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Showing posts from January, 2017

Credit where due: Bravo to President Trump for the Gorsuch nomination

In Neil Gorsuch, President Trump has picked a worthy successor to Antonin Scalia and hopefully taken the first step toward saving the Constitution from those who want to use judicial power to remake it in their own image.

While I opposed Mr. Trump during the campaign, and still do, I acknowledged then and repeat now that the one good reason for supporting him is saving the Court and the Constitution. Merrick Garland was not an appointment worth celebrating, and neither would any nominee appointed by Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump deserves high praise for this fine selection and has done the Republic a signal service in making it.

The Democrats in the Senate appear determined to make hypocrites out of themselves by filibustering this nomination only months after complaining that the Republican-controlled Senate refused to act on the Garland nomination. This is to be expected. It seems that what is stubborn obstructionism when their man in is in the White House becomes a sacred duty when a …

The LCMS chooses to be a Samaritan, not a priest or a Pharisee on immigration

Here is a scrupulously balanced article on the President's executive order on immigration by an expert who happens to belong to my church body.

It was published on the Missouri Synod Facebook page, and some members of our church body don't seem to like it much. The Missouri Synod has a long history of political conservatism and predictably many of its members had their sinful natures offended a big by this particular rebuking of evil.

But I'm proud of my church for posting it.

I may have this framed

More crazy

Government employees are scratching their heads over a decision by President Trump to require that two government regulations be rescinded for every new one enacted.

Now, on one hand, getting rid of excessive government regulations is doubtless a good thing. But sir.... things just don't work that way. Regulations are enacted for reasons. They may be good reasons, or they may be bad reasons. But you can't decide how many regulations you're going to have through some mathematical formula!

Walt Hickey of FiveThrityEight Newsletter writes, "This is fantastic news, as I have been a long-standing proponent of the idea that the government that governs best is the government that governs like it was cursed by a woods witch after getting caught in her garden in a German folktale."

So will Vladimir Putin be on the National Security Council too?

The news on the national security front is not reassuring. The inexperienced, clueless and not a little crazy Trump Administration is already making moves less than two weeks into its tenure that are making the experts very nervous indeed.

Extreme right-wing (read "white supremacist") nihilist Steve Bannon, whom President Trump has appointed as his chief policy advisor, doesn't have an appropriate security clearance (of course, if he weren't POTUS, it would be doubtful whether Mr. Trump himself could get one). But Bannon will be on the National Security Council.

Be afraid.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not be.

Be very afraid.

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to President Obama, may not be the greatest authority on the subject of foreign policy given the timid approach to the world taken by the last administration. But her words nevertheless ring true: "This is stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to m…

Number of refugees implicated in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since the Refugee Act of 1980

BTW, it usually takes a year for a new president's popularity rating to move into negative territory for the first time.

It's taken President Trump a week.

Sorry, but POTUS is NOT powerful enough to overrule the laws of economics!

Anyone who is under any illusion that Donald John Trump is a conservative or has bought all the self-promotion about how he knows anything at all about economics needs to hear what the man told Sean Hannity the other day: "We're lacking submarines, and we're going to build new submarines, but the price is too high, so I'm cutting the prices way down."

Sir, that's not how economics works!

A motto for President Trump's foreign policy

When President Obama took office, members of his administration let leak a motto he had adopted for the conduct of his foreign policy: "Don't do stupid s--t." The result was a passive approach to the world which resulted in the United States being viewed with contempt by allies and enemies alike.

But it seems as if President Trump's foreign policy will make Mr. Obama look like Genghis Khan. He seems to be actually afraid of the world. When he announced a new immigration policy yesterday that will treat our friends in the Muslim world exactly like our enemies and trap persecuted human beings in the grip of their persecutors, a wail of consternation understandably arose. Mr. Trump's response?   "The world is still a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place." And it is that. The problem is that his foreign policy promises to make if far angrier and far messier. It's…

Not by might, nor by power...

John Piper has written this fine article on how Christians should react to living in a nation with a morally unqualified president.

Donald Trump is unqualified in other ways, too. In fact, he's unqualified in just about every way I can think of. But it's good to be reminded that Christianity began under rulers who were far worse than Donald Trump and that the witness of the Church thrives not on power, but on weakness.

The real danger comes from Christians who think that power is the goal, and who are under the impression that in President Trump the Church has achieved it.

Within the next week, the president is expected to announce a pro-life choice to replace the late, great Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Anthony Kennedy is expected to retire in the next year or so. The one positive in the election of Donald Trump is that it may well transform the Court and give the Constitution as written a fighting chance to survive the attempts of the Left to continue its pattern of …

Disgracing a place of honor

So here - here is the question that another CIA veteran put to me after watching Trump's speech this weekend. This is Steve Hall. He was CIA chief of Russia operations. And he asked, what happens when the CIA collects a stellar piece of intelligence that maybe puts Vladimir Putin in a bad light? Steve Hall said, what happens when the CIA briefs Trump, and he wants to know the source? And Hall's quote directly to me was, how can you say, no, we don't trust you with the sourcing of that information? That is a live question today at Langley.
Thus writes Mary Kelly of NPR concerning  President Trump's bizarre and "self-obsessed" (former Acting Director John McLaughlin's description) visit to CIA headquarters in Langley last week.

I don't know that we've ever had a president whose loyalty was under investigation by the intelligence community before because of his ties to a hostile foreign power. Nor have we had a president who was quite this much a loos…

In foreign policy, expect Trump to be- at BEST- Obama, Part Deux

For all his bluster, our new president seems to be afraid of the rest of the world. Or maybe it's just that his view of it is out of the 19th Century.

Whatever the reasons, he seems determined to take America back to the role it played in the world before the Spanish-American War:  an insular nation uninvolved in the world (with exceptions made for ISIS, perhaps, and any other entity he dislikes) and in the last analysis really rather insignificant. In many significant ways, "America First" means America last. And lest we forget, the last time Mr. Trump's point of view prevailed- its supporters even used the same slogan- the result was World War II.

This isn't the age of Grover Cleveland anymore.  The furthest point in the world is hours away by jet, and minutes by ICBM. The world's economy is interdependent (our new president is in for a woeful surprise if he thinks he can remake it in his own image). He's busy alienating us from our NATO allies,  who ar…

The Un-dictator?

Kim Jong-Un is in trouble.

A defector reports  that the ruling class is getting fed up with the North Korean dictator, and grumbling has broken out. Could the unthinkable happen, and the baby dictator be replaced?

Whoever comes next probably won't be any better. And having come up through the ranks in one of the most bloodthirsty regimes on the planet he might well end up being more of a problem.

Instability in what is already the most unstable nuclear power in the world isn't exactly good news. This is not the time to have Donald Trump in the White House. I wouldn't be very surprised if his "solution" to the problem of North Korea was to build a wall around Asia.

Image by User P388388 pm Wikipedia Commons

He's actually going to try to do it!

NEOTUS* signed an executive order today to build that wall on the Mexican border and repeated his crazy statement that Mexico would reimburse the United States for it.

Aside from the fact that Congress will never authorize the... er, YUGE expenditure required to build the absurdly impractical structure and that Mexico obviously will never do any such thing, it appears that all hopes of President Trump coming to his senses and governing like a rational human being have been dashed. He's going to govern as the loose cannon he ran as- and the result, to mix a metaphor, will be a train wreck.

This four years will be an entertaining comedy act- or would be if the safety of America and the well-being of its people were not at stake.  The man seems to be genuinely out of touch with reality and determined to make a fool of himself before history and the world.

Which would be fine, if he weren't making the United States look as ridiculous as he is.


*NEOTUS- National Embarrassment Of Th…

President Trump is already making history!

Here he is, only three days into his presidency, and NEOTUS* has already accomplished something unique and historic.

Consider the net positive Gallup popularity ratings of the past 13 incoming presidents.

Harry Truman entered office with an 87% approval rating, with three percent disapproving- a net approval rating of +84%.

Ike became president with a 68% approval rating, with seven percent disapproving- a net +61% positive rating.

Jack Kennedy took the oath with a 72% approval rating. Six percent disapproved. That gave him a net +66% rating.

Lyndon Johnson had a 78% approval rating when he became president, with only two percent disapproving. That's a net +76% rating.

Richard Nixon had a 59% approval rating and a five percent disapproval rating when he became president. Net rating: +54%.

Gerald Ford had a 71% approval rating when Nixon resigned. Three percent disapproved. Ford had a net popularity of +68%.

Jimmy Carter took office with 66% approving and eight percent disapproving…

Smoke and mirrors

As promised, President Trump (two words which don't belong in the same sentence) has "resigned" from his business empire, turning control over to his sons Eric and Donald, Jr.

Of course, if he thinks this resolves his conflict of interest problems, he's wrong. Whether or not his name is on the letterhead, he still stands to profit from his foreign policy decisions- a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

This is not even to mention, of course, the appearance of impropriety involved in any Trump Administration decision favoring a country (coughRussiacough) in which the Trump Organization has substantial investments.

Nate Silver on how and why the pollsters blew it

Nate Silver has some interesting observations and questions this week.

First, what happened with the polls?   Having been impressed the accuracy of their predictions last time out I followed Silver and his FiveThirtyEight.com's coverage of this race rather closely, and strange as it may seem Silver's analysis now is consistent with what he was saying throughout the campaign. Over and over, FiveThirtyEight emphasized that even though the polls made Hillary Clinton's victory almost certain, there was a high volatility in the race and their prediction should be taken with a large grain of salt. Sure enough, large numbers of people who ordinarily don't vote did this time. These people by definition weren't among the people the polls included. And lots of people made up or changed their minds at the last minute. Bizarrely in my view, people who agreed with me that neither Clinton nor Trump were qualified to be president broke for by far the less qualified candidate- T…

The farce begins... and it's not pretty

Fox News has completed its transition from a useful counterbalance to the left-wing bias of the rest of the national media to the propaganda arm of Our Inglorious Leader.

George Will, Ed Rollins, Marvin Kalb, Cal Thomas and Stacy Dash have been let go by Pravda Fox News. Is not safe to depart from party line, comrades!

Meanwhile, the cable propaganda arm of the Trumpista movement has hired British demagogue Nigel Farage as a contributor.

And in Langley, Our National Embarrassment did it again. At the CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency Heroes, where operatives who have lost their lives in the service of our country are memorialized,  the Orange One indulged his unbecoming thin-skinned pettiness and trivialized their sacrifice, complaining about media reports about the size of his inaugural crowd. The visit was intended to smooth over relations with the agency, strained by the new president's bizarre refusal to accept its conclusions concerning the hacking of DNC email servers by ord…

What do you do when the jester IS the king?

On this dark day in the history of our Republic, I happened to come across an article on Evan McMullin's continuing role as a Trump gadfly. He certainly seems to have gotten under our narcissistic new president's skin. Good for him.

In the old days, the king's jester was an important person- and if he was going to do his job properly, he had to be anything but a fool. The key to the position was that precisely because he was supposed to be a blithering idiot who couldn't be held accountable for what he said, he could get away with saying anything. If there was something the king needed to hear but didn't want to, it fell to the fool to say it- humorously and protected by the fiction of his imbecility. The king heard from his fool advice that might have cost anybody else his head, and in such a way as to save face, too. A wise king chose his fool carefully, and intelligence, courage, integrity and political acumen were as important qualifications as a sense of humo…

The long-delayed Trump encounter with reality begins

I've been amused for a year now by the ominous-sounding threat Trump supporters are fond of that we who disapprove of Orange Julius are in for a sobering "confrontation with reality"  once Donald Trump takes office. The nature of the threat is vague, and Trump's nomination (with well under half the Republican primary vote) and surprise election (with fewer popular votes than his main opponent) seem to have left them with the erroneous impression that they would know reality if it bit them in the leg.

Today ABC and the Washington Post came out with a poll which reveals that Donald Fredovich is the least popular incoming president in 40 years. After the bitterly divisive 2000 election, George W. Bush came into office with a 56% approval rating; Trump will take office on Friday with only 40% approving.

54% see Trump unfavorably and 52% say that he isn't qualified to be president. They're right, of course. The one bright spot for Trump is that six and ten expect …

The Trump dossier may or may not contain false information, but it is NOT "fake news!"

In this country, a man is considered innocent under the law until proven guilty.

Under the law. God's law, as well as man's.

Martin Luther explained the commandment against bearing false witness this way:  "We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything." Fair enough. But neither the American legal tradition nor the Eighth Commandment requires us when a grave accusation is made against a public figure which involves factual matters, that we forego disproving or verifying it. This is especially true when a matter of national security is involved.

Here is an article by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes on a matter which needs to be addressed. A former MI-5 agent supposedly detailed by the SIS to investigate reports that the Russian FSB had compromising information about Donald Trump apparently resigned in frustration that d…

Fail!

For quite a while I've had strange subscriptions for everything from perfume newsletters to travel agencies (even updates for an Uber driver in San Francisco!) turning up in my mailbox. They're of a nature and pattern which seem clearly to be a matter of harassment rather than random spam.

Or attempted harassment. They've intensified lately. Could the party responsible be a an Alt-Right creature who doesn't like what I've said about Donald Fredovich? It would be kind of... in character. Childish, stupid, and not very effective. Lame- almost as if the person or persons responsible doesn't know how easy it is to mark something as spam.

Just about as lame as the incoming administration is likely to be.

Is not working, Tovarisch.

And you wonder why so many of us are worried about Trump?

Donald Fredovich conducted a "sting" operation recently to find a "leak" in the intelligence community that might expose classified information- or rather, to prove that if there was one it would come from the intelligence committee rather than from his personal staff. 

He deliberately didn't tell his personal staff about a meeting with intelligence officials so that if it was in the newspapers it would be clear that the intelligence community leaked it. Sure enough, it turned up in the papers. Busted, right?

Well, no. You see, the fact that PEOTUS was having an intelligence briefing isn't classified information. The contents of the briefing, yes. But not the mere fact that it was taking place, which is fair game for the news media.

Two predictions: things like this will keep happening in the next four years, proving further that Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what he's doing when it comes to any aspect of his new job.

My second prediction is that …

These are going to be a long four years

Yesterday the man who accused Ted Cruz's father of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald to kill JFK and insisted that Barack Obama was born in Kenya accused CNN of being a fake news organization.

Now, I have no brief for CNN. But dude.... your opponents have no need to make up fake news about you. There is no greater embarrassment possible for anyone to inflict upon you than you inflict on yourself daily through your own erratic, juvenile behavior

The problem is that now you're an embarrassment to the entire nation.

It's going to be a long four years for anyone with an ounce of respect for the dignity of the office this man is about to disgrace, or for the dignity of this nation. This clown has about as much idea of how a president should act as he does of what a president's job is- which is to say, none at all.

A petulant little boy

I agree with every word Meryl Streep said about Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards.

I also agree with Meghan McCain's criticism of Streep's statement: that one of the things that elected Trump was the feeling on the part of many people in America that they were constantly being sneered at by the cultural elites and that Ms. Streep's speech inevitably sounded to them like yet another case of that happening.

Ms. Streep was exactly right. Evil is evil, and one does not turn evil into good by failing to call it what it is. But how does one respectfully tell others that they're being played for fools., and enabling evil to boot?

But the truly disturbing thing about the incident is that when Ms. Streep criticized him, Trump couldn't simply ignore her. He never can simply ignore his critics. He can't resist validating them.  He's the President-elect of the United States. He can trivialize what anybody says about him by simply treating it as beneath his notic…

What would a Neanderthal's voice have sounded like?

Probably a little like Curly of the Three Stooges.

Weird, but interesting.



HT: Mental Floss

Sad but true: Foreign tyrants will play Trump like a piano

There are lots of drawbacks to having a narcissist as President of the United States. One of them is that any enemy of our country can get him to do pretty much anything by just manipulating his emotions.

Friends too, of course. It's no secret in any capital of the world that our incoming president is as playable as a routine ground ball. Over the next several months it will become all too clear for anyone but a Trump fan (a group of people who, as The Donald once bragged, would still support him if he committed murder in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in New York) that even if it were not for his instability, stubbornness, profound ignorance and deep personal corruption he would still be an unprecedented threat to our national security.

The magnitude of the blunder made by the strategically-located minority of the American people who voted for the man in November will take a while to become undeniable to the non-lobotomized among us.  Die-hard Trump supporters, of course, have ne…

It's a legitimate question, alas: Whose side is Trump on?

Even in the face of evidence to the contrary and with none at all to support his position, President-elect Trump has been staunch and insistent on one thing: defending Vladimir Putin and the Russian party line.

Given his open admiration of the Russian dictator (and Putin's open praise and covert efforts to aid Trump's campaign), his Russian investments (of which he refuses to divest himself, being willing only to put them in a trust to be administered by his children!) and his apparent inability to distinguish between the national interests of Russia and those of the United States, Evan McMullin asks a perfectly legitimate question: are we about to inaugurate a president who will put Russia's interests before our own?

Even if it's done in ignorance- a commodity in which Mr. Trump abounds- the evidence so far is not encouraging. And remember: he will be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution the moment he takes the oath. Combine all that with his fre…

Is 'repeal and delay' the best strategy for replacing Obamacare?

"Repeal and delay-" getting rid of Obamacare with certain provisions remaining int effect until some future date, when replacement legislation is ready- seems to be the approach favored by Republican leaders. But not all conservative thinkers favor that approach.

The alternative is to repeal individual provisions of Obamacare while simultaneously replacing them with provisions which keep their virtues while fixing what's broken in them.  The result would be a minimum of confusion and chaos and a steady and systematic progress toward a system involving less coercion and more reliance on the private sector. Otherwise the problems faced by those who can afford neither health insurance nor the penalties for not having it might end up being multiplied and extended to entirely new classes of consumers.

Well, Trumpkins, it's not classified anymore.

Next excuse?

But wait! Pravda Fox News has the answer! The report was "rigged!"

It seems that Fox News- which prostituted itself so badly during the recent campaign that real conservatives will never be able to take it seriously again- has adopted the Trumpkins' favorite response- the "Black Knight gambit-" to deny reality whenever it makes Donald Fredovich look bad. Which is usually.

The Senate Democrats revert to form

Q; What changes faster than a Trump campaign promise once Trump is elected?

A: The Democrats' position on the proper role of the opposition party in the Senate when a Republican president is elected.

Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority leader, says that the Democrats (who only months ago were horrified at the notion of a Supreme Court nominee being opposed on ideological grounds) will fight any Trump Supreme Court nominee who isn't "mainstream" (i.e., a social radical who believes in effectively amending the Constitution by judicial fiat) "tooth and nail."

No surprise there from the party which gave rise to the term "to Bork a nominee" when it rejected President Reagan's nomination of the brilliant Robert Bork to the Court because it didn't like his fidelity to the Constitution as written. The silver lining: the Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate to stop Trump from nominating a worthy successor to Antonin Scalia, or for th…

The Epiphany Star

Here's a slightly revised encore of a post I did on Epiphany a few years ago:

Friday was Epiphany, the festival of the Church Year which commemorates the revelation of the Christ Child to the world. as represented by the Wise Men. And no, we actually don't know how many of them there were. The tradition with which most of us are familiar say that there were three; the earliest Christian tradition says that there were twelve. Matthew just doesn't say. Their names were probably not Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, and it is unlikely that one was African, one European, and one Asiatic, as beautiful and symbolically meaningful as that notion might be.

Nor were the Wise Men kings- or if they were, we aren't told that by the Bible. What we are told is that they were magi- a common name for followers of the religious leader Zoaraster, likely from Mesopotamia. Of course, the Bible doesn't make it clear whether the Wise Men were in the East when they first saw the star, or …

Jan Chamberlain's rhetoric is too strong. But the stand she has taken is right.

I do not share the religion of Jan Chamberlain. I don't even pray to the same god. But I can't help but admire the integrity of the woman who quit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rather than sing at Donald Trump's inauguration.

Ms. Chamberlain, like me, voted for Evan McMullin in November. Like me, she holds no brief for Hillary Clinton or her agenda. But she cannot, as she put it, "throw roses at Hitler."

As I've said before, comparing Trump to Hitler strikes me as harsh. I believe that Trump is a power-hungry narcissist who exhibits disturbing signs of psychopathy, like Hitler. Like Hitler, he has stigmatized  defenseless minorities- Muslims and undocumented aliens, rather than Jews- and made them scapegoats for the nation's troubles. Like Hitler, he has ridden a wave of irrational hatred and emotion to power. Like Hitler's, his agenda foreshadows disaster for the nation he has been chosen to lead.

But he's not going to set up death camps for Musli…

Just because Robert Reich is a partisan doesn't make him entirely wrong

Robert Reich is a left-wing economist who can be depended upon to be quite partisan, and his list of "Warning Signs of Impending Tyranny" seems to have been carefully composed with specifically Donald Trump in mind. It should, therefore, be taken with a grain of salt. But it should not be dismissed outright.

We have never had a president like Donald Trump, He lacks the intellect of, say, a Franklin Roosevelt or an Abraham Lincoln, both of whom pushed the constitutional envelope but at least knew that they were doing so and did so with a certain reluctance. Trump's constitutional ignorance and an egotism which seem to put his own whims on a higher plane of authority than the law, however, are worrisome, and so are many of the "warning signs" Reich lists.

I see no better than a 50/50 chance that Trump will escape impeachment in his first term. Everything about his past and his character suggests that his behavior will become so outrageous and such a liability to…