Category: US politics

Shrinkage!

No, this post isn’t about Seinfeld, it’s about what Elizabeth Vaughn reports:

Since 2004, Gallup has conducted a monthly party affiliation pollparty. They ask voters, “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?” Results from a November 1-6, 2016 poll showed that 31% of voters identified as Democrats, 27% as Republicans and 36% as Independents. A recently conducted poll indicates a significant shift in those numbers. Currently, 27% of voters consider themselves to be Democrats, 29% as Republicans and 38% as Independents.

What to make of the 4% plus in those identifying as Democrats? Did half of these voters make the switch to the Republican column and the other half to the Independent column? That would account for the two point increase in those two categories.

Also, while there have been many fluctuations along the way, a glance at the number of those who identify as Democrats show those figures peaking between October 2018 and February/March 2019. The  results ranged between 30 and 35 during those months. A major drop to 26% was seen following the release of the Mueller report and it has failed to recover.

Conversely, those calling themselves Republicans dipped in January of 2019 to a low point of 25%.

A comparison of what was going on in Washington at that time vs. now explains these changes.
Winter 2018/2019:

1. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was still riding high and Republicans were bracing for the horrors of what his long awaited report might reveal.

2. Democrats were riding high after winning back the House majority in the 2018 midterms. The incoming chairmen of the powerful House committees, such as Reps. Jerry Nadler (Judiciary), Adam Schiff (Intelligence), Maxine Waters (Finance) and Elijah Cummings (Oversight), were feverishly preparing their investigations which they were sure would reveal the high crimes and misdemeanors they needed to get rid of Trump once and for all.

3. We saw the ascendancy of the exciting, audacious new Congresswoman from New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.

4. A huge new crop of Democrats were kicking off their 2020 presidential campaigns with radical new ideas to transform the US into a “kinder, gentler” socialist republic. All were touting the Green New Deal, the masterpiece introduced by freshman firebrand AOC, telling voters we only had 12 years left to save the planet.

5. Presidential candidates have shifted farther to the left than at any other period in US history. Ideas which had been considered “radical” and “socialist” when first proposed in 2016 by Bernie Sanders have been adopted by most of the 2020 hopefuls.

August 2019:

1.  The Mueller report was released and as hard as he and his team of angry, Hillary-supporting Democrats tried, they failed to find sufficient evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice by the President. Then, Mueller reluctantly appeared before Congress to answer questions about his 22-month-long investigation. His disastrous, humiliating testimony immediately reduced the once feared special counsel to a weary old man who had long ago handed over the reigns to his subordinates.

2. The efforts of House Democrats to impeach President Trump have become, if not a joke, then at least a mere side show. Most amusing is that the average voter couldn’t tell you if Nadler has begun impeachment proceedings or even an impeachment inquiry against Trump if their lives depended on it. No one is paying attention to what he is doing. Both Nadler and his efforts have become irrelevant.

3. Similar to Robert Mueller, the three radical freshmen reps, who had initially taken Washington by storm, have seen their rockstar status fizzle. Their reckless rhetoric, their bigoted statements, and their transparent lust for power have turned them into pretty unsympathetic characters. They forged ahead carelessly without bothering to first acquaint themselves with the ways of Washington believing that by sheer audacity, they could achieve their goals. Better yet, Trump has managed to make these women the face of the Democratic Party.

4. Deeper analysis of the Green New Deal has turned AOC’s signature proposal into a joke. Outside of the far left fringes of the Democratic party, most voters understand that the GND (and other plans based on the GND) is nothing more than a power grab designed to turn America into a socialist nation.

5. The majority of Americans oppose the policies the 2020 Democratic candidates have embraced. Voters are against late term abortion, open borders, free healthcare for illegal immigrants, and they don’t see climate change as an existential threat.

The political landscape has changed dramatically between January, when 32-34% of voters identified as Democrats and the present, when only 27% do. The Democrats may want to rethink their strategy going forward because Americans aren’t buying what they’re selling. Additionally, William Barr’s appointment as Attorney General has upended the Democrat’s Russian collusion narrative to the point where the investigators have now become the investigated. And while the results of one poll don’t tell a story, Democrats have lost a lot of battles in 2019. And it sure looks like the advantage has shifted to the Republicans.

Some of this seems strange. How many people change their party affiliation based on election results? (As opposed to the results of the election results, the second five points.) It’s one thing if, like Ronald Reagan, you didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left you. If you claim to be a member of whichever political party did better in the last election, then we must wonder about your principles. (I suppose “winning” is a principle by someone’s definition.)

On the other hand, for those who despair about whatever GOP leadership is doing, well, Democratic leadership has apparently lost The Cap Times:

The Democratic National Committee will never be accused of having its act together, especially when it comes to Wisconsin. The DNC’s long history of misreading Wisconsin almost cost Democratic nominees the state’s electoral votes in 2000 and 2004, and the bureaucrats in D.C. finally did enough damage in 2016 to tip the state into the GOP column.

So it should probably come as no surprise that the party is bumbling arrangements for the Democratic National Convention in 2020. Yet it is somehow shocking to see the Democratic insiders blow the simplest of tasks: hotel arrangements.

The party made the right decision when it chose to hold the convention in Milwaukee, a great American city that is ready to be mobilized to end Donald Trump’s presidency. But now, the party bureaucrats have decided that thousands of delegates and alternates and convention guests will be spend much of the convention week in Illinois.

The DNC has determined that while 31 delegations will be housed in Milwaukee area hotels, 26 delegations will be staying in northern Illinois. In fact, so many large delegations are being sent across that state line that Wisconsin will barely house the majority of delegates. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “In all, 2,926 hotel rooms will be used for delegates in Wisconsin while 2,841 hotel rooms will be used in Illinois, according to the list.” In reporting the assignments, the Journal Sentinel explained, “It turns out the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee is going to be very good for the Illinois hotel industry.”

It will not be so good for the hoteliers of Madison, Racine, Kenosha, Sheboygan and other Wisconsin cities that are as close or closer to Milwaukee than northern Illinois. Make no mistake, all of these cities have excellent hotels that would be outstanding bases for delegations. They are also more affordable than Chicago area hotels, which is no small consideration for a party that is supposed to maintain at least a minimal interest in attracting working-class voters.

We do not deny that there are fine hotels in the Chicago area, and we are aware that the Milwaukee bid for the convention proposed that some delegations would be housed in Illinois. That’s cool. What is not cool is that almost half of the delegates will be spending convention nights outside Wisconsin. And what is simply stunning is the decision to prioritize airport hotels in Illinois over outstanding hotels in Wisconsin cities that are more easily reached than the congested O’Hare area.

But this is about more than logistics. This is about something the Democratic National Committee should understand, but apparently does not: politics.

From a political standpoint is difficult to fully describe the scorching stupidity of the DNC’s approach. But let’s try.

In 2016, Illinois gave 56 percent of its support to Democrat Hillary Clinton and just 38 percent to Republican Donald Trump. In 2020, the state is expected to maintain that pattern.

Illinois is not a battleground state, not by any measure. But Wisconsin is.

In fact, it is a classic battleground. When Wisconsin’s electoral votes moved from the Democratic to the Republican column in 2016, along with those of Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Democrats lost the presidency.

Of the last five presidential elections in Wisconsin, three were exceptionally close calls. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the state by 5,708 votes out of roughly 2.6 million cast. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won by 11,384 votes out of almost 3 million cast. Democrat Barack Obama won the state with ease in 2008 (taking 56 percent) and 2012 (with almost 53 percent), as he did the rest of the country, making him the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win two consecutive national elections with over 50 percent of the vote.

But in 2016, Trump took Wisconsin by 22,748 votes out of just under 3 million cast. For the first time since 1984, a Republican carried a Wisconsin presidential vote. Fly-by-night pundits imagined that the state had tipped to the GOP. But two years later, Democrats won every statewide race — for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer and secretary of state. Several of those results were exceptionally close, however, confirming what anyone who knows anything about Wisconsin politics knows: This is a closely competitive state. And it is likely to be that in 2020.

So how will the race be decided? By generating lots of excitement in Democratic bases such as Milwaukee County and Dane County and by capturing counties that Democrats have won in the past but where they ran poorly in 2016. Such as: Racine County and Kenosha County to the south of Milwaukee on the Lake Michigan shore, and Sheboygan County to the north. Obama carried Racine and Kenosha counties in 2008 and fell just 400 votes short in Sheboygan County; in 2012, the Democrat again took Kenosha and Racine counties and was at a competitive 45 percent in Sheboygan County. In 2016, all three counties backed Trump.

So let’s review: To win Wisconsin, Democrats need a huge turnout in Madison and they need to carry or at least remain competitive in the lakeshore counties north and south of Milwaukee. And which communities has the Democratic National Committee decided to give the cold shoulder when making 2020 Democratic National Convention hotel assignments? Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Sheboygan.

The DNC could have created good will and electoral excitement in the places it needs to win the battleground state of Wisconsin in 2020. Instead, it decided to head for Illinois. Good luck with that.

Of course, heading for Illinois what minority Democrats in the state Senate did in attempting to engineer their coup d’etat against Republican Gov. Scott Walker. That not only failed to prevent Act 10 from passing, it failed to defeat Walker and it failed to wrest control of either house of the Legislature in 2012, the same election in which Barack Obama was reelected president and Tammy Baldwin was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Recall Will Rogers’ statement “I’m not a member of an organized political party; I’m a Democrat.” Or perhaps national Democrats are afraid of Madison.

 

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The Amazon is burning down! (Unless it isn’t.)

Dan O’Donnell:

The world is understandably shaken by the news that the Amazon rainforest is burning uncontrollably, that the “lungs of the world” are suffering, and that Brazil’s conservative president isn’t doing enough to help. How could this happen? How could we allow this to happen? Are we really this callous and indifferent to the impact of man-made climate change?

In a word, no. The world is shaken primarily because of the hysterical and largely inaccurate manner in which the rainforest fires have been covered. They are neither the result of climate change nor unprecedented. In fact, the number of fires in the Amazon this year is actually down significantly.

That hasn’t stopped celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and world leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron from expressing their outrage. …

Their concern is touching, but the picture they shared is from 20 years ago. Actor Jaden Smith, the son of megastar Will Smith, shared a picture that is nearly 30 years old.Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo shared a picture that isn’t even of the Amazon rainforest. …

The fake pictures reflect an inconvenient fact about this year’s fires: There is nothing especially alarming about them. While it’s true that the 40,341 fires captured on satellite imagery this year represent an 80% increase over last year, it’s just 7% higher than the average over the last decade. In fact, it’s about even with the number of fires that burned in the Amazon in 2016.And it’s only about half as many as those which burned in 2005 and 2007.”The decade before [this] included several years in which the number of fires identified during the first eight months was far higher [than 2019],” The New York TImes concluded.

“These fires were not caused by climate change,” the Times continued. “They were, by and large, set by humans.”

Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year’s crops and pasture. Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use.”

In other words, the rainforest itself isn’t actually burning out of control.

But isn’t deforestation itself a massive problem? Aren’t farmers clearing too much land nowadays? Not really, as the Times reported. Annual deforestation over the past decade is just a tiny fraction of what it was from the mid-1990s to the middle part of the last decade.

The claims that the Amazon is “the world’s lungs” and that fires in it will destroy air quality across the globe are equally dubious, as Forbes environmental writer Michael Shellenberger notes:

I was curious to hear what one of the world’s leading Amazon forest experts, Dan Nepstad, had to say about the “lungs” claim.
“It’s bulls***,” he said. “There’s no science behind that. The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it’s a wash.”
Plants use respiration to convert nutrients from the soil into energy. They use photosynthesis to convert light into chemical energy, which can later be used in respiration.
What about The New York Times claim that “If enough rain forest is lost and can’t be restored, the area will become savanna, which doesn’t store as much carbon, meaning a reduction in the planet’s ‘lung capacity’”?
Also not true, said Nepstad, who was a lead author of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. “The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen, but so do soy farms and [cattle] pastures.”

Naturally, this doesn’t fit in with the prevailing narrative that man is destroying the Amazon and permanently impacting the environment, so it is all but ignored in favor of politically-motivated attacks on new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump. Shellenberger continues:

One of Brazil’s leading environmental journalists agrees that media coverage of the fires has been misleading. “It was under [Workers Party President] Lula and [Environment Secretary] Marina Silva (2003-2008) that Brazil had the highest incidence of burning,” Leonardo Coutinho told me over email. “But neither Lula nor Marina was accused of putting the Amazon at risk.”
Coutinho’s perspective was shaped by reporting on the ground in the Amazon for Veja, Brazil’s leading news magazine, for nearly a decade. By contrast, many of the correspondents reporting on the fires have been doing so from the cosmopolitan cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are 2,500 miles and four hours by jet plane away.
“What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional,” said Coutinho. “Take a look at Google web searches search for ‘Amazon’ and ‘Amazon Forest’ over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the ‘Amazon tragedy’ when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria.”

Yet there is hysteria–fueled by misinformation and outright dishonesty–and spread across the world like, well, wildfire.

Dishing it out but not taking it

Michael Hoffman is, to say the least, not sympathetic about yesterday’s news that Donald Trump supporters are embarking on a campaign to make Trump’s media non-fans’ words reach public view:

On the front page of the August 25 edition of the New York Times, two reporters, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters, decry a new movement by Right wing researchers among Donald Trump’s base, aimed at sleuthing into the background and statements of journalists in the employ of the legacy media.

These investigations have been declared to be off-limits and “clearly not journalism.” So saith Washington Post’s Lord High Emeritus Executive Editor, Leonard Downie Jr.
He alleges that an “organized, wide-scale political effort to intentionally humiliate journalists and others who work for media outlets” is something new.
One wonders on what desert island he’s been sojourning. The censorship, doxing, boycotts and obstruction of revisionists, black nationalists and Conservative and Christian journalists don’t seem to register or even exist for media Brahmins of the upper crust.
Follow the money: the legacy media will brook no competition that harms its lucrative monopoly on news. Therefore, we dissident journalists are supposed to know our place and be content with our lot as virtually invisible. The many attempts to humiliate, libel, obstruct and remove us from Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Instagram are of no concern to the High and Mighty in the legacy press.
“It’s one thing for Spiro Agnew to call everyone in the press ‘nattering nabobs of negativism,’ Mr. Downie said, referring to Agnew’s critique of how journalists covered President Nixon. “And another thing to investigate individuals in order to embarrass them publicly and jeopardize their employment.”
This is precisely what several corporate newspaper chains, cable television news, websites, blogs and podcasts have been doing for years, including the NY Times — calling for the dismissal and loss of employment of alternative reporters who have been smeared as anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, homophobic, and so on.

A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, said in a statement that exposure of shady biographical facts about Times reporters was a case of taking Trump’s “campaign against a free press to a new level. They are seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organizations that are asking tough questions and bringing uncomfortable truths to light,” Mr. Sulzberger declared.

When such tactics are used against the “leading” news organizations they are immoral and wrong. However, when the Times, Washington Post and CNN smear, intimidate and prevent alternative journalists who work for smaller online operations from “asking tough questions and bringing uncomfortable truths to light,” then it’s not at all a matter for outrage. The news aristocrats have spoken. You may now kiss their designer shoes.

Mr. Sulzberger takes the moral high ground on behalf of his very profitable and powerful business behemoth:

“The goal of this campaign is clearly to intimidate journalists from doing their job, which includes serving as a check on power and exposing wrongdoing when it occurs. The Times will not be intimidated or silenced.”

What about journalists who seek a check on your monopoly power and wrong-doing Mr. Sulzberger? What of your newspaper’s endeavor to jeopardize our employment?

Mr. Sulzberger’s heresy-hunting NY Times has shown zero interest in defending conservative reporters who are not members of the legacy media from calumny and blacklisting.

Often the Times has been guilty of these odious tactics, which it now indignantly protests when its political rivals and business competitors employ them to deflate the reputation of the Times, and inform the public concerning the questionable character of some of its writers and editors.

In many cases Sulzberger’s newspaper has encouraged those attacks and covered up for thought police groups like Right Wing Watch and “Media Matters for America” that closely investigate and attack conservative journalists, and Sleeping Giants, which is sworn to threaten and shame any platform online that dares to host radical alternatives to politically correct dogma and revolutionary social change.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a prominent thought police group campaigning for the censorship of history books at Amazon, the silencing of black leaders like Louis Farrakhan, and of activists who are outside the established boundary of permissible opinions about Israeli settler-colonialism and the racist creed of the Babylonian Talmud. Over the years, the New York Times has been a dependable mouthpiece for the ADL and complicit in its libel and intimidation—yet theTimes is horrified now that such tactics are being wielded against its own writers. Here we observe the grotesque hypocrisy of the entitled.

In June the heresy-hunters at Google’s YouTube removed several legitimate revisionist history videos, together with many white supremacist and hate speech videos. Having accepted without investigation Google’s deceitful description of all the videos it removed from YouTube as constituting “hate speech,” the New York Times mechanically reported the entire ban in terms of taking down hate speech. Our video exposing Deborah Lipstadt’s hate speech toward historian David Irving was one of the films banned from YouTube. Consequently, our video which fulfilled a public service by advancing knowledge about the hate speech of an Establishment-revered Zionist celebrity (Lipstadt), was banned in the name of combating hate speech. TheTimes cooperated and was party to the masquerade. Revisionist researchers and activists are barely human in the eyes of the Times, and unworthy of the anguish and hand-wringing now being expended to defend their own hired hands from suppression and removal. This corrosive double standard undercuts Mr. Sulzberger’s protestations and reveals the corruption at the heart of his newspaper’s reporting. …

I can’t abide Trump but I consider these exposures of privileged  members of the legacy media delightful, due to the fact that said media have acquiesced in massive censorship and denial of service on Facebook, YouTube, Google and in Amazon’s censorship of historians’ dissident books. In these instances involving alternative writers and journalists who compete with the NY Times and other legacy media, there has been little or no solidarity offered by your fellow reporters and editors.

In many cases where the harassed and interdicted alternative journalists are Conservatives, there have been expressions from members of the legacy media of satisfaction at the heresy-hunting, doxing and removals.

Now, when the shoe is on the other foot, we’re supposed to believe the process of sleuthing into journalists’ public and private foibles and failings is somehow an outrage against press freedom?

Freedom of the press does not begin at the gate of the legacy media. The Times, the Post, CNN etc. were the ones who first let the genie out of the bottle. You ought to deal with the karmic consequences without whining.

Better yet, work for the freedom of expression of your lumpen proletariat rivals online.

Nor is Streiff:

If you’ve ever watched CNN’s rainman, Andrew Kaczynski, aka @KFile, at work you know how this stupid gotcha game is played. You go back through the target’s writings, often delving into college newspaper columns, looking for untoward things that they may have said and then splash the findings across the internet as though they were particularly relevant. This is an example that is happening now where out of context and completely defensible statements are being manipulated by CNN to try to torpedo an appeals court nominee:

So today, the New York Times reported that what was sauce for the goose will be sauce for the gander in 2020. …

The group, so far, has been responsible for the firing of a CNN photo editor who liked to tweet anti-Semitic stuff in his free time and it unearthed racist and anti-Semitic writings by a New York Times politics editor named Tom Wright-Piersanti

There are more on the way:

The operation has compiled social media posts from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and stored images of the posts that can be publicized even if the user deletes them, said the people familiar with the effort. One claimed that the operation had unearthed potentially “fireable” information on “several hundred” people.

“I am sure there will be more scalps,” said Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump who is a friend of Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Nunberg and others who are familiar with the campaign described it as meant to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of mainstream news outlets that have reported on the president’s inflammatory language regarding race.

“Two can play at this game,” he said. “The media has long targeted Republicans with deep dives into their social media, looking to caricature all conservatives and Trump voters as racists.”

They are also aggregating social media and other writings by spouses and associates of major media reporters. What I particularly like is that the group isn’t going after obviously hostile reporters, they are simply going after any employee of the organization. If nothing else, this should make some of the staff meetings in these outlets rather gothic.

Predictably, the media has been stopped by a bout of fecal incontinence:

But using journalistic techniques to target journalists and news organizations as retribution for — or as a warning not to pursue — coverage critical of the president is fundamentally different from the well-established role of the news media in scrutinizing people in positions of power.

“If it’s clearly retaliatory, it’s clearly an attack, it’s clearly not journalism,” said Leonard Downie Jr., who was the executive editor of The Post from 1991 to 2008. Tension between a president and the news media that covers him is nothing new, Mr. Downie added. But an organized, wide-scale political effort to intentionally humiliate journalists and others who work for media outlets is.

“It’s one thing for Spiro Agnew to call everyone in the press ‘nattering nabobs of negativism,’” he said, referring to the former vice president’s famous critique of how journalists covered President Richard M. Nixon. “And another thing to investigate individuals in order to embarrass them publicly and jeopardize their employment.”

A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The Times, said in a statement that such tactics were taking the president’s campaign against a free press to a new level.

“They are seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organizations that are asking tough questions and bringing uncomfortable truths to light,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “The goal of this campaign is clearly to intimidate journalists from doing their job, which includes serving as a check on power and exposing wrongdoing when it occurs. The Times will not be intimidated or silenced.”

In a statement, a CNN spokesman said that when government officials, “and those working on their behalf, threaten and retaliate against reporters as a means of suppression, it’s a clear abandonment of democracy for something very dangerous.” …

This is just bullsh**. The media has long ago given up the pretense of being anything but an adjunct of the Democrat party. Their reporters a closely affiliated with far left outlets. The leaking of John Podesta’s emails showed that reporters, such as the incompetent lecher Glenn Thrush, sent their stories to Democrat operatives for approval. They are a combatant and they need to be treated as such.

Streiff then posted:

If the New York Times thought the Fourth Estate was going to rally to their defense, they were sadly disappointed. This is how the Washington Post’s media critic treated it Breitbart burned the New York Times. And the Times really doesn’t like it.

They are bad actors. They are driven to suppress legitimate inquiry. They are by no means journalists.

And they read Twitter very carefully!

Those are the contours of an alarm rung on Sunday by the New York Times. “A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists,” wrote Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters.

And just what would this “damaging information” be? Illicitly obtained DMs? Gossip about their sexual habits? HIPAA-protected information?

Nope. “Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.” Bolding added to note that this “damaging information” is available not only to a “loose network of conservative operatives” but also to the loose network of everyone with access to the Internet.

I was on my second cigarette by the time I got this far. It gets better.

Yet at the same time, Sulzberger all but admitted that the information supplied by Schwartz and Co. can be relevant to the management of the New York Times: “No organization is above scrutiny, including The Times. We have high standards, own our mistakes and always strive to do better. If anyone — even those acting in bad faith — brings legitimate problems to our attention, we’ll look into them and respond appropriately.”

Good! There’s an incompatibility in the Times story and the Sulzberger memo: On one hand, there’s an attempt to tar the motivations of the “loose network of conservative operatives”; on the other, there’s a stubborn admission that they have brought actionable information to public attention. For decades now, representatives of the mainstream media have answered conservative critiques by imploring: Judge us by the work we produce, not by the fact that more than 90 percent of us are liberal/Democratic. Mainstreamers cannot have it both ways. Cut the idle and unverifiable talk about motivations. If the tweets presented by the “loose network of conservative operatives” are racist or anti-Semitic or otherwise problematic, take action. If they’re nonsensical distractions, ignore them.

In the meantime, the “loose network of conservative operatives” must be celebrating right about now, having triggered not only an extensive scolding in the Times, but also an eight-paragraph memo from its publisher.

He’s exactly right. All the frothing Sulzberger did on “bad faith” is just bullsh** and excuse-making. The allegations are either real or they aren’t. Their validity is not affected one whit whether they are brought to you privately to alert you to a problem or trumpeted across the internet to make you look hypocritical and rather stupid. Reporters having to live by the rules they have created, which is that a notation in a high school yearbook could result in a demand for your firing thirty years after the fact, is a very good thing.

The thing that struck me here was the rather gleeful tone. It’s almost as if reporters talk and they know which of their colleagues have posted stuff which would be, in the left’s vernacular, “problematic” if brought to light. The group working on this project claim “that the operation had unearthed potentially “fireable” information on “several hundred” people.” The subtext here, in my reading, is that there is some really bad stuff floating around that is common knowledge but that no one in the industry has done anything about because their first loyalty is to their group and ratting out a fellow journalist would get you blackballed. The whole “bring in on” attitude also makes it seem like that the writer thinks the New York Times is going to be uniquely stricken by the outbreak of truth that is about to happen. We can only hope.

It cannot be just the New York Times.

 

Let he who is without sin write the first word

The New York Times:

A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.

It is the latest step in a long-running effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to undercut the influence of legitimate news reporting. Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.

The group has already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times — three outlets that have aggressively investigated Mr. Trump — in response to reporting or commentary that the White House’s allies consider unfair to Mr. Trump and his team or harmful to his re-election prospects.

Operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists, the people familiar with the operation said. Only a fraction of what the network claims to have uncovered has been made public, the people said, with more to be disclosed as the 2020 election heats up. The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president.

It is not possible to independently assess the claims about the quantity or potential significance of the material the pro-Trump network has assembled. Some involved in the operation have histories of bluster and exaggeration. And those willing to describe its techniques and goals may be trying to intimidate journalists or their employers.

But the material publicized so far, while in some cases stripped of context or presented in misleading ways, has proved authentic, and much of it has been professionally harmful to its targets.

It is clear from the cases to date that among the central players in the operation is Arthur Schwartz, a combative 47-year-old conservative consultant who is a friend and informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. Mr. Schwartz has worked with some of the right’s most aggressive operatives, including the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon.

“If the @nytimes thinks this settles the matter we can expose a few of their other bigots,” Mr. Schwartz tweeted on Thursday in response to an apologetic tweet from a Times journalist whose anti-Semitic social media posts had just been revealed by the operation. “Lots more where this came from.”

The information unearthed by the operation has been commented on and spread by officials inside the Trump administration and re-election campaign, as well as conservative activists and right-wing news outlets such as Breitbart News. In the case of the Times editor, the news was first published by Breitbart, immediately amplified on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. and, among others, Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and quickly became the subject of a Breitbart interview with Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary and communications director.

The White House press office said that neither the president nor anyone in the White House was involved in or aware of the operation, and that neither the White House nor the Republican National Committee was involved in funding it.

The Trump campaign said it was unaware of, and not involved in, the effort, but suggested that it served a worthy purpose. “We know nothing about this, but it’s clear that the media has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director.

The campaign is consistent with Mr. Trump’s long-running effort to delegitimize critical reporting and brand the news media as an “enemy of the people.” The president has relentlessly sought to diminish the credibility of news organizations and cast them as politically motivated opponents.

Journalism, he said in a tweet last week, is “nothing more than an evil propaganda machine for the Democrat Party.”

The operation has compiled social media posts from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and stored images of the posts that can be publicized even if the user deletes them, said the people familiar with the effort. One claimed that the operation had unearthed potentially “fireable” information on “several hundred” people.

“I am sure there will be more scalps,” said Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump who is a friend of Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Nunberg and others who are familiar with the campaign described it as meant to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of mainstream news outlets that have reported on the president’s inflammatory language regarding race.

“Two can play at this game,” he said. “The media has long targeted Republicans with deep dives into their social media, looking to caricature all conservatives and Trump voters as racists.”

But using journalistic techniques to target journalists and news organizations as retribution for — or as a warning not to pursue — coverage critical of the president is fundamentally different from the well-established role of the news media in scrutinizing people in positions of power.

“If it’s clearly retaliatory, it’s clearly an attack, it’s clearly not journalism,” said Leonard Downie Jr., who was the executive editor of The Post from 1991 to 2008. Tension between a president and the news media that covers him is nothing new, Mr. Downie added. But an organized, wide-scale political effort to intentionally humiliate journalists and others who work for media outlets is.

“It’s one thing for Spiro Agnew to call everyone in the press ‘nattering nabobs of negativism,’” he said, referring to the former vice president’s famous critique of how journalists covered President Richard M. Nixon. “And another thing to investigate individuals in order to embarrass them publicly and jeopardize their employment.”

A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The Times, said in a statement that such tactics were taking the president’s campaign against a free press to a new level.

“They are seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organizations that are asking tough questions and bringing uncomfortable truths to light,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “The goal of this campaign is clearly to intimidate journalists from doing their job, which includes serving as a check on power and exposing wrongdoing when it occurs. The Times will not be intimidated or silenced.”

In a statement, a CNN spokesman said that when government officials, “and those working on their behalf, threaten and retaliate against reporters as a means of suppression, it’s a clear abandonment of democracy for something very dangerous.”

The operation is targeting the news media by using one of the most effective weapons of political combat — deep and laborious research into the public records of opponents to find contradictions, controversial opinions or toxic affiliations. The liberal group Media Matters for America helped pioneer close scrutiny of public statements by conservative media personalities.

The conservative operative James O’Keefe has twisted that concept in ways inconsistent with traditional journalistic ethics, using false identities, elaborate cover stories and undercover videos to entrap journalists and publicize embarrassing statements, often in misleading ways, to undercut the credibility of what he considers news media biased in favor of liberals.

In the case of the pro-Trump network, research into journalists is being deployed for the political benefit of the White House. It is targeting not only high-profile journalists who challenge the administration, but also anyone who works for any news organization that members of the network see as hostile to Mr. Trump, no matter how tangential that job may be to the coverage of his presidency. And it is being used explicitly as retribution for coverage.

Some reporters have been warned that they or their news organizations could be targets, creating the impression that the campaign intended in part to deter them from aggressive coverage as well as to inflict punishment after an article has been published.

Trained as a lawyer, Mr. Schwartz has endeared himself to members of the president’s family by becoming one of their most aggressive defenders, known for badgering and threatening reporters and others he believes have wronged the Trumps.

He has publicly gone after Republicans he views as disloyal, including the former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, about whom he admitted spreading an unsubstantiated rumor. He has called himself a “troll on Twitter,” which is where he has boasted of being aware of, or having access to, damaging information on dozens of journalists at CNN and The Times that could be deployed if those outlets ran afoul of Mr. Trump or his allies.

The operation’s tactics were on display last week, seemingly in response to two pieces in The Times that angered Mr. Trump’s allies. The paper’s editorial board published an editorial on Wednesday accusing Mr. Trump of fomenting anti-Semitism, and the newsroom published a profile on Thursday morning of Ms. Grisham, the new White House press secretary, which included unflattering details about her employment history.

One person involved in the effort said the pro-Trump forces, aware ahead of time about the coverage of Ms. Grisham, were prepared to respond. Early Thursday morning, soon after the profile appeared online, Breitbart News published an article that documented anti-Semitic and racist tweets written a decade ago by Tom Wright-Piersanti, who was in college at the time and has since become an editor on the Times’ politics desk. The Times said it was reviewing the matter and considered the posts “a clear violation of our standards.”

Mr. Schwartz tweeted a link to the Breitbart piece before 7 a.m., which Donald Trump Jr. retweeted to his 3.8 million followers — the first of about two dozen times that the president’s son shared the article or its contents. Other prominent Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, joined in highlighting the report.

Breitbart’s article quoted several people or groups with close ties to Mr. Schwartz, including Richard Grenell, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Germany, and the Zionist Organization of America. It was written by the site’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, whose relationship with Mr. Schwartz started when Mr. Bannon ran the website.

Mr. Boyle’s article included a reference to the Times profile of Ms. Grisham, which it characterized as “attacking White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.” Mr. Wright-Piersanti was uninvolved in the editing of the article about Ms. Grisham.

The tweets revealed in the Breitbart article quickly spread to other conservative outlets favored by the president and his allies, including the radio shows of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.

Mr. Wright-Piersanti apologized on Twitteron Thursday morning and deleted offensive tweets. Mr. Schwartz then issued his warning that he had further damaging information about Times employees.

Mr. Wright-Piersanti, 32, said the tweets, posted when he was a college student with a Twitter following consisting mostly of personal acquaintances, were “my lame attempts at edgy humor to try to get a rise out of my friends.”

But he said “they’re not funny, they’re clearly offensive,” adding, “I feel deep shame for them, and I am truly, honestly sorry that I wrote these.”

He said he had forgotten about the tweets as he started a career in journalism.

“For my generation, the generation that came of age in the internet, all the youthful mistakes that you made get preserved in digital amber, and no matter how much you change and mature and grow up, it’s always out there, waiting to be discovered,” Mr. Wright-Piersanti said.

Like Mr. Wright-Piersanti, other targets of the pro-Trump network have been young people who grew up with social media and wrote the posts in question when they were in their teens or early 20s, in most cases before they became professional journalists.

A week after a White House reporter for CNN sparred with Mr. Trump during a news conference, Mr. Schwartz highlighted a tweet by the reporter from 2011, when the reporter was in college, that used an anti-gay slur. Other similar tweets quickly surfaced, and the reporter apologized, though Mr. Schwartz has continued to antagonize the reporter on Twitter.

In recent months, Mr. Schwartz highlighted a nearly decade-old tweet in which a reporter for The Post had repeated in an ambiguous manner a slur used by a politician.

In March, Mr. Schwartz tweeted a link to an article from Breitbart, written by Mr. Boyle, about a reporter from Business Insider whose Instagram account included anti-Trump references and a photograph of the reporter demonstrating against the president.

In July, around the time CNN published an article exposing old posts by a Trump appointee spreading suggestions that Barack Obama was a Muslim whose loyalty to the United States was in question, Mr. Schwartz resurfaced anti-Semitic tweets from 2011 by a CNN photo editor. Mr. Schwartz suggested that a CNN reporter who specializes in unearthing problematic archival content should “look into the social media activities of your employees.”

The tweets became the basis for several articles in conservative news outlets and hundreds of tweets from conservatives targeting the photo editor, Mohammed Elshamy, which did not stop even after he resigned under pressure from CNN and apologized.

“It felt like a coordinated attack,” said Mr. Elshamy, who said he had received death threats. “It was overwhelming.”

Mr. Elshamy, who is now 25, said he posted the tweets when he was 15 and 16 years old, growing up in Egypt, when he was still learning English and did not fully grasp the meaning of the words.

“I was repeating slogans heard on the streets during a highly emotional time in my nation’s history,” he said. “I believe that my subsequent work and views over the years redeems for the mistakes I made as a kid.”

While he said he understands “the severity and harm of my comments,” he questioned the motivation of the campaign that cost him his job. “It is a very dirty tactic that they are using to cause as much harm as they can to anyone who is affiliated with these media outlets,” he said. “It actually feels like a competition and every termination or vilification is a point for them.”

Mr. Bannon, at the time the head of Breitbart, oversaw the site’s efforts in 2015 to attack Megyn Kelly, then of Fox News, after she called out Mr. Trump for tweets disparaging women as “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “slobs.” In an interview, he said the work that Mr. Schwartz was undertaking should be seen as a sign that Mr. Trump’s supporters were committed to executing a frontal assault on news media they considered adversarial.

“A culture war is a war,” he said. “There are casualties in war. And that’s what you’re seeing.”

On one level, this is a national version of what conservative activists in Wisconsin did by exposing employees of state media companies who signed petitions for the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker in 2012. Ballot petitions, whether for candidates or referenda, are public records in this state, as everyone who didn’t know that (including embarrassingly some journalists) found out.

Now journalists are being exposed for communications in social media, which everyone should know isn’t private either, and of publicly made statements made in places where people have no expectation of privacy. The fear is that journalists who make disparaging comments about Trump and other Republicans to what they might think is a private audience will have their credibility impugned, meaning that their own political views and their inability to be objective about their work will be exposed.

The reaction to this in the media will be fascinating to watch. Everyone in the media who criticizes this effort will expose themselves as hypocrites on openness as members of the only constitutionally protected occupation in this country, regardless of the campaign’s obvious motivations. (And by the way, this is Think F1rst month, as you know.) Social media is simply not private. And anyone who works in the media should realize that you cannot say one thing and then pretend you didn’t say it any more than you can unprint something.

(If journalists are forbidden by their employers to express opinions on their work-provided social media accounts, that may be the best thing that happens. As you know, the First Amendment covers government, not the private sector.)

On the other hand, this raises an issue in our Gotcha! culture of whether a statute of limitations should exist on social media, as the story of Wright-Piersanti’s and Elshamy’s tweets illustrate. Decency should not hold adults necessarily accountable for an ill-advised, though not illegal, statement a child makes. This is also obviously an attack on journalists’ First Amendment rights as private citizens outside of their work. (Of course, Trump believes in his own First Amendment rights but not his opponents.)

The theory of this campaign is that what you say is who you are. The assumption the campaign is making is that there won’t be any significant blowback against conservatives because the media is, in their opinion, an anti-conservative world. The additional assumption is that a journalist cannot be simultaneously critical of and objective about someone he or she covers.

More on this possibly tomorrow.

 

From voter to opponent

Erick Erickson is not impressed by the announcement last week:

In 2016, while many conservatives were being attacked by Republicans for not supporting Trump and then by Democrats for not supporting Clinton, one of President’s increasingly vocal defenders was Joe Walsh. In 2016, as many people, myself included, said that character mattered and it was not worth wrecking the GOP or the conservative movement to back Donald Trump, Joe Walsh was more than happy to push back for the President.

The birther conspiracist who openly suggested Barack Obama was really a Kenyan, defended Donald Trump to the end and became more and more vocal as the election approached.

And then…

Once Trump became President and started delivering conservative policies, suddenly Walsh was concerned about the President.

It’s almost as if Walsh figured he could be a dyed in the wool Trump humper in 2016 presuming Trump would never get elected so that Walsh could benefit in his talk radio career as a Trump defender without the consequence of a Trump presidency.

And then…

Trump, as President, has moved the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, filled the courts with great conservatives, undertaken a historic regulatory rollback, scrapped the Iran deal, rolled back US commitments in the world, and worked to tighten the U.S. border with Mexico.

Now, suddenly, Walsh has a problem with the President?

The problem Walsh has now is a character problem? The President’s character hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is Walsh was a Trump humper defending the President who now suddenly has to acknowledge all the character problems Walsh gave a pass to actually do matter.

But this goes beyond Joe Walsh.

He is being pushed by a bunch of people who claim character really does matter. So they’ve settled for an opportunistic grifter and birther conspiracist. They might as well back Donald Trump instead of mini-Trump humper turned Trump dumper. What a spectacular admission of failure that Walsh is the best they could come up with. And that they would settle for him suggests they really aren’t that concerned with character.

If they just want to beat Trump, rally to Joe Biden — be honest that you’d rather a Democrat instead of pretending to be all about character and conviction while nominating the poor man’s version of Donald Trump.

The Walsh candidacy will get extraordinary media coverage from a media driveninsane by Trump and Walsh will get extraordinary backing from people who otherwise wouldn’t pee on Joe Walsh if he were on fire. Walsh, like Trump before him, is exposing an inordinate amount of people to be devoid of principle and just craving their own path to power.

Joe Walsh won’t beat Donald Trump in a primary. He won’t be a contender in 2020. But he can always retool his messaging and values for a media that wants something other than Trump.

If anything, Joe Walsh is like the evangelical preacher who preaches on sin and damnation only to be found out as a sexual deviant and, instead of repenting, throws out orthodoxy in favor of a book deal and media adoration. He’s Jerry Falwell, Jr. for the anti-Trump crowd.

There has not been a better time for a third party or independent challenger in the United States since 1992. Now is the time for another Ross Perot.

But Joe Walsh is not that. He’s Donald Trump without the conviction.

The would-be DJ in me thinks of three songs, first in Walsh’s announcement …

… then in his own assessment of his chances …

… and in his likely future ending of his campaign:

Think I can keep doing this? I can do this …

Biden the liar, and worse

Alana Goodman:

Joe Biden claimed twice recently that he met with Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors when he was vice president, despite the fact that he was already out of office when the attack took place. His campaign said Biden misspoke and was referring to a different meeting he had after the Sandy Hook shooting. But the flub was reminiscent of Biden’s past misstatements and his tendency to embellish biographical details.

In 1988, Biden was forced to drop out of the presidential race after he was found to have exaggerated his academic record, plagiarized a law school essay, and used quotes from other politicians in his speeches without attribution. But these are not the only questionable claims Biden has made. Here are six other times Biden was caught embellishing his biography:

1. Biden said his helicopter was “forced down” near Osama bin Laden’s lair in Afghanistan

Biden claimed in multiple speeches in 2008 that he knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding because his helicopter had been “forced down” nearby in the mountains of Afghanistan.

“If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me,” said Biden. “Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.” In another speech, he claimed al Qaeda is “in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan … where my helicopter was recently forced down.”

He later referred to “the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down.”

“John McCain wants to know where bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where,” said Biden.

The helicopter actually landed to wait out a snowstorm, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel were on a Senate junket in Afghanistan when their helicopter crossed paths with the storm, according to reports. The pilot landed as a precaution, and a U.S. military convoy picked up the senators and took them to the main American airbase.

“Other than getting a little cold, it was fine,” Kerry told the APwhen asked about the incident. “We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs,” he joked.

2. Biden said he was a coal miner

While running for president in 2008, Biden told the United Mine Workers that he was a coal miner.

“I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “It’s nice to be back in coal country. It’s a different accent [in Virginia], but it’s the same deal. We were taught that our faith and our family was the only really important thing, and our faith and our family informed everything we did.”

The Biden campaign later told the AP that his comment was a “joke.” But it echoed another false claim he had made about coming from a family of coal miners during his 1988 campaign.

In a 1988 speech, Biden referred to “my ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours.” That line was plagiarized from a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock, whose family actually did work in the mines.

In 2004, Biden acknowledged that he did not have family members who worked in mining.

“Hell, I might be president now if it weren’t for the fact I said I had an uncle who was a coal miner. Turns out I didn’t have anybody in the coal mines, you know what I mean? I tried that crap — it didn’t work,” he said during an interview with Jon Stewart.

3. Biden said he was “shot at” in Iraq

In 2007, Biden claimed he was “shot at” during the Iraq War while visiting the Green Zone, the heavily guarded area in the middle of Baghdad where the United States embassy is based.

“Let’s start telling the truth,” he said. “Number one, you take all the troops out — you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at.”

When asked for details about the shooting, a Biden campaign aide told the Hill that the then-senator was staying at a hotel in the Green Zone when a mortar landed several hundred yards away.

“A soldier came by to explain what happened and said if the mortar fire continued, they would need to proceed to a shelter,” the aide said.

4. Biden said he called Slobodan Milošević a “damn war criminal” to his face

Biden met with Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević in 1993, at the height of the siege of Sarajevo. According to Biden’s book Promises to Keep, when Milošević asked what he thought about him, Biden responded: “I think you’re a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one.”

In 2008, Biden aide Ted Kaufman, who was at the meeting and also worked on Biden’s 2008 campaign, told the Washington Post that the account was accurate. However, three other Biden aides who were at the meeting declined to corroborate the story.

John Ritch, a Senate aide who attended the Milošević meeting, told the Post he did not recall Biden making such a dramatic pronouncement.

“The legend grows,” said Ritch. “But Biden certainly introduced into the conversation the concept that Milošević was a war criminal. Milošević reacted with aplomb.”

5. Biden said he participated in sit-ins at segregated restaurants and movie theaters

In the 1970s and 1980s, Biden regularly claimed to have been an activist in the civil rights movement and said he participated in sit-ins along U.S. Route 40 in Delaware in 1961.

”When I was 17 years old, I participated in sit-ins to desegregate restaurants and movie houses in my state, and my stomach turned upon hearing the voices of Faubus and Barnett, and my soul raged upon seeing the dogs of Bull Connor,” said Biden in 1983.

Biden also claimed to have organized a boycott of a segregated restaurant in Wilmington called The Pit when he was in high school after the restaurant refused to serve a black member of his football team. “I organized a civil rights boycott because they wouldn’t serve black kids. One of our football players was black and we went there and they said they wouldn’t serve him. And I said to the others, ‘Hey, we can’t go in there.’ So we all left,” said Biden.

The football player contradicted Biden’s account and said Biden was not aware of the incident until later.

“They weren’t aware of what happened,” said the football player in 1987. “I was only 16 then. It was my problem and my battle for me to work out. They were oblivious to it until later.”

When Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race amid his plagiarism scandal, he said the extent of his civil rights participation was working at an all-black swimming pool for a summer in college. “During the 1960s, I was in fact very concerned about the civil rights movement. I was not an activist. I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Delaware,” he said. “I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.”

6. Biden said he criticized President George W. Bush during lengthy private meetings in the Oval Office

Biden claimed in 2009 that he spent “a lot of hours alone” with President George W. Bush and bluntly rebuked the president over his foreign policy decisions.

“I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office,” Biden told CNN, “‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘I’m a leader.’ And I said: ‘Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one is following.’”

Bush aides told Fox News in 2009 that they did not recall Biden ever meeting alone with the president or making such a comment.

“The president would never sit through two hours of Joe Biden,” Candida P. Wolff, Bush’s White House liaison to Congress, told Fox News. “I don’t ever remember Biden being in the Oval. He was such a blowhard on all that stuff — there wasn’t a reason to bring him in.”

Habitual lying is a sign of bad character. Another lie is even worse, as reported by Jack Fowler:

In the #MeTooMaybe hoopla over the former vice president’s hair-sniffing and hand-slipping and personal space-invading, much cataloguing of Joe Biden’s peccadillos has emerged — for example, in Jonah Goldberg’s new column. It’s a handy summary.

But missed in these lists is a deeply troubling — I guess the right word is “lie.” It is one that Biden contrived — or at least perpetuated — over a deeply painful event: the death of his first wife and daughter. The lie hides in plain sight, amongst all the other oddball anecdotes (like his vowing to use his rosary beads as a choking device), maybe because it is so amazingly brazen, and because of its complete lack of being — here, I guess the right word might be “unnecessary.”

The sad story is 29-year-old senator-elect Biden received the horrible call in December, 1972, that there was an accident in which his wife Neilia and baby daughter Naomi were killed, and his young sons Beau and Hunter severely hurt. Mrs. Biden seems to have driven into a busy intersection, into the path of an oncoming truck. Its driver was Curtis Dunn. Investigators found him blameless. Of no surprise, according to his family, his involvement in the deaths of Mrs. Biden and her daughter weighed on Dunn until his own death in 1999.

It was a heartbreaking story all around, and with officials leaving no doubt of the truck driver’s complete innocence, what was the point of doing or saying anything more than letting Neilia and Naomi Biden rest in peace? As for Joe Biden, the tragedy was so utter that the accident’s circumstances were best left unremarked. Never mind unembellished.

But embellished they became. When exactly, we don’t know. Why? That’s a question the answer to which is unfathomable — or if for political purposes, utterly deplorable. For some reason, the evidence shows, in the early 2000s, Joe Biden began to remark in public that his wife had died at the hands of someone who “allegedly . . . drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch.” That Curtis Dunn “was an errant driver who stopped to drink.” That drunk-driver story spread into news accounts. The Dunn family, who had strong sympathy for Biden, was shocked by the sullying of their now-dead father. They wrote the senator and asked him to stop and reminded him of the exonerating investigation. When that didn’t happen, they went public. Per a 2010 Biden profile in The Atlantic:

For many years, he described the driver of the truck that struck and killed his first wife and their daughter in December 1972 as drunk, which he apparently was not. The tale could hardly be more tragic; why add in a baseless charge? The family of the truck driver has labored to correct the record, but Biden made the reference to drunkenness as recently as 2007, needlessly resurrecting a false and painful accusation.

This is truly disturbing. But by our current standards, hair-sniffing rates condemnation, while the false accusation of an innocent dead man, and the embellishment of a personal tragedy — could the Biden tragedy be more tragic? — are forgotten and/or ignored.

This says so much more about Biden the man than any too-close shoulder grasp ever could. It also says plenty about the contrition junkies who influence America’s news cycle, and, as Jim Geraghty pointed out recently, about the media who for many years had dutifully served as Joe Biden’s reputational bodyguard.

I can already anticipate a liberal reading this will come up with his or her own list of Donald Trump’s lies. The question to ask that liberal is why he or she accepts behavior from a Democrat that he or she does not accept from a Republican.

 

A mass murder motive

The Washington Post:

Before the slaughter of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso this year, the accused gunmen took pains to explain their fury, including their hatred of immigrants. The statements that authorities think the men posted online share another obsession: overpopulation and environmental degradation.

The alleged Christchurch shooter, who is charged with targeting Muslims and killing 51 people in March, declared himself an “eco-fascist” and railed about immigrants’ birthrates. The statement linked to the El Paso shooter, who is charged with killing 22 people in a shopping area this month, bemoans water pollution, plastic waste and an American consumer culture that is “creating a massive burden for future generations.”

The two mass shootings appear to be extreme examples of ecofascism — what Hampshire College professor emerita Betsy Hartmann calls “the greening of hate.”

Many white supremacists have latched onto environmental themes, drawing connections between the protection of nature and racial exclusion. These ideas have shown themselves to be particularly dangerous when adopted by unstable individuals prone to violence and convinced that they must take drastic actions to stave off catastrophe.

The alleged El Paso shooter’s document is full of existential despair: “My whole life I have been preparing for a future that currently doesn’t exist.”

In recent years, the mainstream environmental movement has moved strongly in the direction of social justice — the opposite of what hate groups seek. Now, the leaders of those organizations fear white nationalists are using green messages to lure young people to embrace racist and nativist agendas.

“Hate is always looking for an opportunity to grab hold of something,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, a vice president of the National Wildlife Federation and an expert on environmental justice. “That’s why they use this ecological language that’s been around for a while, and they try to reframe it.”

Michelle Chan, vice president of programs for Friends of the Earth, said, “The key thing to understand here is that ecofascism is more an expression of white supremacy than it is an expression of environmentalism.”

This is all happening in a rhetorically and ideologically overheated era in which public discourse is becoming toxic, not only in the dark corners of the Internet but among those occupying the highest elective offices. Environmental activists want to create a sense of urgency about climate change, the loss of biodiversity and other insults to the natural world, but they don’t want their messages to drive people into deranged ideologies.

There is a danger of “apocalypticism,” said Jon Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who has written extensively on the use and misuse of dystopian environmental scenarios.

It’s important, he said, to provide people with potential solutions and reasons to be hopeful: “There’s definitely a danger of people taking dire measures when they feel there’s no way out of it.”

Hartmann, who has tracked ecofascism for more than two decades, echoes that warning, saying environmentalists “need to steer away from this apocalyptic discourse because it too easily plays into the hands of apocalyptic white nationalism.”

The leaders of several major environmental organizations say that white supremacy is antithetical to their movement.

“What we saw in the El Paso manifesto is a myopic, hateful, deadly ideology that has no place in the environmental movement,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Echoing that was Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists: “We need to speak out so that our members know that under no circumstances are we buying into this kind of philosophy.”

The alleged gunmen in El Paso and Christchurch did not emerge from the green movement. The documents attributed to them are primarily focused on race, cultural identity, immigration and the fear of a “great replacement” of whites by people of other races. The “eco” part of the equation is arguably an add-on.

But these people did not come up with their hateful ideologies in a vacuum. They have tapped into ideas about nature that are in broad circulation among white nationalists. Before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for example, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published a manifesto that had a plank on protecting nature.

Ecofascism has deep roots. There is a strong element of it in the Nazi emphasis on “blood and soil,” and the fatherland, and the need for a living space purified of alien and undesirable elements.

Meanwhile, leaders of mainstream environmental groups are quick to acknowledge that their movement has an imperfect history when it comes to race, immigration and inclusiveness. Some early conservationists embraced the eugenics movement that saw “social Darwinism” as a way of improving the human race by limiting the birthrates of people considered inferior.

“There’s this idea coming out of the eugenics movement that nature, purity, conservation were linked to purity of the race,” said Hartmann, the author of “The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and our Call to Greatness.”

Conservationists have a long history of wrestling with questions about immigration and population growth. Some of those on the environmental left have seen the explosion in the human population — which is nearing 8 billion and has more than doubled in the past half-century — as a primary driver of the environmental crisis. That argument has then been adopted by racists.

The alleged Christchurch shooter began his online screed by writing, “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates,” and then warned of the “invasion” by immigrants who will “replace the White people who have failed to reproduce.”

The document thought to have been posted by the alleged El Paso shooter cites birthrates among the “invaders” trying to enter the United States and asserts, “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

This line of thought is dismaying to Paul Ehrlich, 87, a professor emeritus at Stanford University whose 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb,” proved hugely influential.

“They often cite me, even though I’ve spent my life trying to fight racism,” Ehrlich said.

John Holdren, a Harvard professor who co-authored articles with Ehrlich and later served eight years as President Barack Obama’s science adviser, said the environmental movement grappled decades ago with the perceived racist undertones of the emphasis on population growth.

“A lot of people felt they were getting burned by talking about population growth and its adverse impact,” Holdren said. As a result, he said, the movement’s leaders began focusing on the education and empowerment of women, which has led to falling birthrates around the world as women take control of their reproductive lives.

A refrain among environmentalists is that if anti-immigrant groups are genuinely concerned about degradation of the natural world, they’re targeting the wrong people. Climate change hasn’t been driven by poor people struggling to get by. The activities of wealthy nations have been the main historical source of greenhouse gas emissions, the depletion of natural resources and the destruction of habitats.

Ali, the environmental justice expert, said he often hears people say population growth is the big problem today, and he shoots that down.

“My response to them is, ‘Who are the people we need to limit? Who are the people making decisions about that?’ . . . Until we have true equity and equality and a balance of power, then we know vulnerable communities are going to end up on the negative side of the ledger, whatever the tough choices are,” Ali said.

Interesting that the apocalyptic language used by environmentalists for decades is now paying off.

A real conservative, and not

George S. Will:

Regimes, however intellectually disreputable, rarely are unable to attract intellectuals eager to rationalize the regimes’ behavior. America’s current administration has “national conservatives.” They advocate unprecedented expansion of government in order to purge America of excessive respect for market forces, and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem not to remember why.

The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass advocates “industrial policy” — what other socialists call “economic planning” — because “market economies do not automatically allocate resources well across sectors.” So, government, he says, must create the proper “composition” of the economy by rescuing “vital sectors” from “underinvestment.” By allocating resources “well,” Cass does notmean efficiently — to their most economically productive uses. He especially means subsidizing manufacturing, which he says is the “primary” form of production because innovation and manufacturing production are not easily “disaggregated.”

Manufacturing jobs, Cass’s preoccupation, are, however, only 8% of U.S. employment. Furthermore, he admits that as government, i.e., politics, permeates the economy on manufacturing’s behalf, “regulatory capture,” other forms of corruption and “market distortions will emerge.” Emerge? Using government to create market distortions is national conservatism’s agenda.

The national conservatives’ pinup du jour is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who, like the president he reveres, is a talented entertainer. Carlson says that what Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., calls “economic patriotism” sounds like “Donald Trump at his best.” Carlson approves how Warren excoriates U.S. companies’ excessive “loyalty” to shareholders. She wants the government to “act aggressively” and “intervene in markets” in order to stop “abandoning loyal American workers and hollowing out American cities.” Carlson darkly warns that this “pure old-fashioned economics” offends zealots “controlled by the banks.”

He adds: “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from government anymore, but it comes from the private sector.” Well. If living “as you choose” means living free from the friction of circumstances, the “threat” is large indeed. It is reality — the fact that individuals are situated in times and places not altogether of their choosing or making. National conservatives promise government can rectify this wrong.

Their agenda is much more ambitious than President Nixon’s 1971 imposition of wage and price controls, which were temporary fiascos. Their agenda is even more ambitious than the New Deal’s cartelization of industries, which had the temporary (and unachieved) purpose of curing unemployment. What national conservatives propose is government fine-tuning the economy’s composition and making sure resources are “well” distributed, as the government (i.e., the political class) decides, forever.

What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government’s economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

National conservatives preen as defenders of the dignity of the rural and small-town — mostly white and non-college educated — working class. However, these defenders nullify the members’ dignity by discounting their agency. National conservatives regard the objects of their compassion as inert victims, who are as passive as brown paper parcels, awaiting government rescue from circumstances. In contrast, there was dignity in the Joad family (of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”), who, when the Depression and Dust Bowl battered Oklahoma, went west seeking work.

Right-wing anti-capitalism has a long pedigree as a largely aristocratic regret, symbolized by railroads — the noise, the soot, the lower orders not staying where they belong — that despoiled the Edenic tranquility of Europe’s landed aristocracy. The aristocrats were not wrong in seeing their supremacy going up in the smoke from industrialism’s smokestacks: Market forces powered by mass preferences do not defer to inherited status.

Although the national conservatives’ anti-capitalism purports to be populist, it would further empower the administrative state’s faux aristocracy of administrators who would decide which communities and economic sectors should receive “well”-allocated resources. Furthermore, national conservatism is paternalistic populism. This might seem oxymoronic, but so did “Elizabeth Warren conservatives” until national conservatives emerged as such. The paternalists say to today’s Joads: Stay put. We know what is best for you and will give it to you through government.

Will puts in words the discontent of many conservatives, that rather than correctly reducing the size and scope of government, Trump and other Republicans are perfectly fine with big government, as long as Republicans are in charge of that big government. Among the numerous problems with that school of thought is the idea that one election predicts the next election. If that were the case, then Democrats would have controlled everything after the 1994 and 2010 elections because of how the 1992 and 2008 elections turned out. Readers know that is not how 1994 and 2010 turned out. Six years after the 2002 election, which gave Republicans control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Democrats won the presidential election, two years after Democrats took control of both houses of Congress.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Will, including Emile Doak:

There’s been much hand-wringing on the right over Donald Trump’s conservatism—or, more accurately, his perceived lack thereof. From the early days of the 2016 GOP primaries, venerable institutions of Official Conservatism denounced Trump’s departure from orthodoxy on issues ranging from tariffs to Iraq. There was the strange, brief, supposedly serious presidential run from Evan McMullin, a sort of last gasp effort to conserve the Conservatism brand: free markets, strong national defense, individual liberty, and the like. The subsequent launch of The Bulwark ensured that the McMullin gasp was more penultimate than conclusive.

The latest entry into the fray comes from George Will in the Washington Post. Will dismisses national conservatives as simply trying to rationalize the Trump administration’s behavior, and labels their economic thinking “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” He excoriates Oren Cass as a socialist for suggesting that the United States adopt an industrial policy that allocates resources well rather than “to their most economically productive uses.” He scorns Tucker Carlson’s contention that the private sector now poses a greater threat to personal liberty than government, dismissing corporate power as “friction of circumstances.” To Will, national conservative arguments come at the expense of conservative principles. As he writes, national conservatives “advocate unprecedented expansion of government to purge America of excessive respect for market forces and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem to not remember why.”

The implication, of course, is that the legitimate reason to “loathe” progressives is not necessarily over a difference in political ends (are drag queen story hours good for our children? Do we want a nation in which our manufacturing base is owned by China?) but rather over political means: progressives’ willingness to consider governmental solutions to the social and economic problems that plague our nation. And further, that any openness to such remedial policies among conservatives requires forfeiture of the moniker. Herein lies the essential, un-conservative nature of Official Conservatism. What Will—and Max Boot and Gabe Schoenfeld and countless others—bemoan as unprincipled are not principles at all, but rather policies. These policies, from tariffs to immigration restrictions to troop reductions in Afghanistan, do deviate in important ways from those long associated with the political label “conservative.” They instead seek to conserve a uniquely American way of life—one that, if 2016 is any indication, voters think worthy of conservation. Indeed, the extent to which the language of conservation (“preserve,” “save,” “tradition,” “community”) has been absent from the conservative movementspeaks volumes about the truly un-conservative nature of the modern political right.

More importantly, these Trumpian deviations from established GOP policies often seek to correct the very social ills that those policies produced. Blind commitment to “strong national defense” gave us a generation mired in endless wars that have done little to actually defend the homeland and left their disproportionately working class communities to cope with the social destabilization that accompanies missing their would-be civic leaders. Fealty to “free markets” has hollowed out America’s industrial base and produced unprecedented concentrations of corporate power, which is in turn leveraged against conservative cultural ends—to say nothing of the economic toll on the middle of the country. Overemphasis on “individual liberty” has yielded a thoroughly libertine culture in which religious conservatives can conceive of no defense from the excesses of sexual and identity politics but to wave the First Amendment in vain, expecting equal protection for their “bigoted” views.

Enter Donald Trump. A disclaimer is in order, of course, as the irony of a thrice-married vulgarian acting as bulwark against social unraveling is not lost. Trump the man is but a brute instrument, a bull in a china shop bringing attention to the inability of Republican talking points to actually conserve anything worthwhile. His personal behavior, from philandering to boorish tweeting, merits condemnation when necessary. But wholesale dismissals of the broader Trump phenomenon along these lines are tiresome. At their best, the underlying themes that Trumpian policy reflects represent a far more classical, Burkean conservatism than anything the GOP has put forward in recent years precisely because they deviate from “principled” conservatives. The North Star of conservatism is no longer allegiance to a collapsing three-legged stool, but rather preservation of that which gives life meaning: productive work, strong families, cohesive culture.

One need only look at how the right’s leading lights define conservatism to illustrate the divergence. In the midst of his “principled” stand against the Trump candidacy at CPAC in 2016, Senator Ben Sasse made explicit the policy-principle confusion that has plagued the conservative movement: “Conservatism is a set of policy principles,” he said. Contrast that to candidate Trump, who, in his characteristically clumsy way a mere month earlier, defined conservative very differently: “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve…. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

Conservatism is not an ideology. It’s a disposition (and as such, is more appropriately discussed in its adjectival rather than noun form). As the founding editors of this magazine wrote, a conservative disposition is “the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God.” It’s no wonder that Russell Kirk, a principal architect of American conservative politics, spoke so often of the permanent things. Those permanent things—faith, family, culture, country; the “elements in the human condition that give us our nature”—are the principles that must guide a conservative politics. Policy should seek to promote them, not vice versa. To the extent that Donald Trump can reorient our policy to serve those ends, he is the truly principled conservative.

To that came this comment:

Let’s be clear: Illiberalism is not conservatism. What the writer espouses is little more than a rear-facing form of Maoism. Conservatives focus on the means of policymaking because we believe that the true and the good have a way of rising to the surface. We also recognize that humans are prone to err, and that concentrated power has a tendency to suppress the truth in favor of entrenched interests.

I agree that Will isn’t interested in preserving some nostalgic vision of American life. He recognizes that time moves forward and that yesterday’s answers won’t always be tomorrow’s. The illiberalism that the writer promotes is indeed akin to “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” Such illiberalism is marked less by a desire to preserve the good than by a paralyzing fear of the future.

When Goldwater lost the Presidency in 1968, many thought that the movement he started was finished. It wasn’t. It succeeded in large measure because men like George Will put in the hard work of promoting a message of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and respect for human life. All the while, Will raised a son with Down’s Syndrome, and remained a passionate advocate for those with special needs. Meanwhile, the writer is a 20-something-year-old kid whose accomplishments are but a drop in the bucket in comparison to Will’s. And that likely says it all. Will recognizes that wisdom lies at the heart of what it means to be a conservative. The writer, by contrast, promotes a conservatism that has no place for wisdom or the natural limits of human affairs. He desires an authoritarian system that picks winners and losers. Its only difference from progressivism is that it would pick different winners and losers. I’m thankful that George Will has the moral integrity to call out this illiberal faux conservatism as con that it is.

Which prompted this response …

It’s the George Wills who are unwilling to admit their many policy mistakes and who are contributing to the continued irrelevancy of conservatives. Progressives have super majorities up and down the west coast. This will continue if the war-mongers, corporate apologists and environmental denuders keep representing conservatism. The National Conservative movement is true conservatism and most importantly the only hope for conservatism in any form. I was a life-long Democrat and I have found National Conservatism quite appealing. I think others will as well as the movement grows.

… and this response:

After beating liberals over the head forever with wonders the free market, conservatives finally recognize it isn’t producing the results they want so now it’s OK to get government involved.

As someone who abides by the rule that Trump should get praise when he deserves praise and criticism when he deserves criticism, I’m not sure I see a movement as much as a coalescing around Trump’s positions, such as they are.

The Republican Party I grew up with, as led by Ronald Reagan, is not the current Republican Party. Reagan was an optimist, as were such conservatives as Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp. (The Wall Street Journal terms its philosophy “Free markets and free men,” and since “men” obviously includes women in this reference perhaps you could call me a Wall Street Journal conservative.) Trump is certainly not, for what that’s worth.

The conservatism I grew up with emphasized free markets because free markets give the most power to the individual. Deemphasizing free markets and emphasizing government does not make individuals better off. The complaints about the power of corporations neglect the point that a business (and, by the way, those evil publicly traded corporations total 0.1 percent of American businesses) has to earn what it gets — sales of its products or services. Government takes what it wants.

It is most disturbing to see Republicans and conservatives abandon the free market, which has only led to unprecedented prosperity, as in the most wealth for the most people, in comparison with every other economic system in the history of the world. The concept that government, whether run by the left or the right, knows better than individual citizens, as the last two quoted seem to claim, is 100 percent wrong, especially if that’s what a Republican believes.

 

How to ruin your business

Back in my previous life as a business magazine editor, I quoted someone in a story who claimed that getting a new customer was five times as expensive as keeping an existing customer.

So what kind of brainiac thinks that alienating your existing customers to get new customers is a good business strategy? (Besides the creators of the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, that is.)

Dwight Longenecker has the answer:

Gillette is the largest shaving brand in the world. For years they’ve been raking in the cash for their overpriced razors and shave cream. But recently they’ve faced stiff competition from online suppliers. Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club ship shaving supplies to the door. Like most online retailers, they shave the price down and provide smooth customer service.

The online retailers appeal to the younger generation and are clearly the wave of the future. So last year Gillette decided to launch an ad campaign they thought would attract the younger generation. Their film We Believe: The Best Man Can Be was a self righteous, politically correct sermon haranguing men in the wake of the MeToo movement.

The ad made broad assumptions about men and the overwhelming prevalence of “toxic masculinity.” Men were portrayed as bullies and sexist, misogynistic, racist brutes. Then in May they launched an ad showing a man teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.

The ads bombed big time. They were ham-fisted politically correct propaganda. Not only did people dislike being patronized and preached to, but they resented the sappy, anti-masculine message. It seems men have voted with their wallets. Last week Gillette announced that it had taken a $5 billion dollar loss for the last quarter.

According to Washington Examinerthe head of Gillette is defiant. Defending his choices, CEO Gary Coombe admitted they were hoping to impress young shavers, “It was pretty stark: we were losing share, we were losing awareness and penetration, and something had to be done,” So they decided to “take a chance in an emotionally-charged way.”

The ads were indeed emotionally charged, but it doesn’t take a Madison Avenue professional to figure out that you don’t win customers by insulting them. Making a shaving product ad that insults men is on a par with McDonald’s scolding people for not being vegetarians. Duh.

Coombe was unrepentant, “I don’t enjoy that some people were offended by the film and upset at the brand as a consequence. That’s not nice and goes against every ounce of training I’ve had in this industry over a third of a century,” he said. “But I am absolutely of the view now that for the majority of people to fall more deeply in love with today’s brands you have to risk upsetting a small minority and that’s what we’ve done.”

What interests me about this whole debacle is the larger issue of commercial companies promoting progressive social agendas. Since when is it the business of business to preach to us? During the month of June why did so many American companies feel obliged to drape themselves in the LBGTQ rainbow flag?

Why do the executives at Ben and Jerry’s, Nike, Starbucks and umpteen other name brands feel they must use their platforms as bully pulpits? Even more disturbing, why do the puppet masters behind the scenes of the media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feel it is their business to monitor, censor and impinge on free speech? …

Fortunately, in a free country the free market brings its own checks and balances. The Gillete company nicked themselves badly with their ill-advised ad campaign.

So now customers are abandoning them and their overpriced products. Boycotts are usually the customer’s best counter attack

I’m using a Harry’s razor now. Better shave, and the company apparently isn’t run by woke idiots.

 

What if?

Miranda Devine has a provocative question to ask:

You can’t walk through the streets of Manhattan these days without smelling weed.

Even as evidence mounts of the health problems associated with marijuana, New York has insisted on joining other greedy states scrambling to legalize this deceptively dangerous drug.

It makes no sense at a time when American youth is suffering from an unprecedented mental health crisis.

And, in all honesty, we cannot rule out a connection between increasing marijuana use, mental illness and the recent spate of mass shootings by disturbed young males.

We don’t yet know much about the mental state or drug use of the El Paso or Dayton killers. But a former girlfriend of Dayton killer Connor Betts, 24, has indicated he was mentally ill, and two of his friends interviewed by reporters this week mentioned his previous drug use.

Just last year, the Parents Opposed to Pot lobby group tried to sound the alarm on the link between marijuana and mass shootings, compiling a list of mass killers it claims were heavy users of marijuana from a young age, from Aurora, Colo., shooter James Holmes and Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner to Chattanooga, Tenn., shooter Mohammad Abdulazeez.

Until we understand those links, it is nuts to enact lax laws that ­encourage more young people to use a drug proven to trigger mental illness.

President Trump was right to highlight mental illness in his remarks Wednesday on the El Paso and Dayton shootings, not that his unscrupulous critics will listen, so determined are they to brand him a white supremacist.

We know from a 2018 FBI report that 40% of “active shooters” in the US between 2008 and 2013 had been diagnosed with a mental illness before the attack and 70% had “mental health stressors” or “mental health concerning behaviors.”

So for anyone actually interested in preventing future such massacres, the so-called “red flag” legislation Trump is advocating to deny people with mental illness access to firearms is the most logical measure and the one most likely to be embraced by both sides of politics.

But it also should apply to marijuana use, seeing as the two go hand in hand.

You can’t address the youth mental health crisis without considering the effect of rising teen marijuana use.

Among American teenagers, the drug’s “daily use has become as, or more, popular than daily cigarette smoking” according to the National Institute of Health’s 2017 Monitoring the Future study.

We’ve successfully demonized cigarettes while new laws send kids the message that marijuana is harmless.

Yet we’ve known for more than a decade of the link between marijuana and psychosis, depression and schizophrenia.

In 2007 the prestigious medical journal Lancet recanted its previous benign view of marijuana, citing studies showing “an increase in risk of psychosis of about 40 percent.”

A seminal long-term study of 50,465 Swedish army conscripts found those who had tried marijuana by age 18 had 2.4 times the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the following 15 years than those who had never used the drug. Heavy users were 6.7 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital for schizophrenia.

Another study, of 1,037 people in New Zealand, found those who used cannabis at ages 15 and 18 had higher rates of psychotic symptoms at age 26 than non-users.

A 2011 study in the British Medical Journal of 2,000 teenagers found those who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to develop psychosis as those who didn’t.

Another BMJ study estimated that “13 percent of cases of schizophrenia could be averted if all cannabis use were prevented.”

That’s more than 400,000 Americans who could be saved from a fate worse than death.

Young people and those with a genetic predisposition are most at risk, particularly during adolescence, when the brain is exquisitely vulnerable.

The evidence of harm is overwhelming, and it defies logic to think that legalizing marijuana won’t increase the harm.

And yet marijuana activists pretend there is no problem and baby-boomer lawmakers, perhaps recalling their own youthful toking, ­ignore the science.

To make matters worse, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries today is five times more potent than the pot of the 1970s and ’80s, according to a thoroughly researched new book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson: “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Violence and Mental Health.”

Berenson reports that the first four states to legalize marijuana, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, have seen “sharp increases” in violent crime since 2014.

If we care about mental illness, which has been spiking up at an alarming rate in recent years among young people, especially teenage boys, we should care about the convincing evidence of marijuana-induced psychosis.

We didn’t have to wait for three mass shootings in two weeks to know that young males are in ­crisis.

Youth suicide is at an all-time high and rates of serious mental illness in this country are on the rise, especially among people aged 18 to 25, the cohort most likely to use marijuana.

Young people born in 1999, the birth year of the El Paso shooter, were 50% more likely than those born in 1985 to report feeling “serious psychological distress” in the previous month, according to an alarming study published this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

With all we know, it’s time to put the brakes on marijuana legalization before it’s too late.

You might say that there is no proven link between marijuana and mass shootings. You would be correct. There is also no proven link between violent video games and mass shootings. That’s not stopping anyone from proposing things to stop mass shootings without any evidence they actually will stop mass shootings.

What’s worse than doing nothing? Doing the wrong thing, particularly when you’re not sure what you want to do will achieve what you want to achieve. Unless, of course, your interest is in restricting people’s rights and really not in reducing violence.