May 18, 2018 – LIKE NO OTHER

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It was March 2016 when Pickerhead finally came to realize Donald Trump had a chance to become a good president. Here’s what Pickings had to say then.

 

“These pages have not been friendly to the Trump campaign. We started June 22, 2015, then again July 29th, Aug 18th, and for half the post of Sept. 15th. So, we have anti-Trump bona fides. But, a self-serving speech by the foolish Mitt Romney made it plain Pickings was wrong. Listening to Mitt, one wanted to ask, “Where was this passion four years ago?”  

For decades Donald Trump has made himself into a caricature of our expectations. But long exposure makes plain there is substance to the man. First off, we have his children. If the private man was truly the bombastic creep we see so often, his children would be emotional basket cases. That they are squared away people gives us a view behind the curtain. And he has enough success in business to provide belief that out of the public’s view the business operating Trump is rational and able to secure the loyalty of qualified competent senior and middle managers. If not, these people would not hang around. 

It is not too much of a stretch to think a Trump presidency could perform with Trumanesque results. Certainly, he could not do worse than the folks with sterling résumés that are the empty suits in our present Cabinet. Compare them to the giants in the Truman Cabinet.”

 

 

Now that Trump has been in office more than a year we can begin to take stock. Victor Davis Hanson starts us off with his review of Conrad Black’s book Donald Trump: A President Like No Other.

Conrad Black’s erudite biography of Donald J. Trump is different from the usual in mediis rebus accounts of first-year presidents. He avoids the Bob Woodward fly-on-the-wall unattributed anecdote, and “they say” gossip mongering. Nor is the book a rush-to-publish product from former insiders of the Trump campaign or administration. Instead, Black, a prolific and insightful historian, adopts the annalistic method in carefully tracing Trump’s earliest years in business through his various commercial misadventures, financial recoveries, and sometimes wild antics. Black’s aim is to illustrate how much of what Trump has done since announcing his presidential candidacy in summer 2015 is hardly mysterious. Instead, Trump’s methods are fully explicable by what he has always done in the past—in the sometimes troubling, but more often reassuring, sense.

Black is neither a hagiographer nor an ankle-biter. He seeks to understand Trump within the three prominent landscapes in which Americans had come to know their new president: politics, the celebrity world, and the cannibalistic arena of high-stakes Manhattan real estate and finance. …

… Black knows what it is like to be targeted by an overzealous prosecutor, and how the criminal justice system can be warped well before the advent of a formal trial. For Black, the yearlong and heretofore mostly empty pursuit of Trump the supposed colluder, then Trump the purported obstructer, is in some sad sense the logical trajectory of the American criminal justice system that gives federal prosecutors unchecked power, especially when driven by political agendas amplified by the tabloid press. Few of us have ever had a Robert Mueller hounding us 24/7, with partisan lawyers, opportune leaks, and false news fueling his inquisition. …

 

 

John Podhoretz has a brief look at the Middle East. 

So it has happened. The American embassy in Israel is now in Jerusalem, moving from Tel Aviv 70 years to the day the Jewish state came into being and 22 years since U.S. law declared it would move.

Richard Haass, who runs the Council on Foreign Relations, this morning tweeted that the Embassy move was an iatrogenic mistake—iatrogenesis meaning a disease you catch from treating another. Well, that’s fast. There’s no evidence whatever there is any new disease. In fact, there is evidence of diseases healing all over the place.

Last week Arab states expressed support for Israel’s bombing raids on Iranian positions in Syria. I doubt Haass expected to see such a thing before the creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, what we’re seeing is Arab states apparently abandoning their insistence on a Palestinian state as the sine qua non for any relationship with Israel. …

  

 

Even the insufferable David Brooks sends Trump a backhanded compliment in his latest column.

We’re all educated by our peers, and, over the years, a good portion of Donald Trump’s peers have been thugs. Operating in the New York construction world meant dealing with S&A Concrete, co-owned by “Fat Tony” Salerno of the Genovese crime family, and John Cody, the notorious head of Teamsters Local 282, who was convicted on racketeering and tax evasion charges. 

Building casinos in Atlantic City brought Trump into similarly genteel circles. … 

… And yet I can’t help but wonder if that kind of background has provided a decent education for dealing with the sort of hopped-up mobsters running parts of the world today. There is growing reason to believe that Donald Trump understands the thug mind a whole lot better than the people who attended our prestigious Foreign Service academies. … 

… The first piece of evidence is North Korea. When Trump was trading crude, back-alley swipes with “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un, about whose nuclear button was bigger, it sounded as if we were heading for a nuclear holocaust led by a pair of overgrown prepubescents. 

In fact, Trump’s bellicosity seems to have worked. It’s impossible to know how things will pan out, but the situation with North Korea today is a lot better than it was six months ago. …

 

Brooks closes with assurances he has not gone over to the dark side.  

… Please don’t take this as an endorsement of the Trump foreign policy. I’d feel a lot better if Trump showed some awareness of the complexity of the systems he’s disrupting, and the possibly cataclysmic unintended consequences. But there is some lizard wisdom here. The world is a lot more like the Atlantic City real estate market than the G.R.E.s.

  

 

Willie Brown, California Democrat grey beard, says if the Dems want to prevail in November, they better do more than bash the Trumpster.

It’s time for the Democrats to stop bashing President Trump.

It’s not going to be easy, given his policies and personality. It might even mean checking into a 12-step program. But setting a winning agenda is like maneuvering an aircraft carrier. It takes time to change course. And if they want to be on target for the November midterm elections, the Democrats need to start changing course now.

Like it or not, a significant number of Americans are actually happy these days. They are making money. They feel safe, and they agree with with the president’s protectionist trade policies, his call for more American jobs, even his immigration stance.

The jobs growth reports, the North Korea summit and the steady economy are beating out the Stormy Daniels scandal and the Robert Mueller investigation in Middle America, hands down. …

May 15, 2018 – MORE SCHADENFREUDE

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More on the collapse of the Hillary campaign as recounted by Amy Chozick in her new book Chasing Hillary. This time Vanity Fair has published a chapter from the book.  

“To our traveling press corps—Happy New Year!” the e-mail read. “For your safety and convenience we will be providing a bus that will begin in Davenport and transport press throughout the swing.”

It was the beginning of 2016, and the traveling Hillary Clinton press corps had finally gotten our bus—a glorious maroon Signature premium people carrier with TVs over every third row and boxed lunches and bottled water piled up on the front couple of rows, and power outlets under all our seats. For many of us, the arrival of the bus—parked on the frozen Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa—signified more than an end to speeding tickets and Avis points. We’d finally moved into our very own communal home, like a loft apartment on MTV’s Real World but with wheels. In the outside world, most of us wouldn’t have chosen to spend our time together and certainly not that much time together. But in our shared caravan, we were the Travelers. The bus marked the beginning of us becoming a rowdy, high-strung family forever bound by our bizarre lifestyles, unhealthy diets, and constant search for a power outlet.

The nine or so of us on that first bus trip wanted to mark the moment. We stood on our seats and squatted in the aisle to fit into a group photo. “Say, ‘I’m With Her!’” a young campaign staffer said. “Can you just take the picture?” one reporter replied. …

… call it a slap from the patriarchy or a stroke of bad luck, but by the time women reporters dominated Hillary’s press corps, Twitter and live-streaming and a (female) candidate who had zero interest in having a relationship with the press vastly diminished the campaign bus’s place in the media ecosystem. My colleagues at The New York Times, and reporters at other organizations, could cover a speech or a press conference (on the rare occasion those happened) while watching the livestream from their newsroom desks, where they’d have Wi-Fi and power and wouldn’t have to worry about waiting in line at a porta-potty on deadline or some fresh-faced campaign staffer yelling “loading!” right when you’re crafting the perfect nut graph. …

… Any haughtiness I had in working for the Times diminished during that first ride from Davenport, when, after about two hours and 35 minutes, I found myself somewhere on I-80 perched over the back of my seat pleading with the embeds to let me watch their video feed of Hillary’s town hall. Because Hillary preferred to fly to her events, the bus-bound Travelers couldn’t make it to the Cedar Rapids and Osage stops. Our only option was to live-stream Hillary’s Iowa events from the press bus in Iowa. Then, through a muffled intercom, the bus driver apologized. All I heard was, “So sorry, folks . . . gotta . . . generator . . . break . . .” The power and the Wi-Fi went out. We could live without Krispy Kreme donut holes and Chips Ahoy! snack packs. We could even hold our noses over the toilet that had long ago run out of anti-bacterial hand foam. But the prospect of losing Wi-Fi as Hillary carried on without us in Cedar Rapids pushed us over the edge. How would we explain to our editors that we’d allowed ourselves to be sequestered hundreds of miles from the candidate we were supposed to be obsessively covering? I imagined something terrible happening—a terrorist attack or an assassination attempt. My editors would pull me off the trail forever. I could hear the scorn: “You had one fucking job!” …

… Amid the traveling, we reverted to becoming tweens. The bus almost abandoned us in Vinton (pop. 5,257) after we couldn’t pull ourselves away from the Fast and the Furious arcade game at the roller-skating rink where Hillary spoke. She declared, “The entire country, indeed the entire world, is watching to see what happens right here in Benton County . . .” The entire world except the members of her traveling press, who were in the adjacent room locked in a heated game of Ms. Pac-Man. We established cliques, banishing newcomers to the Landfill, what we called the last row of seats between the bathroom and the trash. We started our periods at the same time and sang Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” on a loop. …

 

May 6, 2018 – STEWART v COMEY

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Now that we have a better understanding of James Comey and his career, Mary Katharine Ham thinks it’s time for Martha Stewart to be pardoned.

… If you ask an average American why Stewart went to jail, they’d probably tell you “insider trading.” In fact, that is not what brought her down. She was never charged with insider trading over the 2001 sale of ImClone stock that started the whole affair. She was charged with conspiring to lie about the crime with which she was never charged.

“Stewart has always asserted that she sold the stock because it fell below a ‘predetermined price [$60] at which she planned to sell,’” Slate reported. “The U.S. attorney, in contrast, alleges that Stewart sold because she heard that Sam Waksal, ImClone’s CEO, was trying to sell his own stock in the company. The alleged crimes, in any event, took place after the sale.”

That move, which she said she did on the advice of her broker, prevented a loss of about $45,000. The case for insider trading was weak, so the government went after her on more novel charges.

One was so novel it got tossed out by the judge. That particular legal theory was that because Stewart publicly professed her innocence of insider trading, she thereby propped up the value of her own company, with which her personal reputation was inextricably linked. That amounted to “securities fraud.”

There’s a reason “don’t make a federal case out of it” is a phrase for blowing something out of proportion, and this case is a perfect example. It shouldn’t have been a federal case, and Stewart shouldn’t have lost her freedom, her executive position, and a bunch of earning potential over it.

2. To Take A Swipe At Comey

Hey, we know what makes the guy tick. Guess who decided to go after Stewart on these charges when he was a federal prosecutor? James Comey. A pardon to Stewart would be a blow to Comey that is perfectly within Trump’s power and a much less controversial move than firing him was. …

 

Last June, Mollie Hemingway details the excesses of Comey’s career.

… Frank Quattrone

Let’s begin with the case of one Frank Quattrone, a banker who Comey pursued relentlessly on banking related charges without fruition. But while he couldn’t find any wrong-doing on criminal conduct, he went after him for supposed “obstruction of justice” because of a single ambiguous email. Sound familiar?

Before he was indicted, Comey made false statements about Quattrone and his intent. The first trial ended in a hung jury but the second one got a conviction.

That conviction was overturned in 2006. Quattrone was so scarred by the harassment, he began funding projects designed to help innocent people who are victims of prosecutorial overreach or other problems. He said his motivation for supporting such projects was that at the very moment he was found guilty in the second trial, he realized there must be innocent people in prisons who lacked the financial resources to fight for justice. He also started the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Quattrone has noted with interest the disparities in how he was treated by Comey for a single email compared to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server scandal.

 

Martha Stewart

You might remember Martha Stewart being sent to jail. You might not remember that James Comey was the man who put her there, and not because he was able to charge her for anything he began investigating her for. The original investigation was into whether Stewart had engaged in insider trading. They didn’t even try to get her on that charge. Gene Healy wrote about it in 2004, warning about federal prosecutorial overreach:

Comey didn’t charge Stewart with insider trading. Instead, he claimed that Stewart’s public protestations of innocence were designed to prop up the stock price of her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and thus constituted securities fraud. Stewart was also charged with making false statements to federal officials investigating the insider trading charge — a charge they never pursued. In essence, Stewart was prosecuted for “having misled people by denying having committed a crime with which she was not charged,” as Cato Institute Senior Fellow Alan Reynolds put it.

The pursuit was described as “vindictive” in the New York Times and “petty and vindictive” in The Daily Beast.

But she still served a five-month prison sentence. …

 

 

May 2, 2018 – SCHADENFREUDE

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Get ready for some schadenfreude. We entertain and inform with posts and articles on Amy Chozick’s book on Hillary’s campaign. You will learn more about the bullet our country dodged when HRC lost. First up is the blog – Ace of Spades.

The NYT reporter who covered Hillary for a decade, Amy Chozick, shares some insights into the woman who fell from grace stairs.

This from a Washington Post review of her book, Chasing Hillary.

She contends that sexism played a big role in Clinton’s defeat but also encounters it first-hand among Clinton’s campaign staff….

When Chozick zeroes in on Clinton and leaves herself out of it, she can be perceptive, pithy and surprising. On Clinton’s apparent disdain for the electoral process: “If there was a single unifying force behind her candidacy, it was her obvious desire to get the whole thing over with.” On Clinton’s ambition: “Her only clear vision of the presidency seemed to be herself in it.”

And even on Clinton’s proclivities: “For all the lesbian theories, Hillary enjoys nothing more than flirting with a handsome, preferably straight man.” (Despite aggressively questioning Clinton about her e-mails, Ed Henry became a favorite: “She would regularly look past her almost entirely female press corps to call on the Fox News correspondent, with his cherub cheeks and Pucci pocket squares.”) …

 

… The Daily Beast has another damning quote — “Basket of Deplorables” was no off-the-cuff line. Hillary routinely used it as a laugh line in big-money fundraising dinners in swank places like the Hamptons.

… That was no slip of the tongue, since “Hillary always broke down Trump supporters into three baskets,” Chozick writes.

“Basket #1: The Republicans who hated her and would vote Republican no matter who the nominee.

Basket #2: Voters whose jobs and livelihoods had disappeared, or as Hillary said, ‘who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens in their lives and their futures.’

Basket #3: The Deplorables. This basket includes ‘the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic–you name it.’

“The Deplorables always got a laugh, over living-room chats in the Hamptons, at dinner parties under the stars on Martha’s Vineyard, over passed hors d’oeuvres in Beverly Hills, and during sunset cocktails in Silicon Valley,” Chozick continues. …

  

 

Jim Treacher has more observations.

… Which brings me to Amy Chozick’s upcoming book, Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling. (A clumsy, cumbersome title for a clumsy, cumbersome subject.) Chozick was and is a Clinton cheerleader, but I’d like to thank her for serving my delicious, satisfying breakfast of schadenfreude this morning.

As Gideon Resnick’s review of the book in the Daily Beast notes, the Clinton campaign was delighted at the rise of the man who ended up beating her:

From early on, the Clinton camp saw Trump as an enemy to encourage, Chozick writes…

“An agenda for an upcoming campaign meeting sent by [Campaign Manager] Robby Mook’s office asked, ‘How do we maximize Trump?’” Chozick writes, describing a time when the GOP primary was still crowded…

[Chozick writes] “…when the main GOP debate came on, everyone pushed their pizza crust aside and stared transfixed at the TV set… [Campaign Manager] Robby [Mook] salivated when the debate came back on and Trump started to speak. ‘Shhhhh,’ Robby said, practically pressing his nose up to the TV. ‘I’ve gahtz to get me some Trump.’” …

 

John Nolte from Breitbart

In a tell-all released almost 18 months after the fact, New York Times reporter Amy Chozick has finally decided to inform the public that she and other female journalists dealt with unwanted touching and other forms of sexism at the hands of Hillary Clinton’s male campaign staffers.

Chozick was embedded into Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign for the Times, and from various reviews of the book, she sounds exactly like you expect a New York Times political reporter to sound: a left-wing neurotic currently feeling guilty about covering Clinton’s scandals and desperately needy for Hillary’s attention.

“I still wanted, more than anything, for Hillary to see me as a fair reporter,” Chozick writes. “She really, really hates me,” Chozick whines. “The less I interacted with Hillary,” Chozick admits, “the greater her imperial hold on my brain became.”

What also comes as no surprise is that, even as the media were assailing Trump as a sexist during the campaign, Chozick covered up the real-time sexism she and other so-called reporters personally faced from male Hillary staffers. …

… Does anyone doubt these acts of overt sexism were covered up by our media so as not to derail the attacks on Trump, so as not to remind the public of Hillary’s willingness to attach herself to men who treat women like meat? (See: Clinton, Bill and Weiner, Anthony.)

Does anyone believe these same so-called reporters would have kept all of this a secret if a Republican staffer engaged in unwanted touching or got “gynecological”?

Our media are so corrupt, this information (which directly reflected on Hillary’s judgment and leadership) was not only kept a secret until it no longer mattered; Chozick is admitting she kept it a secret without fear of facing criticism from her peers.

  

 

In the Examiner we learn of John Podesta’s lax security.

… Near the end of an essay published Friday , New York Times writer Amy Chozick reveals something she claims to have never told anybody before while covering the Clinton campaign.

“I never told anyone this, but one time when I’d been visiting the Brooklyn campaign headquarters I found an iPhone in the women’s room,” Chozick wrote in the piece adapted from her forthcoming book, “Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling.” “I wasn’t sure, but it seemed to belong to Mr. Podesta’s assistant because when I picked it up, a flood of calendar alerts for him popped up.” 

She was referring to John Podesta, who served as chairman of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

After inspecting the device, Chozick claims she left it in the restroom and didn’t share her finding for fear of retribution.

“I placed it on the sink counter, went into the stall, came out and washed my hands. I left the phone sitting there, worried that if I turned it in, even touched it again, aides would think I had snooped. This seemed a violation that would at best get my invitation to the headquarters rescinded and at worst get me booted off the beat for unethical behavior,” she wrote. …

  

 

Kyle Smith in National Review has some posts on the Chozick book. 

Anyone harboring suspicions that political reporters covering the 2016 campaigns might not have been entirely neutral has just received damning, indeed overwhelming, evidence from an unexpected source: a reporter covering Clinton’s 2016 campaign for the New York Times.

Amy Chozick, the Times’ Hillary embed in 2016, confesses in her new book Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling that she cried when she wrote about Clinton’s defeat, that she had been “an admirer . . . chasing this luminous figure” since meeting Clinton as an awed child at a signing event for It Takes a Village, …

  

 

More from Kyle Smith.

A curious dualism emerges in New York Times reporter Amy Chozick’s book Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling. As I noted yesterday, Chozick makes it clear that she was rooting for Clinton. But she also thinks Clinton hates her.

Chozick shouldn’t take things so personally: Clinton hates everyone. You can’t relate to people you despise. Her inability to master the basics of being a politician inspired one of the great underreported witticisms of the 2016 campaign, when Donald Trump was asked about his comparatively loose debate preparations. “I don’t need to rehearse being human,” he said. 

As a college sophomore, Clinton once described herself as a “misanthrope.” Her inability to hide that made her an amazingly poor candidate, one who would have had difficulty capturing a seat on any city council on her own. Dealing with the populace standing between her and power was never anything but a chore.

Chozick and the other reporters covering Clinton in 2015–16 were pulling for her. You could hear it in the questions they asked. Chozick makes it obvious in her new book. Yet Clinton was convinced this gaggle of liberal women was somehow out to take her down, and she barricaded herself off from them. She was a glum loner, not a happy warrior.

After the election defeat, Chozick met with a Democratic-party stalwart who was a major Clinton supporter in an apartment with a panoramic view of Manhattan and walls covered with Monets. (Chozick doesn’t identify this person.) “Look around,” the big shot told the reporter. “I’m not a loser. Hillary is a L-O-S-E-R.” Then the person made an L sign with one hand. …

… As for larger strategic moves, Chozick notes dryly of a March excursion, “That was Hillary’s last trip to Wisconsin.” Team Clinton in its waning days was spending money in Utah, Indiana, Missouri, Arizona, and even Texas while the Upper Midwest was begging for more resources. Bill Clinton was meanwhile going “red in the face” warning his wife’s team “that Trump had a shrewd understanding . . . of the white working class,” Chozick says. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, responded by spoofing Bill behind his back, as one would Grandpa Simpson: “And let me tell you another thing about the white working class,” he’d say, mockingly.

Clinton mangles the easiest bits of politicking: After voting in Chappaqua in the New York primary, reporters toss the usual softballs (“Secretary! How are you feeling about tonight?”) and she snaps, “Guys, it’s a private ballot” and “Can we get the press out of here, please?” Later, Chozick adds, “Hillary was still following the Mitt Romney Playbook, not realizing that she was the Romney in the race.” On the stump, Clinton wouldn’t stop talking about how much she loved Hamilton, as though the median voter were a New Yorker who could afford to spend a couple of thousand bucks on an evening’s entertainment.

Bill Clinton’s instincts turned out to be absolutely correct, and he had a typically folksy and endearing way of explaining what was happening in America in 2016. He’d tell people that there’s a Zulu greeting that goes, “I see you,” to which the response is, “I am here.” Clinton knew a lot of people thought Trump saw them. Hillary couldn’t stand even glancing in their direction.

  

 

We’ll close with Power Line’s take.

… The parts of the book that I read reveal that Chozick was a Hillary fan. She met Hillary when she was a high schooler in San Antonio and has been an admirer ever since.

She referred to Hillary as FWP (first woman president). Chozick and her fellow female reporters on the press bus were fully invested in the Hillary candidacy as a historic event for all women. They were of the same school as Madeleine Albright holding that it was a woman’s duty as a woman to vote for Madam Hillary. In her spiked victory story she wrote, “No one in modern politics, male or female, has had to withstand more indignities, setbacks and cynicism.” While Hillary deserved every bit of the little grief she got, how could Chozick write that line in light of what Donald Trump endured daily on the campaign trail? Two movies on one screen.

On the same page in which Chozik describes herself as having adopted her “role as a detached political reporter” she emotes how Hillary’s victory party “was ours.” This is what Trump’s Fake News is all about: media people claiming to be fair and neutral observers while overtly and covertly cheering for one team in the press box.

 

 

April 29, 2018 – EARTH DAY

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We just had another Earth Day. This foolishness dates back to 1970. For our entertainment, Freedom Works lists the 13 worst predictions made on that first earth day.

… In 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated — okay, “celebrated” doesn’t capture the funereal tone of the event. The events (organized in part by then hippie and now convicted murderer Ira Einhorn) predicted death, destruction and disease unless we did exactly as progressives commanded. 

Behold the coming apocalypse as predicted on and around Earth Day, 1970:

1. “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”  — Harvard biologist George Wald 

2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — WashingtonUniversity biologist Barry Commoner 

3. “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial 

4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — StanfordUniversity biologist Paul Ehrlich …

  

 

There were many mentions of Paul Ehrlich in the above collection of bogus earth day predictions. So we have more on him. Even the NY Times figured out the fraud of Paul Ehrlich says Jonathan Last. But, Mr. Last says Ehrlich is even worse then the Times knows. All of this is from June three years ago, but it is germane to today’s posts. And it is not the last word.

Everyone is talking about the New York Times piece exposing how utterly wrong, willfully blind, and insanely dangerous Paul Ehrlich is, and has been, for the last forty-seven years. There’s video, too.

This is great, I guess.

Of course, it’s been obvious that Ehrlich was not just misguided, but an actual charlatan, since the 1970s. The late economist Julian Simon spent most of his career exposing Ehrlich’s errors. You may remember the Ehrlich-Simon wager. In 1980, Simon bet Ehrlich $1,000 that over the course of the following decade the price of a basket of commodities—any resources Ehrlich chose—would drop, as proof that Ehrlich’s ravings about the relationship of population to scarcity was wrong.

Simon was correct. Ten years later Ehrlich sent him a check, with no note. Never prone to either civility or introspection—he frequently called people he disagreed with “fools,” “idiots,” “clowns,” and worse—Ehrlich later told the Wall Street Journal, “If Simon disappeared from the face of the Earth, that would be great for humanity.” Hell of a guy.

Other people caught on to Ehrlich over the years. In her book about sex-selective abortion, Mara Hvistendahl has a long, devastating interview with Ehrlich in which she probes his errors, pushes him for accountability, and reveals him to be a doddering, foolish, old man wedded to a political ideology and with no interest in science, demographics, or even basic math. And Hvistendahl is a progressive feminist in good standing. (I spent a good deal of time on Ehrlich in my book on demographics, too.) …

 

 

 

Ehrlich recently ranted some more in a Manchester Guardian interview. Real Clear Science responds. 

Do you see yourself as a worthless cockroach contributing to the collapse of human civilization? Probably not, but Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich thinks precisely that about you.

Fifty years ago, he published arguably the worst book ever written, The Population Bomb, which declared tin Seattle about the benefits of GMOs. One person in the audience expressed concern that GMOs were simply helping to “feed the monster” — that is, the “monster” known as hungry people in poor parts of the world. Though she didn’t verbalize it, her words were clear: The world would be better off if poor people (mostly brown and black, I might add) in distant lands weren’t given any food. Starve the monster.

This appalling attitude is surprisingly common in allegedly compassionate cities like Seattle. And the book that gives this openly misanthropic, vaguely genocidal belief a veneer of academic credibility is The Population Bomb. …hat human overpopulation would cause mass starvation. Instead, the Green Revolution (led in part by ACSH co-founder Norman Borlaug) caused global food production to explode, and the world population more than doubled from 3.5 billion in 1968 to 7.6 billion today.

The reason The Population Bomb was so terrible is not because its predictions were wrong; most scientists make incorrect predictions. No, the book is terrible because of how it made people in the developed world feel about people in the developing world. A short anecdote, which I described for Forbes, illustrates my point.

Several years ago, I gave a talk in Seattle about the benefits of GMOs. One person in the audience expressed concern that GMOs were simply helping to “feed the monster” — that is, the “monster” known as hungry people in poor parts of the world. Though she didn’t verbalize it, her words were clear: The world would be better off if poor people (mostly brown and black, I might add) in distant lands weren’t given any food. Starve the monster.

This appalling attitude is surprisingly common in allegedly compassionate cities like Seattle. And the book that gives this openly misanthropic, vaguely genocidal belief a veneer of academic credibility is The Population Bomb. …

  

 

Another adherent of this type of thinking, John Holdren, ended up being obama’s science advisor. Holdren helped set up the bet Ehrlich lost to Julian Simon. Trump’s predecessor had a talent for filling his administration with hopeless ideologues. Here’s some items from Holdren’s Wiki entry.

Overpopulation was an early concern and interest. In a 1969 article, Holdren and co-author Paul R. Ehrlich argued, “if the population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.”

In 1973, Holdren encouraged a decline in fertility to well below replacement in the United States, because “210 million now is too many and 280 million in 2040 is likely to be much too many. …

… Holdren was involved in the famous Simon–Ehrlich wager in 1980. He, along with two other scientists helped Paul R. Ehrlich establish the bet with Julian Simon, in which they bet that the price of five key metals would be higher in 1990. The bet was centered around a disagreement concerning the future scarcity of resources in an increasingly polluted and heavily populated world. Ehrlich and Holdren lost the bet, when the price of metals had decreased by 1990. …

 

 

 

April 22, 2018 – SEC STATE

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A couple of items concerning Trump and his Secretaries of State have appeared. They shine some light on DC’s swamp. David Goldman in Pajamas Media is first. 

… The whole preposterous allegation that Trump somehow colluded with Russia is designed to sabotage diplomacy between Washington and Moscow.

To reiterate my own longstanding view: Russia is a nasty place and Vladimir Putin is a nasty man, of the ilk that always has ruled Russia, a country where nobody talks about Ivan the Reasonable. On my Ogre-ometer, Putin barely registers a 1.9 against Stalin’s 9.8. Russia is NOT our friend and NOT a prospective ally. But we have two choices. One is to attempt to bring Putin down and bring in a government we like, and the other is to strike a deal with Putin that we can live with. The first is delusional, but pervasive in a foreign policy establishment that still believes that we can reshape the world in America’s image. If you don’t believe that the foreign policy establishment is that crazy, please read my review of Condoleezza Rice’s new book, Democracy, in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books. Rice foisted Rex Tillerson on an unsuspecting Trump as a “Texas oilman” rather than as a cut-out for the George W. Bush wing of the Republican Party.

The utopian wing of the Republican Party (George W. Bush, Condi Rice, McCain&Graham, Mitt Romney) have an objective: Isolate, weaken and destabilize Russia with the ultimate goal of regime change. That will simply push Russia closer to China, Russia’s biggest customer for oil and gas, and cement a Eurasian alliance hostile to the United States. It will also encourage Russia to act as a spoiler in the Middle East.

The alternative is to reach some sort of agreement with Russia (and China) which serves our basic interests and gives our competitors something in return. I sketched the parameters of a prospective agreement in a Dec. 17, 2016 essay for Asia Times, “How the US Should Engage Russia and China.” That is what President Trump wants to do, according to numerous media reports, but the foreign policy establishment is doing everything in its power to prevent him from doing so. …

… Without knowing the details of the national security meetings at the White House during the past several months, I can’t judge the details, but it seems clear that President Trump personally overruled his advisers and decided on his own not to impose new sanctions on Russia. His instincts are exactly right. Whether he has a team willing to act on his instincts is another matter.

Ultimately American power depends on technological dominance. President Trump is the first American president ever to recognize the strategic threat posed by China. But his Administration has done little to restore American supremacy in technology, as I argued in a recent address to Hillsdale College.

 

 

Matthew Continetti writes on the Dem refusal to confirm Pompeo as Secretary.

What on earth are the Democrats doing? President Trump has nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo, eminently qualified by any reasonable standard, to be America’s seventieth secretary of state. And yet the Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, have perverted the advice and consent clause of the Constitution into a license to obstruct this solid nominee for one of the most important cabinet offices. The Democratic rationales for opposition are neither consistent nor compelling. But the party is heedlessly and recklessly trying to capsize the nomination anyway, without giving second thought to the potential consequences of its actions. If this doesn’t count as a symptom of Trump derangement syndrome, I don’t know what does.

In the coming months, President Trump will have to deal with the fallout from his strike on Syria, the growing conflict between Israel and Iran, the future of the Iran nuclear agreement, Chinese belligerence toward Taiwan, the planned summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and whatever unexpected international crises that erupt. Even if you accept the critique of Trump as someone who has no fixed worldview, little in the way of principle, and is dangerously enamored of the “madman” theory of strategic ambiguity, you would therefore want him, it seems to me, to be surrounded by personnel who are experienced, knowledgeable, capable, and steadfast—individuals who can serve as ballast, who can tether the president to geopolitical reality.

The slightest glance at Pompeo’s official biography is enough to confirm that he is such a man. How many senators, Republican or Democrat, graduated at the top of their class at West Point, served as a cavalry officer, graduated from Harvard Law School and edited the Harvard Law Review, then went on to become a successful businessman? These are precisely the qualities that led the Senate in January 2017 to confirm Pompeo as CIA director in a bipartisan 66-32 vote. …

… More likely, Trump, as he has done in other areas of the bureaucracy for the last 16 months, won’t nominate anyone at all. He will leave the office of secretary of state unfilled while he and Pompeo manage diplomacy from the Oval Office and Langley, respectively. What this scenario achieves for the Democrats or the country, I do not know.

Perhaps the Democratic game plan is to make it impossible for Trump to govern in any capacity until the Democrats control Congress in January 2019. But that strategy assumes an awful lot, as well. Say the Democrats win the House but not the Senate, where the opposition faces tougher odds. With McConnell in control, Trump could recess appoint a secretary of state until the end of his term. Maybe it would be Pompeo. Or maybe it would be someone who offends progressive sensibilities even more.

“Secretary of State John Bolton” sure has a ring to it.

 

 

April 20, 2018 – TRUMP’S FP TRIUMPHS

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Roger Simon says Trump is vastly better at foreign policy than his poseur predecessor.

Now that we have learned CIA director and secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jung Un over Easter, it is time to acknowledge the obvious:  the foreign policy of political novice Donald Trump has been vastly more successful that that of the supposedly experienced Barack Obama.

And vastly is an understatement.  Obama’s foreign policy was a disaster, beginning with the peculiar apology tour that mystified much of its Middle Eastern audience, through the yet more peculiar (misspelled) reset button with Russia that further mystified Sergei Lavrov, on to Obama’s overheard whisper to Medvedev telling Putin he would be more accommodating on missile defense after the election (imagine the apoplectic reaction of our media if Trump did that!), to the Libyan war leading to the assassination of Qaddafi (the only Arab leader to voluntarily denuclearize) that created a failed state and a raft of refugees to Italy and elsewhere, and, of course, the rapid exit from Iraq that gave rise to ISIS. 

And this omits the equally egregious examples — the failure to enforce the red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, …

… Not even Jimmy Carter had that bad a record. And this is without Obama’s sickening lack of response to the freedom demonstrators in Iran. (“Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?”  Well, we know.) …

 

Victor Davis Hanson has more on Trump’s triumphs in foreign policy. 

The proverbial knot of Gordium was impossible to untie. Anyone clever enough to untie it would supposedly become the king of Asia. Many princes tried; all failed.

When Alexander the Great arrived, he was challenged to unravel the impossible knot. Instead, he pulled out his sword and cut through it. Problem solved.

Donald Trump inherited an array of perennial crises when he was sworn in as president in 2017. He certainly did not possess the traditional diplomatic skills and temperament to deal with any of them. …

… Knot cutters may not know how to untie knots. But by the same token, those who struggle to untie knots also do not know how to cut them.

And sometimes knots can only be cut — even as we recoil at the brash Alexanders who won’t play by traditional rules and instead dare to pull out their swords.

  

Matthew Continetti writes on one specific problem created by obama’s feckless weakness. 

April 7 (this year), Syrian government forces, backed by Russia and Iran, used chemical weapons to attack the population of Douma, a rebel-held town in the hotly contested province of Eastern Ghouta. Dozens of men, women, and children were killed, and many more were made grievously ill.

I spent a few hours after the attack rereading the ludicrous coverage that greeted President Obama’s announcement in 2013 that, rather than take military action, he had entered into an agreement with the Russians to remove and destroy Assad’s chemical stockpiles. The Obama administration knew at the time that the deal would leave Assad plenty of armaments, but officials were happy nevertheless to make statements that left the public with a different and mistaken impression. These statements were often lawyerly, sophistic, and deceptive, using weasel-phrases like “declared chemical weapons.” They assumed that the everyday voter would not recognize that the word “declared” signified a loophole Assad could drive a tank through.

Let’s remind them. …

 

 

February 21, 2018 – OLYMPICS

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Mark Rippetoe says it’s time to stop the olympic games. 

The Olympics has turned from a celebration of human physical performance that once transcended global politics and popular culture into a propaganda event for the dominant interpretation of global politics and popular culture. It is no longer about athletics and who wins the athletic competition – it is now concerned with shaping our perceptions of what it means to compete with each other, and why we probably shouldn’t celebrate winning at all. It has become an embarrassing mess for the entire human race, and it’s time to stop wasting resources, time, and attention span on it.

There are two distinct problems: the Games themselves, and the media coverage of the Games, which shapes the public’s perception of everything about them. …

… NBC Sports, the de facto owner of the Olympic Games, just doesn’t include the “testosterone” sports in their coverage – unless there is a severe injury that looks very bad (good) on TV. Swimming is fine (no hairy men), all women’s sports are fine (no hairy men), gymnastics, ditto (basically a children’s sport), skiing is okay (hair doesn’t show through lycra), and the equestrian events are just fine (horses are innocent even if hairy). …

… But even more offensive to sensible people everywhere is the abject silliness of the media coverage of the Olympic Games. The focus of the coverage has shifted from the sports and the athletes’ performances to the human interest stories that are, at best, extremely peripheral to the contests. My impression, and probably yours too, is that NBC Sports is far more concerned about the uplifting story of the athlete’s mother who overcame cancer, the athlete’s brother who is overcoming a learning disability, the athlete’s gender-fluid husband who is overcoming workplace discrimination, or the athlete’s dog who was just yesterday hit by a gas-guzzling SUV driven by a White Man who was on his way to the Board of Directors meeting of a Private Company that contributes to Global Warming than about the athlete’s performance in the sport it is ostensibly covering. …

 

 

Matthew Continetti has more on the loathsome media coverage of the games.

A few days before the Winter Olympics, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un announced that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, would travel to South Korea as part of his official delegation. Never in the 65 years since the Korean War has a member of the ruling family visited South Korea, which made Kim’s journey a historic and newsworthy event. If only the coverage of Kim, a member of the North Korean Politburo and a minister of propaganda, had treated her with the appropriate moral and intellectual seriousness and detachment.

Yeah, right.

What we got instead was a combination of celebrity puffery and partisan cheap shots at the Trump administration. …

… A representative example was written by no less than seven CNN reporters and researchers who concluded, “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” The lead of this news article—I repeat, news article—was the following: “If ‘diplomatic dance’ were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister would be favored to win gold.” Gag me.

Then the authors let loose this howler: “Seen by some as her brother’s answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump, Kim, 30, is not only a powerful member of Kim Jong Un’s kitchen cabinet but also a foil to the perception of North Korea as antiquated and militaristic.” Kim’s “Kitchen Cabinet”—why, he’s just like Andrew Jackson. And how could anyone have the “perception” that North Korea is “antiquated” and “militaristic”? Sure, they might threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. But have you seen Donald Trump’s latest tweet?New York Times reporters are either smarter or more efficient than their peers at CNN, because it took only two of them to write “Kim Jong-Un’s sister turns on the charm, taking Pence’s spotlight.” …

… What most disturbed me was the difference in coverage of Kim Yo Jong and Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto died last year after being tortured and held captive in North Korea. Fred Warmbier accompanied Pence to the Olympics as a reminder of the North’s inhumanity and menace. Journalists ignored, dismissed, and even criticized this grieving man. Among many examples of thoughtlessness and callousness was a Politico tweet that read: “Fred Warmbier criticizes North Korean Olympic spirit.” He must have missed Kim’s freckles. …

 

 

Nothing sums up the shallow nature of the olympics better than Ester Ledecka’s surprise gold medal. She’s a snowboarder and borrowed skis for a slalom event which she won. She did the interview with her googles on. And why you ask? Is she shy? Nope, it was because she did not expect to place well so, before the event she didn’t put on any make up. You can’t make it up!

 

 

February 1, 2018 – THE FBI OF MUELLER & COMEY

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Today’s focus is on problems at the senior levels of the FBI. The agency has 35,000 employees and a nine billion dollar budget. Robert Mueller was director from 2001 to 2013. James Comey followed until dismissed in 2017. So, we can call it the Mueller/Comey FBI Because they put in place, or maintained, the senior agents at headquarters. With so many employees, it is doubtful these men had a large effect on the foot soldiers of the agency; the women and men who do the real nitty gritty work and probably are dismayed at the revelations of the conduct of senior staff. We know that Bob Mueller was so taken with Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that he took them with him when he was appointed to lead the investigation of Trump and his minions concerning Russian interference in our election. Of the 16 lawyers Mueller took with him, nine made donations to democrats. The other seven gave no political donations 

Then when the Strzok/Page indiscretions were uncovered, he quietly removed them from the investigation but allowed them to resume their careers at the FBI. When the story broke, and only then, did Mueller fess up to what he had done with the FBI miscreants. 

These are not the actions of an honest broker.

 

We open with Victor Davis Hanson who claims Hillary’s sure victory explains a lot of the conduct of the FBI senior staffers. 

… The traditional way of looking at the developing scandals at the FBI and among holdover Obama appointees in the DOJ is that the bizarre atmospherics from candidate and President Trump have simply polarized everyone in Washington, and no one quite knows what is going on.

Another, more helpful, exegesis, however, is to understand that if we’d seen a Hillary Clinton victory in November 2016, which was supposed to be a sure thing, there would now be no scandals at all.

That is, the current players probably broke laws and committed ethical violations not just because they were assured there would be no consequences but also because they thought they’d be rewarded for their laxity. …

… Hillary Clinton herself was not worried about even the appearance of scandal caused by transmitting classified documents over a private home-brewed server, or enabling her husband to shake down foreign donations to their shared foundation, or destroying some 30,000 emails. Evidently, she instead reasoned that she was within months of becoming President Hillary Clinton and therefore, in her Clintonesque view of the presidency, exempt from all further criminal exposure. Would a President Clinton have allowed the FBI to reopen their strangely aborted Uranium One investigation; would the FBI have asked her whether she communicated over an unsecure server with the former president of the United States?

Former attorney general Loretta Lynch, in unethical fashion, met on an out-of-the-way Phoenix tarmac with Bill Clinton, in a likely effort to find the most efficacious ways to communicate that the ongoing email scandal and investigation would not harm Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. When caught, thanks to local-news reporters who happened to be at the airport, Lynch sort of, kind of recused herself. But, in fact, at some point she had ordered James Comey not to use the word “investigation” in his periodic press announcements about the FBI investigation.

How could Lynch in the middle of an election have been so silly as to allow even the appearance of impropriety? Answer: There would have been no impropriety had Hillary won — an assumption reflected in the Page-Strzok text trove when Page texted, about Lynch, “She knows no charges will be brought.” In fact, after a Clinton victory, Lynch’s obsequiousness in devising such a clandestine meeting with Bill Clinton may well have been rewarded: Clinton allies leaked to the New York Times that Clinton was considering keeping Lynch on as the attorney general.

How could former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe assume an oversight role in the FBI probe of the Clinton email scandal when just months earlier his spouse had run for state office in Virginia and had received a huge $450,000 cash donation from Common Good VA, the political-action committee of long-time Clinton-intimate Terry McAuliffe?

Again, the answer was clear. McCabe assumed that Clinton would easily win the election. Far from being a scandal, McCabe’s not “loaded for bear” oversight of the investigation, in the world of beltway maneuvering, would have been a good argument for a promotion in the new Clinton administration. Most elite bureaucrats understood the Clinton way of doing business, in which loyalty, not legality, is what earned career advancement. …

… A final paradox: Why did so many federal officials and officeholders act so unethically and likely illegally when they were convinced of a Clinton landslide? Why the overkill?

The answer to that paradox lies in human nature and can be explored through the hubris and nemesis of Greek tragedy — or the 1972 petty burgling of a Watergate complex apartment when Richard Nixon really was on his way to a landslide victory.

Needlessly weaponizing the Obama FBI and the DOJ was akin to Hillary Clinton’s insanely campaigning in the last days of the 2016 campaign in red-state Arizona, the supposed “cherry atop a pleasing electoral map.”

In short, such hubris was not just what Peter Strzok in August 2016 termed an “insurance policy” against an unlikely Trump victory. Instead, the Clinton and Obama officials believed that it was within the administrative state’s grasp and their perceived political interest not just to beat but to destroy and humiliate Donald Trump — and by extension all the distasteful deplorables and irredeemables he supposedly had galvanized.

 

 

Roger Simon on what do we do about the FBI?

Suppose what many are now suspecting is completely true — that the FBI, or parts of it, exonerated Hillary Clinton and her cohorts with a mock investigation, attempted to swing our presidential election against Donald Trump and then continued to undermine the new administration after they had won with illegitimate claims of Russian collusion orchestrated by sleazy political lowlifes?

While this is not quite Stalinist — no one was tortured in Lubyanka or sent to the Gulag for life — it’s not all that distant. It’s tantamount to an internal coup d’état that is still ongoing. And just as in many coups throughout history, many of the participants are convinced they are doing the right thing, that they are on the side of justice, even though they are bending it, especially because they are bending it. The ends justify the means, as the old homicidal slogan goes.

Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — that low-rent Hero and Leander of the Beltway — certainly believed that. You know that from the contents of their compulsive text messages even though five key months are suddenly “missing.” The inside of the FBI, particularly at the higher reaches, seems to have been filled with a band of smug, self-righteous ideologues who would do anything, erase or rephrase anything, to get their way.  And then lie about it.  Either that or quote scripture.  Or form “secret societies.” 

Or just cover up, as Robert Mueller did when Strzok and Page were caught, literally and ideologically, with their pants down.  He simply shipped them off Soviet-style to FBI Siberia, not saying a word to the public, hoping no one would notice, hoping it would be ignored that those “secret societies” and “insurance policies” they referred to smack of exactly the kind of behavior that would open one to RICO charges in a normal FBI investigation. This coverup only came out by accident months later. …

… One way of reading all this is that, despite the obvious political biases of these officials, the FBI acted impartially when it came to investigating Trump, did everything on the up and up when it came to wiretapping his campaign, and suffered an innocent technical problem that erased exchanges between two key officials. 

Another way of reading this is that corrupt FBI officials used the immense power at their disposal to illegally eavesdrop on private citizens, fuel a costly and bogus investigation into Trump — while giving Hillary Clinton a free pass on her own scandals — and then tried to keep these machinations under wraps. 

We are not conspiracy-mongers here. And we, like everyone in the country, want to be able to trust that our federal law enforcement officials aren’t serving as political pawns. 

But the facts keep pointing to the latter interpretation.

  

 

The editors at Investor’s Business Daily weigh in.

First there is the memo circulating among lawmakers on Capitol Hill regarding how the FBI went about obtaining its warrants to wiretap Trump campaign officials during the campaign. 

The speculation is that the memo — drafted by the House Intelligence Committee — will confirm what many already suspect, that the FBI used a phony “dossier” — which was nothing more than a factually challenged compilation of gossip and innuendo secretly financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — to get those warrants. 

To hear from House Republicans who’ve seen it, the memo is explosive. …

 

Mollie Hemingway reports how the FBI can create a negative Trump administration story while offering another pretense. This one is by Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the agency. Seems a story broke that claimed Trump officials had many contacts with Russian officials. McCabe called Reince Priebus asking to see him.

… McCabe claimed to want Priebus to know the FBI’s perspective that this story was not true. Priebus pointed to the televisions that were going non-stop on the story. He asked if the FBI could say publicly what he had just told him. McCabe said he’d have to check, according to the book.

McCabe reportedly called back and said he couldn’t do anything about it. Then-FBI director James Comey reportedly called later and also said he couldn’t do anything, but did offer to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter later that week, suggesting they’d spill the beans publicly. You’ll never guess what happened next, according to the book:

“Now, a week later, CNN was airing a breaking news story naming Priebus. According to ‘multiple U.S. officials,’ the network said, ‘the FBI rejected a White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.’”

Priebus was stunned by the implication that he was pressuring law enforcement. Had he been set up? Why was the FBI leaking this information when one of its top officials had initiated the conversation? …

 

 

January 27, 2018 – GROWTH, NOT EQUALITY

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One year into the Trump era, there begins to be ample evidence we’re seeing a sea change in American politics. The equality agenda of his predecessor has given way to a true growth agenda. The election was such a near thing, it brings to mind a quote mis-attributed to Otto von Bismarck; ”There is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United of America.” But for a few votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the country could have continued the obama decline or worse.

Our last two posts on Iran and the shutdown have compared and contrasted the Trump administration with its predecessor. And we continue in that vein today with a City Journal essay by Amity Shlaes on the two paths government might pursue; equality or growth. It is long (4,000+ words) and a bit dense but worth our time as Ms. Shlaes provides an overview of the last 100 years of American economic policy.

 

Free marketeers may sometimes win elections, but they are not winning U.S. history. In recent years, the consensus regarding the American past has slipped leftward, and then leftward again. No longer is American history a story of opportunity, or of military or domestic triumph. Ours has become, rather, a story of wrongs, racial and social. Today, any historical figure who failed at any time to support abolition, or, worse, took the Confederate side in the Civil War, must be expunged from history. Wrongs must be righted, and equality of result enforced.

The equality campaign spills over into a less obvious field, one that might otherwise provide a useful check upon the nonempirical claims of the humanities: economics. In a discipline that once showcased the power of markets, an axiom is taking hold: equal incomes lead to general prosperity and point toward utopia. …

… The redistributionist impulse has brought to the fore metrics such as the Gini coefficient, named after the ur-redistributor, Corrado Gini, an Italian social scientist who developed an early statistical measure of income distribution a century ago. A society where a single plutocrat earns all the income ranks a pure “1″ on the Gini scale; one in which all earnings are perfectly equally distributed, the old Scandinavian ideal, scores a “0″ by the Gini test. The Gini Index has been renamed or updated numerous times, but the principle remains the same. Income distribution and redistribution seem so crucial to progressives that French economist Thomas Piketty built an international bestseller around it, the wildly lauded Capital.

Through Gini’s lens, we now rank past eras. Decades in which policy endeavored or managed to even out and equalize earnings—the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt, the 1960s under Lyndon Johnson—score high. Decades where policymakers focused on growth before equality, such as the 1920s, fare poorly. … … Lately, advocates of economically progressive history have made taking any position other than theirs a dangerous practice. Academic culture longs to topple the idols of markets, just as it longs to topple statutes of Robert E. Lee.

But progressives have their metrics wrong and their story backward. The geeky Gini metric fails to capture the American economic dynamic: in our country, innovative bursts lead to great wealth, which then moves to the rest of the population. Equality campaigns don’t lead automatically to prosperity; instead, prosperity leads to a higher standard of living and, eventually, in democracies, to greater equality. The late Simon Kuznets, who posited that societies that grow economically eventually become more equal, was right: growth cannot be assumed. Prioritizing equality over markets and growth hurts markets and growth and, most important, the low earners for whom social-justice advocates claim to fight. Government debt matters as well. Those who ring the equality theme so loudly deprive their own constituents, whose goals are usually much more concrete: educational opportunity, homes, better electronics, and, most of all, jobs. Translated into policy, the equality impulse takes our future hostage. …

… The modern American economic story starts with the 1920s, a decade worth dwelling on at some length because of the stunning evidence that it offers of growth’s power. …

… Several features of the 1920s events deserve note. The first is the unapologetic tone of the pro-markets campaign. The leaders ignored their own Pikettys, and prevailed: in the 1924 presidential campaign, the Progressive La Follette did take a disruptive 16.6 percent of the vote. But the “icy,” pro-business Coolidge took an absolute majority, beating La Follette and the Democratic candidate combined. Second, the tax-cutters did not back down—though several rounds of legislation were necessary. Third, and most important, the tax cuts worked—the government did draw more revenue than predicted, as business, relieved, revived. The rich earned more than the rest—the Gini coefficient rose—but when it came to tax payments, something interesting happened. The Statistics of Income, the Treasury’s database, showed that the rich now paid a greater share of all taxes. Tax cuts for the rich made the rich pay taxes. …

… The 1930s tell the opposite story. …

… When Franklin Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, the New York governor sent an even clearer signal that in his presidency, equality would come first. “The philosophy of social justice through social action calls definitely, plainly, for the reduction of poverty,” said FDR in a campaign speech in Detroit. “If poverty is to be prevented, we require a broad program of social justice.” Concluded FDR: “Justice is the first law we seek.” Roosevelt cited clergymen in support of the shift, including a statement by the Federal Council of Churches of Christ that got in the requisite dig against wealth: “It is not denied that many persons of wealth are rendering a great service to society. It is only suggested that the wealthy are overpaid in sharp contrast with the underpaid masses of the people.” Roosevelt also quoted a rabbi who made the human-justice priority even more bluntly: “We talk of the stabilization of business. What we need is the stabilization of human justice and happiness.” …

… Only when U.S. leaders turned to three areas that had been essential in the past—income taxes, the capital-gains tax, and patents—did a turnaround become possible. In 1978, Congress, led by Representative William Steiger of Wisconsin, cut the capital-gains rate in half, albeit with resistance from the redistributionist president, Jimmy Carter, who called the cut “a huge tax windfall for millionaires.” In some cases, the capital-gains rate was even lower—”Is a capital gains rate of 17.5 percent unfair?” asked the Washington Post. Yes, thought the paper’s editors. Nonetheless, the country saw the opportunity in lower rates and elected Ronald Reagan. Reagan followed up with a series of tax cuts that brought the top rate on the income tax down to a Coolidge-esque 28 percent. Less known, and also influential, was a law that Senators Birch Bayh and Robert Dole sponsored in 1980 to give scientists and inventors, or their universities, ownership of patents for their inventions. Bayh-Dole, as the patent law is known, caused patent applications to increase and venture capital to explode, powering the Silicon Valley expansion. As economist Larry Lindsey showed, the results of the 1920s repeated themselves. After the Reagan tax cuts, the government saw greater revenues than paper arithmetic had predicted. …

… As if American evidence of the price of envy weren’t enough, Europe presents a corollary story. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, social democracies in Europe, established with the encouragement and support of Washington, boasted Gini coefficients that U.S. redistributionists could only dream about. But their spending nearly brought European nations down. In the 1980s, Europe was equal but broke. Only a feisty, pro-growth rebellion in Britain, and quieter revolutions in Scandinavia and Germany, made stronger growth, and more general prosperity, possible again. …

… A real push is also necessary in the economics trade itself. Members of the guild of Ph.D. economists have little motive to do anything but build on or update Keynesianism, revise Gini, or gild Piketty’s lily. The most important step to put markets where they belong—in first place in the economic discussion—is to establish incentives that would make economists want to report the whole truth about the past. One example is the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Book Prize, a major award for economics authors whose works reflect the free-market views of the great economist Friedrich von Hayek. The greatest hope lies in the fostering of new institutions that will, in turn, nurture economics thinkers who dare to acknowledge the merits of markets. That means think tanks and universities. Already, GeorgeMasonUniversity stands out in this regard. We need more George Masons. A teetering nation cannot right itself until it rights its history.