Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cruising the Web

I don't know what the DOJ and FBI were up to during the 2016 election with the Trump campaign, but why is it so outrageous to want to find out? If the accusations of the Trump team and others in conservative media are close, this is very disturbing. We can't have our legal investigative agencies secretly spying on the campaign of a major party nominee for president. Imagine what the Trump DOJ might do in future campaigns if this were a precedent that escaped any clarification and accounting?

On the other hand, if there were significant and believable indications that members of the Trump campaign were either working with or being used by the Russians, that is something that should have been investigated. Would Republicans have wanted anything any less for the Clinton campaign? Right now we seem to be operating in a field of competing leaks, innuendos, and sometimes wilde conjecture. Is it really so bad to have the DOJ Inspector General looking into all of this? And it is indeed the responsibility of Congress to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch. The DOJ and FBI don't have the authority to stonewall Congressional investigations. There has been so much leaked already; let's figure out what really happened. As David Harsanyi writes,
If the Justice Department and FBI are, as we’ve been told incessantly over the past year, not merely patriots but consummate professionals incapable of being distracted by partisanship or petty Washington intrigues, why are Donald Trump’s antagonists freaking out over the fact that an inspector general will assess whether political motivation tainted an investigation into the president’s campaign? The American people should get a full accounting of what transpired during 2016. Isn’t that what we’ve been hearing since the election?

You believe Trump is corrupt. I get it. But surely anyone who alleges to be concerned about the sanctity of our institutions and rule of law would have some cursory curiosity about whether an investigation by the administration of one major party into the presidential campaign of another major party was grounded in direct evidence rather than fabulist rumor-mongering. Otherwise, any administration, including Trump’s, could initiate an investigation for whatever cooked-up superficial reason it wanted.

Then, when a constitutionally empowered oversight committee demanded information about that investigation, the DOJ could accuse it of “extortion” and stonewall for years.
We're told all the time not to trust local police when there is some horrific shooting that takes place and that local authorities can't police themselves. Why shouldn't we cast such skepticism toward federal authorities? After all, as Harsanyi points out, it isn't as if some of the folks who were in charge in the previous administration haven't lied to the American people before.
I don’t know if there’s a big conspiracy by the deep state. But it’s pretty obvious to me that leaders of our institutions aren’t above engaging in spying. John Brennan spied on the legislative branch and lied about it to the American people. James Clapper spied on the American people through a domestic surveillance program and lied about it to Congress. Although the Obama administration never tweeted nasty attacks on journalists, it did spy on and prosecute them. It’s completely plausible that those in the upper echelon of law enforcement saw Trump as a threat, then used wobbly evidence as the pretext to investigate his campaign. If not, it’ll be good to clear their names....

Perhaps all of this will lead to nothing exciting. Perhaps the competing narratives that have sprung up around Trump and Russia will end far less dramatically than either of their champions hope. But when “rule of law” enthusiasts keep arguing the DOJ is “independent” of the president, then turn around and argue that a congressional oversight committee shouldn’t have the right to ask the executive branch for documents pertaining to their inquiry, one begins to suspect that perhaps some of the hyperbolic rhetoric we’ve been hearing over the past two years has been little more than partisanship....

Presidents ask the DOJ to do all kinds of things all the time. If the attorney general doesn’t like it, he can resign. If the folks running the DOJ or FBI don’t like it, they can quit. If Congress doesn’t like it, they can impeach the president. That’s the “constitutional system” every president, including Trump, functions under.

Is Trump pushing the issue for political reasons? Of course. If Mueller doesn’t come back with any evidence of collusion — and all the other indictments and criminality he’s found matter, of course, but they have nothing to do with the impetus for the investigation — it will be all the more important to figure out what the previous administration was up to. Precedent and history matter.

(See links in original.)
If everything they did was clean and by the book, they should want their names and their organizations cleared. At this point with so much having been leaked, it's not as if the Russians don't know what was going on. It's time for the public to also get a full picture.

I was just practicing with my Quiz Bowl team for the national tournament this weekend and there was a question on the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre and the names of the people involved. My students didn't know it so I was going over it with them and one thing that struck them was that the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General both resigned rather than carry out an order they felt was wrong and that Robert Bork carried out the order even though he thought it was a mistake, but wasn't an unconstitutional use of executive power. They seemed struck that there were people back then in government who would resign their jobs over an order that they thought was wrong. It's a shame that even the idea of resigning a job because of a difference in opinion while working for a president whom they'd agreed to serve should seem so remarkable to kids today.




Hugh Hewitt takes a bit of a victory lap
celebrating the impact that Donald Trump has already had on the federal courts even beyond the Gorsuch appointment.
Trump has appointed 21 of the 167 current full-time judges and intends to fill another 20 or more vacancies by year end. The president and the GOP-controlled Senate have thus already put one-eighth of the federal appeals bench in their seats. Each of those new appointees — all principled “originalists” in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia — will have more than 400 participations in 2018 alone. There are 10 more appeals court nominees in the queue and a dozen other vacancies awaiting nominees beyond those, and Senate Republicans have made these positions their priority (unless there is a retirement on the Supreme Court). With the age of initial appointment dropping and retirement age advancing, we can reasonably expect Trump-appointed judges to average 20 years on the bench. Expect a total of 40 new appeals court judges by the end of Trump’s first two years.
This couldn't have happened without Harry Reid having gotten rid of the filibuster for appellate and district court nominations as well as executive branch nominations. I don't think the Republicans would have had the guts to have done that; they refused to do it under Bush. There are enough GOP senators who opposed such a move. In fact, it was only the Democrats' recalcitrance on Gorsuch that led the Republicans to get rid of the filibuster for the Supreme Court. The Republicans who opposed getting rid of the filibuster under Bush would point out that there would come time when the GOP weren't in the majority and it would come back to bite them. The Democrats took that gamble under Reid and it has, indeed, come back to bite them. It makes this achievement for judicial nominations under Trump all the sweeter. And it's going to be sweet for a long time.
The Trump judges on the 5th Circuit and their new colleagues on other federal appeals benches across the land will be busy long into the future. Review the math presented above, and extend the trends into the future, including another 20 or so more federal circuit court confirmations expected this year. By 2019, Trump judges will be participating in more than 15,000 decisions every year, and almost all those decisions will be the law of the land. There will be no less than 400 crucial case votes and dozens of signed opinions, each year, every year for most of the Trump judges. If the judges sit for an average run of 20 years on the bench, that’s 8,000 key votes per Trump-appointed judge....

Looking forward, I’ll bend the famous Carville phrase a bit: “It’s the judges, brilliant people” works for me for the midterm message of the GOP. Republicans should run hard on this record from now to the fall and promise much, much more of the same. Trump has not merely nudged the direction of the law, he has turned it decisively back toward limited government, not just through deregulation, but by seating judges inclined to look askance at the progressive idea of a “living Constitution.”
Another reason why Trump is so successfully nominating judges is that he's outsourced the choice of nominees to conservative groups like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. If only he would outsource his trade policies to true conservatives.


Ah, so typical of our elected representatives.
If you've been paying attention to the news cycle since the 2016 presidential election, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been screaming about the need for election security. After all, Russia flooded the internet with election propaganda but did not physically change any votes. Because the midterms are just a few months away, politicians have claimed this is an urgent matter.

Today, lawmakers were expected to show up for a briefing on election security with the Department of Homeland Security. Hundreds of them bailed.
Well, it was at 8:00 AM. I guess members of Congress are like college students - they don't show up to do their work if it's at 8 AM.


Oh, geez! Can't Trump learn from some of the mistakes that Hillary made? What is going through his mind?
President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.
Please, Mr. Trump, don't get stuck on stupid. If following national security protocols is too "inconvenient" for you, just resign.

Allahpundit comments,
The good news: Thanks to Russia and Wikileaks, we’ll eventually get to find out what Trump and Hannity chat about before bedtime.
I bet Trump's aides were so fed up with his carelessness that they deliberately leaked this to embarrass him.
Politico’s sources for the phone scoop are “two senior administration officials,” which is what you’d expect when it comes to info as closely held as the president’s phone practices. Unless you think his staff is now so dysfunctional that they’d lie about something like this purely to embarrass him, this is probably their version of an intervention. Just as some of his aides reportedly try to get themselves booked on TV when they have a point they want to drive home to him, believing that he’s more likely to absorb it if it comes through via the boob tube (which is itself freakishly dysfunctional), leaking to Politico to sound the red alert publicly may be the only way to get him to change his habits.
What a way to run the government!


What an excellent choice!
The Cato Institute has awarded their 2018 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty to the Ladies in White. The award is well-deserved. A Cuban civil rights group, it was formed in March 2003 following the imprisonment of Hector Maseda Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a Havana journalist who was arrested by the Castro regime and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime of criticizing the government.

Since Gutierrez’s arrest, the Ladies in White have only grown in numbers. They have a clear message of remembering the men who’ve been locked up by Cuba’s communist government, whether they be their fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, or friends. The Cato Institute's decision to give the prize to the Ladies in White is important for two reasons.

The first is that it raises international awareness of a country where change may soon come quickly. Fidel Castro retired as president in 2008, and his younger brother Raul has now handed leadership to Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Born after the revolution, Diaz-Canel has the opportunity to make significant reforms in Cuba....

The second reason has to do with how Americans, particularly in the millennial generation, have been remembering the scourge of communism. The number of people in the Western world who believe it is essential to live in a democracy has been declining with every generation. Communism, socialism, and fascism are rising in popularity among millennials, according to a poll by the Victims of Communism Foundation. Communist terrorist Che Guevara is considered a hero by 26 percent of millennials, Karl Marx has 18 percent, and Vladimir Lenin, 17 percent.

The lack of faith in democracy and capitalism, institutions that have brought freedom and prosperity across the world and lifted billions out of poverty, has been partly spurred by leftist politicians in the United States. When Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thinks of Fidel Castro, he only thinks of how he “educated their kids, gave them healthcare, totally transformed society.” Paul Soglin, the mayor of Madison and one of the Democratic candidates for governor in my home state of Wisconsin, remembered the late Cuban dictator as “a popular leader who inspired generations of Cubans.”

What they all omit is how Cuban exiles have actually described the healthcare system as a catastrophe, recently plagued with medicine shortages. The transformation of Cuban society entailed the genocide of tens of thousands of people and the imprisonment of many more. It also required Soviet assistance in defeating an anti-communist rebellion in the Escambray Mountains. Soglin seems to have forgotten the many Cubans who have fled their homeland and risked their lives to escape and enter the United States.


It's astounding to me that this common-sense, humanitarian bill would have been opposed by so many.



John Hinderaker
links to this story from PJ Media that may pose difficulties to all those insisting that it should be illegal to deny service to someone just because a person has religious objections.
Earlier this month, a male-to-female transgender filed a $50,000 human rights complaint after a Muslim woman refused to perform a Brazilian wax on his genitals. The unnamed transgender person has repeatedly claimed that he called inquiring about a leg wax, but the owner of Mad Wax, the waxing studio based in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, insisted the request clearly indicated his interest in a genital wax.

"She never once asked for a leg wax [from] us," Mad Wax manager, president, and CEO Jason Carruthers told PJ Media. "She said, 'Women have penises and women have balls and if your staff is not comfortable then they can look for another job.' That is clearly referring to a brazilian wax, which involves the genitals."

Carruthers added that the transgender complainant "only mentioned 'leg wax' after the story got out. My guess is she was embarrassed to admit she wanted a Brazilian."

The female Muslim employee refused to provide the service, based on her religious convictions not to physically touch a man outside her family.

The anonymous transgender person filed a $50,000 complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) two weeks ago, seeking compensation for "immense harm to my dignity," CTV Windsor reported.
The business is getting slammed in Ontario.
Carruthers said 98 percent of the spa's clientele is female, and he employs no male staff. The spa has waxed the arms and backs of male clients, but has never hidden its inability to accommodate a Brazilian wax for a male.

"When we've been asked about a male Brazilian wax in the past we tell them we're not able to provide that service and they move on," Carruthers told the Windsor Star. "It's never been an issue."

The anonymous complainant referred questions to his Toronto lawyer, Megan Evans Maxwell. Maxwell admitted, "There's not much I can say right now because the matter is before the tribunal."
Should a woman have to wax the private parts of someone who is biologically a man? Just imagine that transgenderism didn't enter into this and it was just a man complaining that a Muslim woman wouldn't wax his private parts. Wouldn't we be outraged at toxic masculinity or something like that? Should being transgender trump her religious objections? And how is that different from refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding because of religious objections? It's not so easy, is it? Which minority has more pull - the Muslim woman or the transgender woman?


There is a metaphor here.
Reporters attending this week's White House press briefings noticed a concerning new feature of the lawn: a sinkhole.

Voice of America's Steve Harman tweeted out this photo of the developing basin on Tuesday.