Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

A lifelong Republican: “Why I Cannot Fall in Line Behind Trump”

leave a comment »

Peter Wehner writes in the NY Times:

A year ago, I declared on these pages that despite being a Republican my whole life, I would not under any circumstances vote for Donald J. Trump for president. Since then, I’ve been asked by other Republicans if I kept that promise (I did) and whether I regret it (I don’t).

Republicans who disagree with my stance make the following argument: Mr. Trump, while flawed, is preferable to Hillary Clinton. His cabinet appointments, they say, have been reassuring, and it’s true that several of them are. In addition, the nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is certain to be more of an originalist than a Clinton appointment would be. On top of that, Republicans are in control of Congress, meaning they are likely to drive much of the agenda, particularly given Mr. Trump’s notable lack of interest in policy. Whatever misgivings anti-Trump conservatives might have had about him, he’ll undo much of the agenda of his liberal predecessor while Mrs. Clinton would have built on it.

This case is hardly irrational, and over time it may be proved right. President Trump may govern well and in a conservative manner, and my concerns about him may eventually look misguided and silly.

But I doubt it.

To understand why, it’s worth keeping in mind that my chief worries about Mr. Trump were never strictly ideological; they had to do with temperament and character.

Continue reading the main story

This isn’t to say that I didn’t have worries based on Mr. Trump’s deviations from conservatism, a political philosophy he seems to have no real interest in or acquaintance with. Yet it was always a guarantee that on policy he would do more things conservatives would like than Mrs. Clinton would. But that was outweighed by other considerations.

The more pressing concern many of us had about Mr. Trump is that he simply isn’t up to the job of being president. And much that has happened during the transition period has confirmed those concerns. One example: Last weekend Mr. Trump gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he said his administration would quickly put out its own health proposal, which would cover everyone now insured and cost much less.

One problem: There is no Trump proposal. As Yuval Levin, my colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, points out, it was the creation of his own imagination. Republicans on Capitol Hill and Mr. Trump’s own team were utterly perplexed by what Mr. Trump said, and not for the first time. The extraordinary and unenviable task facing the White House staff is to contain Mr. Trump, to keep a dysfunctional president from producing a dysfunctional presidency.

Beyond that, Mr. Trump has continued to demonstrate impulsivity and narcissism, an affinity for conflict and vindictiveness. Which leads to my main worry about Mr. Trump: His chronic lack of restraint will not be confined to Twitter. His Twitter obsessions are manifestation of a deeper disorder.

Donald Trump is a transgressive personality. He thrives on creating disorder, in violating rules, in provoking outrage. He is a shock jock. This might be a tolerable (if culturally coarsening) trait in a reality television star; it is a dangerous one in a commander in chief. He is unlikely to be contained by norms and customs, or even by laws and the Constitution. For Mr. Trump, nothing is sacred. The truth is malleable, instrumental, subjective. It is all about him. It is always about him.

The easy part, the transition to power, is over. The hard part begins now. . .

Continue reading.

He concludes:

. . . In anticipating a Trump presidency, I wish my hopes exceeded my fears. But Donald Trump has given us many reasons to worry. A man with illiberal tendencies, a volatile personality and no internal checks is now president. This isn’t going to end well.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2017 at 11:02 am

Alternative facts and “1984”

leave a comment »

“The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

–from “Nineteen Eighty Four” by George Orwell

Kellyanne Conway prefers that people use the phrase “alternative facts” instead of  “outright lies,” and she suggests that we accept “alternative facts” (though she herself was quite incensed about the “alternative fact” that Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr.—apparently only some “alternative facts” are okay).

She offered another “alternative fact”: that the American people are not interested in seeing Trump’s tax returns. In the world of ordinary facts (facts that are not falsehoods), 74% of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns. Also, Trump himself said he would release the returns.

Trump is driven by narcissism, and the office of President supports and feeds that. First, it delivers wonderful publicity and visibility: he is in effect on stage all day long, with millions all over the world paying attention to him: heady stuff for a narcissist.

Even more important, he can schmooze foreign potentates to lay the groundwork for lucrative future projects, and do it all on someone else’s dime (that would be yours and mine: we taxpayers are fronting the costs for Trump to build his own (commercial) empire.) For Trump, conflicts of interest are a feature, not a bug. The office he holds can be leveraged to benefit himself and his family in all sorts of ways.

He truly is not interested in working for the good of the country. His focus is always his own personal good, and now he can do more than ever to benefit himself.

So he will seek, not avoid, conflicts of interest: those are the very things that make the office he holds good for him. He seems incapable of viewing anything in any way except through the lens of how it affects him (and his family, which in his mind are just extensions of himself). A conflict of interest is not bad, because it is good for him personally.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2017 at 9:51 am

Worst. Negotiator. Ever.

leave a comment »

Mike Lofgren is an interesting guy: a former Congressional staff member who served on House and Senate budget committes and the author of The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.  He writes in the Washington Monthly:

If there is one thing Donald Trump wants us to know, it’s that he negotiates great deals. He has also been shrilly disdainful of Obama’s foreign policy handiwork, particularly the nuclear agreement with Iran (which, it must be pointed out, involved not just the United States and Iran, but all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany). This, Trump said, was the worst agreement ever, presumably including the 1938 Munich agreement, presupposing he has ever heard of that one. Nothing so criminally naïve as the Iran deal would ever happen on his watch.

Yet it appears that we may be on the road to a diplomatic agreement under President Trump which will make the Iran deal look as if that country had unconditionally surrendered to the United States.

In interviews with The Times of London and Bild that occurred less than a week before his inauguration, Trump said he could envision dropping economic sanctions against Russia in exchange for nuclear arms reductions between the two countries. A simple quid pro quo, right?

As someone who has long favored a U.S.-Russian nuclear builddown, I can understand the superficial attractiveness of Trump’s trial balloon. But there are compelling reasons why it is a bad idea.

First, nuclear arms negotiations should not be linked to extraneous issues. Agreements such as the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991 were complex, highly technical treaties with years’ worth of negotiations and even “pre-negotiations” before they were signed. Dragging in additional issues could very well have killed them.

Second, the United States negotiated multiple nuclear agreements with the Soviet Union even when the latter was under considerably more stringent sanctions from the allied powers than Russia is today. Under the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), exports of even some of the most basic Western technologies were under a strict embargo. (By contrast, Western high-technology firms such as Intel, Google, and HP now operate software development centers in Russia). Somehow, the Soviet Politburo saw fit to negotiate solely over arms even when under more stringent economic sanctions than those faced by Vladimir Putin.

During nuclear negotiations with Iran, critics asked why President Obama did not use the negotiations as a framework to free American citizens imprisoned by the Iranians. The Obama administration answered – correctly – that doing so would be advantageous to Iran, diluting the Western powers’ negotiating strength on the central issue of ratcheting down Teheran’s nuclear program and not only incentivizing Iran to be more recalcitrant by giving it another bargaining chip, but possibly even encouraging it to imprison more U.S. citizens for negotiating leverage.

At this point, readers may think they detect a logical weakness in my argument: why am I saying that economic sanctions should not be mixed into nuclear negotiations with Russia when sanctions relief was the tradeoff for Iran cutting back its nuclear development? Simply because reducing sanctions was the sole inducement that the six major powers offered to get Teheran to denuclearize. It is not as if the United States or France had offered Iran concessions on sanctions and put their own nuclear arsenals on the negotiating table.

With Iran, negotiations constituted a one-for-one deal: sanctions relief for nuclear concessions. Trump’s little gambit offers Russia a two-fer: dropping sanctions plus U.S. nuclear reductions in exchange for Russian nuclear cuts. If sanctions relief for Russia were ever to be proposed, it should be kept separate from mutual arms reductions. Conceivably it could be offered in connection with ending the Russian-sponsored insurgency in Eastern Ukraine or the forcible annexation of Crimea, which were the proximate causes of the sanctions in the first place.

Why, one might then ask, would Vladimir Putin be so interested in arms control in isolation from any other bilateral issue? What is his incentive to negotiate if we don’t sweeten the pot as Trump is appearing to do?

Maintaining, let alone modernizing, Russia’s vast arsenal of approximately 4,500 deployed and stockpiled nuclear warheads and their associated delivery systems is a heavy financial burden, and Russia is not in a favorable economic situation. However much Western sanctions may be personally inconveniencing individual oligarchs in Putin’s circle, this is not the main stumbling block for Russia’s economy. Until recently, over half the country’s federal revenue came from the production and export of petroleum products, and this heavy dependence is a severe problem.

As recently as 2013, Russia’s gross domestic product stood at about $2.2 trillion. The record oil prices of the early 2000s meant that Putin was able to garner tremendous personal popularity among the Russian people as the man who presided over improved living standards and who seemed to have rescued the country from the lost decade of the 1990s. Russia had vaulted into the ranks of the middle income countries.

But with the oil price slide, Russia’s GDP has fallen to only $1.3 trillion. It has slipped to the level where its economy is smaller than that of South Korea or Australia, countries with much smaller populations. Could oil prices recover? They certainly might, but with enhanced recovery, tighter fuel economy standards, and increased use of alternative energy, there is likely to be a lid on future oil price rises, and Russia has a lot of ground to make up.

Putin has another incentive for arms reductions unlinked to sanctions. For several years, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2017 at 9:13 pm

I think we will see an abrupt change in direction for the Civil Rights Division

leave a comment »

In the New Yorker Jennifer Gonnerman has a profile of Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Deartment of Justice.

From the article at the link:

. . . Gupta joined the Justice Department in the fall of 2014—nine weeks after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. She spent the next two years travelling all over the country—to Ferguson, Cleveland, New Orleans, Baltimore, and elsewhere—to meet with mayors, police chiefs, and citizens, in an attempt to repair the deeply damaged relationships between police departments and their communities. Under Obama, the Civil Rights Division took a more aggressive approach than ever before to stamping out systemic police abuse: the Division negotiated twenty-four agreements with law-enforcement agencies to reform their practices; fifteen of those agreements were consent decrees, which are enforced by a court.

On January 12th, Gupta had been in Baltimore announcing a consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department to address the egregious injustices identified by the Division in an earlier report. The next day, she had been in Chicago to release a devastating hundred-and-sixty-one-page report on that city’s police department. Now she had no idea what might come of all this work. Early in his tenure as Attorney General, Eric Holder had called the Civil Rights Division the “crown jewel” of the Justice Department. Now Senator Jeff Sessions—who had attacked the Civil Rights Division, in 2015, at a Senate hearing called “The War on Police,” saying that it had “an agenda that’s been a troubling issue for a number of years”—was poised to become the next Attorney General.

During the Obama Presidency, the Civil Rights Division was at the center of many of the nation’s most contentious political battles: over policing as well as voting rights, fair housing, hate crimes, and transgender rights. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2017 at 6:02 pm

What does the Women’s March on Washington mean to the marchers, individually? Particularly conservative marchers?

leave a comment »

Terrence McCoy has a very interesting article in today’s Washington Post:

Seventy-one miles into a 162-mile trip, the women riding the bus began to stir as the blackness of the morning lifted. They had gathered at 3:30 a.m. in a parking lot in Williamsport, Pa., and now, as signs for Washington started appearing, one woman applied makeup with a mirror, another bounced a baby on her lap, and two more talked about what could happen when they got where they were going.

As the bus entered the city on Baltimore Washington Parkway, Joanne Barr looked out the window. “So many buses,” she said quietly to herself. “It’s a lot of people.”

Forty-two people were riding with her, adding to the tens of thousands of people pouring into the city on 1,800 buses to join the Women’s March on Washington and protest the inauguration of President Trump. They have come, for the most part, from Hillary Clinton’s America: large metropolitan communities like Chicago or Atlanta, or smaller college towns like Ann Arbor, Mich., or Madison, Wis. But there were some women, though far fewer in number, who departed the America that fueled the rise of Trump, and this is the America of Williamsport.

A mountainous town of 30,000 residents in central Pennsylvania, its economy and culture have long been tethered to the vagaries of hard industry — first lumber, then manufacturing, then natural gas — and it anchors a county that is 92 percent white and went 71 percent for Trump.

This is the only town, the only America, that Barr, 54, riding the bus with her daughter, Ashley, 30, has ever known. A petite woman who feels most comfortable when no one is looking at her, she has never done anything like this before. She has only been to Washington one time, and big cities intimidate her. Back home in Williamsport, she manages a hardware store, which exclusively employs white men and almost exclusively services them. Most days, she adores the job. But more and more, especially after the campaign and election, she has begun to feel claustrophobic not only there, but in Williamsport.

Is she happy? Is she living the life she was supposed to? Is it too late at this point in her life — a middle-aged, divorced mother of three — to be someone different?

Why has she come?

She sat quietly toward the front of the bus, unsure, but hopeful, that this march, this trip to Washington, might provide an answer.

A woman transformed

Two days before that moment, Joanne was in a house with a bare refrigerator.

“No food in this house,” she said of her home miles outside Williamsport, up serpentine roads leading into the hills, where she moved a decade ago to escape the bustle and people of town. She went to the fridge and checked a grocery list hanging beside a schedule of local Alcoholic Anonymous meetings that her son had recently begun attending.

Grocery list in hand, she headed for the car, past a bookcase with 20 books she has read on addiction and recovery: “Addict in the Family,” “Why Don’t They Just Quit,” “Heroin is Killing our Children.”

There was a time when Barr thought addiction was something that happened to other families, to people not as successful, religious and conservative. But that was before her husband went from painkillers to cocaine to crack, before her son nearly died of a heroin overdose, before she realized how quickly success can yield to debt, religion to doubt, conservatism to whatever she had now become.

Getting behind the wheel, she flipped the ignition, and the radio came on. It was CNN Radio, and a voice was saying, “This is truly the beginning, as of right now, you’re witnessing it right now, the beginning of President-Elect Trump’s time in Washington, D.C.” At one time, she would have quickly turned the dial, worried she wasn’t smart enough to learn about politics. But now “I listen to it constantly. I used to listen to music and stupid things. Now I listen to this.”

She often thinks about all the things she once did — and did not do — wondering how she could have been so insecure for so long. In Williamsport, she grew up only wanting to marry a man who would take care of everything, and that’s exactly what she got. Bill was everything she was not: confident, effervescent, assertive. He owned two hardware stores and properties across the city, and they raised three children in a big, showy house in a nice part of town. He said he always knew best, and she always believed him, even when he told her not to worry about all of his empty prescription pill bottles and frequent nose bleeds and increasingly erratic behavior. For years she found a way to excuse everything he did, until one night in September 2006 when “he punched her in her face with a closed fist,” according to the criminal complaint, and told her “he would ‘kill her’ if she called the police.”

She now pulled the car out to the end of the driveway, stopped at the mailbox and reached inside to grab a package. . .

Continue reading.

I imagine that events like this do inevitably alter the trajectory of many lives. They meet new people, encounter new ideas, realize that they can do things, and form a network and begin to get involved in politics. And I bet it works better with the connections that can be secured via the internet: email, Twitter, Facebook, and on and on. So they enter politics, and organizing skills are gender-neutral (and I would guess favor women, who often have organizing pushed off on them because it can get tedious), so that it might be a very effective block.

This time seems somewhat different: what is at stake is starkly clear, not just in the sexual assault issue but in the President’s absolute refusal to avoid conflicts of interest. I would bet that for him conflicts of interest are a feature and not a bug: he can schmooze a foreign potentate and lay the groundwork for lucrative projects, and do it all on someone else’s dime (that would be yours and mine: we taxpayers are fronting the costs for Trump to build his own (commercial) empire. It’s a gold mine! ).

So the threat is large and near-term: it gets one’s attention. So the response has been commensurate with the stimulus. And with the technology we have today, things can happen quickly.

That technology, though, is a two-edged sword: the same thing that facilitates the link-ups and coordination also facilitates tracking and recording those activities by the government. (The NSA reports to President Trump.) Dissidents can be identified not only by the content of their posts, but by the pattern of clicks and likes—and I bet Facebook can cook up a “Dissident Identifier” algorithm in two shakes.

Of course, the same is true for other movements that have been able to grow through the internet: the alt-Right, Stormfront, Steve Bannon crowd. But there are laws that protect them—and, of course, Steve Bannon now has some control over the use of such resources. Perhaps it’s good that President Trump thoroughly pissed off the intelligence community before he even took office. OTOH, that might lead to the rise of a second, separate intelligence service, one on which the President (and Bannon) can rely, and I’m sure you can figure out the sort selected to staff it.

And the data have a permanency, as many have discovered when old posts and tweets and emails return years later to haunt them. And I am sure that the encounter described in this post earlier today will result in records for each person becoming a part of various permanent databases, to be used as the government sees fit.

See also: “Yes, America, you can resist the brutishness of the reign of Trump — when progressives truly unite,” by Jim Hightower in Salon.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2017 at 3:06 pm

Trump, cops, and crime

leave a comment »

Radley Balko notes some ominous signs:

Within minutes of President Trump’s swearing in, his administration posted several policy positions on the White House website. The topic “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” is striking.

A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.

These aren’t off-the-cuff remarks. It’s carefully chosen language that presumably went through a number of revisions. Note the wording. Trump will do more than end violence against law enforcement. He will end the “anti-police atmosphere in America.” You don’t end an “atmosphere” without some pretty drastic action. It sounds quite like a promise to crack down on speech and protest. Ominous as that sounds (and it’s pretty ominous), absent some wanton, unheard of abuse of power like federalizing the National Guard to subdue the next round of protests against police abuse, there isn’t a whole lot Trump can do directly, at least not in the short term.

But in the longer term? He could widen the spigot through which military gear flows to police departments, both from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. He has already promised this. He has already indicated that he’ll call off Justice Department watchdogging of police departments, which could encourage more aggressive responses. He could ramp up the spying and data collecting on protest groups that the federal government has already been doing for decades. He could halt the federal funding that currently promotes community-oriented policing and begin funding more aggressive, reactionary policing.

I’ll stop there. I’d hate to give him any ideas. But this is clearly a priority. It’s one of the six policies he posted immediately after taking office.

As Trump has done all campaign, to demonstrate why we need a “law-and-order” administration, the White House then cherry-picks a year of crime data to paint a portrait of, as Trump put it in his speech today, “American carnage.” Of course, while it’s true that violent crime has gone up over the past two years, the increase was mostly driven by sharp spikes in a handful of large cities. Even with that increase, the overall violent crime rate is about where it was in 2012, and remains near historic lows. (By the way, the violent crime rate in Canada also began a slight increase in 2015, also after a long decline.) One other interesting statistic: Even with the spike in some large cities, of the 11 states with the highest violent crime rates, eight are Republican-led (Alaska, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Florida), most with the kind of pro-police, law-and-order policies Trump supports. (Two of the other three — Nevada and New Mexico — are toss-up states.)

Thanks no doubt in large part to Trump, there is a perception that crime is getting worse. Last year, a Gallup poll found that the percentage of Americans worried about crime was at a 15-year high. But Gallup has been tracking opinions about crime in other ways that are instructive for comparing fear of crime with actual crime.

In the most straightforward question, Gallup asks if Americans think crime in the U.S. gotten better or worse than the previous year. Year after year, most Americans always think things have gotten worse. Even as the crime rate reached historic lows in the late 2000s and early 2010s, 60 percent or more still thought things were getting worse. In the most recent poll, taken last October, the figure was at 70 percent.

But there’s another question that better measures of how crime affects people day to day: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2017 at 1:50 pm

Perhaps we’re further along toward an authoritarian state than I realized: Canadians traveling to Women’s March denied US entry after sharing plans

leave a comment »

Ashifa Kassam reports in the Guardian:

Would-be protesters heading to the Women’s March on Washington have said they were denied entry to the United States after telling border agents at a land crossing in Quebec their plans to attend the march.

Montrealer Sasha Dyck was part of a group of eight who had arranged online to travel together to Washington. Divided into two cars, the group – six Canadians and two French nationals – arrived at the border crossing that connects St Bernard de Lacolle in Quebec with Champlain, New York, on Thursday.

The group was upfront about their plans with border agents, Dyck said. “We said we were going to the women’s march on Saturday and they said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pull over’.”

What followed was a two-hour ordeal. Their cars were searched and their mobile phones examined [without a warrant, presumably: there goes the 4th Amendment – LG]. Each member of the group was fingerprinted and had their photo taken.

Border agents first told the two French citizens that they had been denied entry to the US and informed them that any future visit to the US would now require a visa.

“Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said. The group was also warned that if they tried to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested. “And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification.”

Dyck described it as a sharp contrast to 2009, when the research nurse made the same journey to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration. “I couldn’t even get in for this one, whereas at the other one, the guy at the border literally gave me a high five when I came in and everybody was just like, ‘welcome’. The whole city was partying; nobody was there to protest Obama the first time.”

UK national Joe Kroese said he, a Canadian and two Americans were held at the same border crossing for three hours on Thursday.

The group had travelled from Montreal, where 23-year-old Kroese is studying, and had explained to border agents that they were considering attending the Women’s March but had yet to finalise their plans.

After being questioned, fingerprinted and photographed, Kroese and his Canadian companion were refused entry because they were planning to attend what the border agent called a “potentially violent rally”, he said. [Are not all rallies “potentially violent”? – LG] The pair was advised not to travel to the United States for a few months, and Kroese was told he would now need a visa to enter the US.

After an attempted crossing late Thursday, Montreal resident Joseph Decunha said he was also turned away. He and the two Americans he was with told the border agent that they were planning to attend the inauguration and the women’s march.

The group was brought in for secondary processing, where the border agent asked about their political views, Decunha told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’”

After being fingerprinted and photographed he was told that his two friends could enter the US, but that he could not. “They told me I was being denied entry for administrative reasons. According to the agent, my travelling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross,” Decunha said.

He described the experience – particularly the questions he fielded about his political beliefs – as concerning. “It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry.” . . .

Continue reading.

This is chilling. It seems clear that some Federal employees will rapidly adapt to the new regime.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2017 at 1:32 pm

%d bloggers like this: