PowerLine -> The Case for Spending Caps – Today’s “collusion” non-story

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PowerLine -> The Case for Spending Caps – Today’s “collusion” non-story

Daily Digest


  • The Case for Spending Caps
  • Today’s “collusion” non-story
  • Assess this
  • The Week in Pictures: Groundhog Day Edition
  • Tim Tebow update
The Case for Spending Caps

Posted: 15 Jul 2017 03:19 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

The Budget Control Act of 2011 resolved the purported “debt ceiling crisis” of that year, when it was widely (but falsely) alleged that the U.S. would go into default if the debt ceiling were not increased. Hardly anyone liked the sequestration that resulted from that budget compromise, but I did. It was the only effective check on federal spending in my lifetime.

This video by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity makes the case for spending caps as the best way to restrain the growth of government. I think you will be impressed by the message, and I guarantee you will be impressed by the messenger, Yamila Feccia of Argentina:

  

Today’s “collusion” non-story

Posted: 15 Jul 2017 09:51 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

The anti-Trump mainstream media is buzzing with news that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military, attended the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post insist that Akhmetshin’s presence “adds to the potential seriousness of the Trump Tower gathering that is emerging this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.” I think they mean the only evidence.

But now does the attendance of this lobbyist add to the “potential seriousness” of the “gathering”? If it was inappropriate for Trump Jr. to meet with one Russian lobbyist with probable Kremlin connections, the attendance of a second doesn’t make the meeting more inappropriate.

I believe there was nothing inappropriate in hearing out a Russian source with probable Kremlin connections who claimed to have information showing collusion between Hillary Clinton and/or the Democratic Party and the Russian government. If I’m right, there was nothing inappropriate about hearing out the Russian source in the presence of Akhmetshin or listening to anything Akhmetshin might have added.

Helderman and Hamburger, as well as a team of four New York Times writers, are simply trying to keep the the “collusion” story on the front page. The fact that Akhmetshin apparently is a colorful guy is an added bonus.

The Post and the Times say, though, that this “new twist” shows lack of transparency on the part of Trump Jr. who, when he disclosed the meeting, didn’t say that other Russians were present.

I agree with the complaint that the White House has not been candid about this meeting. I voiced that complaint here.

However, I’m not convinced that the non-disclosure of Akhmetshin’s presence indicates any additional lack of candor or transparency. As far as the Post and the Times report, Trump Jr. never said that the Russian lawyer attended alone. It has been widely assumed that, at a minimum, a translator was present. Veselnitskya speaks little English.

As for the identities of others who attended, there’s no indication or reason to believe that Trump Jr. remembered them a year after the fact. The most he could be expected to remember was that a translator was present.

Apparently Akhmetshin is quite the man about town in Washington. But to Trump Jr. he probably was just some Russian guy. His presence, though noted at the time, likely would have signified nothing to the president’s son, though it might have meant something to Paul Manafort.

Today, the only significance of Akhmetshin’s presence is that, given the guy’s splashy history, the anti-Trump media can feed off this scrap of a story for a while longer.

  

Assess this

Posted: 15 Jul 2017 08:58 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

Did Putin prefer Trump in the presidential election of 2016? According to the intelligence report dated January 6, 2017, Putin not only preferred Trump to Clinton. He mounted a so-called influence campaign to put him over. The report is posted online here.

Issued under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the report is based on the intelligence and assessments of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The report as released constitutes the “declassified version of a highly classified assessment that has been provided to the President and to recipients approved by the President.”

The authors of the declassified version of the report state that their conclusions “are all reflected in the classified assessment,” although “the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.” Our own ability to evaluate the report is necessarily limited by what has been disclosed to the public.

The report conforms to the line put out by Hillary Clinton’s communications team in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s shocking loss. Perhaps that is a coincidence, or perhaps the Clintonistas were on to something.

The report also comports with the line peddled by former Obama administration officials who frequently retailed politicized “narratives” manufactured to support counterintuitive administration policies. See, for example, the long Washington Post article “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault.”

The former Obama administration officials feeding the Post feel free to blow such highly classified information as the administration’s putative cyber efforts against Russia. Trump administration officials decried the leaks to Adam Kredo for his Washington Free Beacon article on the subject.

The Washington Post article contains hints of the “highly classified” information that was omitted from the declassified version of the report. According to the Post, in August 2016 the CIA hand delivered an “eyes only” report “drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.”

The Post continued: “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump” (emphasis added).

Even this “eyes only” document must have left ambiguity about Putin’s “audacious objectives.” There is a rather big difference between the objective of damaging Hillary Clinton and the objective of defeating her. Given the unidentified sources of the leaks behind this revelation, however, one would have to be a fool to take the contents of the report or the validity of its assessments on faith.

One should think that the credibility of former government officials who betray their oaths to leak such information would be in question. Color me cynical. For whatever reason, however, the Post expresses no reservations regarding the credibility of these officials.

The Post’s long article reminded me of the dialogue Woody Allen wrote for his voiceover spy parody What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? at the point where one character shows spy hero Phil Moscowitz a printed floor plan and explains: “This is Shepherd Wong’s home.” Moscowitz asks: “He lives in that piece of paper?” In the Post story, the lowdown on Putin lives in the piece of paper stuffed into the envelope transmitted by courier from the CIA to President Obama under extraordinary handling restrictions.

If we turn back to the declassified report to arrive at our own conclusions, we are underwhelmed by the presentation. It is, shall we say, thin.

Referring to the agencies’ finding that Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Trump win the election — a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence” — the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen (no friend of Trump) put it this way in her hilariously derisive accountposted on January 9 at the site of the New York Review of Books:

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports.

But the real problems come with the findings themselves….

The report is so poorly written that it makes for painful reading. Gessen makes this point and advances her analysis as well:

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. Take, for example, this phrase: “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.” I think, though I cannot be sure, that the authors of the report are speculating that Moscow gave the products of its hacking operation to WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is known as a reliable source. The next line, however, makes this speculation unnecessary: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

Or consider this: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Did Putin’s desire to discredit Clinton stem from his own public statements, or are the intelligence agencies basing their appraisal of Putin’s motives on his public statements? Logic suggests the latter, but grammar indicates the former. The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

Gessen observes at one point: “That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements.”

Along with disparaging comments on Trump, Gessen concludes that the report “suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information[.]” I won’t try to summarize Gessen’s devastating assessment of the report. You really have to read the whole thing.

Power Line readers are probably already familiar with Andy McCarthy’s invaluable assessment of the report in his NRO column “Missing from the intelligence report: The word ‘Podesta.’” It too is necessary reading.

  

The Week in Pictures: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted: 15 Jul 2017 04:57 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

As I surveyed the cartoons, memes, and photos in the large inventory for this week, I couldn’t help but think—”Isn’t this just like last week? And the week before? Is CNN still beclowning itself? Is Trump still provoking Tweetrages? More Russia fanaticism from everyone? Is Gov. Christie still on that beach?” I’m afraid right now that we may be in this pattern for the next three and a half years. It’s a Groundhog Day presidency. And it will drive the left out of their minds.

   

 

 

 

  

 

How long will it take Trump to tweet this out?

 

  

 

Headlines of the week:

Pro tip: Never re-enact the Dirty Dancing scene. It wasn’t that good to begin with.

Questions no one is asking:

What happens when teddy bears do meth?

And finally. . .

 

  

Tim Tebow update

Posted: 14 Jul 2017 08:21 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)Last month, the New York Mets promoted Tim Tebow from Columbia in the South Atlantic League (“Low A” ball) to St. Lucie, a “High A” team in the Florida State League. Tebow hadn’t done anything to deserve the promotion. At the time, he was batting .222, with an on-base percentage of .311 and a slugging percentage of .340.

As I noted, though, the move made financial sense for the Mets. They don’t own the Columbia team, but they do own St. Lucie. Thus, they stood to benefit from the boost in attendance that the presence of this Florida football legend would surely generate.

Nor was the move ridiculous from a pure baseball standpoint. As I said at the time, Tebow is 29 years old. The Mets might as well find out now whether he can stay afloat against “High A” pitching, while they reap the financial reward of having him play for a team they own.

So, how is Tebow doing in Florida? Extremely well. In 17 games, with 53 at-bats, he’s batting .321, with an on-base percentage of .410 and a slugging percentage of .566. That’s not staying afloat; it’s swimming away from the pack.

Yesterday, Tebow hit a walk-off home run to defeat Daytona. It was his third homer since joining St. Lucie. He hit only three in 214 at-bats for Low A Columbia.

What’s the explanation for Tebow tearing up a High A league after being overmatched at the Low A level? I don’t know.

It was always possible that things might suddenly start to click for Tebow, who is a newcomer to professional baseball. Maybe being back in Florida helped. Still, going from an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .651 to .976 after moving to a higher classification of baseball is astonishing, even taking into account the small sample size in Florida.

What’s next for Tebow? Another promotion if he keeps hitting the way he has been, I should think.

Not to the major leagues, though. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson says he doesn’t foresee Tebow playing for the Mets this season.

You can watch Tebow’s walk-off home run, and the celebration that followed, below.

  

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