April 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


'When you lose that power': How John Kelly faded as White House disciplinarian  (Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker April 7 , 2018, Washington Post)

After White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly pressured President Trump last fall to install his top deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, atop the Department of Homeland Security, the president lost his temper when conservative allies argued that she wasn't sufficiently hard line on immigration. "You didn't tell me she was a [expletive] George W. Bush person," Trump growled.

After Kelly told Fox News Channel's Bret Baier in a January interview that Trump's immigration views had not been "fully informed" during the campaign and had since "evolved," the president berated Kelly in the Oval Office -- his shouts so loud they could be heard through the doors.

And less than two weeks ago, Kelly grew so frustrated on the day that Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both tried to calm him and offered pep talks, according to three people with knowledge of the incident.

"I'm out of here, guys," Kelly said -- comments some interpreted as a resignation threat, but according to a senior administration official, he was venting his anger and leaving work an hour or two early to head home.  [...]

Kelly is the latest high-profile example of a West Wing Icarus -- swept high into Trump's orbit, only to be singed and cast low. Nearly everyone who has entered the White House has emerged battered -- rendered a punchline (former press secretary Sean Spicer), a Justice Department target (former national security adviser Michael Flynn) or a diminished shell, fired by presidential tweet (former secretary of state Rex Tillerson). 

No one knows how many days remain for Kelly, but when he leaves -- either by the president's hand or because of his own mounting frustration -- he is almost certain to limp away damaged.

Every single day of service to Donald has further blotted his escutcheon.
Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Hamilton and a lesson in citizenship (Greg Weeks, 4/07/18, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

I had been invited to speak at a naturalization ceremony in the Eagleton Courthouse. Forty-five people were given the oath of allegiance and became U.S. citizens.

This was one of the most inspiring events I'd ever witnessed. People from around the world, many with unpronounceable names, sat excitedly. They held small American flags in anticipation of the time they would take the oath. One young Asian man even wore patriotic socks: One sock had stripes and the other, stars. Most were smiling broadly, and some were even crying.

I looked into these faces and imagined what they'd gone through to get to this point. They'd left their land for a nation "conceived in liberty." They found themselves in a foreign culture along with a possibly foreign language. They studied our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our government. They learned our history and heard the risks our forbears took to enable this experiment in democracy.

These soon-to-be citizens showed me how easy it is for us born-in-America citizens to take our country for granted. Growing up, American history was a bit boring for me, and civics was almost a near-death experience. For them, however, being a citizen of the United States was a coveted goal for which they had struggled. For me, it was something I was given. Being a citizen for them was a source of pride. For me, it was an entitlement.

This was humbling. All Americans have a civic duty. It's easy to abdicate that duty when we enjoy the fruits of living in this country without regarding the responsibilities necessary to maintain them.

Christians especially bear this obligation.

...and was bummed that they pass you once you have 6 right, because he wanted to get the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism (Alfred S. Regnery, Spring 2012, Intercollegiate Review)

The basic foundations of American conservatism can be boiled down to four fundamental concepts. We might call them the four pillars of modern conservatism:

The first pillar of conservatism is liberty, or freedom. Conservatives believe that individuals possess the right to life, liberty, and property, and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force. They exercise these rights through the use of their natural free will. That means the ability to follow your own dreams, to do what you want to (so long as you don't harm others) and reap the rewards (or face the penalties). Above all, it means freedom from oppression by government--and the protection of government against oppression. It means political liberty, the freedom to speak your mind on matters of public policy. It means religious liberty--to worship as you please, or not to worship at all. It also means economic liberty, the freedom to own property and to allocate your own resources in a free market.

Conservatism is based on the idea that the pursuit of virtue is the purpose of our existence and that liberty is an essential component of the pursuit of virtue. Adherence to virtue is also a necessary condition of the pursuit of freedom. In other words, freedom must be pursued for the common good, and when it is abused for the benefit of one group at the expense of others, such abuse must be checked. Still, confronted with a choice of more security or more liberty, conservatives will usually opt for more liberty.

The second pillar of conservative philosophy is tradition and order. Conservatism is also about conserving the values that have been established over centuries and that have led to an orderly society. Conservatives believe in human nature; they believe in the ability of man to build a society that respects rights and that has the capacity to repel the forces of evil. Order means a systematic and harmonious arrangement, both within one's own character and within the commonwealth. It signifies the performance of certain duties and the enjoyment of certain rights within a community.

Order is perhaps more easily understood by looking at its opposite: disorder. A disordered existence is a confused and miserable existence. If a society falls into general disorder, many of its members will cease to exist at all. And if the members of a society are disordered in spirit, the outward order of society cannot long endure. Disorder describes well everything that conservatism is not.

The third pillar is the rule of law. Conservatism is based on the belief that it is crucial to have a legal system that is predictable, that allows people to know what the rules are and enforce those rules equally for all. This means that both governors and the governed are subject to the law. The rule of law promotes prosperity and protects liberty. Put simply, a government of laws and not of men is the only way to secure justice.

The fourth pillar is belief in God. Belief in God means adherence to the broad concepts of religious faith--such things as justice, virtue, fairness, charity, community, and duty. These are the concepts on which conservatives base their philosophy.

Conservative belief is tethered to the idea that there is an allegiance to God that transcends politics and that sets a standard for politics. For conservatives, there must be an authority greater than man, greater than any ruler, king, or government: no state can demand our absolute obedience or attempt to control every aspect of our lives. There must be a moral order, conservatives believe, that undergirds political order. This pillar of conservatism does not mean mixing up faith and politics, and it certainly does not mean settling religious disputes politically. It also does not mean that conservatives have a monopoly on faith, or even that all conservatives are necessarily believers.

The key in that first pillar is that it is liberty, not freedom, as reflected in the acknowledgement that it is only arbitrary force that we need be free from.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Trump, The Anti-Business President (Steve Chapman, April 7, 2018, Creators.com)

Economists Steven Davis (University of Chicago), Scott Baker (Northwestern) and Nicholas Bloom (Stanford) attributed weak growth and job creation to "extreme uncertainty" that Obama helped to create through "harmful rhetorical attacks on business and 'millionaires,' failure to tackle entitlement reforms and fiscal imbalances, and political brinkmanship."

Hmm. Does that sound like anyone else? Trump has also attacked businesses, failed to curb entitlements and, through tax cuts and spending bills, created ever-growing fiscal imbalances.

According to the index these economists devised, economic policy uncertainty was greater in Trump's first 13 months than in the same period under Obama -- and bigger than the average for all of Obama's tenure. And things are only getting worse.

Obama took the view that the private economy needed extensive regulation to avert assorted perceived harms, which didn't make him popular among capitalists. But he didn't make a habit of bullying corporations to make particular business decisions or demonizing executives who disagreed with him. Trump's idea of a good economy is one in which every company does his bidding -- because they are all afraid not to.

His unpredictability breeds anxiety, not confidence. He often sows confusion that makes bad policies even worse.

Davis cites the steel and aluminum tariffs, which Trump first said would apply to all countries, then revised to exempt Canada and Mexico, and then modified to spare several other countries -- but only till May 1, when all bets are off. The haphazard approach "causes businesses to step back and wait," says Davis, "and creates a free-for-all among lobbyists, which creates its own uncertainty."

Trump was supposed to understand the needs of American businesses. But he thinks their main function is to serve his needs.

...understood business?

Donald Trump Would Be Richer If He'd Have Invested in Index Funds (CLAIRE GRODEN August 20, 2015, Fortune)

The AP says that, if Trump had invested in an index fund in 1988, his net worth would be as much as $13 billion.

The S&P 500 has grown 1,336% since 1988.

Other billionaires' net worths have beaten the stock market's growth in that time. Bill Gates, for example, saw his increase 7,173%, to $80 billion, since 1988. Warren Buffett's wealth grew 2,612% in the same time period, to $67.8 billion.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


The Guy Who Wrote The Book On The Deep State Wishes Trumpworld Would Shut Up About The Deep State (Joseph Bernstein, 4/05/18, BuzzFeed News)

From "fake news" to "bad faith," the Trump administration and its boosters have proven fantastically adept at expropriating the slogans of the political zeitgeist and redefining them with brutal partisan efficiency. And for the past 15 months, Lofgren has had a front-row seat to one such refurbishment, as the bipartisan phenomenon he carefully documented became, as he put it in an email to BuzzFeed News, the "ultimate 'dog ate my homework' excuse" for "the Trump regime and its pinhead allies." The transformation has been so thorough, it's left Lofgren wondering if it's possible to make a broad critique of power within America in 2018 without it being turned into a propagandistic caricature by the far right.

Though Lofgren's "Deep State," which he first described in a widely read 2014 essay for the website of longtime PBS host Bill Moyers, is influential, it bears little resemblance to the all-powerful cabal that the contemporary far-right has conjured. A former Fulbright scholar who studied contemporary European history, Lofgren spent 16 years as a senior analyst on the House and Senate budget committees, developing an expertise in the way the government pays for national security.

In that 2014 essay, after several appearances on Moyers' show, Lofgren gave his "Anatomy of the Deep State" thusly:

"...a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day."

That, according to Lofgren, is why Congress could seem hopelessly divided and deadlocked on President Obama's budget or political appointments, but offer no real sustained objection across either party to efforts to "liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant" and intervene in Libya.

The critique found a supporter in Moyers. "He added to the long and legitimate and losing argument that we're being governed by the military-industrial complex," Moyers told BuzzFeed News.

Of course, we do have a Deep State that resists mere democratic pressures, but it is inherent in the structure of the Republic and, for obvious reasons, one of the main bulwarks is insulated from political vicissitudes and electoral spasms:

Separation of Power: To make a more perfect union, don't look to the Founding Fathers. (William Hogeland, Lapham Quarterly)

Yet in lauding Federalist 78, resistance to Trump stumbles into divots, even potholes, in the landscape of an American civics on which any effective resistance would have to rely. The anti-Trump intelligentsia is reading Hamilton's essay out of historical and political contexts, the founders' and ours. Confusion begins in misconstruing the essay's purpose. Hamilton was writing neither a meditation on judiciaries nor a guide to ours. While generations of judges have treated The Federalist as scholarship, precedent, even transcendent truth, the essays are works of persuasion, cranked out in hopes of convincing the delegates of New York to support ratification of the proposed Constitution. There was no federal judiciary when Hamilton wrote essay 78, no high or low courts, no specified number of Supreme Court justices, no federal case law, nothing but a few sentences stating that such a system should exist and--the kicker--making it independent of the other two branches. Hamilton's goal in 78 was to demolish recently published arguments on the dangers of making the judiciary independent. He wanted to get the Constitution ratified, with the judicial branch a covalent part of government.

Context for that effort involves Hamilton's and his colleagues' perception that in judicial independence lay a mechanism not for promoting democracy but for the reverse: checking what seemed to be potential dangers posed by the lower house of the proposed national legislature. Hamilton's persistent concern was to defeat what he and others of his class called the "leveling" impulse: efforts by lower orders to equalize society economically by undermining the value of property and investment, and thus, went the prevailing line of elite thought, destroying liberty itself. Where modern liberal thinking tends to equate freedom with a high degree of social equality, to Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Madison, and others, equality already seemed, in 1789, to be shattering traditional norms, devaluing elite holdings, and paving the way for the despotism that, in their reading of history, inevitably follows from attacks on property. The 1780s had seen populist agitation for debt relief, price controls, progressive taxation, access to credit, and the abolition of property qualifications for the voting franchise. Under pressure from working-class populists, state legislatures had been passing monetary laws that gave advantage to debtors, artisans, small farmers, and laborers. In Pennsylvania, there had even been talk of capping by law the amount of property anyone could own. A desire to put an end to what elites saw as state-legislative abuse of that kind spurred the formation of a national government. Such abuse must certainly be prevented from infecting the proposed national legislature. Hence the pitch for judicial independence that Hamilton made in Federalist 78.

Making the judiciary so powerful was bound to be scary. Whig liberty types, reacting in the Harrington mode, feared any power that might defeat representation, traditionally the legal means of resisting sovereign encroachment on rights. What if a federal judge, for example, appointed for life by the executive, were to set aside a law passed by Congress on the basis that it was somehow "unconstitutional"? That scenario brought on nightmares of classic tyranny. These same men, however, were the elites of New York--that's why Hamilton was addressing them. As creditors of their poorer neighbors, they harbored a fear of the leveling instinct as great as their fear of authoritarianism. Such a fear was bolstered ideologically by their certainty that the former always leads to the latter anyway. Republican gentlemen of the founding generation loved the tradition of representation. They hated the democratic results of representation going on in some of the states. Hence their bind.
Hamilton offered a way out. Federalist 78 is characteristic of his brilliance not as a theoretician--he could take the most abstruse theory in a single bite and chew it any way he liked--but as a master of building paths to usher readers inevitably toward his conclusions. The historian Peter Charles Hoffer, reading Hamilton's essays on the judiciary as an adroit walking-in of the novel power of judges to set aside laws, shows how the founder widely considered the least politic was capable here of concealment, cushioning, and timely revealing for maximum effect. The essay is marked by classic Hamiltonian tactics, by no means consistent with the notion prevailing among liberal admirers today, that the essay offers protection for hard-won democratic progress now under threat.

The central argument in 78 begins with an insistence that the might of an independent judiciary, supposedly so scary, is chimerical. The judicial branch won't really be equal to the other two, Hamilton assures his readers; unlike Congress, it can't create laws, and it has to rely on the presidency to enforce rulings. If the branch can become fearsome only in collaboration with another branch, all the more reason for separating it. A court this weak can never make itself superior to the legislature. Having tiptoed up to the land mine--the court's controversial power to set aside legislative acts--Hamilton tells his readers there's nothing to see there. He conjures a hypothetical scenario in which Congress passes an act undermining due process of law itself: an ex post facto law or bill of attainder, old legal tricks of arbitrary power loathed axiomatically by readers of the liberty literature. Who but the federal courts, Hamilton asks, would be in a position to push Congress back within constitutional bounds? Such a role would in no way set the court above Congress: "The power of the people"--the Constitution itself--"is superior to both." So even in instances where this weakling court must flex its muscles, it can act only as an intermediary.

Hamilton has deftly dispelled fears. His judiciary is gasping for life in those areas where readers would be hypersensitive to arbitrary power and no more than an intermediary whenever invigorated temporarily for the sole purpose of preserving constitutionality. He now dangles before his audience certain potencies that he says have nothing to do with constitutionality. He notes, first, that an independent judiciary would stifle "legislative encroachments." His audience would read that term as referring to legislation benefiting debtors, artisans, and poor farmers at the expense of property.

Employing the favored language of his class for describing social agitation, Hamilton asserts that an independent judiciary will mitigate:

those ill humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and which, though they speedily give place to better information, and more deliberate reflection, have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.

By dangerous innovations and serious oppressions he means populist fiscal laws; by the minor party he means the well-propertied. And he casts this judicial power to keep a stirred-up people down as the gift that keeps on giving. A legislature whose populist laws are repeatedly voided, Hamilton predicts, will give up even trying to pass them. That's a vision the elites of New York could get behind. Hamilton reminds them that all virtuous, disinterested, considerate people--them--are aware of the deleterious effects on stability and virtue of the bad spirit irresponsibly aroused by demagogues in an otherwise reasonable people. An independent judiciary can obstruct that spirit--elites called it both "the mob" and "the democracy"--and even crush it altogether via the rule of law.

Everybody knows, at least on reflection, that Hamilton, Adams, and their colleagues weren't democrats and egalitarians. The question is why today's embattled liberalism, seeking protection for essential American institutions promoting equality and democracy, lauds Hamilton's arguments for the legal suppression of equality and democracy. Just technically, most of 78 is immaterial at best to liberal hope and success. Blocking the attempted Muslim ban and the rescinding of DACA rely on a judicial power to check not Congress but the executive; in 78, Hamilton, a promoter of executive strength, only barely alludes to that power. Expanding equality came about in the twentieth century through the federal courts' power to set aside oppressive state laws. In 78, Hamilton didn't mention that power, referring only to potential excesses of Congress.

It is the conservatism of the Founding that enables us to defend the Republic from the progressivism of a Donald or a Bernie.
Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


White Sox groundskeeper back on job after 23 years in prison (Associated Press, April 5, 2018)

 Imprisoned 23 years for a crime he didn't commit, Nevest Coleman couldn't imagine a day like this.

He was back in his old job as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, working the home opener against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

"When you sit back when you're locked up, you don't think about (a day like this)," Coleman said. "You just think about what's going on trying to move forward in life, trying to figure out what I'm gonna do when I get out, how I'm gonna support myself. The White Sox gave me the opportunity."

Coleman is getting another shot after he and another Illinois man named Darryl Fulton were exonerated in a 1994 rape and murder. They were convicted in the slaying of a 20-year-old woman after her body was found in the basement of a home on Chicago's South Side where Coleman lived. Both Coleman and Fulton confessed but quickly recanted.

After DNA testing linked the crime to a serial rapist, the two men were released from prison in November. A Cook County judge issued "certificates of innocence" in March, clearing their names. Soon after that, Coleman returned to his old job with the White Sox.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Is Queen Elizabeth descended from the Prophet Muhammad? (Times of Israel, 4/07/18)

The claim is not new, and was originally published in 1986 by Burke's Peerage, the noted guide to royal genealogy. The link was also reportedly verified by Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, which would make Elizabeth a distant cousin of fellow monarchs King Abdullah II of Jordan and Mohammed VI of Morocco.

According to the family tree, she is descendant from the Prophet's daughter, Fatima.

According to the Economist much of the purported link revolves around a Muslim princess called Zaida, who fled an attack on Seville in Muslim Spain in the 11th century and found refuge in the court of Alfonso VI of Castille.

There, "she changed her name to Isabella, converted to Christianity and bore Alfonso a son, Sancho, one of whose descendants later married the Earl of Cambridge," the Economist said.