The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar

2021/07/07

Glenn Greenwald's latest J'accuse

First off, we certainly should “want to see the evidence about whether NSA spied on Carlson's emails..." I agree.

But to simply presume that the NSA is guilty is not a journalistic standard we should support.

Greenwood's two examples are 1. Julian Assange, the Wikileaks guy. Were we seeing "the prosecution of a journalist" or were we seeing an asset getting caught while serving a foreign power? Assange crossed the line between being a journalist and between being an asset when he released Democratic emails right at the beginning of the 2016 Democratic Convention. By deliberately and consciously acting to affect politics, he lost the presumption that he was simply a journalist when he did that.

And 2. "NSA leaked Flynn's conversations with a Russian official!" A. If the NSA caught such a conversation, that's because they were spying on the Russian official and Flynn took the initiative of contacting that official. The NSA is certainly not going to stop listening simply because an American official has entered the picture. In fact, they should perk up their ears and should pay even closer attention, which is apparently what they did.

B. I am very much aware of the 1980 "October Surprise," which was an example of what happens when an incoming presidential administration takes the initiative to contact a foreign adversary and starts conducting negotiations without going through the incumbent administration. The accusation is that Reagan's people talked with Iran about the hostages that were taken by the Iranians in 1979. The assertion is that Iran's leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, agreed and waited until Reagan was actually inaugurated before releasing the hostages. In return, Iran received weapons which they used against Iraq.

So, in no way, shape or form should we consider Flynn's actions to be innocent or harmless. We have historical precedent that says we should be immediately and deeply suspicious when an incoming administration starts playing the lone cowboy before taking office.

Are the liberal media guilty of never taking risks or are they simply more responsible and more willing to base their stories on actual evidence? Because Tucker stating that “some nameless guy I ran into said he saw my emails!“ is not exactly what I would consider compelling evidence.

2021/06/30

What’s the status on Critical Race Theory?

Ed Prep Matters | AACTE Blog AACTE Members Stand Up for Critical Race Theory  - Ed Prep Matters | AACTE Blog 

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has a surefire method of detecting when Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught. She identifies a course given by the National Children's Museum as containing the 1619 Project, a set of essays that described the contributions to American history made by slaves and by the institution of slavery. So the definition of CRT is pretty elastic, the meaning is broad and vague.

Further definitions are given by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, with them identifying “the civil rights movement, the KKK, the Versailles Treaty, Nazis, NATO/the Cold War, 20th century Africa & Asia…“ as all indicating a suspect agenda. In other words, CRT is what separates a school course on American history from a children’s bed-time story.

A Republican Congressman decides he’s

...against a bill to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol because it's "animated by the Critical Race Theory concepts of structural racism, microaggressions, and a United States based solely on white supremacy."

This is apropos of:

Today, the House voted in favor of removing all treasonous confederate statues from our US Capitol. 120 GQP Republicans voted against removing them, thus cementing once again that they are indeed the party of white supremacy terrorism.

2021/05/02

Occam’s Razor

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Philly high school students get to be part of a  famous art movement - Wexler Gallery

The idea of Occam’s Razor is to examine a theory. If the theory is relatively simple and straightforward, it’s more likely to be correct than if it’s really complicated. This was a piece in my local paper, today’s Philadelphia Inquirer (The Inquirer doesn’t like posting the author’s pieces because it attracts too many partisan commenters, so I have to use the AEI site to get an online version of the editorial). The editorialist comes up with what I feel is an overly complex theory.

He feels that President Biden wore a mask to his address to the Joint Session of Congress on the 28th of last month. Biden also instructed the people at the address to socially distance from each other. But, the editorialist says, everyone there was vaccinated! It must be some sort of conspiracy to create an atmosphere of crisis!

Hmm. Or, perhaps, it could be that the COVID-19 crisis isn’t quite over yet. As we see in these two charts at the top, we’re doing well, but we’re not doing that well! It really isn’t time to break out the champagne just yet. In which case, Biden may be modeling the sort of behavior he’d like to see the rest of us adopt so that we can get out of the crisis faster!

The second theory presented is that Biden wants to spend a humongous amount of money and thereby needs to create a sense of crisis in order to justify that.

Hmm. Or, perhaps Democrats have wanted to spend a lot of money on infrastructure and other items for a long time and Republicans have been standing in the way. Check out how many filibusters they’ve deployed against the legislation that Democrats would like to pass. Filibuster motions filed per two-year periods remained in first the single, then the double digits until the 2007-2008 session. It’s been at least 100 per session since then. Maybe there’s a big backlog of legislation that Democrats would like to pass!

I tend to favor the second, simpler theory in both cases!


2021/01/12

President’s response to 2nd impeachment

 

President Trump probably didn’t write out this whole document. My guess is that he ranted and snarled into some sort of recording device, probably banging the table every now and then to really make a point, and then some minions typed it all up and made sure everything was spell-checked and arranged into some coherent order.

A great deal of it re-litigates his first impeachment. Lots of details I take issue with, but this is an especially interesting one.

Fortunately, there was a transcript of the conversation taken, and you know from the transcript (which was immediately made available) that the paragraph in question was perfect.

Actually, it wasn’t a transcript that was made available. It was an informal summary. The documents that described the call to Ukraine President Zelensky were not made public. They were instead placed on a super-duper top secret server.

White House lawyers allegedly buried records of the call in a highly classified “super secret” server reserved for information regarding covert operations and other sensitive intelligence actions.

To my knowledge, the documents that were stored there have never been made public. The information that was released on the “perfect” call was 1. not released until after people were tipped off on the call by the whistleblower and 2. the summary was quite enough to caused shock and outrage across the country. I mean, why would someone who made a “perfect” call not wish to share all of the details with the world?

This is a big problem with the whole assertion that the President was innocent. The document asserts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t find any evidence, that the whole case against Trump was a matter of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Actually, Mueller found a great deal of Obstruction of Justice. Trump was very energetically hiding whatever he could. Again, not the action one would expect from an innocent man.

More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.

Nothing prevented the Trump Administration from publishing information on their own that would have exonerated them. When the Republican-led Senate refused to allow much in the way of testimony, the Trump Administration could have used a wide variety of forums in which they could have presented their case. It’s hardly the fault of the Democratic Party that Trump refused to do so.


A few claims by the off-going, one-term President:

7 million new jobs; the lowest-ever unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans

Yes, Barack Obama left the economy in good shape at the beginning of 2017.

more than 170 new federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices

Actually, it was three Justices, but this record has far more to do with the energetic Republican Senate. The President was pretty much just a bystander in that process.

the elimination of the individual mandate

Theoretically, this was supposed to cause the collapse of the ACA/Obamacare. The ACA has survived quite nicely, thank you very much.

the first decline in prescription drug prices in half a century

Which had to do with the ACA. Actions taken by the Trump Administration had nothing to do with that decline.

criminal justice reform

This had far more to do with the House and Senate than it did with the President. There’s little indication that he did much more than to sign the final document.

a defeated ISIS caliphate

This happened because the military insisted that the President needed to simply maintain the Obama policy and ISIS would be defeated. Trump did not change the policy and ISIS was eventually defeated.

the replacement of the disastrous NAFTA trade deal with the wonderful USMCA (Mexico and Canada)

Trump made a few minor changes to NAFTA and then proclaimed that the “all-new” policy was a success.

withdrawal from the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal

An extremely stupid and unproductive policy that has not produced any positive results. By increasing trade with China, Iran has made up quite a bit of their economic losses.

cancellation of the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord

Again, an extremely stupid and short-sighted policy that has exacerbated climate change.

recognition of Israel’s capital, opening the American Embassy in Jerusalem

A stupid and short-sighted policy that has infuriated Palestinians and has put peace with them further out of reach.

a colossal reduction in illegal border crossings, the ending of Catch-and-Release, and the building of the Southern Border Wall

What most people will remember about the reduction of immigrants coming to the US from Mexico, Central and South America will be “kids in cages” and the degradation of international laws on asylum. No one will remember any positive impacts. They’ll just remember the horrible cruelty.

Is it true that “[The Democratic Party] simply cannot compete with our record” or is it that the Trump Administration built a very modest and forgettable record that will quickly be overtaken by the incoming Biden Administration?


Side note: The First Lady Melania Trump wrote a piece that had an extremely odd list in it:

Paragraph four: “Most recently, my heart goes out to: Air Force Veteran, Ashli Babbit, Benjamin Philips, Kevin Greeson, Rosanne Boyland, and Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. I pray for their families comfort and strength during this difficult time.” Note that the woman who was shot by police as she was part of a violent group attempting to enter a secured area comes first on this list. Interesting choice there.

The Capitol Police Officers are listed last. This can’t be attributed to her lack of proficiency in English. Raises a question as to who Melania thought were the heroes in the violent invasion and occupation of the Capitol.



2021/01/08

What happened?

 

In January 2017, the Republican Party had all three branches in their hands, the House, the Senate and the Presidency. Now, in January 2021, all three are now in the hands of the Democrats. Why? What happened?


One of the issues that propelled Barack Obama into office in 2008 and that people showed a great deal of concern about, was health care. About 15% of Americans couldn’t get health care insurance because of “preexisting conditions.” Ever since at least the Truman Administration, capitalist health care insurance couldn’t deal with clients who were sure to cost the insurance companies more money in payments than they’d get from the client in premiums.


Obama stopped trying to square the circle and just made the ACA/Obamacare a public system where insurance companies would still make a profit, but not as much as they would have preferred to make. How did the Republican Party handle this during the time when the had the “Trifecta?” According to the Senate Minority Leader in 2017:


Only 20% of Americans support Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering a replacement. The majority of Americans want to see the law implemented as is or improved.


After seven years to come up with a replacement for the ACA, the GOP came up with a plan that was worse than nothing.


"I do not support the new plan," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters. "A better approach would be...to begin hearings focused on the problems in the ACA, and let’s try to get bipartisan support to fix those egregious flaws."


Not sure the flaws in the ACA were “egregious,” but Collins clearly advocated for a more sensible approach than to repeal the ACA and to install a pre-ACA type of health care system.


In October of 2020, President Trump tried to put out an executive order that would replace the ACA. Essentially, he listed a lot of fine, wonderful, desirable goals without saying how those goals would be reached.


So that whole issue was a complete bust for the GOP.


How did the party do on the immigration issue?


The Trump administration was more hostile to immigration and immigrants than any administration in decades, making it harder for people to visit, live or work in the United States and seeking to reduce the number illegally entering the country.



People were denied the opportunity to apply for asylum and returned to dangerous conditions at home. Children were traumatized by being separated from their families. Trump’s signature border wall went up in environmentally sensitive areas.


Trump’s policy was marked by great cruelty. The Trump Administration tightened up asylum requirements.


The regulation raises additional obstacles to passing a preliminary screening at the border, eliminates multiple long-established grounds for granting asylum, and allows immigration judges to deny people their day in court by rejecting applications without a hearing. The regulation denies protection to nearly all who pass through more than one country on their way to the U.S.


The former First Lady, Michelle Obama, slammed the Trump Administration for, among other things, an awful immigration policy.


She said the last four years had been difficult to explain to America's children.

"They see our leaders labelling fellow citizens enemies of the state, while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists.

"They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protests for a photo op."


Again, the last administration took on a policy that had escaped solution for a while, but its solutions were catastrophically worse than had they done nothing.


That last reference was to an event that will forever color views of the Trump Administration. Peaceful protesters were occupying Lafayette Square, right in front of the White House.


Last summer, peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were met with rubber bullets and tear gas outside the White House to clear the way for President Donald Trump’s photo-op with military leaders and a Bible at a nearby church.


Basically, the President treated American protesters as though they were foreign enemies. Instead of simply sending a few people out to the square to clear the way and rope off a path to the St. John’s Episcopal Church, the President and his people strolled through after tear gas and massed police had violently cleared the way. It didn’t help that this occurred only a week after the brutal murder of George Floyd by four policemen in Minnesota.


Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died May 25 after an encounter with Minneapolis Police in which former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for air. Floyd's final moments were captured on video, and his death led to rioting and fires in the city as well as widespread protests against police brutality and racism.


What the church photo op showed was that the President wasn’t particularly concerned about Floyd or even the general issue of police brutality, one way or the other.


A big example of tone-deafness on Trump’s part was the awarding of a Medal of Freedom to the radio talker Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh is popular with right-wingers. With the general public? Ehh, not so much. Obama’s awards were to people like Bill and Melinda Gates and the comedian Ellen DeGeneres. Obama’s choices were perhaps not to everyone’s liking, but they weren’t as in-your-face partisan as Trump’s choices were.


So, I agree that I’ve highlighted some of the very worst policies of the Trump Administration, with the Republican House and Senate often just playing a supporting role, but I don’t think there’s much mystery as to why Democrats have successfully taken over three branches of our government.


The House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed a total of nearly 400 bills by November 2019 that were then largely ignored by the Senate and the President, meaning that there was a demand for legislation that the other two branches simply weren’t addressing.

2021/01/03

Response to "10 Best of Trump"

 This was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer today, though the Inky like to not post Thiessen's work online as that would open it up to too much blowback, so it's online here. Here are my responses: 

10. Yes, Trump inherited a good economy.

9. Yes, Trump improved on his own performance from 2016. But the younger George Bush did better with non-white voters than Trump did.

8. Yep, he joined the anti-choicers in person. Other Republican presidents kept their distance. This is really cool if you're an anti-choicer. 

7. True, the "Blue Wave" focused on Trump and didn't do any damage to down-ballot races.

6. "He shut down travel from China" - Contrary to the off-going President's telling, this was completely non-controversial at the time and remains so today. 

"held Beijing responsible for the pandemic" & "Trump correctly blamed the Chinese regime for unleashing the virus" - It may be satisfying to some to blame China for the coronavirus. China is indeed responsible for hiding and evading some responsibility for a natural disaster that started within their borders, but evidence is that the coronavirus spread across the world well before China was even aware of it.  

"and cracked down on China’s intellectual property theft." Again, this is a completely non-controversial policy objective. 

5. "[Trump] took out Iran’s terrorist Quds force leader Qasem Soleimani." This was an extremely stupid move that resulted in completely unnecessary hostilities. There was no evidence that Soleimani was up to anything in particular and his aerial assassination gave Iran a martyr that gives them a legitimate reason to attack American interests. Was deterrence "restored"? Hardly. The US flew B-52s above the Persian Gulf within the past week precisely because they feared that Iran would try to avenge Soleimani's death.

4. "He put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court." Which is cool if you're a right-winger. That also meant Republicans made complete hash of their justifications for not seating Merrick Garland four years earlier. We can't blame Trump for that, that was the doing of Republican senators.

3. "[Trump] transformed the Middle East with the Abraham Accords." These accords did nothing significant to affect relations between Israel and Arab countries. These were arms-selling accords with countries that wee not hostile to Israel in the first place. As the columnist suggests, the Palestinians were simply ignored.

2. Yes, the CARES Act was passed on Trump's watch. As with the getting of a new Supreme Court Justice seated, the off-going President was pretty much just a bystander to the CARES Act. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had vastly more to do with that than he did. 

1. "[Trump] launched Operation Warp Speed." True. The operation gave laboratory groups money to pursue a vaccine, which they did. But when it came to the operation actually doing something on its own, y'know, to do more than just hand out money to other organizations, when OWS was called upon to get vaccines into the arms of Americans, it proved to be like every other Trump activity, a pathetic and dismal failure. Among other things, no one in OWS remembered to account for the Anti-Vaxxer Movement. There is no national public relations strategy to counter the Anti-Vaxxers.

2020/11/15

Right-wing Letters to the Editor

Friend of mine said the Los Angeles Times devoted their entire editorial page to what they felt were under-represented right-wing views. It's worth it to go through them to know what the other side is thinking. Naturally, I had lots of objections tat I've posted here. 

In answer to Cecil Stalnaker, my objection to Trump has primarily been that he simply can't do the job. He's incompetent. he's also evil, but the fact that he brings nothing to the table in terms of answers to the problems that Americans are concerned about is my primary objection to him. 

To Deborah McMicking, okay. Where is your proof that Trump fans are not "racists, misogynists, white supremacists and more"?

To Brian J. Goldenfeld, but the “Russian collusion” was real! It was based on solid, verifiable facts! Remember, the Senate did not dispute anything that was brought up during impeachment. 

To Steve Murray, yeah, I don't have anywhere near as much faith that charter schools are worth taking time and money and attention away from traditional schools. I just don't think that capitalist rules concerning the purchasing of couches. cars and clothes apply to schooling. 

To Greg Winters, yeah, the Philadelphia Inquirer does what you suggest a lot. It features conservative writers and rarely prints rebuttals to them that readers send in.

To Joe Blackman, does private enterprise have a great deal to contribute to the battle against climate change? Yes. Absolutely. Problem is, it isn't enough. Had the fight against climate change been truly joined in the 1970s, when people first suspected that too much carbon was having a bad effect, we could have afforded to allow free enterprise to set the pace. But the battle now needs to move faster and more decisively. It needs the federal government to throw all of its considerable weight into the field. 

Asian and European countries have showed without question (Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries formed a good controlled experiment on this) that masks and discouraging large gatherings of people that were dining, drinking and/or singing together is extremely effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Other things are important, but nothing is more important than survival. 

We determine who a racist is by their words and actions, not by those other factors. 

Trump supporters are wrong on the facts and the science. Period. Full stop.

Yes, I do understand what my opponents are saying. They're very often just plain wrong.

To Elaine Vanoff, I'm sorry, but "Contrary to many people’s opinions, this president has a sense of humor." Really? Seriously? Can you supply any examples from the past four years? Heck, from any of his public statements from the past 20 years? Can you name anything he said that wasn't cruel or vicious or hateful? All of his "humor" consists of insults. 

To John Lynn, I apologize that the left has not defined its positions carefully enough, but seriously, if you're puzzled by the statement "defunding the police," please don't expect Fox News host Sean Hannity to explain it to you. Representative AOC has explained what it really means. It really helps to look up what people really mean in their own words rather than to rely on opponents of theirs.