The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Another Reassuring Pick From Trump

Seventy-five years ago today:

Time magazine did the obvious and necessary today, naming Donald Trump their Man of the Year. Not choosing him would have been odd and unusual; the newly-elected or first-year president was the magazine’s choice for the most influential figure in the news in 2008, 2000, 1992, 1980 and 1976. Lyndon Johnson won it in 1964 after winning his first election as president, and John Kennedy won it in 1961 after his first year in office.

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Another Reassuring Pick From Trump.

Hey remember on Friday evening, when lots of people on Twitter freaked out that Trump was going to stir up a war with China by taking the phone call from the Taiwanese president? Remember how Trump had ruined U.S.-China relations, and he was this blundering oaf who was likely to accidentally start World War III? Remember all of those awful “Bull in a China Shop” puns and headlines?

Yeah, this morning, Beijing seems pretty happy with the new ambassador.

China said on Wednesday the governor of the U.S. state of Iowa, Terry Branstad, was an “old friend” after a report that he had accepted an offer from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to become the next U.S. ambassador to China.

“We welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily press briefing when asked about the Bloomberg report.

Lu did not confirm the story and said China would work with whoever became ambassador.

Branstad called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “long-time friend” when Xi visited Iowa in February 2012, only nine months before he became the Chinese leader.

It suggests that Trump may be ready to take a less combative stance towards the world’s second-largest economy than many expected, trade experts and diplomats said.

From a 2013 article on Branstad:

Xi assumed the presidency in November, but he and Branstad go back to 1985, when Branstad was serving his first term as governor and Xi visited as part of a sister-state exchange program.

The two have taken to calling one another “old friends” and renewed their relationship in September 2011, when Branstad visited China; again in February, 2012, when Xi returned to Iowa; and yet again just two months ago when Branstad led another trade mission to China with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The Chinese leader has some really long-standing ties to Iowa. From the New York Times’ account of his visit in 2012:

Twenty-seven years ago, a young man named Xi Jinping, on an agricultural research trip from his home in China, came to rural eastern Iowa and slept in Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak’s sons’ room. The boys had just gone off to college — their room still stuffed with the things of childhood — and Ms. Dvorchak said she felt bad. She had grown up reading Pearl S. Buck novels about the travails in rural China, and now here was a visitor, perhaps from that same hard place, and they had put him in there with the Star Trek action figures.

“He did not complain,” said Ms. Dvorchak, 72, who is now retired and living in Florida. “Everything, no matter what, was very acceptable to him — he was humble.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Xi returned to Muscatine — triumphantly this time, with an entourage and a room of his own — as China’s vice president and heir apparent to the leadership of a rapidly rising world power. Seventeen people he met here in 1985, including the Dvorchaks, were invited to tea.

This means it’s time to stop the cries that the incoming Trump administration is blundering his way into a war with China and start up the cries that the incoming Trump administration sold out to China!

The Democrats’ New Cockamamie Idea for Leverage: Mass Tax Evasion!

Over in Time magazine, Mark Weston writes:

The approximately 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton should pledge that in the future if a Republican wins the presidency with fewer votes than a Democrat for the third time in our era, we won’t pay taxes to the federal government. No taxation without representation!

Is that how it works? If the candidate you don’t like wins the presidency, under the rules set out under the constitution, you don’t have to pay taxes?

He argues that the Constitution itself is unfair and it’s not fair that Republicans won’t help Democrats change it to a national popular vote. He points out that pledging to not pay taxes in the future is perfectly legal. Yes, the real question is when you actually choose to not pay taxes; then the Internal Revenue Service comes knocking at the door.

Here’s how Weston envisions this working:

Third, if a Republican wins the election without winning the popular vote again, we should still pay what we owe in federal taxes–just not to the IRS. Instead, people would compute their federal taxes, file a Form 1040 and write a check to a national escrow account, preferably in a well-established Canadian or British bank that is beyond the reach of the U.S. Justice Department, because whoever opens this account probably will be in violation of U.S. law. In the check’s memo line, people should write, “Funds to be transferred to the IRS as soon as America resumes being a democracy.”

See, fellas, tax evasion has never been recognized by the government as a protected form of free speech or political protest. If that’s the case, maybe the world has had a lot more impassioned political activists than we thought: Al Capone, Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart, Willie Nelson…

By the way, wasn’t it just a few months ago when we were told that Donald Trump ranked among history’s greatest monsters because he may have not paid taxes he owed? And now Democrats are supposed to do the same thing, en masse?

If members of the party that loves government, wants to expand government, and has seemingly endless faith in government don’t want to pay taxes, why should anyone else?

Since the election, we’ve heard Democrats calling for abolishing the electoral college, the restoration of the filibuster they eliminated, confirmation of Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland in the minutes before the new Senate takes the oath of office, “general resistance” and assassination threats, and now, mass tax evasion.

They insist that because the system has not given them the outcome they wanted, the system is broken and must be blown up and replaced. They steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they could have any responsibility for this outcome.

Just How Broadly Will We Define ‘Fake News’?

Will the “War on Fake News” go after sites that use hyperbolic headlines?

One of the motes in this cloud, or at least drifting nearby, is run out of a house in Seattle’s Denny Blaine neighborhood. The founder of a site called Bipartisan Report — self-proclaimed as “the Internet’s largest newspaper” — agreed to talk to me about how click-bait news sites are changing media and American politics.

“We’re a legitimate news-media company,” says Justin Brotman, 34, son of the Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman. “We’re being attacked as ‘fake’ because traditional media is freaked out we can make more money than you, out of our basements.”

Bipartisan Report runs two or three dozen stories a day, most with truth-stretching headlines crafted to feed red meat to a liberal audience. Examples just from the past few days:

“BREAKING: 41 Attorney Generals Across America Move To SHUT DOWN Trump Foundation.”

“JUST IN: Republicans Announce ‘Muslim Burqa Ban’, The Insanity Has Begun.”

“BREAKING: Famous Lawyer Gloria Allred Drops MAJOR Trump Sexual Assault Announcement.”

All of these stories are tethered to something true, but exaggerate it or misconstrue it to the point of unrecognizability. Yes, there are questions about the Trump Foundation’s future, but no, 41 AGs did not move to shut it down. Yes, there is a legislator in the state of Georgia who did propose a bill to bar veils in public, but he was the only one (and he pulled the bill). As for Gloria Allred, she is a lawyer who represents some women who say they were groped by Donald Trump, but there was no breaking announcement about that month-old story this week.

Call me crazy, but I think the First Amendment protects your right to create a bad web site with anything that won’t lose you a libel suit in a courtroom. A lot of people interpret that stance as a full-throated defense of “fake news.” No, it’s just the common sense observation that not everything bad in life needs to be banned.

Once people in authority take it upon themselves to ban, restrict, remove, block or eliminate “fake news,” when do they stop?

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who joined for yesterday’s Facebook Live, discussing fake news, censorship, and the media.

The Latest