The Progressive Nightmare


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Whoever enabled Donald Trump to be elected President, it will have been Progressives who make his Presidency what it is.  The disdain the Left has shown for restricting power, implementing checks and balances and defending Presidential reach into Congressional prerogatives will now provide Trump with the precedent to implement policies he should never be able to take, unilaterally.  The chickens will come home to roost.

This tragedy could have partly been mitigated if the Left hadn’t spent the last eight years cheering on Obama’s overreach, if the liberal members of Congress hadn’t let their duty to the institution be clouded by their party loyalties.  Barack Obama systematically undertook sweeping executive actions that should have been stopped by Congress on the basis of the separation of powers, with Progressives cheering him on because they agreed with his policy decisions.  It was the short-sighted view of the self-righteous who decided the present ends justified the means and to hell with the long-term implications.

We are now faced with a man who is authoritarian in his soul, a situation Progressives clearly never worried about while Obama was in power.  These people cheered every move that was made to enable the Obama administration to advance its goals more quickly.  They cheered the party line vote on Obamacare.  They cheered when Reid eliminated the filibuster. They cheered the EPA’s twisted interpretations.  They cheered the Iran deal mechanism that created what, by all rights, should have been a treaty ratified by the Senate.  They cheered when Obama made recess appointments even when the Senate was in pro forma session, when he simply arrogated to himself the power to decide that pro-forma sessions weren’t really sessions.  (That was actually a rare instance, in the end, where such behavior failed as the Supreme Court struck down that logic 9 – 0).

So much damage has been done to our institutions and our system of checks and balances over the last eight years that Donald Trump will have leeway to take all sorts of actions that, in a more federalist time, would have required gathering support from across the aisle.  Hopefully, Progressives will be chastened by this moment, and will learn that having checks on power – even your own power – is a good thing in the long run, because power is fleeting.  Maybe now the Liberals will start to think about trying to restore the rights and privileges to the Congress that they let lapse.  Sadly, with the precedent established, they are likely to be thwarted by those who will now assume power, who will simply view it from the perspective “turnabout is fair play”.

I hear the phrase “the right side of history” a lot from my liberal friends, which is a very silly phrase, since there is no “right side” of history.  It is simply flowery language for asserting that one’s position is the morally correct one.   I hope that the Left, after this defeat, learns just how vacuous a statement it is, used to justify all sorts of actions when one is in power, not with logic, but with a simple declarative statement.  I expect we will hear from the new victors that they are on the “right” side of history, and I would expect them to act with all of the moral superiority that was, until just now, exercised by the liberals.

The greatest thing about the Constitution is not its right of free speech, or its guarantees of due process or its protection of equal rights.  Many dictatorships and authoritarian regimes include those features.  The Soviet Union did.  The greatest feature of the Constitution is that it recognizes and actively divides power, which both prevents dictatorship and assures that change comes slowly, but with broad consensus.  Major social decisions were to be decided by all, not a 50.1% majority temporarily holding power.  Yesterday, the Liberals, who were so eager to cheer change pushed through by the narrowest of margins when it was the change they supported, found out that history is not a one-way ratchet that goes in their favor.

I only hope they learn from it.

Add A Third Adjective: White, Male & [_]


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As part of my futile war on bad analysis, I give to you today a piece at Salon by H.A. Goodman titled “Hillary Clinton just can’t win: Democrats need to accept that only Bernie Sanders can defeat the GOP.”  The thesis of the article, as you may have surmised, is that Bernie Sanders is a better general election candidate than Hilary Clinton.  As usual, I am not taking sides on the conclusion, just the reasoning, and here we have a particularly bad example of the latter.

According to Goodman, in the leading sentence of his second paragraph:

Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic candidate capable of winning the White House in 2016. Please name the last person to win the presidency alongside an ongoing FBI investigation, negative favorability ratings, questions about character linked to continual flip-flops, a dubious money trail of donors, and the genuine contempt of the rival political party.

If this is supposed to be a compelling argument, then Goodman doesn’t have much of a case.  There have only been 43 Presidents (and 44 presidencies) in the United States since its inception.  If you exclude white and male, virtually any description of a President leaves him looking different than his peers (excepting lawyer, Virginian and farmer).  For example, please name the last time a Jew won the presidency?  When was the last time a socialist won?  Or we can string adjectives together to make it sound as if we are dealing in precision: please name the last time a New York-born Jew, who graduated from the University of Chicago (though clearly not from the economics department) who is an avowed, socialist, who was played by Larry David on Saturday Night Live won the presidency?

I don’t know whether Goodman will be proven right or wrong that “Vermont’s senator will become our next president,” but I do know that if this is the level of analysis behind his prediction then it will be because of chance, not reasoning.

No Climate No Peace

Drivel from Jason Box and Naomi Klein at the New York Times:

The connection between warming temperatures and the cycle of Syrian violence is, by now, uncontroversial. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in Virginia, this month, “It’s not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.”


“To the contrary, as the author and energy expert Michael T. Klare argued weeks before the attacks, Paris “should be considered not just a climate summit but a peace conference—perhaps the most significant peace convocation in history.” But it can only do that if the agreement builds a carbon-safe economy fast enough to tangibly improve lives in the here and now.

And thoughtful analysis from Francis Menton:

I think the answer is obvious: the single most important thing the U.S. can do to enhance its national security is to pursue policies to keep the price of hydrocarbon fuels low.

Read both and understand the difference between projection and analysis.

Nancy Pelosi – The Greatest Number of Logical Errors in the Shortest Amount of Space

I find this incredibly funny on multiple levels, including the sheer number of logical fallacies and non-sequiturs packed into such a small space.

1) This is the definition of “begging the question”;

2) Pelosi responds to a reporter’s question of when life begins with multiple non-sequiturs in the same sentence;

3) She asserts she is a devout Catholic while rejecting a main tenant of Catholicism;

4) She makes one of the worst appeals to authority I have heard – ‘I am a mom therefore I know more than you about science’;

5) She asserts that a question about when life begins in the context of an abortion question is irrelevant to public policy; and

6) The Huffington Post reporter, Amanda Terkel, who posted the story believes the statement is some sort of a zinger, rather than a poorly reasoned response that makes Pelosi seem like a moron.

Big Money for Me But Not for Thee

Over at the Daily Beast, Cliff Schecter is talking about some of the rich guys who are giving money to implement gun control: Bill Gates, Nick Hanauer, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Allen.  And he LOVES it.  He loves the fact that Gates is backing Initiative 594 in Washington, which will require universal background checks in Washington State.  And he most definitely loves that these wealthy .0001%ers can toss around as much money as they want to take care of an issue about which Schecter feels very strongly:

Bloomberg is worth $33 billion, but if that’s not enough, Gates is worth well over two times that amount. Who knows, with that kind of dough, maybe even measures that “only” enjoy 56 percent support like bans on assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines could pass via direct voting by uncorrupted American citizens. Or perhaps state legislators and members of Congress who bend easily to the will of these Lords of War could be swapped out for those who live in a closer neighborhood to the best interests of the American populace.

What Cliff Schecter most definitely does not love is people being able to spend money in politics on policies which he does not like.

In sum, Cliff Schecter thinks the 1% should be able to spend tens of millions of dollars to influence policies and legislation, but when ordinary citizens want to pool their money to achieve the same objectives they should be prohibited from doing so.  How very progressive.

The “Everybody’s Doing It” Defense

Allies of Hillary Clinton have been promoting a new defense to her e-mail woes. Jeffery Toobin in the New Yorker and Matthew Miller in the Politico argue that the government over-classifies material, and thus Hillary Clinton should be excused for having classified material on her server. It’s a nice move because it conflates a legitimate policy concern with a specific case of malfeasance in an attempt to make the latter more palatable by linking it to the former.

There is a very good case to be made that the government over-classifies information to the point of it being absurd. Even publicly available information that everyone knows gets classified by the government. Miller has an excellent example:

Intelligence officials also often argue that information is classified even when the same information can be gleaned from unclassified sources. While still at the Justice Department, I once wrote a draft press release that a Department attorney claimed contained multiple pieces of classified information. He accused me of a grave violation of the rules for handling classified information, instructed me to destroy all copies and threatened to refer me for investigation. But I had drawn the release from unclassified sources and had never even been briefed on this particular underlying secret—how could I possibly have exposed something of which I wasn’t aware?

However, the ridiculousness of the government’s policy on classification does not, as much as Toobin and Miller would like it to, absolve Clinton of her responsibilities within the confines of that policy. As a member of the government and its employee, she was bound to follow the same procedures and policies as other government workers. It would have been fair for her to have criticized those policies, but it was not appropriate for her to set up a system that allowed for the easy breach of those policies and then claim the policies should have been different. In fact, ironically, as Secretary of State if she had really thought the policies governing classification were a problem she could have used her authority to change the system. I have heard nothing to indicate that it was a concern for her at all.

Other allies want to excuse Clinton because she (allegedly) never sent any e-mail with classified information – she only received it. This, they argue, while a poor decision, makes her mistake something that should be forgiven as a no-harm, no-foul situation (despite not knowing if any foreign governments hacked Mrs. Clinton’s server). Writing in the New Yorker, Steve Coll distinguishes between Clinton and John Deutch, David Petraeus and Sandy Berger because those individuals were involved in cases where “serious or willful neglect was… much clearer than anything that has emerged about Hillary Clinton’s e-mailing.” It is a fair point – what Clinton did is categorically different from what the others did. However, it still doesn’t excuse Mrs. Clinton’s behavior which, while different, was egregious in its own right.

Secretary Clinton, for her personal political reasons (to maintain control over all her communications and to prevent normal oversight), willfully removed herself from the normal channels of government communication. She decided that her privacy and her ability to control her information was more important than any government policy. She created a situation where she was in a position to receive classified information on a piece of equipment not sanctioned by the government. The fact that she (allegedly) never sent any classified information is irrelevant. She should have known that there was a chance – a good chance – that classified information might be sent to her via e-mail when she became Secretary of State. She created a vulnerability that a foreign government may have been able to exploit.

Miller argues that we should excuse Clinton because the situation was no different than “had she been using an unclassified State Department email account, which, like her personal account, would not have been authorized to receive classified information. “ That is simply incorrect. Had she received classified information on the State Department’s servers, the security procedures, safeguards and technicians involved in State’s computer systems would have been able to be involved. Once it was determined that classified information was sent to her non-classified e-mail, they could have traced how it got there and done forensics to determine if anyone had hacked in. That e-mail system would also, presumably, have been subject to anti-hacking technologies employed by the government. It may be true the government isn’t adept at counter-hacking (see OPM), but it is almost certainly more adept than the individual who set up her home server and Platte River. Finally, she would have the safe haven of having followed proper procedures.

If you jaywalk and get hit by a car, you have no right to then claim the driver should have been more careful. Clinton went outside of the bounds of standard operating procedure and wound up with classified material on her computer. To try and turn around and blame the people who sent it (who do have some responsibility, though of a different nature) or the fact that it was not marked is the equivalent of blaming the driver. When a person creates a situation where she can reasonably foresee injury, then she doesn’t have much of a case when injury occurs.

Matthew Norman Vs. Matthew Norman

Writing a newspaper column means never having to be right:

May 5, 2015 column in the Independent

But some of that enthusiasm is positive, and for this Ed Miliband takes the credit. Regardless of who forms whatever kind of government (and assuming the opinion polls are accurate), Miliband will come out of this election cycle as the clear winner, and deservedly so. A sensational Opposition leader, he has steered his party clear of the widely anticipated internecine strife. Labour are now remarkably united, while the Tories face civil war if they scramble another coalition together. For five years David Cameron deftly walked the line between the Lib Dems and his own back-bench headbangers. If he clings to power, he will be at the mercy of his far right and will surely lose his footing.

Yet what makes Miliband so promising is something grander than a knack for party management. It is perspective. He was the first major politician to see the leftward shift in the political centre of gravity, which still remains invisible to the terminally obtuse. For all the policy vagueness and the campaign cross-dressing, he has acted on that vision to present a clear choice.

May 8, 2015 column in the Independent

The two countries to which we awoke seem to have nothing in common, nothing whatever to bind them. England, as those of us naive enough to have forgotten are reminded, is an essentially right-wing country which is happy to blind itself to the victimisation of the poor and disable. It feels older, tireder and more sclerotic than ever today.

Brent Budowsky: Party Loyalty At The Court


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Writing for The Hill Brent Budowsky is “90 percent” confident that John Roberts will “join a majority of justices to uphold the subsidy proviso of the Affordable Care Act.”  If he is wrong “and Roberts and the other Republican justices overturn the subsidies and destroy ObamaCare in a party-line vote, the Supreme Court will become another Washington institution that loses legitimacy with a large number of citizens and falls into widespread public disrepute.”

So, if a party-line vote brings down ObamaCare, it destroys the Supreme Court.  On the other hand, if a party-line vote saves ObamaCare, with all 4 liberal justices holding together and adding one conservative, then the reputation of the Supreme Court remains intact.

This double standard appears time and time again by liberal commentators.  They never question the integrity of liberal justices, who vote as a block to such a degree on controversial matters that it is simply assumed, at the outset, that they will vote in a certain way (and the assumption usually proves correct).  On the flip side, they question the integrity of the conservatives, who do break with the presumed position from time to time for jurisprudential reasons.