Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Fake news from the NYT

During the recent election campaign, a false story about Hillary Clinton and a NY pizza joint made news.  The Left instantly called it "fake news" and were enraged at the very idea of false stories  being treated as news.  But misleading "news" from Leftist sources has long been common, with both outright misreporting and a relentless tendency to report only one side of a story. So it behooves us all to use the current interest in fake news to point out that fake news is an overwhelmingly Leftist phenomenon.  A recent example is below

On February 2, 2017, the New York Times published on its front page above-the-fold a hit-piece under the headline, “A Sinister Perception of Islam Now Steers the White House.”  The principal targets of this unflattering article were President Trump, his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his “chief strategist,” Stephen Bannon.  But at the article’s end were five paragraphs and a picture with a caption that amounted to the journalistic equivalent of a drive-by-shooting aimed at Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney.

Specifically, Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg distorted and falsely reported comments made by Frank Gaffney in the course of two recorded interviews conducted in December 2016.  His article and an accompanying photo’s caption respectively asserted that Mr. Gaffney regarded “Islam” and “Muslims” as “termites [that] hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.”

Actually, as transcripts of the two conversations spanning roughly 2.5 hours make clear, Mr. Gaffney was characterizing the modus operandi of the Muslim Brotherhood, not “Muslims” or “Islam.”  The misrepresentation serves the interest of the Brotherhood – which has long been determined to silence him and the Center for Security Policy – but not the interests of the New York Times’ readers or the paper’s responsibility to report the facts.

As a public service and in the interest of holding the so-called “nation’s newspaper of record” accountable, the Center today released the full transcripts of the two interview conversations between Messrs. Gaffney and Rosenberg, together with the transcript of a phone call and an exchange of emails between the two after the publication of the article on February 2nd.  Together, they constitute a case study of mainstream media malfeasance that, deliberately or not, has the practical effect of helping America’s foes.



It's the Seattle judge who is ignoring the law

Challenges to Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel for people coming from seven nations have little legal support, irrespective of the recent actions by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart to block the order. The Justice Department has ably defended Trump’s EO, providing solid and substantive arguments based upon sound legal precedent — Trump’s actions were well within both constitutional parameters and the common practice of prior presidents. But honestly, that is not what all the fuss is about.

In reality, two battles are being waged. One is in the courts and the other is in that ever-shifting realm known as public opinion. The Leftmedia has long fought for control of the latter by appealing to people’s emotions rather than by presenting a rational argument. But the courts are supposed to be above this changing whim of public sentiment; in fact, they were designed to be as best as possible impervious to it, since it is the role of the courts to seek justice in an impartial manner.

Trump, unlike prior Republican presidents, is more than willing to jump into the fray. That’s good given how poorly the mainstream media has treated him and Republicans for years.



The Case for Judge Neil Gorsuch

It is with some justice that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, outside the “legal mainstream.” Given the murkiness of that water, however, this is not a bad thing. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow William J. Watkins, Jr., author of Crossroads for Libertyand Reclaiming the American Revolution, it is precisely because Judge Gorsuch does not subscribe to the ruling legal orthodoxy that sitting him on the Court is a simple, open-and-shut case.

A judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Neil Gorsuch holds a judicial philosophy that is distinctly (and oddly) in the minority: He strives to interpret provisions of the U.S. Constitution according to their original public meaning. This is anathema to many in the legal mainstream. Influential legal thinker Ronald Dworkin, for example, implores judges to make their decisions by striking some sort of “balance” among competing core principles. In practice, this approach opens the floodgates to subjectivity. Judges who, in Watkins’s words, “employ a creative interpretation of the law that eschews original intent” end up making laws and crafting social policy—in other words, imposing their own values. It is the rightful job of the judiciary, however, to interpret laws and the Constitution objectively, not to treat them like a de facto Rorschach inkblot on which they can impose their own meaning.

“As a man outside the legal mainstream, Neil Gorsuch is a needed addition to a Supreme Court that is too often engrossed with its power and authority,” Watkins writes. “Confirmation will be a fight, but this herculean battle will be well worth the effort.”



Rogue Federal Bureaucrats Threaten Trump’s Agenda

Recent scandals in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Internal Revenue Service demonstrated that it’s almost impossible to fire federal employees, many of whom reportedly intend to go rogue by not implementing President Donald Trump’s agenda.

“It’s hard to argue we have an accountable government when someone can’t be fired for years at a time,” @bgwilterdink says.

Conservatives are hopeful the time has come for civil service reform that would rein in this permanent class of government workers who have voiced outright hostility to the new administration. Some have even called it the “fourth branch of government” or “alt-government.”

“This is a situation where people voted and elected a president who is lawfully trying to complete those tasks [he promised in the campaign], while unelected bureaucrats are willing to overturn the will of the people,” Ben Wilterdink, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development, told The Daily Signal.

Among federal employees, about 95 percent of political contributions went to Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential race, according to an analysis by The Hill.

Some of those federal workers are now in consultation with departed Obama administration officials to determine how they can push back against the Trump administration’s agenda, The Washington Post reported last week.

At the State Department, for example, nearly 1,000 government workers signed a letter protesting Trump’s executive order on refugees. A few days later, Trump had to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she announced she wouldn’t defend the administration’s refugee policy.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said State Department employees who oppose the policy “should either get with the program, or they can go.”

“If a federal employee doesn’t like the ideological foundation or likely outcomes of a presidential directive, it doesn’t mean that the directive is not legal. It means that the views of the federal employee are in conflict with the views of the president who runs the federal government,” said Neil Siefring, vice president of Hilltop Advocacy and a former Republican House staffer, in a column for The Daily Caller.

“In that instance,” Siefring added, “the solution should not be to resist the actions of the president in their professional capacity as a career civil servant in the workplace. The solution is for that federal employee to honorably resign, not actively or passively hamper the White House.”

What if an employee won’t resign? Addressing the problem with the federal workforce won’t be easy, according to experts interviewed by The Daily Signal.

“You can fire federal employees, it’s just that nobody wants to put up with the process,” Don Devine, former director of the Office of Personnel Management during the Reagan administration, told The Daily Signal.

Multiple appeals can be made through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the National Labor Relations Board.

“It’s almost impossible to discipline employees because it can be appealed to through the merit system, the labor relations systems, or through the EEOC,” Devine said. “We don’t have a civil service system; we have a dual civil service-labor relations system.”

During the Obama administration, two of its biggest scandals involved the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2013, a Treasury Department inspector general report determined the IRS had been targeting conservative groups. In 2014, a VA inspector general’s report revealed falsified appointments in which some veterans died while waiting for care.

Years later, conservatives remain frustrated that federal workers weren’t held accountable.

“I will take your IRS employees and raise you the EPA, where story after story, a worker was viewing porn on work time and couldn’t be fired because the process is fraught with appeals,” Wilterdink said. “It’s hard to argue we have an accountable government when someone can’t be fired for years at a time.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House revived the Holman Rule, named after a Democrat congressman who introduced it in 1876. It would allow lawmakers to cut the pay of individual federal workers or a government program.

There are other proposals for holding federal workers accountable. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a bill in January to hold seriously tax delinquent people ineligible for federal civilian employment, federal contracts, or government grants. This bill was proposed in response to IRS data that found more than 100,000 federal civilian employees owed more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes at the end of fiscal year 2015.

Adding to the challenge is the process commonly known as burrowing. Frequently, political appointees from one administration convert to a career position that comes with civil service protections, allowing them to continue implementing policy—or resisting the new administration’s approach.

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 was passed to stop raw political party appointments from securing federal government jobs, or a spoils system. The law introduced the merit system into hiring practices and made numerous civil service positions untouchable after they were filled.

However, burrowing has caused a de facto spoils system, Wilterdink said, because, “the pendulum has swung so far to protecting federal employees” that it allows administrations to keep their people in office long term.

Significant reform doesn’t mean recreating a spoils system, according to Robert Moffit, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation who was an assistant Office of Personnel Management director during the Reagan administration. Moffit said a balanced approach would be more desirable.

“You need to have strong managers in each agency to make sure the president’s agenda is properly executed,” Moffit told The Daily Signal. “You must also have a bright line between career and non-career staff so there is no politicization of the merit system.”

Moffit also supports legislation to allow the president to order the firing of career officials who either “broke the law or severely undermined the public’s trust.”

“Even President [Barack] Obama referred to what IRS officials did as outrageous and nothing happened,” Moffit said. “The VA matter is still unresolved. The people responsible for those waiting lists aren’t accountable and people died.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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