Thursday, December 08, 2016

Hillary Is Runner Up Again...in TIME's Person of the Year Contest

By Cortney O'Brien

 
Donald Trump can add another magazine cover to the impressive stack he has on his desk at Trump Tower.  In what was probably the editors' easiest decision ever, TIME Magazine has named the president-elect as their 2016 Person of the Year.

Who else could it have been? After beating out 16 competitors (most of whom had political experience), Trump shocked the world by becoming the 45th president of the United States. His campaign was unprecedented - some call it a revolution. He defied all the campaign protocols, routinely speaking off the cuff and not being afraid to call out the media (sometimes personally.) Because of his uncouth behavior, many predicted a Hillary Clinton landslide. Yet, as they had been all year, the pundits were wrong once again come Election Day.
Clinton came in second yet again to Trump in the Person of the Year running, according to TIME's managing editor Nancy Gibbs.
Congrats, Mr. President-elect.

The Left's Gambles

By Thomas Sowell
 
 
Sometimes life forces us to make decisions, even when we don't have enough information to know how the decision will turn out. The risks may be even greater when people make decisions for other people. Yet there are some who are not only willing, but eager, to take decisions away from those who are directly affected.

Something as personal as what doctor we want to go to has been taken out of our hands by ObamaCare. What job offer, at what pay rate, someone wants to accept has been taken out of their hands by minimum wage laws.
Sick people who are dying are prevented from trying a medication that has not yet completed all the long years of tests required by federal regulations -- even if the medication has been used for years in other countries without ill effects.
One by one, innumerable decisions have been taken out of the hands of those directly affected. This is not just something that has happened. It is a central part of the agenda of the political left, even though they describe what they are doing in terms of the bad things they claim to be preventing and the good things they claim to be creating.
Minimum wage laws are described as preventing workers from being "exploited" by employers who pay less than what third parties want them to pay. But would people accept wages that third parties don't like if there were better alternatives available?
This is an issue that is very personal to me. When I left home at the age of 17, going out into the world as a black high school dropout with very little experience and no skills, the minimum wage law had been rendered meaningless by ten years of inflation since the law was passed. In other words, there was no minimum wage law in effect, for all practical purposes.
It was far easier for me to find jobs then than it is for teenage black high school dropouts today. After the minimum wage was raised to keep up with inflation, for decades the unemployment rate for black male 17-year-olds never fell below TRIPLE what it was for me -- and in some years their unemployment rate was as much as five times what it was when I was a teenager.
Yet many people on the left were able to feel good about themselves for having prevented "exploitation" -- that is, wage rates less than what third parties would like to see. No employer in his right mind was going to pay me what third parties wanted paid, when I had nothing to contribute, except in the simplest jobs.
As for me, my options would have been welfare or crime, and welfare was a lot harder to get in those days. As it was, the ineffectiveness of the minimum wage law at that time allowed me time to acquire job skills that would enable me to move on to successively better jobs -- and eventually to complete my education. Most people who have minimum wage jobs do not stay at those jobs for life. The turnover rate among people who are flipping hamburgers was found by one study to be so high that those who have such jobs on New Year's Day are very unlikely to still be there at Christmas.
In short, the left has been gambling with other people's livelihoods -- and the left pays no price when that gamble fails.
It is the same story when the left prevents dying people from getting medications that have been used for years in other countries, without dire effects, but have not yet gotten through the long maze of federal "safety" regulations in the U.S.
People have died from such "safety." Police are dying from restrictions on them that keep criminals safe.
San Francisco is currently trying to impose more restrictions on the police, restrictions that will prevent them from shooting at a moving car, except under special conditions that they will have to think about when they have a split second to make a decision that can cost them their own lives. But the left will pay no price.
One of the most zealous crusades of the left has been to prevent law-abiding citizens from having guns, even though gun control laws have little or no effect on criminals who violate laws in general. You can read through reams of rhetoric from gun control advocates without encountering a single hard fact showing gun control laws reducing crime in general or murder in particular.
Such hard evidence as exists points in the opposite direction.
But the gun control gamble with other people's lives is undeterred. And the left still pays no price when they are wrong.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste

By Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward


The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.
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To read the rest of the story, click here.

_______________________

Below is a list of proposed cuts from our bloated federal budget that the Republican-controlled Congress is considering making after Donald Trump becomes our president. The list was complied by one of our supporters who included his commentary for some of the budget items. Notice that Social Security and the military are NOT on this list.
 
_______________________

List of Proposed Republican Budget Cuts

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy -- $445 million annual savings.
 
Save America's Treasures Program -- $25 million annual savings.
 

International Fund for Ireland -- $17 million annual savings.
 
Legal Services Corporation -- $420 million annual savings.
 

National Endowment for the Arts -- $167.5 million annual savings.

National Endowment for the Humanities -- $167.5 million annual savings.

Hope VI Program -- $250 million annual savings.

Amtrak Subsidies -- $1.565 billion annual savings.

Eliminate duplicating education programs --H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually.

U.S.Trade Development Agency -- $55 million annual savings.

Woodrow Wilson Center Subsidy -- $20 million annual savings.

Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding -- $47 million annual savings.

John C. Stennis Center Subsidy -- $430,000 annual savings.

Community Development Fund -- $4.5 billion annual savings.
 
Heritage Area Grants and Statutory Aid -- $24 million annual savings.

Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half -- $7.5 billion annual savings

Trim Federal Vehicle Budget by 20% -- $600 million annual savings.

Essential Air Service -- $150 million annual savings.

Technology Innovation Program -- $70 million annual savings.

Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program -- $125 million annual savings.

Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization -- $530 million annual savings.

Beach Replenishment -- $95 million annual savings.

New Starts Transit -- $2 billion annual savings. 

Exchange Programs for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts -- $9 million annual savings. 

Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants -- $2.5 billion annual savings.
Title X Family Planning -- $318 million annual savings.

Appalachian Regional Commission -- $76 million annual savings.

Economic Development Administration -- $293 million annual savings.

Programs under the National and Community Services Act -- $1.15 billion annual savings.

Applied Research at Department of Energy -- $1.27 billion annual savings.

Freedom CAR and Fuel Partnership -- $200 million annual savings.

Energy Star Program -- $52 million annual savings.

Economic Assistance to Egypt -- $250 million annually.


U.S. Agency for International Development -- $1.39 billion annual savings.

General Assistance to District of Columbia -- $210 million annual savings.

Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority -- $150 million annual savings.

Presidential Campaign Fund -- $775 million savings over ten years.

No funding for federal office space acquisition -- $864 million annual savings.


End prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services.

Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act -- More than $1 billion annually.

IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for some services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing it to remain as part of its budget -- $1.8 billion savings over ten years.


Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees -- $1 billion total savings. WHAT'S THIS ABOUT?

Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees -- $1.2 billion savings over ten years.

Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of -- $15 billion total savings.

Eliminate death gratuity for Members of Congress. WHAT???

Eliminate Mohair Subsidies -- $1 million annual savings.


Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change -- $12.5 million annual savings. WELL ISN'T THAT SPECIAL 

Eliminate Market Access Program -- $200 million annual savings. 

USDA Sugar Program -- $14 million annual savings.

Subsidy to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -- $93 million annual savings.

Eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program -- $56.2 million annual savings.

Eliminate fund for Obamacare administrative costs -- $900 million savings.

Ready to Learn TV Program -- $27 million savings..

HUD Ph.D. Program.

Deficit Reduction Check-Off Act.

TOTAL SAVINGS: $2.5 Trillion over Ten Years

My question is, what is all this doing in the budget in the first place?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

FLASHBACK: Barack Obama may cancel new helicopter fleet over costs


 
U.S. President Barack Obama takes a question during closing remarks of the Fiscal Responsibility Summit Photo: BLOOMBERG NEWS 

2:28AM GMT 24 Feb 2009 

Barack Obama has vowed to crack down on costly military programs, citing a project to build a new presidential helicopter fleet as an example of the procurement process "gone amok." 

At the conclusion of a fiscal meeting at the White House, Mr. Obama faced questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including his former presidential rival, Senator John McCain. 

Mr. McCain bemoaned cost overruns in military procurement. The new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters being built by Lockheed Martin Corp., now over budget at $11.2 billion, will cost more than Air Force One.  

Mr. McCain will introduce a bill this week to rein in military weapons programs which now routinely run billions of dollars over budget. 

Mr. Obama said "the excesses of procurement" were on his list of highest priorities. 

With the United States facing the worst economic crisis in decades, Mr Obama has pledged to review major defence programs. 

"I have already talked to (Defence Secretary Robert) Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," Mr Obama said. " Maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it."  

"It is an example of the procurement process gone amok and we are going to have to fix it." 

 
_____________________
 
There was no media outcry when the above became public. Compare the below reaction to a similar announcement by President-elect Donald J. Trump. 
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Trump Threatens to Cancel Air Force One Order, Boeing Stock Slips
 By Liz Johnstone and Courtney Kube
 
President-elect Donald Trump threatened to cancel Boeing's order for the new Air Force One in a Tuesday morning tweet, citing high costs. 
 
In a surprise appearance in front of reporters at Trump Tower after sending the social media message, Trump expanded on his latest target for negotiation. 
 
"Well, the plane is totally out of control. It's gonna be over 4 billion dollars ... and, I think it's ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number," Trump said. "We want Boeing to make a lot of money but not that much money."
 
 _____________
 TRUMP"S TWEET


Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!
 ____________
In response to Trump, Boeing issued a statement regarding the Air Force One program, putting the amount of their current contract at just $170 million with more phases to come. 
 
"We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serves the unique requirements of the President of the United States. We look forward to working with the US Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer," the statement read. 
 
Trump spokesman Jason Miller did not answer directly how Trump knew the price of the new Air Force One, but according to the latest figures, Trump is likely correct about the eventual $4 billion price tag, which would be paid out over the next decade or more. Research and development is already at $2.7 billion for the first two years, a number that is already budgeted and approved, and the Government Accountability Office warned last year that the cost would be approximately $3.2 billion. By the time the aircraft is delivered, the total cost will likely be over $4 billion, because the government still has to buy the two aircraft once they are built. 
 
Air Force One is so much more expensive than commercial planes because of the communications package and air defense measures. Boeing was the only choice for the build because it's an American company and they have the only four-engine aircraft, a necessity due to the weight. 
 
Keeping the old Air Force One is an option, but not an ideal one. The plane has a lifespan of about 30 years, and the current ones are in their late 20s. As the planes age, safety becomes a concern while maintenance and other costs increase.
 
It's not clear what prompted Trump to threaten the aircraft manufacturer with the cancellation of its government contract. Following his tweet, Boeing stocks slid by more than 1 percent in premarket trade, according to CNBC.
  
Before the tweet, stocks were trading at $152.16. Shares fell to a low of $149.75 immediately after the tweet, approximately a $1.48 billion hit to Boeing's market cap — not a large impact relative to Boeing's overall market cap, but a dip nonetheless. Shares came back some since Trump tweeted, and opened at $150.85. By midday trade, Boeing's stock was down 86 cents, according to MarketWatch. 
 
Trump formerly owned stock in Boeing, Miller said on a transition call Tuesday, but sold it in June 2016 along with all other stocks he held.  
 
Exactly how Trump will take on the price of the plane, Miller said, "We can get into that more after the president-elect is sworn in on January 20."  
 
In 2009, President Obama canceled Lockheed's order for a new Marine One, a 23-helicopter program with ballooning costs.  
 
"The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," President Obama said at the time. 
 
 
 Air Force One waits on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Dec. 6, before President Barack Obama boards en route to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
- Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

Donald Trump Choses Ben Carson For HUD Secretary

By Frances Rice
 
 
Dr. Ben Carson is the first African American to be nominated to a cabinet position by President-elect Donald J. Trump.


In a statement about his choice Trump said:
“I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities.
“We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.  Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country as is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”
Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, replied: “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”
The selection of Carson is seen as a major step by Trump to keep the promises he made to inner cities that he would revitalize those communities with tax incentives for businesses to locate there, as well as making federal disaster declarations for blighted urban centers to allow for increased police protection, investment in infrastructure and demolition of abandoned properties.
The inspiring life story of Carson was dramatized in the TV movie, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.”  Details about Carson's life are also contained in his book and the role of Carson in the TV movie was played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
 
During speaking engagements, especially while he was a presidential candidate, Carson spoke about his difficult upbringing after his father left his family when Carson was only 8 years old.
Carson credits his mother with forcing him and Carson's brother, Curtis, to turn off the television and read a set number of books each week from the library, then report back to her on their contents. He said it helped him overcome what he has described as a bad temper and poor attitude toward education.
An overachiever, Carson graduated with honors from Southwestern High School, where he also became a senior commander in the school's ROTC program. He earned a full scholarship to Yale University and graduated in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in psychology before enrolling in the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
At age 33, Carson became the youngest doctor to head a major division at Johns Hopkins Hospital, taking over the department of pediatric neurosurgery. 
In 1987, Carson became the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins joined at the back of the head. He and his wife, Candy, have also started the Carson Scholars Fund, which has provided more than 7,300 scholarships since 1994 to students across the country.
Carson received the Spingarn Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP in 2006. President George W. Bush awarded Carson the Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 2008.
In taking over HUD, Carson inherits an agency with some 7,600 employees and a budget of more than $30 billion.  Each year, HUD provides billions in aid to communities across the nation through various housing programs.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Trump's Chumps


The Fourth Estate, but last in the hearts of their countrymen.


Among the many offenses that modern architecture has committed against Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington—America's main street, we like to call it—is a glass 'n' stone 'n' steel box that houses a museum about news gathering called, unfortunately, the Newseum. Funded by the New York Times, Hearst, ABC News, Comcast, CBS News, Time Warner, and every worthy journalism nonprofit in the land, the Newseum is the establishment press's monument to itself—a mirror into which every mainstream reporter and editor can peer with an admiring gaze.

From the front of the building hangs a five-story-high sheet of marble inscribed with the First Amendment, in letters that are easily as tall as an early hominid. You can't miss it. You're not supposed to miss it. The display reflects the premise of the museum: that the "free press" mentioned in and protected by the Constitution is identical to the kind of corporate entities that paid for the museum.

It's a silly conceit, and only a business as powerful and unavoidable as national journalism could get away with it for so long. But has the journalistic establishment at last met its match in the buffoonish figure of Donald Trump? Consciously or not, Trump has used the interregnum between Election Day and Inauguration Day to subvert and, in some cases, even deal a death blow to many of the standard conventions of political journalism.

His most famous weapon is the tweet, those midnight brain belches that suddenly erupt from Trump Tower and are turned into instant news by a panting press corps.
 
 
Politico's press critic, Jack Shafer, suspects that Trump's tweets, even the strange ones, are strategically provocative, designed to throw reporters off the scent of real Trump stories (his business entanglements, the settlement of the Trump University lawsuit) by giving them something more immediate, sensational, and easier to cover. Shafer is probably giving Trump too much credit, but there's no doubting that our president-elect provokes a response from his intended audience.

And who is that? The common thought is that Trump uses Twitter to go over the heads of the reporters who cover him to reach the public unfiltered. Just as often, though, the reporters are his primary audience; the secondary audience is the general public, few of whom obsessively check a Twitter account the way reporters do. But the public can distinguish between a tweet and the reaction to it. For an ordinary person, the news isn't merely what Trump tweets, it's also the hyperventilation he provokes from the press. The second is usually crazier than the first.

Remember when a cast member of the musical Hamilton gave a pompous lecture to Vice President-elect Pence from a Broadway stage? If you've forgotten the lecture you probably remember the tweet that Trump fired off when he learned about it ("Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!"). And then you might remember the reaction of the press to Trump's reaction.

The New Yorker's Washington correspondent called Trump's tweet "unhinged and bizarre." News readers on NPR nearly choked with indignation. When Trump briefly appeared in public the next day, the questions from the press pen were all about the tweet. (Aleppo was crumbling, children's hospitals in Syria were bombed to rubble .  .  . but Mr. President-elect, what about Broadway?) CNN said Trump had "lashed out" at "Americans exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression." The political correspondent for New York magazine stilled his trembling fingers long enough to tweet that Trump had offered "a terrifying glimpse of how he could attempt to suppress free speech."

My guess is that most people took Trump's tweet for what it was—an unnecessary but well-meaning rebuke aimed at the bad manners of a sanctimonious showbiz fop. The reaction from the press, on the other hand, offered a terrifying glimpse into how bizarre and unhinged the press can be when Donald Trump mouths off.

Then Trump saw a Fox News story (he evidently sees no other kind) about an otherwise obscure incident of flag burning. Flag burning should be illegal, he tweeted, and should be punished with perhaps a penalty of a year in jail and "loss of citizenship," however the hell that would work. Details to come: Twitter only gives you 140 characters, after all.

The reaction of mainstream reporters and commentators was an unlikely mix of sputtering rage and sniffy pedantry. They couldn't have been angrier if Trump burned the flag himself. Didn't Trump know the Supreme Court had ruled flag burning constitutionally protected speech? Didn't he know his hero Antonin Scalia supported that decision? Didn't Trump know the president can't unilaterally render an action illegal?

Let's assume Trump didn't know these things—doubtful but possible. The press's corrective was appropriate on the merits. But it was comically overheated. "Donald Trump v. The First Amendment," headlined the Washington Post. New York magazine: "Donald Trump Wants You to Burn the Flag While He Burns the Constitution." The New York Times could barely contain its condescension: "Mr. Trump, Meet the Constitution."

Missing in all this was what the modern press prides itself on providing its lumbering readers: context. Few of the horrified reporters and editorialists seemed to recognize that a large majority of Americans almost certainly share Trump's revulsion at flag burning and would like to see it sanctioned—and probably regret that the Supreme Court has foreclosed the option. The public saw an offensive and unpatriotic act and the president-elect's righteous reaction to it; the press saw the stirrings of authoritarianism. One view was moralistic. The other was a paranoid fantasy. And just as moralistic.

With a tweet here and a tweet there, and with a reliably hair-trigger hysteria from the press only 140 characters away, Trump is happily driving a wedge between the news media and their intended customers. As if they weren't already unpopular enough! The dawning Trump era is pushing the mainstream press further and further to the margins of the conversation Americans think is worth paying attention to.

And Trump can be pretty cruel about this denigration of the press—and subtler than you'd expect. Since the election dozens of reporters and camera crews have been corralled behind rope lines in the gleaming, hideous lobby of Trump Tower. There they are treated to a daily parade of office-seekers, from David Petraeus to Rudy Giuliani, supplicants willing to humiliate themselves in a perp walk so they can gaze meaningfully into the eyes of the president-elect.

The Trump Tower perp walks make for a textbook case of the pseudo-event: an ostensibly naturally occurring episode that in fact is being staged to create what appears to be a real news story. A fire is a news story; a press conference called by firefighters to discuss fire prevention is a pseudo-event. It's the same in Trump Tower: When Mr. X or Ms. Y is appointed to a real job, that's a real news story. When Mr. X is "being mentioned" for a job and the press reports the mentioning as if it were news, that is a pseudo-event.

In the 50 years since the historian Daniel Boorstin coined the phrase, the news media have become connoisseurs of pseudo-events, promoting empty occasions manipulated by marketers and corporate flacks and political activists and sometimes by the news media themselves. On any given day the bulk of published news is a dog's breakfast of pseudo-events. The continuous elevation of non-news into news, the confusion of the trivial with the important, is one reason why American news reporting is so boring and its practitioners so often ridiculous.

Trump has staged this pseudo-event in his own lobby, and the dutiful reporters, who must pretend the perp walk and the "mentioning" are news, don't know they are being mocked. Over two generations the press have gone from defining news as "what happened yesterday" to "what we think might happen later" to "what other unnamed people tell us they think might happen tomorrow"—in other words, from concrete reporting to "analysis and context" to blue-sky speculation. With very little real news coming from Trump Tower, the public gets to see the press forced into its weakest posture, getting excited over nothing. They look even more desperate than usual. Thanks, Trump!

Or consider another great convention of political news reporting: the postelection rapprochement. After the heat of the campaign, the victor calls in members of the press, singly or in groups, to show there are no hard feelings and pledge a shining future of mutual cooperation. By their own testimony, this is what the TV news readers, personalities, and executives expected when Trump summoned the whole flock of peacocks to an audience in Trump Tower on November 21. In keeping with the hypocrisy of the establishment media—transparency for thee but not for me—the meeting was off the record. But we do know that the peacocks, prepared for the usual sucking up, got a dressing down.

An anonymous source described the meeting to Daniel Halper of the New York Post. The peacocks tried to ask about press arrangements at the Trump White House, as well as typically vacuous questions ("How are you going to cope with living in D.C. while your family is in New York?" asked David Muir, ABC's Doctor of Thinkology). The president-elect had other things on his mind. "Trump kept saying, 'We're in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.' He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars." And then the peacocks had to drag their tail feathers back through the lobby with everybody watching.

Getting tagged as liars isn't the most unnerving thing reporters have heard from Trump. That prize goes to his declaration that as president he would "open up" libel laws and make them more like libel law in England where, as Trump put it, "they have a system where you can actually sue if someone says something wrong. Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it." Again, it's not clear that Trump realizes he can't do any such thing on his own, even as president, but—also again—the reaction from the press to his fond fantasy has swung between dudgeon and delirium. Trump, we're told, wants to "repeal the First Amendment."

There are lots of differences between libel laws in England and in the United States. The chief distinction, very simplified, is that when a famous person sues over a libelous statement published in England, the news outlet has to prove in court that the statement is true; when a similar libel is published here, the famous person has to show the news outlet knew it was false—a much harder claim to prove. The effect, thanks to a series of Supreme Court decisions, is to declare famous people fair game for pretty much any kind of journalism. As "public figures," they seldom sue even over a blatantly false report because they're unlikely to win in court.

It's a dogma of the national press that this distinction is an essential element of the First Amendment. Yet the country had a remarkably busy and freewheeling press before 1964, when the Supreme Court invented the new arrangement through a piece of judicial legislation called New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Indeed, then and now, both England and the United States have a long history of a robust, competitive, and lively press. And you could easily argue that their press is livelier than ours, precisely because British hacks lack the stuffy self-importance of the average American newsman, which is encouraged by, among other things, the protection offered by our libel laws.

In the elevated stature it claims, the corporate press in the United States is supported by the deference public figures show it, by a daisy chain of self-flattery, and by a web of dubious conventions that Trump hopes to subvert. Mostly these are artifacts contrived for the convenience of the press and for its aggrandizement. Trump hasn't held a formal press conference since summer, for example. The longer the president-elect goes without giving a full-dress press conference, the more obvious it will become that these stylized spectacles are unnecessary except under the rarest circumstances.

A president cocooned from skeptical and even disrespectful questioning would be intolerable—an affront to the country. But an East Room theatrical, with the correspondents done up in their dress-for-TV best, is not the only alternative. There's no reason why a president's obligation to explain himself couldn't be met with a series of town halls or, better, a weekly sitdown with a rotation of intelligent and knowledgeable interviewers like John Dickerson, Chris Wallace, and a bunch of people we've never heard of. As it is, the presidential press conference serves mostly as certification ceremony: The reporters get camera time, a chance to show off their expertise—some questions last more than a minute—and an accreditation as a personage to be reckoned with. They may even get recognized while weighing their fresh kale at Whole Foods. It's not the president's job to make the press corps feel important.

A Washington without presidential press conferences is a Washington in which the grip of the establishment press has at last begun to loosen. The same goes for the equally worthless daily briefing held in the White House press room by a political appointee whose most important job is not to answer serious questions. Anyone who has sat through these interminable exercises knows that whatever information they transmit could better be explained at a lower bureaucratic level—let the flack for the Bureau of Labor Statistics release the unemployment numbers to labor reporters, who know more about the matter anyway. (President Trump would still think the numbers were rigged, but that's another story.)

And then, after the White House briefings and news conferences are done away with, here's what could go next: the State of the Union address, a televised pseudo-event, beneficial (and interesting) only to the reporters who cover it. SOTU, as it's cloyingly called, could vanish for a century with no discernible damage to the functioning of self-government.

To borrow a tag from the 18th century, Trump has the chance to govern as a disestablishmentarian—trying to decertify the establishment media by extricating them from the exalted position they have claimed and occupied. Very few reporters think of themselves as partisan or ideological. But they do think of themselves as indispensable. Disabusing them of this idea would be the ultimate subversion.

Perhaps the most promising moment came in an interview Trump gave to reporters and editors of the New York Times. The president-elect came to their offices—an unaccustomed act of deference. And he went out of his way to praise the self-satisfied tradesmen arrayed before him. "The Times is," Trump said, "it's a great, great American jewel. A world jewel."

Which is true. But then he also said this, when asked about the right-wing website Breitbart.com and its relationship to the far right: "Breitbart cover things, I mean like the New York Times covers things." You can imagine Trump's shrug of indifference. "And you know, they have covered some of these things, but the New York Times covers a lot of these things also. It's just a newspaper, essentially."

Just a newspaper? Like the Times? I wonder whether in that room, at that moment, a terrible revelation began to dawn among the Timesfolk, soon to spread among their colleagues in the mainstream press: Maybe we are no longer who we think we are!

Nah.

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Trump Announces Defense Department Pick To The People, Not The Press



I Served With James Mattis. Here’s What I Learned From Him

To Marines, Gen. James Mattis is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is.
America knows Gen. James Mattis as a character, Mad Dog Mattis, the font of funny quotes and Chuck Norris-caliber memes.
 
Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. We also know that there is a reason he uses the call-sign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose.
To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new secretary of war; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t.
I worked for Mattis three times: when he was a colonel, a major general, and a lieutenant general. I very much want to work for him again. Here is why.
One: July 1994
I checked into Third Battalion, Seventh Marines in Twentynine Palms, California in 1994. It was 125 degrees in July in the high desert; everyone was in the field. This was a hard place, for hard men training for the hardest of jobs.
Then-Colonel Mattis, the Seventh Marines regimental commander, called for me to come see him. I was not only just a brand-new captain, but an aviator in an infantry regiment. I was a minor light in the Seventh Marines firmament: I was not in any measure a key player.
I arrived early, as a captain does when reporting to a colonel, and waited in his anteroom. There, I convinced myself what this would be: a quick handshake, a stern few sentences on what I was to do while there, and then a slap on the back with a “Go get ‘em, Tiger!” as he turned to the next task at hand. This was a busy guy. Five minutes, tops.
Colonel Mattis called for me. He stood to greet me, and offered to get coffee for me. He put a hand on my shoulder; gave me, over my protestations, his own seat behind his desk; and pulled up a chair to the side. He actually took his phone off the hook—something I had thought was just a figure of speech—closed his office door, and spent more than an hour knee-to-knee with me.
Mattis laid out his warfighting philosophy, vision, goals, and expectations. He told me how he saw us fighting and where, and how he was getting us ready to do just that. He laid out history, culture, religion, and politics, and he saw very clearly not only where we would fight, but how Seventh Marines, a desert battalion, fit into that fight.
Many years later, when Seventh Marines got into that fight, he was proven precisely right. It would not be the last time.
Two: February 2003
Major Gen. Mattis was commanding general of First Marine Division, in charge of the riflemen who were going to bear the brunt of President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war. He was small, wiry, and feisty, energy cooking off of him, the sort of guy who walks into a room of Alpha males and is instantly the leader. Mattis was a lifelong bachelor married to the Marine Corps, with a reputation as an ass-kicking, ferocious leader, an officer who took shit from no man and would do anything for his Marines.
Mattis had led First Battalion, Seventh Marines as part of Task Force Ripper during Desert Storm, and had cemented his reputation as a man on the way up. This reputation, well-earned even then, was solidified when he took Task Force 58, pulled together from two Marine Expeditionary Unit afloat, 400 miles over Pakistan and into Afghanistan late in 2001 to retaliate on behalf of us all against al-Qaeda’s attacks on September 11. He was a blunt, smart warfighter, just the sort of man our bulldog savior, Gen. Al Gray, had started pulling up the ladder behind him when he was commandant in the late 1980s.
I felt very confident with these two major generals—Mattis of the infantry and Amos of the air wing—in charge. And I felt even more confident as I looked around the room.
The metal folding chairs held hundreds of men. Pilots were in tan flight suits, pistols hanging on their chests in shoulder holsters. Infantry officers sat farther back; these were battalion fire support coordinators, seasoned majors who commanded a rifle battalion’s weapons company (heavy guns, 81 mm mortars, rockets, and TOW missiles) and were therefore the key men in a battalion’s fire support planning.
These guys were firsts among equals, and were almost always the best and often most senior of the young officers in a battalion. Most had with him his battalion air officer, an aviator serving with a rifle battalion (as I had with 3/7 under Col. Mattis) responsible for coordinating air strikes with the infantry’s scheme of maneuver and the indirect fire of both mortars and artillery.
The senior aviators, squadron and group commanders, sat near the front, with their counterpart battalion and regimental infantry commanders. Lieutenant colonels and colonels sat in front, captains and majors filling in the rear: hair atop heads grew noticeably more sparse the further forward you looked. Heads shined, and jaws firmly set. Showtime.
The discussions began with an intel brief. The first bad guys we were going to come across, and those we were therefore most concerned about, were the Iraqi 51st Mechanized Division. They were not the Republican Guard, but had a reputation as having some tough fighters who could shoot straight. The word was that officers were taking all civilian clothes from their men and having them burned, to prevent the conscripts from stripping off their uniforms and fleeing the war, trying to blend back into the civilian population.
On our side, they were expecting Seventh Marines to be ready to go on 10 March, Fifth Marines ready to go on 20 March, and First Marines ready to go in a month: 1 March. A-day and G-Day would go simultaneously. My ears perked up at this. No pre-invasion bombing? I was expecting the air war to start up any day, to soften the bad guys up for at least month as we did the first time we kicked this Iraqi Army’s ass in 1991.
No air war? Wow. The briefer didn’t come out and say “You grunts are screwed,” but rather used intelspeak: “We anticipate at this time that there will be no formalized shaping of the battlefield.” Rules of engagement would be fairly relaxed: kill people if they need killin’. Maps were flashed up, showing the initial Battlespace Coordination Line (BCL): we were given permission to kill anything beyond that line. This was going to be a huge, high-stakes shooting gallery.
Logistics was going to be an issue. It was a long way to Baghdad from there, and there were a hell of a lot of guys massing on the border. When Mattis took the boys into Afghanistan, it took 0.5 short tons (a “short ton” is 2,000 pounds even, versus a “ton,” which is closer to 2,200 pounds) per Marine deployed. They were expecting that it would be five times that effort—2.5 short tons per Marine—to get a guy to Baghdad. I remembered that Gen. Krulak, our commandant in the late 1990s, had made his reputation as a logistics wizard in Desert Storm.
Good officers study military history, great officers study logistics. Mattis was a great officer.
Good officers study military history, great officers study logistics. Mattis was a great officer. His “Log Light” configuration for the division was meant to get people north fast, and not try to shoot our way through every little town on the way. As only he could do, he described it thus: “If you can’t eat it, shoot it, or wear it, don’t bring it.”
Mattis stood. As always, he spoke without notes, having long ago memorized everything.
“Gentlemen, this is going to be the most air-centric division in the history of warfare. Don’t you worry about the lack of shaping; if we need to kill something, it is going to get killed. I would storm the gates of Hell if Third Marine Air Wing was overhead.”
He looked toward the back of the cavernous room, and spoke loud, clear, and confident, hands on his hips.
“There is one way to have a short but exciting conversation with me,” he continued, “and that is to move too slow. Gentlemen, this is not a marathon, this is a sprint. In about a month, I am going to go forward of our Marines up to the border between Iraq and Kuwait. And when I get there, one of two things is going to happen. Either the commander of the Fifty-First Mechanized Division is going to surrender his army in the field to me, or he and all his guys are going to die.”
Nothing much else needed to be said after that.
Three: March 2003
Early in the afternoon, every British and American officer loaded up and headed across the desert to the marvelously named Camp Matilda, one of the Marine Corps base camps farther north towards Iraq. This was my first foray out into the open desert, and it was a National Geographic special come to life.
Camels ambled along next to the road or stood and stared stupidly at the cars whizzing by mere feet away. I assumed they would be herded by men in flowing robes on camels, like in “Lawrence of Arabia.” The men indeed wore robes and flowing headdresses, but herded their beasts in pickup trucks. Wealthier Kuwaitis zoomed by in red-checked caftans driving the ubiquitous Mercedes sedan.
Without referencing a single piece of paper, he discussed what each unit would do and in what sequence, and outlined his end state for each phase of the early war.
First Marine Division was holding their first ROC Drill, the rehearsal of concept of what we were about to do. I had never seen a walk-through like this before. Marines had spent days building an enormous reproduction of southern Iraq in a bowl formed by a huge, semicircular sand dune. Each road, each river, each canal, each oil field was built to scale and even in proper color (water was blue dye poured into a sand ditch, and so on.)
Each Marine unit wore football jerseys in different colors, and with proper numbers. First Battalion, Fifth Marines, known as one-five, wore blue jerseys with “15” on the back, and other units were similarly identified. Principal staff from those units stood on the “border” drawn in the sand. About 300 officers stood and sat on the dune above. It was the perfect way to visualize what was about to happen.
General Mattis stood up and took a handheld microphone. Without referencing a single piece of paper, he discussed what each unit would do and in what sequence, and outlined his end state for each phase of the early war. He spoke for nearly 30 minutes, and his complete mastery of every nuance of the battle forthcoming was truly impressive.
A narrator then took over and picked up the narrative, the rest of the first week of the early war in sequence. As he described each movement, the officers from that unit walked to the proper place on their terrain model, and by the end of an hour the colored jerseys were spread over nearly a football field’s worth of sand. What a show.
At the end of the drill, questions were answered and then Mattis dismissed everyone. No messing around with this guy. Mike Murdoch, one of the British company commanders, leaned over to me, his eyes wide. “Mate, are all your generals that good?”
I looked at him.
“No. He is the best we have.”
As everyone rose to leave, Mattis fired one last directive over the microphone: “You’ve got about 30 days.”
Stanton S. Coerr was a Marine officer and is a veteran of the war in Iraq. He holds degrees from Duke, Harvard, and the Naval War College, and now lives and works in Washington DC.