PowerLine -> More darkness at the Washington Post

PowerLine -> More darkness at the Washington Post

Daily Digest


More darkness at the Washington Post

Posted: 15 Jun 2017 04:34 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

I wrote here about a Washington Post story by Philip Rucker regarding whether President Trump will fire Robert Mueller. I found the Rucker’s piece intellectually dishonest because he never identified the main argument being advanced by those who advocate firing Mueller — namely a possible conflict of interest due to Mueller’s close relationship with James Comey, who likely would be the key witness in any case of “obstruction of justice” and might even become a target of the investigation due to his leaking.

Post columnist David Ignatius makes essentially the same omission in a column arguing that “firing Mueller would be disastrous.” Ignatius mentions the possibility of a conflict of interest, but dismisses it “because the Justice Department’s ethics office has already decided that Mueller doesn’t have a conflict resulting from his law firm’s representation of Trump family members.”

Ignatius is indulging in ignorance of what is stake. The conflict argument isn’t based on work performed by Mueller’s law firm. It’s based on Mueller’s personal relationship with Comey.

The Washington Post editorial page, where darkness has not quite descended, acknowledges this. It thereby highlights, albeit inadvertently, the intellectual dishonesty of Rucker and Iganatius.

The editors write:

Though the special counsel has a sterling reputation and broad bipartisan support, one charge is that he is friends with former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump unceremoniously sacked, which could color his views on the president and his circle. Another apparent concern is that Mr. Mueller hired staff who donated money to Democrats in the past.

We do not dismiss the concerns. Given the stakes, it is incumbent on Mr. Mueller to live up to his reputation and run a spotless investigation. He may, for example, insulate as much as possible any obstruction-of-justice probe from anyone who could be open to any kind of partisan attack.

(Emphasis added)

I don’t see how Mueller could so “insulate” the obstruction probe, given his own closeness with Comey and the partisanship of his key advisers. But at least the Post’s editors are willing to engage the issue.

Rucker and Ignatius, by contrast, want to keep Post readers in the dark. Unfortunately, their approach seems prevalent at the Post these days.

New Study Explodes Common Air Pollution Claims

Posted: 15 Jun 2017 03:43 PM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Ten years ago in Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks, Joel Schwartz and I wrote this:

Air pollution affects far fewer people, far less often, and with far less severity than is commonly believed. . . The air pollution-mortality claim deserves even greater skepticism. First, is is based on the same unreliable correlation moderns that have led medical authorities astray in other areas. Second, even though pollution was correlated with higher premature mortality on average, it seemed to protect against death in about one-third of cities. How could pollution kill people in some cities and save them in others? More likely, both results are chance correlations rather than real effects. Third, researchers have been unable to kill animals in laboratory experiments, even when they expose them to air pollution at levels many times greater than ever occur in the United States. This suggests that air pollution at today’s record-low levels doesn’t pose a risk, and current standards are health-protective with plenty of room to spare.

Well, you can imagine how this was received. The American Lung Association went as far as to ban us from their annual press conference for their egregiously sensational “State of the Air” report that year. They knew we were going to embarrass them.

Well, well. Just out two days ago in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology:

Air quality and acute deaths in California, 2000–2012

S. Stanley Young, Richard L. Smith, and Keneth K. Lopiano.

Abstract

Many studies have shown an association between air quality and acute deaths, and such associations are widely interpreted as causal. Several factors call causation and even association into question, for example multiple testing and multiple modeling, publication bias and confirmation bias. Many published studies are difficult or impossible to reproduce because of lack of access to confidential data sources. Here we make publically available a dataset containing daily air quality levels, PM2.5 and ozone, daily temperature levels, minimum and maximum and daily maximum relative humidity levels for the eight most populous California air basins, thirteen years, >2M deaths, over 37,000 exposure days. The data are analyzed using standard time series analysis, and a sensitivity analysis is computed varying model parameters, locations and years. Our analysis finds little evidence for association between air quality and acute deaths. These results are consistent with those for the widely cited NMMAPS dataset when the latter are restricted to California. The daily death variability was mostly explained by time of year or weather variables; Neither PM2.5 nor ozone added appreciably to the prediction of daily deaths. These results call into question the widespread belief that association between air quality and acute deaths is causal/near-universal. (Emphasis added.)

This isn’t the first such academic study to reach this conclusion. I am certain environmentalists and regulators will continue to ignore findings like this.

 

Why Are Liberals Always So Upset?

Posted: 15 Jun 2017 09:41 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Yesterday on our VIP live webcast, we talked briefly about the sources of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), which I argue predates Trump and would likely be present if any other Republican, even mild-mannered Jeb Bush, were in the White House right now. TDS has its roots in the lazy presumption that liberalism represents “the side of history,” as though “History” is a self-conscious thing with only one direction. This presumption is, in fact, a secular version of divine Providence. Hence for liberals, when they lose elections, the fault is not theirs or their candidate’s but represents some kind of ghastly mistake if not a fraud against history. Cue up Russians, dirty tricks, hanging chads, whatever. A large portion of the left has not accepted the legitimacy of each Republican president starting with Nixon.

If you want to see this at work, I refer you to a book out in March from Ruy Tiexeira of the Center for American Progress, The Optimistic Left: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think. I’ve met Ruy a couple of times, and unlike many people on the left, he is a pleasant human being to know. In fact, we once had a long lunch discussing some ideas for a conference we might do together, but both got too busy to follow up. I think Ruy is on to something in this book, namely, that liberalism became a dark and pessimistic creed starting in the 1960s and 1970s, and that this has been debilitating to liberalism. His publisher sent me the advance galleys of the book last fall, which I put in my reading stack and didn’t get back to, until I saw Damon Linker of The Week take after Teixeria in a recent column, saying that “Because his optimism inspires such complacency, Teixeira is a dangerous man for Democrats to have around.”

Well now. I decided to pick up the galleys and have a look. And while I think much of the book is credible even if mistaken on policy, there were two early sentences that brought me up short, starting with this one on page 1: “. . . Democrats have won three straight presidential elections. . .” Wait, what the hell is he talking about? Is he talking about FDR in 1940? I thought this book was about current times.

Then, page 3: “Barack Obama’s two presidential victories were followed by routs in the Congressional elections of 2010 and 2014, and new President Hillary Clinton. . .” (Emphasis added.) Ah—now I get it. Of course books have to be written with long lead times and anticipate events to some extent, but if you’re a liberal and you think History is on your side, and you believe the polls (I did) that Hillary was a lock to beat Donald Trump, then the comedown after losing to Donald Trump must be the psychic equivalent to withdrawals after you run out of heroin.

Once upon a time, liberals like John Stuart Mill understood that the progress of civilization was not necessarily an irreversible process, and today’s left is doing it’s best to prove Mill was right.

Should Trump fire Mueller, Part Four

Posted: 15 Jun 2017 09:11 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

As Scott noted this morning, the Washington Post reports that the “special counsel’s” investigation has widened to include an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice. There’s a good chance that the report is based on leaks from Mueller’s team.

Whatever the source of the leaks, the purpose seems obvious — to make it more politically costly for Trump to fire Mueller. If he sacked Mueller, Trump could no longer say, as he did when he sacked Comey, that he’s not a target of the investigation.

If any of the leaks come from Mueller’s team, as seems likely, this would confirm that he’s just another Washington “power player” — a “very DC animal,” as one source told me — like his good friend Jim Comey. I’ve always doubted the notion that Mueller is an above reproach, agenda-less, play it, straight guy. Indeed, I’m not sure that specimen exists in Washington.

In any event, now that we know Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice, the conflict of interest arising from his close relationship with Comey becomes acuter. As I’ve argued before, Comey will surely be at the heart of any investigation of alleged obstruction by the president. I question whether Mueller can fairly investigate claims in which his friend figures so centrally. I’m certain he cannot do so without at least the appearance of partiality.

Andy McCarthy argues that “too much is made of Mueller’s being pals with Jim Comey.” But the two are more than just pals who enjoy a “cordial relationship” (as Andy puts it). They were comrades-in-arms during the events that made Comey’s career — the showdown with the Bush administration over reauthorizing a key surveillance program. And Comey’s gushing testimony about Mueller evinces a warm and deep relationship.

McCarthy says it’s unlikely that Comey will be a witness in Mueller’s probe and, if he becomes one, “we can trust Mueller at that point to apply the relevant ethical rules and decide. .whether his recusal is required to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”

Yesterday, when McCarthy published this, there was no indication that Mueller is investigating the president for obstruction of justice. Now, if the Post’s report is correct, we know that Mueller is. This places Comey front-and-center, not because his testimony makes out a legitimate case of obstruction in what Comey has alleged, but because it almost certainly is part of the basis for the case of obstruction — legitimate or not — that is being investigated.

In my view, then, we are at the point where Mueller must decide whether his recusal is required to avoid the appearance of impropriety. He may already have decided that recusal is not required.

I don’t trust him to make the right decision. His interest, I suspect, is in remaining the ultimate non-elected Washington power player. In addition, it’s hard to imagine him telling his recently-assembled dream team, “sorry folks, I’m done here.”

We frequently hear that if President Trump were to fire Mueller, it would trigger a “constitutional crisis.” Maybe. For sure, Trump’s enemies would say so.

But suppose in a year or two (or maybe during the 2020 election season), Mueller decides — based on the work and recommendations of leftists like Michael Dreeben and Clintonistas like Jeannie Rhee — to find that the president of the United States obstructed justice, thereby triggering impeachment. Might not that create a constitutional crisis?

Trump’s enemies would call it a vindication of the Constitution, not a crisis. But many others would regard it as something like an attempted coup.

In our fractured polity, there is no consensus about what amounts to a constitutional crisis (or perhaps even whether there’s anything wrong with one). It’s always a question of whose ox is gored.

For Trump, the Mueller question comes down to take the pain now or (very possibly) take pain later. The the pain Trump would take now for firing Mueller is certain. If he doesn’t fire Mueller, he might not take pain later, but if he does, the pain will be more severe.

New York Times Hits a New Low

Posted: 15 Jun 2017 08:14 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Naturally, the New York Times shows up this morning with an editorial entitled “America’s Lethal Politics,” which includes the following:

In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But no connection to that crime was ever established.

That’s because there was no connection between political rhetoric or the “targets” on Sarah Palin’s PAC map and the Giffords shooting. The shooter, Jared Loughner, was a mentally deranged person whose politics, if he could be said to have had any at all, were distinctly left wing. But the Times can’t help itself.

In fact, the original version of this editorial did not have that last sentence saying that “no connection” had been established. They hastily appended a correction:

If the Times had any decency they’d retract the whole editorial. But I wonder if the Times editorial page hasn’t just decided to give up trying to be serious at all, and is now joining the trolling brigades.

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