Category Archives: Newsroom

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Trump picks trade advocate to be ambassador to China (New York Times)

Mr. Branstad, whose selection was first reported by Bloomberg News and confirmed on condition of anonymity on Wednesday by two people with direct knowledge, is close to President Xi Jinping, whom he has known for more than three decades. They met in 1985, when Mr. Branstad was serving his first term as governor of Iowa and Mr. Xi was a 31-year-old rural official in Hebei Province, studying modern American agriculture, including hog and corn farming in Iowa.

Mr. Branstad has courted China as governor, promoting his state’s farm goods. As ambassador, he would be tasked with managing a complex relationship that Mr. Trump has already indicated he is willing to shake up. The president-elect’s call with Taiwan’s president last week prompted criticism from Beijing, which considers it a breakaway province, and Mr. Trump responded with posts on Twitter attacking China for its trade practices and provocative moves in the South China Sea.

Trump picks Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad — a ‘friend’ of China’s leader — as Beijing ambassador (Washington Post)

Branstad has extensive ties to China and a personal friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping that dates back decades. If confirmed, the move could go some way to reassure China’s leadership that Trump understands the importance of healthy relations with Beijing.

The Chinese reacted with concern to Trump’s protocol-busting phone call last Friday with Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of Taiwan, an island that China considers a rogue province. Trump repeatedly attacked China on the campaign trail and in a pair of tweets last Sunday over its trade and currency policies, as well as the way it has staked its territorial claims in the South China Sea. He has threatened to slap tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese goods if Beijing didn’t “behave.”

The selection of Branstad was first reported by Bloomberg News and confirmed Wednesday by a transition official, who requested anonymity because the nomination had not yet been formally announced.

China’s foreign ministry did not confirm the report, but reacted warmly.

“First of all, I would like to say that Mr. Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people and we welcome him to play a greater role in promoting Sino-U. S. relations,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference.

“The U.S. ambassador to China is an important bridge between the U.S. government and the Chinese government. No matter who is in this position, we are willing to work with him to push forward the sound, steady and steady development of Sino-U. S. relations.”

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Category: Newsroom
What happened – and didn’t happen – in Austria.

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Category: Newsroom

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{Crossposted From OT} (more…)


Category: Newsroom

So this happened:

President-elect Donald Trump accused the “Hamilton” cast Saturday of harassing Vice president-elect Mike Pence at a performance Friday evening after the actors called on Pence to “uphold our American values.”

“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!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

I do not feel bad for Mike Pence.

The reasons I don’t feel bad for Pence is that he signed on with Trump and has some particularly bad views. I, like a lot of unclean folks, recognize that I have some “particularly bad views” as well and so there is a tendency to see ourselves in him even if we don’t like Trump. That being said, he signed on with Trump, so oh well.

Above comments refer to the booing. I think there’s a time/place argument where there’s a difference between booing at a show and booing at a rally, but it’s kind of murky. I thought the cast speech at the end was fine.

Notwithstanding the fineness of the cast speech, and my ambivalence on the booing, I believe that Donald Trump won the exchange for at least five reasons: (1) To the uncommitted, the hecklers do not come across as the good guys, (2) he wins any time the totalitarian card is pulled out on something people don’t care about, (3) Pence is not himself nationally unpopular, and (4) More important stories are being missed. Oh, and (5) increased tribal solidarity among Trump’s supporters and wobblers.

The only upshot I see is tribal solidarity among his opponents, which I don’t think was previously lacking. Maybe they helped get some of Pence’s past and/or present views on gay rights out there, though not in a way I think is especially helpful.

That being said, this is not a game-changer and is not huge. It’s indicative of potential problems, but right now it’s like a thirty yard kickoff return called back on a penalty. Not off to a good start, but life goes on.


Category: Newsroom
A few random observations.

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Politico says there is no Shy Trump Voter. Morning Consult says that there is, but that it’s not sufficient to close the gap with Hillary Clinton.

One of the thoughts that has been crossing my mind is the phantom Clinton voter. Who would be afraid of saying that they plan to vote for Clinton? Well, some Republicans might. But maybe the bigger goal mine is Clinton wives with Trump husbands:

I don’t know how widespread this is, but it’s an interesting phenomenon all the same and could cut in to whatever Shy Trump Voter margin exists out there. My final prediction is that Clinton will win by six, outperforming the polls by a bit. It may prove to be going out on a limb. However, I think the reasons for the disparity are probably not shy voters but a combination of organization and harder-to-reach Democratic voters. Basically, the same factor that lead polls to underestimate Obama in 2012.


One thing we’re likely to learn this election is whether the swing voter is, in fact, a thing of the past. I believe its death has been exaggerated, and that at least a part of the reason for greater alignment is candidates being in-sync with their party. If there is ever an election which might shake some people loose, it’s this one. The non-GOP public has been very patient with the GOP in not associated it with its standard-bearer. It’s unclear whether that will carry over to the election. And whether they might view the GOP as a hedge against also-unpopular Hillary Clinton.


I follow a lot of conservatives on Twitter who didn’t like Trump in the primary. Some intentionally, some just kind of ended up in the same place. Different people have responded to everything differently. Some came around to Trump. Others are talking about pox and a pair of houses. Others still are saying that they would prefer Hillary but will punt by voting third party. Some are now With Her.

It seems not coincidental that ethnic and racial minorities are going the last route. Most whites (including Jewish) are going in one of the first. It’s actually a stronger predictor than “How conservative are they?” is. While saying things like “Voting for third party is white male privilege” leads to things like white men lecturing women and minorities about privilege, it seems noteworthy all the same.


There was a case to be made for Hillary Clinton’s courting of the frustrated Republicans early on. There was at least the perception of a chance of a landslide. As time has progressed, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it wasn’t actually helping her as much as downticket Republicans. Which, as one can imagine, frustrates downticket Democrats. Especially given their historical hyperfocus on the presidency that has left congress shut out of what could have been a majority.

Clinton has gone more sharply against Republican officeholders, but never did go full-throttle. I have a theory as to why.

For all of the talk of how divided the GOP is, there is a bit of a battle brewing on the Democratic side. Democrats seem oddly sanguine about Sanders getting way further in the primary than he should have because he lost in the end, but that should be an alarm for some of the more moderate members. Combine that with Fight for Fifteen and the ascent of Elizabeth Warren, and there could be some trouble ahead once Trump is no longer in the picture.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to say. But one of the things we’ve learned through various illicit releases about Hillary Clinton is that despite being reckless in some regards, is very cautious in others. They are keenly aware of their vulnerabilities. Overly so, at times. It’s not out of the question that she might be worried about the above. And another sense I’ve gotten from what I’ve learned is that she may be, in her heard of hearts, a moderate that is genuinely uncomfortable with the leftier segment of her party. More than once, I’ve gotten the impression her folks might hate hippies more than a lot of Republicans do.

If this is the case, then I actually find myself wondering if she’s not courting our votes precisely in preparation for the coming conflict. I don’t know what my partisan future holds, though if I do jump it will likely be to keep the Hillary Faction in charge up against the Warren Faction. Not out of any particular love for her, of course, but if she could once again find herself in my eye as the thing that stands in between the future and a wrong turn. Meanwhile, doubling down to enthuse the youth vote and disaffected left is something that she’s seen can backfire on a political party. People like me would only strengthen her faction.

Whatever the case, while I don’t know how I’m going to vote tomorrow I have found myself more comfortable with the prospect of her leadership. Maybe corrupt, but within normal parameters. And on the political spectrum, even moreso perhaps.


Donald Trump has taken the lead in the Yardsign poll. He started off ahead 5-3, then at some point it became 10-9 for Clinton. It’s been all Trump since. Even the guy with the flag put it back out.


Category: Newsroom

Some of you may recall, not all of the students at Liberty University were happy to board the Trump Train:

The group, Liberty United Against Trump, released a statement earlier this week arguing that the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., had linked the school and Trump. The group noted that any member of the school’s faculty would be fired for bragging about kissing and groping women the way that Trump has.

“A recently uncovered tape revealed his comments bragging about sexually assaulting women,” the statement, which also serves as a petition, reads. “Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments, and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense ― taking the name ‘Liberty University’ with him. ‘We’re all sinners,’ Falwell told the media, as if sexual assault is a shoulder-shrugging issue rather than an atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.”

ipad_retinaJunior Fallwell responded diplomatically. There have, however, been other incidents surrounding the schism between Falwell and the rest of the school. The first involves a former regent who opposed Trump and later resigned. The second involved a newspaper column the university pulled for “redundancy.”

This lead to some calls about college political correctness and “Why aren’t the anti-SJW people condemning this!!!!!”

The regent who quit is a non-issue as far as this goes, but the newspaper column story is pretty sketchy (as it pertains to free speech). I guess I do hold Liberty to a lower standard because, contra its name, you know what you’re getting when you’re going there. It’s not Pensacola Christian College or anything, but it is what it is. And it’s private. Yes, I also hold Oberlin to a lower standard for those reasons. State universities, and elite future-leaders-of-our-country universities, though, deserve more scrutiny.

All of that said, I’m totally cool making Liberty University the exemplar of the Safe Space mentality. When the University of Michigan does something questionable, we can call it “Acting like Liberty U.”

Sound fair?


Category: Newsroom

A guest-post by Maddie Fitzgerald

I have always been against Trump. I consider him vulgar and unbefitting of the office of the presidency. But sorry, I just need to take a moment to tell everybody to get a grip. It’s not about defending him. I don’t like him. I just feel compelled to respond to and defend him from every single criticism from the media.

The media. Remember them? You should never forget that they hate not just Trump, but all Republicans. that’s why it’s extremely important that Republicans take a stand against media criticisms that are used against Trump today, but might be used against Trump tomorrow. I don’t want to defend Trump, believe me, but somebody has to keep the media in check.

The latest example is Trump’s comments about setting up internment camps for Mormons. Yes, this sounds bad. But the important thing to remember is that the internment camps were originally put in place by FDR, a Democrat. Yes, internment camps are wrong, but where were they then? Is this really an objection to internment camps, or is this just an objection to the fact that it’s Donald Trump, and not their icon, that is proposing it? Nobody is asking this question because everybody is too busy freaking out over what was really just Trump floating an idea. Compare this to Democrats, who have actually implemented policies that would put Mormons in prison if they refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples (and refuse to pay fines). I’m not at all in favor of Trump’s proposal, but let’s get real: Are we really supposed to believe that it’s Donald Trump who is against religious freedom here?

This is on the heels of Trump’s previous comments about dropping nuclear bombs on cities that vote against him. Once again, the elites and media are taking a legitimate criticism (that it would be had for a president to drop nuclear bombs on American cities) and blowing it completely out of proportion. Once again, the media is responding to Trump literally and unseriously. Obviously, Trump is not going to detonate a bomb on an American city. Hillary Clinton called tens of millions of Americans deplorable while everybody freaks out over an off-the-cuff hypothetical annihilation of Chicago.

More than anything, however, it was the story about taking CNN’s Leigh Horvit “behind the shed” and “having her shot” that caught the media’s attention. Lordy, lordy, is there anthing the media won’t try to make themselves the story of? First and foremost, the news cycle has to be about them as much as possible. Trump is threatening to kill a lot of people at any given time, and while the media panics every time, when it’s their lives that are threatened they take it to a whole new level of hysterics. Even while Hillary Clinton was refusing to grant press conferences, the media became positively fixated on loose chatter of putting newspapers out of business and having reporters shot.

Frankly, it has grown tiresome to watch conservatives fall into the liberal media narrative over and over again. They ask leading questions like “Are you concerned about your lack of Mormon support?” and get the answer they were hoping for. It may be Trump’s fault for failing to avoid the minefield, but the media are the ones laying the lines. Conservatives usually know better, but they are so wrapped up in their Trump-hatred that they can’t see the obvious.

I’m really not saying all of this to defend Trump. I am simply concerned over the degree of deference we’re giving to the press here. Right now a lot of you think it’s okay because it’s Trump, but what happens the next time a conservative talks about removing disfavored minorities from society? The media is going to use this as an example of why it’s wrong, because that’s their way, and conservatives are just handing it to them.


Category: Newsroom

This meme factory product is weirdly compelling:

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It’s hard to explain why, precisely. As Michael Brendan Dougherty says, it gets a transistor in the brain and plays with it. He also suggests that some of the Russia hate is culture war, though I don’t think that’s quite right. I think it’s mostly… politically convenient. Which is disturbing in its own way. I’ve disliked Putin and believed him troublesome going way back to when George W Bush said he saw an honorable soul in him. I didn’t think Romney was ridiculous in 2012 when he named them our #1 geopolitical rival. At the same time, there’s this.

Which I think Lyman manages to nail on the head:

Though there were some interesting connections early on, Donald Trump is not an agent of the Kremlin. He is likely to pursue policies that are friendly to the Kremlin and that would represent a very unwelcome pivot, but the upshot is that he would avoid war with Russia (and not by nuking Mongolia) and that’s not such a bad thing. I don’t think Clinton would take us to war against Russia unnecessarily, but the turning up the temperature is not helpful. And if it were Mitt Romney doing it, even with the data set we currently have (as opposed to four years ago), a lot of people would be freaking out.

I think a lot of people are going to feel pretty silly for the sheer degree of bear-baiting they did this election. At least, I kind of hope so.


Category: Newsroom

Steve Chapman explains how tobacco companies core business remains cigarettes. From there, he gets here:

There is now a small group of experts in public health who are now openly or covertly collaborating with the tobacco industry over e-cigarettes. They are being comprehensively played. In mouthing its newfound concern for tobacco’s harms, the industry’s harm-reduction division personnel can now cosy up to a suite of naïve or historically amnesic public heath urgers who lend Big Tobacco a credibility it craves.

Meanwhile, down the Big Tobacco corridor in the cigarette divisions, the harm-reduction staff’s colleagues continue promoting smoking and attempting to thwart effective tobacco control as usual.

Notably, the link goes to the Times article that has launched lawsuits and has resulted in at least one apology from the Times:

A group of scientists and public health experts are to take legal action against the Times newspaper after it reported claims from a leading charity that they were in the pay of the tobacco industry.

The experts, who work in fields that aim to limit deaths and health complications caused by smoking, are looking to sue the Times for defamation following a story that termed them “experts making a packet”.

The Times has published an apology to one of the scientists cited, Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health. The correction stated that he had funded his own travel and accommodation costs at an industry-sponsored tobacco forum in Brussels and had not received any funding from tobacco or nicotine companies.

But other scientists say that the same apology was not extended to them and they claim they have been falsely accused of accepting “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”.

Lewis Silkin, a legal firm specialising in libel, will be acting on behalf of five scientists, including professor Karl Fagerström, an expert in addiction science. “My life’s work has been built on helping reduce the death toll from tobacco smoking. Yet The Times has portrayed me and my colleagues as hirelings of big tobacco,” he said. “The Times has chosen to traduce our reputations. Now it is time for the paper to profusely apologise or face a battle it will not win.”

The irony here, of course, is that Chapman and “Big Tobacco” are on the same side here, more or less. Both see ecigarettes as a threat to their respective interests. It’s probably that one of them is wrong, however. Most likely it’s Chapman. Chapman, as do many anti-vaping advocates, frames ecigarettes as the latest attempt by Big Tobacco to sell a not-safer product (like low tar cigarettes). This leaves aside some important things, such as that ecigarettes were largely started by third-parties and coopted by ecigarette companies.

What Chapman fails to investigate is why Big Tobacco doesn’t view vaping as its future. There are multiple answers, most of which don’t really correspond with what he’s saying. For example, ecigarettes may not be as addictive as cigarettes, therefore the customer base is less captured. There is also the fact that, contra the picture he paints, many big market participants aren’t tobacco companies and so the competition is more stiff., which would indicate that Big Tobacco’s cigarette margins remain as high as they are because tobacco controllers have placed enormous barriers to competition.

I do actually share Chapman’s concerns that Big Tobacco want ecigarettes to function primarily as a dual-use bridge. A future in which Big Tobacco controls the industry is one in which ecigarettes likely remain weak and comparatively ineffectual as quitting aides. It’s just a shame that the FDA has so recently made their job a lot easier. With innovation stifled, it may become harder to have a real cigarette replacement.

Both Chapman and Big Tobacco are fine with that.


Category: Newsroom
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Tod has a post Over There taking some conservatives to task on their complaints about the media allegedly unleashing a bunch of October surprises they should have approached more diligently at an earlier point in the cycle. I agree in parts, and disagree in others. I’m using these two terms somewhat loosely. But let’s review:

Conservative media critics really do need to let this go, for a variety of reasons. First, because it was first and foremost the job of the other candidates to get this out there. Second, because what happened with regard to the media was not only predictable, and predicted, but actually understandable in context and not remotely unique to Trump (except to the extent that Trump himself is unique). Third, the notion that the media sat on stories of this sort for this long to unleash it all in October is absurd. Fourth, and most importantly, the media presented more than enough information for the primary voters to discard him, and they didn’t.

That said, I really hope the media does take a step back and look at how it contributed to the situation. It did. While it’s very much not helpful for conservatives to complain about it because it’s deflecting. The truth is that everybody needs to be looking at their own behavior. That includes boosters and Republicans and conservatives first and foremost, but also the media. People who harbor less responsibility are too fond of simply pointing the finger at those who harbor more. The media got played. Its poor attention span, its attraction to the immediate, and its inability to figure out how to handle such a different candidate are things that they will hopefully do better next time. (Not optimistic about the first two, but think they may have figured out the third.)

It’s also worth noting that “the media” covers a lot of ground here. I was saying last week that print and (some) web did a much better job than television and television punditry. Most of my criticism is reserved for the latter. And to some extent the interaction between them.

Ultimately, though, the media coverage has changed. Partially because it flows from having an actual recording. While stories of this kind aren’t new, but the way that they’re being covered is. Where I really disagree with my #NeverTrump brethren is that I don’t think it’s anything strategic on the part of the media, or that it’s related to the fact that Trump ran as a Republican. Covering a primary race with a half dozen candidates is simply different than a two-person race. Coverage in the home stretch is different from coverage earlier on. The only substantive change is that at least a part of this may be a response to the media responding to criticisms from the left over the last month about how they were covering the race, which caused a re-evaluation. Sure, similar complaints from the #NeverTrump right went unheeded, but that really wasn’t the problem.

As Tod points out, the stories were out there but they were lost in a sea of other things going on. Including by us. Tod points out a number of stories that I was aware of but that never really penetrated. There was a lot happening. In a weird way, things actually sort of needed to get boring for things to heat up. The news cycle needed to give way for impossible-to-avoid wall-to-wall coverage that had before been muddled with horse race coverage that (since he was leading) almost necessarily put Trump in a positive light. And the Clinton scandals needed to die down (or focus had to be moved away from them).

And it’s not impossible in a couple of weeks this will all trail off and it’ll be an “oh, yeah” thing. We’re running out of time for that, though. And that was the case for anything breaking in October. The spinning bottle has to stop somewhere.

The theory that the press actually withheld these stories, though, has very little going for it. That’s just not what the press does. You run with a story before anyone else finds it, which means as soon as you get it and (hopefuly) do due diligence. There are isolated counterexamples, but the most famous (Bush+TANG) didn’t work out very well (the “due diligence” thing matters). Most of the time, October Surprises aren’t October Surprises because the media held on to it, but because the opposing candidate did. (I believe it’s entirely possible the Octoberness of this story is because the Clinton campaign competently worked it this way.)

Yes, Liz Mair and Rick Wilson have both said they were approaching the media with blockbuster stories while the primary was ongoing, but you have to think that through. If the media turned it down, it was almost certainly light on details. And, to be honest, a desperate appeal to the media to do the candidates’/consultants’ jobs. If they had a story on a silver platter, of course the media would run with it. And even in a world where they somehow decided not to, a Trump-skeptical conservative outlet would have. With enough work, the media would have had to cover the coverage, if nothing else. That was what happened with some of the Clinton archives unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Given that most of the people complaining now are doing so in an “I Told You So” fashion, they ought to consider that they’re seeing what they’re seeing precisely because they predicted it. Dots connected in a particular way precisely because they correspond with predictions. It is true that we did warn them that coverage would turn sharply negative in the general election. It is true that coverage turned sharply negative in the general election. But that has as much to do with the weeds around it getting cut as it does a change in the thing that the weeds were surrounding. That was always visible, to those that wanted to see it.


Category: Newsroom

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