A lot of improbable things happened in 2016, not the least of which was the election of His Majesty King Donald the 1st as the 45th President of the U.S.
It may be difficult to do an inaugural using only 140 characters.
Perhaps foreshadowing Trump’s surprise victory, England voted to exit the EU.
The Cubs won the World Series. They last played in the Series in 1945. Before that the last time they won, in 1908, populist William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska was the Democratic nominee for President. He lost to William Howard Taft, Republican of Ohio.
The Wildcats of Villanova won the 2016 NCAA Men’s basketball championship.
Seven States legalized Pot in the 2016 elections.
In the meantime the FDA ruled that electronic smoking devices like Vape pens and e-cigarettes are to be considered “tobacco products” in spite of the fact that they do not contain tobacco. The regulation became effective August 8th, restricting sales to those over 18 years old.
After a fairly rocky start the S&P 500 managed total returns of 9.79% for all of 2016, pretty close to the historical average. 10-year Treasury note rates edged up about 35 basis points over the year.
Homicide rates in New York City continued to fall, dropping 13% from 146 in 2015 to 127 in 2016. However, the murder rate in Chicago skyrocketed 58% to 750 in 2016. Over the Christmas weekend at least 60 people were shot, 11 fatally. The population of New York is about 8.5 million and the population of Chicago is about 2.7 million, which implies that Chicago’s homicide rate is more than 18 times that of New York’s.
Hamilton continued on with its record setting ways. In 2016 it won a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album, 11 Tony awards and the Pulitzer for Drama. And it probably kept Hamilton’s picture on the $10 bill.
Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature, which makes the Cubs victory look kind of ordinary. Especially considering that past winners include Rudyard Kipling (1907), Anatole France (1921), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Thomas Mann (1929), Sinclair Lewis (1930), Eugene O’Neill (1936), Pearly S. Buck (1938), Hermann Hesse (1946), T.S. Elliot (1948), William Faulkner (1949), Winston Churchill (1953), Ernest Hemingway (1954), Albert Camus (1957), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1970).
More recent winners have included Toni Morrison (1993), Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (2001), Harold Pinter (2005), and Mario Vargas Llosa (2010). In particular it is well worth noting that Vargas Llosa, has for decades been a powerful voice against authoritarians and fanatics. So maybe the choice of Dylan isn’t so strange after all.
Campaign spending by the major party candidates fell from about $2.75 billion in 2012 to about $2.65 billion in 2016. That is a little less than half what the public spent for either pet grooming or legal marijuana, each of which clocked in at $5.4 billion. No word yet on whether the campaign affected sales of weed.
Perhaps we can go for an entire year without hearing from the Clinton’s, but don’t count on it.
In “Rogue One”, prequel to the original Star Wars film released in 1977, the mighty walking tanks of the Empire seem vaguely like Godzilla trampling through Tokyo. Chalk that up to Gareth Edwards, director of Monsters (2010) and the 2014 release of—Godzilla. But while Godzilla was a truly awful movie—in fact a truly awful series—Rogue One sparkles.
There is the usual jousting among the critics over the perennial question of what does it all mean, with some arguing that this is the first adult Star Wars movie in the series. There is something to that claim. This is more than just a shoot-em-up, although there is plenty of that. In this film some of the good guys get shot, which is relatively rare in the just-for–kids genre.
The movie calls to mind the Peloponnesian Wars with the Empire (Sparta) fighting to put down the Rebellion (Athens). The Empire is a military state. The Empire has a bit of a glass ceiling problem though; women appear to be almost totally absent from their midst. Needless to say the Empire maintains its rule with an iron hand of terror; its soldiers follow orders unblinkingly, and of course there is a brutal hierarchy of power with the Emperor at its pinnacle and Darth Vador as first henchman. Kind of like the IRS.
The Rebellion on the other hand is idealistic. It runs on hope, as we are reminded a couple of times. Its members are there for “The Cause”. The Rebellion, as you might expect, is kind of fractious. The members have their own minds. There is a Senate, so the Rebellion is democratic. And it has a President, not an Emperor. The President, like the eventual leader of the Rebellion (Felicity Jones), is a woman so they seem to have solved that glass ceiling problem that the Empire’s bureaucrats seem so unconcerned about. And the Rebellion has the best music.
One problem the Rebellion hasn’t solved is the project the Empire is so busy working on: the Death Star. If the Empire can demonstrate its power with the Death Star, the Rebellion will fall apart and all the inhabitants of the Galaxy will be forced to live under the thumb of the Empire.
But the Rebellion does have members who have The Force. And The Force is not to be taken lightly. It allows a blind Jedi to shoot down Empire fighter jets with a Bow and Arrow, not to mention fighting off machine gun toting Empire soldiers with little more than a walking stick and some Kung-Foo moves thrown in for good measure. Who says this movie is not aimed at adults?
All in all, Rogue One is very entertaining, and well worth seeing. Especially in 3D in an IMAX Theatre.
“Israel, we got your back” Obama famously claimed in August 2012. So the question must be asked, how would U.S. foreign policy look any different if Obama’s goal were to put Israel on the road to extinction?
How for instance, Israelis are entitled to wonder, does it help for the United States to toss aside 50 years of policy in the waning days of an administration to delegitimize defensible borders for an Israel that is surrounded by hostile powers? How exactly does it help Israel for the United States to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran despite Israel’s strong objections? How does it help to put Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon? How does it help to send tens of billions of dollars in unmarked cash to an Iran committed to the destruction of Israel, and which the U.S. State department still considers to be the world’s leading State sponsor of terrorism.
It is probably true as John Kerry says, that the demographics of the Middle East require that Israel accept a two-state solution if it is to survive as both Jewish and a democracy. It depends on how democracy is defined. But it doesn’t mean that any two-state solution will do. A two state solution must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state within defensible borders.
That poses a problem because Palestinian rejectionists refuse to concede Israel’s right to exist.
And why should they? They mean to win the war to eliminate Israel in the capitals of the West by isolating Israel and making it a pariah. They intend to do this by claiming the mantle of victimhood. They are, they claim, victims of Western colonial powers who seized their ancestral land in wars of aggression that date back at least as far as the Crusades. Their failures are the fault of the Western oppressors.
Except that there was that Muslim invasion of Spain that began in 711, not to mention Italy and France that came fast on its heels (historically speaking). Eventually Spain and Portugal fell under Islamic rule that lasted until 1492. Then there is that small matter of the Ottoman Empire’s entry into World War 1 on the side of Germany with an unprovoked attack on Russia, which was then allied with England and France.
But never mind. That was then.
Today progressives in Western capitals get to feel virtuous by simultaneously pulling the rug out from under Israel while insisting that Israel “take risks for peace”. This is the same crowd, by the way, that is busy creating safe spaces for undergraduates who live in terror that they might be forced to confront the horror of a gender specific pronoun.
There is a path to peace, but the path is not through Israeli settlements. Nor is it by surrender. Peace will come when the Arab and Persian governments of the Mideast stop using Israel as an excuse for their failures, liberalize their regimes and stop financing Hamas and their ilk.
The story is always the same; it is only the names that change. This time the name is Kevin Lara Lugo. He died on his 16th birthday. The New York Times reports that he had spent the previous day foraging for food in an empty lot because there was none at home. The family had gone without for three days, and they were getting weak, so he went out to find something, anything, to eat. What he did find turned out to be poisonous. Because the hospital lacked the simplest supplies needed to save him, the boy died on a gurney while his mother stood by helplessly.
His aunt told Nicholas Casey, the Times reporter, that “the boy [died] for no reason at all.” But that is not correct. The boy died because he was killed by Socialism, the most ruthless man-made killer the world has ever known.
In Venezuela, as a direct result of the Socialist revolution brought about by Hugo Chavez, there are widespread shortages of food and medicine. Doctors lack water to clean operating tables, and there are food riots. But Venezuela is just the latest to go down this path. People starve to death in North Korea every day. The most conservative estimates of North Korean starvation deaths in the late 1990s are in the neighborhood of 250,000 with some estimates greater by an order of magnitude.
During 1932-33 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved to death between 3 and 7 million Ukrainians in what Ukrainians call the Holodomor. This took place within a larger collapse of Soviet agriculture that accompanied–was caused by– the collectivization of the farms. Kazakhstan was particularly hard hit, losing about 2 million to starvation. From 1919 through 1933 Kazakhstan lost more than half its population as a result of the Soviet imposition of collective farming.
At the moment Cuba, which imports 80% of its food, is going through one of its periodic food shortages, and is looking north to U.S. farmers for help. And if you look at a list of 40 countries where people are going hungry you will find names like Zimbabwe, Chad, Liberia, Mali, Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Sudan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Uganda and Nepal. And that list leaves out places like Syria.
Not a capitalist one in the bunch. Not one. Every single one of them represents some stripe of collectivism. Call it socialism, communism, fascism, planned economy or whatever you want. The result is always the same. Bureaucrats and politicians, not business people and entrepreneurs make key economic decisions. As a result, the poor and vulnerable, those without political connections, are left to deal with predictable shortages of food and medicines. Make no mistake: these shortages are brought about by the politicians and bureaucrats who substitute central planning, bureaucratic control and regulation for free markets.
Which begs the question. Why is it that the activists who seem to be constantly staging marches for social justice are nowhere to be found protesting the plight of Venezuelans? Where are Bernie Sanders and the professional left? After all, Bernie Sanders has spent his entire political career advocating for the policies that have produced the predictable (and predicted) disaster in Venezuela. Shouldn’t he have some explaining to do? Believe it or not Sanders actually described food lines as a good thing. He said, “You know, it’s funny. Sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is when people are lining up for food. That’s a good thing. In other countries, people don’t line up for food. The rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”
Please see the John Stossel You Tube segment below.
So the question needs to be asked. Why does the mainstream press give Sanders (and his ilk) a pass? Why are his campus followers, decked out in their Che branded T-shirts, treated as idealists rather than as dupes? Let’s be clear. The collectivist ideology they so enthusiastically and foolishly embrace is what ultimately killed Kevin Lara Lugo on his 16th birthday.
As Christmas and Hanukkah approach, it is altogether fitting that the hypocrisy of the professional left has been bared, and for the umpteenth time. Its utter contempt for the rule of law; its virulent hatred of freedom and of self-determination have been exposed for all willing to see. We need look no further than what is going on first, at the UN in the case of Israel, and second, the apoplexy on the left over U.S. foreign policy with respect to Russia and nuclear arms. Betrayal
The UN has been a cauldron of anti-Semitism since at least 1975 when it adopted a resolution equating Zionism with racism. Back then, the US firmly and resolutely opposed attempts to beat Israel into submission. In one of the finest speeches ever delivered at the UN, US Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued a scathing indictment of the resolution and its proponents in decidedly undiplomatic language. An excerpt is below.
Fast forward to 2016. The Obama Administration joined with the jackals by pointedly refusing to veto a UN resolution that, on the surface, calls for an end to Israeli settlement building in the “occupied territories”. This not only broke with 50 years of bipartisan foreign policy; it broke with the Obama Administration’s own policy. As recently as 2011 Obama ordered a veto of what was essentially the same resolution. So what changed since 2011? Hillary Clinton had already lost the 2016 elections; that’s what.
Let’s not be fooled into thinking that the resolution is really about settlements, or that the resolution is “toothless”. The resolution is another step—and a big one—in the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State. For instance, it puts a very big thumb on the scale by describing long-disputed territories as “occupied” territories; it declares Israeli settlements to be illegal and subjects Israelis to prosecution in European Courts. It removes one more set of incentives for Palestinians to negotiate for a just and lasting peace. (For a detailed discussion of the legal issues, please see this article by Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online.)
Meanwhile His Royal Highness, Donald of 5th Ave, got this one right when he successfully put pressure on Egypt to withdraw the resolution and then publicly came out against it. Unfortunately Venezuela, Senegal, Malaysia and New Zealand (what were they thinking?) picked up the Egyptian resolution and forced a vote. The result was 14 – 0 in favor with the US abstaining.
In response Trump said (Tweeted actually) that things would be different after January 20th. That would be refreshing. Perhaps the moral sensibilities of those titans in the fight for human rights like Senegal, Egypt, Angola, China, Russia, Venezuela and Malaysia will be taken with a very large grain of salt.
And, oh yes, in case you forgot, Trump is the one who is supposed to be anti-Semitic.
When Comrade Putin Speaks
For months U.S. progressives have been crying crocodile tears over Trump’s alleged “bromance” with Vladimir Putin, and Putin’s alleged influence over US affairs, particularly the 2016 US presidential election. For now, let’s leave aside the fact that there is no actual evidence that Putin and his KGB buddies actually influenced the outcome of the race. And let’s stipulate that Putin’s motives are not simply suspect—let’ say his motives are all nefarious. That’s a pretty good assumption.
For this exercise let’s note some facts. Around the time Comrade Putin invaded Crimea, he pointedly noted that his nukes were targeted at U.S. cities. He also claimed that the Russian soldiers in Ukraine were really just volunteers. Perhaps you didn’t know that Russia is famous for its citizens keeping T-14 Armata war tanks in their back yards. Just in case. You never know.
In the meantime, Putin has been modernizing his strategic nuclear forces for some time. As Time magazine put it back in April 2016, “Over the course of Obama’s presidency, Russia has managed to negotiate deep cuts to the U.S. arsenal while substantially strengthening its own”. Further “[Russia] has brought disarmament talks with the U.S. to a complete standstill for the first time since the 1960s. In its rhetoric, Moscow has also returned to a habit of nuclear threats, while in its military exercises, it has begun to practice for a nuclear strike, according to the NATO military alliance”.
So after Putin decided once again to start yammering on about his nuclear forces, Trump responded by saying (Tweeting) that the U.S. would not shrink from the challenge and that if that meant there would be an arms race, so be it. Count on the media to report this as an unwarranted Trump provocation, not a response.
Anyway, Progressives who had been shouting from the rooftops mere weeks ago that Trump was simply a tool of Comrade Putin, putty in his hands, immediately headed for their now well-worn fainting couches. Warmonger Trump was needlessly provoking St. Vladimir. Billionaire Trump, that tool of the military-industrial complex, was about to start a new arms race that would bankrupt the U.S..
As it turns out, His Majesty called this one right. That’s two-for-two, a record of sorts. We have been in an arms race for quite some time, except that only one side has been running on the track, namely the bad guys. That would include Russia, China, North Korea and Iran to name a few. The Obama Administration has at best been fairly passive in the face of Russian aggression and North Korean sabre ratting; too accommodating of China in the South China Sea, and has facilitated Iranian nuclear goals.
Vladimir Putin, who called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geo-political tragedy of the 20th century, is busy at work weakening NATO, which is incapable of defending Europe without the U.S. Truth be told, it may very well have been a mistake for the Clinton Administration to expand NATO thus stoking Russian fears. But that is water under the bridge.
In any event, by announcing that he was quite willing to modernize and rebuild U.S. forces, Trump served notice that the U.S. was no longer going to be a patsy for anyone. This is a message that needs to be, and will be heard loud and clear in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran among others. And let’s be clear. There is only one nation that can win an arms race. That is the United States. It is only a question of will.
The United States has a choice. It can choose to defend human rights. It can choose to affirm the sovereignty of the nation-state and its role as the primary organizational unit of world politics. And its government can act as defender of human rights. And it can back those choices with combinations of soft and coercive power. Or it can choose to yield to the progressive dream, actually a nightmare, of global government, which inevitably means governance by corrupt and self serving bureaucratic elites.
Thus far there is a glimmer of hope this Christmas season. Wonder of wonders, His Majesty Donald Trump seems to be leaning toward the former rather than the latter.
Back in 1975 when the UN was equating Zionism with fascism U.S. President Gerald Ford signed the Helsinki accords that for the first time placed human rights front and center in world politics. According to the non-binding accords:
“Human rights are moral principles or norms, which describe certain standards of human behavior, and are regularly protected as legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being,” and which are “inherent in all human beings” regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.”
Progressives, who believe that rights flow from the State, cannot truly abide by the Helsinki declaration because it declares human rights to be inherent to the person. So watch for the upcoming 180. The professional left, which despises the US and Israel precisely because they share Liberal values, will soon be arguing that Donald Trump, who only last week was supposedly a Vladimir Putin fan boy, is actually under the thumb of the Israelis. Because the modern locus of the ancient disease of anti-Semitism is mostly on the left.
His Majesty, King Donald of 5th Ave, now insists (by Tweet of course) that he could have won the popular vote had he chosen to do so. The basis for this latest round of nonsense is that he would have run a different campaign if the popular vote determined the winner. While it is arguably true in the case of Bush v. Gore that Bush could have run up the vote in places like Texas in a popular vote campaign, there is no chance that Trump could have harvested an extra 3 million votes or so around the country, much less in places like California and New York.
Trump sycophants have now taken to arguing that His Majesty beat Hillary Clinton by 3 million votes if you don’t count California and New York. Which is to say that Trump did even better if you don’t count the other guy’s votes.
In the meantime Politico reports that His Majesty intends to maintain his own private security force rather than rely exclusively on the Secret Service, a move that Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent, calls “playing with fire.”
The Long Goodbye
To the surprise of almost no one, it turns out that remnants of the Clinton campaign kept tabs on the attempt to derail the Electoral College vote for Trump. Documents leaked to Politico show that while the campaign didn’t come out and endorse the effort, they didn’t wave it off either, just as they gave tacit support to the ill-fated recount efforts mounted by Jill Stein.
In a looming sign that fiscal sanity is unlikely to make an appearance in Washington any time soon, Charles Schumer, Senate minority leader, has said that Trump’s trillion dollar infrastructure plan “sounds good to him.” The spendathon is about to begin.
About that Russian Influence
Politico reports that Senator Tom Cotton, long a hawk on Russia, tried to force the White House to create a panel with representatives from various agencies to “counter Russian efforts ‘to exert control or influence’ including by exposing Russian ‘falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism, and assassinations’.”
The Administration rejected Cotton’s call saying that it would duplicate existing efforts.
The Youth Vote
A recent poll found that 62% of Democrats do not want Hillary Clinton to take a third run at the White House, leading to the obvious question, where did they find the other 38%? Anyway, the two candidates Democrats are most focused on for 2020 are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. In 2020 Biden will turn 78 and Sanders will turn 79.
In a speech liberally seasoned with self-pity, Mrs. Clinton attributed her loss of the 2016 presidential election to a convergence of two “unprecedented” events. According to the New York Times, Mrs. Clinton said those two events were (1) the release of a letter by FBI Director James B. Comey shortly before the election referencing Clinton’s private e-mail server, and (2) an “attack against our country” by Vladimir Putin that took the form of hacking into the e-mails of the DNC and campaign chair John Podesta. The hacks were directed at her, Mrs. Clinton maintained, because Putin had a “personal beef” with her because of her accusation that Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections were rigged. Which, indeed, they were.
Where to begin?
In one sense Mrs. Clinton is correct. There was plenty of unprecedented behavior associated with the 2016 elections. She didn’t bother to mention that a great majority of it was hers.
Let’s start with the fact that Mrs. Clinton was the first Secretary of State to set up a home-server that she used for all her State Department business, in contravention of State Department Policy. And let’s not forget that she had her legal staff destroy about 30,000 e-mails that were under Congressional subpoena. Or that she lied under oath when she said that the staff read each and every e-mail before deciding which ones to destroy. Or that she lied under oath when she said that she turned over all work related product back to the State Department. Or that she lied when she said that she never sent or received classified e-mail. That was later amended to neither sent nor received e-mail classified at the time. That was a lie too. The list of lies is endless.
It was also unprecedented to have the former President of the United States meet privately in the back of an airplane with the Attorney General who is overseeing the FBI’s investigation of you. It is unprecedented for the former President of the U.S. and his wife, the Secretary of State, to have formed a charitable organization to serve as the family slush fund and money laundering operation. It is unprecedented for the Secretary of State to sign off on a deal giving the Russians control of 20% of all U.S. uranium production capacity, only to see the Secretary of State’s husband collect $500,000 for giving a speech to a Russian bank with links to the Kremlin. And, by the way, that wasn’t the only Clinton deal that carried such a stench. It’s hard to keep track of them all, but this link from the New York Times is a good place to start. The headline, which reads “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal” says it all.
Clinton corruption is hardly a new story. It goes way back to Hillary Clinton’s days as a commodity trader; through the days of renting out the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign contributors, and then to raising campaign cash from firms and individuals with ties to the Chinese military during the 1996 campaign. All told, the Clinton’s went from being “dead broke” in 2000 to a net worth of well over $100 million dollars by 2008. So, yes, there was plenty of behavior that was unprecedented—at least before the Clinton’s came to town.
Mrs. Clinton’s Exercise in Self Deception
Let’s dispense with the fantasy that Hillary Clinton lost the election because of Russian hacking. Virtually every official that will go on record is clear that there is no evidence that voting machines were hacked, or that votes weren’t counted or that people were denied the opportunity to vote because of hacking. The behavior that Hillary Clinton is complaining about is the hack and release of information from e-mail accounts belonging to the DNC and campaign chair John Podesta.
To begin with, this would not be the first time that the Russians pulled this type of stunt. They have been in the agit prop business for at least a half-century. More to the point, this was not some sort of disinformation campaign. What the Russians leaked, primarily through Wikileaks, was in fact accurate information. That doesn’t mean that what the Russians did was ethical, proper or justifiable. Who are we trying to kid here? Vladimir Putin is an ex KGB agent. The KGB does not hire altar boys.
Mrs. Clinton would have us believe that the population was hoodwinked; that they didn’t know the facts, and therefore didn’t vote for her in sufficient numbers. Mrs. Clinton said “Make no mistake as the press is finally catching up to the facts, which we desperately tried to present to the press during the last months of the campaign. … This is an attack on our country.” The idea that the press did not cover the story is simply delusional. The Clinton campaign pressed the Russian angle for months, including during the presidential debates.
Here for instance is a quote from the final presidential debate, which took place on October 19, almost 3 weeks before the election.
Clinton: Russians “have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions, then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the internet. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly from Putin himself, in an effort, as 17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election…”
So she couldn’t get the message out? Nonsense. The story was covered extensively. And remember that during the election season the Clinton campaign refused to say whether the hacked e-mails were in fact authentic, even though they obviously were. But Clinton never acknowledged the authenticity of the e-mails. In the statement above she refers to “American accounts, American websites” etc. The campaign routinely referred to the e-mails as stolen, and possibly fraudulent. (Somehow or other they didn’t mind trafficking in Trump’s stolen tax returns though).
There is a reason the Clinton campaign didn’t acknowledge the authenticity of the e-mails. It is precisely because they are authentic. Acknowledging that fact would mean owning up to their contents and her own duplicity. So Hillary Clinton is left to argue that she lost the Presidential election because the voters were treated to accurate information about her and her campaign. That’s poetic justice for you.
The front page of today’s New York Times carries the headline “Trump Falsely Says Claim of Hacking Came After Election”. And that is true enough. Just as it would be true enough for the Times to publish the headline “Hillary Clinton Falsely Claims Not to Have Sent Classified E-Mails.” Or “Hillary Clinton Falsely Claims She Turned Over All Her Work Related E-Mails.” Or, Hillary Clinton Claims, well, you get the idea. So it appears that the Times isn’t so much concerned with lying as it is concerned with who is doing the lying.
And on that subject, ironically enough, the Times points out that the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. formally blamed Russia on October 7 for hacking the DNC a month before election day. That, by the way, is the same James R. Clapper Jr., who perjured himself before Congress. When Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon asked him point blank if the NSA collected any type of data on millions of American citizens, Clapper’s answer was: “No sir.”
When he was confronted with his lie shortly thereafter he said that he gave what he considered to be the “least untruthful” answer he could.
Which brings us to the matter of Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden was hired as an NSA contractor in 2013, over three years ago. By June of 2013 Snowden had leaked thousands of classified documents, and by June 23, 2013 he had hightailed it over to Russia from Hong Kong to escape the U.S. Justice Department. As of now he still lives in Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum. So Russia has been harboring a U.S. fugitive who leaked thousands of classified documents to, among others—the New York Times. And that very same New York Times acts surprised that Russia would try to interfere in U.S. domestic politics. What did the Times think Russia was doing then?
Note too that there is no one on the planet who has any evidence whatsoever that Russia’s evidence had an impact on the outcome. Homeland Security Secretary Jeb Johnson said there is “no evidence” that any “bad actor” actually changed the ballot count in the presidential election. And not to put too fine a point on it, the information that was released that is the subject of the hacking complaints wasn’t false. It was factually correct.
Hillary Clinton and Company did stack the rules against Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Donna Brazile was feeding CNN’s debate questions to Hillary Clinton ahead of time. Hillary Clinton’s senior staff did mock Catholics and Catholicism behind closed doors. John Podesta did ask Clinton to call “needy Latinos.” And so on.
The real question that should be on everybody’s mind is not: did Russia attempt to interfere with the election. Of course they did. The real question is: how could the White House be so incompetent that they fell asleep at the switch? And why are they only waking up now? Edward Snowden, who might know a thing or two about hacking, has been sitting in Moscow for 3 years after having been granted temporary asylum. And it is only now that the White House appears to consider that Russia might have been interested in the confidential files maintained by the Presidential campaigns of Clinton and Trump? Seriously?
It is entirely possible, if not probable, that the Russians also hacked into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, and that they have in their possession the supposedly personal e-mails that she ordered destroyed. The ones that were under subpoena, by the way. Those e-mails could be the ones that contain the really interesting information. But we will never know. Unless Vladimir Putin decides we should.
Well, well, well. All of a sudden Progressives have decided that the Russian bear isn’t very friendly after all. And they are terribly upset that the Russian government, meaning Vladimir Putin, “may have” influenced the outcome. And so the latest ploy is to ask for a delay of the Electoral College vote, scheduled for December 19, so that the College’s electors can receive an intelligence briefing. To no one’s surprise, the Clinton campaign backs the effort. The aim is to buy time to convince enough Republican electors to abandon Trump so that they can elect someone else President.
It bears repeating that this is the same crowd that hollered from the rooftops about how Trump might challenge the results if he lost.
In any event, Senate Republicans have walked away from Trump on this. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have announced support for a bi-partisan inquiry into the affair.
His Majesty Disses the Wall Street Journal
Speaking of His Majesty, Trump blasted the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board the other day for criticizing his plan to slap tariffs on imports. “I read the Wall Street Journal the other day” he said. “Honestly, their editorial board doesn’t get it. I don’t think they understand business.”
Au contraire, the WSJ editorial board understands economics very well. It is the Emperor who lacks clothing.
Like many of his cabinet picks, Trump’s reported favorite for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson the current CEO of ExxonMobil, had previously announced support of the TPP. His Majesty may wind up being the only one in his government opposed to it.
The Free Market and the “Dumb Market”
In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Trump insisted he was going to slap tariffs on goods produced outside the U.S. by American companies. At which point Chris Wallace said “What happened to the free market, sir?”
To which His Majesty replied, “…that’s not the free market when they go out and move and sell back into our country…No, that’s the dumb market, OK? That’s the dumb market”.
Well, it’s good we got that straightened out. Otherwise people might think this is …dumb.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the CIA “…concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the Presidency….” The assessment was so secret that the CIA felt compelled to leak it to the Washington Post, which promptly put it on the front page. While the FBI acknowledged that the Russians intervened by hacking DNC and RNC servers, they were more circumspect about motives. They were apparently unwilling to say explicitly that the Russians were trying to help Trump win.
There are now various calls for the Senate to conduct an investigation of the situation. Senator John McCain joined with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer to say they will push “…to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyber attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
For his part, His Majesty King Donald dismissed the story saying “It could be Russia…and it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” (Why do they always have to pick on New Jersey?) Anyway, the Royal Transition Staff issued a statement that “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” At that, the usual chorus arrived wailing and moaning about the dire threat to “Our Democracy” and His Majesty’s apparent unwillingness to walk around the town square dressed in sack cloth and ashes to atone for his cavalier dismissal of the opinions of the intelligence agencies.
So let’s unpack all this.
Did Russia Interfere?
Is there any reason to believe that the Russian government tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election? Of course there is. They have interfered one way or another with American politics generally and U.S. Presidential elections specifically for at least 50 years. After all, who provided financing, propaganda and organizational help for communist front groups from the 1940s through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989? The Soviets did, that’s who.
So, yes, of course the Russian government tried to influence the outcome. Did Putin prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton? Probably. So what? They probably preferred Obama to Romney. After all, it was Romney who in 2012 identified Russia as the greatest strategic threat faced by the U.S. And it was Obama who was caught on an open mike telling Putin to wait until after the 2012 election was over, after which time Obama could be more accommodative toward Russia.
Again, so what.
A Little History Here
Russia almost certainly preferred Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan in 1980; George McGovern to Richard Nixon in 1972; Lyndon Johnson to Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Henry Wallace to Harry Truman or Thomas Dewey in 1948. And let’s not be naïve, in addition to agit prop over elections, Russia successfully infiltrated high levels of Western governments. There was the Kim Philby affair in Britain. And to this day lots of progressives deny that Alger Hiss and Ethel Rosenberg spied for the Soviets, despite the mountain of evidence that shows they did. The British government charged Vladimir Putin with ordering the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, in London in 2006. Then there were the cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, caught spying for the Soviets. The Guardian covers the very recent case (2010) of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley in the story at this link.
So it should hardly come as news that the Russian Government, headed by an ex KGB agent, would interfere in U.S. politics. Or, for that matter, that he would have his opponents murdered. That’s what the KGB does. But how is any of this supposed to have made a difference in the election outcome?
Who, exactly, is surprised by any of this? And why would anyone think that the Russian interference had the desired effect? The Clinton campaign obviously viewed the Russian accusation as damaging to Trump, which is why they harped on it all the time. The absurdity of the argument becomes crystal clear when you consider that the Clintonistas continue to complain that (1) they may have lost the election because of Putin’s interference, but that (2) Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 2 million votes. So which is it? Did Putin cost Clinton votes, or did she gain them on balance? Or is the argument that the Russians concentrated their efforts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin thereby affecting the outcome. And where is the evidence that the outcome would have been different absent Putin and the KGB?
It is well known by roughly everybody who got beyond their 6th grade civics class that countries routinely interfere in each other’s internal politics, mostly surreptitiously. The U.S. spent a lot of time trying to knock off Fidel Castro (before he became Obama’s BFF) with plots that could have been concocted by the editors of Mad Magazine. The U.S. succeeded in its efforts to depose Salvatore Allende in Chile (1973), Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam (1963) and Mossaddegh in Iran (1953). It took until 1976 for the U.S. to officially ban assassination as a tool of foreign policy, which it did when then President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 11905. That order was reinterpreted and relaxed in 1998 for targets identified as terrorists by the U.S.
On a less draconian scale, we had sanctions imposed on South Africa when it maintained apartheid. The whole point of Radio Free Europe was to support opposition to the Russian occupation of Eastern Europe, as well as to attack the legitimacy of the Russian government. And Barrack Obama injected himself into domestic British politics when he made a speech in London defending the E.U. just before the Brexit vote.
And not to put too fine a point on it, none other than Hillary Clinton is on tape as an enthusiast for rigging foreign elections. In January 2006 Hamas won a resounding victory against Fatah (whom the U.S. supported) in an election for the second Palestinian Legislative Council. In a September 2006 meeting with the editorial board of the Jewish Press, when that subject came up, Hillary Clinton said this.
“I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake,” said Sen. Clinton. “And if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.”
So much for Hillary Clinton and the sanctity of the vote.
Let’s be clear about what is going on here. It is an effort by progressives to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the November election. Because they lost. And they lost fair and square because they had a lousy candidate, a fact that they are thus far unable to admit. Which is not to say it was a great outcome. It wasn’t and it couldn’t be, given the two major party candidates. But the outcome is what the people voted for under the rules.
All of a sudden Progressives may find that the Madisonian system of checks and balances doesn’t look so terrible after all. But I am not holding my breath waiting.