Friday, December 23, 2016

Cruising the Web

Surprisingly, Trump is already have an effect on current foreign policy. He took steps to block a UN Security Council vote targeting Israel.
The Israeli government reached out to President-elect Trump before a United Nations Security Council vote Thursday condemning the construction of Israeli settlements, according to a report.

The vote was later scrapped by Egyptian officials after Trump put out a statement calling on the council to veto the resolution.

Israel made contact with Trump's team in order to get support in opposing the resolution, an Israeli official told CNN. The official said his country had "no choice" after overtures to the Obama White House failed to convince the U.S. to veto the planned vote. Israeli settlement construction drew condemnation from the State Department earlier this year.

"We did reach out to the president-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do," the official said.
That's really rather amazing on several fronts. First, that the Obama administration was going to go along with the resolution by not vetoing it as has been U.S. policy. It's as if Obama wanted to stick his thumb in Israel's eye as he leaves the White House. The Obama officials seem to think that it is Israel who is blocking a two-state solution but that there was nothing that we need to ask of the Palestinians. Obama had had the U.S. veto a similar resolution in 2011. Then to have Israel reach out to Trump and have him, as president-elect, spoke out to put pressure on Egypt to get them to withdraw the resolution in contrast to the present administration's policy choices. It's not clear whether Egypt decided to postpone the resolution more in response to Trump’s words or to Israel’s pressure.

Politicians running for the presidency like to call for cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse" as if there is enough of such spending to balance the budget. Of course, that's a pipe dream. The real problem comes from entitlement spending and few politicians want to campaign on trimming entitlements. But there is still wasteful spending that can be cut even if it is a relative drop in the federal spending bucket. Daily Caller has some egregious examples.
1. $412,000 for a study on a feminine approach to glaciology

The National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $412,000 for a paper encouraging a feminist approach to glaciology, the study of glaciers, according to a report earlier this year from Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford.

“Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions,” the paper said....

3. $87 billion on ignored inspector general recommendations

The federal government wasted $87 billion by ignoring thousands of recommendations from agency inspectors general (IGs) during President Barack Obama’s tenure, according to an October U.S. Senate report.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said there is “no excuse” for the refusal to carry out 15,222 IG recommendations that could have saved billions each year. The Department of Defense (DOD) alone could save more than $33 billion if Pentagon officials did what their respective IG suggested.
Who knew that glaciers were different for women than for men?

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Two writers at Vice News explore
the possibilities that Democrats could use a law from 1887 that has never been used and no one had probably ever heard of before this to try to still deny Donald Trump the presidency.
The law, 3 U.S. Code section 15 , allows for a challenge to electoral votes — either on an individual basis or statewide — if one member of the House and one member of the Senate submit a letter asserting that votes were not “regularly given.” From there, a win for Hillary Clinton is theoretically possible, although it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

“You’ve got to be honest and say there’s a huge amount of uncertainty in this,” said Ohio State law professor Edward Foley, whose book “Ballot Battles,” about the history of disputed elections, came out earlier this year. “It is the most convoluted law, and Congress knew at the time they wrote it that it didn’t make any sense, but it was a compromise.”

After a representative and senator file their objection, both chambers meet separately for two hours to deliberate. For example, two Democrats, one from each body, could file an objection about Pennsylvania’s electoral votes cast for Trump and cite Russia’s interference in the election.

“If it was proved by the CIA and FBI investigations that there had been some particular districts that were manipulated — for example, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin — then that could be a condition [for Congress to object],” said Pippa Norris, a McGuire Lecturer on Comparative Politics and professor at Harvard and Sydney universities.

Since Republicans have a majority in both chambers of Congress, however, the objection would likely be voted down. In fact, Congress has never sustained one of these objections; in the past, they’ve stemmed from a procedural lapse, like duplicate electoral votes, and not from ideological issues, according to Derek Muller, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University.
It sounds nothing would come of this in the long run, but it could delay the certification of Trump's election and prolong the desperate hopes of those who still can't contemplate a President Trump. There is no indication that the Congressional Democrats plan to take advantage of this obscure law, but I'm sure that there are those who would read this and urge the Democrats to attempt to use this last hopeless tactic. I get this. I followed all the twists and plots before the GOP convention to find one last way to deny Trump the nomination and throw the vote to an open convention that would pick Ted Cruz or John Kasich or anyone else. So I can understand bitterly clinging to any hope of forestalling his inauguration. But at some time, they have to move past denial to acceptance.

Salena Zito notes that a recent Pew Research study reveals that almost all voters (99% for Trump and 96% for Clinton) would vote the same way if the election were held again. They're ready to move on, but not a lot on the left.  People like Michael Moore, Paul Krugman, and Keith Olbermann are still resisting the idea of a President Trump. They're still in denial.  Hillary supporters are still blaming Putin and James Comey.  She provides the example of several Trump voters and what they're thinking now.
“On Nov. 8 I went from a responsible, hard-working, upstanding citizen to an uninformed bigot who gleefully supports Russian interference in our elections and the destruction of our republic,” Robert said. “At least that’s what I have read in the newspaper or seen on television, so it must be true, right?”

Edward smiled, paused, and then said, “It is refreshing to hear your candor, it’s gotten to the point where you are afraid to not only express your opinion, but to stand by your opinion. Yes, I supported him and yes, I would do it again.”

“They’ve thrown everything at everyone who voted for Trump to deteriorate or place doubt in his supporters’ minds,” said Audrey.

“It astounds me that the press still doesn’t get it, that my party (Democrats) are blaming everyone but themselves for a poor message, poor messenger and the responsibility she bears for placing her email security in jeopardy . . . it’s not Comey’s fault. It’s hers,” said Elizabeth who was sitting in the booth across the aisle.

Elizabeth voted for Clinton, but wasn’t sure she’d do so again. “The way everyone is acting now post-election shows that no one, no one, has learned anything. She is just proving she deserved to lose,” she said.

What the political class astoundingly still doesn’t get is that people, even those who supported Clinton, are tired of Trump’s win being blamed on fake news, the Comey letter and the Russians.

They’re tired of every story about the election beginning with “But, Hillary won the popular vote.” And they’re tired of protesters protesting something they can’t change.

And they’re clearly not alone.

As the Washington Examiner editorializes, the Trump family, father and children, just don't get it when it comes to conflicts of interest. How his sons could think that it was acceptable to start a new foundation connected to their father's inauguration is beyond me.
The social media hashtag for the banquet in D.C. that night is #OpeningDay45, according to the invitation. The prize buck for "Opening Day" is the president himself. A $250,000 gift to the foundation would buy a donor a "private reception" with Trump.

Did the Trump brothers not notice the scandals created by the Clinton Foundation? The odious pay-to-play operation run by Hillary and Bill and their acolytes, the appearances of impropriety, the conflicts of interest? Or did Eric and Donald Jr. pay close attention and decide to use Hillary as their model?

After unfavorable press, the Trump boys have backed away from selling access to the president. But it's baffling or damning that they created a new foundation after the election that would raise donations from millionaires, billionaires and corporations. It's astonishing that anyone at the foundation thought it acceptable to sell access to the president.

It's another sign that Trump's inner circle don't yet understand the ethical, legal and political tripwires that the presidency creates, and the sacrifices that public service requires of them.

Two wealthy brothers using their fame to set up a hunting-conservation foundation is usually a fine thing. Raising money from rich people and corporations to fund these conservation efforts is great. But once their father becomes chief executive of the federal government, such an arrangement is a boiling mess of conflicts and opportunities for corruption.
Why did they have to wait for the outrage to realize this was a terrible idea? That's just bad judgment. But they seem to have inherited that from their father who still doesn't seem to understand how terrible it looks for him not to disentangle both himself and his children from his family businesses.
Conflicts of interest are serious stuff — just ask Hillary Clinton, whose failure to police them contributed to her crushing defeat last month. Government ethics are complex stuff. Trump seems not to appreciate that yet. If he doesn't get straight on this matter, he will run headfirst in an ethical, legal and political minefield, and some of the most obvious damage will be to his effectiveness as president.
Thomas Edsall has an interesting op-ed in the NYT based on a study by Mark Muro of Brookings that analyzes the communities that supported Hillary Clinton in contrast to those which supported Trump. The conclusion is that the message of progressive populism might be of less appeal to those communities that voted for Clinton. They're more likely to come from economically successful areas and be less susceptible to an anti-free trade message. These communities have economies based on businesses that are benefiting from globalism. In contrast, the Trump voters are much more likely to oppose free trade. It's an interesting analysis and worth the read.

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Gosh, the German security system really is not looking good after this recent attack on the Christmas market in Berlin. We are now finding out that the authorities actually had the the suspect in their custody.
The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market — a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant — was the subject of a terrorism probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported even though his asylum bid was rejected, a senior German official said Wednesday....

His record, however, further deepened the political fallout from Monday’s bloodshed — pointing to flaws in the German deportation system and putting a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s humanitarian bid to open the nation’s doors to nearly 1 million asylum seekers last year.

Although the vast majority of those who flooded into Europe were on the move to escape war and unrest, dozens of terrorism suspects have slipped into Germany and neighboring nations posing as migrants. Amri, officials said, was not part of the surge of migrants who entered Europe via the onetime main route from Turkey and Greece — a path that has been now largely cut off.

Rather, he came to Germany last year via Italy, where he apparently had entered as early as 2012. He applied for German asylum but was rejected in June and later faced deportation.

Amri was the subject of a terrorism probe on suspicion of “preparing a serious act of violent subversion,” and he had known links to Islamist extremists, authorities said.

Why a failed asylum seeker with such links and no passport was walking German streets is “the question 82 million Germans probably want an answer to,” said Rainer Wendt, Chairman of the German Police Union.
It seems like there is a real loophole in the system that someone of evil intent like Amri could exploit.
Although authorities have sought to accelerate the deportation of rejected asylum seekers this year, there is still a backlog in Germany of tens of thousands, many of whom are able to resist because their countries of origin refuse to take them back. Amri, Jäger said, was one of them.

Amri had not been deported because — like many asylum seekers in Germany — he did not have a passport. The Tunisian government, Jäger explained, initially denied that he was a national and delayed issuing his passport. Pending his deportation, Amri had received a “toleration” status from the government.

Amri’s new Tunisian passport, Jäger said, finally arrived Wednesday.
What a Catch-22. They want to deport him but he doesn't have a passport so he doesn't get deported. How many people must that apply to? This guy was already suspected because of his contacts and involvement with an ISIS recruiter in Germany. The WSJ reports that Germany is "ill-prepared" to fight against terrorism.
Compared with France and the U.S., Germany is newer to facing the terror threat, a U.S. official said, adding more needs to be done in the country to overcome privacy concerns and allow deeper coordination among authorities on cases of interest.
Jim Geraghty comments,
Wait, how can any Western country be caught off guard by the “terror threat”? The 9/11 attacks were fifteen years ago! In the interim we’ve had the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Paris attacks including the Bataclan theater, the Brussels airport bombing, the Nice truck attack, the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults all over Germany and the Normandy Church attack. You’re telling me the land of the Munich Olympics, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Red Army Faction attacks in the 1970s has forgotten about the threat of terrorism?

Just another humiliation for Hillary Clinton.
The former presidential candidate was one of 30 people named to GQ’s “Least Influential People Of 2016” list this week — right next to Anthony Weiner, Tim Kaine and Harambe, the gorilla that was shot after a kid fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all my readers celebrating those holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and filled with joy.