Sunday, January 21, 2018

Trump and Media

In the year that Donald Trump has been President, there's been a lot of worthy, aggressive journalism probing every facet of his administration and its alleged missteps. But there's also been a series of mistakes and fact errors by top news organizations, which may itself be historic in nature. This week, the President named what he sees as top offenders in his Fake News awards. Some of his examples tracked with ones we, too, identified over the past two months while researching this report on what we think is one of the biggest stories of Trump's Year One. 
It's perhaps the biggest media miss of President Trump Year One. 
Erin Burnett: The Trump presidency from what we've seen could be dire, you think, for example, stocks could crash which is a significant thing to say. How bad could it be? 
Mark Cuban: I can say with 100 percent certainty that there is a really good chance we could see a huge, huge correction. 
Alison Kosik: It is better than the expected market nose-dive that's predicted if Trump wins. 
Melissa Lee: According to our next guest a Trump presidency could be catastrophic for stocks. 
CNN declared a Trump victory would be America's Brexit and shock U.S. and global markets. Politico agreed. Quite a few people predicted that in the unlikely event Donald Trump were elected president the stock market would crash.

Social Security's Death Knell Is Ringing. Can You Hear It?

Social Security is, barring an immediate and massive overhaul in how benefits are paid to the back-end of the Baby Boomer generation and beyond, on its deathbed.  There can be no mistaking that fact.
Veronique de Rugy explains at Reason:
Since 2010, [Social Security] has been running at a cash-flow deficit – meaning that the Social Security payroll taxes the government collects aren't enough to cover the benefits it's obliged to pay out.  That should have been a signal that the time had come to look at reform.
Instead, we've spent the last seven years ignoring the problem.  To get by, the program started tapping into assets set aside beginning in the 1980s for rainy days.  Prior to 2010, the program collected more in payroll taxes than was needed to collect benefits at the time.  The leftovers were "invested" in Treasury bonds through the Old-Age Trust Fund, which is now being drawn down.
The 2010 mark for this cash-flow deficit didn't occur willy-nilly.  It could be argued that our government hastened, or at the very least exacerbated, this cash-flow deficit with its "payroll tax holiday," a bipartisan effort instituted in late 2009 that persisted until 2013.  This political maneuver slashed payroll taxes by roughly one third, from 6.2% to 4.2%.  The uncollected 2% (not peanuts in a country the size of ours) happens to coincide with the moment in time in which the government's payroll tax receipts couldn't cover its Social Security liabilities.  The cost of this "payroll tax holiday" is estimated to be $240 billion in tax revenue, some of which, at least, would have otherwise gone to pay out Social Security's beneficiaries.  Much of this $240 billion in uncollected revenue necessarily became issued federal debt. 

Wasting Away in Chuckschumerland

I must say I paid more attention this week to the continued unfolding of the Obama-Clinton "Russian collusion" poppycock, which seems to be coming to a certain closure with the investigative results made public and the consequent removal and prosecution of a number of high-ranking former and present officials.  In the meantime, Chuck Schumer, whose surname (per is "a nickname from Middle Low German 'good-for-nothing,' 'vagabond,'" revealed how aptly he is named.
In fact, the Democrats' government shutdown gimmickry reminds me of nothing so much as the scene in the movie Animal House where Eric "Otter" Stratton offers up the notion that the situation absolutely requires a "futile and useless gesture, and we're just the guys to do it."
Here's the background.


Congress has never passed a law respecting what should be done with the people who entered the U.S. illegally as minors and stayed on illegally.  In June 2012, by administrative decree, the Obama administration offered a renewable two-year deferred deportation action for people in this situation.  This program is known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  The estimates of people involved ranges broadly from 800,000 to over 3 million.
In September of this year, the president rescinded this program.  The regents of the University of California and Janet Napolitano sued to enjoin the rescission, and Judge Alsup did so, apparently using a copy of the U.S. Constitution known only to practitioners and jurists in the Ninth Circuit. 

Fear and Mass Surveillance: Our Constitutionally Toxic Political Cocktail

At 12:51pm on January 18, 2018–just a day before it was set to expire–the Senate followed the House’s lead and reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) Section 702 mass surveillance program for another six years by a vote of 65-34.
Writing for in October 2017, I made this prediction about the then-looming debate over extending the mass surveillance authority embodied in Section 702: 
Absent another Snowden-like revelation, Section 702 of the FAA will be reauthorized largely without change, and any changes will be cosmetic, and almost certainly abused. Whether it has a “sunset” provision or not is now politically and practically meaningless.
As it turns out, that prediction was optimistic. But first, a recap of the events of this week.
The real drama took place Tuesday evening, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held open the procedural vote to end debate on the underlying Section 702 bill, S. 139, by some 90 minutes. The last two holdouts–John Kennedy (R-LA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) were worked over by anti- and pro-Section 702 forces on the Senate floor, with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) calling in reinforcements in the form of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to help strong-arm Cassidy and McCaskill into voting to end debate on the bill. The pressure worked, with McCaskill providing the key vote to kill any chance of amending a bill that Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) declared was a direct threat to the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

Senator Chuck Schumer Providing Backdrop for Women’s March 2018

The Biggest Star of Women’s March 2018 is (drum roll, please): Senator Chuck Schumer, a male-#MeToo-er of which there now seem to be so many.
It was Schumer who managed to pull off the timely shutdown of the government—one day before the march—providing the march its main backdrop:
“Against the backdrop of the U.S. government shutdown that took hold Saturday, many marchers pointed to the irony of the closure of iconic sites associated with the fight for liberty and equality, such as the Statue of Liberty and the visitor center at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. (LA Times, Jan.20, 2018)
“Like last year’s protests, these overspilled U.S. borders, with dozens of overseas gatherings. At a linked event Saturday in Rome, Italian actress-director Asia Argento, one of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, called on women to “speak out and change things.”
Nothing’s dramatically changed since their first march: 

The Democrats are still willing to shut the government down (in this case for a weekend) in order to hold the country hostage.
The loudest screams of outrage in this year’s Women’s March are coming from the #MeToo Movement, 30 some years in the making; ‘Power to the Polls’, the overriding chant even though the masses remember all too well how it was the presidential election campaign polls that overwhelmingly incorrectly predicted Hillary Clinton was the inevitable winner when Donald Trump (screech and scream!) ended up as America’s duly elected president instead.
Even the symbolic pink pussy cap of Women’s March 2017 has been flattened down to “caps with cat’s ears.”
The L.A. Times calls it “the genesis of the pussyhats or pink cat’s ears hats”.
Worst of all for the millions frustrated by Women’s marches,  the same old, same OLD celebrities dominate the soap box.
No wonder they needed Schumer this time out!

Top Democratic Senate Aide On Anti-Semitism: We Don't Care About It

Well, if you want to fight anti-Semitism, don’t count on Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) office apparently. A top aide is reported to have said that Murray’s office doesn’t care about anti-Semitism. It’s all about caring for trans folk, blacks, the disabled, Hispanics, and gays (via Free Beacon) [emphasis mine]:
A senior policy adviser to Democratic senator Patty Murray (Wash.) said her office in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions does "not care about anti-Semitism," according to two people who attended the meeting.
The HELP committee is currently weighing the nomination of Ken Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education. Marcus has been the target of an aggressive campaign waged by leading anti-Israel groups seeking to derail his nomination. Marcus has worked to combat the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses and is the founder of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a pro-Israel group.
During a meeting on November 28 with Sarah N. Stern, a former colleague of Marcus and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a senior adviser to Murray on the HELP committee told Stern the committee does not "care about anti-Semitism in this office."
"We don't care about anti-Semitism in this office," Murray's senior adviser said. "We care about transgenders, we care about blacks, we care about Hispanics, we care about gays, we care about lesbians, we care about the disabled."
"We don't care about anti-Semitism in this office," he said.
Stern's aide Jennifer Dekel confirmed the comments and said she was taking notes during the meeting. 

Why does Congress still get paychecks during a shutdown? It’s in the Constitution

Members of Congress are still collecting paychecks during the government shutdown while lower-wage federal workers will go without pay.
Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution allows the lawmakers to still get paid their salaries, despite the federal government being shut down due to their inability to reach an agreement.
A handful of Democrats from Trump-won states during the 2016 election introduced a bill Friday afternoon, hours ahead of the looming shutdown, which would do away with salaries for lawmakers during the period of time the government is officially closed.
“It’s wrong that members of Congress would still get paid in the event of a shutdown while paychecks for members of our military could be disrupted,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat. “This bill ensures members of Congress will not get paid and another bill I have cosponsored makes sure our troops will.”
Several other members of Congress have taken to Twitter, saying they’ll also forego their paychecks.
During the 2013 government shutdown members of the military, veterans, military families, cafeteria workers, janitors and security guards felt the financial hurt more than most.