsequent liberals (and most of my professors) condemned these anticommunist liberals for opening the door to McCarthyism and Cold War militarism. But given our current political moment and the threat posed by the actions of alt-right provocateurs, Schlesinger’s and Hook’s arguments may bear revisiting.

In short, when liberals did this before it worked out badly, but maybe it’ll be different this time. That’s not much of a recommendation.

It would be one thing if Delton was simply arguing liberals should continuing doing what they’ve been doing on the grounds that the right is responsible for the left’s violence. I think that’s very misguided and unfair, indeed it’s an endorsement of the heckler’s veto, but at least it’s a clear position. But Delton closes her piece by taking another jarring turn. She cites Jonathan Haidt to make the point that, actually, free speech really is under threat on campus from left-wing identity politics:

At the same time, however, colleges and universities need to recognize that their liberal critics of, say, diversity policies or Title IX excesses are not political foes and should not be subject to censorship or censure. One reason the right has been able to so effectively exploit “free speech” is because campuses have become places where the free exchange of ideas has been curbed by peer pressure, self-policing and a self-righteous call-out culture, as described by Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait and Mark Lilla. Until university presidents offer real leadership in reconciling the liberal critique of “identity politics” with a new generation of diverse students, faculty and staff for whom such politics represent progress, they will be unable to protect their institutions from conservative attacks.

So to sum up her advice to college administrators: They should a) prevent the right from speaking to stop left-wingers from responding violently and b) preserve free speech on campus which is genuinely under pressure from left-wing identity politics. If administrators hope to untie that Gordian knot they better bring a sword.

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Taliban answers: The jihad is still on, you know

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 16:41

In last night’s speech, Donald Trump pledged to keep up the fight in Afghanistan until the day when “it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban.” Today … is not that day, apparently. Within hours of Trump’s speech, the Taliban rejected any political outcome, and declared that their jihad would continue:

Taliban condemn Trump's decision on the Afghanistan war and vow 'jihad' will go on via @ReutersTV

— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 22, 2017

“Instead of continuing of war in Afghanistan, Americans should have thought about withdrawing their soldiers from Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement issued hours after Trump’s televised speech on U.S. policy in Afghanistan and South Asia.

Mujahid said “as long as there is even one American solder in our country”, the Islamist insurgents would “continue our jihad”.

Quelle surprise. Few would have expected any other public answer from the Taliban, but let’s not forget that the previous administration believed they could negotiate an end to the conflict with the US remaining in place. That belief drove the swap of five Taliban commanders for Bowe Bergdahl, and the tacit US approval of a Taliban consulate in Qatar. It didn’t work then, and under Trump it doesn’t appear that they have any confidence that the Taliban will negotiate in good faith now either, at least not without getting punched in the nose again.

On the other hand, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is very happy about Trump’s change of direction, even if it is somewhat less dramatic than he might have wished. Ghani’s particularly pleased with the tough tone taken about Pakistan:

“I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint effort to rid the region of the threat of terrorism,” said Ghani.

He added that the US Afghan Partnership is stronger than ever and peace in the region remains the priority of the new US strategy. “The US Afghan Partnership is stronger than ever ever in overcoming the threat that terrorism that threatens all of us… The objective of peace is paramount. Peace remains our priority,” said Ghani.

Hailing America’s effort to combat terrorism in the region, Ghani said, “It (new South Asia strategy) puts particular emphasis on enhancing Afghan air power, doubling the size of Afghan Special Forces, deepening NATO’s ability to train, advise and assist Afghan National Defence and Security forces.”

How did Trump change his mind about a war he wanted to see ended? According to the Washington Post, H.R. McMaster went to the photo archives to show him that Afghanistan could be modernized:

To convince Trump that Afghanistan was not lost cause, McMaster showed him 1972 photo of Afghan women in miniskirts.

— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) August 22, 2017

Defense Secretary Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both generals with extensive battlefield experience in Afghanistan, warned Trump about the consequences of withdrawal and cautioned that any move in Afghanistan would have ripple effects throughout the region.

One of the ways McMaster tried to persuade Trump to recommit to the effort was by convincing him that Afghanistan was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return.

Another key voice in Trump’s deliberations — especially in guiding the president to make a decision in recent weeks — was John F. Kelly, the newly installed White House chief of staff. A retired four-star Marine general, Kelly had a deeply personal understanding of the stakes: His son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, was killed there in 2010 when he stepped on a land mine while leading a platoon of Marines.

“Talking to generals, he realized, you pull out completely and this is what happens: You endanger lives, you endanger American interests, allies, troops, Afghanis who are our friends, and it’s not a stable government,” said a senior administration official.

Ghani had better not get too happy, if that’s the basis on which this policy stands. That’s a thin reed of pessimistic pragmatics, one that could get snapped by bad developments down the road. It will be a very long time before we see skirts above the knee in Kabul, let alone the rest of the country. It may be a long time before we even see an effective highway system and basic water and power infrastructure. If we see any major setbacks to US efforts in Afghanistan, just how committed will Trump be to sticking around? The Taliban certainly are betting on the under, and there’s been nothing in American leadership so far since George W. Bush to suggest otherwise.


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Which will Trump choose in Phoenix: Party unity or “Chemtrail Kelli”?

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 16:01

When Donald Trump arrives in Phoenix, he has a key choice to make that could have implications for his legislative agenda. Does he continue to embrace Kelli Ward, the challenger to incumbent Jeff Flake, who has been attacked by Mitch McConnell’s PAC as “Chemtrail Kelli”? Or does Trump make nice in order to pull the GOP together for a tough budget fight and potentially another shot at ObamaCare repeal?

Politico frames this as a question, but … we all know the answer to this, right?

President Donald Trump faces a decision on Tuesday evening with profound implications for his already strained relationship with the GOP: whether to attack a vulnerable Republican senator on his home turf.

While White House officials won’t say exactly what’s on Trump’s agenda when he holds a campaign-style rally here, there is a widespread expectation that he will go after GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a loud critic of the president who recently published an anti-Trump manifesto, “Conscience of a Conservative.”

In the days leading up to Trump’s Arizona trip, Senate GOP leaders have implicitly warned Trump that attacking Flake, who faces a treacherous path to reelection, would only serve to further rupture his relationship with a congressional GOP wing that he’s grown increasingly isolated from in recent weeks. It came after Trump, in a tweet after the Phoenix event was announced, called Flake “toxic.” The president had earlier threatened to spend as much as $10 million to take out the incumbent Republican.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Majority Whip John Cornyn, and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner all declared that Flake had their full support.

The obvious answer is that Trump will promote Ward and attack Flake. Flake has been openly critical of Trump for months, and as anyone who has paid attention to politics since mid-2015 knows, Trump always punches back. That’s true even when it may conflict with his strategic interests, such as getting enough votes for his border wall and other budget priorities. Republicans will have to hold together on the budget starting in two weeks, and targeting your party’s own incumbents for primary challenges isn’t the best way of unifying a caucus. Doesn’t matter — Flake criticized Trump, and Trump has to flex his muscles. Period.

GOP leadership made its feelings well known in this 77-second attack ad on Ward. The McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund wants to remind voters in Arizona that Ward has a track record of conspiracy thinking, and not just about chemtrails:

That’s really three ads rolled up into one: chemtrails, her odd idea that “restraint” should be our governing strategy for ISIS, and Ward’s highly inappropriate campaign to get John McCain to resign so she could be appointed to his Senate seat. Ward even tried to get Flake to endorse that effort, but he pronounced himself “dumbstruck” by her comments instead. When it comes time to start buying ads in Arizona, expect to see those three themes fleshed out more fully on television. For now, let’s just call this a statement of purpose.

On the other hand, Flake’s not exactly riding a crest of popularity with these constituents at the moment, either. Attacks on Flake will be red meat for the Trump supporters who show up to this rally, with Ward’s colorful track record a side issue. All that does is add incentive for Trump to attack his party’s leadership and push those voters to toss Flake aside, even if it means opening up a relatively safe Senate seat for Democrats — which it would surely do with Ward. Trump himself only got 48% of the vote in November, besting Hillary Clinton by 3.5 points in a state where Libertarian Gary Johnson’s 4.1% showing may have made the difference between victory and defeat.  Toss aside a libertarian-leaning conservative for an InfoWars favorite, and don’t be surprised if Arizona Democrats put up a strong fight for that seat next year. And don’t be surprised if the war between McConnell and Trump creates a rare form of gridlock in single-party governance, too.

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Report: Trump advisors want amnesty for DREAMers as part of larger immigration package

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 15:21

Does this even qualify as news? Trump’s already signaled his support for DREAMers by refusing to rescind Obama’s DACA amnesty and he’s said publicly that he’d like a comprehensive immigration bill if possible. Of course DREAMers would be a key part of that. So what’s the scoop here?

Maybe the scoop is that this story is leaking so soon after Steve Bannon left the White House, with Trump’s populist base already on edge about “globalists” steering him towards left-wing policies. Nothing would be more likely to trigger a panic attack and “prove” that Trump’s come unmoored than a provocative story about a big immigration sellout driven by the “Democrats” in the West Wing being in the works. Two wrinkles, though. One: McClatchy claims a half-dozen sources for its scoop. Are there even a half-dozen Bannon loyalists left in the White House? Two: If you believe the previous reporting by BuzzFeed, Bannon himself was open to a DREAM amnesty. Quote: “Bannon views DACA, which tends to be viewed more favorably than many immigration policies, as a strategic asset in the coming immigration policy battles.” It’s a bargaining chip, aimed at conceding citizenship for illegals who are already more or less fully assimilated into American culture in exchange for security improvements to keep the unassimilated out.

Which is exactly what the current plan is, per McClatchy:

The White House officials want Trump to strike an ambitious deal with Congress that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with situation, most involved with the negotiations.

The group includes former and current White House chiefs of staff, Reince Priebus and John Kelly, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as presidential advisers, they said. Others who have not been as vocal publicly about their stance but are thought to agree include Vice President Mike Pence, who as a congressman worked on a failed immigration deal that called for citizenship, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a Democrat who serves as director of the National Economic Council.

The conventional wisdom is that Republicans in Congress won’t go for this, especially with a dicey midterm approaching, since populists in the base will freak out. Eh, I’m not so sure. With Trump, the nationalist-in-chief, out there selling the compromise to a reluctant GOP base, why wouldn’t the many amnesty fans among congressional Republicans leap at the chance to pass something? I think Trump could successfully sell it to the base too, provided that he really did get everything mentioned in the excerpt above in return for the DREAM amnesty. DREAMers are a small segment of the overall illegal population whom everyone assumes will be legalized one way or another in due time. Might as well bite the bullet on their right to remain in the U.S. if you can get the wall and internal enforcement in return. Major conservative media would help Trump sell it as well, I’m sure. There’s no shortage of DREAMers the White House could run out to shows like “Hannity” with sympathetic stories about how America is the only country they’ve ever known.

The sticking point here isn’t Republicans, it’s Democrats. There’s no way Schumer’s going to give away the farm on security improvements in exchange for amnesty for only a smallish number of young illegals. That would leave him with no remaining leverage over Trump in getting him to agree to legalize the broader illegal population in the U.S. eventually. (We pause here, as always, to reflect upon Democrats using protection of America’s borders as a bargaining chip to eliminate penalties on lawbreakers.) He’s also not going to consider this before a midterm that momentarily looks rough for the GOP in the House. Better to bide his time, hope that the House turns blue next fall, and then negotiate with Trump and McConnell with Democrats enjoying much more bargaining power. Even if Schumer knew for a fact that both houses of Congress would remain in Republican hands, he might boycott an immigration deal purely for the sake of denying Trump any major legislative achievements during his term. Democrats have convinced themselves that the GOP owes its electoral successes during Obama’s presidency to its ability to thwart his agenda, leaving him on the hook for paralysis in Washington. Now they’re going to play the same game with Trump. Nothing will get done before 2020 if Schumer has anything to say about it. Certainly nothing will get done on immigration unless Trump comes to the table with much more than amnesty for DREAMers.

An interesting paragraph from deeper in the McClatchy story:

[Immigration hawk Stephen] Miller was ordered not to brief the president on the issue in recent months, according to two of the people. A former campaign and transition aide, Miller has briefed Trump many times on Dreamers so his views are not unknown, but the president has a tendency to side with the last person who speaks to him and Kelly, who became chief of staff three weeks ago, has kept a tight watch on who gets to talk to Trump.

National policy is being set by a man so prone to siding with the last person who speaks to him, it seems, that individual advisors need to be quarantined so as not to wreck ongoing negotiations. Maybe that’s why Kelly was so eager to kick Bannon out last Friday. Who knows what would have happened to the new Afghanistan surge if Bannon, who opposes a new build-up, had pulled Trump aside 10 minutes before last night’s speech and pitched him on a drawdown?

But never mind that. The most interesting part of that paragraph is the claim that Miller was “ordered” not to brief Trump on DREAMers. Who ordered him? The logical answer is Kelly, but Kelly’s only been chief of staff for three weeks and McClatchy claims Miller’s been kept away from Trump “in recent months.” Did Reince, another amnesty fan, lay down the law? Did Jared? Miller’s probably the most popular figure in the White House at this point among populists apart from Trump himself. A gratuitous detail in a news story about him not being allowed to share his views with the president makes it seem even more likely that this was leaked by a Bannon ally who’s unhappy with Trump’s drift towards a comprehensive deal on immigration and wants the populist base to be unhappy too. Could that source have been Miller himself?

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Actually, that Afghanistan speech left some major, unanswered questions

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 14:41

I’ll confess that I didn’t catch Trump’s speech on Afghanistan last night, being in the midst of a a 13.5 hour drive back from the eclipse totality zone in Tennessee. I wound up having to watch it this morning, and I’m sorry to say that there are still more questions to be answered. When Allahpundit previewed it I thought he did a good job of identifying the President’s dwindling options there and why he would likely not be making too many huge changes.

In reality, an enemy that’s fought for 16 years will go on fighting for a few more knowing that America is tired of this war and aimless in its goals, reduced to training and retraining an Afghan national force that’ll seemingly never be ready to stand on its own against the Taliban and perhaps isn’t even inclined to. Trump is ordering the surge because he doesn’t want to be viewed as the president who gave up on Afghanistan, which is understandable, but I wonder if his own isolationist impulses will gradually override those worries as this latest build-up inevitably leads to a new round of stalemate.

I’m not sure if what we’re looking at now could be called “a surge” in terms of comparisons to Iraq Round Two (which actually worked out pretty well until Bush 43 left office). While the tone was positive (which I’ll get to in a moment) I was also left with a feeling that this was still more of an effort to not lose than to actually win, and there’s clearly a political motivation to follow that path. Earlier that day, Andrew Malcolm had struck a similar tone, suggesting that Trump will need to up the ante a bit but avoid the risk of being the guy who lost the war.

Mattis’ recommendations, discussed at the Camp David meeting Friday, will surely require additional forces. Probably a fair number of Special Ops too. But the total won’t be so many that it looks like a new war or the tedious and precarious nation-building that campaigner Trump denounced — or that tribal Afghanistan is historically unwilling to abide.

Given strains on the rebuilding military depleted during Obama’s years and post-Vietnam wariness over fighting insurgencies on a large-scale, Trump seems unlikely to order a large surge. But, wait. He does take pride in being unpredictable.

Keep that idea of Afghanistan being a tribal nation which is “historically unwilling to abide” any sort of nation building in mind. We’ll circle back to it. But first I wanted to offer a nod to what Ed pointed out this morning on this subject. Trump mentioned the connection with India, and involving them made things more tricky, given their traditional grudge with Pakistan. But that brings us to the critical question, particularly when you consider Pakistan’s less than stellar record of being our “ally” in this endeavor. How long does the original coalition (or what remains of it) want to keep investing in this historically losing bet, particularly when relations between even some of our most reliable allies are strained at the current time?

India and Pakistan, Germany and Turkey, China and Japan, Russia and, well… just about everyone. Things were never completely black and white with some of these nations, but the last five years have really seen the situation turn into even more of a toxic stew, particularly when you consider all the friction inside of the EU and the effect that ISIS has had on the entire civilized world. Some of the assumptions we made about our global support to reform the nation of Afghanistan more than fifteen years ago are on shaky ground at best.

Trump was probably willing to go all in to win, but it’s now obviously fair to ask if there’s still a winning solution out there short of turning the entire country of Afghanistan into a toxic, smoking hole. Nations have been trying to either conquer or reform and reshape Afghanistan for pretty much all of modern history. Everyone has failed. And while there are no doubt many good people in Afghanistan who would like to see their nation reach a place of stability and join at least the 19th century, if not the 20th or 21st, it’s not a consensus position. I’m not just talking about the Taliban here. There are plenty of “mainstream” Afghan citizens and leaders who may not be fans of the previous Islamist regime, but also resent allied efforts to westernize or even civilize them. The number of sneak attacks on our troops by the very people we trained is a constant reminder of this. They can’t all be Taliban moles.

Last night Trump repeated the idea that our troops will “fight to win.” He also said that Americans deserved a definition for what winning would look like while promising that there would be “no blank check” on this effort. I think those are both fine sentiments which Americans have been waiting to see addressed for years now, but there were no such definitions offered in that address. What if there is no winning formula anymore which doesn’t involve turning over the keys to the folks who have been supporting us, pulling out and declaring that if they can’t stand on their own two feet by now they’re never going to?

Trump as much as said that his instincts were to get out, but he decided to go against those instincts. This is the president who got elected because he shoots from the hip and trusts his instincts. (I’m not going to invoke a “Decider in Chief” reference here.) Trump’s generals have told him, according to multiple sources, that pulling out would be a disaster. I completely agree. But what if staying is also a disaster? I understand and agree with the President’s long stated position that he doesn’t want to telegraph his punches to our enemies and he won’t warn them in advance of what we’re going to do. But at least in the broad strokes, I would like to see a Part Two to last night’s speech. Tell us what victory looks like and give us a reasonable estimate of how much further blood and treasure will be required to get us over that finish line.

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Fusion GPS on the hot seat in closed Senate Judiciary hearing

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 14:01

Too bad C-SPAN won’t carry the testimony of Glenn Simpson, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who launched the oppo research firm Fusion GPS. Simpson finds himself at the center of the Russia scandal, thanks to a discredited dossier about Donald Trump that got floated after the election. Now Chuck Grassley wants to get to the bottom of the dossier, who ordered it, who paid for it, and what its purpose was, and he’ll get his chance in a closed session today:

Simpson, who will appear in a closed session on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, hired the former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to compile the now infamous “dossier,” which alleged that members of the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian agents to damage Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent.

Republicans in Congress are stepping up their efforts to uncover the funders of and sources for that controversial document and its, so far, largely unverified claims as special counsel Robert Mueller’s high-profile probe of those alleged ties heats up. …

As a reporter, Simpson specialized in coverage of money laundering and Russian organized crime. In an appearance on a panel at a film festival in 2016, Simpson explained that he started Fusion GPS after leaving journalism because he thought his investigative skills would be valuable to a range of wealthy clients.

“What I really like to do is gather documents and put things together in a way that they could be used to expose a crime or right a wrong,” Simpson said. “I call it journalism for rent.”

Want to bet that little quip comes up in today’s questioning? Simpson has to know that it won’t be pleasant, but at least it’s not in public. The closed session will give him some limited room to maneuver, depending on how much his testimony leaks afterward.

Simpson’s probably not the one with the biggest problem, though. His source, Christopher Steele, will have to face one or more depositions in defamation lawsuits brought by a Russian businessman against Steele and BuzzFeed for their allegations that his company took part in cyberwarfare against the US during the election campaign. That danger could cut both ways, McClatchy’s Kevin Hall notes:

Lawyers for Russian-born Internet mogul Aleksej Gubarev’s company, XBT Holdings, are advancing in a U.S. lawsuit against BuzzFeed, and a separate legal team for Gubarev is pursuing a lawsuit in London against Steele.

Gubarev sued BuzzFeed because the dossier alleged that Russia’s government had compromising information on him and coerced him into cyber efforts to manipulate the U.S. election via his U.S. companies XBT and Webzilla — claims that Gubarev denies. He contends that BuzzFeed didn’t give him the opportunity to refute the uncorroborated information.

Gubarev’s attorneys this week are expected to ask British courts to compel Steele to give a sworn deposition to be used in the defamation lawsuit in South Florida, where one of Gubarev’s companies Webzilla is located. A federal judge in Miami late Tuesday ruled against Steele in his bid to quash that request. …

The stakes are high for Christopher Steele. As it stands, he faces defamation lawsuits in England and the United States. And U.S. congressional committees and investigators want to talk to him about the contents of his dossier and who compensated him for his work.

But the stakes are also high for Trump, as Steele might be forced to provide corroborating evidence and even sources for the many charges in the dossier that allege collaboration between the Republican candidate and Russian operatives.

Eh, that seems unlikely by now. If Steele and Simpson had corroborating evidence for those claims, they could have presented it by now to get these lawsuits quashed, especially in the US. They’ve put their efforts mainly into preventing Steele from getting deposed, which suggests that they see a problem for themselves if Steele has to testify under oath. It’s possible that even more unsubstantiated allegations might emerge as part of the exploration of their work, but right now the dossier has largely been discredited, which means damage from further rumors will be limited at best (or worst, depending on your perspective).

This raises a question, though. Does Robert Mueller really have any further interest in the Fusion GPS thread of this investigation? Normally Congressional committees tread very carefully around potential material witnesses in special-counsel investigations. Perhaps Grassley’s efforts today also underscore the lack of credibility in journalism for rent.

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