Super Fun Reaction to the President’s Address

This evening, the President gave a surprisingly competent speech to the nation, laying out a number of his major policy initiatives. I’m going through his address while watching it on TV (thanks, spring break, for giving me this free time). Afterwards, I’ll back up some of my statements with links and stuff. In the coming hours and days, you’ll probably see a bunch of fact-checkers and analysts sifting through this speech (NYT, 538, PFWP), so it’s probably a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with the text of his speech, especially since I didn’t have the chance to react to everything he said (and believe me, there were a lot of things that deserved reactions). Better yet, just watch the address.

(NOTE: This was written the evening of 2/28/17 and published the next afternoon)

8:58p: Paul Ryan and Mike Pence are twinning today – white shirt, blue tie, black jacket. Certain conservatives are probably quite pleased at their style choices.

9:12p: We’re not yet at the substantive part, but I just want to say that Trump’s hand gestures are distracting – it’s something he does when he’s reading a teleprompter. It’s like a pincer movement or an “OK” hand sign or something. To me, it’s one of the giveaways for when one is speaking off a teleprompter versus speaking extemporaneously. When he speaks off-script, he uses other, less restrained gestures. Presidents Obama/Bush/Clinton could easily deviate from their scripts without giving it away so easily. Of course, that’s just because they had more practice and are better public speakers than the Donald is, and it has little to do with their respective policies.

9:14p: “quiet protest” “quiet voices” lol

9:17p: Demanding cost-cutting on the F-35 program is one of those things that sounds great, but might not get anywhere. The Joint Strike Fighter is expensive, and it’ll take somewhere around $42,000/hour to fly during combat missions. The JSF is also going to take a lot more money to test and rejigger to keep the planes airworthy and maintain their superiority. Good luck coercing Lockheed Martin to cut costs without curtailing their ability to get the F-35 up to top shape.

By the way, Trump publicly called for Lockheed Martin to cut costs on the F-35 with an intimidation trick, calling for Boeing to price out a refitted F/A-18 Super Hornet with modern electronics and stealth capabilities. That’s a terrible idea for a bunch of reasons, namely that there is no way to make a stealth F/A-18 that even comes close to the stealthiness of the F-35. Designing a stealth aircraft requires extensive planning from “day one,” and contrary to what Trump may believe, Boeing can’t just slap a black radar-absorbing skin on an F/A-18 and make it even remotely comparable to the legitimately-stealthy F-35. Just look at the bulky F/A-18 compared to the sleek F-35.

9:24p: “Radical Islamic Terrorism” is the biggest, most useless political controversy ever. It’s some sort of magical Rumpelstiltskin phrase that a bunch of Republicans have waved around to try and make Democrats look weak (“President Obama won’t even call them Radical Islamic Terrorists!”) in idiotic campaign aids like this. If the administration continues using “Radical Islamic Terrorism” as a common moniker, ISIS isn’t going to shake its fist and go “oh no, you got us.” Bombs, rifle companies, and tank battalions will do that. Changing the name for global terrorism won’t do a thing, and might actually do more harm than good considering how it lumps in Islam with terrorism. Just ask General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security advisor.

9:25p: IT’S NOT UNCONTROLLED ENTRY!

9:27p: Actually, it was the Heritage Foundation’s list of 20 judges.

9:28p: Confirmed unanimously by the Senate, not the Court of Appeals.

9:29p: Trump is forgetting that automation is killing a crapton of manufacturing jobs. Saying “we’ve lost X jobs since NAFTA” is a misleading way to say “we’ve lost jobs since 1994” because it attributes all the job loss to NAFTA and not to car-manufacturing robots. The reality is that cutting free trade and installing worker protections will not bring back American manufacturing/middle-class jobs because automation has already removed a lot of those jobs from the equation.

Don’t just take that article’s word or my word for it. Think about it yourself. Everyone knows that robots are taking over a large part of the car manufacturing industry, and self-driving cars are threatening taxi drivers and Uber drivers with their improving capabilities. Christ, ever since the advent of the self-checkout counter or the mechanized loom, robots/machines have been taking over human jobs. Remember, we used to have elevator operators before engineers wired up elevators with buttons. You may have even heard Trump’s former Labor nominee Andrew Puzder complain about his filthy human workers and dream of an automated futureBy reducing job loss to free trade alone, Trump is ignoring a ginormous labor issue for political purposes.

9:30p: Trade deficits aren’t actually that bad. Trade deficits come about when American consumers decide to buy foreign goods. It’s not a symbol of American manufacturing weakness, it’s a symbol of a powerful free market. Marketplace Radio’s Sabri Ben-Achour (whose name I just learned how to spell after hearing him speak for 11+ years) covered the issue of trade deficits quite well.

9:31p: Tariffs and import taxes will hurt American consumers, too. If you raise the price on foreign goods and Americans try to buy those goods, they’re going to have to shell out more or just not buy those goods. For once, I agree with the National Review here.

9:32p: thank god Trump didn’t take a Harley out for a spin. woulda given his USSS protection detail a collective heart attack.

9:33p: Free trade is a conservative idea – Obama would have needed Ryan and McConnell to help pass the TPP. Free trade is like the world version of a free market. Of course, worker protections are important, but it’s kind of strange to see so many pro-NAFTA/pro-TPP legislators applauding opposition to the TPP. Whenever Trump talks about trade, it’s only about NAFTA, TPP, and tariffs. Nothing about the parts of free trade that he actually likes.

9:34p: Great, great wall on the southern border? Sure, but it’s not going to be cheap.

9:37p: Infrastructural rejiggering/rebuilding sounds pretty great, tbh. Of course, Trump’s “national rebuilding” stimulus will take $1 trillion, which means the budget will have to cut out a trillion in other spending or taxes will have to go up somewhere else. McConnell and Ryan are going to have a stroke if Trump asks them to raise taxes, which means he’s going to need Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to help out.

9:38p: “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated!” – Trump, inexplicably.

9:39p: According to a CNN/ORC poll, the majority of Americans believe that the Affordable Care Act needs either minor or major improvements. I would cite it, but I can’t find the damn thing.

9:40p: Self-fulfilling prophecies make it easy for red states to criticize Obamacare because a bunch of states refused Obama’s Medicaid expansion proposal. Governor John Kasich of Ohio famously accepted it and supported it, but 19 other states weren’t so lucky. By refusing to accept some of the most helpful provisions of Obamacare, it’s easier to call it a failure.

9:42p: So many House Democrats on their phones rn. Also, I think I just saw Senator Gillibrand (yay) in one of the front rows.

9:43p: tbt to when Trump didn’t have any other ideas than removing lines around the states and Marco “Domo Arigato” Rubio trashed him for it.

9:44p: Recently, two people have played Trump on SNL – Alec Baldwin, and Darrell Hammond. Hammond isn’t playing Trump anymore, but Trump’s mannerisms match Hammond’s portrayal spot-on, especially with the “stepping back from the mic and lifting his chin up while nodding” shtick.

9:45p: One of the easiest ways to invest in the health of womanfolk (that’s a word, right?) is to increase/maintain funding for Planned Parenthood. Congressional Republicans are obviously not a fan of that, so Trump better have an alternative for that.

9:45p: How the hell do you revitalize the coal industry and maintain clean air and clean water? Is Trump an EPA wizard? If so, how’s he going to work his magic under the spectre of massive EPA budget cuts?

9:46p: Man, Pompe Disease is weird. Good for her father for helping his daughter.

9:48p: Sens. Cruz and Sanders had a conversation during their healthcare debate that pertained to opening up experimental drug testing to desperate patients.

9:48p: Don’t forget the civil rights issue of LGBT rights in public schools. Remember, Attorney General Sessions and Education Secretary DeVos actually had a heated debate within the Oval Office about transgender bathroom rights. While this isn’t 100% confirmed, insider sources claim that Trump threatened to fire DeVos if she didn’t back down on those protections (disclaimer: not all sources back this claim up, and the White House is understandably less than transparent on this).

9:50p: Charter schools/school choice is one of those things that could actually turn out pretty well, but endanger public schools. Public schools get their funding depending on enrollment, and giving students a choice to leave public school is great on an individual level but runs the risk of making public schools even worse.

9:54p: Yeah, this is one of the strongest arguments in favor of border/customs security.

9:56p: Trump’s $54 billion addition to the defense/VA budget could be really neat, but I’m not so sure about cutting $54 billion from non-defense discretionary spending. Right now, the EPA and foreign aid spending are both on the chopping block. Trump’s mention of clean air and clean water depends on the continued functioning of the EPA.

9:57p: Not-so-fun fact of the day, Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. Biden III’s brain cancer may have come from a toxic trash incinerator in an Iraqi camp. The Army failed to recognize this for the longest time, and as a result a lot of soldiers suffered. Had the VA done more earlier, Beau Biden may not have died an untimely death. Who knows, we may have even had President Joe. But I digress.

9:58p: Owens’ father-in-law is presently demanding an investigation into the causes for CPO Owens’ death and the events leading up to the raid. Remember, a V-22 Osprey went down and had to be destroyed, a high-value target escaped/wasn’t present, and there were communications issues between the SEALs and USS Makin Island. That doesn’t mean the raid failed, or that Trump is to blame (after all, raids go wrong all the time).

9:58p: If you ask me, it wasn’t highly successful. The raid missed the key high-value target, and it’s unclear what sort of actionable intel the SEALs obtained.

9:59p: Still, CPO Owens’ name is etched in eternity, if nothing else because of this moment. Regardless of whether the raid was highly successful/partially successful/a failure, he still died in uniform in the service of the United States Navy and the United States of America. I’m glad (and, strangely, proud) of the way Trump handled that moment.

10:00p: so many feels, so so many feels

10:02p: Only four European countries are meeting their “2% of annual budget goes to NATO” commitment. Aside from the United States, only the UK, Greece, Poland, and Estonia meet that requirement. Not coincidentally, the latter two have the most to fear from a loss of NATO cohesion.

10:03p: Yeah, no. Like it or not, the President of the United States always represents the Free World. Trump represents America, but he can’t shirk the responsibility of representing the Western World. As a result, the President must lead NATO, lead the world economy, and help build partners abroad with foreign aid and strong, open diplomacy. President Kennedy and President Reagan stood in front of the Berlin Wall to pledge support to West Germany and call for the liberation of the Eastern Bloc, not on behalf of the United States, but on behalf of all free people. And let’s not forget President Whitmore’s speech to the world’s air coalition.

10:05p: Trump’s right – we’re best buddies with Vietnam, Japan, Germany, Italy, and a bunch of other countries we’ve previously fought against. By the way, we’re friends with those countries because we trade with them, and helped rebuild/revitalize those countries after we finished fighting them. Foreign aid, yo. 

10:06p: To celebrate our 250th anniversary, we celebrate the gift of dank memes.

10:08p: Yeah, no. Trivial fights will continue about tiny, insignificant stuff, guaranteed.

10:15p: Wow, that was…pretty decent. To be honest, this speech was light on details and weak on substance, but it sounded good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s ratings get a temporary boost. If he follows through on his promises and continues to act in this manner, that temporary boost could last.

—DEM. RESPONSE, CONDUCTED BY FORMER KENTUCKY GOV. STEVEN BESHEAR—

10:21p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Steve Beshear seems…confused. “I am a Democrat, but first and foremost I am a proud Republican, and a Democrat, and an American.” ????????

10:22p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Okay, I get that he’s trying to be folksy, but holding a response to a Presidential address by sitting in a diner in the middle of the night with a bunch of inanimate objects  his neighbors is… depressing.

10:24p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Remember, Kentucky had a huge drop in its uninsured rate when Obamacare came to town. One bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy was right. Despite all of the legitimate criticisms of Obamacare and its flaws, the law definitely helped a lot of Kentuckians. Because of that improved health care access, a lot of lower/middle-class Kentuckians had the opportunity to go to doctors and get checkups. That sort of thing saves lives, because it means doctors can catch diseases earlier.

10:27p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): REAGAN SHOUTOUT!

10:28p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): The other day, President George W. Bush spoke out against these attacks on the free press. I suggest you watch that.

 

I leave you tonight with this statement from anti-Trump Republican consultant/commentator Ana Navarro (@ananavarro):

You can disagree w/him on policy, but this is most Presidential Trump has ever sounded. If I had amnesia, I might even forget he is insane.

 

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Brief Thoughts: On DNC Chairman Tom Perez

Today, 435 of the Democratic National Committee’s 447 members voted to select their Chairman. With a majority of 235 out of 435 votes, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez edged out Representative Keith Ellison and secured his place as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

As Chairman, Perez has the ability to help dictate and shape a national strategy to retake over a thousand lost seats in a bunch of state legislatures, governor’s mansions, and Congress (oh, and the White House). Perez also has the responsibility to help unite the Democratic Party after months of tense ideological conflict between its “establishment” and “progressive” wings, in part because he himself is a progressive Democrat who became the race’s establishment candidate by default.

His first act out of the gate was to nominate Representative Keith Ellison as the DNC’s Deputy Chair, serving directly under Perez. I was initially a little worried that the two friends would be unable to help bridge the DNC’s ideological differences, but it appears my worries are unfounded. Of course, the party is going to have a tough time balancing hardcore progressive activists against more moderate/centrist incumbents, but with their message of unity, I suspect that there’ll be less focus on primarying candidates of an insufficient level of ideological purity, and more focus on taking down Republican candidates in general elections (yay).

Both Perez and Ellison have an immense amount of organizing ability, and the two will make a formidable team in conducting the new Democratic agenda. Among his many stated goals, Perez wants the party’s organizers to focus on the following (paraphrasing here):

  • Regain seats in every office, from state legislatures to Senate seats to school board seats.
  • Pick up seats in traditionally red states and preserve existing ones, like Jon Tester’s Senate seat in Montana and Claire McCaskill’s in Missouri.
  • Bring back rural and suburban areas (see: states like Iowa) to the Democratic Party.
  • Ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term President.

Because Perez’s role as DNC Chairman and Ellison’s role as Deputy are both based around fundraising and organization, they don’t have a whole lot of power in actually setting policy. Both men want a $15 minimum wage in every state, along with a more effective social safety net and civil liberties for everyone, but they can only effect that change through indirect means (see also: $$$$$). In order to attain the Democratic Party’s favored policy measures, Chairman Perez needs to start raising metric buttloads of cash and funneling them into vulnerable swing districts and Senate campaigns. “Money out of politics” is a catchy chant, but ultimately the donations of a gajillion committed Party members (+ support from business, let’s be real here) will decide the victors of state, local, and federal elections. Previous chairmen like Howard Dean came up with organizational strategies like the “50-state strategy” with the intent of allowing Democrats to become competitive in every possible state, maintaining majorities in stronghold states and sizable oppositions in red states. If we repeat that strategy, the Democratic Party will need to pull in tens of millions of dollars each month just to keep pace with the Republican Party’s deep coffers.

With Chairman Tom Perez at the helm (and Deputy Keith Ellison at his side) I have little doubt in my mind that the DNC’s fundraising goals can be met and surpassed. There’s a crapton of energy in this nation at their disposal, and if anyone can harness it, it’s going to be a progressive* Labor Secretary and an even-more-progressive Congressman with the credentials, energy, and ideals to take back the United States government. The two have connections to a bunch of labor unions, grassroots organizations, and previous connected party leaders.

(*Side note: Chairman Perez isn’t quite as liberal as Ellison, but they’re pretty close. The attribution of Perez as an establishment figure comes from supporters like me who are more moderate, and are therefore slightly more inclined to follow Perez’s brand of progressive ideology than Ellison’s. For instance, Perez supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Ellison does not.)

If there is a road leading to the successful reconquest of the political majority, I suspect these two leaders have just taken the first step down that road.

 

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Really Brief Thoughts: General H.R. McMaster

Today, 20 February 2017, President Trump nominated Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to fill General Michael Flynn’s role as his National Security Advisor.

I don’t know much about General McMaster’s current policies and how he stands on Iran and Russia and stuff, but I can say that McMaster is one of the most highly-respected field commanders in the United States Army, having served as an Army Captain in the magnificent ass-kicking that was Operation Desert Storm. Others probably know him as a prolific writer who has been more than willing to challenge old ideas and general status quo stuff. General McMaster also has a pretty clear idea of what the military is and how it should be used: According to McMaster, military deployments require clear and achievable plans of action, and that civilian leaders need to be challenged and prompted for details if no such plan is provided. That means vague concepts like “stopping communism by propping up a weak South Vietnam indefinitely” and “nation-building” fall by the wayside because of their subjective nature. His most famous book (which criticized Vietnam), Dereliction of Duty, is on the USMC reading list because it’s just that good.

But enough about important policy specifics that have the potential to shape the way that Trump will use the military, I just want to talk about McMaster’s exploits in Desert Storm, namely at the Battle of 73 Easting (yes, that’s the name of the place – its longitude was at 73 degrees east).

Back in 1991, Captain McMaster and his troop of tanks deployed to Iraq as a component of Desert Storm. His troop of M1 Abrams tanks was going about their day, rolling across the Iraqi desert with the intention of blowing up any hostile Iraqi Republican Guard forces and securing the area for continued ground operations. On 26 February, McMaster’s Eagle Troop found themselves a bunch of Republican Guard tanks, personnel carriers, and assorted trucks and stuff. In terms of sheer numbers, the Republican Guard’s twenty-eight tanks vastly outnumbered McMaster’s nine. Worse yet, the Republican Guard commander was a graduate of a US Army training program based in Fort Benning, so he knew his stuff.

Unfortunately for the Iraqis, McMaster knew his stuff too, and his nine leading tanks blasted the hell out of their opponents, riding through battle while launching wire-guided missiles and explosive rounds. To avoid enemy fire, McMaster’s forces did what tacticians called the “kick ass” approach. Instead of dodging shells and undergoing complex maneuvers, McMaster’s forces took a shortcut and just blew up every hostile vehicle in sight. In all, Eagle Troop took down twenty-eight Iraqi tanks and around fifty other vehicles in a little over twenty minutes, leaving the battlefield with zero casualties and a bunch of prisoners in tow.

For his actions at 73 Easting and in other Desert Storm engagements, Captain McMaster won the Silver Star. Six days short of the twenty-sixth anniversary of the 73 Easting engagement, now-General McMaster is the President’s National Security Advisor. While I have no illusions about Trump’s immense leadership/character flaws, I’m happy that General McMaster is in his inner circle to keep him relatively level.

 

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Brief Thoughts: The Yemen Raid

Donald Trump is in the process of learning why every Commander-in-Chief before him has left the office of President with way more gray hair than normal. I think we should cut him some slack on this one.

On 29 January, a daring Navy SEAL raid infiltrated a Yemeni village with the intent of capturing or killing a top al-Qaeda commander and seizing a large amount of digital intelligence. The operation succeeded in securing a treasure trove of data, but not without cost – a V-22 Osprey aircraft was destroyed, thirty civilians died, and Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in action. Last Wednesday, his remains were brought to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where the President and his daughter stood to receive them.

I don’t claim to have much of a clue as to what goes on in Donald Trump’s head, but I’m willing to hazard a guess that his visit to Dover was probably a somber conclusion to one of the darkest moments of his Presidency. I can only imagine how he must have felt.

There are a lot of questions about the planning and approval for this raid, many of them involving the manner in which the raid was green-lighted. I’m not going to talk about them now, because these details are disputed between the White House, the Pentagon, former White House/DoD officials, and multiple media outlets. They are serious questions regarding the readiness of our military and Trump’s preparedness to be the C-in-C, but I am not equipped to comment on them at this time.

I’m here to say that raids aren’t always perfect operational successes. In fact, it’s pretty common for operations to go wrong, even if all the planning was done flawlessly. In this case, things did go wrong – a SEAL lost his life, USS Makin Island was unable to provide sufficient medevac support, an Osprey went down, and a number of civilians lost their lives. The reality is that this sort of thing happens all the time, regardless of whether or not the President is particularly well-equipped to handle this situation.

I don’t like basing articles off of anecdotes where I cannot point to, or do not wish to point to, specific evidence, but this is an exception because I have been hearing a lot of criticism thrown towards the conduct of this raid, as if Trump himself were responsible for the casualties of the operation. While he obviously is responsible for the operation itself, it’s unreasonable to suggest that he is responsible for the loss of life and the failure to meet all of the raid’s goals, especially because we do not yet know the full extent of what happened that night (for instance, some of the civilian casualties could have been from an explosive detonated by the occupants of the stronghold or stray bullets from those same terrorists). Had this been President Obama or either President Bush at the helm, this operation still could have gone south, and it wouldn’t necessarily have been their fault.

The historic raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was a massive success – no SEALs were killed and the operatives were able to kill bin Laden and retrieve an ungodly amount of data. However, it came dangerously close to failure on at least one occasion, even though the generals and admirals in charge of the plan had gone through nearly every contingency. At the beginning of the raid, two stealth Black Hawk helicopters made their way to the compound and descended into its courtyard – one Black Hawk stalled out and plummeted several stories to the ground, crashing with its tail propped up against the wall of the compound. The SEALs escaped the wrecked chopper and continued with their mission, but it’s entirely possible that helicopter crash could have killed a number of operatives and forced the team to abandon the operation altogether. While this was going down, the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State/woman-who-should-have-been-President (grumble grumble) were all watching in anxious anticipation at the White House Situation Room, not knowing if they had just witnessed a catastrophic failure or a daring save.

obama_and_biden_await_updates_on_bin_laden
Situation Room, Pete Souza.

You’ve probably seen this picture a hundred times. According to photographer Pete Souza and President Obama, this shot was taken just as news was coming in of the Black Hawk crash. The President and Secretaries Gates and Clinton all said that the 38-minute raid represented the longest minutes of their lives.

As we all know by now, the operation was a success and Osama bin Laden was neutralized along with a number of his loyalists, but the mission easily could have been a disaster for the Obama Administration and for the United States. Still, this was the best opportunity the White House had to stop bin Laden, and they gambled and won.

Anyways, getting back on point, I don’t know the full story about the raid in Yemen, other than the fact that there were some heavy losses despite an overall success – like I said, there are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered over the next few weeks. I just want to provide some perspective here, showing that things can, and often do, go horribly wrong. Often, the President cannot control or divine how successful an op can be. Don’t be too hasty to dismiss the raid’s casualties as a result of Trump’s inexperience, because this sort of thing happens. We like to think of SEALs as invincible god-like troopers, parachuting onto destroyers to save Tom Hanks from pirates, sniping insurgents from mountains, and ending the reign of terror of the most wanted man alive, but they put their lives at risk every day. Raids like this happen all the time, and we can’t always expect them to go 100% smoothly. Maybe this was a factor of bad planning, maybe it was just a few unlucky shots.

 

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Brief Thoughts: Diversity and the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court could use some diversity. I don’t mean racial diversity, by the way (though that sort of thing is also welcome). I mean law school diversity, because right now there are only three law schools that have a presence on the bench of the Supreme Court: Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. At multiple points during his tenure, the late Justice Antonin Scalia recommended that more justices and clerks come from different top-tier law schools such that the court would better represent the nation. Granted, he said that in his dissent on Obergefell v. Hodges, where he was criticizing the Supreme Court’s tendency to act as a legislative body, and said that the Court’s judicial activism was in part problematic because the Court didn’t look like the nation, but still.

 

I have no expectation that Donald Trump will suddenly nominate a liberal at some point during his term, but I think it’s worth noting that he has the opportunity to nominate lawyers from other schools, and that his pool of great minds is open to other schools. As of the time of writing, Trump is considering filling Justice Scalia’s seat with one of three conservatives: Judge William Pryor (Harvard), Judge Neil Gorsuch (Harvard), and Thomas Hardiman (Georgetown). By the aforementioned metric, Judge Hardiman would be a nice break from the usual Harvard+Yale+Columbia court makeup. In the future, if Trump (or any upcoming President) finds good judges from Duke, Michigan, Stanford, or Chicago, I would highly recommend they be given a tiny bit of extra attention for the Supreme Court bench. The same applies to nominees to individual circuit and appellate courts, because it turns out that the lower courts do a lot of legal legwork.

To be clear, I have nothing wrong with Harvard Law, Yale Law, or Columbia Law – they’re consistently ranked as three of the nation’s top law schools for a reason. I also don’t think that this should be a major consideration, rather one of the minor criteria that Presidents should consider along with everything else.

The following image is sourced from FiveThirtyEight’s article on elite conservative and liberal law schools:

roeder-lawschools-table

Even for people who aren’t particularly well-versed in the machinations of the Supreme Court, this table shows a pretty neat trend. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia produce the most Justices by a long shot, and although the University of Chicago has educated over a hundred clerks, they have zero Justices on the Court (though this is likely because Harvard Law has been around since 1817, and Chicago Law was founded in 1902, so they’re kind of behind).

Anyways, think about it. I’ve given it some thought, and I think everyone should as well. It’s not the most important component of Justice nominations to the Court, but it’s worth your time. This applies doubly if you, the reader, happens to be named to the Senate Judiciary Committee at some point in your lives.

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Brief Thoughts On: The Travel Ban

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from visiting or immigrating to the United States of America. The full text of the order, which does not yet have an EO number assigned to it, can be seen here.

Having been a proponent of executive orders for a long time, I’m not really opposed to this policy because it’s executive overreach. I’m opposed to it because it’s a stupid idea that lacks nuance and is more trouble than it’s worth.

  • This morning, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Iraqi nationals detained at JFK International Airport in accordance with the ban. One, an interpreter who had been attached to the 101st Air Assault Division during the Iraq War, was released this afternoon, but another is still being held. There are reports of others being held at airports across the Eastern seaboard. Most of the detainees (if not all) are in possession of valid visas, but if the Trump administration enforces the ban, they will be put back on planes to go back to their original nations.
  • Iran was included in this travel ban, which is a little strange because you don’t really see a lot of terrorists flying commercial from Tehran to Zurich to JFK. I personally know Iranian nationals and the relatives of Iranian nationals who are unjustly affected by this ban. Iran isn’t exactly what the United States would call a “good guy nation” considering that they fund Hezbollah, but that’s a comment more on the government than it is about the people living there. Its inclusion in the ban is unnecessary and splits American families apart. Great job.
    • Iran has now retaliated by officially barring all U.S. nationals from entering the country. At a time when we could use more goodwill (or, at the very least, less open hostility) towards the nation of Iran, this is definitely not helping.
      • I don’t even mean “let’s be friends with the Ayatollah,” I just mean “let’s not do this sort of political posturing to piss them off because it won’t get anywhere.”
  • The United States Refugee Admissions Program has been suspended for the next 119 days (going up to 27 May 2017). They’re not “looking closer at applicants to make sure they don’t have any jihadist ties,” they’re just suspending the whole thing.
  • Speaking solely in practical terms, I don’t think ISIS is really wringing their hands here, considering that its preferred mode of terrorist attack is to radicalize people who are already living in the United States and tell them to shoot a place up or ram their truck into a crowd.
  • This is crappy diplomacy and the world knows it. We’re not just risking pissing off the governments of the seven affected nations, but any number of other governments which are home to Iraqis, Iranians, and such. Also, considering that we’re trying to build up positive relations with the new Libyan and Iraqi governments, this isn’t helping. How can we expect to get cooperation from their Military Intelligence forces if we’ve locked out >99.9% of their population?
  • Any green-card-holder/visa-holder from one of those seven nations is effectively forbidden from leaving the United States, unless they’re ready to either go through a lengthy debacle in an immigration court or say goodbye to all of their stuff here.
    • The United States government is opening up a program to handle situations like this on a case-by-case basis, so people with existing visas or green cards can still get back in, but the process isn’t easy. If you need an example, scroll up to the part about the Iraqis spending the better part of a day locked up in an airport detention cell.
  • To the Republican Party: y’all just opened yourself up to a world of criticism and vitriol. This travel ban is likely to bolster support from Americans who are concerned about terrorists entering the country, but it’s also pissing off a bunch of Americans who have family members in those seven nations. One of the easiest ways to get people to the voting booths is to get them pissed off, and that’s what the President has just done.

Anyways, I guess I don’t really like the travel ban. I have more thoughts about this, but at ~830 words I think I’ve overstayed my welcome in an article labeled “Brief Thoughts.” In summation, it lacks nuance and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble that it’s caused/will cause in the future.

 

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