Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trumps big chance to make good on a campaign pledge

You can't beat Chris Horner for incisive analysis of developments on the environment-and-energy front.

First, he's unmitigatedly principled. Second, he has his facts down cold.

The latest example is his look at tomorrow's G-7 summit, and how Trump ought to handle a certain subject that will be coming up:

President Trump will attend the G7 Summit in Italy on Friday. This meeting of foreign leaders reportedly will pressure Trump to reverse his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, as Trump repeatedly promised American votershe would do, recently comparing it to the Iran deal.
For Trump, staying in the Paris Climate Agreement presents two big problems. First, this would break a promise to millions of voters who want Trump to stop former President Barack Obama's march toward energy poverty and a weaker economy.
Second, it would concede to a global pressure campaign to make U.S. energy policies increasingly unaccountable to Americans and beholden to the demands of foreign bureaucrats. Staying in the Paris agreement is also irreconcilable with Trump's energy agenda, which includes rolling back the Environmental Protection Agency's harmful Clean Power Plan.
The better option for Trump and millions of Americans would be to keep his promise and send the Paris Climate Agreement to the Senate to die. This is a critical step in unraveling Obama's war on affordable energy and maintaining self-governance on U.S. economic and energy issues. 

Horner then puts numbers on how Europe's Kool-Aid-swallowing nations have encumbered themselves with economic malaise:

To even achieve the first U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement would require multiple Clean Power Plan mandates to significantly reduce oil, coal and natural gas use. These reductions would raise energy prices and devastate many state economies.

All of this pain would be in exchange for, as economist Bjorn Lomborg explains, an undetectable climate impact of 0.05 degrees Celsius by 2100, even under the rosiest assumptions.

Unfortunately, some White House advisers are supporting "green jobs" schemes like the Paris agreement, ignoring how these policies caused huge job losses, drastically increased energy prices and resulted in energy poverty in Europe.

In 2014, Spanish unemployment reached 25 percent, while Spain's reliance on green energy programs threatened to bankrupt the country. Spain's energy prices have spiked as much as 50 percent since 2006 and more than 4 million are unable to properly heat their homes, according to Spain's National Statistics Institute.
Electricity has become "a luxury good" in Germany, disproportionately burdening the poor, according to a leading German magazine. The country's electricity rates are approximately triple U.S. rates. 
Yes, pulling the US out of this idiotic agreement will rankle a good many of our allies, but maybe, as they see how things start shaking out, they'll be compelled to follow suit.

At least US laws and regulations won't be shaped by the ephemeral jitters and "clean" energy visions of a bunch of foreign bureaucrats who manage woefully underperforming economies.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday roundup

Looks like Squirrel-Hair is going to take the bait with regard to the perennial Israel-Palestinian conundrum. The temptation to apply his self-perceived dealmaking skills is apparently too great to resist. And isn't the use of the term "losers" to describe jihadists just the perfect S-H-esque touch?

I have never liked Sean Hannity. This goes back way before the emergence of Trump as a focus of punditry. I just thought his polemical chops were abysmal. Jabbing his finger in the air and shouting, "Why don't you and your liberal friends ever . . . " I remember when he grieved over the passing of his dog of many years on his radio show, and his mentioning the dog's name. I thought to myself, he's the kind of guy who would name his dog Snowball. But he's really exposed the full extent of his third-tier-at-best approach with this pursuit of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, despite opposition not only from Rich's family, but from Fox News as well.

The Manchester Ariana Grande concert bombing was probably not a lone wolf operation.

The two money paragraphs from Kevin Williamson's NRO piece on the Mulvaney budget proposal:

Here’s the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. President Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn’t have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.


In the real world, we need genuine tax reform that is something close to revenue-neutral, significant entitlement reforms that will be politically unpopular, and defense spending that is flat or slightly lower. Nobody wants that eat-your-spinach budget, but the sooner we get serious about fiscal responsibility, the less painful reform will be. Incompetence

Incompetent or agenda-driven? CNN publishes a story about a magnanimous taxi driver giving people free rides away from the above-mentioned Manchester terror-attack scene. Only problem: the headline describes him as a Muslim, but the dude was a Sikh.

Wiping out any vestige of individual identity and human nature itself in post-America

It's come to this:

You. Yes, you. You're a bigot.
Are you a straight man who only wants to have sex with women? Are you a gay man who only wants to have sex with men? Are you a bisexual man who wants to have sex with people of both sexes but only if they are good-looking? Are you asexual?

You're a bigot.
According to Samantha Allen of The Daily Beast, it is deeply "disappointing but unsurprising" that under 20 percent of Americans in a recent survey said they would be open to having sex with a transgender person. That's because, she says, "Cultural acceptance has tended to lag behind formal recognition." 

It turns out that according to the left, all sexual behavior is malleable and based largely on social structures that have been implemented by the patriarchy. Men and women don't exist but for their self-perception -- we know that a man can be a woman and a woman can be a man, regardless of biology. That's why Caitlyn Jenner isn't just a man with a mental disorder and some plastic surgery and hormone injections; Caitlyn Jenner is as much of a woman as Michelle Obama. The left reasons that if a man can be a woman, then a man who only wants to have sex with biological women must be a bigot -- his desires have been wrongly defined by a society that restricted the definition of womanhood to, you know, women. If only men had been exposed to the deeper truth of gender earlier. If only they'd known that some women have male genitalia. Then, perhaps they'd be willing to have sex with biological men who are actually women.
The same holds true with regard to homosexuals, of course. If a woman is a lesbian, it's discriminatory of her to not want to have sex with a man who identifies as a woman. Her desires have also been shaped by her environment. And her environment has drawn a stark but wrong -- oh, ever so wrong! -- line between biological men and biological women.

If all of this sounds insane, that's because it is.

For years, I perceived the Left as basically consisting of two tiers: the tofu-and-sprouts / peace-fellowship / coffee-hour-at-the-Unitarian-church / human-rights-council types who earnestly believed in the collective perfectability of humankind on the one hand, and the cynical, power-mad overlords exploiting the first group's innocence on the other. My model was flexible enough to allow for cases in which someone from the first group morphed into someone from the second. In fact, cases of this phenomenon abound. It could be argued that Barack Obama, the Most Equal Comrade, is an example.

But we really are into some uncharted territory now. We have people assuming an air of great self-righteousness in their proclamation that we all ought to become fungible beings with no reason to find each other attractive in any natural sense, yet still craving the stimulation that we'd experienced in each other's company back when we were still boys and girls - and had some dignity and common sense. Just automatons existing for gratification and to perform whatever technocratic task the state deems us fit for.

In other words, guys like Mao and Castro at least wanted to get laid - and by good-looking women. Now, we are forbidden to have any such socially unjust impulses - and so are those who would deign to be our dictators.

I like to think that this whole enterprise is going to collapse of its own inherent unnaturalness. But I'm not certain of that. With the major cultural institutions - schools, the entertainment industry, corporate human-resource departments, journalism, even the left side of the religion spectrum - under the control of those who think this way, the task of permanently fending off the Day of the New Creature is going to be unprecedentedly daunting.

Prayer, keen wits, and fostering of community with those who remember a world in which dignity, common sense and natural sexuality were assumed to characterize daily life are our primary tools.

But that things have gotten this far ought to keep us sober about the magnitude of the effort.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ya don't say?

I've put the money line in this report in boldface:

The price tag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal heath care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.
California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations Committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag. 
The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to creating a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

Well, no shinola, Sherlock! There is not a school of economics left, right, up, down or inside out that has refuted the science's most basic law: The money has to come from somewhere.

Read more here:

Socialism: that exquisite nexus of tyranny and idiocy

Market forces will always eventually dictate any economic action, as the overlords of Berkeley are realizing, and attempting to ameliorate with a dose of ham-handed tyranny over the city's property owners. And of course said property owners will use the means at their disposal to attempt to prevent any loss, which means those renting from them will come at least closer to paying the actual market rate for their apartments.

Berkeley never fails to live up to its reputation as a bastion of progressive nonsense and lunacy. This is the place, after all, that thinks the best way to deal with the anarchists who’ve been rampaging across UC-Berkeley’s campus is through Play Doh, bubbles, and talking. Mkay. Wood shampoos would probably be more effective.
The Berkeley Town Council is now considering leveling a one-time $10,000 fee (plus a $450 annual fee) on apartment buildings offering below market rate (a.k.a., affordable housing to lower and middle income families) housing options. The fees would be paid by the landlord who would, of course, then turn around and raise rates on the “affordable housing.”
As reported by, these new fees would go toward paying for additional government resources to oversee, among other things, how much property managers charge their tenants. So, landlords will either have to eat the costs of the new five-figure fee or risk getting in trouble with the Berkeley Town Council for raising rents to cover the new government fee. The circular stupidity is mind boggling.
Please pass the Play Doh. 

And thus does a situation come full-circle - from do-gooder alarm at a perfectly natural state of affairs, through the imposition of "equality," to the need for ever-more "government resources" to keep up the illusion of "equality," to the eventual leveling-out of price and demand - back to the natural state in which normal people buy and sell goods and services.

We have a lot of little Venezuelas here in post-America that we can use as warnings not to go down that road on any larger scale.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Saudi stop on DJT's first trip abroad as prez

There was the whopping sale of very fancy military equipment:

The United States sealed a multi-billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the White House announced on Saturday, a move that solidifies its decades-long alliance with the world's largest energy producer just as President Donald Trump begins his maiden trip abroad as leader of the free world.
The agreement, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as "a significant expansion of…[the] security relationship" between the two countries.
There is the fact that Melania got rave reviews in the Saudi media, even as her head went uncovered.

There are the deepening business ties:

U.S. and Saudi Arabian companies signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday during a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, as Riyadh seeks help to develop its economy beyond oil. 

National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion of agreements with U.S. firms. Energy minister Khalid al-Falih said deals involving all companies totaled over $200 billion, many of them designed to produce things in Saudi Arabia that had previously been imported.

Business leaders on both sides were keen to demonstrate their talks had been a success, so there was an element of showmanship in the huge numbers. Some deals had been announced previously; others were memorandums of understanding that would require further negotiations to materialize.

Nevertheless, the deals illustrated Saudi Arabia's hunger for foreign capital and technology as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Low oil prices in the past couple of years have slowed the economy to a crawl and saddled the government with a big budget deficit.

"We want foreign companies to look at Saudi Arabia as a platform for exports to other markets," Falih told a conference attended by dozens of U.S. executives.
But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the visit was his speech:

“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity.  If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned,” the speech says.
He will also emphasize that Muslim countries must “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.” 
In case anyone missed the implications of the whole tone of his visit, he rather explicitly drove them home:

One of his high points came near the end where he reminded his audience of the three Abrahamic religions and called for a new era of tolerance between them. But after all of his complimentary comments about other Muslim nations, Trump took a decidedly critical tone when he called out Iran in particular and Syria to a lesser extent. Invoking “murderous attacks” and a humanitarian crisis, Trump talked about the people of Iran enduring “hardship and despair” under a brutal authoritarian regime. This was another risky move, because he seems to be looking to further isolate Iran even among their own neighbors. 
Then there were his concluding words:

“God bless the United States of America.”
The case can be made, of course, that this wasn't the most diplomatic way to wind up his remarks, that he ought to have signed off with a nod toward his host country. Then again, considering the wet-noodle kumbaya-ism with which the Most Equal Comrade used to conclude speeches in Muslim countries, it is refreshing in its own way.

Yes, it's important to remember that the wahhabist school of Islam has its home in Saudi Arabia, that most of the 9 / 11 hijackers came from there, that Saudi Arabia has funded some unsavory militias in the Syrian mess. On the other hand, broad gestures can signal new eras of strategic alliances. We live in a world in which an Iran-Syria-Russia axis is a reality. That gives certain other countries a set of common interests. It's noteworthy, for instance, that the entourage will take a direct flight from Riyadh to Ben Gurion International Airport.

On balance, given what I've learned so far, looks like a productive first stop.

Memo to the president: Now, let's not sully it with a bragfest on Twitter, or dumb moves on other stops that counteract what you've put in place.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"We're not healthy right now"

In the course of my morning perusal of the pundit-sphere, I've come across several pieces that illuminate various aspects of a theme that's preoccupied me here at LITD - namely, the predictably problematic nature of the Trump presidency.

There's Jason Willick's article at The American Interest that looks at what seems the most likely scenario: that the Mueller investigation won't turn up any impeachable offense, or even any egregious scandal.

 I found Victor Davis Hanson's latest essay, appearing at American Greatness,  compelling. And that kind of surprised me. Hanson, who is undeniably one of the most measured yet principled public intellectuals on the scene, had been disappointing me for a while, leaning incrementally toward supporting Trump without adequately articulating his reasons. Until today. He makes a case that looks pretty airtight to me - that is, it fully addresses my misgivings. In fact, he spells them out as well as I could have, and I have all four that he lists: 

1) The character flaws of the inexperienced and uncouth Trump would eventually nullify any positive agenda that he might enact; not opposing such a boorish character undermines one’s reputation as an empirical and fair-minded conservative;

2) Trump is a liberal wolf in conservative sheep’s clothing; at any given moment he will break his campaign promises and revert to his 1980s New York Democratic self. Or, Trump has no ideology and is an empty vessel willing to embrace almost any ideology he finds efficacious to his ambitions of the moment. Either way, he will do the conservative cause real damage;

3) Trump’s base supporters, while not irredeemables and deplorables, are prone to nationalist extremism and embrace certain prejudices that are antithetical to conservative values;

4) Clinton’s progressive agendas would not do as much damage to the nation as would Trump’s uncouth character. Thus the defeat of the Republicans in 2016, or the failure of an ensuing Trump presidency, would be cathartic. Only a Trump implosion would teach Republicans never again to allow such an untried and dangerous populist nationalist without political experience to highjack their party, while cleansing the movement of some odious figures and unpalatable ideas that have no business in it—or both.

Hanson makes the irrefutable point that "the resumption of the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, a 70 percent drop in illegal immigration, and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court" are all magnificent achievements. I still have my doubts about his assertion that neither Cruz nor Rubio would have been able to muster the swing votes necessary to defeat Hillary Clinton and achieve the same things.

And Charles Krauthammer's prescription, at NRO, for how to move forward seems pretty obvious:

Trump’s behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It’s been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may.

But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise. 
But you folks know me; I'm always looking for the core cultural and collectively spiritual state that is driving what's going on at the political level.

That's why I think Mona Charen's Townhall column today is perhaps the most important of all the pieces I'm sharing with you here.

She nails it:

We're not healthy right now. We are in a state of perpetual partisan rage; a fever stoked by interests who are making money from the clown-show ratings. CNN and MSNBC do wall-to-wall outrage, 24/7, about each and every Trump misstep (and they come thick and fast) -- keeping the needle more or less permanently dialed to 11. They perpetually label Trump a "conservative" only because they despise Trump and they loathe conservatives and assume that the two must be coterminous.

Fox News has become, with a few rare exceptions, the Trump Ministry of Information -- minimizing every mistake, justifying every outrage as a legitimate response to the "media frenzy" against him, and highlighting every hot-button news story that can enrage/frighten viewers about campus authoritarians, illegal immigrants, terrorists and Democrats. 

The Trump presidency could only be possible in a country that makes few distinctions between fame and notoriety, and that has been rubbed raw by ceaseless incitement. Throughout his career, Trump did one thing extraordinarily well -- keep himself the center of attention. His talent for controversy and "trolling" kept him successful and famous. "He fights," people noted admiringly. Yes, but only for himself. As we're seeing, now that serious blunders are becoming an almost daily affair, incessant belligerence is exhausting for everyone and self-sabotaging for Trump. It turns out that swinging a mace in all directions is not "just what Washington, D.C., needed," far less the country.

But the ratings are great.

There's a minuscule degree of comfort in the realization that one is still free to fulfill one's role as an engaged citizen - as a pundit, even - without succumbing to this fever.

Steady as she goes. The three pillars:

1.) Free-market economics, which begins with the premise that a good or service is worth what buyer and seller agree that it is worth - period. No other party has any business being involved in that agreement - certainly not government.

2.) An understanding that Western civilization has been a unique blessing to humankind. (Judeo-Christian morality, Greco-Roman model of representative democracy, the great scientific and artistic achievements.)

3.) A foreign policy based on what history tells us about human nature. This plays itself out as our allies knowing we have their backs, our adversaries respecting us, and our enemies fearing us. 
 . . . and an insistence on high standards of conduct and thought - that is, on dignity, the accumulation of wisdom, refinement in the employment of humor, common sense, and, wherever it can be employed, kindness.

And then, as Krauthammer says, the chips shall fall where they may.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

In the ongoing flurry of arcane details about a number of DJT-related crises, his character must remain the focus

Yes, the "mainstream" media are gunning for him. Yes, there's lots of over-the-top talk from Hill Dems. Yes, there seem to be moles in the administration. Yes, probing for US weakness is a core tenet of Russian foreign policy.

Still, Donald Trump's biggest problem is himself.

I don't presently care to weigh in on whether the appointment of Mueller as special counsel is a good or bad move. Nor is whether Congress ought to subpoena any or perhaps all of Comey's after-the-fact memos to himself about meetings with the president the main point for me.

It remains DJT's deep and egregious flaws.

Scott Johnson at Power Line says it well:

President Trump’s death struggle with his invisible opponents, however, has arrived early in his first term in office. In this death struggle, moreover, President Trump is mismatched. His flaws of temperament and character have aggravated the situation roughly since day one. He has burned through the credibility of his White House staff, and he thinks it’s their fault. Republicans on Capitol Hill have mostly gone to ground, and not just John McCain.
In an otherwise admirable commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy yesterday (transcript here), President Trump complained about his treatment by the media: “[N]o politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” I doubt the essential accuracy of this statement — I don’t think it’s even close — but it would be difficult to verify and is in any event undignified coming from an incumbent president.
Trump doubled down on the whininess today, with a tweet about a "witch hunt."

I caught a few minutes of Laura Ingraham's show this morning, and her line was one I've heard her feel compelled to trot out myriad times since the summer of 2015: Trump needs to stop getting mired in distractions and stay on message regarding the big policy orientations that enthuse his base.

She's not stupid, so what is it?  Even if she thinks her show content gets back to the inner circle at the White House, can she not see that these exhortations aren't being heeded?

No small part of listening to her is the implicit assumption that, except for his penchant for taking the bait, everything is fine. It's not. Stories about his staff being on knife-edge waiting to see what they'll have to clean up next abound.

I can be fairly dismissive of her increasingly awkward position, though, because she was one of the original Kool-Aid swallowers, along with Hannity, Conrtad Black, Wayne Allen Root, Ann Coulter and Jim Hoft.

What saddens me is the spectacle of those who didn't imbibe the Kool-Aid until after they'd been on record fully acknowledging DJT's vulgarity and narcissism.

Bookworm comes to mind. Her latest post focuses on the slings and arrows arrayed against Trump. In
fact, it's titled, "The Slow Motion Assassination of Donald Trump." In the course of it, she recommends a piece she recently ran across that she deems the last word in Trump-defense:

A full-throated intellectual defense of Donald Trump. This articlecame out in January and I’m just shocked that I missed it. Daniel Bonevac, an academic (yes! an academic) from the Univesrity of Texas in Austin (where he’s the only conservative in his department), explains precisely why he voted for Donald Trump. And he gets it. He totally gets it.
The article is long and I can’t find a specific quotable quote because it’s so dense with ideas (although never stuffy, confusing, pompous, or boring). I can assure you that you’ll feel smart, happy, patriotic, and reasonable once you read it. Then you should share it with your fellow Trump supporters because, in the face of months of sustained attack, it’s a real morale booster. I’m not exaggerating. Bonevac’s post one of the best things I’ve read in I don’t know how long and every non-Leftist, whether a Trump supporter or not, should read it.
Well, I read it, and found it glaringly lacking. You see, for all its emphasis on the he's-not-Hillary angle, the people-in-flyover-country-who-work-with-their-hands-are-tired-of-the-elites-looking-down-their-noses-at-them angle, and the precarious-state-of-the-world angle, there is not one word about what I would consider the front-and-center aspect of the current juncture: Trump's own personality and character flaws.

As Bookworm says, the essay came out in January, and one line of Bonevac's defense looks a little dated now: the idea that Trump was going to be some kind of marked departure from the Most Equal Comrade's phone-and-a-pen style of presiding.

No, more than ever, the idea that to speak clearly and loudly about how doubtful it is that Trump is really fit for this job makes one a villain barely distinguishable from some shrill leftist rings very hollow.

With each new unfolding in the array of dramas, it becomes more clear that his troubles are largely of his own making.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Strong-arm tactics go with Erdogan even on visits to the US

His bodyguards keep those mouthy Kurds in line:

Perhaps unaccustomed to America’s tradition of free and unfettered expression, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bodyguards reacted like animals when confronted by protesters demonstrating near D.C.’s “embassy row” on Tuesday. Photos and videos of the scene reveal a disturbing melee between Turkish thugs and demonstrators. Washington D.C.’s police chief called it a “brutal attack,” and it was.
Young women were thrown to the ground and beaten by Erdoğan’s security staff. Demonstrators were kicked in the face. Turkish security resisted police directives in a seeming effort to injure as many protesters as they could. In the end, eleven people were hurt, including a police officer. Nine people were hospitalized, and two were arrested.

And it seems that nothing of note came out of the Erdogan - DJT meeting itself.

Causes and contributing factors can be argued cogently, but there's no denying that this presidency is at a crisis point

Just what are you supposed to do with this if your misgivings about handing the Republican presidential nomination and then the presidency to Donald Trump were so strong that you opined in print and online in the strongest terms possible right up until the moment it was a done deal,  proceeded with a willingness to jeopardize friendships and professional associations, and voted your conscience at each stage of the process?

Uhhhh. I’m not very happy with what has happened so far. I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out. This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.
I hate to say it, but I agree with every line in my friend Frank Bruni’s op-ed in The New York Times today. Where is the great negotiation? Where is the bull in the china shop we wanted? That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke… Did we win anything? And this is the great negotiator?

That's Ann Coulter. Toward the end of the interview in which she says this, she makes even more plain how dire her outlook is:

I think all of the Trump true believers are petrified.
And it's not just his pundit shills who are waking up to the realization that they invested in an illusion. It's administration insiders, people on the payroll. H.R. McMaster may well continue to hew to the official line, but what do you think is going on in the recesses of his mind as he grapples with being directly contradicted - in a tweet, of course - regarding his terse denial of any classified information being revealed to Lavrov and Kislyak at that Oval Office meeting?

Eventually, it gets so un-fun to be burned that key folks look seriously at bailing:

There will always be figures willing to sacrifice their credibility on the altar of political power, but trustworthiness is something that cannot be easily restored once lost. The Trump administration is sacrificing its sincere surrogates by humiliating them repeatedly in public, and those who value their integrity will one day soon stop volunteering as tribute. No one speaks for Trump. Pretty soon, no one else will want to.
And it's not just staffers. At least one US ally is having its "worst fears confirmed.": 

Two Israeli intelligence officers are none too pleased with the alleged leaking of intel by Donald Trump to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, one saying it is their “worst fears confirmed.” The unnamed sources made the comments today to Buzzfeed.
“We have an arrangement with America which is unique to the world of intelligence sharing. We do not have this relationship with any other country,” said the officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity as he was not granted permission to speak to the press.
“There is a special understanding of security cooperation between our countries,” they said. “To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed.”
One of the sources had previously shared with Buzzfeed their concern that Trump would leak sensitive information to Russia. The leak in question concerned Israeli intel on an ISIS plot to smuggle laptops loaded with explosives onto airplanes. The information was shared by Israel with the U.S. under a special intel sharing relationship between the two countries. A relationship that is apparently now under strain.
“There has to be trust for this sort of arrangement. I cannot speak for Israel’s entire security apparatus, but I would not trust a partner who shared intelligence without coordinating it with us first,” said the officer.
Ben Shapiro at NRO examines the leap of faith made by "conservatives" who swallowed the DJT Kool-Aid, and why it was destined to work out badly:

To understand conservatives’ willingness to overlook Donald Trump’s personal problems, it’s important to understand the context in which Trump’s fans saw him: as a real-estate magnate. Real estate takes a certain level of expertise. It takes fluency with numbers. It takes willingness to structure “the art of the deal.” It requires patience and the ability to grapple with learning curves — adaptability. Success in real estate means careful planning years in advance and a willingness to pull the trigger on big moves. It requires a certain level of character, too: Your reputation in real estate helps determine whether good deals will ever materialize. Those who begin as real-estate sharks don’t have decades-long careers, in the main. 

Trump, his conservative defenders said, was a real-estate mogul — the most powerful real-estate mogul in America. That made him, by inductive reasoning, a decent person, despite his adulterous liaisons. 
But many conservatives refused to acknowledge the two points about Trump that should have given them cause for concern, even if they believed the somewhat flawed meritocracy-character link. First, Trump didn’t earn his magnate status; Trump inherited a massive amount of wealth from his father and, by most available estimates, has significantly underperformed the real-estate market. Second, and more important, there is at least one area of meritocracy where conservatives discard the supposed character-success link: in the entertainment industry. Conservatives have always understood that talent for entertaining and quality of character may actually be inversely linked: You’d be hard-pressed to find a conservative touting Kim Kardashian’s success as proof of her good character.

Trump is an entertainer. He acts like an entertainer. He obsesses about his ratings, he spends hours on his hair, he agonizes over public perceptions of his successes and failures. He cannot bear to be out of the spotlight, and he feels personally threatened by those who occupy it more than he does for any period of time. 
Conservatives wouldn’t pretend that Paris Hilton would make a good president because she’s so successful in her other ventures. Yet many conservatives told themselves a story whereby Trump was more Warren Buffett than Paris Hilton, so they could continue to maintain the positive image of his character. 
We are here because too many of us lost sight not only of the three pillars of conservatism, but the personal traits our worldview has always lauded: dignity, the capacity for sober and humble reflection, refined articulation, and a reverence for clarity.

It mattered, as far back as July 2015 when Trump descended the escalator at his Tower, that he had "a grotesque personality." His slavish devotees may have thought it burnished their credentials as lofty thinkers to elevate one or two issues - think immigration and trade - above alarm at redistribution, above general economic ignorance, above cultural rot, and above the intensification of global threats, and declare that these pet issues had such a champion in one candidate that his patent unfitness must be overlooked, but that which is immutably so in this universe cannot remain buried in the cacophony of human folly forever.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, the president is 70 years old. The likelihood that he's going to grow up and become a statesman is not great.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday roundup

How have things been going at the University of Missouri since the events of November 2015, when Black Lives Matter convinced the football team to go on strike, which metastasized into occupation of some areas of campus and the etched-in-infamy "need-some-muscle-over-here" exhortations of now-fired professor Melissa Click?

Not good. Freshman class has shrunk by 23 percent. Dorms are being shuttered. Budget shortfall of perhaps as much as $32 million. Announcement of a plan to cut nearly 400 jobs.

Mizzou officials blamed the enrollment decline — the second steep enrollment drop in two consecutive years — on ongoing “public perception concerns,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

Erick Erickson at The Resurgent says he knows a source for the WaPo story on the loose-lips-at-the-meeting-with-Lavrov-and-Kislyak meeting, and that said source says that "what the president did is far worse than what is actually being reported."  This source says DJT "does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack."

You can call these sources disloyal, traitors, or whatever you want. But please ask yourself a question — if the President, through inexperience and ignorance, is jeopardizing our national security and will not take advice or corrective action, what other means are available to get the President to listen and recognize the error of his ways?
This is a real problem and I treat this story very seriously because I know just how credible, competent, and serious — as well as seriously pro-Trump, at least one of the sources is.
Senator Mike Lee is spearheading a project that addresses the malady at the root of our societal dysfunction:

Today, Americans face a wide variety of challenges in our era of tumultuous transition. We are materially better off in many ways than in the past. But despite this real progress, there is a sense that our social fabric has seen better days. Leading thinkers have issued warnings that we are increasingly “bowling alone,” “coming apart,” and inhabiting a “fractured republic.” At the heart of those warnings is a view that what happens in the middle layers of our society is vital to sustaining a free, prosperous, democratic, and pluralistic country. That space is held together by extended networks of cooperation and social support, norms of reciprocity and mutual obligation, trust, and social cohesion. In short, it is sustained by what we do together

The Social Capital Project is a multi-year research effort that will investigate the evolving nature, quality, and importance of our associational life. “Associational life” is our shorthand for the web of social relationships through which we pursue joint endeavors—namely, our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our religious congregations. These institutions are critical to forming our character and capacities, providing us with meaning and purpose, and for addressing the many challenges we face. 

The goal of the project is to better understand why the health of our associational life feels so compromised, what consequences have followed from changes in the middle social layers of our society, why some communities have more robust civil society than others, and what can be done—or can stop being done—to improve the health of our social capital. Through a series of reports and hearings, it will study the state of the relationships that weave together the social fabric enabling our country—our laws, our institutions, our markets, and our democracy—to function so well in the first place. 
Camille Paglia is probably my favorite Democrat. She confirms that status yet again with a very good Washington Free Beacon interview. 

Here's how smart she is:

You say in your new book that feminism’s "sex war" has stunted the maturation of both girls and boys. What do you think is the end result of that?
Second-wave feminism went off the track when it started to demonize men and blame them for all the evils in human history. It’s a neurotic world-view that was formulated in too many cases by women (including Gloria Steinem and Kate Millett) with troubled childhoods in unstable homes. First-wave feminism, in contrast, focused on systemic social problems that kept women in secondary or dependent status. My favorite period in feminism has always been the 1920s and 1930s, when American women energized by winning the vote gained worldwide prominence for their professional achievements. My early role models, Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn, were fierce individualists and competitors who liked and admired men and who never indulged in the tiresome, snippy rote male-bashing that we constantly hear from today’s feminists. I am an equal opportunity feminist who opposes special protections for women. What I am saying throughout my work is that girls who are indoctrinated to see men not as equals but as oppressors and rapists are condemned to remain in a permanently juvenile condition for life. They have surrendered their own personal agency to a poisonous creed that claims to empower women but has ended by infantilizing them. Similarly, boys will have no motivation to mature if their potential romantic partners remain emotionally insecure, fragile, and fearful, forever looking to parental proxies (like campus grievance committees or government regulators) to make the world safe for them.

And she's one Bernie supporter who has no use for Fauxcahontas:

Could you envision Elizabeth Warren running successfully as a populist candidate in 2020 against Donald Trump?
Elizabeth Warren, a smug Harvard professor, is no populist. She doesn’t have an iota of Bernie Sanders’ authentic empathic populism—but Sanders will be too old to run next time around. I tried to take Warren seriously during the run-up to the primaries, but her outrageous silence about Sanders’ candidacy when he was battling the corrupt Hillary machine made me see Warren as the facile opportunist that she is. She craftily hid from sight throughout the primaries—until Hillary won the nomination. Then all of a sudden, there was bouncy, grinning Warren, popping in and out of Hillary’s Washington mansion as vice-presidential possibilities were being vetted. What an arrant hypocrite! Warren stands for nothing but Warren. My eye is on the new senator from California, Kamala Harris, who seems to have far more character and substance than Warren. I hope to vote for Harris in the next presidential primary.

Now, being a Democrat, she doesn't escape having some skewed judgement. Come on, Professor Paglia - Kamala Harris? Seriously?

The North Korean threat is more serious than we've been thinking.

This latest bombshell - or whatever it is - brings out all the Trump-era players faithfully reading from their entirely predictable scripts

Jim Jamitis at RedState reports on how the camps are already lining up with cliched talking points at the ready.

For the water-carriers, we have Ingraham and Hannity, both trotting out the phrase "fake news."

For the blind-with-rage Left, we have Robert Reich, who sees a "constitutional crisis."

This is Pavlovian operant conditioning at its most refined.

And you can notice something interesting going on: neither of these camps has a modus operandi anchored in a set of core principles that it is assured are immutable. Leftists talking about "fairness" and "equity" and rant against bigotry and heartlessness, and DJT's slavish devotees touting "greatness" and ranting against "globalists" and some kind of "elite" or "establishment" are basically winging it. Neither side refers back to a guiding code that allows them to take a deep breath and wait for an adequate supply of facts in a situation like this.

I invite them all to have a conversion experience and become conservatives! Much better for your blood pressure when Trump does something clumsy - which is often - and the leftist media machine screams "crisis!" The free market is still available to be applied. Ditto Judeo-Christian morality. Rogue elements on the world stage still need to be dealt with resolutely.

I won't be surprised no matter how this turns out, given that everyone involved has behaved as one would expect. These are people we're talking about, not principles - which means that nothing I hold dear is at stake.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The fine line between civility and resolute embrace of principles one knows to be right

There are two pieces today - one at The Federalist and one at The Daily Caller - that document the metastasizing of the intimidation and violence the Left has been practicing beyond the confines of college and university campuses. There is some overlap between the instances cited, but there are some unique to each author's list. We've cited some here at LITD, such as the Oregon parade last month that was cancelled because of threats against a long-time participant: the local Republican Party.

A couple of the most egregious examples from the above-linked pieces will suffice to indicate how far this has gone.

One is a chilling Huffington Post piece - by an editor - that forthrightly advocates aggressive intrusion into the personal lives of public figures:

On Wednesday, an editor at the Huffington Post called on his fellow leftists to stalk Republicans: “They should be hounded by protesters everywhere, especially in public—in restaurants, in shopping centers, in their districts and yes, on the public property outside their homes and apartments, in Washington and back in their homes states.”

That one has had over 29,000 shares.

It seems a Tennessee woman has already made good on the exhortation, whether directly inspired or not:

 . . . police in Tennessee charged a woman with felony reckless endangerment on Thursday for allegedly trying to run Republican Congressman David Kustoff off the road after a town hall. The woman, Wendi Wright, was reportedly enraged over Kustoff’s support for the American Health Care Act and screamed at the congressman and his aide, striking his car windows and reaching inside the vehicle. 
There is a fine line to be walked here, one that involves some self-examination. While I'm not aware of anything on the Right that assumes the degree of rage found in instances like those cited above, I think any of us blogging from a conservative perspective need to perform the kind of inventory that has Brittany Pounders at Liberty Juice rethinking her rhetorical approach:

I’ve been as guilty as any of them.  Eight years of Obama turned me into an angry conservative intent on slaying liberal dragons through tasteless methods and angry rants.  I might have been uncomfortable with the “libtard” language and while I never bought into ridiculous notions like the birther movement, I never shut it down either.
There is no denying that I’ve often been in the wrong with the approach that my platform has allowed me and watching some of my counterparts in conservative media echo much of what I often partook now makes me cringe- angry at myself that I didn’t have the foresight to see what this would lead to.
My motivation was to stir and activate conservatives.  And we did.  But the result from outlets like talk radio, conservative talking heads on tv, and social media created a lot of ideological anger without offering real life governing solutions.  And in doing so, we were setting ourselves up for a fall.  Our audiences echoed us.  Outraged and angry.  Ready to set fire to the building but forgetting we still live there.  Reacting to legitimate policy problems with nothing but anger based solely on ideology and ready to do anything to appease our emotions-even if it meant to cut off our nose to spite our face.
It makes me review the monikers I've come up with for various public figures over the years at this site, and some terms for Leftist behavior that are admittedly strong.

While I can see that it might serve the effectiveness of my communication to make other choices for terminology going forward, after giving the matter serious thought, I do not think I've either employed anything irresponsible, nor quoted nor even tacitly endorsed anyone who did.

I've caught flak for some of my terms and monikers, but they came from left-leaning commenters who, I submit, were being disingenuous and trying to get me to back off from points that needed to be made.

Some phraseology for which I've been taken to task:

The Most Equal Comrade - This refers to Barack Obama, and I probably have never referred to him otherwise on this site. The "most equal" part comes, of course, from the scene in Orwell's Animal Farm in which the animals are gathered, perplexed to gaze at an addendum to a slogan that had been painted on the side of the barn since the animals' revolution. It had always read, "All Animals Are Created Equal," but, in light of recent concern that the leader, a pig named Napoleon, had succumbed to the temptation for high living, had been supplemented with "But Some Are More Equal Than Others." "Comrade," of course, is what doctrinaire socialists call each other. I assert without qualification that this fits Obama to a tee.

Madame BleachBit - "Madame" is meant to connote the sense of entitlement that is at the core of who Hillary Clinton is, and, of course, "BleachBit" was the software used to attempt to scrub her private-server emails of any evidence of containing classified material.

Freedom-Hater - This term doesn't precisely apply to all citizens who vote Democrat, but I can't think of a Democrat public figure - DNC official, politician, pundit, activist or think-tank wonk to whom it doesn't apply. Their ideology stands in stark opposition to the necessary conditions for human liberty.

Post-America - I don't care what the GDP is, how low the unemployment rate goes, or how close to a balanced budget Congress gets, a society that has embraced insane notions such as health care being a right, or gender being fluid, or the global climate being in some kind of trouble demanding an abrupt halt to human advancement, is no longer recognizable as the United States of America.

These are all admittedly strong and clearly used as attention-getters. But I have never gone in for the kind of crude terminology such as "libtard" that strikes me as counterproductive in the extreme. If there's no constructive point to be gotten across, there's no use for the term.

Still, as someone whose faith walk is becoming ever-more-clearly the core of my worldview and the basis for my defense of any cultural, economic or political positions, I think I may need to check my heart more regularly as I formulate my discourse. The last thing I want to be doing is contributing to the brittleness of post-American society.

As I say, this requires walking the finest of lines.

It requires steadfast resistance against relativism. The Left is not correct about anything, and valuing civility does not change that.

It requires calling out crude expression and the shoddy thought represented thereby on the Right.

Most of all, it requires humility and humanity. What, after all, is the end result being pursued here? If it's a world that is more pleasing to God, it requires no small amount of praying that we all drop any assuming of a fierce posture for fierceness's sake, and look at what gets us where we want to go, and what hinders us on that journey.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The preening, self-congratulatory, neurotic and blind weltanschauung of the urban hipster

If you have over eleven stores in your retail business, the self-appointed poohbahs of the Lower Haight community say you're on the wrong side of everything, and the fact that you basically share their ethos will count for nothing:

 This story in the SF Weekly deals with a commercial property in the Haight-Ashbury district which became a local bone of contention after some redevelopment work. The address on Steiner St. was, for many years, the home of a locally owned coffee shop called “Bean There.” (Très adorable, n’est-ce pas?) It was popular with the locals, but following some earthquake mitigation work by the owner of the property, the lease to the coffee shop owner was not renewed. There’s some debate over why that took place, but that’s not really the story here.
What came next was an ongoing fight to see what business would replace Been There. A profitable looking bid came in for a different coffee shop operated by Blue Bottle Coffee. As the linked article explains, having another coffee shop there wasn’t going to be acceptable if it wasn’t the right kind of coffee shop, if you know what I mean. Local community activists leapt into action without delay.
But behind the scenes, a battle against corporate coffee moguls was being waged…
The process hands a fair amount of power to nearby residents, who are allowed to petition to the Planning Commission for or against a formula retail business moving in.
With this bit of power, Lower Haight got fired up. Neighbors United, a group formed by former District 5 supervisor candidate Dean Preston and his deputy campaign manager Jen Snyder, worked closely with the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association (LoHMNA) and local resident Hal Fischer to flyer the neighborhood and alert residents about the plan. On Thursday people flooded the Planning Commission meeting, voicing an overwhelming distaste for the chain coffee shop’s attempt to move into Bean There’s old spot.
And in the end, they won. The Planning Commission voted 2-4 in favor of the opposition. A final motion to officially block Blue Bottle will be held at a future meeting.
The locals apparently have the power to petition the planning commission and stop any development which doesn’t fit in with the “flavor” (oh… pardon me. I’m sure that’s probably flavour) of the Lower Haight neighborhood. They are also on the lookout to prevent “gentrification” and they certainly don’t want one of those big, international chain operations moving in and diluting the local culture. So they shut down Blue Bottle’s bid. The people rejoiced over this great victory.
“This is a huge victory for preserving the character of our neighborhood,” said Fischer, who led a petition drive that gathered more than 1,300 signatures.
Congratulations, community organizers! You kept out that big, nasty, soulless international chain store. Except for one thing. Blue Bottle is a boutique coffee outfit which was formed pretty much next door in Oakland. Their mission statement tells you all about their horrible corporate philosophy. It was started by, “a slightly disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic.” He created the brand specifically to rebel against major chains like Starbucks and bring people freshly ground coffee made from (and this is the important bit) “responsibly sourced beans.”
And how big is this massive international chain which the locals were too exclusive to have in their neighborhood? They have a total of 34 stores. But that’s more than the eleven which the local ordinance allows before you are considered a major international player, however. So Blue Bottle’s bid was shut down. And what did this “victory” deliver for the sensitive, socially woke residents instead? The property sits empty, as it has for over a year with the exception of a brief, failed attempt to open up a hair salon there. So the neighborhood used to have a coffee shop where people could gather for a cup of joe and mingle. Now they have an empty eyesore which is generating zero profit or tax revenue.
I read a somewhat related story somewhere recently - I'm pretty sure either the NYT or the WaPo - about how young professionals - and the artiste types who serve them their coffee and wine -  moving into formerly blighted areas don't want to proceed with gentrification too fast, how they think it's kind of edgy to have a little higher-than-average crime rate, so as to retain an element of grittiness to the neighborhood.

I started thinking about how manufactured all of this is a few years ago when various locales started sporting bumper stickers that said "Keep [insert name of city] weird." Yes, indeed, that really affirms the organic process by which unconventional people have clustered together in a given area.

This is why I studiously avoid fair-trade foodstuffs, why the recycling tote my city has provided me sits unused in my garage, and why I sure as hell won't put one of those "Love More" signs in my yard.

It's nothing but the basic ground-level liberal certainty that one cares more than one's fellow citizens, dressed up in blue and pink hair and nose rings.

In fact, I got a kick out of a conversation I had with a jazz violinist recently. She and I have played together many times over the years, but not too much recently. So we were driving to a gig and catching up. She's, shall we say, a seasoned veteran, a bit older than me. She was talking about gigging with students of the university music school from which all local jazz musicians cull players for gigs, and how she is sure there is a connection between their persnickety vegan diets and health preoccupations and the soulless nature of their playing. We talked about how the great players of jazz's golden age really did come out of gritty environments - and ate lots of fried chicken and washed it down with whiskey.

I wonder if postmodern urban dwellers like those in the Lower Haight will ever come to see the irony of the way they're killing cultural vibrancy with their neurotic and narcissistic attempts to preserve cultural vibrancy.

I'm not holding my breath.