NYT anonymous op-ed just could be heartening information

I hadn’t bothered to read the original anonymous op-ed in The Gray Lady attributed to “a senior official in the Trump administration.”

But there has been so much ink spilled over this ink spill that I decided I should peruse and evaluate. Frankly, I’m not convinced it is not an elaborate hoax on The New York Times. There is nothing in it that reveals insider knowledge. The closest the piece comes is when it says Trump was upset that his aides had convinced him to expel too many Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

But The Washington Post reported in April that Trump was upset that the U.S. was expelling 60 Russians while the French and Germans were expelling only four each. “There were curse words,” one official told WaPo. “A lot of curse words.”

And the anonymous op-ed’s claim that there were “early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” seems highly implausible given the political devastation and utter futility of such a move. The 25th was designed to give the vice president the ability to function should the president become comatose, not merely “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” as anon attests.

The paper insists it adequately vetted the piece and its not from some low level mope.

Now, some of anon’s observations are smack on, such as:

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

But you don’t have to be a White House insider to see that. I’ve noted that Trump has changed political parties more often than some people change their socks. He has no philosophical moorings.

Trump has characterized the anonymous writer as a traitor in one of his ubiquitous tweets. Some have criticized the writer for hiding behind the shrubbery of anonymity and not having the courage to resign and put his or her name to the criticism of Trump’s whims and foibles.

As for me, if this is really an administration insider with the ability to thwart some of Trump’s baser instincts, good. Glad to see there are people who put the country first. Trump is not the pope. He is not infallible. He’s not the king. He is just the guy who lucked out and got handed the job.

Anon characterizes himself or herself and others inside the administration as “unsung heroes,” who “have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.” And, yes, I do take comfort in the possibility of there being “adults in the room. … trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

Though he or she says, “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back,” anon gives the administration, if not the president, credit for “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

If all is above board and as the writer makes them out be, well, I’m glad there are some adults aboard this ship of state willing to try to wrest the rudder from the drunken captain before he runs aground. And I’m glad we have been offered this peek inside … if that’s what it truly is.

I remain skeptical but hopeful.

 

 

 

 

Editorial: End racial discrimination in all iterations

Let’s face it. Racial discrimination is racial discrimination. Calling it affirmative action is just swinging the pendulum the other way.

The Department of Justice recently joined a group of Asian-American students in their lawsuit against Harvard University that claims the school’s use of a subjective “personal rating” in determining admissions discriminates against Asian-Americans.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “No American should be denied admission to school because of their race.”

Harvard officials put out a statement this past week saying they are “deeply disappointed” in Justice’s action, but concluded it was to be expected “given the highly irregular investigation the DOJ has engaged in thus far.” A Justice official said the investigation is still ongoing and might result in a separate lawsuit or other action.

The personal rating is supposed to be based on character and personalty traits, but the lawsuit claims an analysis of data found Asian-Americans had the highest academic and extracurricular ratings of any racial group, but the lowest score on the personal rating.

The Supreme Court upheld affirmative action policies in 2016 in a case out of the University of Texas at Austin. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement earlier this year, wrote the opinion, which said “considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy, once described a government program pushing diversity as a “naked racial-spoils system,” and he predicted in a newspaper column that the Supreme Court eventually would rule that “in the eyes of government, we are just one race.”

Earlier this year Trump’s Justice Department rescinded an Obama-era policy that encourages colleges and universities to promote diversity by considering racial quotas.

In his “Dream” speech Martin Luther King, Jr., did say, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Racial discrimination is abhorrent in all its iterations.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Taxpayers just collateral damage in trade war

Bok cartoon from three days ago seems prescient.

Since farmers may be hurt by China slapping retaliatory tariffs on American farm goods, President Trump is now talking about extending $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers, The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning.

WSJ explains:

China, in response to a series of U.S. tariffs, has levied duties on $34 billion of U.S. products, covering 545 categories, ranging from soybeans, pork, chicken and seafood to sport-utility vehicles and electric vehicles.

The farm goods were chosen to hit U.S. states that supported Mr. Trump just months ahead of the midterm elections, according to people with knowledge of Beijing’s plan.

Planned relief for U.S. farmers follows a series of tweets from the president earlier Tuesday in which he hardened his stance on trade ahead of a visit this week from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Trump tweeted this morning:

So what happens when the feds print money? Inflation, of course, which eats into the value to your paycheck and savings.

Aren’t tariffs great?

Robert Samuelson wrote recently in The Washington Post that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 may not have caused the Great Depression, but it certainly did not help end it.

“One crucial lesson of Smoot-Hawley is to leave trade policy alone — that is, don’t resort to protectionism — in any economic crisis that doesn’t automatically involve trade. Protectionism may make things worse and, possibly, much worse,” the columnist writes.

Protectionism discourages trade by raising the price of traded goods, Samuelson explains, thus exports and imports suffer and could lead to defaults by debtors, of which there are far too many right now, which could trigger a panic.

Those who do not remember history …

Who likes the Iranian nuke deal? Anyone?

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly has been meeting with an Iranian official in an effort to save the nuclear deal he helped put together.

President Trump has a May 12 deadline for renewing the deal or bailing out of it.

Kerry’s efforts come on the heels of Israel revealing it has a half ton of documents showing that Iran continues to work toward developing a nuclear arsenal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is not accusing Iran of violating the deal, but is pointing out the deal is so weak Iran doesn’t need to break it, while it continues its nuke development. “I say that a deal that enables Iran to keep and hide all its nuclear weapons know-how, is a horrible deal,” he said.

The deal was supposed to be that Iran would curb its bid for nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions that were hurting the nation’s economy.

Surprise! Surprise! Today The Wall Street Journal is reporting there is labor strife all over Iran due to lousy economic conditions. Teachers, steelworkers, hospital staff and others have walked off the job.

The paper says the workers are angry at their employers and the government, because the nuclear deal has failed to deliver. There is high inflation and unemployment and the country’s currency is dropping in value.

“Where in the world is a worker whose wage is four times below the poverty line forced by the police to work?” WSJ quotes an Iranian activist as saying. “This is a crime. This is slavery.”

Remember those pallets of cash delivered by the Obama administration? Apparently a lot of that was spent on supporting fighting in Syria and supporting Hezbollah.

Kerry appears to be fighting for a deal nobody likes, even the Iranians.

Imagine what will happen if Trump backs out of the deal.

An Iranian protester in December. (Getty Images)

Newspaper column: Public has a right to see justice done

Steve Kelly cartoon

Currently playing in theaters across the country is a movie called “The Post,” about  how in 1971 The New York Times and The Washington Post both brazenly defied the law of the land and published excerpts of a highly classified document that has since been dubbed the Pentagon Papers, which outlined how a succession of presidents lied to and concealed information from the American public about events and strategy in the Vietnam War.

The public had a right to know, both papers argued.

There was nothing in the Papers that would have jeopardized American security or troops, just the confidence of the American people in the belief that their leaders would tell them the unvarnished truth.

Today, both of those papers are being less than enthusiastic about the public’s right to know what is in a declassified memo from the House Intelligence Committee that states there are “concerns with the legitimacy and legality” of how law enforcement obtained court approval to wiretap a then volunteer political adviser to  now-President Donald Trump, Carter Page, in an investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with officials of the Russian government.

The memo indicates Justice and FBI officials were less than forthcoming with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the material used to support the request for permission to surveil an American citizen, despite the Fourth Amendment guarantee that citizens are to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. The memo specifically addresses the fact the Christopher Steele “dossier” was bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and that the credibility of Steele himself was doubtful after he was quoted as saying he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

Never mind that then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”

The Post editorialized that the Intelligence Committee under Republican Devin Nunes of California “has become another front in Mr. Trump’s assault on the law enforcement institutions investigating the president and his associates. House Republicans are poisoning the committee’s relationship with the intelligence community and distracting from real issues demanding attention.”

Poisoning? Distracting?

The editorialists at the Times opened with the dismissive line, “Seriously? That’s all they’ve got?” From there the paper derisively chided the House Republicans for what it seemed to believe is a newly discovered reverence for transparency.

“Since the Republicans are now on board with greater transparency, they will no doubt push President Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major-party presidential nominee has done for the past four decades, won’t they?” the Times taunted.

There was nothing in the memo that in any way jeopardizes national security, but the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee fired off a memo declaring, “The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information …” adding, “The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President.”

Nevada’s Democrats, of course, joined the hooting chorus of naysaying.

Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running against Sen. Dean Heller this year, said, “Declassifying this memo, filled with innuendo to support unsubstantiated claims, is a blatant attempt to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation for political gain. This was all done despite the objections of the FBI, and these attacks undermine the integrity of our federal law enforcement officers.”

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement declaring, “This partisan memo is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the very real issue: Did a presidential candidate’s campaign work with a foreign government to influence our election process? I support the dedicated professionals at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is clear that to some Republicans in Congress, it’s more important to play politics than to support law enforcement. No one should ever be above the law.

Including those in law enforcement?

Rep. Dina Titus fired off this retort, “Republicans are willing to jeopardize our national security by attacking and undermining an FBI investigation of one of Trump’s advisers in a memo that has material omissions of fact, distortions, and ulterior motives. … Something doesn’t add up. Trump has something to hide.”

And what is the purpose of classifying a document, but to hide? While declassifying reveals.

For justice to be done, it must the seen, and not cloaked under a veil of secrecy.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

WaPo fact check: Democrat tax hike claim a tad bit misleading

On Tuesday Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto made some odd claims in a press release about how the GOP tax reform bill would rip off middle-class taxpayers. We poked fun at a few items, but it turns out one was a whopper.

The Washington Post today looked into a claim made by three Democrats a week ago, the same one made by Cortez Masto this week. She claimed, “The average tax increase on families nationwide earning up to $86,100 would be $794.”

In tweets, Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Merkley of Oregon made the same bogus claim.

 

It turns out that claim was lifted from a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee analysis. According to the Post the document had this line on each state page: “The average tax increase on families nationwide earning up to $86,100 would be $794, a significant burden for middle-class families.”

This was attributed to a report by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee. That report stated, “If enacted, the Republican tax reform proposal would saddle 8 million households that earn up to $86,100 with an average tax increase of $794 — a substantial expense for working families.”

But you see, there are 122 million households making less than $86,100. Thus only 6.5 percent of those households would see a tax hike of that amount. The Post reported that more than 97 million, or 80 percent, of that group would get a tax cut averaging about $450.

(Tax Policy Center)

The Post piece concludes, “In their haste to condemn the GOP tax plan, Democrats have spread far and wide the false claim that families making less than $86,100 on average will face a hefty tax hike. Actually, it’s the opposite. Most families in that income range would get a tax cut. Any Democrat who spread this claim should delete their tweets and make clear they were in error.”

 

Newspaper throws stones at liberal East Coast media

The Las Vegas Vegas newspaper carried a front page story in its Sunday edition that criticized The New York Times and The Washington Post for largely ignoring the story of five Pakistani-born congressional informational technology employees suspected by Capitol Police of violating security policies.

“Unlike the Trump Russian scandal, however, The Washington Post and The New York Times have barely reported on the story, which has conservatives observing — with President Donald Trump’s Twitter account concurring — that the mainstream media have a double standard,” the story, which carries a slug calling it an analysis, reports.

 

Up until Sunday, the local paper had itself carried only two mentions in print of the main character in the story, Imran Awan. One was a Washington Post story about Trump’s twitter posts that mentioned a Trump tweet about Awan. Another was a brief that reported Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, had finally fired Awan after his arrest at Dulles Airport as he was about to board a flight to Pakistan after wiring nearly $300,000 there. Some of that money was suspected of being the proceeds of bank fraud.

In the past month alone the paper appears to have carried a dozen accounts that contain the words Russia, Trump and collusion.

After reporting that the five suspects — four members of the same family and a friend of the family — had been paid $4 million over the past dozen years, “three times higher than the norm for a government contractor,” the analysis scolded:

“There is enough smoke to this story to merit intense news coverage. Yet, The Washington Post, the federal government’s hometown paper, had published only two stories on the Awan saga as of Tuesday, when the Post ran an explainer that looked at the story through two lenses — one conservative, one liberal.”

The analysis concludes with this observation: “It is impossible not to see a double standard. The Democrats’ IT guys enjoy the presumption of innocence. And that would be OK, if big beltway media showed the president the same courtesy.”

Those who live in glass houses …

Debbie Wassermann Schultz (AP pix via WSJ)