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Holocaust Museum rejects analogies to the southern border (Update: AOC claims she didn’t mean Nazi camps)

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 19:21

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC has published a statement rejecting the kind of analogy Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made recently when she called migrant detention centers along the southern border “concentration camps.” The statement was posted on the museum’s website as a press release:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary. That position has repeatedly and unambiguously been made clear in the Museum’s official statement on the matter – a statement that is reiterated and reaffirmed now. The link to the Museum’s statement is here.

The Museum further reiterates that a statement ascribed to a Museum staff historian regarding recent attempts to analogize the situation on the United States southern border to concentration camps in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s does not reflect the position of the Museum.

The Museum deeply regrets any offense to Holocaust survivors and others that may have been engendered by any statement ascribed to a Museum historian in a personal capacity.

The staff historian referenced in the statement is Dr. Becky Erbelding who tweeted a reaction to a PBS special more than a year ago:

The parallels to the 1930s-1940s refugee crisis are so obvious. Why can't we learn?

— Dr. Becky Erbelding (@rerbelding) January 25, 2018

That tweet was cited by a website called “World Israel News” Saturday as if it were in response to AOC’s comments about concentration camps. Dr. Erbelding is demanding a retraction and a correction:

In an article appearing today, a reporter entirely manufactured a tweet she claims I posted. This appears to be a clear case of libel. I have demanded a public retraction and correction.

— Dr. Becky Erbelding (@rerbelding) June 23, 2019

She also wrote a response on her personal website:

On June 22, 2019, the website “World Israel News” posted an article claiming that I tweeted that “parallels to the 1930s-1940s refugee crisis are so obvious” in response to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets last week. That claim is a total fabrication. I have demanded a public retraction and correction.

Holocaust analogies are lazy, distracting, insensitive, and incorrect. I have never compared detention camps on the US southern border to Nazi concentration camps. I am a good, careful, and award-winning historian, and this article contains lies and distortions.

This morning, Dr. Erbelding updated her statement to note that World Israel News has corrected the date of her tweet:

Note: I have made a correction to this statement. (6/24, 11:20am). The WIN article originally claimed that I tweeted the “parallels” statement in response to AOC’s comments last week. This is untrue. Now, without stating that they have made a correction, they changed the article to read that I made that statement in 2018 in response to a Frontline article describing the intensive vetting of refugees. I have gone back through my tweets and found the tweet in question, from January 25, 2018. At the time, it received two “likes” and no retweets, and again, was tweeted from my personal account.

So it sounds as if Dr. Erbelding had forgotten she ever made the statement on Twitter. In any case, she was not replying to or endorsing AOC’s statement about concentration camps.

This rebuke from Dr. Erbeldiing and the Holocaust Museum comes after the World center for Holocaust research, documentation, education and commemoration tweeted this last week:

.@AOC Concentration camps assured a slave labor supply to help in the Nazi war effort, even as the brutality of life inside the camps helped assure the ultimate goal of "extermination through labor."

Learn about concentration camps #History

— Yad Vashem (@yadvashem) June 19, 2019

But none of this seems to matter to AOC’s fans, thousands of whom have swarmed every tweet on this topic to back her up. Even the tweet above has hundreds or responses arguing that AOC is right.

Update: I knew this was coming. Here’s AOC claiming Republicans made a “wild jump” by claiming she was talking about the Holocaust:

If you doubt it, here’s the original tweet. This is a deliberate, intentional, wild jump made by Republicans (frankly, often) for the explicit purpose of eliciting + manipulating pain for political purposes.

Meanwhile, kids are still dying.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 24, 2019

So she mentioned “concentration camps” and “never again” and a “fascist” leader but it’s a wild leap to think she meant Nazi Germany. This is pure gaslighting because she’s being called out by organizations like the Holocaust Museum. AOC even retweeted a piece last week directly comparing migrant detention centers to Nazi concentration camps. Why didn’t she call out the author of that piece for making a “wild leap?”

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WaPo tries to blame Venezuelan collapse on Trump

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 18:41

No matter how far to the left much of the mainstream media may swing, I’ll confess to never having seen this one coming. At the Washington Post this week, Jackson Diehl pens an op-ed about the horrific conditions in Venezuela. Regular readers are already familiar with the tragic story because we cover it here every week. Four million refugees have now fled the country and are outstripping the humanitarian aid available in Colombia and other neighboring nations. The lack of food, potable water and medical supplies inside Venezuela literally has people falling down dead in the streets. Violence and starvation are rampant.

And who does Diehl predict will get the blame for all of this carnage? Why, Donald Trump, of course! Give these two paragraphs a gander and see if you can follow this “logic.”

The most plausible and most disturbing forecast was this: By December, an additional 1 million Venezuelans will pour into Colombia and other nearby countries — and the region will be unable to cope with them. The Trump administration will find itself facing demands that it mount some kind of intervention to stanch a crisis on the Venezuelan-Colombian border far worse than anything ever seen on the U.S.-Mexican frontier.

Meanwhile, the claim that the United States is responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe, now confined to the Maduro regime and the fringe left, will have gravitated to the mainstream. That’s because even though the ban on Venezuelan oil purchases that Trump rashly ordered in January failed to accomplish the goal of forcing regime change, it has had a devastating economic effect.

The title of this piece is literally, “The Venezuela crisis is going to get much worse — and Trump will get the blame.”

So let’s see if we’ve got this straight. The humanitarian crisis on the Venezuela-Colombia border is going to get so bad that the Trump administration will “face demands that it mount some kind of intervention.” Who exactly is going to be making these demands? (I mean, outside of the Washington Post, of course.) And what sort of intervention are we talking about? A military intervention? I think Colombia might have something to say about that, even assuming you could convince a majority of the American people that what we really need right now is another war, this time in South America.

Or perhaps you’re talking about a humanitarian intervention? There’s already been plenty of that going on. But you may recall that when the truckloads of food and other aid showed up at the border, Nicolas Maduro ordered tanks and trucks to block the bridge so it couldn’t be delivered.

Diehl then goes on to blame the chaos and starvation on Trump’s decision to sanction Venezuelan oil sales. You’ll recall that this action was taken in January of this year. Venezuela has been in a full-blown implosion for years now. And just for the record, there wasn’t much oil to block the sale of. The state oil company had long since been so badly looted by the corrupt government that they were barely able to produce anything and tankers were lined up in the harbors because the country couldn’t deliver on their promises or pay for things they had ordered.

Venezuela’s decline began with the ascent of Hugo Chavez and the socialist revolution. But it really accelerated when Maduro got hold of the reins of power. His rampant corruption, strongarm tactics and socialist policies have brought what was formerly one of the richest and most productive countries in South America to its knees. Its people are suffering because they live under the thumb of a tyrant. And unless you want us to invade the country (and take ownership of that disaster under the Pottery Barn Rule), there’s not a lot more we can do about it at the moment. The idea that you can somehow lay this disaster at the feet of President Trump is as laughable as it is insulting.

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Bernie: Let’s bail out all the student-loan debtors — including the upper class

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 18:01

A lame pander reeking of flop sweat. Warren beat him to the punch on this, remember, proposing in April that a small tax on mega-millionaires could pay off most of the student debt in this country. That was back when she was crawling along at around six percent in the polls and trailing Bernie by double digits. A splashy bailout for the young and young-ish was her way of trying to show Sanders’s progressive base that there are other choices on the primary menu this year. But even in lefty-pander mode, Warren’s plan placed limits on taxpayer largesse. Only the first $50,000 of debt for each debtor would be paid off under her plan. If you’re someone who racked up truly massive loans, as one aiming for a lucrative postgrad degree in law or medicine might, then you’d have to pick up some of your own tab. That was her concession to the poor optics of handing out cash to some of the best-paid members of America’s professional class. Can’t fight a class war in which the upper class benefits as much as, or even more than, the lower class, right?

Now here comes Bernie, two months later, nervously insisting that you can do that. Warren has roughly doubled her polling since April, mostly at Sanders’s expense; she’s already passed him in more than one national poll and stands poised to pass him in the RCP average soon if trends continue. The man needs a way to remind lefties that there’s only one true socialist in this race and all the rest, including Warren, will cuck out with half measures as president. So here it is: Student-loan forgiveness for everyone, full stop, without regard to their ability to pay. Doctors, lawyers, you name it — everyone’s off scot-free. (What I said about Warren’s plan in April is even truer here: Under this proposal, the less responsible you were in incurring debt you couldn’t afford and the less willing you’ve been to sacrifice in order to repay it, the more your government will reward you.) A class-war giveaway that doesn’t account for class feels absurd, but it makes sense as a primary pander. This is Bernie showing Democratic voters that no one but no one will be as bold in handing out free sh*t as he will.

Sanders is proposing to pay for the legislation with a new tax on financial transactions, including a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds. Such a levy would curb Wall Street speculation while reducing income inequality, according to a report by the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, although conservatives warn it would stunt economic growth and investment…

“The cost will march toward $3 trillion and benefit a lot of wealthy families and future high-earners,” said Brian Riedl, an analyst at the Manhattan Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank. “Of all problems requiring a $3 trillion federal expenditure, the college costs of middle- and upper-class college graduates seem lower-priority.”

A fierce debate has raged in left-leaning policy circles as well as over whether canceling student debt offers too much help to families with higher incomes. The top 40 percent of earners would receive about two-thirds of the benefits from Warren’s plan, according to Adam Looney, a former Treasury official under President Barack Obama who is now at the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank.

That number is likely to be higher under Sanders’s plan, given that proposals by Warren and Castro do not call for wiping clean the debt of those earning over six figures.

He also wants to make all public universities and community colleges free, because why not? As for suckers like me who already paid off their debt or the many Americans who decided to pass on college for whatever reason — including, perhaps, because they didn’t want to take on debt — I don’t know what to tell you. There are no plans in Sanders’s or Warren’s proposals to compensate those who made the mistake of managing their financial obligations prudently, but Philip Klein is probably right that that’ll change soon. Now that Bernie’s offered to pick up the tab for everyone with current debt, the only move left to out-socialist him is to offer reparations to those who don’t have debt but might have if they’d handled things differently. Expect that plan from Beto or Buttigieg in a month or two.

There’s also the small matter of the middle and even lower class, most members of which didn’t go to college, having to fund this bailout with their tax dollars. Right, right, I know — Bernie says he’s going to fund it by taxing Wall Street. But every dollar extracted from Wall Street for a student-loan bailout is a dollar that can’t be applied to one of the many, many other expensive new entitlements which the left wants to introduce during a Sanders presidency. Remember, by one estimate this guy’s health-care plan will cost $32 trillion over 10 years. The tax he’s proposing on Wall Street to pay for this student-loan thing could have helped pay for that instead. You’ll have to pick up the slack for one program or another.

Ironically, although this plan is obviously aimed at winning back some progressive votes from Warren, I think it may end up helping her expand her appeal. Warren isn’t trying to win the nomination by consolidating progressives and counting on them to outvote the rest of the party. She’s pitching herself to the center too, insisting repeatedly that she’s a capitalist to contrast her relative moderation with Bernie’s socialism. It appears to be working, with some centrist groups beginning to see her as a potential compromise nominee between Bernie and the more centrist Biden. Having Sanders go nuts with student-loan relief makes Warren’s still-nutty-but-not-as-nutty capped handout of $50,000 per debtor seem prudent and “moderate” by comparison. It might even help her with some lefty voters who, while appreciating Sanders’s ambition, won’t easily digest the criticism that Bernie’s plan will primarily benefit postgrads with higher earning potential.

As fraught and alienating as it is, the case for racial reparations seems more straightforward to me than the case for bailing out a single generation of student-loan debtors en masse. I’d understand it more if the bailout targeted only the poorest students, or if it was limited to those who encountered a gruesome labor market in the first few years after the Great Recession, but there seems to be no logical limiting principle here and no explanation for why these debtors as opposed to debtors who are 10 years older should receive relief. It’s like a conservative caricature of a left-wing redistributionist program, lifting a pot of money from Wall Street and then looking for some pretext, without much rhyme or reason, to give it to someone else.

Bernie Sanders: "Our proposal, which costs $2.2 trillion over 10 years, will be fully paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation … The American people bailed out Wall Street. Now, it is time for Wall Street to come to the aid of the middle class of this country”

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 24, 2019

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Project Veritas: Google is working to create ‘fairness’ through algorithms

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 17:21

Project Veritas has released a new video featuring an interview with an anonymous “Google Insider” who has come forward to reveal how Google is working to create “fairness” online through the use of machine learning.

“Fairness is a dog whistle. It does not mean what you think that it means and you have to apply doublethink in order to understand what they’re really saying,” the Insider tells Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe. He adds, “What they’re really saying about fairness is that they have to manipulate their search results so it gives them the political agenda that they want.”

O’Keefe uses autocomplete as an example, showing that typing “Men can” into Google search yields suggestions like “Men can have babies” and “Men can get pregnant.” The Insider says these are selected because they are the things most people are searching for on Google, rather they are suggestions that have been trained into the algorithm that are in keeping with a particular political outlook. Later, O’Keefe notes that typing “Hillary Clinton’s emails” into the search bar yields no suggestions, despite the fact that this has been a popular search term over the past several years.

Of course, Google’s recommendations aren’t necessarily the same as its actual search results. But later in this clip, the Insider suggests there has been a recent effort to clamp down on conservative YouTube channels, including Prager U, Dave Rubin, and Steven Crowder both to demonetize them and to make them less likely to appear in search results. Something similar seems to have happened to Benjamin Boyce, who I wrote about last week. Boyce had dozens of his videos partially demonetized and, at the same time, it appears his clips critical of Evergreen State College no longer turn up in Google’s video search results.

Project Veritas has also received documents describing the concept behind the algorithm known as “ML Fairness” (machine language fairness). He reads a couple of selections from those documents including this: “In some cases it may be appropriate to take no action if the system accurately reflects current reality, while in other cases it may be desirable to consider how we might help society reach a more equitable state via product intervention.”

Finally, this clip also contains a hidden-camera recording of a Google staffer named Jen Gennai who is identified in the clip below as the Head of Responsible Innovation at the company. She describes Google’s efforts to promote fairness despite the fact that not everyone agrees with what that should look like. “People who voted for the current president do not agree with our definition of fairness,” Gennai said. So there seems to be an awareness that many of these moves are partisan but that’s apparently fine with Google.

Here’s the clip which is being hosted on Google-owned YouTube:

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Pelosi’s border bill should be dead on arrival

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:41

When we previously discussed the President’s decision to put the planned deportation raids in as many as a dozen cities on hold, I suggested that Speaker Pelosi might have put an offer on the table that caught Trump’s attention, prompting the delay. His statement about giving Congress “a couple of weeks” to hammer out a deal seemed to provide further indication that this was what happened. Now we’re getting some of the details of the “offer” Nancy Pelosi is putting forward and as far as I can tell, ICE should probably gas up the trucks and get ready to head out because it stinks on ice. (Pardon the pun.)

Our colleague Beth Baumann at Town Hall has most of the details in the plan. They are almost entirely based on help for the immigrants at the border (much of which would be fine if they want to spend the money) and virtually nothing that the President or conservatives want out of a border bill.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Sunday said the House of Representatives will advance a border bill brought about by the House Appropriations Committee. The announcement comes after President Donald Trump’s last minute decision to cancel a deportation raid that was scheduled for Sunday in 10 cities. Trump said he would give Congress two weeks to pass a border bill before the raid is reinstated.

According to Pelosi, the House will provide humanitarian aid that’s needed to keep families together.

“The President’s failed policies have exacerbated the situation at the border, where vulnerable children endure inhumane conditions that threaten their health, well-being and sometimes, tragically, their lives. This legislation provides urgently-needed humanitarian assistance for families, including funding for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and legal assistance, and will relieve the horrific situation of over-crowding and help prevent additional deaths,” Pelosi said in a statement.

You can go down the list, but all of the spending items are related to meeting the needs of the illegal aliens already in the country, with no provisions for slowing the flow of additional illegals crossing the border or speeding up the rate that we are able to process them.

There’s 934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, etc. $866 million would go to “reduce reliance on influx shelters to house children.” Another $200 million is allocated to develop an “integrated, multi-agency processing center pilot program for families.” You’re probably getting the idea.

There’s another serious poison pill in the package as well. One provision would, “require the federal government to prospectively notify illegal immigrants that if they bring an unaccompanied child into the country and sponsor them, their illegal status would in no way be used against them, a source said, and that the child will be delivered to them without any reservation.”

Are you kidding me? So not only are we not fixing the loophole that’s allowing illegal aliens to grab a kid and use them as a passport to get into the country, but we’re going to advertise the loophole to all the migrants and codify it in law?

This is a joke and a bad one at that. Unless the Democrats want to include some money for new immigration judges, more CBP officers, and some wall construction, the GOP should tell them to take this bill and go pound sand.

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Buttigieg town hall: Outbursts, heckling and Mayor Pete confronts his critics

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:01

It’s been a tough weekend for Pete Buttigieg. He is in an elected office while running for president and that can get complicated. Sunday I wrote about a confrontation South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had Friday with some Black Lives Matter protesters during a Justice for South Bend rally. Mayor Pete held a town hall Sunday that resulted in outbursts from the audience and heckling.

Buttigieg is struggling to quell community unrest over a police-involved shooting a week ago in South Bend. Questions arise. How can voters place confidence in him to be the leader of the free world if he struggles to manage a small city of 100,00 people? Right now he can’t quite seem to find his footing as he juggles his day job as a mayor and still campaigns for president. Though he claimed to be leaving the campaign trail last week as he made the decision to return home and oversee the aftermath of the shooting, he flew to Miami to speak at a Latino legislators’ gathering. He spoke Friday morning before returning to South Bend for the Justice for South Bend rally. He missed the all-important fish fry hosted by Rep. Jim Clyburn but he did attend the South Carolina Democrat State Convention Saturday. Then he was back in South Bend Sunday for the town hall.

In South Carolina he took a shot at the police, accusing them of serving up the worst moments of racial injustice. Was he pandering to a largely black audience? Does Mayor Pete think this kind of language is helpful?

Pete Buttigieg speaks in SC: "Through our history, many of the worst moments in racial injustice in this country were served up at the hands of law enforcement."

— The Hill (@thehill) June 24, 2019

And he took jabs at President Trump.

Pete Buttigieg speaks in SC: "We are not going to win by going on the President's show. I know it's massively entertaining. I don't know what kind of show to call it. Is it a game show? Is it a reality show? It's a horror show."

— The Hill (@thehill) June 24, 2019

Amongst the chaos of the town hall, Mayor Pete admitted that mistakes have been made and he took responsibility. He did, however, push back when he was accused of doing nothing. He acknowledged that his administration failed in two key initiatives – recruit more minority officers to the police department and the effort to introduce body cameras. The officer involved in the shooting wasn’t using a body camera.

The town hall was interrupted frequently by outbursts and heckling. At one point, a man yelled at Buttigieg: “You gotta get back to South Carolina like you was yesterday? Talk about ‘all lives matter’ in South Carolina?” Another man approached the stage to yell at Buttigieg and South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski, ignoring the moderator’s attempts to restore order.

“I don’t want to seem defensive, but we have taken a lot of steps,” Buttigieg said at one point. “They clearly haven’t been enough. But I can’t accept the suggestion that we haven’t done anything.”

Many in the town hall audience voiced their frustration with the police department, which included charges of racism.

The town hall grew contentious when some community members questioned whether the mayor had done enough to reform the police department in the city of 100,000 people, which is about a quarter black.

“Get the people that are racist off the streets,” one woman in the audience said. “Reorganize your department. You can do that by Friday.”

The town hall Sunday was described as “hastily arranged” and Buttigieg’s usual unemotional persona turned emotional as he struggled to cope with the angry crowd. He explained to reporters that the decision to hold a town hall that descended into chaos was a necessary action.

As a hastily arranged town hall meeting Sunday in South Bend descended into chaos — with attendees screaming profanities at him, at his police chief and each other — Buttigieg seemed to vacillate between despondency over the jeers, irritation over being interrupted and wonky erudition as he offered explanations about local laws on police misconduct that only further angered the crowd.

Yet once the gathering dispersed after the nearly two-hour meeting, the testiness from Buttigieg seemed to turn to sadness as he fielded questions from reporters. He became visibly emotional when asked whether it had been wise to hold the event given the communal shouting match it ultimately became.

“I just think it’s my job,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t know if it’s smart or not. I don’t know if it’s strategic or not. But it’s my city.”

Buttigieg’s rise in the polls has stalled out in recent weeks. No doubt his competitors in the primary race are keeping their eyes on how he handles his hometown crisis. Will any of them confront him on the debate stage this week? We’ll know soon.

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Hmmm: Op-ed by Trump pal published in WSJ calls on Trump to ditch Pence for Haley

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:21

Noteworthy because of both the author and the publication the op-ed ran in.

I’m proud to have founded the Democrats for Trump movement in 2016. President Trump’s pro-growth policies have revived the stagnating U.S. economy, and he deserves a second term. But to have the best chance of re-election, he should replace Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket with Nikki Haley.

I mean no disrespect for Mr. Pence, who’s loyally served the president and the nation. But he’s given Mr. Trump all the help he can. He inspired his fellow evangelical Christians to take a chance in 2016. But in 2020 they’ll already be repelled by the Democrats’ embrace of infanticide. Mr. Trump’s greater obstacle to re-election comes from politically moderate suburban women, many of whom see him as divisive…

It’s too late for Mr. Trump to revamp his political personality. But with the 2016 election in the past, Nikki Haley on the ticket could tamp down the antipathy for Mr. Trump that seems to afflict so many moderate and Republican-leaning women. President Trump needs the prospect of a Vice President Haley to help recapture the White House.

The Journal is a Rupert Murdoch newspaper, of course, and Murdoch is a friend of the president’s. Would a friend stir up trouble for POTUS and his vice president by running this without clearing it with Trump himself first? NYT reporter Maggie Haberman doubts it:

Here’s something that doesn’t happen without a Murdoch nod

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 24, 2019

The author is Andrew Stein, former president of the New York City Council and a longtime Democrat. But as you see from the excerpt, he’s an unusually Trump-friendly Democrat. He endorsed Trump in 2016, publishing an op-ed in the Journal in that case too, and has known Trump for decades, having visited him in the White House just within the last few months. Trump donated tens of thousands of dollars to Stein’s campaigns in NYC in the 1980s, allegedly using dubious means to do so in order to skirt New York campaign-finance laws. They go way back, they’re friendly, and they’re still in touch.

Which raises the question again: Would Stein have stirred up trouble for his friend the president by submitting a “Dump Pence” piece to a newspaper without giving Trump a veto beforehand?

In fact, considering that Stein and Murdoch are both Trump pals, it’s possible that this op-ed exists as a favor to the president. Maybe Trump is toying with the idea of dropping Pence and wanted to gauge public reaction to the idea. So he dialed up his friends Andy and Rupert and asked if the two wouldn’t mind if this piece ran in Murdoch’s paper under Stein’s byline. Stein is the perfect person to do it too since, as a Democrat, he faces fewer consequences than a Republican would from factions within the GOP who are friendly to Pence. Bill Kristol is suspicious too:

This op-ed pushing a Trump-Nikki Haley ticket is by former NYC pol Andrew Stein (who later pled guilty to lying in a financial fraud). Stein knows Trump, of course, and is close to others in Trump world. Zero chance this trial balloon isn’t ok with Trump.

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) June 24, 2019

There is, of course, the small matter of Trump having already asked Pence to be his running mate for a second term at a press conference following the midterms. But so what? Trump changes his mind all the time. If he’s convinced that replacing Pence with Haley will meaningfully improve his chances of winning, both he and every last one of his fans will support ruthlessly cashiering Pence under any pretense. It’s not like Pence is some MAGA nationalist hero. And Stein’s quite right when he says in his column that Pence won’t deliver any more evangelicals to Trump next year than Trump can deliver himself.

Would Haley deliver many new women voters for Trump? Sarah Palin didn’t deliver an outsized share of women voters for McCain in 2008. Per exit polls, Bush got 48 percent of the women vote in 2004; McCain got 43 percent; Romney improved slightly to 44 percent; and then Trump, running against the first major-party woman nominee, dropped to 41 percent. Haley’s more of an establishmentarian whereas Palin was more of a populist, though, and Haley has more government experience than Palin had when she was nominated. If putting her on the ticket boosted Trump’s share of the women vote just a few points to Romney levels, that alone might be enough to secure him a second term given how tight the 2016 race was.

Yet Trump’s persona so thoroughly dominates American politics that it’s hard to imagine next fall’s election as anything other than a referendum on him personally. And it’s not as if Pence has had obvious influence on Trump’s decisions as president, which would raise the stakes on Election Day of who his number two is. The Journal reported a few days ago about Trump’s Iran deliberations that Pence supported his initial decision on Thursday morning to attack, then supported his decision not to attack later in the early evening. Trump does what he wants and Pence loyally follows along — which is no doubt how Trump likes it, and why he might be reluctant to replace Pence on the ticket even if he might stand to gain from doing it. The point, though, is that the VP thus far is basically a hood ornament for Trump’s presidency. Why would any voter be enticed into buying a car they don’t like because the salesman is suddenly offering a different hood ornament?

I don’t think Haley wants the job either. Why would she? She wants to be president, and running with Trump for a second term seems not very likely to make that dream come true no matter the outcome. For starters, the media would demand that she answer for all the allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, starting with the latest one, which will dent her support among women. They’ll also push her to explain her foreign-policy divergences from Trump, which were often on display at the UN when she would deliver stemwinders about Russian meddling abroad. Haley would have to make peace with protectionism, which cuts against her more traditionally conservative beliefs. If they won, she’d be the first woman VP and his heir apparent as leader of the party, but she’d also be facing the hard reality in 2024 that Americans seldom (once in the past 70 years) give the same party three straight terms in the White House. If they lost, she’d have the loser label affixed to her in the 2024 Republican primaries. “Nominate Haley and we’ll win women!” her fans will say. “Like we did in 2020?” her critics will reply.

Although none would ever admit it, the best-case scenario for any aspiring Republican president eyeing 2024 — especially those who don’t fit comfortably with Trumpism ideologically (Haley, Cruz, Rubio) — is to stay as far away from Trump as possible and quietly hope that he loses next year, especially to Biden or Bernie since their age increases the chance that they’ll step down after one term. That might create an opening four years later for a younger nominee like Haley who wants to steer the party in a different direction.

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A curious time for a visit with the Saudis

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 14:41

Shortly after Iran shot down our drone over the Strait of Hormuz, I asked what the next logical response might be. Appropo of absolutely nothing, one possibility crossed my mind and I wrote the following:

So here’s a thought. Saudi Arabia is spoiling for a fight with Iran and they have a (sometimes regrettably) close relationship with President Trump. I wonder if someone is putting a bug in their ear about now. Just some food for thought.

These two things may or may not be causally related but we learned last night that the Secretary of State is over in that part of the world right now and he’s going to visit Saudi Arabia. Huh. I wonder what they could possibly have to talk about. (Associated Press)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Monday in Saudi Arabia in a hastily arranged visit amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran’s navy chief warned Iranian forces wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down more U.S. surveillance drones from their skies…

Pompeo, considered a hard-liner in the Trump administration, is expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Jiddah, before heading to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, another close U.S. ally and partner.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are alarmed by Iran’s military reach and are working to limit its influence in the region.

So this was a “hastily arranged meeting” as described in the press release. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is now recognized as the number one weapons customer of the United States and they have plenty of military hardware. They also have bases and airfields that we could use in a pinch. So if there’s something in the works for Iran, it could either be a U.S. strike using Saudi facilities for support or, in a potentially more tense scenario, we could be looking at direct action by Saudi Arabia against Iran, putting all that hardware we sold them to use.

Of course, there’s going to be a lot of controversy surrounding this trip, at least in the media. Pompeo is scheduled to meet not only with the King but with Mohammed bin Salman. Coming on the heels of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that’s going to be offputting to plenty of people. Then again, both politics and war make for odd bedfellows at times.

But is that really what’s going on here? I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else that would prompt the Secretary of State to hop on a plane for an unscheduled visit to the Saudis. I suppose they could be talking about the situation in either Yemen or Syria, both of whom are right in the neighborhood. But both of those conflicts have been settling into a slow boil for quite a while now. It’s true that Yemen is taking claim for the recent rocket attack on a Saudi airport, and Iran has been supporting the Houthi rebels inside Yemen. In that regard, Saudi Arabia is already fighting something of a proxy war with Iran, but as I said, that’s not particularly new.

We’ll keep an eye on the situation because it has the potential to blow up on short notice. I get the feeling that President Trump pulling the plug on the airstrike was a negotiating tactic, but that decision won’t hold forever if it doesn’t produce results. There’s almost definitely something in the cards concerning Iran, and we shouldn’t be shocked if Saudi Arabia has a role to play in what’s to come.

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Vows of free stuff arrive with this week’s Dem debates

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 14:01

This is the week of the first Democratic primary debates. And you know what that means!

More talk of freebies than you could ever dream of. Or afford.

But that won’t stop these progressive candidates from proposing new spending plans to reap primary votes starting in Iowa come February and then New Hampshire. They will squeeze in mention of this wondrous free stuff during their few minutes on camera Wednesday or Thursday nights.

You won’t hear quite so much talk about how they intend to pay for all these goodies. But you can count on paying more in taxes of all kinds come early 2021, especially if one or both chambers of Congress are controlled by Democrats.

Remember the trillion-dollar stimulus package Barack Obama and a Democrat Congress produced in 2009-10? Vice President Joe Biden guaranteed back then we’d have hundreds of thousands of “shovel-ready” new jobs created each month. That didn’t happen.

Now, on his first day in the Oval Office, front-runner Biden has promised to kill the Trump tax cuts, which means tax hikes for nearly everyone which means less consumer spending which means a slower economy which means, well, you get the picture.

Today, Bernie Sanders is proposing to cancel $1.6 trillion (with a T) in student loan debts for about 45 million voters, I mean, Americans. Poof! Just like that. Also all private and graduate school debt gone. You’re free now.

He also wants to make tuition at every public university totally free, all part of his package that would make public universities, community colleges and trade schools tuition-free.

“This is truly a revolutionary proposal,” Sanders will say modestly as he tries to stem the advance of Elizabeth Warren on his second-place poll standing.

Sanders will announce this today with Rep. Ilhan Omar, who will introduce the legislation in the House.

Oh, look, Warren wants free tuition too. But first canceling the student debt for 95 percent of the 45 million carrying it. She calls these debts “a crisis” caused because:

State governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment.

Warren would finance this scheme with what she calls an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” which is 2 percent annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Sanders sees his plan financed by $2 trillion in new taxes on Wall Street transactions — a 0.5 percent tax on all stock transactions and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds.

Julian Castro also has a complex debt forgiveness plan, but the ex-mayor has as much chance of getting his party’s nomination as you do.

Surprisingly, these ideas spark opposition among some other Democrats, who see them as welfare for well-educated people. It should be fun watching them duke this out.

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Knitting site bans Trump supporters, white supremacists

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 13:21

In an odd turn of events, an online knitting site has banned Trump supporters and white supremacists. Apparently the two groups of people are one and the same to the site’s owners. A tweet Sunday afternoon notified supporters of the change in the website’s policy. has taken an unusual stand by bringing politics into the craft of knitting. (The site’s Twitter bio also shows support for #BlackLivesMatter, for what it’s worth.) No matter the reason, this new policy was necessary and the announcement was ham-handed and confusing. Who knew fiber crafts were so political and lean so far left that all Trump voters are painted with such an ugly, broad brush?

Policy notes:

You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.
We are not endorsing the Democrats nor banning Republicans.
We are definitely not banning conservative politics. Hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.
We are not banning people for past support.
Do not try to weaponize this policy by entrapping people who do support the Trump administration into voicing their support.
Similarly, antagonizing conservative members for their unstated positions is not acceptable.

The tweet was so random to those seeing it that one person asked if the account had been hacked. The response from Ravelry was no, it’s real.

We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. More details:

— Ravelry (@ravelry) June 23, 2019

Some in the Twitterverse mocked the tweet and suggested the site’s new slogan should be “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all.” Sounds about right to me.

Responses to the announcement brought cheers and jeers online, which was foreseeable by everyone except, it seems, Ravelry. In today’s divided political environment, it’s ridiculous to expect customers to share one point of view. And it’s insulting to assume a Trump voter is necessarily also a white supremacist. With that line of reasoning, America has almost 63 million white supremacists that can be counted. The total of non-voting white supremacists isn’t known. You can see how absurd this is.

One critic hopes the site’s bottom line is affected. How could it not be? And, if it’s not a moneymaking site, then the community might collapse over such blatant politics.

I hope the decision hurts your bottom line. :D

— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) June 23, 2019

Supporters who approved of the anti-Trump administration policy weighed in as you’d expect.

Y'all are making me want to learn how to knit just to support you guys.

— Ryan Atkins (@ryantatkins) June 23, 2019

This is a free social networking service for a variety of fiber arts including knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving. Members share projects, ideas, and various components like tools, yarn, and fiber. Isn’t the point of participating in these crafts to relax and tune out everyday hassles? How can politics seeping into the website be so threatening to the administrators that policy must be changed?

Perhaps projects with Trump’s campaign logo were coming into online discussions or forums. Maybe knitters were creating original designs in support of President Trump or his policies and it triggered the narrow-minded leftist members. I can only speculate because I had never even heard of Ravelry before Sunday afternoon. My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was a girl but I didn’t keep up with it. I hope one day to take it up again owing to the fact that my friends who knit talk about the calming effects of the craft. And it’s a productive way to pass time.

Though the site owners make a point to declare that conservatives are not being discriminated against by the new policy, I wonder whether a member of the community would be banned if they began creating and sharing #BlackLivesMatter themed projects. I assume not since the site’s owners have made it clear that their politics don’t include room for different opinions.

This is a large online site. It claims to have over eight million members. It looks like this new policy and public statement is a nod to “diversity and inclusivity” in the knitting world. The knitting community is getting woke, y’all, and they want you to know how inclusive they are, except to conservatives. Why do they not see the hypocrisy in their wokeness?

The Trump ban comes only months after political upheaval gripped the knitting and crochet community around issues of racial and cultural insensitivity. That debate was sparked by popular knitwear designer and blogger Karen Templer, who wrote in January about a planned trip to India, likening it, in her excitement, to visiting Mars. Many in the craft community objected to the characterisation, calling it othering and reductive.

Templer apologised soon afterwards, but the incident had a ripple effect, sparking off conversations about diversity and inclusivity in the craft community on Instagram, Ravelry and other places that crafters congregate online. A similar debate about cultural sensitivity and appropriation recently occurred in the sewing community.

The site is bound to suffer a loss in membership. People craft to get away from thoughts of the outside world. It’s like watching sports — it’s a distraction and politics are not welcome. I haven’t seen my conservative friends who knit stop knitting because liberal women make pink pussy hats to wear at Trump demonstrations.

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Toys ‘R’ Us R Back

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 12:41

Great news for children — and grandparents.

Toys ‘R’ Us is returning by year’s end. In more modest form, but still back.

Toys ‘R’ Us was the massive go-to temple of toys with vast aisles of eye-popping playthings for children, grandparents and parents that went out of business early last year.

The rebirth is still supposed to be a secret. But excited toy makers spilled the beans about the plans to move back into the business that once brought in $7 billion a year to the nation’s top toy chain.

It was founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus as a children’s furniture store just as America’s postwar baby boom took off. Fourteen years ago Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Vornado Realty Trust took the company private with plans for an IPO.

But declining sales, a series of disruptive management changes and the financial burden of debt from the buyout began a downhill slide that canceled the IPO after Walmart captured first place in toy sales.

Almost two years ago the company filed for bankruptcy, listing $4 billion in liabilities. Then in March 2018, executives announced a liquidation, closing 740 U.S. stores, 100 outlets in Britain and more in Australia. Some 200 Canadian stores were sold separately.

The return of this toy story is reportedly scheduled for this Christmas season, starting with a half-dozen stores of about 10,000-square feet, about a third the size as before, and an e-commerce site. Lenders have been toying with the idea for sometime with the name Tru Toys.

The new stores will have play areas where children (oh, all right, adults too) can try out the toys.

A business return may not be all that easy. Amazon, Target and Walmart have expanded into the toy void. And some toy makers who lost money in the liquidation may be hesitant.

But others have signaled enthusiasm for the return. “This market needs a self-standing toy store, that’s for sure,” said Isaac Larian, CEO of top-performing toy maker MGA Entertainment. “We will sell them inventory.”

So, turns out Geoffrey, the corporate giraffe mascot, may not be extinct after all.

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Maxine Waters takes Iran’s side in drone shootdown

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 12:01

Politics stops at the water’s edge, as Arthur Vandenberg famously asserted during the Truman administration. But apparently not if the water in question is the Strait of Hormuz. And not if the politician in question is Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D – CA 43). After President Trump pulled the plug on the Iran counterstrike, you’d think that the move dovish Democrats would all be breathing a sigh of relief. (At least for a little while.) But Waters decided that she would lay into the President, claiming that the confrontational situation was our fault in the first place.

Trump, you get no credit for so-called stopping the strike against Iran. Why was the unmanned drone in Iran's airspace? Why the surveillance? Don't provoke and then pretend innocence.

— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) June 23, 2019

This prompted some immediate responses from some of her colleagues, including Dan Crenshaw.

This is a shocking comment from a House Committee Chairwoman. She is literally repeating the lies of the Iranian regime. What a disgrace.

Maxine Waters’ hate for Trump runs so deep that she is willing to take Iran’s side over the word of our military.

— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) June 24, 2019

Our own Hugh Hewitt got in on the action as well.

What the appeasement caucus of left-over Obama-era Metternichs don’t get is that Iran hasn’t changed in 40 years, and it’s Khomeinist ideology will not allow it to change. Team 44 got duped, got very little, recapitalized the revolution and now objects to nat sec seriousness.

— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) June 24, 2019

Crenshaw and Hugh are correct here. All Maxine Waters is doing is parroting the propaganda of the Iranian regime. And that’s really going far over the line, even for the Democrats. The Iranians have been growing increasingly aggressive with their naval forces for years now, going so far as to capture two of our own command boats in 2016. (To be fair, our sailors, in that case, had decided to take a “shortcut” and went through Iran’s waters, but it was still an outrageous move for such a minor infraction.)

As far as our drone goes, unless one of them suffers a crippling malfunction, we know where those birds are at any given moment down to a matter of inches. They have satellite nav systems and geolocation so the operators know precisely where they are. And we also know exactly where Iran’s airspace begins and ends. Sure, it’s possible that some of our operators push their luck a bit and cross the lines from time to time, but in this case, the Navy is saying we were definitely in international airspace.

So if it comes down to a game of We Said, They Said, and you’re talking about the Iranian regime, whose side are you going to take? In the case of Maxine Waters, she’s made her choice. Her burning hatred for the President is so intense that she would rather take the word of the Iranian Mullahs than our own military. There’s really no nuance required in this discussion. The woman is a disgrace.

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Democrats at 24 for 2020 presidential election

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 00:01

The Democrats are almost halfway towards a full deck of cards in the race for the 2020 presidential nomination.

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak announced his plan to run for the nomination this weekend, for…reasons? Via Adm Joe’s (this is what he’s calling himself) campaign website:

What Americans most want today is someone who is accountable to them, above self, above party, above any special interest … a President who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American Dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy.

I want to be that President who serves the American people the way they deserve to be served…

Now, the hour has become late to restore U.S. global leadership that convenes the world for two primary objectives that serve our collective well-being here at home: putting a brake on climate change and putting an end to an illiberal world order’s injustices, from China’s control of the 5G network to Russian interference in democratic elections.

However, we cannot meet the defining challenges of our time without a united America. This is our Hobson’s Choice: not just to win this Presidential election, but to heal our nation’s soul by regaining the trust of Americans – all Americans – by a President who the people know will remain accountable to them alone, no matter the cost to him.

Sestak said his campaign announcement is later than all the others because his daughter was fighting – and beating – brain cancer (congrats to her on her victory!). It just seems quite odd for Sestak to come into the nomination unless he’s seeking a position within some administration.

His key plank? Health care and his desire for a government-run system. Sestak is open and honest about his desire for a VA-style health system for the country.

I believe that the public option is one part of a transition of choice to a national healthcare system. Creating such a system will not be easy, but I believe our country can rise to the challenge. I know from my experiences visiting our wounded warriors at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities across the country that a national healthcare system can work — indeed, it already exists for veterans. The VHA directly provides high-quality medical services to over 9 million people at some 1,250 facilities, employing over 300,000 healthcare professionals. It is the country’s largest integrated healthcare system, providing comprehensive care to its patients whether they walk in to a Vet Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, or a VA hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And it provides medical education and training to over 100,000 people every year, including more than 37,000 medical residents, or 30% of all residents trained across the country each year.

The 300K or so veterans who may have died while waiting for medical help from the VA were unavailable for comment.

It should also be pointed out the infusion of cash into the VA system still hasn’t solved the problem with wait times. The GAO reported last year there were still plenty of issues despite the new Veterans Choice Program.

[W]hen GAO analyzed 55 routine care authorizations that were created between January and April of 2016, it found that the process took at least 64 calendar days, on average. When VHA analyzed about 5,000 authorizations created between July and September of 2016, it took an average of 51 calendar days for veterans to receive care.

The issue wasn’t necessarily private health providers scheduling with veterans but the fact vets had to go through the VA to get a Third Party Administrator – the government only uses two contractors as TPA to find a private doctor.

GAO found that numerous factors adversely affected veterans’ access to care through the Choice Program. These factors include: (1) administrative burden caused by complexities of referral and appointment scheduling processes, (2) poor communication between VHA and its VAMCs, and (3) inadequacies in the networks of community providers established by the TPAs, including an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers. VA and VHA have taken numerous actions throughout the Choice Program’s operation that were intended to help address these factors, though not all access factors have been fully resolved. For example, to help address administrative burden and improve the process of coordinating veterans’ Choice Program care, VA established a secure e-mail system and a mechanism for TPAs and community providers to remotely access veterans’ VA electronic health records. However, these mechanisms only facilitate a one-way transfer of necessary information. They do not provide a means by which VAMCs or veterans can view the TPAs’ step-by-step progress in scheduling appointments or electronically receive medical documentation associated with Choice Program appointments.

Bureaucracy kills or at least makes it harder for people to get care, apparently.

This doesn’t appear to be an issue for Sestak who heaped an inordinate amount of praise on the work doctors did to help his daughter. A cynic would suggest his family got amazing treatment because he happens to be a retired Navy Admiral and a former congressman.

It really isn’t known what Adm Joe brings to the table in the race for the Democratic nomination except another body and a whole host of government-strengthening policy choices. He’s not really different than any other candidate who has already announced a run for the nomination.

At least he’s a retired Admiral, right?

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Musk: Human population to collapse in the next 30 years

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 22:31

Are we heading for an unavoidable collapse in human population levels on Earth? When a guy smart enough to come up with the Falcon Heavy suggests something, I’m willing to at least listen, if not totally buy in. We’re referring to the latest claim from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who got into a bit of a Twitter scrap this weekend over where global population levels are heading. The United Nations is warning that we could have another 1.6 billion people taking up space on the planet in the next thirty years. But Musk is repeating alarms he previously sounded, warning of the opposite. According to this theory, there will be far too few people left in the next fifty years or so. (Business Insider)

Elon Musk is still worried about the human population.

In a tweet on Friday, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO doubled down on a theory he has backed in the past — the human population is headed for implosion.

Responding to a tweet, which projected the global population would grow by roughly 1.6 billion by 2050, Musk said the real problem facing humanity is an “aging and declining world population.”

Musk cited Jørgen Randers, a Norwegian academic who in his 2012 book “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” said the human population would start dwindling around 2040.

This isn’t really a debate over “Population Bomb” theories, such as Ed wrote about last year. Those discussions generally center on worries of a scarcity of resources and the resulting drive to forcibly reduce the population via government oversight. (Just ask the Chinese how well that worked out for them.)

What Musk is referring to is a totally different scenario. Rather than forced population reduction, one theory holds that humanity is shutting down baby production all on its own, and if that trend continues, there is going to be a major collapse on the way as smaller and smaller numbers of young, working-age people are unable to support the burgeoning armies of the elderly. After the ensuing die-off, global population levels could be a fraction of what they are now.

Does that theory hold water? Well… if you look at the current trends in Japan you might suspect so. Their average age is rising steadily and their total population is falling because fewer women are having children. If your country doesn’t maintain an average of 2.2 children per woman (or close to that), your native population is going to shrink. The study I linked above claims that the same thing is happening in other western nations already, with the glaring exception being on the continent of Africa. Their fertility continues to climb.

That sort of science is a bit out of my league, though it’s worth keeping an eye on. But allow me to circle back to the Population Bomb question for a moment. The predicted disasters arising from our massively growing human population haven’t happened. But that’s only because our technology has kept up with the challenges. I believe it’s already been well established that there are currently far, far more people on the planet than we could ever feed if we suddenly lost most of our technological advantages.

And that’s not impossible. We’d be talking about something like massive EMP exchanges between the superpowers, a terror attack knocking out the American power grid for years, or just a huge solar flare coming our way at the worst possible angle. If (or when) the lights go out around most of the world and we lose the ability to not only grow but transport massive amounts of food, people will begin starving in a matter of weeks. And starving people reach the desperation stage rapidly.

It would turn into Mad Max territory out there pretty quickly. And if that happens, you will indeed see a population collapse.

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Trump was right to not bomb Iran

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 21:31

President Donald Trump’s decision to avoid an unnecessary war with Iran deserves plenty of praise. There is no need for another conflict in the Middle East – which would cost the lives of both civilians and military members – over the destruction of a drone ($130M price tag or otherwise).

The next steps for the administration will be quite interesting as it appears there may be a fracture within the ranks on foreign policy. Trump’s inner circle is set up almost as a team of rivals – to steal a line from Doris Kearns Goodwin – with a variety of opinions. The hawks enjoy powerful positions with John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. The more cautious parts include Marine General Joe Dunford, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Fox News host Tucker Carlson also weighed in on Iran during a talk with Trump.

Trump appears to vacillate from one side to the other depending on the issue. He called off last week’s strike but had previously approved attacks in Syria. The president has also approved a troop buildup in the Middle East with over 20K military members in the region and a thousand more headed there – per The Wall Street Journal. We’re still involved in the Yemen civil war with Green Berets helping out Saudi troops. Trump will hold summits and praise North Korea but won’t talk with Venezuela.

Restraint should win the day as there is no reason to go to war with Iran. The country is not a threat to the United States – despite their “Death to America” chants in Parliament.

There also needs to be more consistency with Iran. Trump pulled out of the Iran agreement by using the excuse it wasn’t approved by the Senate. He should have asked the Senate to vote on the agreement because it is a treaty, as required by the Constitution. Now he has Pompeo pushing for talks while doing a slapdash of sanctions in hopes of isolating Iran further.

Former President George W. Bush once admitted sanctions weren’t working.

“We’re relying upon others, because we’ve sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran,” he told the press in 2004. “We don’t have much leverage with the Iranians right now, and we expect them to listen to those voices, and we’re a part of the universal acclaim.”

The U.S. didn’t change its policy during Bush’s tenure, however, and former President Barack Obama kept major sanctions on Iran in place following the nuclear deal (which really should have gone through the Senate).

It should be pointed out the Iranian regime has figured out ways to get around the sanctions. Via National Interest in 2013:

Iran’s negative economic trajectory has led it to adopt a so-called “economy of resistance.” Over the short to medium term, this has taken shape in several ways, including maintaining a positive balance of trade through import controls and a positive balance of payments through utilizing domestic financial resources in funding projects; relying on foreign-exchange reserves; reducing the state budget’s reliance on oil revenue while boosting revenues from taxes and privatization; and increasing domestic refining capacity in order to use excess crude at home while shifting domestic energy consumption to free up gas for exports. At the same time, trade patterns have been forced to move away from official banking to unofficial financial networks, and merchants have been compelled to resort to barter trade.

The National Iranian American Council wrote in 2013 they believed the sanctions were enabling Iranian leaders to stay in power.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has remained steadfast in his approach to sanctions. The escalating sanctions regime has enabled him to strengthen a powerful pre-existing narrative that portrays Western powers as a brutal, immoral group of governments out to “get” Iran, and that their core interest is to keep Iran underdeveloped and dependent. This narrative serves to maintain unity in a fragmented power structure, through:

*Sustenance of the image of an unrelenting enemy.

*Justification of the need for a feared security apparatus as a means to counter that enemy.

*Mobilizing the support of a minority segment of society who can be paraded as “popular support” when needed – on the anniversary of the revolution, during elections, etc.

The President’s avoidance of military action against Iran is a good thing and one he should continue to keep in place. However, Trump is wrong to not end the current policy of sanctions upon sanctions. Diplomatic engagement and talk will do more to strengthen ties between America and Iran and encourage freedom in both through free trade and free markets.

The role of Congress should not be ignored in this. The Senate needs to vote on whatever plan is made: whether it’s airstrikes or a new agreement with the Iranians. The Constitution demands it, and if Obama was wrong for bypassing the Senate on the Iran Deal (and he was) then Trump should not go around them to enact whatever policy he’s planning. His decision to show restraint on Iran is laudable, but he should show more when it comes to sanctions.

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Anti-vaxxer presidential candidate demands apology from Meghan McCain

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 20:31

You have probably never heard of her unless, like me, you remember her from Oprah’s show back in the day when Oprah was making stars out of people involved in whatever trend captured her interest at any given time. Like Dr. Phil and fitness trainer Bob Greene, Oprah introduced New Age guru Marianne Williamson to America. Williamson at the time was an author and Oprah helped her sell a lot of books. Her feel-good mumbo-jumbo ideas were all the rage among the elites in Hollywood and others seeking some kind of spiritual renewal.

Now Williamson is running for the 2020 Democrat nomination for president and to put it gently, she’s a long shot candidate. Real Clear Politics doesn’t even include her name in their poll averages on the list of other candidates running to be the DNC’s nominee. Her favorable/unfavorable rating is 8.0% favorable to 14.5% unfavorable. She qualified to be on the debate stage, though, so soon enough anyone interested in hearing from her will get a chance to do so. Hey, I wonder what Democrat voters will think when they learn that Marianne Williamson is a big ole anti-vaxxer. She’s sung the same song for more than 30 years but now that she’s seeking the highest political office in the land, her opinions are under an increased level of scrutiny.

Ms. Williamson was a guest on ABC’s The View Thursday morning. The interview took a turn when the show’s token conservative, Meghan McCain, asked her about her anti-vaccination stance. She made the point when pressed by the panel of hosts, that she “supports vaccines” just not mandatory vaccinations. She looks at the subject as one of personal freedom.

“I understand the issue of public safety must come first. But I also understand that we must have a balance between public safety and the issues of individual freedom,” she told the show’s hosts and said that she doesn’t trust the “propaganda on either side.”

2020 hopeful @marwilliamson on mandatory vaccinations: “I understand the issue of public safety must come first … [but] we must have a balance between public safety and the issues of individual freedom. I do not trust the propaganda on either side.”

— The View (@TheView) June 20, 2019

The discussion on The View came after a blunder the night before. Williamson told a reporter in New Hampshire that mandatory vaccinations are “draconian” and “Orwellian” and then she tossed a live grenade on those words. She conflated mandatory vaccinations with abortion rights. Yikes!

Williamson has been critical of vaccinations for years, attributing the rise of vaccination mandates to powerful pharmaceutical companies. On Wednesday night, the candidate reportedly called the concept of mandatory vaccinations “draconian” and “Orwellian” at a Manchester, New Hampshire event.

“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate,” Williamson said at the event, according to a tweet by an NBC News reporter. “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”

She soon apologized for that bone-headed move. Early the next morning she tweeted out the apology.

— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) June 20, 2019

So, the ladies of The View were ready for her later that morning, no one more so than Meghan McCain. Ms. Williamson laid her opinion at the feet of “Big Pharma”.

“You’re talking a lot about children of America, the children, how much you care about children, you also just came out as the anti-vaxxer candidate,” McCain said to Williamson on Thursday.

“What about the kids exposed to measles and all of that, and the people suffering because of the measles outbreak?” McCain continued “Why would you say that?”

Williamson immediately pushed back, insisting that she was not an anti-vaxxer and claiming that she misspoke. The candidate shared a similar message on Twitter, although continued to assert that people should be skeptical of “Big Pharma.”

By Friday’s show, as the women were previewing the upcoming debates, McCain said that some of the candidates are simply wasting everyone’s time and will never have hopes of being elected President of the United States. As she went off, she began with John Delaney and Jay Inslee. “It doesn’t take a political scientist… to know that some of these people ain’t never going to be president. You ain’t never going to be president now,” Meghan McCain said. Then she turned her criticism to Marianne Williamson.

“I’m not trying to be a hater… and like, literally with some of this stuff, I do think there are some of these people running for president, yes it’s admirable to run for president, but at a certain point, Marianne Williamson, you’re wasting our collective time and I’d like to see people who are extremely serious that can win.”

Co-host Sunny Hostin pushed back on that, suggesting that none of them thought then-candidate Donald Trump would become president when he first took the debate stage.

“You think Marianne Williamson’s going to blow it out for everybody, Sunny? Come on,” McCain said,” prompting audience laughter.

And, just like that, the Williamson campaign wants an apology from Ms. McCain.

“For the second day running, Meghan McCain has chosen to attack and misrepresent who Marianne Williamson is and her stance on the issues,” began a statement from Williamson’s campaign manager Maurice Daniel.

“Meghan McCain owes Marianne Williamson an apology,” Daniel added. “For addressing Williamson rudely, dismissively and with total disrespect, and for comparing her to Donald Trump which couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Meghan McCain’s words and deeds are what is wrong with American politics,” said Daniel concluding his statement. “The entitled and those entrenched in the establishment do not want to hear a different message. American voters do.”

I won’t hold my breath.

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Report: Trump said of aides, “These people want to push us into a war, and it’s so disgusting”

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 19:31

You realize Tucker Carlson’s going to be NSA by the end of the year, right? And Hannity will be so jealous.

President Trump bucked most of his top national-security advisers by abandoning retaliatory strikes in Iran on Thursday. In private conversations Friday, Mr. Trump reveled in his judgment, certain about his decision to call off the attacks while speaking of his administration as if removed from the center of it.

“These people want to push us into a war, and it’s so disgusting,” Mr. Trump told one confidant about his own inner circle of advisers. “We don’t need any more wars.”

No, no, just kidding. I think Trump has Tucker lined up for Secretary of Defense.

Then, next year, he’ll start trash-talking him on Twitter for being too wimpy.

Seriously, I don’t know why he persists in staffing up with people like Bolton who he seems to regard as reckless warmongers. It’s true that doves aren’t easy to find in the Republican natsec establishment, but just because he’s stuck choosing among hawks doesn’t mean he has to hire farking superhawks who are destined to irritate him with their penchant for aggression. It’s not just Bolton: Supposedly two of the candidates whom the White House has considered in the past for Secretary of Defense are … Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton, arguably the two most ardent interventionists in the U.S. government. It’d be one thing if Trump were going for a “team of rivals” dynamic where he insists on having hawks around him to challenge his own foreign policy inclinations, but the quote excerpted above eliminates that theory. You shouldn’t put someone in your cabinet whose views you find “disgusting,” period.

In fact, Trump’s rhetoric about Bolton et al. sounds a bit like Iran’s. Ideally having a dove as president and a superhawk as NSA keeps Iran and other U.S. enemies off-balance by leaving them to wonder who’ll prevail in matters of war. Will the inexperienced president assert himself, or will the very experienced advisor persuade him to be more aggressive? It’s a game of good cop/bad cop — ideally. Realistically, notes Graeme Wood, the differences between Trump and Bolton are something Iran and others can exploit to undermine the president’s confidence in his advisors. And weirdly, thanks to Tucker Carlson, their message is being reinforced on Fox News:

If the national security adviser has no heart, and the president has no brain, their adversaries will play their respective deficits off each other, appealing to the heart when the brain says no. Bush and Bolton were at least in general agreement, and the North Koreans’ hope of splitting them was just that—a hope. Presidents have disagreed with their national security advisers before. Now, however, the split is real and visible. National security advisers have, in the past, had confidence that their presidents would at least approach international security issues consistently, so that threats bore the proper menace, and enemies could not respond by waiting around for the boss to change his mind. Bolton never changes his mind, but Trump changes his mind constantly, so who cares?

The Iranian strategy is, as Mike Doran notes, to convince the president that his government is captured and controlled by maniacs, who are whispering bloodthirsty advice to him from within the White House… Whatever Bolton’s faults—and they are considerable—he is one of the only senior national-security officials to have worked on this sort of crisis before, and to wedge him away from the president is to increase the chaos in an already wild administration. Carlson even repeated, on the air and apropos of nothing, a statement of Persian cultural supremacy: “Iran is a sophisticated country,” he said, and its cities “not at all like Riyadh or Dubai,” the seats of Gulf power friendly to Trump and unfriendly to Tehran. I like the poetry of Hafez and Rumi as much as the next person, but it is nonetheless startling to hear Iranian propaganda repeated on Fox News.

A few days ago Carlson referred to Bolton as a “bureaucratic tapeworm,” the sort of interventionist parasite who “live[s] forever in the bowels of the federal agencies, periodically reemerging to cause pain and suffering but never suffering himself.” Dehumanization of a political enemy is strong stuff even for cable news. To watch it happen to Trump’s handpicked national security advisor (and a former colleague of Tucker’s at Fox to boot) on Trump TV is astonishing, particularly knowing how closely Trump follows Carlson’s show and that he and Carlson have spoken privately about Iran policy. Both Iran and Fox primetime are warning the president that he can’t trust his own aides to have his and America’s best interests at heart. And if the quote reported by the Journal up top is accurate, Trump seems to agree.

To his credit, Trump apparently didn’t let Iran off scot-free for bringing down a U.S. drone. This is a potent nonlethal response:

President Trump approved an offensive cyberstrike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its downing Thursday of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter…

“This is not something they can put back together so easily,” said one person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

My only question is whether that was a one-off or a strike that can be replicated if and when it needs to be. Iran will learn something from it and will create new cyberdefenses in response. If we need to disable their missile defenses next time — in advance of actual airstrikes — presumably it’ll be harder. But then, Trump incurred the same risk with conventional military assets when he ordered military strikes on Thursday, allowed U.S. ships and planes to be pre-positioned, and then called off the attack in the final hours. Iran likely learned something about U.S. capabilities and tactics from that positioning too. “He basically called them up and told them what he was going to do,” complained a retired lieutenant colonel afterward.

By the way, reporting from various media sources, from the Journal to the Times to WaPo to the Daily Beast, now seems to agree on the general facts of what happened on Thursday with Trump calling off the attack. POTUS made it sound afterward as though he hadn’t realized until the final few hours how many Iranians might be killed in America’s “limited” strikes. Not true, say the reports. He was briefed in the morning on possible casualties (“dozens,” claims the Daily Beast) and gave the order to attack anyway, with his top natsec advisors all in favor but Gen. Joe Dunford a bit more cautious, and remained “supportive of military action throughout the day,” per WaPo. By early evening, however, he began asking more questions about casualties. What caused that change of heart? Was he simply deliberating on it or did some dovish friend influence his thinking in the interim? The figure of 150 potential Iranian casualties which he cited supposedly was based on an assessment produced by a Pentagon lawyer — but that was on the high end of projections, a likely death toll if the U.S. attacked in the middle of the day while the targets were fully staffed. In reality, the U.S. was planning to attack before dawn. And an official who spoke to the WSJ says it wasn’t a Pentagon estimate at all but rather one generated by the White House itself, adding that the Pentagon’s estimate wouldn’t have been that high.

Anyway, here’s Bernie Sanders with a cute line about Trump’s restraint: He helped start this fire by tearing up the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, and now he wants credit for putting it out?

"He was just doing a limited strike" says the 'Face the nation' host

“Oh…just a limited strike!" @BernieSanders quipped, "Oh, I’m sorry, I just didn't know that it's okay to simply attack another country with bombs. That’s a limited strike? That’s an act of warfare,”

— Currie Dobson (@Ventuckyspaz) June 23, 2019

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Acting ICE director: Deportations won’t stop despite raid delays

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 18:01

Acting ICE Director Mark Morgan said Saturday night that the 2-week delay in executing deportation raids does not put an end to his department’s efforts to deport illegal aliens. Removal efforts will continue for those who remain in the United States after failing to show up for court dates and are now under deportation orders.

“I’ve got the green light to anyone that’s here in violation of federal immigration law, I have the authority and the support to go after them, apply consequences, and remove them.”

President Trump delayed deportations raids in twelve cities across the country scheduled for Sunday morning. In the last minute decision, Trump decided to allow a two-week delay so that members of Congress from both parties can work on hammering out a policy to alleviate the crisis on the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi allegedly placed a late night call to President Trump Friday night and asked for the delay.

At the time of the announcement that the raids would take place Sunday morning, I wondered why the plan was being made public in advance of the operation, as Jazz wrote about Saturday. Then I read reports that perhaps the leak to the press came from acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. McAleenan wasn’t on board with the plan to pick up approximately 2,000 illegal alien families so he deliberately leaked the information, it is being reported. The Washington Post reports that McAleenan wants a more restrained plan.

Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan has been urging ICE, an agency within his department, to conduct a narrower, more targeted operation that would seek to detain a group of about 150 families that were provided with attorneys but dropped out of the legal process and absconded.

McAleenan has warned that an indiscriminate operation to arrest migrants in their homes and at work sites risks separating children from their parents in cases where the children are at daycare, summer camp or friend’s houses. He also has maintained that ICE should not devote major resources to carrying out a mass interior sweep while telling lawmakers it needs emergency funding to address the crisis at the U.S. border.

WaPo’s reporting claims that McAleenan isn’t against deportations but he isn’t in favor of a zero-tolerance policy. He wants a slower moving process with the raids.

McAleenan has said that the crisis at the border — where more than 144,000 were taken into custody last month — remains the most urgent problem for DHS. Following Trump’s threats to slap tariffs on Mexico, McAleenan led negotiations with Mexican officials that resulted in commitments to dramatically toughen enforcement and begin work on a regional asylum overhaul that would allow the United States to send asylum seekers back to Central America.

Officials say McAleenan does not oppose ICE interior enforcement against families with deportation orders, but he wants a more limited approach that averts a repeat of “zero tolerance.”

Mark Morgan, however, is seen as more of a hard-liner who is in step with President Trump’s idea of border security.

“It’s just not about the numbers, Morgan said. “We need to continue to do interior enforcement against anyone who is here illegally including families because [if] we do that, I promise the American people, we start removing people that had final orders including families, the numbers will go down, this crisis will be positively impacted.”

Morgan, like most of us, I think, remains skeptical that Congress will get on the ball and do its job. What will the leaders involved in the negotiations possibly accomplish in two weeks that they haven’t been able to do for more than two years with Trump’s administration? Does anyone think that the open borders crowd in the Democrat party will suddenly become border hawks concerned about human trafficking, drug cartels, exaggerated asylum claims, and all the other problems linked to thousands of foreign intruders streaming across our southern border? The first step could be appropriating the money to start hiring additional Border Patrol agents and judges at the border to streamline the process. The problem of housing and caring for illegal immigrants remains, though. Democrats want them to simply be released without consequences while the cities and communities affected by the influx of the migrants are overwhelmed and resources are being depleted.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the targeted cities remain belligerent. In my own city of Houston, hours after President Trump announced the delay, the newly elected Harris County Judge (not an actual judge, by the way, it’s a political title) tweeted out a statement from her office declaring her intention to support lawlessness in the nation’s third largest county. It wasn’t even a bold move, considering she tweeted it several hours too late.

Creating a climate of fear puts lives at risk. Even the threat of raids are a shameful attempt to push vulnerable residents further into the shadows. Families belong together & immigrants make us stronger. My office will not assist in any raids. See our statement below.

— Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (@JudgeHidalgo) June 22, 2019

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Why the author accusing Trump of rape won’t bring charges

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 16:31

When the rape allegations brought against President Trump by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll surfaced on Friday, you could instantly predict that we were going to see a standoff between supporters on both sides. That’s been playing out over the weekend already, but one interview that Carroll did on Friday night caught my attention. She appeared on MSNBC and one of the expected subjects came up. She’s made a very serious charge in her upcoming book, far beyond any sort of harassment or inappropriate touching, so is she going to bring charges?

Apparently not. That’s her call to make, of course, but why? It’s her reason that definitely gave me pause. (Daily Caller)

Bringing the charge would be “disrespectful to the women who are down on the border who are being raped around the clock down there without any protection,” Carroll said in an interview with MSNBC’s “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.”

“It would just be disrespectful,” Carroll said in the interview Friday. “Mine was three minutes. … I can handle it. I can keep going. My life has gone on. I’m a happy woman, but for the women down there and for the women — actually around the world, and every culture this is going on.”

Carroll has had an advice column in Elle magazine called “Ask E. Jean” since 1993.

You can watch that brief exchange here.

Does that make any sense? If we assume that her various tales of abuse are true, it’s easy to see how she would feel empathetic toward other victims and want to stand in solidarity with them. But why would it be disrespectful of those other women to bring your own charges? If you happen to be financially well off and someone robs your house, you don’t fail to report the crime out of empathy for poorer people who are burglarized.

There’s actually a far better reason she could have given. The statute of limitations for rape in New York was five years when she claims the attack took place. That was expanded greatly around 2006, but it didn’t apply to cases where the original statute had already run out. So one good recent for her not to bring charges might be that it’s probably almost impossible to get a conviction that this point.

We’re hearing from some commentators that elements of Carroll’s story seem to suggest inconsistencies. Perhaps, but the more we see of the woman herself as she makes the media rounds, well… she can be hard to follow at times. And then there’s this.

Aside from the glaring flaws in her rape tale
And zero corroboration

This is not helpful to talking her seriously

— Jim Hanson (@Uncle_Jimbo) June 23, 2019

I have no clue as to what went on in that department store dressing room back in the nineties, assuming Trump was there at all. Could her story be true? It’s certainly possible, and if so I would expect the President to deny it. Of course, it’s been more than a quarter century and Carroll is in her seventies now. Could she be remembering it a bit differently than how it happened? Who’s to say?

The claim that she told two other people about it in the immediate aftermath – assuming their own honesty in reporting it – lends some credibility to the claim. It’s also definitely believable that someone would decide not to report such a thing to the police, particularly when the accused is a wealthy and powerful individual.

On the other side of the ledger, she’s had a very, very long time to make this public. That’s particularly true when you consider the number of women who made similar claims during the 2016 campaign and were taken very seriously by the media. Why not jump on the dogpile then? Again, she was obviously under no obligation to do so, but it seems as if it might have been more comfortable to do it then. There’s also the reality that making such a claim just as you’re releasing and promoting a book doesn’t exactly bolster confidence.

But as I said, none of that proves anything one way or the other and at least for now it’s still her word against his. But the reason given for not pressing charges is certainly curious.

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Trump’s next feint on deportation

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 15:01

Only one day after mayors and governors around the country stood in unison to support people breaking the law, the President has temporarily put on hold plans to have ICE detain and deport large numbers of illegal aliens in as many as ten cities. Is this a sign that he’s suddenly “seen the light” and decided that enforcing our immigration laws isn’t such a big deal? Not in the slightest. Instead, he might be angling for a better immigration bill out of Congress. And according to CNN, the change in plans was prompted by a call from Nancy Pelosi.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump Friday night and asked him to call off the Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation raids scheduled for Sunday, a source familiar with the call told CNN.

Trump pulled back on the raids Saturday a matter of hours after he spoke in support of the coordinated arrests and deportations that were slated to hit 10 major cities. Trump announced via Twitter that he would delay for two weeks US raids to give Congress a chance to “get together and work out a solution” on the enforcement of his signature immigration policy.

Trump and Pelosi spoke at 7:20 p.m. ET Friday night for about 12 minutes, according to the source. White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere confirmed a phone call took place Friday night between Trump and Pelosi.

So what happened on that call? We’re not getting specifics yet, but it’s fairly easy to guess. There is absolutely zero chance that the President would suddenly do an about-face on one of his highest policy priorities just because “Nancy asked him.” So the only other realistic scenario is one in which the Speaker put something on the table after refusing to deal with Trump at all previously. Thus far the President has had to deal with all of these immigration and border security issues using the same broken, underfunded, understaffed system that’s been in place for ages. The Democrats have been unwilling to come to the table and do a deal.

As of yesterday, however, the President was putting his plans on hold to give Congress a couple of weeks to come up with a proposal. Why would he do that unless Pelosi signaled that she was ready to give him something he wants? That’s probably some combination of border wall funding, more immigration judges or additional border security personnel. And what could she be expecting to get in return? If the answer is the cancellation of those major ICE raids, the President can make that deal without breaking a sweat.

ICE can temporarily put those plans on hold and go back to prioritizing the arrests of criminal illegal aliens. (It’s not like we’ve caught them all yet.) There are, no doubt, also plenty of employers hiring illegals to go after. And if they run out of work in those sectors, they can still go round up the people who already have final deportation judgments against them… just not all at once in a sweeping, ten city crackdown. In other words, ICE can simply go back to doing what they’ve been doing all along.

Looked at from that perspective, the planned raids could be seen in a similar light as the Mexico tariffs. Trump threatened to put them in place, then Mexico backed down and cut a favorable deal, so the President canceled them. It sounds as if he’s trying to use exactly the same tactic on Pelosi.

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