Posts Tagged ‘entitlement’

Rage when you disagree: How ‘safe spaces’ led to today’s political mobs

October 15, 2018

What’s behind the recent spread of outraged mobs on US streets, wild-eyed and throwing violent fits because their favored political outcome didn’t happen? How did so many Americans give up on resolving disagreements through discussion and turn the fact that a disagreement exists into an excuse for a tantrum?

Campuses started setting up “safe spaces” well before 2015, when the news hit our media in earnest: College students were literally taking shelter from the possibility of hearing opinions they might disagree with.

By Karol Markowicz
Opinion
New York Post

For all the mockery the idea received, we’re seeing that principle extended to the real world. The recent outbursts on our streets have their root in the idea that only one opinion is the correct one and all others must be shut down.

And politicians are encouraging the idea that disagreement is a personal attack: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hillary Clinton said last week.

“If you don’t agree, unfriend me” is a common enough post on Facebook — and that’s directed toward people who are supposed to be your friends.

It’s not a big leap from there to: If you don’t agree, you can’t have dinner, as Ted Cruz found out recently when he was chased from a restaurant. Or to yelling at Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator. Or to: If you don’t agree, I can physically assault you, applied to strangers on the other side of your protest, as happened recently to the Republican son of Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

We’re also years into those pre-Thanksgiving articles about how to talk to members of your own family who have a different political perspective. Most pieces now advise you to avoid talking politics altogether. That’s normal, actually — but if you avoid the subject because it makes you bristle with anger toward the people you love, that’s a problem.

It’s not just far-off relatives with a different political perspective that raise the ire of those unable to handle disagreement. In a Washington Post op-ed, “Thanks for not raping us, all you ‘good men.’ But it’s not enough,” Victoria Bissell Brown writes that she raged at her husband because of some small comment “I yelled at my husband last night. Not pick-up-your-socks yell. Not how-could-you-ignore-that-red-light yell. This was real yelling. This was 30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling.”

This is not normal. This is not behavior that should be rewarded with publication of an op-ed column on a non-fringe Web site. Bissell Brown is a retired history professor; the lessons of safe-space campus culture weren’t limited to students.

And when she reports that “I announced that I hate all men, and wish all men were dead,” that isn’t a joke we can all be in on. The inability to resolve conflict normally even in our own homes is exactly what spills out onto our streets.

After the 2016 election, we heard lots of admissions that many of us reside in political bubbles where we never hear outside opinions. For a while, it seemed like the consensus was that this was a negative thing. But now people increasingly retreat to these bubbles, proudly, and never learn how to handle political disagreement.

The result is the rage we’re seeing now. The more we shut off hearing the other side’s point of view, the more likely we are to see these mobs spring up.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said last week “Michelle [Obama] always says, you know, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.”

Criticized for encouraging violence, he called it “fake outrage” and tweeted that he only meant “Republicans are undermining our democracy and Democrats need to be tough, proud and stand up for the values we believe in — the end.” He didn’t explain how his kicking comment made sense in that context.

When the other side is seeking to “destroy what you stand for,” or “undermine our democracy,” violence doesn’t seem so farfetched.

In covering the early days of “safe spaces,” Conor Friedersdorf wrote for The Atlantic about student protesters who didn’t want a reporter filming them: “At various points, they intimidate him. Ultimately, they physically push him. But all the while, they are operating on the premise, or carrying on the pretense, that he is making them unsafe. It is as if they’ve weaponized the concept of ‘safe spaces.’ ”

Never learning to argue out their political beliefs, these people have graduated and now expect their opinions to always be shared and their favored political outcomes to always occur. Instead of being told to grow up, they’re encouraged to express their fury by people who should know better. Better for everyone if they had their rude awakening sooner rather than later.

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When China rules the world

October 11, 2018

In August 1967, China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. Eager to show their revolutionary fervor, Chinese diplomatic staff in London emerged from their embassy wielding iron bars and confronting the police and some journalists who were outside.

No one was significantly hurt in the scuffles that followed, but it was duly reported by Beijing as an attack by “imperialist” police on innocent Chinese.

There were echoes of that well-recorded incident in an event last week in Birmingham, England, at a side event of the annual Conservative Party conference. It was addressed by Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and activist on Hong Kong issues who established Hong Kong Watch, a group concerned with civil rights in that territory.

A London-based reporter for China Central Television named Kong Linlin stepped outside of her reportorial role and began to shout at the speaker, using words including “You are a puppet. … You are a liar. You want to separate China and you are not even Chinese. … The rest are all traitors. …”

By PHILIP BOWRING

THE GLOBALIST

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Happy Chinese tourists

The female reporter was then seen to slap more than once an ethnic Chinese attending the event — Enoch Lieu, who is Hong Kong born but a U.K. resident. The police intervened and Kong was arrested for assault, though later released without charge.

This might have been written off as a minor incident, a nationalistic reporter losing her cool. But CCTV defended her and, despite the visual evidence available, insisted that she was the one who had been blocked from expressing her opinion and then assaulted. Naturally, this claim went down well with the social media masses back home in China. They are ever eager on the lookout for “insults to the Chinese people.”

It was not clear whether Kong acted spontaneously or the incident was a special kind of “assignment,” planned like that one in 1967.

However, a pattern is emerging. It was the third time in as many weeks that China’s state organs — of which CCTV is a key part — have made victims out of Chinese who were “misbehaving.”

In a pattern that is well familiar from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, twisting facts in order to spur nationalist sentiments among the masses has become the new normal in China.

Thusly, a Chinese tourist who refused to leave a Swedish hotel where he did not have the appropriate booking was made into a hero of anti-Chinese victimization when the hotel called the police and had the man arrested. The Chinese Foreign Ministry decided to take up the case and Sweden was widely vilified.

A similar burst of Chinese outrage followed an incident between a Chinese tourist and an immigration official in Thailand. In this case, the official appears to have been at fault in an incident by slapping the tourist who repeatedly refused to obey his instructions.

The ensuing outrage in Chinese media was sufficient for Thai Prime Minister, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, to issue a groveling apology. This was doubtless out of fear of slowing the flow of Chinese tourists who now account for about 27 percent of 35 million annual visitors to the country.

China had earlier been outraged by the Thai deputy prime minister’s suggestion that a Chinese tour operator’s ignoring of a weather warning had been at least partly responsible for the deaths of 44 Chinese when a boat sank off the holiday island of Phuket. Bookings for Phuket plunged. The minister apologized.

Most countries are keen to attract Chinese tourists. Nonetheless, official as well as social media responses to recent incidents also raise questions in foreign minds about China’s self-regard. Other countries have plenty of misbehaving tourists, but — unlike in China’s case — their diplomats are normally the ones apologizing for their countrymen’s behavior, not the ones demanding apologies.

There are two obvious reasons for China’s approach. One is simply to use its commercial power for political ends — amply demonstrated by actions in 2017 to boycott some goods and reduce tourism to South Korea over its missile defense deal with the United States.

Another is for the government to appeal to populist sentiment in being seen to support Chinese people everywhere and anywhere, on the principle “My Country Right or Wrong.” This, in particular, is a tell-tale indication of the nervousness of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership over the country’s brittle economic course.

Philip Bowring is an Asia-based journalist, formerly the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and columnist for the International Herald Tribune.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/10/11/commentary/world-commentary/china-rules-world/#.W794rGhKhaQ

We’re Surviving Trump Just Fine — Despite Hysteria From The Left and Media

September 8, 2018

Hysteria aside, the Woodward book shows the president as an amateur.

President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One, Sept. 7.
President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One, Sept. 7. PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Donald Trump of Bob Woodward’s book is the Trump of the Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin: ill-prepared, bombastic and overconfident.

A press conference is a classic pseudo-event, manufactured to make the participants look good. Failing to make himself look good (as he also failed to do after Charlottesville) revealed nothing about Mr. Trump so much as his political amateurishness that even his freakish success in 2016 cannot cure.

The Woodward book is best understood as an antidote to a humorless and self-righteous press’s overintepretation of the Trump phenomenon. The Washington Post and the New York Times dwelled on the same half-dozen anecdotes: One underling called him an idiot. Another disobeyed his orders. Another snatched an unsigned letter from his desk to abort some presumptively dopey action. Et cetera.

Then came a redundant op-ed in the New York Times, by an unnamed Trump official, probably one whom Mr. Woodward didn’t find worth talking to. He claimed that he too was working to stop Mr. Trump’s bad ideas. Hooray for me, the author seemed to be saying.

Maybe we need to have a conversation about competence. Dean Acheson, President Truman’s top foreign-policy adviser, left South Korea out of the free world’s “defensive perimeter” in a speech in early 1950 and thereby may have invited the Korean War. Lyndon Johnson used questionable intelligence from the Gulf of Tonkin as a pretext to escalate in Vietnam. The Pentagon, having spent 11 years using no-fly zones to maintain a balance of power between the Iraq’s confessional communities, knew how to avoid civil war in Iraq. George W. Bush threw it all up in the air by handing the country to the Shiites and calling it democracy.

I could go on.

In the Woodward book, Mr. Trump says after the appointment of special counsel Bob Mueller: “Everybody’s trying to get me. . . . They’re going to spend years digging through my whole life and finances.”

So at least he is compos mentis about some things.

To a national-security aide who interrupts his golf program, he says, “I want to watch the Masters. . . . You and your cyber . . . are going to get me in a war.”

One might wish some other presidents had been so interested in golf.

Skeptical about U.S. purposes in Afghanistan, he tells an aide: “Why are you jamming this down my throat?”

These words could be engraved on every president’s forehead.

My purpose here is not to elevate President Trump in anyone’s estimation, but to inject some realism about the presidency. Barack Obama spun his wheels on impotent attempts to build a legacy out of expansions of the entitlement and regulatory state in ways that don’t look like much now. But he avoided major disasters. Mr. Trump is, functionally, Mr. Obama without the ambition (putting aside his odd ideas about trade) and has been rewarded with 4% growth, which is finally delivering the kind of “hope and change” that might make a difference in the lives of Mr. Obama’s “hope and change” voters.

If this is incompetence, we can tolerate it. If his tenure leads to a downgrading of the presidency and a reassertion of Congress as the proper policy maker for the country, all the better.

Instead of telling us what we already know about the Trump White House, Mr. Woodward’s investigative chops might have been better employed in getting to the bottom of the strange election that gave us President Trump in the first place.

The FBI became a vehicle by which unknown foreign agents, plus one known foreign agent, plus various U.S. partisan confederates, tried to insert unsubstantiated allegations about Mr. Trump into the campaign.

The shambolic and self-defeating public intervention of the FBI director on behalf of Hillary Clinton was set in motion by secret Russian intelligence about which the public is still being kept in the dark.

A considerable cross-section of the Obama-Bush leadership class in Washington was so alarmed about the prospect of a Trump presidency that they invented, or fell for, a story about how he was a Russian agent.

For the record, I keep hearing from Trump voters who are satisfied they got the wrecking ball they voted for, aimed at this selfsame Bush-Obama elite. No candidate for president in my lifetime came wrapped in less false advertising.

Which leaves only the problem of how to make sure the high-risk Trump presidency does the most good with the least harm. Happily, from the testimony this week, the job is well in hand among Mr. Trump’s shifting cast of helpers from mostly the same elite.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/were-surviving-trump-just-fine-1536356134

Enough of Crazy Rich Asians, how about some empathy and compassion crazy poor Hongkongers

August 25, 2018

Yonden Lhatoo says a big ‘bah humbug’ to the crass celebration of wealth behind the Hollywood blockbuster while the city can’t get a grip on grinding poverty and homelessness

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 1:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 1:51pm
 Crazy wealth disparity as film glorifies in the super-rich and ignores the plight of Asia’s impoverished. Photo: Warner Bros/Sam Tsang

On my way home from work late at night, I often walk through what passes as a public park in this concrete jungle of a city.

By Yonden Lhatoo

It’s essentially a cemented strip, separated from the main road by dusty trees and bushes blackened by soot from vehicle exhaust fumes. Several park benches sheltered by flimsy roofs line the strip, offering spartan refuge to a couple of homeless men who sleep there on a regular basis.

I can’t help noticing how the government has gone out of its way to make them feel unwelcome, putting up notices against street sleepers and taking it a mean-spirited step further by installing iron dividers on every bench, rendering those precious pieces of real estate physically impossible to recline on.

A ‘cardboard granny’ ekes out a living in North Point. Photo: Dickson Lee

And yet the street sleepers are there every night, nodding off while sitting upright between the iron dividers, or slumped over them in tortured slumber, bodies contorted in painful positions.

It’s a truly depressing sight in a city where the plight of the have-nots like these is magnified by contrasting, vulgar displays of wealth and privilege all around them – the park is also a magnet for dog owners walking, or wheeling in strollers, their freshly shampooed and manicured poodles.

All I hear these days is buzz about Crazy Rich Asians, the Hollywood blockbuster featuring a bunch of disgustingly wealthy people living over-privileged lives in Singapore. Photo: Handout

Speaking of homeless people and pets, I was struck by the double standards when a middle-aged man was jailed for four weeks earlier this month for leaving his Pomeranian in his car for hours while he was out delivering pizzas.

Everyone was outraged about the dog being abused but there was zero sympathy for the owner, who was living in his car and had basically left the pet “home” alone. Homelessness for humans takes a back seat to comfort for animals in this city.

A McRefugees sleeps at a 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant in Wan Chai. Photo: Sam Tsang

According to the government, the number of registered street sleepers has doubled to 1,127 over the past five years. Independent researchers and concern groups estimate there are twice as many.

Hundreds of them are “McSleepers” – people who spend their nights in 24-hour McDonald’s outlets – thanks to the fast food giant’s praiseworthy policy of open arms and tolerance that should put our welfare and housing authorities to shame.

Think about it: while our government is on a crusade to clear the homeless out of public places instead of taking truly bold action to tackle the causes of grinding poverty and insane property prices, McDonald’s is providing the immediate relief that nobody else could be bothered to.

From left: Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Constance Wu in a still from Crazy Rich Asians.

Hong Kong’s widening wealth gap, already worse than in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States, has become obscene.

When Oxfam reported that 82 per cent of the wealth generated on this planet last year went into the pockets of the richest 1 per cent while the poorest half of humanity got nothing, it also urged the government here to “increase public spending and create a human economy such that everyone – not just the fortunate few – can benefit”.

The entrance to a street sleepers’ shelter in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong. It is located above a trash collection centre. Photo: Su Xinqi

I don’t see anyone doing anything about it, really. In fact all I hear these days is the buzz about Crazy Rich Asians , the Hollywood blockbuster featuring a bunch of disgustingly wealthy people living over-privileged lives in Singapore.

I get the whole thing about a movie with an all-Asian cast finally breaking the box office in an industry that usually prefers white actors in yellowface to portray people from this part of the world. But all this brouhaha about celebrating “Asian pride” is sickening, to say the least.

Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan arrives at the film’s premiere in Hollywood. Photo: AFP

Sorry, what exactly are ordinary Asians so proud and excited about here? That we can also boast of people who charter private jets and own islands? That over-the-top opulence enjoyed by a few among us is cause for the rest to celebrate?

With all due respect to the crazy rich Asians and their fans in this city, how about some empathy and compassion for crazy poor Hongkongers instead?

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2161325/enough-crazy-rich-asians-think-crazy-poor-hongkongers

Will the South China Sea Become a Chinese Lake?

July 4, 2018

Twelve days at sea on a French warship provide occasion to ponder what lies ahead for the disputed waterway.

Published on: July 3, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
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https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/07/03/will-the-south-china-sea-become-a-chinese-lake/
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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 

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Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.

REUTERS/KHAM

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Fury as US hunter shares photo with dead rare black giraffe

June 30, 2018

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, outdoor and nature

A U.S. trophy hunter sparked waves of outrage on social media after killing a rare black giraffe and sharing photos of herself posing with its corpse.

The hunter, identified as Tess Thompson Talley, shot the rare animal during her trip to South Africa.

As her social media posts suggest, the woman is a veteran trophy hunter who has killed several exotic animals, including kangaroos, antelopes and monkeys.

She shared pictures with the killed giraffe, saying her “once in a lifetime dream hunt came true.”

“Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite awhile [sic]. I knew it was the one. He was over 18 years old, 4,000 lbs and was blessed to be able to get 2,000 lbs of meat from him,” her caption added.

After her photos landed on Twitter, she quickly drew a spate of widespread condemnation with many commenters voicing their disgust with the hunter.

Trophy hunting is a legal practice in several southern African countries, including Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

https://www.dailysabah.com/environment/2018/06/29/fury-as-us-hunter-shares-photo-with-dead-rare-black-giraffe

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A Movement Rises to Take Back Higher Education

June 18, 2018

Heterodox Academy, now more than 2,000 strong, stands against censorship and for free inquiry.

A Movement Rises to Take Back Higher Education
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

New York

Debra Mashek, a psychology professor at Harvey Mudd College, was leading a class discussion about intellectual humility this past semester when the conversation came to a halt. Ms. Mashek asked the students to think of ways in which, during an argument, they could signal intellectual humility—that is, admit they don’t have all the answers and are open to other perspectives. A white woman suggested prefacing statements with something like: “I could be crazy, but . . .” A black student then objected to the word “crazy.” He said it marginalizes people with mental illness, especially incarcerated black men.

A few months later, Ms. Mashek was advising a student about which classes he should take when he said: “With this class, I could kill two birds—” He stammered and then abandoned the idiom: “I could complete two requirements with one course.” Ms. Mashek asked why he had censored himself. “I didn’t want to offend you,” she recalls him saying, “because it’s a violent statement and we are not supposed to talk about violent things.”

The censorious climate of higher education has predictably created a culture of self-censorship. Two-thirds of this year’s graduating seniors at Harvard said “they had at some point chosen not to express an opinion in an academic setting during their time at Harvard out of fear that it would offend others,” according to a Harvard Crimson poll.

But some students and professors are standing up against the new culture of safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions and bias response teams. Ms. Mashek took a leave of absence from Harvey Mudd to become executive director of Heterodox Academy, an organization founded in 2015 to promote viewpoint diversity on campus. Its members, more than 2,000 professors and graduate students in the U.S. and beyond, are leading a movement in favor of free speech and inquiry. They held their first-ever conference Friday in New York.

Heterodox Academy is a politically diverse group—from Princeton legal scholar Robert P. George and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker to Columbia linguist John McWhorter and former American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen. Their common belief: that the purpose of a university is to teach students how to think, which entails disturbing their psychological equilibrium from time to time by exposing them to ideas that contradict their current beliefs. The pursuit of truth, not social justice, is the purpose of a university. If everyone on campus thinks alike—or pretends to, for fear of giving offense or being ostracized—then an open exchange of ideas is impossible, and so is learning.

Speech codes on college campuses have been around at least since the 1980s. But what has changed, according to social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University, is the attitude of the students. Mr. Haidt, who co-founded Heterodox Academy, believes that today’s collegians are more apt than earlier generations to feel threatened by words and ideas. The members of what psychologist Jean Twenge calls “iGen”—the internet generation, born since 1995—have far higher rates of anxiety and depression than did older millennials. Research suggests that iGen’s steady diet of social media may be partly to blame. These students, many of whose parents protected them from the ordinary adversities of daily life, began arriving to campus in 2013, psychologically fragile and unprepared for the challenges of a college education.

They started insisting on “trigger warnings” and demanding that controversial speakers be disinvited from campus. In fall 2015 a wave of highly publicized protests over racial issues hit Yale and the University of Missouri. In 2016 the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recorded 43 attempts to disinvite speakers from campus. Then in 2017, mobs at Berkeley and Middlebury rioted against provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and social scientist Charles Murray.

Data back up these anecdotes. A 2017 survey by FIRE and YouGov found that 58% of students said it was “important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas.” In a Brookings Institution survey from the same year, 1 in 5 students said using violence to stop a speaker was sometimes acceptable.

But we may be turning a corner. According to FIRE, disinvitation demands dropped to 36 in 2017, and only nine have been issued so far this year. At the same time, academics and administrators—some of whom spoke at the Heterodox Academy conference—have taken steps to increase viewpoint diversity on their campuses.

In 2015 the University of Chicago issued a statement validating the importance of free speech in education. To date 42 schools, from Columbia to the University of Minnesota, have adopted the Chicago principles or a statement like it. Last year Mr. George, the Princeton conservative, authored a statement with Cornel West, a Harvard leftist, asserting that “all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views.” It has thousands of signatories, inside and outside academia.

Michael Roth, the progressive president of Wesleyan University, last year announced an “affirmative action” program to bring conservative faculty and ideas to campus. Heterodox Academy has created an educational app called OpenMind to help students learn virtues like intellectual humility and empathy so that they can speak to one another across the divide. So far it has been used in over 100 classrooms.

As encouraging as these initiatives are, there’s a more fundamental shift that needs to take place—a rethinking of identity politics. Rather than promoting a “common-enemy identity politics” that admonishes white people and others with “privilege,” Mr. Haidt said Friday, professors and administrators should embrace a “common-humanity identity politics.” Isn’t that what liberal education is all about?

Ms. Smith, an editor at the Hoover Institution, is author of “The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness.”

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A President Clinton would have made things much worse

May 27, 2018

To put the roller-coaster presidency of Donald Trump in perspective, it helps on occasion to imagine that Hillary Clinton won the election. My experience is that the exercise leads to greater appreciation of the president we have, warts and all.

Start with Clinton herself. She has spent the last 18 months in a perpetual snit. “No, I’m not over it,” she confessed while turning Yale’s commencement into a self-pity party.

Anyone who has dealt with her knows the “I’m a victim” schtick didn’t start with November of 2016, and would not have ended if she won. She’s been a blamer and finger-pointer her entire public life and would have taken her woe-is-me attitude to the Oval Office.

Commentary
By Michael Goodwin
New York Post
May 26, 2018

Coupled with her breathtaking sense of entitlement, it is hard to see her presidency lifting the nation’s self-confidence, at home or abroad.

In economic terms, how much higher would unemployment be? How about the stock market and median family incomes — how much lower would they be?

Remember, Clinton promised — promised! — to put coal miners out of work. That’s a promise she probably would have kept.

She wanted to raise taxes instead of cutting them and loosen already lax immigration policies instead of tightening them.

She was part of President Obama’s team that tried to force Israel to make concessions its leaders believed were dangerous to the Jewish state’s security. It’s a cinch the US embassy still would be in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem and Palestinians would have kept a veto over our policy.

The Iran deal would be unmolested by a Clinton presidency, leaving the mullahs free to be ever more aggressive in their pursuit of regional power.

It’s true a President Clinton would be more popular in Western Europe than Trump is, but that’s because there would be no America First agenda. Allowing Europe to call the global shots would make appeasement the default position.

Then there are the aggressions of China and North Korea. Breathes there a soul who believes Clinton would have pushed back harder than Trump?

Of course, Stormy Daniels wouldn’t be famous, but perhaps Clinton’s friend and donor Harvey Weinstein would still be on the prowl and the #MeToo movement would not exist.

Among other consequences, consider the extraordinary political and legal aftermath of the election, ranging from the resistance to Robert Mueller’s investigation to the emerging evidence that the FBI and CIA conspired to spy on the Trump campaign.

My first impulse is to assume Clinton would have fired FBI boss James Comey faster than Trump did. Then I wonder because of what Comey had on her.

It’s not just that he let her skip on having classified emails on her homebrew server. There were also the aborted FBI probes into the pay-to-play evidence involving the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s enormous speaking fees while Hillary was Secretary of State. Somewhere, Comey surely has a secret file on Clinton’s legal and political vulnerabilities.

Suppose then, in true J. Edgar Hoover fashion, Comey signaled he would spill the beans if he lost his job. It’s legal blackmail, and it’s possible that’s what Comey tried to do with Trump by telling him about the Russian dossier — using unverified allegations as personal leverage.

A victorious Clinton would have remained furious at Comey for re-opening the email investigation in October. But, having realized her dream of sitting in the Oval Office, her anger could have been reduced to a footnote and she might have decided she was best served by letting Comey keep his job — and his secrets.

Of all the possible scenarios, there is one about which we can be certain: a Clinton victory would have kept the public from learning about the Obama administration’s extensive abuse of its powers to help her.

Her victory would mean Stefan HalperCarter Page and George Papadopoulos would remain anonymous private citizens, and key players involved in the scheme would still have their reputations intact.

Loretta Lynch, for helping to minimize the various probes, might be Clinton’s Attorney General. John Brennan, James Clapper, Susan Rice and Samantha Power might have important government jobs instead of having to fight to keep their dirty tricks buried.

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Mueller would be in private law practice, the highlight of his bio being that he was the longest-serving FBI director since Hoover. Instead, his legacy is now tied to his drawn-out investigation of the president that is falling out of public favor.

As for Trump, a Clinton victory would have been devastating, but he probably would have started a new media company and created his own form of a resistance. Given his Midas touch, a loss could have been the most profitable deal of his life.

But fate and voters had other ideas, and the truly remarkable fact is that Trump’s stunning Electoral College victory came despite the alliance of the White House, law enforcement, the intelligence agencies and the media against him.

In coming days, we will learn more about that squalid alliance, giving us more reason to marvel at the resiliency of our republic. And even when it looks as if Trump is running off the rails, consider the alternative and remember this: It could have been worse. Much worse.

https://nypost.com/2018/05/26/a-president-clinton-would-have-made-things-much-worse/

After Push on Taxes, Republicans Line Up Welfare Revamp Next — Smaller Government, Smaller Social Safety Net

December 5, 2017

Trump and GOP lawmakers ready to kick off fight to overhaul social programs

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WASHINGTON—As Republicans near the finish line on a long-sought tax overhaul, President Donald Trump has committed them to taking up a welfare-revamp fight next.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said he is interested in kick-starting a debate around means-tested social programs, with allies seeing significant political rewards from taking up the issue even without a clear-cut goal.

“Does anyone want welfare reform?” Mr. Trump asked, to applause, at a speech in Missouri last week. “And infrastructure. But welfare reform, I see it, and I’ve talked to people. I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all.”

He added: “And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off… So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

The president didn’t offer specifics about which of the dozens of welfare programs he was seeking to change, or how. But congressional Republicans who have been pushing him for months to pursue the issue have proposed layering tougher work requirements on beneficiaries of programs such as food stamps, which are used by around 43 million Americans, and the cash benefit known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is received by around 3.5 million people.

Such proposals have been floated in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, which included a broader call to review the ways in which welfare programs interact, as well as bills from lawmakers such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), who also has proposed tallying spending on all welfare programs.

A spokesman for Mr. Ryan said the goals for 2018 would be set at a conference retreat in January. But Mr. Jordan, a head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who often has the ear of the president, has argued in recent weeks that the issue is one of the most winning ones with Mr. Trump’s voters and should take center stage next year.

He said he and fellow conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) had made a pitch to the president to pursue welfare as an issue in a meeting in the early summer.

“He gets it,” Mr. Jordan said. “I think there are lots of folks across the country who get it, but particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, folks understand that they’re working hard, doing what’s right for their family, and there are folks who can work, and won’t work, and they’re getting their money.”

Democratic lawmakers have indicated they are ready for a fight, in which they will argue proposals to change assistance programs are a sign of misplaced priorities by Republicans who favored the rich in the tax overhaul.

“Republicans are already saying ‘entitlement reform’ and ‘welfare reform’ are next up on the docket,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) in a Senate floor speech. “But nobody should be fooled—that’s just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs. The story will be that America can’t afford these programs.”

Mr. Trump also has signaled his intention to simultaneously pursue infrastructure and a renewed effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act after any tax overhaul is complete. His advisers have made clear in unusually public ways that they are ready to move ahead on welfare.

A draft executive order has been prepared during the past two months for Mr. Trump to sign, at the president’s request, said Paul Winfree, Mr. Trump’s domestic policy council deputy at a November forum of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“It’s something that excites” Mr. Trump, who often changes the topic to discuss it in meetings, said Mr. Winfree, who worked for the foundation before he went to the White House. “We will end up pivoting to welfare very quickly.”

The order is expected to lay out broad principles for an overhaul of some or all of the dozens of federal programs that provide government aid to low-income people, with the aim of sending a clear message to Capitol Hill that changes are in order, Mr. Winfree said. The order also would include instructions for federal agencies to propose changes to the particular programs they oversee and craft new regulations, if necessary.

Such an order would be in keeping with many of the president’s policy moves in his first year in office—a broad-ranging order to initiate future action, or memos that simply preserve options down the line. Congressional leaders have been informed of the drive, Mr. Winfree said.

The president’s budget, expected in February, could include further details about his aims on a welfare overhaul and outline a cross-government approach, a senior administration official said. From there, the president would likely support any bill the GOP caucus in the House could agree to, the official indicated, and hope that the Senate was willing to pursue it.

In looking afresh at safety-net programs, the administration would face big questions, including which programs to deem as “welfare” and which beneficiaries to target for cuts or additional requirements.

Some of the programs with the smallest political constituencies, such as state grants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, present few official savings in government spending because they are already capped. By contrast, large programs, such as unemployment compensation or food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, could trigger bigger political fights.

Democrats, in particular, are expected to quickly counter that much of what is considered welfare already comes with steep requirements, especially in the aftermath of the 1990s welfare-overhaul legislation, and that the beneficiaries to whom the requirements don’t apply are typically the elderly, disabled, or children. They have already challenged the Trump administration’s decision to allow states to add work requirements to Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, arguing they will be counterproductive.

Advocates say they are heartened by the response of voters in 2017 elections, including in Maine where voters backed a referendum on a federally funded expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

“The Republican desire to take up ‘welfare reform’ is based on grossly inaccurate stereotypes about the workers, children, parents, and seniors who are helped by key programs such as SNAP and Medicaid and a complete misunderstanding of the realities of today’s labor market,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the left-leaning Center for Law and Social Policy, and a Health and Human Services official during the Clinton administration.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/after-push-on-taxes-republicans-line-up-welfare-revamp-next-1512469801

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Republican tax cuts could give Speaker Paul D. Ryan a chance to pursue what he has long wanted: a smaller government with a skimpier social safety net. CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

As the tax cut legislation passed by the Senate early Saturday hurtles toward final approval, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.”

Their nearly $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts, a plan likely to win final approval in the coming days, could be the first step. But their strategy poses enormous risks, not only for millions of Americans who rely on entitlement programs, but also for Republicans who would wade into politically difficult waters, cutting popular benefits for the elderly and working poor just after cutting taxes for profitable corporations.

“The way to get at fixing the debt is to feel like everybody is willing to put something on the table,” said Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group. “Once you have one side grab all it could, you’re never going to have the other side show up.”

Even if the tax cut sparks the kind of economic growth that Republicans advertise, the tax bill will increase the deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years, the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said.

And it was passed along sharply partisan lines, offering nothing to Democrats, and leaving them with no obligation or incentive to negotiate cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the entitlement programs that are driving up spending, but are also the pride of the Democratic Party.

For his part, Mr. Trump spent his campaign promising not to cut Medicare and Social Security. And Republicans will probably find, as they did when they failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that the public rises up to defend the programs they are trying to cut. Whatever political boost the Republicans could get for passing a tax cut could evaporate fast.

“Republicans are going to find that Democrats treat this tax bill the way Republicans treated Obamacare — it’s not trusted by people on the other side of the aisle,” said former Senator Judd Gregg, who was chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and budget experts that produced a deficit reduction plan in 2010. “It will become a target, a rallying cry, which is unfortunate, because good tax reform, when done right, is not only good for the economy, it’s good for the parties.”

Many of the Republicans’ natural allies have criticized the bill for adding to the deficit and not dealing with the costs that were already driving up the government’s red ink. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, the leaders of that 2010 commission, former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat who is a former White House chief of staff, accused the Republicans of “deficit denial,” saying the bill incorporated only “goodies” and virtually no “hard choices.”

“Republicans have been telling themselves for years that they wanted to get into power so they could balance the budget, reduce the debt, cut spending and fix entitlements,” Ms. MacGuineas said. “They’ve just made it harder, not easier.”

For weeks, Democrats and their allies have been accusing Republicans of a “two-step” deceit, warning that they would cut taxes now and then use the increase in the deficit they caused to demand entitlement cuts later.

“When you run up the deficit, your next argument will be, ‘Gee, you’ve got a large deficit,’” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said in an interview.

Now Republicans are beginning to acknowledge as much. Mr. Ryan said at a town hall-style meeting last month that Congress had to spur growth and cut entitlements to reduce the national debt.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/us/politics/tax-cuts-republicans-entitlements-medicare-social-security.html

Traveling in style: Trump’s White House wrestles with Cabinet costs

October 9, 2017
Image result for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton exit Marine One in July, jonathan ernst/Reuters
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton exit Marine One in July. Mnuchin and other Cabinet officials have come under scrutiny for their use of private and military jets. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
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The washington Post
October 8 at 7:27 PM
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The Trump administration, one of the wealthiest in modern U.S. history, is facing widening criticism over travel expenditures among some of the billionaires, budget hawks and business executives who head federal agencies.Inspectors general have opened at least five investigations into charter or military flights by Cabinet officials amounting to millions in federal spending. Their decisions to veer away from cheaper commercial flights have led to criticism from Democrats in Congress and government accountability groups about a culture of entitlement in Trump’s administration.New examples of questioned expenditures include those of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who on Friday turned over his travel records under pressure from House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.). Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces an expanding investigation into his travel by private jet.The drumbeat of controversy over Cabinet travel threatens to undermine a core pillar of Trump’s relationship with his base — his promise to “drain the swamp” of elite Washington, rein in waste and represent the working class.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin last week backed out of a congressional trip to Europe, The Washington Post learned, after criticism about another international outing, which combined official travel with sightseeing and a Wimbledon tennis event. And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faced new criticism about his travel — often accompanied by his wife, who is managing a Republican campaign in Montana — which included stops at political fundraisers and donor events.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been questioned over his travel, often accompanied by his wife. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Adding to the costs are travel accommodations for Cabinet aides, guests and security details, who accompany secretaries on all trips. Thus far, officials have assumed no financial responsibility for passengers on their flights. Tom Price, a wealthy Georgia physician who resigned at the end of last month as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, ran up charter costs of more than $500,000 but pledged a$51,887 check to reimburse the government for his seats. An HHS spokesman told The Post that Price “was under no obligation” to pay but that this was “him wanting to make a gesture.”

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who traveled with Price several times, is unlikely to repay the government for her travel cost, the White House said, because she was a guest.

To deal with fallout, the White House has imposed a new approval process for charter jet travel by non-national-security Cabinet members. The protocol will be supervised by Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

White House approval for military flights, which have long required special permission, came under question when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ran up at least $800,000 on such trips, including a flight with his wife to visit the nation’s gold stash at Fort Knox. A report last week by the Treasury watchdog said the flights were legal based on Mnuchin’s schedule and need for secure communications, but poorly justified.

White House spokesman Raj Shah on Friday called the use of military planes for Cabinet and other essential travelers “sometimes an appropriate and necessary use of resources.” One indicator of how the administration has tried to curb expenditures, he said, is the sharp reduction of what are known as military air White House support missions — travel the president must request.

The White House said Trump officials took 77 military flights through Sept. 19, compared with 94 flights taken during the first eight months of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Some government accountability groups argue that the Cabinet behavior reflects the president’s own disconnect with government frugality, evidenced by his weekend trips to his private golf clubs and Mar-a-Lago, as well as the costly travels by Trump family members that must be monitored by government employees and Secret Service agents.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces an expanding investigation into his travel by private jet. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

“The tone is set at the top,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that recently called for an investigation into Trump appointees’ travel. “When you have a president who is visiting his private resorts every weekend at great cost to taxpayers, it is not surprising that Cabinet members are using private jets to get to standard meetings.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has defended Trump’s trips as decision-making tools.

“Every weekend that he’s traveling, no matter where he is, the president is working,” Sanders said Thursday. “This is a president that is committed to helping move his agenda forward. And certainly I think that those weekends have been very successful in doing that.”

‘Drain the swamp’

Cabinet leaders have historically been background players, pushing their boss’s agenda. Trump’s appointees have joined in his vow to control spending by imposing employee travel restrictions, cutting programs and leaving positions open.

Read the rest:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/traveling-in-style-trumps-white-house-wrestles-with-cabinet-costs/2017/10/08/8e6debaa-a953-11e7-92d1-58c702d2d975_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_swamp-923pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.a7eda0319f67

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