Sunday, October 27, 2019
Friday, October 25, 2019
Joe Biden privately contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice when he was a senior and influential U.S. Senator to discuss issues that his son Hunter’s firm was being paid to lobby on, according to government records.
On at least two occasions, Biden contacted federal departments to discuss issues related to Hunter’s firm’s lobbying clients, according to records reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
Biden’s behind-the-scenes outreach illustrates how his Senate work overlapped with his son’s business interests. Biden has faced scrutiny for taking actions that were perceived to benefit his son’s work, including calling for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor and backing policies that helped the Delaware-based credit card industry while Hunter was working for MBNA, headquartered in the state.
Government records show that Biden, who has always insisted he knows nothing about his son's business activities, helped Hunter's work with strategic and highly-specific interventions that could have benefited his son to the tune of tens of tousands of dollars.
On Feb. 28, 2007 Biden contacted DHS to express that he was “concerned about the Department's proposed chemical security regulations authorized by Section 550 of DHS Appropriations Act of 2007,” according to the department’s log of its contacts with members of Congress.
Section 550, which was passed in 2006 as part of the DHS appropriations bill, requires high-risk chemical plants to submit site safety plans to DHS for approval, including security credentialing and training for employees.
Eight weeks earlier, the Industrial Safety Training Council had hired Hunter Biden’s firm to lobby DHS on the issue. The trade group, which represents companies that provide safety training for chemical facility employees, was mounting a heavy lobbying campaign over section 550, submitting congressional testimony about the need to expand background checks for chemical plant employees.
The Industrial Safety Training Council was seeking to expand the “language in DHS legislation regarding security clearance and credentialing for chemical facility employees and employers” in January 2007, according to lobbying disclosure records.
While Hunter Biden did not register as an individual lobbyist for the trade association, he was one of three senior partners in his firm at the time. The Industrial Safety Training Council paid Oldaker, Biden & Belair a total of $200,000 between early 2007 and the end of 2008.
The Biden campaign did not respond to request for comment. The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said Biden should have avoided involvement with issues that his son’s firm was also lobbying on because of the appearance of conflict.
“It’s implausible Senator Biden did not know his son’s firm was lobbying on this arcane issue,” said Tom Anderson, the director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project.
“Sometimes appearances are exactly what they are," he said. “This is a recurring problem we’ve seen on the Hill where family members are enriched because of their relationship with a member.”
Biden also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Jan. 31, 2007 requesting a meeting with the Department of Justice to discuss expanding the federal fingerprint background check system.
“I write to request your assistance in implementing an expanded background check system for our nation's volunteer organizations,” wrote Biden. “If we can work together to expand the number of volunteer organizations that have access to fast, accurate, and inexpensive fingerprint background checks, we will make significant and important strides in our ongoing effort to protect kids across our country.”
Biden added, “I would like to convene a small meeting with key representatives” from DOJ, the FBI, members of Congress and volunteer groups.
One of Hunter’s firm’s lobbying clients at the time, a coalition of state-level criminal justice advocates called SEARCH, was also lobbying the federal government for a broader fingerprint screening system at the time.
The same day as Biden’s letter, SEARCH adopted a resolution calling on Congress to consider "any effort to improve the quality, completeness and accessibility of criminal history records” and expand the current system to “allow the return of all criminal history record information maintained by the States on the search subject through a single fingerprint check.”
The group initially hired Oldaker, Biden & Belair in 2006 to lobby for federal funding for state-level criminal justice programs, paying the firm $114,000 over the next year. In early 2008, SEARCH was seeking funding “to assist states in development and use of information to accelerate automation of fingerprint authentication processes and criminal justice data which are compatible with the FBI’s" system, according to lobbying records.
Biden introduced a bill called the “Child Protection Improvements Act” on March 13, 2008, which created a national fingerprint background check system for volunteer groups that worked with children. Oldaker, Biden & Belair promptly began lobbying for the bill on behalf of their client, SEARCH, according to lobbying records. SEARCH paid the firm $93,000 in 2008, records show.
Hunter Biden founded Oldaker, Biden & Belair with William Oldaker, a former adviser to his father. During his time at the firm, he was registered to lobby for clients on issues ranging from online gambling to higher education. After Biden became a vice presidential candidate in 2008, Hunter stepped away from lobbying and the firm was renamed Oldaker, Belair & Wittie.
ABC News reported last week that Biden was concerned conflicts with his son’s lobbying work could negatively affect his presidential run in 2008.
Biden was "concerned with the impact that Hunter's lobbying activities might have on his expected campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination," according to court documents filed by a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s in 2007, ABC News reported.
"Because my dad was vice president of the United States, there's literally nothing, as a young man or as a full-grown adult, that my father in some way hasn't had influence over," Hunter told the outlet in an interview.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Monday, October 21, 2019
“ The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know ”-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, "The Black Swan"
Nassim Taleb, 2018 PBS interview
PAUL SOLMAN: I first interviewed you in 2006. “Black Swan” hadn’t even come out yet. Then came “Black Swan,” the book. Then came the crash of ’08. You became famous for warning people, having warned people, about extreme events and how cataclysmic they could be, right?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: The reason people paid attention to my work was because I had skin the game at the time. I was involved. I was taking risks.
PAUL SOLMAN: You were a trader.
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: I was involved. I was eating my risk. Owning my own risk, as I write in the book.
PAUL SOLMAN: Are there black swans on the horizon now? What are you betting on?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: The point is, the system is fragile because we had a lot of debt. Plus, there are a bunch of things that have been developing that I’m not comfortable with, developing over, say, the least 20 years, but mostly the last 10 years, I’m not comfortable with.
PAUL SOLMAN: They are?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: It’s that rise of the class, the no-skin-in-the-game class in decision-making.
PAUL SOLMAN: The no-skin-in-the-game class?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Exactly. Decision-makers who can drag you into intervention, can drag you into policies that cosmetically feel good, but eventually, somebody pays a price and it’s not them.
There are two levels. The first one, and the most obvious one, is people who intervene in Iraq, thinking, “Hey, we’re going to bring democracy,” or some abstract concept. The thing falls apart, and they walk away from it. They’re not committed with living or owning the toy. They broke it. They don’t own it. Then, the same people make the same mistake with Libya and then now currently with Syria, the warmongers. In the past, historically, warmongers were soldiers. You could not rise in a senate if you didn’t have war experience. [Today if] you have a class of people who inflict risk on others without being affected by the outcome, that class of people is going to disrupt the system, causing some kind of collapse.
PAUL SOLMAN: Do you see some kind of collapse on the horizon?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: I can see some severe distortions now from that class of people deciding to “fix” things and, effectively, not paying the price.
PAUL SOLMAN: What risk are they posing to us now?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Well, the system is loaded with debt that has benefited these bankers. The chairman of a certain bank now is making $23 million a year again in bonuses…. So, people don’t understand that we’re not learning from previous crises to force people to have skin in the game, so they can avoid stashing these risks.
Paul Solman: But if I’m a manager, CEO of a company and I have stock options, then I am punished if the stock goes down.
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: No, not really, because you still have upside, net you have upside.
PAUL SOLMAN: You mean, I’m only going to be compensated, I’m never going to have money taken away from me.
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Exactly, whereas the taxpayer only has a downside of that trade. The taxpayer will never have the benefit of what’s going on, but we pay the price as taxpayers.
PAUL SOLMAN: Because we’re going to bail them out, you mean?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Of course, so we are really the people who are owning the risk.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, what’s the cost?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Let me take you back to the “Black Swan” and an idea I continued. In the “Black Swan,” I asked myself, “There are experts who are experts, and experts who aren’t. What marker is there? How would we know? We know very well that a pilot, a plane pilot, is an expert. Why, because there’s skin in the game, there’s some kind of contact with reality. A dentist is an expert. Your tailor is an expert. But you can never tell if an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States is an expert. As a matter of fact, I’m certain that they’re not experts. Economic forecasters, [but] they are not experts. So, they are what I call the “faux experts.”
We know where they are. It’s very simply someone who makes a decision that doesn’t have visible consequences for the person to be affected. And that’s what I call the no-skin-in-the-game expert.
PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s to the reaction against those experts that you attribute to Brexit and Donald Trump?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Yes, of that rise of the class of pseudo experts running our affairs.
PAUL SOLMAN: My initial question was, “What black swans do you see now?” You said, ‘Hey, too many people with not enough skin in the game, is setting us up for…’ What?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: For a riot, because people understand. They have the Web, they have Twitter, they have access.
PAUL SOLMAN: What are they going to do?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: They are rioting. They elected Trump, they are electing all these governments… There’s a riot against the class of over-educated, Harvard, Ivy-league, Cambridge, Oxford, Ecole Normale in France, this whole class of people is no longer going to be able to run our affairs… The system laden with debt and with pseudo experts will collapse eventually.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, that’s the black swan, a collapse.
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: A collapse, because we haven’t really remedied what happened in 2008. We haven’t fixed anything from 2008, what caused 2008. There’s still a lot of debt in the system… Now it may be, miraculously, under Trump, we may have a second wind and America may rise again, and pay the debt. Hopefully that would work.
PAUL SOLMAN: You mean huge economic growth?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: That’s my hope.
PAUL SOLMAN: Were you in favor of Donald Trump?
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: I was not against. First of all I gave him higher odds, because of this. I was writing the chapter on the I-Y-I, the Intellectual Yet Idiot, and I was describing the mechanism. And I said people are rioting against that. And I said that anyone who makes more sense to your Chinese grocery store owner, just off the ship, more than to an intellectual, would win. That’s what happened. I gave Trump close to 50 percent chance at a time when it was not possible. Mostly for technical reasons, and also because I believe that you can see that he makes a lot of sense to merchants, to small business owners, but he doesn’t make sense to intellectuals. So, he has to be that person. But anyone would have been elected, had they played that same platform, of coming in and trying to address in simplistic, but very clear, no nonsense terms to the general public.
PAUL SOLMAN: By saying the people who have been running the show have been leading you astray.
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: He got the disease right. Now whether he’s going to fix it, I don’t know.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Saturday, October 19, 2019
congressNext time... could you please sit on a towel?
1) a national legislative body, especially that of the US. The US Congress, which meets at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., was established by the Constitution of 1787 and is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives."changes in taxation required the approval of Congress" · [more]2) a formal meeting or series of meetings for discussion between delegates, especially those from a political party or labor union or from within a particular discipline.
legislature · legislative assembly · parliament · convocation · diet · council · [more]
"an international congress of mathematicians"3) a society or organization, especially a political one.
conference · convention · seminar · colloquium · symposium · consultation · [more]
"the National Congress of American Indians"4) the action of coming together.