Calling them out

The corporate press in America preens about being an agent of accountability for public officials.  In recent years, though, many Americans have come to wonder “who watches the watchers?”

Thanks to the internet, the answer can be: everybody.  Knowing this, President Trump executed a genius communication move last night by announcing his “1st Annual Fake News Awards.”  While some may have laughed at the claim these were “highly anticipated,” events bore the description out as the hosting GOP website crashed for approximately two hours after the tweet (from all the incoming traffic), and on Twitter the hashtag #FakeNewsAwards trended globally (it still is as of this writing, more than 14 hours later).

Some in the press are trying to counter by pointing out the mistakes on the list were later acknowledged and corrected.  And for the most part, they’re correct — while still being disingenuous.  Any student of journalism knows the first copy is what gets the attention — retractions almost never get the same level of resonance.  What Trump’s compilation does is remind and show overall just how sloppy/slanted/partisan the news coverage was in 2017 as the press hurried to seize on anything that might remotely make him look bad, without taking time to verify or research context.  (Hint to media executives: when your only source is that another news outlet is reporting something, you’re on very shaky ground.)  It is a very damning list.

By releasing the compliation on Twitter, Trump circumvented the media gatekeepers.  His public stature prevents Twitter from blocking such a move, but it’s worth noting plenty of voices on the Right are being silenced deliberately there and on other prominent internet platforms.  The press is working overtime to respond to Trump today, but that means they are reacting to his messaging, rather than producing their own biased news cycles.  And in doing so, they are giving the compilation even more coverage, potentially showing more Americans the sum total of what the epithet “fake news” really means.

As I said, it was a genius communication move.

In desperation, some have taken to claiming that Trump’s effort to point out media errors amounts to attacking the First Amendment, and equating it to various dictators’ muzzling of opponents.  This childishness trivializes the very real dangers advocates of free speech, criticism and accountability face around the world today.  Let’s be blunt: the First Amendment does not provide anyone the right to print whatever they want without being challenged for it.  When corporate news have to have the administration’s prior permission to run their stories, or CNN’s Jim Acosta is arrested or killed I might reevaluate the vacuousness of this whining, but not until.

I still shake my head in amazement that our nation’s reached the point where Donald Trump could become president.  But as others have pointed out, he looks a lot better if you evaluate him by what he’s done, versus what he says or what’s said about him.  In the meantime, Trump is showing how to play offense in this struggle, the media are getting a dose of their own medicine and it’s clear they don’t like it one little bit.  To which I can only say:

It’s about time.

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Two words for the United Nations

…and they ain’t “Merry Christmas.”  The UN General Assembly today voted 128-9 to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  Some of those 128 countries don’t have a lot of room for criticizing anybody, as Jake Tapper admirably points out:

It’s time these folks were sent packing. Ironically, though, by ignoring Nikki Halley’s warning two days ago, the UN may have given Americans an unintended Christmas gift:

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These are the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid.  Israel (as expected) did not support the UN resolution against the U.S.  Of the others, Nigeria abstained, and the rest voted literally to bite the hand that feeds them!

Here’s what I find interesting about this: If you add up all the assistance aside from Israel’s, it comes to $10.2 billion dollars.  In 2016, the United States also gave the United Nations about $10 billion in total contributions.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security publicly estimated construction of Trump’s promised enhanced border with Mexico (“the wall”) would cost around $21 billion.

Ditch the ingrates, and the wall is paid for without adding a penny to the deficit.  Thanks, UN!

THIS is what an American-first administration looks like.  Let’s see what President Trump does with Ambassador Haley’s “list of names.”  The “bully pulpit” could make continued Congressional funding of these international leeches a lot less palatable than has been the case in the past.

Making a list, checking it twice

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations plans to note who’s naughty or nice:

America First

This is long overdue in our international relations, and should be a key plank of the new National Security Strategy to put American interests first (see pages 19 and 40 here).  Much of the foreign aid we give out yields dubious returns for America.  And unlike other nations (*cough* China *cough*), we aren’t exactly smart in our use of “soft power.”  Much of the “aid” we supply all too often ends up in the hands of local thugs in power, while China’s efforts produce visible changes and local goodwill.  No doubt if the locals balk, China is not reluctant to tighten the purse strings.

So why do we not do the same with our spending overseas?  At its most blatant, foreign aid is about “winning friends and influencing people.”  But how much influence do you really wield if the recipients of your largesse habitually spit in your eye, knowing they can get away with it?

We are not in the financial position we were after World War II, where America accounted for nearly one-quarter of the global economy.  The Marshall Plan of the late 1940s was unprecedented in scale for American foreign policy, but it also seemed a relatively small price to pay to stabilize Europe and inoculate it against further communist encroachment.  Today, advocates of foreign aid like to point out that it makes up “about one percent of the federal budget” — but that still amounts to billions of dollars that produce scant results compared to the Marshall Plan.

Here’s hoping those countries put on Nikki Haley’s “naughty list” Thursday feel the choking off of unappreciated American dollars.  Since the Federal Government currently borrows nearly 1 in every 5 dollars it spends, those dollars are more appropriately spent at home.

Swamps, RINOs and Trump

Many in the press hope they see a big story developing: a Republican “civil war” between those aligned with the president or Steve Bannon and the “establishment” GOP.  But as one outlet has already realized, the momentum is with the president:

Traditional Republicans fancying the cracks in their party as an opening to primary President Trump in 2020 need to deal with one inconvenient fact: Republican voters aren’t interested.

The brawl for dominance in the Republican Party is certainly remarkable. Former President George W. Bush; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; the chairmen of two top Senate committees; and now Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; all have sharply rebuked Trump, questioning his fitness, integrity, and moral authority.

But their resistance, though hardly isolated, is missing one crucial element: a significant measure of enthusiasm from Republican voters. That’s a weak foundation from which to pursue a challenge to the renomination of a sitting president.

Why is Trump’s base willing to overlook his unorthodox presidential behavior? Here the article nails it:

…where Trump’s Republican opposition sees a dangerous political provocateur, the GOP base sees a fighter who is defending them and their values — against the cultural oppression of the liberal elites in New York and Hollywood and against a political establishment in Washington that bends the rules for everyone but them.

Trump’s coalition includes true conservatives (as opposed to the think-tank faux conservatives in D.C.) and blue-collar Democrats who are tired of seeing everything and everyone put ahead of the needs of honest Americans.  The “have you no decency” outrage from the GOP establishment is easily ignored when one remembers how often they have failed to keep their promises to the voters (Obamacare repeal?  Immigration enforcement?  Tax and regulation relief?).  The problem with most Republican members of Congress is they are “Republican In Name Only (RINO).”  The Tea Party movement was a “civil” attempt to protest this repeated betrayal, and the bi-factional ruling party attacked it — the Republicans by painting it unfairly as racist, and the Democrats by illegally unleashing the IRS and other government agencies on the various groups.  In the latter case, no accountability has been forthcoming against Lois Lerner and her helpers, either.

Is it any wonder a large part of the voting population now wants to burn the establishment to the ground?

Not only has the administration outlasted the Democrats’ frantic efforts to delegitimize it, the shoe is rapidly moving to the other foot as:

These stories are far more important than the manufactured distraction over presidential condolence calls to Gold Star families. Those who care about America should not allow the topic du jour to “move on” from them.

The real fight now is not over the survival of the Trump administration (even the NYT admits “he’s not going anywhere“). It’s over whether he will have a more cooperative Congress to deal with after 2018.  Steve Bannon is rallying insurgent candidates* across the country, and even sitting Senators are reading the tea leaves (finally).  The election of Trump represented a bursting point of extreme voter dissatisfaction with business as usual.  “Civil” didn’t get voters anywhere, so they went with the bull in the china shop. Whether that voter anger and focus can be maintained through the next election cycle is the question of the decade.  If it is, the Trump victory in 2016 will be seen not as a fluke, but as a pivotal moment in American politics when the Swamp was finally confronted head on.

* While Bannon rallies Republican insurgents with name recognition, there are also complete outsiders like Tony Monetti in Missouri, who is challenging established Republican candidates in the primary to run against vulnerable Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.  Be sure to pay attention to ALL the candidates in the races for which you can vote.

Reality check

Though the sources conflict, there is a general sense among historians that ancient Rome did, indeed, have a practice of keeping the subject of their triumphal processions humble.  While being praised and celebrated by the citizens of of the city, a returning conqueror is said to have been subjected to the presence of either a close associate or an assigned slave, who continually whispered into his ear something along the lines of “remember, you are mortal.”

Regardless how the actual practice occurred, this is an imminently practical idea for any nation that desires the rule of law, and not of men.

One of the largest criticisms during the rise of Donald Trump has been that it seems dangerously close to a cult of personality.  It’s no secret many people voted for him despite of his character traits, not because of them, believing (correctly, in my humble opinion) he was still a better alternative than Her Hillariness.  There is always a danger in such a scenario that people become too willing to overlook faults and flaws in “their” candidate.

Yesterday’s runoff election in Alabama should be taken as an encouraging sign that Trump does not quite enjoy such unquestioning support:

Former judge Roy Moore won the Republican nomination on Tuesday evening in the Alabama special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, defeating the Trump-endorsed former state attorney general Luther Strange.

A strong argument can be made that endorsement by Senate GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did more to damage Strange than Trump’s did to help him.  In the eyes of many (including me), McConnell personifies much of what is wrong with today’s mendacious GOP “leadership.”  That he would strongly advocate (and send significant resources) to Strange after only working with him in an interim capacity of a few months indicates he’d taken the candidate’s measure and decided he fit right in with the business-as-usual crowd.

That is not what the electorate, at least in Alabama and other comparable places, wants. The GOP has demonstrated they are not serious about fulfilling years-long promises to repeal Obamacare, secure the border, protect the American economy or simply put America first.  So it should surprise nobody their conservative base has had enough. That Trump endorsed Strange seems to indicate he was trying to work with McConnell, possibly in hopes of getting the Obamacare repeal or some other agenda item moving forward.  If so, the recent second failure to get a healthcare repeal bill to his desk demonstrates the value of such an effort.  This should be a lesson to the president: the Congressional GOP leadership is less interested in cooperating than they are in co-opting him and his supporters, as they did with the Tea Party.  During the final runoff debate, Strange’s main selling point seemed to be his repetition of the mantra that “Trump picked me.”  That this was unsuccessful is a reassurance the president does not command blind loyalty.

Having been burned too many times by their promises, a large portion of the GOP’s base is now looking to clean house in the party rather than mend fences.  Some — like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker — appear to see the insurgent writing on the wall (Corker announced he will not seek reelection in 2018).  Here’s hoping a number of others–especially John McCain–get the message as well.  ALL of them, not just Trump, need to be reminded that they are mortal.  And since none of them are indispensable to the effort to restore America, they can–and should–be held accountable for failure to support that effort, particularly when the GOP controls the House, Senate, Presidency and most State governorships and legislatures.

Mr. Trump is far from certain to be reelected in 2020.  Yesterday’s special election results should serve fair notice he was sent to D.C. to accomplish specific things.  His next turn at the polls will hinge on whether he does, in fact, accomplish them.

  • Build the wall.  Deport those here illegally.  Period.
  • Return jobs and investment to the U.S. by voiding the globalist drain of disadvantageous trade agreements and corporatist tax policies on our economy
  • Restore American credibility by consistently acting in the best interest of the U.S. in our foreign and military policy.

It’s not rocket science, Mr. President.  Your move.

Attempting to be an art critic

I’ve been seeing this image pop up here and there across the Internet.  It’s by the same painter who did one of Obama a few years back in response to the passage of Obamacare.  The two form something of a bookend set.

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I think the original Obama painting was spot on, depicting as it did an aloof and arrogant president trampling the Constitution while all his predecessors (except a few to Obama’s right, or the “left” side of the crowd) looked on with expressions of “what the hell, man?”  The message of the original painting was clear.

As for the one above, I can appreciate that it’s not Trump who is center stage.  We don’t need blind hero worship or the man-on-the-white-horse syndrome here.  Trump’s depicted standing on a snake, which may be more Biblical allegory than I’m willing to extend to him.  That said, D.C. Mordor is definitely snake-infested in our day, and much of the hissing against Trump comes from that serpentine choir.  But the center of the action is a young family watering a plant (perhaps the Tree of Liberty?) in what is very parched soil.  The message could well be interpreted as Trump trying to buy time for the next generation to refresh our nation.  Changing who’s in office won’t matter until the culture itself has been changed.  Politics, it is said, flows downstream from culture.

I’m sure in this era of professional grievance-mongering, others will count faces and point out there are only a few non-white characters in the crowd.  But look who they are: Sheriff David Clarke, an outspoken patriot; an unnamed World War II veteran in a wheelchair who clearly gave to his country; an unnamed black lady and a minority man holding folded U.S. flags, signifying loss of loved ones in service to the nation.

The fault lines in this country today are not so much Republican-Democrat than they are traditionalist/progressive.  As the many “RINO” Republicans demonstrate, the parties don’t cleanly align with the other dichotomy (Sheriff Clarke, by the way, is a registered Democrat).  There are simply those who believe the “bourgeoisie” values that made this nation successful are worth preserving (perhaps “restoring” would be more accurate by this point), and the inaptly named “progressives” who would continue to tear down those values in a vague utopian quest that has ended in tragedy time and again throughout human history.

The takeaways?

  • Don’t expect Trump to solve every problem.
  • Those who love this land and the values that made it must be active in restoring them.
  • Teach your children well.  One generation — the Boomers — left a huge wake of cultural destruction.  This shows how a single generation can change a nation.  Make sure those who are our heirs are prepared to change it again by valuing and defending their inheritance.

One final thought about watering the “tree of liberty” — the artist is optimistic in his portrayal.  Thomas Jefferson warned that nourishing that fragile plant sometimes takes more than water (though his quote is often used without context).  Hope/pray for the best; prepare for the worst.

Discovering two can pull hair

There’s already plenty of commentary about “comedian” Kathy Griffin’s disgraceful photo shoot with a simulated severed Donald Trump head.  What interests me most about this is:

(a) The utter tone deafness such a photo concept conveys in a world where beheadings and general terrorism are becoming ever more commonplace thanks to outfits like ISIS, and

(b) The serious pushback against and rare consequences for a leftist who went too far — to the point Griffin is now complaining that “Trump broke me” and that her career is over.  In other words, “it all started when he hit me back.”

Welcome to the political world your leftist friends created, Kathy.

For years, even decades, individuals running afoul of the misnamed “political correctness” have been harassed, demonized, and in more than a few cases, left unemployed or otherwise financially harmed.  For instance, a rodeo clown lost his job after performing with an Obama mask.  Now to be fair, there were plenty of inappropriate Obama images during his presidency (including suggestions of lynching, assassination and more).  Such excesses rarely failed to gain national attention and condemnation.

So why would Griffin think her stupid idea would be any different?  Because of the insulated world she and her fellow travelers live in, and the double standards they are

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