Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Identity Politics, 1947-2017

The Architecture of Regime Change

from the National Review
The ‘Resistance’ is using any and all means — lies, leaks, lawbreaking, and violence — to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

The problem with the election of President Donald J. Trump was not just that he presented a roadblock to an ongoing progressive revolution. Instead, unlike recent Republican presidential nominees, he was indifferent to the cultural and political restraints on conservative pushback — ironic given how checkered Trump’s own prior conservative credentials are. Trump brawled in a way McCain or Romney did not. He certainly did not prefer losing nobly to winning ugly.

Even more ominously, Trump found a seam in the supposedly invincible new progressive electoral paradigm of Barack Obama. He then blew it apart — by showing the nation that Obama’s identity-politics voting bloc was not transferrable to most other Democratic candidates, while the downside of his polarization of the now proverbial clingers most assuredly was. To her regret, Hillary Clinton learned that paradox when the deplorables and irredeemables of the formerly blue-wall states rose up to cost her the presidency.

And now? We are witnessing a desperate putsch to remove Trump before he can do any more damage to the Obama project. Political, journalistic, and cultural elites of a progressive coastal culture aim at destroying the Trump presidency before it can finish its full four-year term.

The branches of this insidious coup d’état are quite unlikely anything our generation has ever witnessed.

I. Political and Judicial

a. Warping the Electoral College. As soon as Trump was elected, progressives mobilized to overturn the very architecture of the Electoral College. They organized efforts to persuade delegated electors not to vote according to their own state results — as they were legally or informally pledged to do so. Had the effort succeeded, it would have destroyed the entire constitutional notion of an Electoral College.

b. Challenging the 2016 Vote. Simultaneously, we saw another failed insurrectionary effort, through the stalking horse of failed leftist candidate Jill Stein, to sue on false grounds of voting-machine fraud that would have required recounts in three swing states that Trump won.

c. Delaying, Stalling, and gAccusin. Then Democrats in the Senate systematically delayed customary approval of dozens of key appointments of the newly inaugurated president. Obama holdovers such as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates sought to oppose Trump initiatives while political appointees such as Obama federal attorney Preet Bharara complained of inordinate pressures to step down. The normal assumption is that a new president appoints key federal officials of his own party; liberals abandoned this custom and depicted Trump’s staffing efforts as some sort of insurrectionary subversion of the federal government.

d. Recusal. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress orchestrated false charges of “Russian collusion” against Trump himself, based on leaks of false information and fake-news stories, some of them originally orchestrated by Never Trump primary opponents and the Clinton campaign.

No evidence emerged of Trump’s culpability. But investigations were aimed at diverting attention from, and thereby stalling, the Trump legislative agenda. Again, the goal was driving his popularity ratings down to levels that would advance the cause of future impeachment should the Democrats ride the anti-Trump collusion hoaxes to midterm victory in the House.

An effective way to emasculate Trump was to demand recusals, supposedly due to some sort of hyper-partisanship on the part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. No sooner had each agreed to step aside from some limited aspects of their investigations than Democrats insisted that their magnanimous recusals were both proof of guilt and yet too narrow — as they pressed on to seek recusals from ever more Trump White house officials.

e. The 25th Amendment. A few of the more desperate in the progressive resistance were calling for Trump to be removed due to supposed physical or mental incapacity — a trial balloon sent up that quickly imploded when only a few op-ed writers and fringe talking heads seconded the idea.

f. Justice-Shopping.
To stop Trump’s plan to temporarily suspend immigration from war-torn Middle Eastern nations unable to establish proper vetting procedures, attorneys and activists sought out liberal justices on the federal bench. Such judges in some cases extra-judiciously sought to cite Trump’s campaign statements as proof that his orders were unconstitutional, when the law did not provide them with the necessary progressive ammunition.

g. “The Resistance.” Democratic politicians and media figures announced that they had formed a “Resistance” to thwart all initiatives by Donald Trump. The nadir of this movement came when failed candidate Hillary Clinton announced that she too was officially enlisting — as if Trump were some sort of Hilterian or Vichy figure that required Hillary, as a freedom fighter of the Maquis, to metaphorically go up into the scrub with beret and Sten to ambush and harass.

h. “Special Investigator.”
The crown jewel in the Democratic efforts to overthrow the Trump administration was to replay, endlessly, the golden moment of Watergate. Here the playbook was to shout out so many purported transgressions — collusions, obstructions of justice, profiteering, etc. — that their sheer number would demand a special prosecutor, who through months of endless and always expanding inquiries could effectively enervate the Trump administration. By first demanding a special prosecutor, Democrats were able to negotiate downward to a special investigator. Former FBI head Robert Mueller —long a close friend to Trump nemesis James Comey — almost immediately staffed his team with a number of Democratic kingpins. And on cue, “unnamed sources” almost immediately leaked news of renewed and expanded investigations to the appropriate progressive papers.

i. Nullification.
Following the model of 1860s South Carolina, a number of states declared that Trump’s efforts to enforce federal immigration law were null and void within many of their own counties and cities. California went so far as to pass a bill in its Senate that blacklists any employer contracting with the federal government to complete the border wall. Governor Jerry Brown announced that he would be forging special climate-change agreements with foreign government — as if his state was a sovereign nation. Nullification was based on the premise that liberal progressivism trumped existing federal law — and that no conservative state or local jurisdiction would ever dare to employ the same extra-legal strategies to nullify federal progressive statutes.

j. Emoluments. A final rearguard effort brought lawsuits by various Democrats under the so-called emoluments clause found under Article 1 of the Constitution. Forbidding federal officials from receiving foreign titles, perks, and profits, the clause was originally intended to prevent the creation of an entrenched nobility. Democrats are suing Trump on charges that some overseas holdings of his business, now put in a trust, are unconstitutional and grounds for impeachment — although not in the sense that Bill and Hillary Clinton profited enormously via honoraria and cash payments to their foundation, while Hillary was secretary of state.

II. Media and Popular Culture

a. Fake News. At the same time of the political putsch, the mainstream media outlets, in particular the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the major networks, via broadcasts and social media, began an orchestrated campaign of defamation and delegitimization.

The crazier and more diverse the media mythologies, the better. Melania Trump was a former call girl and illegal alien. Ivanka Trump was peddling her business wares from the West Wing. Jared Kushner was a profiteering collusionist. Steve Bannon was a racist, Sebastian Gorka an unrepentant Nazi. Baron Trump was a spoiled, autistic child. The late elder Trump had run a racist campaign for mayor. And on and on.

Simultaneously, there were the daily Trump false buffoonery stories: Trump had screamed at the Australian prime minister. He had leaked Israeli intelligence. He had removed Martin Luther King’s bust from the White House. He greedily ate two ice-creams scoops while selfishly offering his guests only one.

Other fake chaos narratives added to the sense of presidential malpractice: Jeff Sessions was about to resign. So was his assistant, Rod Rosenstein. James Comey soon would announce to the Congress that Trump was under current FBI investigation. Steven Bannon was out. General Mattis was liable to quit. Trump threatened the Mexican president with an invasion. Trump was lying about sending carriers to the Korean coast. All false stories, but all useful to the regime-change narrative.

The media’s opinion journalists grew unhinged. Even the past scandals of JournoList and the 2016 WikiLeaks troves — which exposed collusion between the media, the DNC, and the Clinton campaign — did not prepare us for what followed after the election. Journalists Jim Rutenberg, Christiane Amanpour, and Jorge Ramos, among others, insisted that the president did not deserve unbiased news coverage but rather orthodox hostility from journalists who were impatient with the slow progress of the Democrats’ Resistance efforts.

The daily fare of major media columnists and anchors exclaimed that Trump was either inept, criminal, or traitorous, and therefore he should summarily resign, face trial, or be impeached.

b. Scatology and Obscenity.
Democratic politicians as well as celebrities felt that by customarily employing crude language and scatology, they could mobilize the base, blame the new uncouth environment on Trump (who deserved such an obscene counterpunch), and lower the bar even further for more attacks.

So Democratic grandees such as DNC chairman Tom Perez, would-be Obama 2.0 candidate Senator Kamala Harris, or New York’s Senator Kirsten Gellibrand routinely began using “f***” and “s***” in efforts to arouse and coarsen. The implication was that Trump’s ascendance had ruined political discourse by forcing formerly sober and judicious politicians like themselves to lower themselves in kind. A New Republic author cheered the politicians on and demanded even more scatology.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper insulted a Trump supporter by saying he’d slavishly defend Trump even if Trump deposited feces on his desk. Politico’s Julia Joffe suggested that Trump had committed incest with his daughter. Bill Maher went graphic by envisioning father and daughter engaged in oral sex. Steven Colbert thundered that Trump was a routine fellator of Vladimir Putin. The cruder the allusion, the higher the standing of the slanderer in the Resistance — again creating a landscape in which a president guilty of the worst sorts of crimes against nature should logically deserve#….#what next, exactly?

c. Assassination Chic. So far, we have heard that Snoop Dogg wants to shoot an effigy of Trump in the head. Comedian Kathy Griffin dreams of beheading him. A New York Shakespearean troupe night after night stabs an iconic Trump into a bloody pulp, Caesarian style, cheered on by the thrilled audience. Madonna dreams of blowing Trump up, along with everyone else in the White House.

Actor Robert de Niro will settle for battering his face. Mickey Rourke prefers a club. Martha Stewart is content with flipping him off, while flashing the V-sign to a heroic assassination cultist Snoop Dogg. A writer for the Huffington Post demands Trump’s trial and execution. Even near my home at the CSU Fresno campus, a history professor has openly called for Trump to be hanged while a colleague at the Hoover Institution mused that Trump could be removed by a murder in the White House.

Yet where does one go after rhetorical killing becomes commonplace and the vocabulary of death is exhausted? We almost had our answer last week, with the planned targeted assassinations of Republican members of Congress.

d. Burn, Storm, and Disrupt. Campuses, from Middlebury to UC Santa Cruz, from Berkeley to Claremont, are on fire. Taking their street cue from the Resistance, they now have all but abolished the right of free speech on campus, lawful assembly, and nonviolent protest. At first, careerist campus presidents sought to channel the violence profitably into the larger Trump Resistance. Now their Frankenstein monster threatens to swallow its academic parent. All the while, the subtext of the campus meltdown is $1 trillion in student debt, millions of students unable to do basic college work, and no job guarantees for indebted graduates with worthless therapeutic degrees.

III. Will These Efforts to Remove Trump Work?

Not if he can mobilize the Congress to pass health care and tax reform and give the nation a sense of political momentum, to add to his already substantial executive orders. A 3 percent annual economic growth rate would silence a lot of shrill voices, as would the restoration of U.S. deterrence abroad without the step of invading a Middle East country.

To create a sense of political deterrence, the Congress should call in former Obama attorney general Loretta Lynch to explain to the nation why she sought to massage and impede an ongoing FBI investigation, and why she met — secretly — with the husband of Hillary Clinton, who was then under investigation.

Why is James Comey to be exempt from violating FBI protocols and perhaps federal statutes by leaking a privileged government document to the press, and why did he allow his agency to be manipulated by the former attorney general? No one has adequately explained how Bill Clinton freely and with exemption warped his wife’s office of secretary of state to rake in donations to the family foundation and honoraria for himself.

The House investigations of the improper surveillance, unmasking, and leaking by the Obama administration should accelerate.

Anyone, celebrities included, who talks of maiming or killing the president of the United States should be put on a terrorist no-fly list for six months.

There is an easy standard of acceptable public discourse: If the same violent rhetoric were directed at Barack Obama, would it have been acceptable? (Recall that Obama jailed a YouTube video maker for an inconvenient film, and had political opponent Dinesh D’Souza sent to prison on an inflated campaign-donation violation.)

For now, the Democrats and the progressive movement cannot find ways to oppose Donald Trump through traditional political means either in the Congress or through the ballot box. They have resorted to an any-means-necessary effort to dehumanize Trump and politically emasculate him before the 2020 election.

Unfortunately, the logical succession to such progressive political hate speech, and assassination-wishing, is still more political violence of the sort we saw last week.

And this is only the beginning.

Chomsky on Neoliberalism

Grand Guru on the Left

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Third Party Realities...

...or why Trump has so many enemies

"Resistance" Summer

Wanna see a Moslem begin to incite "useful idiots" to violence/terror?
Protest is when I say this does not please me. Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more.
- Ulrike Meinhof, “Vom Protest zum Widerstand” [“From Protest to Resistance”], konkret, no. 5 (May 1968), p. 5
Ulrike Meinhof (7 October 1934 – 9 May 1976) was a German radical left-wing militant who started out as a journalist. She was one of the founders of the Red Army Fraction (in German: Rote Armee Fraktion), also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang.
From Street Protests to Resistance (aka "Terrorism"). THIS is what it means today to be Progressive!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Democrats Move from Snuff Porn...to Snuff ACTS... in a Matter of Days

Schadenfreude?... or RESISTANCE?
“Protest is when I say I don't like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don't like. Protest is when I say I refuse to go along with this anymore. Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too.”
― Ulrike Marie Meinhof (German Red Army Faction Terrorist)

Democrats Move from Scandal Porn to Snuff Porn w/Trump Derangement Syndrome

from American Thinker
Fareed Zakaria, for better or worse, is generally considered a man on the housebroken side of the left. He's the establishment, the kind of leftist who goes to conferences and opines deep thoughts. He's not the street thug, cyber-goon, or rabid foul-mouthed late-night comedy mess-on-the-carpet side of the left.

But even Zakaria has now fallen to the bloodlust against President Trump prevalent on the left, tweeting:
If you're in NYC, go see Julius Caesar, free in Central Park, brilliantly interpreted for Trump era. A masterpiece: https://t.co/RiJJnW3g8V

— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) May 31, 2017
Having failed to prevent the election of Donald Trump, having failed to prove Russia collusion allegations against him, having failed to impeach him – the left is now turning to assassination fantasies, some say in the hope of getting one deranged lunatic to act on them. It started early, grew prominent with late-night comedian Kathy Griffin's beheading stunt, and has since moved on to the highbrow theatre crowd, the same people who had a cow when Vice President Pence went to see a production of Hamilton. The highbrows have opted to stage Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in Central Park with a Trump-like figure playing the role of the assassinated Roman consul who made himself dictator.

It probably could work as a sort of art – but not with this crowd doing it. As the postmoderns say, context is everything. The context here is that we all know that the left hates Trump. We all know they haven't gotten over the election. We all know they are still stewing as if it happened yesterday. And we all know what they really want.

So we know what they have in mind with this assassination shtick, which has cause numerous sponsors to pull out, not wanting to get sued if some nut tries to act on what the play seems to be encouraging.

But as for the left itself, if it's not assassination they are advocating, it's another revolting phenomenon: what Tom Wolfe called "pornoviolence" back in 1967, when he discussed the media's fascination with looping footage of the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy "to watch some guy get his head blown off," as I recall. The Washington Post discussed the phenomenon in 2013:

Tom Wolfe, an essential chronicler of the '60s, called the assassination "the prologue to America's season of violence" – indeed, a new "pornoviolence," in which images and narratives of death were incessantly repeated, hardening Americans against pain.

The TV networks, he wrote in 1967, "schooled us in the view from Oswald's rifle and made it seem a normal pastime." From then on, he argued, the center of the story, in news and entertainment programs, was not so much the hero but the aggressor, with gory details becoming the driving force of the narrative.

Sound like today's anti-Trump left to you?

With that analysis, it would point to a shift away from Trump in any sort of hero role in the press, replaced with the left's dark descent into an aggressor-focused "narrative." Any aggressor against Trump, no matter how foul, will becomes the left's loving focus, its hero, the center of its narrative. So even as Caesar is stabbed in a play, the left cheers. The left's aim seems to be to keep that drumbeat rolling as a means of eventually getting what it wants, using some lunatic if necessary.

What's more, the left tries to escape responsibility for its own base instincts. Variety reports that the play depicts baying "mobs" of Trump voters as the most dangerous elements, not the actual assassins, in its appropriation of Shakespeare's play.

It's a grotesque thing, signaling that if anything, the left is out of ideas and has gone bone-dry on any pretense to morality. Fareed Zakaria's endorsement of this shows just how far the rot has spread. If the left can't check itself, we are in for dark days ahead. The template is out there.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Remember When the Newspapers Were Dying?

What BETTER way to reverse their fortunes?

Pope Francis on the Media's "Scandal Porn" Frenzy

from USA Today
Pope Francis joined the chorus of condemnation of media organizations that spread disinformation and compared their focus on "ugly things" to one of the more unsavory fetishes.

Francis said, although positive "in themselves," communications media can be harmful and used to slander people, "especially in the world of politics," during an interview Wednesday with the Belgian Catholic weeklyTertio. He added that anyone who uses means of communication to defame someone is committing a sin.

His comments came amid growing controversy over "fake news" — including one involving him: a false report online that he had endorsed Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton cites ‘fake news’ as urgent threat to democracy

"A thing that can do great damage to the information media is disinformation: that is, faced with any situation, saying only a part of the truth, and not the rest," Francis said.

"Disinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do, as opinion is guided in one direction, neglecting the other part of the truth," he said. "I believe that the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey — without offense, please — to the sickness of coprophilia, which is always wanting to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even though they may be true. And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm."

Merriam-Webster defines coprophilia as a "marked interest in excrement, especially the use of feces or filth for sexual excitement." And coprophagia? That's people who eat feces.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Deep State Blues

Government by unelected experts isn’t all that different from the ‘royal prerogative’ of 17th-century England, argues constitutional scholar Philip Hamburger.
By John Tierney
From the WSJ
What’s the greatest threat to liberty in America? Liberals rail at Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and his hostility toward the press, while conservatives vow to reverse Barack Obama’s regulatory assault on religion, education and business. Philip Hamburger says both sides are thinking too small.

Like the blind men in the fable who try to describe an elephant by feeling different parts of its body, they’re not perceiving the whole problem: the enormous rogue beast known as the administrative state.

Sometimes called the regulatory state or the deep state, it is a government within the government, run by the president and the dozens of federal agencies that assume powers once claimed only by kings. In place of royal decrees, they issue rules and send out “guidance” letters like the one from an Education Department official in 2011 that stripped college students of due process when accused of sexual misconduct.

Unelected bureaucrats not only write their own laws, they also interpret these laws and enforce them in their own courts with their own judges. All this is in blatant violation of the Constitution, says Mr. Hamburger, 60, a constitutional scholar and winner of the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize last year for his scholarly 2014 book, “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?” (Spoiler alert: Yes.)

“Essentially, much of the Bill of Rights has been gutted,” he says, sitting in his office at Columbia Law School. “The government can choose to proceed against you in a trial in court with constitutional processes, or it can use an administrative proceeding where you don’t have the right to be heard by a real judge or a jury and you don’t have the full due process of law. Our fundamental procedural freedoms, which once were guarantees, have become mere options.”

In volume and complexity, the edicts from federal agencies exceed the laws passed by Congress by orders of magnitude. “The administrative state has become the government’s predominant mode of contact with citizens,” Mr. Hamburger says. “Ultimately this is not about the politics of left or right. Unlawful government power should worry everybody.”

Defenders of agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency often describe them as the only practical way to regulate today’s complex world. The Founding Fathers, they argue, could not have imagined the challenges that face a large and technologically advanced society, so Congress and the judiciary have wisely delegated their duties by giving new powers to experts in executive-branch agencies.

Mr. Hamburger doesn’t buy it. In his view, not only is such delegation unconstitutional, it’s nothing new. The founders, far from being naive about the need for expert guidance, limited executive powers precisely because of the abuses of 17th-century kings like James I.

James, who reigned in England from 1603 through 1625, claimed that divinely granted “absolute power” authorized him to suspend laws enacted by Parliament or dispense with them for any favored person. Mr. Hamburger likens this royal “dispensing” power to modern agency “waivers,” like the ones from the Obama administration exempting McDonald’s and other corporations from complying with provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

James also made his own laws, bypassing Parliament and the courts by issuing proclamations and using his “royal prerogative” to establish commissions and tribunals. He exploited the infamous Star Chamber, a court that got its name from the gilded stars on its ceiling.

“The Hollywood version of the Star Chamber is a torture chamber where the walls were speckled with blood,” Mr. Hamburger says. “But torture was a very minor part of its business. It was very bureaucratic. Like modern administrative agencies, it commissioned expert reports, issued decrees and enforced them. It had regulations controlling the press, and it issued rules for urban development, environmental matters and various industries.”

James’s claims were rebuffed by England’s chief justice, Edward Coke, who in 1610 declared that the king “by his proclamation cannot create any offense which was not an offense before.” The king eventually dismissed Coke, and expansive royal powers continued to be exercised by James and his successor, Charles I. The angry backlash ultimately prompted Parliament to abolish the Star Chamber and helped provoke a civil war that ended with the beheading of Charles in 1649.

A subsequent king, James II, took the throne in 1685 and tried to reassert the prerogative power. But he was dethroned in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which was followed by Parliament’s adoption of a bill of rights limiting the monarch and reasserting the primacy of Parliament and the courts. That history inspired the American Constitution’s limits on the executive branch, which James Madison explained as a protection against “the danger to liberty from the overgrown and all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate.”

“The framers of the Constitution were very clear about this,”
Mr. Hamburger says, rummaging in a drawer for a pocket edition. He opens to the first page, featuring the Preamble and Article 1, which begins: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress.”

“That first word is crucial,” he says. “The very first substantive word of the Constitution is ‘all.’ That makes it an exclusive vesting of the legislative powers in an elected legislature. Congress cannot delegate the legislative powers to an agency, just as judges cannot delegate their power to an agency.”

Those restrictions on executive power have been disappearing since the late 19th century, starting with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. Centralized power appealed to big business—railroads found commissioners easier to manipulate than legislators—as well as to American intellectuals who’d studied public policy at German universities. Unlike Britain, Germany had rejected constitutional restraints in favor of a Prussian model that gave administrative agencies the prerogative powers of the king.

Mr. Hamburger believes it’s no coincidence that the growth of America’s administrative state coincided with the addition to the electorate of Catholic immigrants, blacks and other minorities. WASP progressives like Woodrow Wilson considered these groups an obstacle to reform.

“The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes,” Wilson complained, noting in particular the difficulty of winning over the minds “of Irishmen, of Germans, of Negroes.” His solution was to push his agenda using federal agencies staffed by experts of his own caste—what Mr. Hamburger calls the “knowledge class.” Wilson was the only president ever to hold a doctorate.

“There’s been something of a bait and switch,” Mr. Hamburger says. “We talk about the importance of expanding voting rights, but behind the scenes there’s been a transfer of power from voters to members of the knowledge class. A large part of the knowledge class, Republicans as well as Democrats, went out of their way to make the administrative state work.”

Mr. Hamburger was born into the knowledge class. He grew up in a book-filled house near New Haven, Conn. His father was a Yale law professor and his mother a researcher in economics and intellectual history. During his father’s sabbaticals in London, Philip acquired a passion for 17th-century English history and spent long hours studying manuscripts at the British Museum. That’s where he learned about the royal prerogative.

He went to Princeton and then Yale Law School, where he avoided courses on administrative law, which struck him as “tedious beyond belief.” He became slightly more interested during a stint as a corporate lawyer specializing in taxes—he could see the sweeping powers wielded by the Internal Revenue Service—but the topic didn’t engage him until midway through his academic career.

While at the University of Chicago, he heard of a colleague’s inability to publish a research paper because the study had not been approved ahead of time by a federally mandated institutional review board. That sounded like an unconstitutional suppression of free speech, and it reminded Mr. Hamburger of those manuscripts at the British Museum.

Why the return of the royal prerogative? “The answer rests ultimately on human nature,” Mr. Hamburger writes in “The Administrative Threat,” a new short book aimed at a general readership. “Ever tempted to exert more power with less effort, rulers are rarely content to govern merely through the law.”

Instead, presidents govern by interpreting statutes in ways lawmakers never imagined. Barack Obama openly boasted of his intention to bypass Congress: “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” Unable to persuade a Congress controlled by his own party to regulate carbon dioxide, Mr. Obama did it himself in 2009 by having the EPA declare it a pollutant covered by a decades-old law. (In 2007 the Supreme Court had affirmed the EPA’s authority to do so.)

Similarly, the Title IX legislation passed in 1972 was intended mainly to protect women in higher education from employment discrimination. Under Mr. Obama, Education Department bureaucrats used it to issue orders about bathrooms for transgender students at public schools and to mandate campus tribunals to adjudicate sexual misconduct—including “verbal misconduct,” or speech—that are in many ways less fair to the accused than the Star Chamber.

At this point, the idea of restraining the executive branch may seem quixotic, but Mr. Hamburger says there are practical ways to do so. One would be to make government officials financially accountable for their excesses, as they were in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they could be sued individually for damages. Today they’re protected thanks to “qualified immunity,” a doctrine Mr. Hamburger thinks should be narrowed.

“One does have to worry about frivolous lawsuits against government officers who have to make quick decisions in the field, like police officers,” he says. “But someone sitting behind a desk at the EPA or the SEC has plenty of time to consult lawyers before acting. There’s no reason to give them qualified immunity. They’ll be more careful not to exceed their constitutional authority if they have to weigh the risk of losing their own money.”

Another way of restraining agencies—one President Trump could adopt on his own—would be to require them to submit new rules to Congress for approval instead of imposing them by fiat. The president could also order at least some agencies to resolve disputes in regular courts instead of using administrative judges, who are departmental employees. Meanwhile, Congress could reclaim its legislative power by going through regulations, agency by agency, and deciding which ones to enact into law.

Mr. Hamburger’s chief hope for reform lies in the courts, which in earlier eras rebuffed the executive branch’s power grabs. Those rulings so frustrated both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt that they threatened retaliation—such as FDR’s plan to pack the Supreme Court by expanding its size. Eventually judges surrendered and validated sweeping executive powers. Mr. Hamburger calls it “one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the federal judiciary.”

The Supreme Court capitulated further in decisions like Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council (1984), which requires judges to defer to any “reasonable interpretation” of an ambiguous statute by a federal agency. “Chevron deference should be called Chevron bias,” Mr. Hamburger says. “It requires judges to abandon due process and independent judgment. The courts have corrupted their processes by saying that when the government is a party in case, they will be systematically biased—they will favor the more powerful party.”

Mr. Hamburger sees a good chance that the high court will limit and eventually abandon the Chevron doctrine, and he expects other litigation giving the judiciary a chance to reassert its powers and protect constitutional rights. “Slowly, step by step, we can persuade judges to recognize the risks of what they’ve done so far and to grapple with this very dangerous type of power,” he says. The judiciary, like academia, has many liberals who have been sympathetic to the growth of executive power, but their perspective may be changing.

“Administrative power is like off-road driving,” Mr. Hamburger continues. “It’s exhilarating to operate off-road when you’re in the driver’s seat, but it’s a little unnerving for everyone else.”

He says he observed this effect during a recent conversation with a prominent legal scholar. The colleague, a longtime defender of administrative law, was discussing the topic shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

The colleague told Mr. Hamburger: “I am beginning to see the merit of your ideas.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


"...this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin (and you can call sin ignorance). The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word timshel'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win."
- John Steinbeck, "East of Eden"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Fount of "Russian" Fake News

from the Washington Times
What caused the Barack Obama administration to begin investigating the Donald Trump campaign last summer has come into clearer focus following a string of congressional hearings on Russian interference in the presidential election.
It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information — what he termed the “basis” — for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer. Mr. Brennan served on the former president’s 2008 presidential campaign and in his White House.
Mr. Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 that the intelligence community was picking up tidbits on Trump associates making contacts with Russians. Mr. Brennan did not name either the Russians or the Trump people. He indicated he did not know what was said.

But he said he believed the contacts were numerous enough to alert the FBI, which began its probe into Trump associates that same July, according to previous congressional testimony from then-FBI director James B. Comey.
The FBI probe of contacts came the same month the intelligence community fingered Russian agents as orchestrating hacks into Democratic Party computers and providing stolen emails to WikiLeaks.
Mr. Brennan, who has not hidden his dislike for Mr. Trump, testified he briefed the investigation’s progress to Mr. Obama, who at the time was trying to aid Hillary Clinton in her campaign against the Republican nominee.

As Mr. Brennan described his actions to the House committee: “I wanted to make sure that every information and bit of intelligence that we had was shared with the bureau [FBI] so that they could take it.
It was well beyond my mandate as director of CIA to follow on any of those leads that involved U.S. persons. But I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign, was shared with the bureau.

“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred,”
Mr. Brennan added.

Eleven months later, there is no official public confirmation that Trump people colluded with the Russians on hacking.

When Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the Republican point man in questioning Mr. Brennan, asked what the Russians and Trump people were talking about, the former top spy said he did not know.

“I saw interaction and [was] aware of interaction that, again, raised questions in my mind about what was the true nature of it. But I don’t know. I don’t have sufficient information to make a determination whether or not such cooperation or complicity or collusion was taking place. But I know that there was a basis to have individuals pull those threads,”
Mr. Brennan said.

It is known that some Trump people had contact with Russians during the campaign, when the hacking occurred, and some during the transition.

Jared Kushner, a White House aide and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, is known to have communicated with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, as did retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The State Department sponsored a trip by diplomats to the Republican National Convention in July. Mr. Kislyak was among those who attended.

One Trump person known to have public Russian contacts in July was Carter Page. Mr. Page signed on as a low-level volunteer who made TV appearances on Mr. Trump’s behalf and offered advice on foreign policy.

Mr. Page, who has done business with Russians for years and lived in Moscow in the 2000s as a Merrill Lynch investment banker, returned last summer to give two talks that were covered by the news media.
Mr. Page has told The Washington Times he played no role in any Russian conspiracy to hack or otherwise interfere in the election.

He believes the Trump campaign severed ties with him because of sensational charges in an unverified anti-Trump dossier that surfaced in a smattering of news stories before Nov. 8.

The dossier was one of the forces influencing the FBI that summer. Some press reports said it was the reason the bureau began investigating Trump associates and acquired a warrant to wiretap Mr. Page as a possible foreign agent.
But Mr. Brennan’s May 23 testimony shows that it was his actions that drove the FBI probe.

The dossier was financed by a Clinton backer and written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele. He was hired by Democratic-tied Fusion GPS in Washington.

Mr. Steele’s 35 pages of memos were first circulated in late June. In mid-July Fusion passed around another memo that made the most sensational charges. “Further Indications of Extensive Conspiracy Between Trump’s Campaign and the Kremlin” was the headline.

Mr. Steele said that Mr. Carter and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort formed a team to work with the Russians to hack the Democrats.
Mr. Page calls the charge preposterous. He told The Times he has never met Mr. Manafort.

Also denying the charges was Mr. Manafort, whom the Trump organization fired after reports he received questionable payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician. Mr. Manafort said he did not knowingly talk to any Russians.
After Mr. Brennan’s May 23 appearance, Mr. Page sent a letter to the House committee.

“His testimony followed closely in line with the highly defamatory and baseless accusations offered during their regime’s final year in office as well as the months since,”
Mr. Page wrote to Rep. K. Michael Conaway, the Texas Republican who is leading the panel’s investigation, and Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat.

“Throughout my interactions with the Russians in 2016, I consistently made it crystal clear that all of my benign statements and harmless actions in Moscow as well as elsewhere overseas were solely made as a scholar and a business person speaking only on behalf of myself. In other words, in no way connected to then-candidate Trump,” Mr. Page wrote.
The Steele dossier said he met with two Kremlin-connected Russians in Moscow that July. Mr. Page said he has never met the two men.
Mr. Brennan has been a harsh critic of Mr. Trump, especially since the election. He took umbrage at Mr. Trump blaming the intelligence community for leaks and his likening it to how the Nazis did business. Mr. Brennan said Mr. Trump does not understand the threat posed by Russia.
While Mr. Brennan was at the White House, the Obama administration launched a six-year “reset” approach to Moscow, with then-Secretary of State Clinton standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and urging Americans to do business with Russia.

Relations soured after Mr. Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine.

To this day, nearly a year after Mr. Brennan alerted the FBI, there has been no public official confirmation that Trump people coordinated with the Russians on hacking. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Senate Intelligence Committee member, said earlier this month she has seen no evidence of collusion.
The Senate and House Intelligence committees are both investigating that charge.

Last week, the Senate panel asked the Trump presidential campaign for all records related to Russia.

Monday, May 22, 2017

DNC Convention Host Committee Gets a $1 Million Kick-back

from Philly.com
David L. Cohen has parted company with his old boss Ed Rendell on the issue of nearly $1 million in bonuses the former governor and mayor approved for staff of the host committee for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Cohen, now senior executive vice president at Comcast Corp., but once Rendell's chief of staff when mayor, said he was never told of the bonus plan while serving as a host committee special adviser.

“Nobody ever ran the idea of giving any bonuses to anyone in connection with the host committee of the convention,” Cohen said Thursday evening. “Had they done so, I would’ve done everything in my power to kill the concept.”

Cohen, who was instrumental in the host committee’s fund-raising efforts, said he learned of the bonuses last week, when the Inquirer and Daily News reported that in November, the committee used part of its surplus to give out more than $900,000 in bonus checks. The highest bonus, $310,000, went to the committee’s executive director, Kevin Washo, followed by $220,000 for the chief financial officer, Jason O’Malley, with the rest receiving between $13,000 and $58,000 each.

“There were never any bonuses included in any budget for the host committee that I ever saw,” Cohen said.

Rendell, who served as the host committee’s chairman, said Cohen was kept "at arm's length" on purpose because of his position at Comcast, which was the largest vendor working with the host committee.

"Obviously he couldn't be involved in spending decisions, because it would've been a conflict," Rendell said Friday. Comcast donated $5.1 million in in-kind services, which included personnel, telecommunications, hospitality and events, and $500,000 cash, the host committee reported in September.

Rendell said Cohen "wasn't privy to conversations" he had with host committee staff when they were hired. He said they were told there would be bonuses if there was money left in the end. The staff’s monthly salaries ranged from $3,000 for the office manager to $13,000 for Washo. Some, including Washo, continued to be paid months after the convention and months after starting other full-time jobs.

The host committee was charged with fund-raising and organizing the events surrounding the convention, held from July 25 to 28. It wasn't until September, when the committee filed its financial reports with the Federal Election Commission, that it reported exceeding its fund-raising goal.

The committee used its surplus to pay the city more than $500,000 for municipal services incurred during the convention, distribute $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits, and provide the nearly $1 million in bonuses.

Washo, who also served as the committee's treasurer, previously said that the decision to hand out bonuses to the staff was made by himself, chief operating officer Eliza Rose, and Rendell.

Washo and Rendell have defended the bonuses by saying the staff worked very hard for what Rendell has described as “low pay.”

Cohen disagreed with the notion that the staff was not paid well.

“I would’ve had serious concerns over bonuses, particularly bonuses of that size, and particularly of well-compensated employees of a nonprofit organization,” Cohen said.

Cohen questioned the “propriety” of such bonuses when “100 percent of the funding was being provided by donors and by the state.”

Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, and state Republicans have criticized the bonuses and called for an audit of the $10 million grant the state gave the host committee. The state’s grant was the largest single donation received. On Thursday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he would audit the $10 million state grant.

Cohen said he has been fielding calls from donors complaining about the bonuses, but he declined to identify them other than to describe them as “many people who are asking how or why this was done.”

Rendell said he had received no complaints from donors. He added that if donors were upset, he would be the one to get the calls.

"I raised the lion's share of the money," Rendell said.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Baltimore's FAILED Schools...

from Fox45 News
BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- A Project Baltimore investigation has found five Baltimore City high schools and one middle school do not have a single student proficient in the state tested subjects of math and English.

We sat down with a teen who attends one of those schools and has overcome incredible challenges to find success.

Navon Warren grew up in West Baltimore. He was three months old when his father was shot to death. Before his 18th birthday, he would lose two uncles and a classmate, all gunned down on the streets of Baltimore.

“I’ve lost a lot of people, so I’m used to it. It hurts,” Warren said. “I just chose not to show it. I just keep it in. You just have to live on and keep going on every day. You have to do it somehow.”

Despite his tremendous loss, Warren is set to graduate this year from Frederick Douglass High School. It’s a school where only half the students graduate and just a few dozen will go to college. Last year, not one student scored proficient in any state testing.

“That’s absurd to me. That’s absurd to me,” says Warren’s mother Janel Nelson. “That’s your teachers report card, ultimately.”

Project Baltimore found Frederick Douglass is not alone. Four other city high schools and one middle school also have zero students proficient.

The schools are:
Booker T. Washington Middle School
Frederick Douglass High School
Achievement Academy at Harbor City
New Era Academy
Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High
New Hope Academy
High school students are tested by the state in math and English. Their scores place them in one of five categories – a four or five is considered proficient and one through three are not. At Frederick Douglass, 185 students took the state math test last year and 89 percent fell into the lowest level. Just one student approached expectations and scored a three.

Despite the challenges at his school, Warren found a path to higher education. He’s the reigning Baltimore City 50 and 100 freestyle champion who competed at the junior Olympics, finishing in fourth place. In the fall, he will leave the streets of Baltimore and head to Bethany College in West Virginia, where he will swim.

“It’s exciting for him to get out of the city and exciting for him to start a new chapter in his life,” says Nelson.

Warren told FOX45, he believes zero students are proficient at Frederick Douglass, because the state tests are more advanced than what the students are learning in class.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Democratic Whine of the Week

from CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is living every child's dream: More ice cream.

For example: Trump takes two scoops of ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, TIME reported, while everyone else around the table gets just one.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Coup d'etat in Aberdeen?

From the Dagger and Aberdeen Mayor Patrick L. McGrady:
When we elect a president (like him or not) we don’t try and change the rules to take away his authority granted by the voters, and that is exactly what has been done in Aberdeen.

The Citizens of Aberdeen voted for a Mayor and for a Council in November of 2015, and the City Council voted Monday night to change the results of the election because they think they know better than the voters how the Mayor and Council should interact.

The Charter of the City of Aberdeen is the document that establishes our government– it is our Constitution. It is a radical and unacceptable action to fundamentally change the form of government between elections.

This action is a violation of the fundamentally American principle that voters get to make decisions about their government.

Changes to the structure of government should never be rammed through without the public approving of the changes, and that is what Councilwoman Landbeck, Councilman Lindecamp, and Councilman Taylor have voted to do.

Specifically, these changes will take away the powers of the duly-elected Mayor over the budget, over oversight of the City government, of reporting to the public via the State of the City address, and removes the authority to make appointments for all public commissions of the City.

In order to include the voters in this process, I attempted to make these changes effective after the next Mayor is elected so that the people have a say in these changes. However, Councilwoman Landbeck, Councilman Lindecamp, and Councilman Taylor all voted against this change.

I have had multiple calls from community members to petition this issue to referendum, and I’m evaluating what would need to happen for that to be successful.

Patrick L. McGrady
for more info on the changes made to the City Charter, go here

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Opioids (Fentanyl)? ... or Heroin? ...or BOTH!

from Wikipedia
Fentanyl (also known as fentanil) is a potent, synthetic opioid pain medication with a rapid onset and short duration of action. It is a potent agonist at μ-opioid receptors in the brain. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, but some fentanyl analogues, which are designed to mimic the pharmacological effects of the original drug, may be as much as 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl was first made by Paul Janssen in 1960, following the medical inception of pethidine (also known as meperidine, marketed as Demerol) several years earlier. Janssen developed fentanyl by assaying analogues of the structurally related drug pethidine for opioid activity. The widespread use of fentanyl triggered the production of fentanyl citrate (the salt formed by combining fentanyl and citric acid in a 1:1 stoichiometric ratio), which entered medical use as a general anaesthetic under the trade name Sublimaze in the 1960s. Following this, many other fentanyl analogues were developed and introduced into medical practice, including sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil, and lofentanil.

In the mid-1990s, fentanyl was introduced for palliative use with the fentanyl patch, followed in the next decade by the introduction of the fentanyl lollipop, dissolving tablets, and sublingual spray which are absorbed through the tissues inside the mouth. As of 2012, fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine. In 2013, 1700 kilograms were used globally.

Fentanyl is also used as a recreational drug, leading to thousands of overdose deaths from 2000 to 2017. Deaths have also resulted from improper medical use. Fentanyl has a relatively wide therapeutic index which makes it a very safe surgical anesthetic when monitored carefully; however, its extreme potency requires careful measurements of highly diluted fentanyl in solution.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Is Maryland Now a Sanctuary State?

from the Baltimore Sun
Maryland's top lawyer is advising local jails that they should not honor requests from federal officials to hold people suspected of immigration violations for up to 48 hours past their release date.

The guidance from Attorney General Brian Frosh says local jails should only hold such people longer when immigration officials present a warrant signed by a judge. Otherwise, he cautioned, the jails could be sued for unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Frosh, a Democrat, said he offered the advice because of confusion amid President Donald Trump's pronouncements to crack down on immigration violators and some lawmakers' efforts to pass legislation in Maryland to regulate local involvement in immigration enforcement.

"There is a great deal of fear and anxiety and certainly a lot of uncertainty about what the law is. ... We thought it was important for us to re-emphasize what the law is," Frosh said.

The document is not an order; instead, it provides advice for local officials to consider when making decisions about their jail and policing policies.

The local immigrant-rights group CASA applauded Frosh.

"We think it's very helpful and necessary," said Nick Katz, CASA's senior manager of legal services. "We appreciate that he issued this. We hope that law enforcement agencies read it and comply with the recommendations that he makes."

Lt. Dan Lasher is director of operations for the Allegany County Detention Center and president of the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association. He said most local jails do not honor detainer requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Lasher said correctional officers don't want to "let someone go who is of the criminal element. But without a warrant, there's just no basis to do it."

Baltimore's jail, which is run by the state, does not honor ICE detainer requests without a judicial warrant, so Frosh's guidance won't affect the jail's policies, said state corrections spokesman Gerard Shields.

For the first time, Frosh's advice addresses partnerships in which local law enforcement officials are trained by the federal government and become deputized to carry out certain federal immigration duties.

Known as 287(g) programs, for the portion of federal law that authorizes them, they've come under fire from advocates for immigrants and civil liberties.

Frosh's guidance notes that it's permissible for counties to join 287(g) programs, but cautions that the federal government doesn't necessarily pay for them. And the programs have the potential to open the door to illegal racial profiling, Frosh wrote.

Frederick and Harford counties have 287(g) programs in their jails to screen people for possible immigration violations. Anne Arundel County has applied to join, and a bill pending before the Baltimore County Council would require that county to join as well. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has pledged to veto the bill if it passes.

"The three Republican members of the County Council are trying to frankly grandstand the issue in defiance, now, of the attorney general's opinion," said Kamenetz, a Democrat. "I think that they should withdraw their bill."

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said all people booked in his jail are given the same paperwork asking about their country of birth and citizenship status. Frosh said that's fine, but if the 287(g) program expands into one involving patrol officers — a change the Trump administration has expressed interest in — there is a "greater danger" of improper racial profiling.

Jenkins, a Republican, maintains that the jail screening is a helpful tool for public safety, and says he's gotten a surge of public interest in the program.

In Harford County, 34 people in the county jail have been identified for possible immigration violations since the staff began working with ICE in November, said Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, a Republican.

Gahler said he doesn't think the new guidance will affect his jail's operations and questioned whether it was really necessary.

"It certainly has an air of partisan persuasion to it," Gahler said. "It seems to be one-sided on the 'anti' front."

Monday, May 8, 2017

France Still Fantasizes About a Globalism that Works

from RT
Following Macron’s win, famous Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek lashed out at the French president-elect, saying he “stands for the worst of Europe” and “is the candidate of fear of Le Pen,” He also noted that neither candidate had a “positive vision.”

The outspoken philosopher and cultural critic said, while he was not happy with either of the French run-off candidates’ visions, those who voted against Macron were the “only true hope” for France, as they represent the people “who didn’t succumb to this liberal blackmail [of] ‘Now things are serious. Let’s all unite behind Macron.’”

“They said: ‘No. Sorry. Whatever that is, we’re not ready to play this game – the fascist threat and the politics, which feeds this fascist threat,’” Zizek said.

In Zizek’s view, this so-called “blackmail” included a recent La Liberation cover, which featured the headline, “Do whatever you want, but vote Macron.”

“Isn’t this the very essence of what worldwide is becoming today? You have all the freedom you want if you make the right choice. This is the very formula of why our democracy is becoming more and more meaningless,” he said, adding that it appears to be the media that is making choices for the people.

However, Zizek’s biggest issue with both candidates was that neither had a “positive vision” of the state of affairs in France, and both eventually became candidates of “fear.”

“Marine Le Pen was, obviously, the candidate of fear – fear about immigrants, foreign threat, financial capitalism and so on. But Macron was also a candidate of fear – fear of Le Pen. Macron won not because of what he is, but because he was anti-Le Pen,” Zizek said.

The problem is bigger than that, the philosopher added, concluding that the “European political elite is no longer able to rule properly,” and changes are urgently needed.

“I already quoted Didier Eribon [French author and philosopher], who said : ‘A vote for Macron today, is a vote for Marine Le Pen four years in the future.’ We’re just caught in this vicious circle. Macron means business as usual. But it’s precisely this business as usual that will give new strength to Marine Le Pen. It takes time. She can wait. One election, two elections, three. In the end, she may win,” he said.

Friday, May 5, 2017

America's Corporate Tax Problem Illustrated

from the Las Vegas Review Journal
Those who doubt the necessity of reforming America’s corporate tax laws should consider cash-fat Apple Inc.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the company is sitting on $250 billion — that’s a quarter trillion — in cash reserves, almost all of it parked abroad. The amount is “greater than the market value of either Walmart Stores Inc. or Proctor &Gamble Co. and exceeds the foreign currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined,” the paper noted.

The company’s windfall has doubled in less than five years. By the end of 2016, it was accumulating cash at a rate of $3.6 million an hour, the Journal reported

Why is Apple essentially stuffing greenbacks in a mattress? Because it would pay a huge tax penalty if it brought the money home.

As Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post noted in March, “The current tax regime encourages companies to move operations, assets and even corporate citizenship overseas, while raising less and less money every year as companies come up with ever more ingenious and ethically questionable ways to avoid it.”

The combined U.S. federal and state corporate tax rate is 39 percent, among the highest in the world. And while it’s true that many companies pay a lower effective rate, American multinationals still have higher tax burdens than their counterparts in many other jurisdictions.

In addition, the federal government taxes American corporations on income earned overseas if they bring it back to the United States. That’s why many companies, such as Apple, prefer to lock up their cash in foreign instruments rather than invest it in domestic endeavors.

“There is a growing political consensus that the time has come for change in the tax rules to encourage repatriation of the vast troves of corporate earnings held outside the country,” wrote Jeff Sommer of The New York Times last year.

Donald Trump’s tax proposal calls for lowering the corporate rate to 15 percent and perhaps creating a one-time tax holiday to encourage companies such as Apple to bring their profits home. This makes sense. Critics of such a plan argue these corporations are less likely to create jobs or new businesses with the money than they are to reward investors. But so what? Either way, the money is working in the United States rather than sitting idly in some foreign investment vehicle.

Apple is not alone. Microsoft, General Electric, Pfizer and others all prefer to leave large chunks of earnings stranded overseas. While this makes good sense from a corporate standpoint, it simply nuts for Washington politicians to impose tax policies that encourage this behavior.
I'd not only encourage it, I'd raise the corporate tax rate for ALL corporations, foreign and domestic, to 95% so as to encourage small individual-owned business formation. I'd make it so that you'd have to be crazy to incorporate a company in America, or to be a foreign corporation trying to sell it's products in America.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Once Again, the Republicans Are the Biggest Spenders of All

from the Daily Beast
Having won the presidency, the House, and the Senate, the GOP’s first major legislative accomplishment is to… increase spending.

This “accomplishment” is both sad and predictable.

Let’s take the new 2017 bipartisan omnibus spending bill. To avert a looming governmental shutdown, Trump didn’t get his wall funded—and he didn’t get Planned Parenthood defunded. And after all the handwringing in the wake of his proposed budget, which would have taken the knife to most domestic agencies, Trump only trimmed the Environmental Protection Agency by a mere 1 percent.

Freedom Caucus Member Justin Amash called it “another deal to grow government. Instead of compromising to cut spending, each side agrees to let the other side spend more.”

And James Hohmann observed in The Washington Post that “Democrats are surprised by just how many concessions they extracted in the trillion-dollar deal, considering that Republicans have unified control of government.”

It seems that once Republicans gain high office, worries about “generational theft” segue to the “deficits don’t matter” philosophy—when deficit hawks morph into deficit doves.

In 2010, Rep. Paul Ryan speculated that America was about to turn into Greece. And in the 2012 vice presidential debate, Ryan declared, “We’ve got to tackle this debt crisis before it tackles us." The irony, of course, is that he has ascended to the speakership, but his own president is pushing policies that seem likely to substantially increase the debt.

This is a long-standing trend. We might forgive Ronald Reagan for increasing spending (he was busy trying to defeat the Soviet Union, and Democrats in Congress had the power of the purse), but what’s the excuse for George W. Bush—and now Donald J. Trump?

It’s not just the spending bill, either. Some are estimating that Trump’s tax reform outline could increase the debt by trillions of dollars over a decade. Don’t get me wrong. Tax cuts could help grow the economy, create jobs, and broaden the tax revenue base. But the assumption that these tax cuts will pay for themselves is dubious. (Note: Trump is now saying that he would consider a gasoline tax hike to pay for infrastructure.)

In fairness to Ryan, the primary reason for this is that Trump won’t embrace what might be Ryan’s signature issue: entitlement reform. A well-rounded conservative agenda might pair tax reform with sensible entitlement reform (which, aside from national defense, is where the real money is), but Trump has eschewed the latter.

What remains is the bigger story of how, when Democrats are in office, Republicans worry about deficits and the debt, but how they magically forget about all that once they take power. This strikes me as an inexorable structural problem. Almost all of the incentives lead to more spending.

“Name me one politician who tried to cut spending and has been rewarded for it,” said former Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston. “Sure there are many Members of the House and Senate who have consistently voted ‘no’ and been considered heroes, but they haven't delivered a spending cut.”

While there are powerful conservative organizations that promote cutting taxes and general fiscal responsibility, no major lobbyists or interest groups dole out support solely to cut spending. Meanwhile, in our action-oriented culture, politicians gain support by putting points on the board—not for taking them off. There are incentives for creating a new program or passing a new bill, not for rolling back spending.

And if the media and the public clamor for the passage of legislation, then how might a Republican president corral enough Democratic votes to make that happen? You guessed it: by increasing spending. Amid criticism from the right over his spending bill, Donald Trump tweeted: “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!”

The only way for a Republican president to implement the rest of his agenda—to pass otherwise good policies and to keep the government functioning—is to trade them for pork-barrel appropriations and pet projects.

This structural problem predates Donald Trump, but the “King of Debt” might be even more inclined (than your average Republican) to increase spending if it means extra points on his scoreboard. But the short-term benefits of kicking the can down the road will mean long-term insolvency.

When Democrats were last in charge, they enacted an extremely politically risky health care regime knowing it could cost them control of Congress—or even the presidency. They did this because they believed expanding health coverage was a moral imperative. Republicans have repeatedly said slashing our debt is a moral imperative. When will they act like it?
They say that, "elections have consequences". That's probably true everywhere BUT the USA. WTF, Donald?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Choose France!

from Express
Recent moves by Ms Le Pen to appeal to a wider audience seem to be working as she has removed herself as the leader of the Front National party, and rebranded her campaign with the new motto “Choose France”.

Pollster Harris Interactive, who correctly predicted the result of the first round, revealed a six points slip by Mr Macron since last Sunday.

Ms Le Pen said: “The country Mr Macron wants is no longer France; it's a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers.”

The latest polls were conducted prior to the announcement that defeated first round presidential candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, would be Ms Le Pen’s prime minister if she wins the presidency.

Mr Dupont-Aignan’s policies are seen as less extreme than her own, despite being eurosceptic and a longstanding critic of the eurozone.

The French media reported it represented an important move to grab moderate voters and could prove a decisive decision during the election on May 7.

Mr Dupont-Aignan and Ms Le Pen, in a joint statement on Saturday, said that “the transition from the single currency to the European common currency is not a prerequisite for any economic policy”.

The presidential candidate denied that her position on the euro has changed. The former Front National leader said: “I have been calling for the transformation of the single currency to the common currency for quite a long time, so there is no contradiction in that.”

The Harris Interactive poll places Mr Macron on 61 per cent and Ms Le Pen on 33 per cent.

Robert Ménard, the mayor of the town of Béziers in the south of France who was elected with Front National support, said: “It's very good news. It proves that she has finally understood.

“To win an election it's necessary to assemble and gather first in your own camp. For the Front National, that’s the right.”

Political Science Professor Douglas Webber said: “It would be almost impossible for the EU to survive if Marine Le Pen should win the up-coming French Presidential elections, and subsequently win a referendum to withdraw France from it.”

Kawanio che Keeteru!

"Far as the sun extends its genial ray,
Each nation boasts her consecrated day;
Some visionary saint, some monarch's birth,
Gilds the blest morn, and wakes to annual mirth:
The stately Spaniard yields his pride of names,
Once in each year, to smile upon St. James.
Saint Dennis gives the word! behold all France
Lost in the ecstasy of song and dance.
Flush'd with the grape, Saint Patrick's sons appear,
And with his birthday lasted all the year;
‘Oh he's a jewel of a saint—no rigid numper—
But dead himself gives life to ev'ry bumper!'
'Hoot, hoot, man quoth the Scot 'a' these are bairns o' dross,
Nae worth a bawbie, compar'd wi' Andrew on his cross,'
Nor is the festal day to realms confin'd
By science honor'd and by arts refin'd;
The Savage tribes their jubilee proclaim,
And crown Saint Tammany with lasting fame.
E'en the poor Negro will awhile resign
His furrows, to adorn Saint Quaco's shrine;
For one bright hour of joy forego complaint,
And praise his tyrant, while he nails his saint.

But while the dupes of legendary strains
Amuse their fancy, or forget their pains,
While mimic Saints a transient joy impart,
That strikes the sense but reaches not the heart,
Arise, Columbia!—nobler themes await
Th' auspicious day, that sealed thy glorious fate:
A nation rescu'd from oppression's soil,
And freedom planted in a purer soil;
By worth enobled, and by valor grac'd
(The ball of empire rolling to the west),
Lo! a new order in the world arise
And thy fair fame spread boundless as the sky;
Yet as the tale of triumph we renew,
To patriot virtue yield the tribute due;
With fond remembrance, each revolving year,
To martyr'd heroes shed the grateful tear;
And with the fragrant wreath of laureate bloom
Adorn the warrior's ever honor'd tomb!

‘Midst these sad rights the moral let us trace,
That points the soldier's fire, the statesman's grace;
From Warren and Montgomery catch the flame,
And follow Lawrence in the track of fame.
Is there a child who urg'd the arduous strife
For liberty (thou dearer boon than life!)
Is there a heart to troth and virtue form'd,
By pity soften'd and by passion warm'd,
That seeks not here a monument to raise,
To speak at once, their country's grief and praise?
Recording history their deeds shall tell;
On the rich theme the muse enraptur'd dwell
To future worlds examples shall supply,
And with the glist'ning tear fill beauty's eye.
Thus when revolving time shall sanctify the name,
And Washington great favorite of fame!
By some enraptur'd bard recall'd to view,
In sons unborn your feelings shall renew;
See! as the story of his life is told,
His courage charm the young his worth the old;
His martial feats the Veteran admires;
The patriot bosom glows as he retires;
While all mankind in admiration lost,
Strive who can follow or applaud him most!
Go, Sons of liberty! assert your fame!
And emulate the Greek and Roman name;
The prize of arms by virtue be maintain'd
And wisdom cultivate what toil has gain'd;
Thus shall the sacred Fane of Union stand,
And this day's Independence bless the land!"

Monday, April 24, 2017

NSA Spied on Maryland Residents - Hover Hammer

from The Intercept
TO RESIDENTS OF MARYLAND, catching an occasional glimpse of a huge white blimp floating in the sky is not unusual. For more than a decade, the military has used the state as a proving ground for new airships destined for Afghanistan or Iraq. But less known is that the test flights have sometimes served a more secretive purpose involving National Security Agency surveillance.

Back in 2004, a division of the NSA called the National Tactical Integration Office fitted a 62-foot diameter airship called the Hover Hammer with an eavesdropping device,
according to a classified document published Monday by The Intercept. The agency launched the three-engined airship at an airfield near Solomons Island, Maryland. And from there, the blimp was able to vacuum up “international shipping data emanating from the Long Island, New York area,” the document says. The spy equipment on the airship was called Digital Receiver Technology – a proprietary system manufactured by a Maryland-based company of the same name – which can intercept wireless communications, including cellphone calls.

With the exception of a few military websites that refer to the Hover Hammer as an “antenna mounting platform,” there is little information in the public domain about it. The classified NSA document describes the airship as a “helium-filled sphere inside another sphere, constructed of Spectra, the same material used to make bullet-proof vests. … It ‘hovers’ above small arms fire, has a negligible [infrared] signature, and radar can’t detect it.” The agency added in the document that it planned to conduct more tests with the Hover Hammer, and said it wanted to develop a larger version of blimp that would be capable of flying at altitudes of 68,000 feet for up to six months at a time. “More experiments, including the use of onboard imagery sensors, are being conducted,” it said.

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

In recent years, airships – or aerostats, as they are formally called – have been a source of major military investment. Between 2006 and 2015, the U.S. Army paid Raytheon some $1.8 billion to develop a massive missile-defense blimp called the JLENS, which is equipped with powerful radar that can scan in any direction 310 miles. (That’s almost the entire length of New York state.) In October 2015, the JLENS attracted national attention after one became untethered amid testing and drifted north from Maryland to Pennsylvania before it was brought back under control. In 2010, the Army commissioned another three airships – called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles – as part of a $517 million contract with Northrop Grumman. The company stated that the airships would “shape the future” of the military’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and provide a “persistent unblinking stare” from the sky.

Unsurprisingly, privacy groups have expressed concerns about the prospect of the blimps being used domestically to spy on Americans. However, military officials have often been quick to dismiss such fears. In August 2015, Lt. Shane Glass told Baltimore broadcaster WBAL that the JLENS blimps being tested in Maryland were not equipped with cameras or eavesdropping devices. “There are no cameras on the system, and we are not capable of tracking any individuals,” Glass stated. The same cannot be said, it seems, of the NSA’s Hover Hammer.
Are you trying to monitor a huge political protest? Look no further than DRT. Nicknamed “dirt boxes,” these devices can locate up to 10,000 targets and can process multiple analog and digital wireless devices all at the same time. They’re even capable of intercepting and recording digital voice data. The best thing about the devices is the fact that no one may ever know you’ve used one. Just be careful — if your targets do figure out you’ve used a DRT box, and you haven’t gotten a warrant, they may be able to convince a judge to throw out all the evidence you’ve collected on them after you used the device. The smaller 1301C model has advanced passive cooling technology, meaning there’s no noisy fan to give it away.

Zizek on Trump...

The Manufacturers of Consent Have Lost Their Formula

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why Democrats LOVE "Traditional" Republicans Like Larry Hogan

from the Baltimore Sun
Gov. Larry Hogan avoided a confrontation with Democratic lawmakers on Thursday by allowing more than a dozen bills to become law without his signature — including measures that give money to the attorney general to sue the federal government and require the state to fund Planned Parenthood if it loses federal funding.

The Republican governor declined to comment on the bills he elected not to sign or veto. Several drew stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers as they passed through the General Assembly.

Some of the other measures set to become law will prevent the state from opening oyster sanctuaries to harvesting until a population study is done and repeal a requirement that the state mass transit system get a certain portion of its income from fares paid by riders.

Hogan also let two of the state's budget bills become law without his signature — signaling his dissatisfaction that lawmakers refused to grant him relief from funding formulas and spending requirements that tie his hands in future budgets.

Meanwhile, Hogan's sole veto so far — of a bill that would limit some school reforms — was swiftly overridden on party-line votes in the House of Delegates and state Senate on Thursday. The bill sets guidelines for how the state identifies low-performing schools and limits actions the Maryland State Board of Education can take to help those schools.

Lawmakers sent 27 bills to the Republican governor's desk last week, early enough to require Hogan to sign or veto them while the legislature was still in Annapolis for their 90-day session, which ends Monday. That allowed Democrats the chance to override potential vetoes.

Hogan vetoed only the education bill, doing so during a visit to a Baltimore charter school on Wednesday. He signed 11 bills into law during a series of ceremonies over the past week.

The remaining 15 become law without his signature.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood said Maryland is the first state in the nation to guarantee funding for the nonprofit health organization, which has been criticized by Republicans in Congress and Trump administration officials. Planned Parenthood serves 25,000 patients at nine centers in the state.

"We must remember that a state solution does not change the fact that politicians in Congress are trying to prohibit millions of people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood," said Karen J. Nelson, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, in a statement.

Environmentalists were happy that oyster sanctuaries will be protected until a population study is completed. The Hogan administration had been considering giving watermen periodic access to the sanctuaries.

"We have so few oysters left, we can't randomly increase harvesting especially on sanctuaries," said Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "Those areas are our insurance policy for the survival of oysters in the Chesapeake."

Transit advocates cheered passage of a law that will end the Maryland Transit Administration mandate known as farebox recovery, which set a goal of financing 35 percent of the agency's operations through fares. Republican lawmakers have long sought to keep that standard as a way of holding down taxpayer subsidies for public buses and trains, but supporters of transit programs have insisted the goal is unrealistic.

"The farebox recovery mandate repeal will remove a steep impediment to a more reliable, affordable public transportation system for the citizens of Baltimore and residents of Maryland," the Get Maryland Moving Coalition said in a statement. "Maryland was one of the few states that legally required a transit system to cover a certain percentage of operating costs from fares. Maryland has no such mandate in place for other modes of transportation receiving public investment such as roads and highways."

Another bill becoming law without Hogan's signature extends the EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program. Under that program, customers are charged a fee on their utility bills that utility companies use for energy efficiency programs such as home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity use and efficient appliances.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy praised lawmakers and the governor for continuing EmPOWER Maryland.

"EmPOWER Maryland means more electricity savings for consumers, reduced operating costs for employers and increased jobs across the state," said Brendon Baatz, a policy manager for the council who has studied the effectiveness of EmPOWER.

Hogan's decision to avoid most of his possible veto fights this year is a concession to the political reality that Democrats hold super-majorities in both the House and Senate and can override his vetoes anytime they remain united.

That's what happened on Thursday, as lawmakers easily overrode Hogan's veto of the Protect Our Schools Act, which prohibits the state from enacting some school reforms.

On largely party-line votes of 90-50 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate, lawmakers upheld the measure, which they passed last week.

The bill had become a contentious political issue in the waning days of the session.

Hogan, the state school board and Republican lawmakers argue that it will trap students in troubled schools and tie the hands of the state when it tries to help. Democrats and the state teachers union, meanwhile, say the bill is necessary to prevent the state from taking over and privatizing troubled schools.

Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican who is the House minority leader, said the education bill has gotten caught up in the fervor to combat Republican President Donald J. Trump's administration. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos supports some of the controversial reforms that the measure would prohibit Maryland from enacting.

Kipke said school children are becoming "collateral damage in the war on Washington, D.C."

Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the Protect Our Schools Act will lead to "a new era in education" that isn't overly reliant on standardized tests and keeps decision-making on how to help struggling schools at the local level.

The bill will protect students from "vouchers and other quick fixes," said Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat.

The measure will guide the state's plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which is due in September. Under the act, the plan would not include the ability for the state to convert low-performing schools into charters, bring in private operators, give the children vouchers to attend private schools or putting all of those schools into a statewide "recovery" school district.

The measure also sets a formula for identifying low-performing schools that includes a mix of standardized tests and other factors, such as attendance and quality of the curriculum. The state would report how schools are ranked on the factors but would not be allowed to assign letter grades to the schools.

Hogan responded to the veto override with a posting on his Facebook page, saying he was "sad" for children who will be trapped in failing schools and concerned the state could lose education aid if the federal government finds Maryland's plan to be insufficient.

"This will long be remembered as a low point in Maryland's legislative history," Hogan wrote.
It's also a low point in Maryland "Executive" history. The man folded w/o even attempting a "bluff".