Ilhan Omar and the Failure of Multiculturalism

For all of the entertainment value afforded by the three amigos of the Freshmen Democratic class; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Talib, and Ilhan Omar; occasional nuggets of insight can be gleamed; particularly in the case of Ilhan Omar. Unlike AOC, whose gaffes are often hilariously dumb, Omar gaffes are of the Michael Kinsey variety; a politician unwittingly telling the truth.

Omar recently gave an interview in Vogue Arabia with this observation:

It’s a life lesson she has repeatedly turned to during her most challenging days – from being a refugee to being a black, Muslim, hijabi woman in the US. Her family fled the Somali civil war in 1991, staying in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years, before resettling in the US. Here, she was confronted with the differences between her and her new home. “It was the first time that all of the identities I carried and had pride in, became a source of tension,” she recalls. “When you’re a kid and you’re raised in an all-black, all- Muslim environment, nobody really talks to you about your identity. You just are. There is freedom in knowing that you are accepted as your full self. So the notion that there is a conflict with your identity in society was hard at the age of 12.”

There may be more than one way to read this, but it sounds as if she finds many qualities of a refugee camp favorable to living in the United States.  In a refugee camp, there wasn’t an issue of identity because everyone was a black Somali Muslim.  Here in the US on the other hand, you have infidels of all different shades, preventing you from being “accepted as your full self.”

So per Omar, if you can only be your “full self” within the confines of your own people, it almost sounds as if she is an alt-right nationalist (or tribalist). Well who’s kidding who?  There is no almost about it.  Omar is an ethno nationalist.  I wouldn’t really have a problem with that if she were in Somalia, but it bothers me a great deal that she’s essentially masquerading as an American legislator when she seems more comfortable being on the side of America’s enemies, as she did in her Black Hawk Down tweet.

One has to wonder why we even bother having a military when we allow the enemy a vote in the US Congress.

Election Interference and the Mueller Report

When first writing about the Russia! Russia! Russia! hysteria right after the Presidential election, I made mention of the fact that this wasn’t the first time that foreign powers had interfered with a US election, but in the two plus years since then, there has been barely a mention of that in the media, as if the Russian interference in the 2016 election was some sort of singular event, unprecedented in history.

Nope.

In 2012, both the Obama and Romney campaigns were under continuous cyber assault during election, with the National Republican Congressional Committee hardest hit.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated last year that Russians interfered in the 2012 elections as well as previous ones.

In 2008, China hacked the computer systems of both the Obama and McCain campaigns.

The Obama Administration was not exactly gung ho about doing anything to prevent Russian hacking. It rejected an attempt to “create an executive-branch task force to battle Russia’s covert information operations…”  But as I’ve noted, there has been a history of exactly this sort of interference, long before Trump made his live TV request to Russia, “Russia if you’re listening…”

Believe it or not, much of the Russia collusion conspiracy theory rests on this joke.

With that kind of history, one can only wonder why the Obama administration took such a lackadaisical approach to foreign powers “hacking” US elections, and why that’s Trump’s problem?

With the Mueller investigation rumored to be near its close, a healthy reminder is required of a few things I’ve previously mentioned:

No collusion.  As I’ve predicted for the past two years, I’m still sticking by my prediction that the Mueller Investigation will not show any collusion between Trump or the Trump campaign and Russia to “hack” the election.

However I don’t think that Mueller would actually wrap up the investigation unless he felt he had something that he could put in a report that would provide fodder for the original purpose of the investigation: Impeaching Trump. Based on the theory that a 70 plus year old billionaire is bound to have done something, there will probably be some slim reed the Democrats and never-Trumpers can grasp.  It probably wouldn’t be considered anything like an impeachable offense in an earlier age, but we’re still in the midst of hysteria so anything goes.

I would like to think that the Mueller investigation coming to a close would put to bed this nonsense conspiracy theory, but I suspect that the media will seamlessly move to a lot of other brand new phony conspiracy theories.

 

The Reparations Gambit

I have been waiting for this ball to drop for a long time.  I thought maybe that 2014 would be the year that the Democrats would pull the electoral ripcord on the reparations issue, but they seemed to drop the ball on it and suffered in the elections accordingly.  Then in 2016 I thought Hillary would pull reparations out of her purse (it was right beside the hot sauce) and close the enthusiasm gap among black voters.  But she was so confident that she couldn’t lose that she decided it could stay in her purse.  Like Trump was really going to beat her?  After all, once you pull the reparations card, it’s out for good.  You can’t change your mind and stick in back in your oversized purse.

But now the issue is out, and it looks like 2020 will be the first Presidential election year (and forever more) that reparations become a real political issue. According to The New York Times, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Julián Castro have all come out in support of some type of reparations.  They are rather vague on the details and price tag, but eh, it’s still early, and besides, those sorts of details are not very important or at least no more important than details and price tag for a “Green Deal.”

By the time we get to the nomination, some form of reparations will be part of the candidate’s agenda and part of the Democratic Party platform.  And it can join the other trillion dollar promises, like Medicare for all, Green Dreams, Universal Basic Income (UBI), Universal Daycare, Free College, and the hundreds of other spending fantasies.  However unlike the other high dollar promises, reparations promise to be eternally racially divisive.

Just what this country needs.

To be fair, slavery reparations do have the tug of moral authority to them.  In a perfect world, I would support them myself. A great evil was done and there should be some sort of compensation for it. However it’s 150 years later. There is no one alive that was a slave, and the practicalities of coming up with a fair and just system to compensate their descendants seem pretty daunting.  I’ve thought long and hard on this subject myself and have yet to figure out a way, or have read of any such plan, that would be workable and just.

Never has the devil been more in the details of a policy than in reparations.  If Abraham Lincoln’s Freedman’s Bureau had been allowed to continue its work, and the newly freed slaves had gotten their 40 acres and a mule, this issue would have been one and done.  But now, who do you compensate?  If, for example, you have theoretical reparations of a $50,000 credit, to be applied to either college or home down payment (the two gateways to the middle class), do you give it to the man, his, son, or his son (assuming all living)?  Should it be given to the oldest living relative in a family, or the youngest?  Or do you just give it to every descendant of slaves from now on?

Of course, that means Barrack Obama, Colin Powell, or Kamala Harris would be entitled to zero reparations since none of them are descendants of American slaves. What about Malia Obama, the President’s daughter?  Would she get half of reparations? And how would you determine eligibility?  There are probably a lot of African Americans who would have a great deal of difficulty laying their hands on all of the documentation necessary to prove ancestry from the slaves freed in 1865.  So would you just go by skin color? Self Identification? DNA?  Imagine, Rachel Dolezal being eligible for reparations. Or imagine the millions of white people with sub-Saharan ancestry thanks to DNA testing, who want their piece of the reparations pie.  If the one drop rule is good for the goose…

But in a way, the very difficulty in figuring out the right policy is a feature, not a bug.  It’s more useful as an issue than an actual policy. And with the added benefit of being racially divisive, it’s the perfect issue for Democrats to run on in 2020.

And every election thereafter.

 

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’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.

Predictions for 2019

With only a 40% accuracy rate for my 2018 predictions, I didn’t exactly excel, however on the other hand, I’m not putting money down on these, so why not?

Mueller’s Investigation will not show any collusion between Trump or the Trump campaign and Russia to “hack” the election.

This is in danger of becoming a perennial; however I feel pretty strongly that the end of the investigation, whenever it comes, will, try though it may, not show any collusion between either the President or his campaign with the Russians.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote on articles of impeachment this year.

I’m not going to guess whether there will be enough votes to bring the issue to the floor of the House, but the Judiciary Committee will for sure be voting on it.  It’s too tempting to leave that candy in the pantry.

Sorry Bill Maher, but no recession by the end of this year.

Maher famously said that he hoped the economy would crash so that Trump would be voted out of office, but even though there seems to be a global slowdown, I’m going to call that the US will not enter a recession this year.  Plus, just about every business and economic talking head has predicted one, so therefore it won’t happen.

President Trump will have another Supreme Court nomination to make by the end of the year.

The common pundit bet seems to be that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have to retire for health reasons, but I suspect a possible more likely scenario is that Clarence Thomas will retire at the end of the session sometime in the spring.  Why?  It would be the perfect troll.

No Brexit.

The Brits should really just take a tip from their American cousins and issue a Declaration of Independence and GTFO.  However, in a situation in which nobody in the establishment really wants to Brexit, it’s pretty obvious that they are just trying to run out the clock and pass the buck.

Another, not quite prediction:

I wouldn’t really say this is a prediction, both because it’s outside the one year window of this post and because at this point it’s more guess than prediction, but this could move up to a full blown prediction in the future (but that’s just a prediction).

The top of the ticket for the Democratic nominee will not be a white male.  I think their time is done in the Democratic Party.