Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump Tweets and the World Goes Crazy

President Trump put out a recent tweet about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. It was a little strange because he referred to Mika bleeding from a recent face-lift. This didn't come out of the blue. The pair regularly attack Trump. For those of us who don't use Twitter, this was a non-story. It had nothing to do with policy and Trump using Twitter to push back against his opponents is nothing new.

You'd never know how unimportant this actually is from the reaction in the press. They went crazy. It was the lead story on NBC Nightly News (or possibly NBC Nitely News depending on the ratings). Other media told us how this is an attack on all women (apparently only women have "work" done and we are supposed to pretend that it never happens). Mika herself called it "unhinged".

So why the disproportionate response? Didn't anything important happen in the world?

There are a couple of possibilities and they don't reflect well on news organizations.

There's the mercenary explanation. A lot of viewers are looking for reasons to be outraged at Trump. If he hasn't done anything of substance recently then the news media has to elevate trivialities in order to feed this demand.

The other possibility is that the newsrooms are actively working against Trump. To use the terminology of the Left, leading with a story like this "denormalizes" the President. It "others" him. It also drowns out any messages that the White House is trying to push.

One thing that's certain, the newsrooms are so packed with people who hate Trump that no one in authority bothers to step in and question why this deserves major coverage. There is a double standard here. Trump uses inflammatory language more often than President Obama did but Obama did make some harsh and unfair statements at times. These were either ignored or given fawning coverage. No one led with the story that Obama called the Republicans "hostage takers" or that he called their budget a "stink-burger". Obama's monologue at the Press Club Dinner was outright mean without a hint of the self-deprecating humor that other presidents used but no one ever called him on that.

The big question for any top news story - "How does this affect me?" went unanswered in the story about Trump's tweet. The answer is that it had no effect on anyone except for giving a momentary bit of publicity to an anti-Trump morning show. That's a poor excuse for a lead story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fake News, Washington Post 202 edition

The Washington Post sends out a daily summary called the Daily 202 (the name comes from Washington DC's area code). One daily feature is the "There's a bear in the woods" part which gives a daily update on any possible Russian ties. This ties in with the recent Project Veritas video in which a CNN producer admits that they have been giving constant coverage to the Russian story even though they don't think there's anything to it.

The Daily 202 coverage is anti-Trump in general which is to be expected from the Washington Post which is in a race to the bottom with the New York Times. Still, this one section caught my eye today.

Yes, it is absolutely true that Democratic leaders worked out many health-care hiccups behind closed doors to pass Obamacare in 2009. But they made full use of the committee process. Fact Checker Glenn Kessler has written a detailed history of how the ACA came together: "In the Senate, for instance, the drafting of a health-care bill in the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee took from June 17 to July 14, during which 500 amendments were made. In the Finance Committee, which drafted its version between Sept. 22 and Oct. 2, there were 564 proposed amendments. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) even voted for the Senate Finance version. … During the private talks, (Harry) Reid agreed to remove a public option in the bill, as well as drop a plan to allow people between the ages of 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare. There was also a significant change in abortion coverage."

Reading this, you would think that the Democrats had been a model of transparency. The quote from the Glenn Kessler column is accurate but Kessler goes on to say that the whole process was a sham. The real bill was being negotiated in secret. Just before Christmas the real bill was released and the one negotiated in public was tossed in the trash bin. By selectively quoting Kessler's column, the Daily 202 represented what actually happened in a manner at odds with the column's conclusion.

In other words, this is fake news.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Obamacare Debate We Need

Right now the choices being presented to us are Obamacare or a Republican substitute. But this debate leaves out an important fact - Obamacare is failing and has to be changed. Here are some facts that Obamacare's supporters don't like to admit:

Enrollment is way below projections. Obamacare's supporters love to tell us how many more people are insured than before Obamacare passed. They never mention that projected enrollement in the exchanges is way behind projections. Worse, the shortage is in the healthy young people who are supposed to be subsidizing health care for everyone else.

The exchanges are losing money. Insurance companies keep raising rates or pulling out of states entirely because their projections show that they will never break even, to say nothing of making a profit. That's because of the missing healthy people.

It was never fully implemented. The individual portion of Obamacare was implemented but President Obama put the employer mandate on hold for years. Chances are that it will never be implemented.

It represents a tremendous expansion of executive power. Many laws have clauses in them that give the President and the relevant government departments wide latitude in how the law is enforced. Obamacare is fairly limited. Obama seems to have used the maxim about it being better to ask for forgiveness than permission. With no legal authority, he created the national exchanges, delayed implementation of parts of it and diverted money into a profit sharing fund in order to offset insurance company losses. The national exchange survived a court challenge but it's unclear of Obama's other executive actions would.

The "uncertainty" in the markets came from profit sharing fund. Every time an insurance company pulls out of a state, they cite "uncertainty". They are referring to the uncertain future of the profit sharing fund. This was originally set up to create level results for the participating insurance companies. Ones that made too much would pay into the fund which would then be paid to companies that lost money. The problem is that there were never any profits to share. Obama simply diverted money from elsewhere and used this fund to subsidize the insurance company losses. Had Hillary Clinton won the election, this practice would have continued until the courts ruled on it's legality. But the Trump administration announced that it will not defend this practice. So the insurance companies will lose the subsidy that made the exchanges tolerable. There is a decent chance that the courts would have ruled against this practice anyway.

So, when you hear supporters of Obamacare saying that President Trump is ruining Obamacare, that's what they are talking about. He ended an executive overreach.

None of this is secret. The Democrats and news organizations have known about it all along. They know perfectly well that Obamacare would have needed a major overhaul even if Hillary Clinton was in the White House. But none of them want to say this in public because the next questions would be about how to fix Obamacare.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Alexandria Shooting and the Left

It is very disheartening to see the reactions from the left to the attempt by a gunman to kill several members of Congress during a baseball practice. The Left has been involved in ever-escalating acts of violence but none of the reactions admit this. Instead they blame everyone but themselves. Here are some of the alleged excuses.

Guns. Yes, the attacker used guns. But would he have simply given up and stayed in Illinois if he hadn't had access to guns? While he had a violent past he had never done anything that would have triggered any of the "common sense gun laws" we keep hearing about. There are at least 9 million "assault rifles" in America but they kill fewer people than knives. Regardless, I'm seeing people quoting statistics for all gun deaths, including suicides (which is always included to triple the body count).

Even without guns, the attacker still wanted to kill Republicans. He could have driven his van into people just as terrorists in Europe have been doing.

Republicans. They were against gun legislation so "the reaped what thew sowed". Seriously, a friend said that on Facebook. He later denied that he was victim-blaming which means he doesn't understand the term. Regardless, the idea here is that, because Republicans didn't support legislation that would not have stopped this attack, they deserved to be targeted.

Scalise. He was a bad person and deserved it. This is because he once gave a speech at an event organized by a group associated with David Duke (Scalise has since apologized for it). The shooter was not trying to assassinate Scalise. He was shooting at Republicans in general. Four people were shot and two others injured trying to get out of the way. Plus there were children present.

Trump. Because everything bad is Trump's fault. Two clips from the campaign are taken out of context to "prove" that Trump inspired a new level of violence in the country. Context is missing. The two clips were in response to protestors trying to disrupt Trump Rallies. There are general excuses that Trump caused violence to increase because he a racist, etc.

What they ignore. While it's possible to point to a few isolated examples of violent rhetoric from the Right, the Left has been engaging in it for years. The Democrats embraced Black Lives Matters even as they called for "more dead cops". Antifa protestors have trashed cities regularly in the name of resisting Trump. Conservative speakers have been run off of campus through the threat of violence and occasionally through actual violence.

Hillary Clinton is part of The Resistance (a name inspired by the anti-Nazi French Underground in WWII). She has also claimed that the Russians cost her the elections. Numerous Democrats have gone further, claiming that Trump colluded with the Russians. Former MSNBC-host Keith Olbermann claims that we have had a bloodless coup and has called on foreign powers to step in and save us from Trump. Democratic members of Congress have suggested that they should have waited to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee until the investigation into Russia was complete (which could take years). Every law and executive order that Trump signs is put in the worst possible light.

Given this backdrop, it's no wonder that someone from the far left with a tendency to violence would decide to take matters into his own hands.

But it would take a major piece of introspection for the Left to recognize how violent and unhinged it has become. It would also be self-defeating. Advocacy groups are raking in cash by whipng up anti-Trump hysteria.

Note: one thing missing from the blame-Trump argument is the "Trump Effect', a wave of Trump-inspired violence against women and minorities that swept the nation. I think this was a deliberate omission. The Trump Effect never happened. All of the highly-publicized events were false reports. Either nothing happened at all or someone on the left committed a hate crime so the the Right would be blamed. No one on the Left wants this inconvenient fact brought up so they stayed silent about it.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Violence and Opportunism from the Left

On June 14th, a gunman opened fire on a group of Republican congressmen practicing for the annual baseball game with the Democrats. Initial reports indicate that the shooter was a Bernie Sanders supporter and had verified that it was Republicans on the field before opening fire. Further reports say that while he was from Illinois, he'd been living in Alexandria in his van since March.

I'm going to speculate a bit about his motives. The shooter's social media groups included one called "Eliminate Republicans" and he seems to have taken this seriously. It's possible that he moved to Alexandria specifically to kill President Trump and settled for shooting at congressmen after being unable to get near enough to harm the President. But, as I said, that's speculation.

What we know for sure is that this was an act of violence against the Republicans. When Gabby Giffords was shot six years ago, the Right was immediately blamed for including coded messages that their agents would understand. The Left backed off of this a bit after it came out that the Giffords shooter was an incoherent leftist who was obsessed with language purity. Nevertheless, I still see references to that shooting as Republican-inspired.

There have been no coded messages since the election of President Trump. The Left has been very straightforward with calls for violence. These range from images of Trump being assassinated (Snoop Dog killing Trump in a video, Kathy Griffin holding Trump's bloody head, Shakespeare in the Park killing Trump nightly as Julius Caesar) to memes saying that "it's OK to punch a fascist".

Once you've decided that an act of violence is proper, it can easily escalate from punching fascists to shooting Republicans.

The Left needs to take a deep breath, calm down, and stop obsessing over President Trump. They also need to start condemning the violence coming from within their side. This includes a lot of campus protests and the black-clad antifas. And they need to remember that unprovoked violence is never appropriate no matter how distasteful you find someone's views.

So far this is not happening. I've seen very few posts on social media calling for less rancor. Instead I've seen people suggest that the congressmen who were shot had it coming for opposing gun control or simply that the Republican Whip who was hurt the most deserved it for being a poor human being. This only makes things worse. It excuses the shooting.

Trying to tie this to gun control is inexcusable. While it is still early, nothing has surfaced to show that the shooter would have been failed a background check. Yes, he did have a semi-automatic rifle but kiives kill more people than all types of rifles. The gunman also had a handgun.

But this is the worst type of opportunism. The important thing her is the will to commit violence. Millions of people own rifles but only a handful are used to kill or injure. Simply having a gun does not make you want to kill members of a political party. It's the toxic rhetoric that does that.

Recent attacks including the one in London just last week show that it is the will to harm that is important. Islamic terrorists have gone from using guns to using vehicles and knives. Taking away the Alexandria attacker's guns would not remove his will to harm. He had a van. He could have as easily used it.

Currently almost all of the violence is coming from the Left. This is in contrast to the Tea Party rallies of the Obama era when protestors made it a point of pride that they never caused any property destruction. Instead of giving a wink and a nod to the violence, the Left needs to make it clear that this is unacceptable.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is it possible to tell how President Trump is doing?

President Trump was inaugurated nearly six months ago. How good a job is he doing? I can't tell. News coverage is beyond biased. The newsrooms are filled with people who hate Trump. Many of them see themselves as part of the Resistance and use this to justify suspending even the appearance of balanced reporting. Others simply get caught up in whatever the day's distraction is. This is in contrast to President Obama who could do no wrong in the eyes of the press.

Here are a few examples. The Philippians are an important ally and partner in the fight against Islamic terrorism but the current Philippine president is known for his brutal treatment of drug dealers. When Trump made it clear that he would not push for civil rights reforms in the Philippians, the press ran multiple stories and editorials condemning Trump. But Cuba is also a major violator of human rights. Not a word was said about this when Obama opened relations with Cuba, not even when the Castro regime had a major crackdown and made things worse after Obama opened relations. Instead the press swooned at the thoughts of seeing classic cars in Havana and Cuban baseball.

Trump negotiated a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This was to balance the region after Obama's promotion of Iran as a regional power. There seems to have been a side-deal that the Saudis would stop turnign a blind eye to the financial support of terrorism. As part of that, several Arab countries cut relations with Yemen. All of that seems like a good thing but all the press could talk about was that the US has a naval base in Yemen.

And the biggest share of press coverage for Trump's first overseas trip was devoted to his wife not wanting to hold his hand.

The Paris Accord is another example. Even if it did everything it was promised to do, the effect would be too small to measure. Did the press ever mention this? Of course not. Instead we were given stories about rising sea levels.

The biggest distraction has been Russia. Trump is not under investigation for colluding with the Russians. There is no evidence that the Russians actually changed the election results, either directly through tampering with election equipment and releasing emails or indirectly through fake news stories. But you won't hear that from the press. Instead we get stories about every time a member of the Trump administration had any contact with anyone from Russia as if a handshake in public is a smoking gun. This story has been, to used a preferred phrase of former Secretary of State Clinton, a big nothing-burger. In fact the book Shattered suggested that she and her campaign were the ones who started pushing the Russian story days after the election. It should have been a big story when fired FBI Director Comey said that the Feb 14 New York Times story stating that members of the Trump administration had meetings with Russian agents. Instead that was, at best, a footnote.

All of this makes it impossible to judge how well the Trump administration is performing. We have no idea if the Trump White House is in disarray or simply going through the normal settling-in pains experienced by every administration. When Trump has accomplishments, they are drowned out by headlines about his tweets or Russia.

This doubles down on the bubble the Left lives in. They get constant confirmation bias. But is this deluge of anti-Trump coverage enough to turn Trump voters to vote Democrat or will the constant, unfair attacks stiffen the resolve of his supporters? We won't know for another year an a half, at the earliest.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Trump and Comey

Yesterday former FBI Director Comey testified before Congress. Many on the Left had been hoping that this would be a knock-out for Trump's presidency or at least the beginning of the end. It was not. Here are the big take-away:

Trump asked for loyalty. As soon as the election was called in Trump's favor, Obama hold-overs vowed to resist his presidency in any way possible. While there are several interpretations of what Trump meant when he asked Comey for loyalty, the most likely is that Trump was asking Comey to do his job impartially instead of undercutting Trump from undercover. Comey offered his honesty which Trump accepted. This shows that Trump way manly asking Comey to do his job.

Trump was correct in mistrusting Comey. Comey didn't trust Trump and acted accordingly.

Trump only asked Comey to go easy on former National Security Advisor Flynn. Flynn was only being investigated because Trump appointed him. This comes across to me as Trump suggesting that being forced to resign was enough punishment but that he left it up to Comey. Comey testified that he took it as an order which he chose to ignore. It must not have been much of an order since he did not report Trump following up on the request. I suspect that when you choose to ignore a direct order by Trump, he does not forget about it and let the matter drop. It would be impossible to impeach Trump on obstruction of justice charges based on this (which hasn't stopped the left from screaching).

Trump was never under investigation. This is a big one. A major justification for opposing Trump was that he is Putin's puppet (or worse according to a foul rant by Stephen Colbert). Comey's testimony showed that Trump was never suspected of colluding with Russia. Further, Trump was all in favor of investigating any of his "satellites" who had cooperated improperly with the Russians. That ends the hope of somehow nullifying the election.

Trump had a good reason for firing Comey. While the White House has offered several reasons for the firing, The biggest one seems to be that Comey knew that Trump was innocent of dealing with the Russians but refused to say so publicly, despite the damage his silence was causing  the president. Among other things, the (non-existent) investigation was given by Democrats as a reason to hold up Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Comey was quite free in confirming the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server despite the damage that did to her campaign but he was unwilling to be as flexible for a sitting president.

The Obama Justice Department did try to obstruct the investigation of HRC's email server. Among other things, Comey was instructed to call it a "matter" rather than an "investigation".

Comey is pretty sleezy. He took a lot on himself. He decided to make a public announcement about the email server and make it in such a way that no charges would be filed despite that being outside of the FBI's authority. He claims to have decided to ignore an order from the President on an investigation. He leaked his memos to the press in the hope of starting an independent investigation but he never gave a good cause for investigating anything.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Paris Treaty Hysterics

Last week President Trump announced that he was pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement on Global Warming. Naturally the world erupted in hysterics. One of the ore heated reactions I saw was a letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch that talked about millions dying and global flooding. Nowhere was it reported that a majority of the country is skeptical about Global Warming or what the trade-offs to the agreement are. This is why Trump won the election. Within the bubble it is unanimous that the agreement was a good thing and that there could be no descent. The people inside the bubble aren't even aware of the bubble,

Along with the Iran nuclear arms pact, the Paris Agreement was meant as the capstone on President Obama's foreign policy. Similarly, despite being a treaty in all but name, it was never submitted to the Senate for ratification. Since the two agreements were so important to Obama, the negotiators were willing to settle for a bad deal over no deal.

The Paris Agreement was not going to stop Global Warming or even slow it appreciably. If all of the goals were met then the reduction in the expected rise would be around 0.02 C. That is too small to be accurately measured against weather so it amounts to a rounding error. The signatories were allowed to set their own goals and the only enforcement mechanism was "name and shame" so it's unlikely that it would even meet its goals. It also contained a Green Fund which was an huge funds transfer from the developed nations (led by the US but not including China or India) to the rest of the world in the name of environmental justice. That's why the agreement had nearly 200 signatories - most of the countries involved were promised cash for signing with no real penalties for failing to meet their goals.

Seriously, we were going to eliminate American jobs for that?

In his announcement speech, Mr Trump said that he is the President of Pittsburgh, not Paris. The fact that this was widely derided (and even compared to Hitler) is why Trump won the election. There is still a significant core support in the US for a President who puts his pwn country first instead of last.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Chimera of Single-Payer

The American Left is enamored with the idea of single-payer health care. To them, it's the best possible form. They are blind to it's drawbacks.

Making the government responsible for health care also gives the government a bigger say in individual behavior. Considering the misguided efforts at dictating school lunches, imagine what will happen if politicians decide that the best way to cut health care costs is to mandate lifestyle changes? Right now insurers are offering incentives but imagine if these had the force of law?

And there is the big question, why does the Left want to trust their health care to the people who administer the VA hospitals?

But these issues are minor compared to the disruption that a change to Single Payer would cause to the economy. Think about it. Health care is a big portion of the economy. Single Payer means nationalizing it. Insurance is around 9% of the economy and they want to outright eliminate that.

Most Americans get their insurance through their employer and are happy with it. It's part of their compensation package. It's also one of the biggest things that unions have to offer. Unionized industries typically offer superior health benefits.

What will happen if Single Payer is implemented? Health insurance is a tax-exempt benefit. Just handing over the cash paid on employee's behalf will bet them less than they are currently getting.

In order to implement Single Payer, taxes will have to be raised. Most advocates think that other people (the rich) will be taxed and that they will get free benefits. The truth is that the rich don't have enough money. Everyone will have to pay.

When all is said and done, lots of people will be better off but lots will be worse off and the change will put the economy in turmoil for years, maybe decades. One thing that is guaranteed is that the transition will be must harder than the Left believes. The idea that the government can just put it into place without consequences is absurd.

We may get to see how this works out. Vermont tried to implement a single-payer system but it was a total failure. California is currently debating it. We'll see if they have more success than Vermont had.