Jussie Smollett’s New Martyrdom

I’ve had a fascination with hate hoaxes, ever since I followed, and was fooled by, the OG of racial hate hoaxes, Tawana Brawley. The key element of believability (at least in those innocent times) was who would actually do that to themselves?  She has to be telling the truth.  I mean, who writes racial slurs on their bodies and covers themselves in feces?  After a long, publicity laden story, it turned out that Tawana Brawley did.  As memory serves, I was genuinely shocked at that revelation. But the Tom Wolfe novel come to life that describes the entire sordid tale is still a well-known story and is still the template for numerous racial hoaxes over the years.

However once the cherry is busted on the idea that people will do damn near anything to claim the mantle of righteous victim, these stories become a predictable source of entertainment.  In fact a few years ago I wrote a post summarizing some of the best (IMHO) hate hoaxes for the year.  Two from the list come to mind as hoaxers that were really willing to go the distance to pull this off:

Charlie Rodgers (Charlie is a girl), an ex-college basketball star who made the false claim that she was raped by attackers who carved anti-gay slurs into her.  Under the slightest bit of police investigation, the story fell apart and wonder of wonders; she actually got jail time for it.  But I direct you to the dedication she showed to her craft:  she actually carved anti-gay slogans into her own skin.  That’s dedication to the cause.  I’m not into giving awards or rating these hoaxes, but if there was a Tawana Brawley award for willing to go the distance to pull off a hoax, I believe Ms. Rodgers would make the short list for that.

But why, you may ask, not the winner?  Could there be another candidate with similar dedication?  You’re darn right!  May I present, Morgan Triplet.  She was determined to have the best presentation at the University of California-Santa Cruz Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues by announcing she was a victim of rape, a real one.  As reported:

“Prosecutors said Friday that Triplett allegedly placed two ads on Craigslist, one requesting someone to shoot her in the shoulder with a small caliber gun in exchange for sex. The second ad was a request for someone to punch, kick and bruise her in exchange for sex. In the ads, placed in the Santa Cruz County region of Craigslist, Triplett also stated that she would not file charges.”

That’s definitely being a good sport about the whole thing.”

 

And then we come to Jussie Smollett…

The story sounded fishy from the start Two MAGA guys, who watch Empire and actually know who Jussie Smollett is, hang around Chicago at 2 AM during the polar vortex on the off chance that Smollett would leave his apartment in the middle of the night to get a Subway sandwich.  Then when finding him, they…punch him a few times (I’ve never been clear on that), place a clothesline (the “noose”) around his neck, and then leave?  As highly improbable as that story sounded, I guess it was still barely possible.

Except for that “noose.”

For future observers of the racial hate hoax scene, if there is a noose involved, the story is fake.  Lynching and nooses are an overwhelming part of being woke in America.  There is a noose around every corner, and every gun shop or Trump rally is stocked with nooses, ready to go.  In real life, the bulk of the 3,500 or so African Americans who were actually lynched were done by the 1960’s.  But as a symbol, the Noose is just as vibrant as it was a century ago.  In fact, Smollett even hosted a documentary about lynching.  It’s clear he has noose on the mind.

As of this writing, Smollett is still proclaiming his innocence, or perhaps with a bit more clarity, his victim-hood.  Whether his evolving legal situation eventually requires him to publicly fess up or not, my guess is that won’t matter to the many people who still believe him, and any future confessions won’t matter.  Tawana Brawley still has her believers after all.  But even more so now than in Brawley’s time, this is an age in which narrative is more important than truth. At a certain level of wokeness hate hoaxes are not just OK but necessary in order to reveal a greater “truth.”  Or as Dan Rather might have put it, fake but accurate.

 

Trump Bombed on the Border, Bigley

Last month I wrote a post on Trump’s Mid-Term Report Card, and on the subject of political negotiations, I gave him an F, particularly in the case of the wall and immigration issues, the Wall Street Journal gave a pretty close account of how Trump’s inattention and Congressional leadership’s opposition, allowed the issue to languish until the Democrats won the House.  At that point, it became an impossible dream. Still he persisted…

But to no avail. After initiating the longest shut down in history, the end result of that was Trump signing a bill today that was far worse than if he had never shut down the government at all. Conservative Review had a breakdown of the 5 worst parts of the bill, but in an 1,169 page bill, we will still be discovering Easter eggs even though the bill is already signed.

  1. Less wall than the Democrats had previously agreed to.
  2. Local officials can veto wall portions in their area.
  3. Amnesty (!) for child traffickers and smugglers.
  4. Resettling illegals throughout the country.
  5. Increases low skilled Visa categories.

In other words, this bill sucks.  I would have been angry if Obama or Hillary had signed this sort of garbage, but when the most immigration restrictionist President since Eisenhower signs it, where do you go?

Trump should not have signed this.  Never mind whatever “Emergency Declaration” he thinks may get him more money for the wall sometime in a year or two (assuming it survives all the court challenges).  In the meantime he’s made US immigration law much worse.

He’s looking at another F.

Standing Down as a GOP Tax Policy

It looks to me as if the Democrats have taken their takeover of the House as a permission slip to go crazy.  Ever more crazy policies seem to bubble up from the Democratic political class lately (and I’m not even counting Governor Northram’s call for infanticide in blackface); specifically their tax policies.

The Democrat’s new socialist it girl, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Commie-NY), suggested on 60 Minutes a top tax rate of 70% on the “tippy-tops,” which in English apparently means incomes north of 10 million dollars a year.  Not to be outdone, competing freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Somalia) recommended a 90% income tax rate.  Advocating a 90% tax rate is probably the most normal sounding policy Omar has recommended.  After marrying her brother in an immigration fraud scheme and advocating for leniency for convicted terrorists, a 90% tax rate seems almost quaint.

These of course are joke policies.  Their purpose is to look compassionate, and stoke envy, without accomplishing much of anything.  As an example, National Review took a look at Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% income tax results:

“Representative Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of limiting the 70 percent tax bracket to incomes over $10 million. My analysis of IRS data shows this would raise only 0.25 percent of GDP — about $50 billion annually — in part because nearly half of the income earned by these 18,000 filers comes in the form of capital gains that would be left outside a 70 percent tax on salary income.

Even $50 billion is surely too high of an estimate, because the kind of people with incomes over $10 million also have teams of accountants and tax lawyers finding every conceivable tax loophole and overseas income shift. “

“…Super-wealthy families often keep their wealth in the form of investments and other assets that can be converted into taxable income on their own schedule. Jeff Bezos may be worth $160 billion, but in 2017 he reportedly paid himself an annual salary of just $81,840, with total compensation (including deductible expenses) of $1.6 million. Taxing 70 percent of all salary and wages above $10 million (or even $1 million) would not even touch the Amazon founder. “

So it’s not even a drop in the bucket to pay for her Medicare for All, Green New Deal, and all the other free goodies AOC ran on.

But then came Elizabeth Warren…

Warren, who announced her candidacy for President yesterday, has beaten them both with a wealth tax. Warren’s wealth tax would apply 2% to individuals with assets over 50 million dollars and 3% for those with assets over 1 billion.  Warren’s wealth tax should raise “$2.75 trillion over a 10-year period from about 75,000 families, or less than 0.1 percent of U.S. households…” 

Now we’re talking about real money.

Of course there is a reason that wealth taxes like this are not common in the industrialized world.  The most obvious of course is that the most powerful people in a country don’t want them. In fact, there are only a handful of countries that do have some sort of version of the wealth tax. Given how donors control the agendas of both parties, it’s hard to imagine how an Elizabeth Warren candidacy goes anywhere, and if it does, how this policy is implemented.  Of course, I’ve been surprised before, not the least by the rapid dip into insanity the Democratic Party has dived into. It’s very possible that by the time we get to the Democratic convention, the wealth tax will be part of the platform.

One can hope…

But what strategy should the GOP use to fight back at tax policies that we know are both crazy and destructive?  I’ve given some thought to this and I’m not sure that the GOP establishment would ever go along with it, but that’s par for the course for a party leadership that’s turned defeat into a talking point.

Consider this:  It’s the near future, and a Democrat controlled House has on the floor Warren’s wealth tax increase.  The vote whips think the votes will be close.  Now if you are the Democratic leadership, you want the vote to fail because the donors don’t want any of this but the Democratic leadership does want the issue to run on.  They’ve assured the donors that they think the Republicans will kill it so not to worry; it’s a great issue for 2020.  The House roll call begins…and the Republicans do not vote.  They vote “present” or whatever it takes to not register a vote against the bill.  So what happens?  The bill passes.

Of course, with the Senate still firmly in GOP hands, this won’t matter, but it sends two wonderful messages to two different groups of political donors:

To the Democrat donors:  You’ve had your cake and eaten it to for too long. You’ve virtue signaled with the Democrats, counting on the party leadership and the Republicans to do your dirty work for you, mainly, killing bills that really threaten your interests. Now the GOP has decided to stop protecting you

To the Republican donors:  We’re either going to be in the majority, or we’re not going to waste our time trying to save you from yourselves.  If you don’t see the threat of real unfettered Democratic control, we’ll show you.  You can help stop it or pay the piper.  PS, it’s cheaper to help stop it.

To be clear, I don’t see any chance of the GOP leadership actually trying this.  They are just too stupid to even consider not only any out of the box thinking, but challenging their donors.  But for the Republicans, the donors are a real problem, and their control over the party is leading it to Paul Ryan-esque doom. Unless another rogue billionaire who doesn’t need donors comes along, the post Trump era may snap back to its former donor driven agenda; a party with plenty of donors, but few voters.

Banned from Twitter!

I never thought it would happen to me but here we are.

And what was the offending tweet? My hate speech?

I

Although I’ve heard that Twitter had made “Learn to Code” a bannable offense, I didn’t really believe it.  I mean…that’s ridiculous.  All to protect the feelings of blue check marked weasels, masquerading as journalists?

Although Twitter has had a flurry of tweets of journalists getting laid off, I didn’t realize they were a protected class under the Twitter Civil Rights Act.  Particularly in the case of this particular writer, who lied about being an immigrant.  Being here on a Work Visa doesn’t make you an immigrant, it makes you a guest worker.  However being an internet journalist means you can do it from anywhere, even the frozen wilds of Canada.

However given the collapsing market for fake news and listicles, she still should probably learn to code.

Bacon or Breakfast Diet: Finally a Diet Made for Me

January is a good time to roll out the food and diet related posts because diet is on the top of the resolutions list.  Well that and working out.  I’ve noticed that my gym gets packed in January, at least for the first few weeks, and then gradually the numbers return to normal as enthusiasm wanes and laziness waxes.  That’s true for diets too, so it occurred to me that there was a new one that had been nagging me for a while until I finally pulled the diet trigger.

It was a spur of the moment decision, but I decided to try the bacon diet; at least I tried it for a day. At first blush, it sounds like any other crazed diet which is all about attention and little about nutrition.  Like the ice cream diet or the pickle diet, the bacon diet does sound a bit ridiculous, but hey, bacon is a high protein, zero carbohydrate food.  And doggone it, it’s so good…

I first heard about it on Facebook when someone posted a story on a 30 day bacon diet.  The upshot is that after 30 days of eating nothing but bacon, the dieter lost body fat; lost weight (so ironically was less porky afterword… Zing!), had good lab work results, and just overall felt good about it.

It’s truly a miracle food.

Anyway, my day on the bacon diet amounted to frying up about two or three slices of bacon every 3 or so hours throughout the day.  I wasn’t hungry, and by the end of the day, wasn’t tired of bacon.  Since it was just one day I obviously can’t confirm the positive blood panel results from the 30 day bacon dieter, but I imagine it’s not that different from my own low carb lifestyle.

Of course, there is the N-word to worry about: Nitrates. Thirty days is probably not long enough to cause a problem, but over time who knows?  The information I’ve come across is all over the place about that.

Hey I’m no doctor so what do I know?  But if the threat of cancer or the gout is enough to scare you away from a bacon diet, why not just go one more step and add eggs?  Suddenly you have twice the variety with the same zero carb goodness. “Brinner” is already considered a special evening treat, and really the only reason we find it odd to eat bacon and eggs for dinner is simply social convention.  It’s still a good, filling meal. If anyone has done a 30 day breakfast diet challenge I would be curious to hear the results.

Trump’s Mid-Term Report Card

 

Two years ago, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, against incredible odds.  It was the culmination of one of the most remarkable Presidential campaigns in my life time, and arguably, all of American history.  So it’s fair to look back and see how he’s done so far.  Not of course by the standards of the media or the swampy establishment, but from the people who voted him in.  Trump supporters such as myself.

Specifically me.

Let’s break this down into some important categories and see how he fared.

Campaign Promises

There are a lot of ways to cut campaign promises and they are not all judged equally.  Do we give the same value to a promise made at every campaign stop versus one made once or twice?  Clearly it seems to be that we should concentrate on the handful of major ones, although the Trump unfriendly site Politifact seems to track them in a more scattershot fashion, particularly with their “Trump-O-Meter.” So some of these may be a bit subjective, but if I were to make my own list, based on the ones he seemed to repeat the most often, it would be something like this:

  1. Repeal and Replace Obamacare
  2. Build the Wall
  3. Cut taxes
  4. Get NATO to pay their fair share
  5. Infrastructure Bill
  6. Renegotiate Trade deals
  7. Appoint Supreme Court Justices from his pre-screened list
  8. Get out of Iran deal and Paris Accords
  9. Immigration Reform
  10. Defeat ISIS

In general, he’s done a pretty good job for just two years, but the ones he’s not yet accomplished yet or already failed at, are big ones.  Obamacare was an early flop, as is the wall, but the most surprising was his inability to get an infrastructure bill through Congress.  That should have been an easy bipartisan success.  The wall of course is an ongoing failure, one that should have been started in his first two years, not waited until it became politically impossible.

Grade: C

Foreign/Military Policy

Trump shocked everyone by keeping his foreign policy promises.  He moved our embassy in Israel to the capital, Jerusalem; a perennial bipartisan campaign promise that is forgotten by inauguration. But not this time; Trump actually did it.  He engaged with NATO to increase their agreed on contributions, began orienting our trade policy to put pressure on trade partners who had unfair policies, leading to a replacement of NAFTA with the USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement), and has been the only US President to engage with China seriously over their unfair trade practices.

North Korea is an ongoing mess, but then it always has been.  Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton all negotiated with North Korea, all declared some variation of ‘peace in our time,’ and declared victory, only to have their efforts wind up in failure.  That may be the fate of Trump’s attempt, but he’s trying something new (Art of the Deal-type deal making) and may have better results from that, but we may not know for sure for years.

In the Middle East, Trump has turned the orientation away from Iran and back to the Sunni Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia, at a time when Saudi Arabia’s oil power has been in relative decline. By defeating the IS Caliphate, and beginning the process of pulling US troops from Syria, he’s fulfilling yet another campaign promise and keeping the lid on mission creep that the national security establishment is trying to suck the country into.  Assad?  Putin?  Kurds?  That’s not why we put troops in Syria; it was to get rid of the Caliphate, and now they control zero territory.  Mission Accomplished.

His genuflecting to Putin is irritating however.  After watching how he dealt with Kim Jong-un, it’s clear that is a typical Trump negotiation strategy: alternate threats with flattery and nice words.  However whatever attempts at negotiations with Russia Trump may have planned has been spoilt by the absurd anti-Russian hysteria in the United States.  Trump should stop pretending there is a chance to have any meaningful relationship with the Russians.

Grade:  A-

 

Economic Policy

Trump’s economic policy can be broken down into 3 large planks:

  1. Tax Cuts
  2. Pealing back regulations
  3. Trade

Tax cuts are already accomplished and the President is doing an unprecedented job of taking advantage of his position in the Executive Branch by reducing regulations. On that point, he’s been successful in a way that no modern Republican President has been, including Reagan. Trade is an ongoing foreign policy negotiation with an uncertain future, but the goal is definitely positive and Trump is the first President in decades who has connected trade and protecting American workers.  Even if the progress is incremental, it’s going in the right direction.

Grade: A-

Immigration

If there is probably one issue that lead to Trump’s breakout success in both the GOP nomination fight and the battle for the Presidency, it was on the issue of immigration. Trump’s promises on immigration are a major reason he’s President. In office though, it’s been a mixed bag.  In terms of the powers he holds in the executive branch, he deserves an A.  He’s used the powers of the Justice Department and Homeland Security to enact policy changes in alignment with his immigration goals.  However when it comes to legislation, Trump has accomplished almost nothing…wait, I guess it’s actually nothing.  On that he would get an F.  But I can average the two to give him…

Grade:  C-

 

Political Negotiations

One of the skills that candidate Trump touted from his resume was his ability to negotiate; “The Art of The Deal” style. Whatever skills he exhibited in the business world are totally absent in dealing with Congress. Consider, Trump’s campaign promise failures are almost all ones that required Congressional legislation to accomplish, and on that score, he didn’t accomplish much. And this was with a GOP Congress.  That probably has a lot to do with why we no longer have a GOP Congress.

Trump has done great things on the executive branch side; the things he can directly control, but we’ve just had two years of GOP controlling the Presidency and Congress and nothing of importance was accomplished. It’s a wasted opportunity that the GOP may never have again in our lifetimes.

As I mentioned last month, I put the blame primarily on the GOP Congressional leadership, specifically Paul Ryan. Trump was suckered on Obamacare, with Ryan cranking out versions that couldn’t possibly pass because he didn’t WANT them to pass; he hated Trump and wanted to oppose him more than he wanted any sort of legislation. And of course McConnell and Ryan kept lying to him on the wall. That was something that the House and Senate could have easily provided early on, but didn’t because they hate Trump. Once Ryan got his tax bill through, he had no incentive to do anything but interview for post House jobs with donors. That was the only leverage Trump had and he gave it away. Trump, for his part, either didn’t recognize that the GOP Congress was opposing him, or did recognize it, but took no action to fight them. The past two years, they were the real enemy and Trump’s vaunted negotiation ability?  It was nowhere to be seen.

He’s done little better against his actual political opponents, the Democrats. He’s scored plenty of zingers, many of them hilarious and far more ballsy than any other Republican President would have attempted, and he decisively won last year’s shutdown fiasco.  But he’s had less luck this year.  In fact, based on Trump’s offer yesterday it sounds like his negotiating position is collapsing, with Trump, after careful negotiations with himself, offered the Democrats DACA, TPS, and the Dreamers; all for a measly Five billion.  Of course, it’s possible that Trump is using one of his standard tactics: making huge concessions when he knows his opponents won’t go for it, as he demonstrated during last year’s shutdown and several other previous, well publicized negotiations.  However at this point it looks like Jeb Bush doing the negotiating. I was going to give Trump a D- for his political negotiation acumen, but after yesterday’s debacle of an offer, I’ve lowered it.

Grade:  F

That’s why I have to give the Trump administration a midterm grade of C at the half way point. He’s had some spectacular successes and some spectacular failures (as this current shutdown strategy is revealing itself to be).  And it only gets tougher from here.  With the Democrats in charge of the House, it’s going to be full on war against Trump in impeachment and investigations, with no Trump friendly legislation getting through.  At least under Ryan the House was merely passive aggressive in opposing him, with a few actual Trump allies sprinkled here and there in charge of powerful committees.  Not so now.  Still, considering the opposition he’s faced, the perseverance he’s shown is simply astounding.  The guy is tough and with the odds stacked against him even more than he’s faced in his first two years, it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

 

A Shutdown Compromise Suggestion for the Democrats

Now that we’re into the longest government shutdown in history, it’s worth trying to imagine how this is supposed to end.  In a normal GOP administration, the constant media pressure would gradually peel off enough Republican votes that the President relents, or enough Republicans flip to allow an override of his veto, ending in Republican defeat for whatever issue prompted the shutdown in the first place.

But this isn’t a normal GOP administration…

The “Chuck and Nancy” show ended at best as a stalemate, and at worst, the Presidential response that launched a thousand memes.  The Democrats seem to think that they have the whip hand, and that normal Republican processes will lead them to fold.  Why else would Pelosi declare the wall “immoral,” seemingly cutting off any ability for her to compromise? We’ve already seen cracks on the Republican side by the usual suspects, right on schedule.

However Trump is Trump.  In negotiations, he cultivates a madman image for a reason. And as he clearly showed during last year’s Democratic shutdown, he can skillfully maneuver when motivated. Maybe another tactic is required…

So here’s my suggestion to the Democratic leadership.  I ask for no money, only praise as one of the greatest peacemakers of all time; a small thing to ask IMHO. Offer Trump the 5 billion he asked for, but require that it be fully funded by tax increases.  Send the bill from the House with 5 billion and a tax increase from whatever source, an income tax surcharge, a tax on carried interest, a federal gas tax increase; whatever the Democratic zeitgeist feels like taxing at that particular moment.

This is a true compromise.  Trump gets the wall (or a down payment on one) and Democrats get to stick it to Republicans by forcing them to have a vote either for a wall and a tax increase, or no wall and no tax increase.  Although in Trumpland that sounds like a win that Trump can live with, in Freedom Caucus land, that’s a tough vote.  A lot of these guys hate tax increases but really love illegal aliens, but have to pretend publically that they are for “strong border security,” a canard that has zero real meaning without actual physical barriers.  This actually could lead to the Republicans killing the wall.

As for me, I’m more than happy to have tax increases pay for needed government expenditures (it beats deficits) but I realize that’s not a universally shared sentiment on the right. How attractive this seems to the Democrats is directly related to whether the Democrats think that Trump and the GOP are likely to crack.  I don’t know the answer to that, but if we’re still wondering this a month from now, then this compromise idea might start to look really good to the Dems.