Here Are Just Some Stupid Extreme Democrats.
A new CNN poll reveals more Americans now think the country is doing well than at any point during President Barack Obama’s entire eight years in office.
The poll, conducted by SSRS, found that 57 percent of Americans believe that the country is doing well under President Donald Trump, which is higher than any point throughout Obama’s presidency.
The percentage who think things are going well is up from 49 percent in February and is higher than at any point since January of 2007, two years before Obama took office.
CNN mentioned that “almost 6 in 10 say things in the country are going well” in the opening paragraph of the poll writeup, but waited until the fourth paragraph to share that the number was higher than any of the times recorded during Obama’s tenure. Instead, CNN first noted that Trump’s approval rating is holding steady at 41 percent but that support for Trump on the issues is slowly climbing.
The vast improvement in the percentage of Americans who think the country is doing well is largely attributed to Democrats. Only 25 percent of Democrats said things were going well in February, while 40 percent said the same in March.
That about sums up the new, self-destructive tendency in the D.C. conservative establishment. A growing number of “free market” advocates are making the case that Facebook, a 2-billion user behemoth with no serious competitor, has every right to censor the conservative movement and its leaders.
According to this argument, Facebook isn’t an all-conquering monopoly with more power to shape opinion than the worst totalitarian governments of the 20th century. No — it’s just a little, innocent, “private company” operating in a “free market.” Just like a socially conservative cake shop in the midwest!
It’s genius, when you think about it. To counter the allegation that it censors conservatives, Facebook plans to work with conservatives who are totally OK with their movement being censored, as long as it’s a corporate superpower doing it and not the government.
It would be one thing if the think-tank conservative set were saying that the unchecked political power of Silicon Valley doesn’t warrant regulation yet, but holding out on the possibility of such regulation if things get worse. That, at least, would act as a deterrent, in much the same way that the Democrats’ threat of regulation is forcing Facebook to take action on fake news and data privacy.
But that’s not their argument. Instead, it’s the same tired 1980s dogma that free market competitors to Facebook and Google will fix the problem, and that regulation is never the answer.
“Facebook can ultimately make decisions about what kind of speech it wants to have on its platform” was the conclusion of Klon Kitchen, tech policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. Berin Szóka of TechFreedom, the go-to conservative for the “everything’s fine!” argument on social media censorship, argues that we just have to wait for the “next Facebook”, while disingenuously comparing all proposals for social media regulation to the Fairness Doctrine, a pre-1980s piece of legislation that stifled competition in broadcast media.
This argument, which can be paraphrased as “everything I don’t like is the Fairness Doctrine”, follows a similar logic to those that compare the construction of a border wall to the second coming of fascism.
None of these free market geniuses have grasped that Google and Facebook aren’t just monopolies (any first-grade economics teacher can tell you that a market dominated by monopolies is not “free”), they are unique in the vast power they have over the flow of information. No other organization in history has had the power to shape opinion, control public discourse, and influence democratic voters.
Facebook has the power to kill a news website by adjusting its algorithm without warning. They have already done so on two occasions. By signalling to news publishers that their standards are changing, Facebook has the power to change the way news organizations behave on an international scale. That’s to say nothing of their power to manipulate voter registration and turnout.
Google, meanwhile, holds a 90 percent market share in search and is even more terrifying in its power. Recent research has shown that the company can change the preferences of undecided voters by up to 80 percent, just by tweaking their search suggestions. The Soviet Union could only have dreamed of such manipulative power. And it all lies in the hands of one company, with no regulation and no oversight to contain it.
Nevermind the fact that these companies are monopolies. Even if they were not, their unaccountable political power deserves oversight in its own right. Social media companies are not like newspapers or radio stations. Nor, evidently, are they neutral platforms. They are something entirely new, and the problem of their unrivaled power cannot be addressed by reference to the past.
Don’t expect legacy conservatives to understand that, though. Armed with slogans from the 1980s, they’re still fighting the battles of a bygone era. They have abdicated the fight against the masters of the universe. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should.
The Boston Globe reported on Friday that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been secretly working with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif to save the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration has strongly criticized and might renegotiate or cancel within the next two weeks.
The Boston Globe describes Kerry’s activities as “shadow diplomacy” and an “aggressive yet stealthy” effort to save “one of his most significant accomplishments”:
John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.
He sat down at the United Nations with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.
With the Iran deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top US diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside. President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms.
Kerry also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and he’s been on the phone with top European Union official Federica Mogherini, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal the private meetings. Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York, conversing over the details of sanctions and regional nuclear threats in both French and English.
Boston Globe Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Matt Viser sought to capture how both sides of the partisan divide are responding to the news of Kerry’s “unusual” activities:
As John Kerry seeks to save the Iran deal, supporters see unflagging energy even amid potential failure. Critics may see something else: a former officeholder working with foreign officials to potentially undermine policy aims of a current administration.
As Seth Mandel of the New York Post pointed out, the “supporters” half of Viser’s formulation is a matter of partisan opinion, while the “critics” half is a literal description of what Kerry is actually doing. One suspects mainstream media coverage of, say, Condoleeza Rice jetting around Europe to secretly undermine Barack Obama’s foreign policy in 2010 would not have praised her “unflagging energy.” The Obama administration veterans and sympathizers quoted in the Boston Globe piece sound an awful lot like people either ignoring the results of a presidential election or seeking to nullify it.
There is also the question of whether Kerry’s activities violate the Logan Act, that highly controversial and almost completely ignored piece of 18th-century regulation that expressly forbids private citizens from undermining U.S. foreign policy. The relevant U.S. Code reads as follows:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
The Logan Act is something of a joke among legal scholars and political analysts, who often call for it to be repealed as obsolete rubbish because no one has ever been convicted under it… but it recently was employed as the pretext for action against President Trump’s first National Security Adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn.
Flynn was not actually charged under the Logan Act, but he pled guilty to making false statements during an investigation based upon it, as CNN explained in December 2017:
In court filings, Michael Flynn acknowledged he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about calls with foreign officials, including the Russian ambassador, to try to influence the outcome of a UN resolution in December 2016 while a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
Michael Zeldin, a former prosecutor who was a special assistant to Mueller in the Justice Department, said the outreach to foreign governments by Trump’s team at the time the Obama administration was in dispute with Israel over the vote is “facially” a violation of the Logan Act.
Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador “seems to violate what the Logan Act intended to prevent,” Zeldin said. He added that even though the Logan Act hasn’t been used successfully “it doesn’t mean that Mueller wouldn’t consider using it to pressure defendants.”
The New York Times reported in February 2017 that Obama advisers heard about Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and “grew suspicious that perhaps there had been a secret deal between the incoming team and Moscow, which could violate the rarely enforced, two-century-old Logan Act barring private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers in disputes with the United States.”
In December 2017, the NYT ran an op-ed from Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner that took the Logan Act very seriously indeed, and warned the Trump team they should “fear” it:
The statute, which has been on the books since the early days of the republic, reflects an important principle. The president is — as the Supreme Court has said time and again — “the sole organ of the nation in its external relations.” If private citizens could hold themselves out as representatives of the United States and work at cross-purposes with the president’s own diplomatic objectives, the president’s ability to conduct foreign relations would be severely hampered.
Hemel and Posner dismissed the argument that the Logan Act could be ignored because it has never been successfully prosecuted before, arguing that both Flynn and whoever directed his actions — they suggested President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — should be jailed, and even suggested impeachment proceedings for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“If the phrase ‘high crimes or misdemeanors’ means anything, it includes violation of a serious criminal statute that bars citizens from undermining the foreign policy actions of the sitting president,” they declared.
As Dan McLaughlin points out at National Review at the end of an argument for repealing the Logan Act, Kerry has potentially set himself up for more serious charges under the law than Flynn, who was “apparently acting for a duly-elected incoming presidential administration” when he committed his alleged transgression. Kerry can make no such claim.
Chief political correspondent Byron York makes the same case that investigating Flynn under the Logan Act but giving Kerry a free pass is illogical:
Have often argued that 1799 Logan Act, used as pretext to question Michael Flynn, is dead. So IMHO it’s dead for John Kerry, too. But if you believe Logan Act was used legitimately against Flynn, you’ve got to want a DOJ/FBI Kerry investigation…
York noted in December 2017 that the Logan Act was the reason Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama administration holdover, decided to interrogate Flynn:
Yates described the events in testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on May 8, 2017. She told lawmakers that the Logan Act was the first concern she mentioned to McGahn.
“The first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that Gen. Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” Yates said. That seems a clear reference to the Logan Act, although no one uttered the words “Logan Act” in the hearing at which Yates testified. “We took him [McGahn] through in a fair amount of detail of the underlying conduct, what Gen. Flynn had done.”
Yates and the aide returned to the White House the next day, Jan. 27, for another talk with McGahn. McGahn asked Yates “about the applicability of certain statutes, certain criminal statutes,” Yates testified. That led Sen. Chris Coons, who had called for an investigation of the Trump team for Logan Act violations months before, to ask Yates what the applicable statutes would be.
“If I identified the statute, then that would be insight into what the conduct was,” Yates answered. “And look, I’m not trying to be hyper-technical here. I’m trying to be really careful that I observe my responsibilities to protect classified information. And so I can’t identify the statute.”
While Yates became reticent in the witness chair, the public nevertheless knows from that “official familiar with her thinking” that Yates believed Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, a suspicion she shared with other Obama administration officials.
The coda to the Mike Flynn Logan Act saga is that a House Intelligence Committee report released on Friday made it clear that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn “didn’t think he was lying.”
A homeless man who was arrested last month after breaking into California Gov. Jerry Brown’s home in Sacramento reportedly said he only tried entering the mansion because he figured the sanctuary state politician was “an open-door policy kind of guy.”
The California Highway Patrol said 51-year-old Steven Seeley was arrested April 19 and treated at a hospital for cuts he received while breaking a window to get out of the home in downtown Sacramento, located about 10 blocks from the Capitol.
In an interview with KCRA-TV on Sunday, Seeley claimed he heard what sounded like a large cat roaring nearby, and ran in to an unlocked side door.
“He’s an open-door policy kind of guy, so I figured the door would be unlocked, or else I wouldn’t have ran over there if I thought the door would be locked,” Seeley told KCRA.
In an interview from the Sacramento County Jail on Thursday with the Sacramento Bee, Seeley said he has never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but said he does experience delusions and may be confused about the series of events.
“I was looking for the security staff, but I didn’t see anybody,” he told the paper. “I thought the governor was in trouble, I thought he was in danger of being attacked by the wild animals, so I walked in. I yelled ‘Jerry!'”
Once inside, Seeley told KCRA he hid in a closet after hearing growling again, and then jumped out a window into the fenced-in yard and fled. He then cut his arm climbing back over the fence and was taken by a Good Samaritan to a local hospital, where he was later arrested by police.
The 51-year-old said that he is an almost daily methamphetamine user, and sleeps inside a shuttered hotel located across the street from the governor’s mansion.
CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader told the Associated Press that Brown was not home at the time, but California First Lady Anne Gust Brown was upstairs. She didn’t have any contact with Seeley, according to Clader.
Clader told the Bee the property is monitored and there is “a robust on-site security presence at the residence 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“The safety of the first family continues to be our top priority and enhanced security measures remain in place,” she said.
The Golden State’s homeless population of more than 130,000 people is now about 25 percent of the nationwide total, and cleaning up after the surging group is getting costly — topping $10 million in 2016-17, according to the state’s department of transportation.
President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had his phones wiretapped by the FBI, and at least one phone call with the president was intercepted, according to a report on Thursday.
NBC News reported Thursday, citing two people with knowledge of legal proceedings involving Cohen, that federal investigators had wiretapped Cohen’s phone lines, but it is not clear how long it has been authorized.
The network said the wiretap was in place in the weeks leading up to the raids on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room in early April.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and newest member of his legal team, learned after the raid the president had made a call to Cohen, and advised him to never call again, out of concern the call was being recorded by prosecutors, according to the report.
The FBI conducted the raid on Cohen after Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred a criminal investigation on Cohen to the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel probe after Attorney General Jeff Session’s recusal from the investigation, authorized the referral.
Cohen is reportedly under investigation for bank fraud and campaign violations, possibly related to a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election to keep her from going public about an alleged affair, which he has denied.
On Wednesday, Giuliani told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that payment to the actress did not involve any campaign funds, and was later reimbursed through Trump’s $35,000 per month retainer payments to Cohen, paid out of his personal finances.
This is the second known wiretap on a Trump associate. The FBI obtained a wiretap on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in October 2016, using the infamous “pee dossier” as an essential part of the surveillance warrant application.
That wiretap was authorized and renewed four times.
Trump claimed in March, based on a Breitbart News article by Joel Pollak, that his campaign was being wiretapped — for which he was initially mocked. However, later, the Washington Post confirmed the wiretap on Page.
There are still questions over whether his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was also wiretapped