Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cruising the Web

Many people warned about the problems that would arise from Trump's business interests before the election and now we're seeing those concerns are now being realized. The Washington Post looks at the possible questions involving Trump's foreign policy holdings. For example,
Turkey is a nation in crisis, scarred by government crackdowns following a failed coup attempt and on a potential collision course with the West. It is also home to a valuable revenue stream for the president-elect’s business empire: Trump Towers Istanbul.

Donald Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the tower’s developers since 2014 to affix the Trump name atop the luxury complex, whose owner, one of Turkey’s biggest oil and media conglomerates, has become an influential megaphone for the country’s increasingly repressive regime.

That, ethics advisers said, forces the Trump complex into an unprecedented nexus: as both a potential channel for dealmakers seeking to curry favor with the Trump White House and a potential target for attacks or security risks overseas.

The president-elect’s Turkey deal marks a harrowing vulnerability that even Trump has deemed “a little conflict of interest”: a private moneymaker that could open him to foreign influence and tilt his decision-making as America’s executive in chief.
According to the Post, there are 111 Trump companies in 18 separate countries and territories. And every one of them is a potential conflict of interest. For a man who campaigned against "Crooked Hillary" for the appearance of corruption in the Clinton Foundation's fundraising and Bill Clinton taking money from foreign countries while Hillary was Secretary of State, Donald Trump is laying himself open for deserved criticism for the exact same thing.

But Trump seems to just be hiding his head in the sand about all of this. He's still meeting about Trump investments abroad.
President-elect Donald J. Trump met in the last week in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex south of Mumbai, raising new questions about how he will separate his business dealings from the work of the government once he is in the White House.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump described the meeting as a courtesy call by the three Indian real estate executives, who flew from India to congratulate Mr. Trump on his election victory. In a picture posted on Twitter, all four men are smiling and giving a thumbs-up.

“It was not a formal meeting of any kind,” Breanna Butler, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said when asked about the meeting on Saturday.

One of the businessmen, Sagar Chordia, posted photographs on Facebook on Wednesday showing that he also met with Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump. Mr. Trump’s children are helping to run his businesses as they play a part in the presidential transition.
If the Trump children are going to be running his businesses while he's president, they can't also be sitting in on policy discussions or meetings with foreign leaders. But he had Ivanka sit in with his meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister.

There are also Constitutional problems that Trump might face due to his foreign holdings.
Trump’s global business interests also make him vulnerable to legal risks, including a passage in the Constitution, known as the emoluments clause, that forbids government officials from receiving gifts from a foreign government.

A payment from a foreign official or state-owned company to a Trump hotel or other branded company could potentially violate that clause, constitutional experts said.
How to separate out an unconstitutional gift from just a generous deal that a foreign country might make with Trump? For example, he has nine separate businesses in China. Is it so unthinkable that the Chinese government could hope to win the president's support on some issue by padding a deal with one of those companies? There are eight companies in Saudi Arabia. The same questions arise. We shouldn't even have to wonder about these things. And what about foreign diplomats or American lobbyists staying at the Trump hotel in Washington and then dropping in their praise for the hotel as they meet with the president?

In a summary of the controversies swirling about Trump's business interests, the Washington Post points to the story they ran this weekend about how foreign diplomats are perhaps already viewing the Trump Hotel in Washington as an occasion for winning favor with Trump.
“Believe me, all the delegations will go there,” said one Middle Eastern diplomat who recently toured the hotel and booked an overseas visitor. The diplomat said many stayed away from the hotel before the election for fear of a “Clinton backlash,” but that now it’s the place to be seen.

In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.
Republicans have spent 25 years complaining about the ethical lines that the Clintons crossed. They shouldn't close their eyes to the sleaziness inherent in all of Trump's business holdings while he is in the White House. Simply saying that he's going to turn his businesses over to his children doesn't cut it. But with so many business enterprises around the globe, it's going to be almost impossible for him to liquidate all of them before he is sworn in. There should have been more focus on all of this during the campaign, but it probably wouldn't have made any difference to his supporters.

If he thinks any of this is going to go away, he is fooling himself.

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Oh, this should distress no Republican.
Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general is being met with alarm at the Justice Department’s civil rights division and could trigger an exodus there, former officials said Friday.
The civil rights division under Obama has become extremely politicized. If these staffers don't want to work under Sessions, good riddance.

Hugh Hewitt posts a note from a friend of his who worked at the Department of Justice with this comment about the story.
Politico and a couple other places have had stories about a potential “mass exodus” in the Civil Rights Division if Sessions is confirmed.

Why would that be? Is the Civil Rights Division full of liberal attorneys? Is being a left winger a necessary prerequisite to working in the Civil Rights Division?

If I recall correctly (and I do because I remember it vividly), one of the “outrageous” aspects of the 2006 scandal involving the firings of 7 US Attorneys in the second term of the Bush Administration was the fact that a mid-level DOJ attorney named Monica Goodling — way over her head in the job she was given — came under intense scrutiny by Congress when it became known that she was evaluating some DOJ hires based on their political leanings as gleaned from their resumes. Bradley Schlozman, the interim Chief of the Civil Rights Division was also found by Congressional investigators and the DOJ Inspector General to have favored applicants with conservative credentials, and disfavored applicants with prior civil rights or human rights affiliations considered too liberal — both in violation of DOJ hiring policies and federal law.
After all, these positions were “career” appointments, and by law political and ideological views are not to be considered in hiring.

So how is it — after 8 years of Obama Administration hiring in the Civil Rights Division — that there might be a “mass exodus” of trial attorneys simply because there is going to be a conservative AG? Has there been a pattern or practice in hiring by the Civil Rights Division that has favored liberal leaning applicants?
If there is a “mass exodus”, maybe there should be an investigation into how the staffing of the Civil Rights Division came to be so tilted that it would be so chock-full of liberal and left wing attorney activists who simply can’t bring themselves to handle civil rights cases in a politically neutral manner.
Christopher Bedford writes at The Daily Caller to illustrate the reasons why Americans don't want to listen to the media. They've been demonizing Republicans for so long that many people have just tuned them out. After calling George W. Bush and Mitt Romney Nazis, they now are in the position of saying, "No, this time we really mean it." Yes, Trump is a very different sort of person from Bush or Romney and much more problematic. But the reductio ad Hitlerium is just ridiculous.
One would think reporters would have realized this by now, but not even their self-proclaimed truth-sayer, Bill Maher, could get around his own head. In an ironic broadcast the Friday before the election, Maher dramatically apologized for calling “honorable men” like Gov. Mitt Romney and President George Bush “the end of the world,” admitting that “we cried wolf and that was wrong.” Then, in a strange twist, he added, “But this is real. This is going to be way different.” Trump, he assured us, was an actual fascist. Or a Josef Stalin; take your pick.

This past week, media figures reported that Vice President-elect Mike Pence firing lobbyists and Gov. Chris Christie supporters was “a Stalin-esque purge.” The off-the-record quote by a Rep. Mike Rogers ally topped stories on the firings around the country. Schools do not teach history as thoroughly as they should, but most readers know that telling someone to write a letter of resignation and return to their lucrative career is not comparable to shooting them in a basement or killing them in a Siberian labor camp. And so the public did not listen.

The New York Times Review of Books disguised the same point as a review of a Hitler biography; in September alone, The Washington Post made a number of Trump-Hitler comparisons; CNN got in on the game; and of course, so did NBC and MSNBC. The idea that enforcing immigration laws, re-evaluating trade agreements and emphasizing law and order are the same things as Adolf Hitler’s Germany or Benito Mussolini’s Italy are, on their faces, laughable. And the public did not listen. (Links in the original)
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Kyle Smith weighs in on the same point.
What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).

Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before, but instead of mingling like chocolate and peanut butter, the two are creating a taste that’s like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice.

Look at the bonkers reaction to every move made by Trump’s transition team. “Firings and Discord Put Trump Team in a State of Disarray,” ran a shrill New York Times headline, though it took President-elect Obama three weeks to name his first cabinet pick. “Trump Transition Shakeup Part of ‘Stalinesque Purge’ of Christie Loyalists,” screamed NBC News....

After Trump gave the media the slip Tuesday night and went out for a steak, NBC harrumphed, “With his Tuesday night actions, the Trump administration is shaping up to be the least accessible to the public and the press in modern history.” Quite a leap there, especially considering the wall of opacity erected by the current administration, which has been stonewalling Freedom Of Information Act requests for years.
Smith reminds us of all the ways that the media put their fists on the scale in 2004, and both Obama elections. And then there are what we've found out through WikiLeaks about how individual reporters were sucking up to the Clinton campaign as they acted as mouthpieces for the Democrats.
Should the media be antagonistic to Trump? Yes, they should be antagonistic to all public officials. Their job is to expose bad judgment and wrongdoing, not to fawn and mewl.

That the media chose to be blasé about Obama overriding the Constitution and making law via fiat was reprehensible. It doesn’t mean the media are under any obligation whatsoever to show deference to Trump should he do the same.

For the good of us all, though, and in the interest of rebuilding the wreckage of its reputation, the media should go back to having gradations of outrage. Switching transition chairmen isn’t the Saturday Night Massacre, and going out for a steak without telling the hacks isn’t on a par with, say, deleting 33,000 emails.

The Trump Era hasn’t even started yet. The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world.

Arthur Chrenkoff catches two hilarious examples of ahistoric alarmism. Patrick Smith said that "Donald Trump is probably one of the very worst things to happen to our WOrld in the last 100 years." Really? Does he really want to put Trump's election over two world wars, the Holocaust, the tens of millions killed under communist rule in the Soviet Union and Mao's rule in China? Chrenkoff writes,
Being “one of the very worst things to happen in our World in the last 100 years” would make Donald Trump somewhere in the same category as World War One, World War Two, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the communist terror in the Soviet Union, the communist terror in China, including the Great Famine with its 45 million deaths, the communist terror in places like Cambodia, North Korea and Ethiopia, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Spanish Flu pandemic, AIDS, the world hunger and disease, and last but not l east, the “Star Trek” franchise.
And Noam Chomsky, always someone to miss the historical context had this bit of nonsense,
. “Nov. 8,” he says, is “a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react. No exaggeration.”

....“The outcome [of the election] placed total control of the government—executive, Congress, the Supreme Court—in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history."
So in Chomsky's view, the Republicans are worse than the Nazis or the Communist Party or ISIS.

How can anyone pay any attention to such idiocy?

If Trump can institute these changes with the federal bureaucracy, he'd have my total support.
President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are drawing up plans to take on the government bureaucracy they have long railed against, by eroding job protections and grinding down benefits that federal workers have received for a generation.

Hiring freezes, an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, a ban on union business on the government’s dime and less generous pensions — these are the contours of the blueprint emerging under Republican control of Washington in January.

These changes were once unthinkable to federal employees, their unions and their supporters in Congress. But Trump’s election as an outsider promising to shake up a system he told voters is awash in “waste, fraud and abuse” has conservatives optimistic that they could do now what Republicans have been unable to do in the 133 years since the modern civil service was created.
It sounds like the Republicans in Congress are ready to write the bills that would facilitate efforts to transform the federal bureaucracy away from being a guaranteed taxpayer-funded sinecure regardless of performance.
“It’s nearly impossible to fire somebody,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “When the overwhelming majority do a good job and the one bad apple is there viewing pornography, I want people to be held accountable.”

Chaffetz said he plans to push through wholesale changes to the generous retirement benefits that federal workers receive, by shifting to a market-driven, 401(k)-style plan for new employees.
Of course, the Democrats will oppose this since their power base is government workers. But it will be hard to defend blocking giving government workers the same sort of retirement plans that many Americans have.

Noemie Emery writes about the ridiculousness of bemoaning the defeat of the first female candidate of a major party for president. This does not mean that the country has rejected the idea of a female president, just that they rejected Hillary Clinton.
Clinton's loss means that the First Woman President, when we do get one, will be a much better deal for the world. Hillary's rise was both derivative and celebrity driven. And one way or another, her career always happened because she was Bill Clinton's wife. It was as Bill Clinton's wife that she burst on the world as a "new kind of First Lady," as Bill Clinton's wife that she lost both houses of Congress for her husband and party in 1994, as Bill Clinton's wife that she emerged as the woman wronged in the epic impeachment-and-Monica scandal, and it was as Bill Clinton's wife that she ran for the Senate with all of the force of the White House behind her and won election in a state she never had lived in, as compensation for all she'd been through.

In the Senate, she turned into herself; it was a good fit for her gifts and she ought to have stayed there, but as Bill Clinton's wife she was hooked on their common idea that they both should be president; and it was his presence and influence as his party's most recent president that made her at once the frontrunner. It was as herself that she lost to Barack Obama, and the story repeated itself eight years later, her political instincts and skills not being up to the demands of a grueling two-year national campaign.

This is not the path of your normal career politician, and when we do get a first woman president, she will most likely decide to do it the old way, deciding to run, defining her program, finding her allies, climbing the stairs one by one. She will also not run as the First Woman President, but more as John Kennedy ran in 1960, not as the First Catholic President out to crack ceilings, but as a senator who asked for no more than a fair break from the voters and didn't want what he thought an irrelevant issue to stand in his way. The good news is that eight years after Kennedy won, after a campaign that had its share of stories of tunnels to Rome, two other Catholics ran for president—his own brother Bobby and ex-seminarian Eugene McCarthy—to no comment whatever about their religion. Since then, Catholics and others have been running for president, and no one has batted an eye.

The other good news is that right behind Hillary (and in most cases, not remotely inspired by her) is a large group of women in both major parties who have risen in the profession without president-husbands and the truckloads of baggage: governors Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez, recently defeated senator Kelly Ayotte, who may be planning a comeback, Senator-elect Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in Iraq. Proponents of the girl-power, girls-can-do-anything school should look very hard at the cadre of veterans: Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard, Joni Ernst, and especially Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, first woman to head a USAF fighter squadron, first American woman to fly in combat. If you want someone promoting girl power, there's no better example than that.

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Jay Cost defends
the Electoral College and reminds us of the history of the Constitutional Convention that led to this compromise. Cost also puts objections to the Electoral College in the context of progressive objections to the limitations on federal power.
It should come as no surprise that the left complains so vociferously about the Electoral College. Their objections go deeper than the results of the most recent election. Since the days of Woodrow Wilson, progressives have been on a crusade to do away with the blended nature of our Constitution. What conservatives see as a prudent compromise vindicated by history, progressives see as a problem. Thus, they prefer to read Congress's enumerated powers as a plenary grant of authority; they disdain the filibuster and other devices that grant minorities a role in the day-to-day functions of government; and they attack the Electoral College, as we have seen again the last two weeks. These complaints are all of a piece: They wish to undo the federal-national compromise that is at the very heart of our union.
On the same subject, John Yoo writes at AEI explains how the Electoral College is just one other part of the Constitution that gives the states a role in the federal government. If the Electoral College is so objectionable, then the Senate should also be. Yoo explains why the Founders created this unique system.
The Framers specifically designed the Electoral College to dilute democracy and favor the states. Democrats who disagree are at war with the federalism that the Framers hardwired throughout the Constitution itself.

They forget that fundamental features of the Constitution are even more anti-democratic than the Electoral College.

The very existence of the Senate, where the Constitution allocates two Senators to each state, runs directly counter to the idea of popular representation. Delaware, with a tiny population, has the same number of Senators as giant California.

And yet the Constitution requires the agreement of the Senate, where the majority of the people have no voice, to most of our most important decisions.

Our nation can pass no law without the approval of the Senate.

The nation can make no treaties, our most significant instrument of foreign policy, unless two-thirds of the Senate consents.

The president cannot appoint his own cabinet, other executive branch officers, or Supreme Court Justices and federal judges, without the Senate.

Congress cannot recommend amendments to the Constitution or call for a new constitutional convention without two-thirds of the Senate.

The Framers underscored the importance of the states in our constitutional system by making each state’s right to two Senators the only provision in the Constitution which can never be amended.
This sounds like my class this week in which we were looking at all the places in the Constitution where the states are given a role. Besides the Senate, think of the ratification of amendments, drawing district lines, and running elections. All this was part of the delicate compromises that created the Constitution. And, as Yoo points out, if people are so determined that we are embracing democracy, then maybe we should rethink the role of the Supreme Court and the administration state.
If Democrats oppose the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College, they should seek to uproot other restraints on democracy.
They should start with judicial review, which gives nine federal judges, appointed for life, the power to strike down legislation. They could continue with the Bill of Rights, which exists solely to prevent the majority from infringing on the rights of individuals, no matter how great the benefit to society. They could finish with the administrative state, where unelected bureaucrats exercise most nation regulatory power.

Here's a bit of irony for Hamilton fans - You know that Electoral College that determined that Trump would become president despite Clinton winning the popular vote? Well, guess who wrote the Federalist Paper defending the use of the Electoral College? That's right - Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68.





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