Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Oligarchy, emoluments, revelations and our path ahead

We'll get to more general and abstract considerations (my strength) in a minute. But first, in this week's fizzing news...

1) The Supreme Court's confirmation of a Pennsylvania ruling against gerrymandering is huge.  See more at bottom of this posting.

2) The infamous Nunes Memo proclaims that some FBI agents might have disliked the President, and therefore potential presidential crimes should not be investigated. (His House Oversight Committee seems determined to do no investigating of its own.) The assertion? That the wiretap that the FBI sought from the FISA court, covering former Trump aid Carter Page, was based on leads contained in the "Steele Dossier," compiled first at the behest of Trump's Republican rivals and then funded by Democrats.

Okay then. The FBI often gets wiretaps based on tips from mafiosi and from jailhouse snitches, but it's not allowed to follow up on leads supplied by... Democrats? Even by mainstream Republicans? 

The crux - mentioned by no pundits or dems - is that investigators and prosecutors - if they adhere to proper procedures - aren't required to be impartial! That's for judges. Investigators are supposed to want to get their man! Ken Starr & co. fizzed with volcanic hate for the Clintons, as did 24 years of GOP witch hunts that spent half a billions dollars (that's with a "B") coming up with almost nothing. But not for lack of eagerness!

Indeed, those eager-but-futile hunts proved (1) the Clintons (almost) utterly clean and (2) dems to be fools, when they helped end the post Watergate Special Prosecutor Law, that gave Starr vastly greater powers and insulation than Mueller has today.

Ending that law was the underlying-clever purpose of the Starr Circus, and the dems fell for it, proving again that the big-hearted, pro-science lugs are - well - 'challenged.' And so, we must now hold our breath, day by day, for when Two Scoops finally fires Mueller.

But Mueller is good. Watch. While Trump & co. fixate on the "Russia Thing," the main course simmers. Racketeering and money laundering. Which leads us to emoluments.  But first, let's set the stage...

== a mile-wide trail ==

My prediction from Earth (1989) and The Transparent Society (1997) -- long overdue, but inevitable -- is that we'd see the seamy underbelly of an oligarchy that's trying to topple our nation and civilization back into feudalism.  An under-rated appetizer was last year's info dump called the Paradise Papers, the latest in a series of leaks made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shedding light on the trillions of dollars that move through offshore tax havens. 

"The core of the leak, totaling more than 13.4 million documents, focuses on the Bermudan law firm Appleby, a 119-year old company that caters to blue chip corporations and very wealthy people. Appleby helps clients reduce their tax burden; obscure their ownership of assets like companies, private aircraft, real estate and yachts; and set up huge offshore trusts that in some cases hold billions of dollars.” 

This is going to take persistence and agility, And rigid dogma will not help.

One major danger of the right's current madness is that the left might over-react, returning to its own past insanities. The Evonomics site is where calm, rational, brilliant scholars & others reveal how cheaters have betrayed not just the poor and middle class, but also enterprise, innovation, genuine market economics, common sense, national self-interest and even Adam Smith! 

The articles and studies get better and better. (I've published a few there.) If your cousin is one of that vanishing breed - a residually sane Republican - take her to Evonomics and tell her: "Only you can save enterprise capitalism from its age-old foe. Not socialism so much, but feudalism."

Which brings me to my question. You’d have to be deaf and blind not to see the signs of a growing movement of American conservatives who are fed-up... not just with Bannon and Putin and their Trump, but with Rupert Murdoch and the insanity promulgated by Clear Channel Radio. Signs are all there - especially among the Mormons - that vigorous conversations are afoot. Could it be about holding a convention of Sane American Conservatives?

If co, then here's a parallel event - the Miracle of 1947. Hey, if the dems could do it, why not you guys?
 

Hence my question. Surely some of you have been approached by now? By people desperate to save American conservatism, before it is too late?

On the other hand, never underestimate the supreme power of obstinacy, combined with stupidity and cowardice. So far, none of the "white knights" of American conservatism as shown a glimmer of real courage. Moreover, if and when it is "President Pence," they will hurry to kowtow to a vastly worse madness that could kill us all.

== Emoluments ==

From another great site – the Hannah Arendt Center: “A number of legal historians have filed a brief in United States District Court in a case arguing that President Trump is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause ("FEC") of the U.S. Constitution. That clause states that "no person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state." 

The Department of Justice, supporting President Trump, argues that "emolument" should be narrowly defined as "profit arising from office or employ." But historians argue that the emoluments clause was broadly imagined to protect against conflicts of interest and corruption.

"The framers adopted the Emoluments Clauses to advance core republican goals: to protect against corruption and the appearance of corruption;  to maintain a balance of state and federal power; and to avoid foreign entanglements with Europe.  The Emoluments Clauses were not a subject of great debate or disagreement in 1787 and 1788. The absence of controversy reflects a broad consensus against the dangers of political corruption. 

"Moreover, the extant voluminous records of debates, particularly those tied to the ratification of the Constitution by the states, demonstrate that in ordinary usage the word "emolument" had a broad range of meanings. It was not reducible to a simple fee or salary."

== Back to gerrymandering ==

There are many important aspects to the Pennsylvania gerrymandering ruling!

1) The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to over-rule or put a stay on this PA case was issued by Samuel Alito! Indicating that he and Chief Justice Roberts may at last be willing to admit and act against a villainous cheat-treason. They - and Anthony Kennedy - have the fate of our republic in their hands.

2) In Pennsylvania, the state GOP have declared they will not honor the ruling - passively confirmed by the Supreme Court - commanding they redraw district maps away from gerrymander cheating. The claim: that only an assertive ruling by federal court can make them. Of course they are delaying in order to then declare "too late for 2018!"

Only, there is an "impartial redistricting method" that can be performed rapidly, even within a single month. It's my "Minimal Overlap" approach that avoids almost every complaint about redistricting by commission. It can be done swiftly and almost automatically by computer, and the State Assembly will have zero cause for complaints, zero!

Anyway, it's too early to celebrate a defeat of villainous cheater-traitors. Justice Anthony Kennedy must survive! And Roberts and Alito need to prove they have awakened.... and finish this rescue of the American Republic.

36 comments:

Duncan Cairncross said...

Watching the Falcon Heavy

And the Tesla Roadster with the "dummy" in a spacesuit
I keep wondering - Did Elon Musk know David Bowie well?
And what was Bowie's final burial request?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Okay then. The FBI often gets wiretaps based on tips from mafiosi and from jailhouse snitches, but it's not allowed to follow up on leads supplied by... Democrats? Even by mainstream Republicans?

The crux - mentioned by no pundits or dems - is that investigators and prosecutors - if they adhere to proper procedures - aren't required to be impartial! That's for judges. Investigators are supposed to want to get their man! Ken Starr & co. fizzed with volcanic hate for the Clintons, ...


You're missing the subtle underlying assumption. Of course prosecutors are supposed to presume guilt in their targets, but their targets are not supposed to be Republican authorities.

That's the unwritten law that the FBI is supposedly transgressing here. The law is presumed to be there for the purpose of keeping liberals, minorities, and women in line. Applying such constraints to Republicans is impolite, and proof of "bias".

LarryHart said...

Ok, comparison of politics to the Super Bowl. The bolded punch line at the bottom is my own emphasis:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/opinion/fbi-antirepublican.html


Bret: Our colleague Frank Bruni wrote a wonderful column a few weeks back called “Democrats Are the New Republicans.” Fiscal responsibility: Check. The Russian government is not to be trusted: Check. Moral character counts in politics: Check. Law enforcement demands our highest respect: Check.

For me as a conservative, the experience is just head-snapping.

Suddenly we’re supposed to believe that Carter Page — a man who charitably can be described as Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot — is a martyr to American civil liberties.

Suddenly we’re supposed to think that people like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray — both of whom were appointed by Trump — are anti-Trump villains.

Suddenly we’re supposed to think that an election that Trump won was stolen from him.

TCB said...

@ Duncan, I understand Bowie was cremated. Still, no reason a spoonful of ashes couldn't have gone into that space suit.

I want to believe

LarryHart said...

Real Donald Trump:

I'd love to see a shutdown. Let's have a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown. It's worth it for our country!


That's not what presidents do.

David Brin said...

Bowie ashes, yes! He knew he'd wind up in a car trunk....

"That's not what presidents do."

The aim is to demolish the US government and Confederates are now frothing in hate at the government by the People that Republicans once fought to keep from perishing from the Earth.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

2) In Pennsylvania, the state GOP have declared they will not honor the ruling - passively confirmed by the Supreme Court - commanding they redraw district maps away from gerrymander cheating. The claim: that only an assertive ruling by federal court can make them. Of course they are delaying in order to then declare "too late for 2018!"


So Republicans get to ignore a legal ruling just because they feel like it? These are the "Constitutionalists"?

And since when to Republicans assert that state law is optional unless enforced by a federal court?

We really are in Bizarro World now.

LarryHart said...

A few posts back, we were discussing possible time-travel scenarios to fix history.

How about going back to 1861 and whispering in President Lincoln's ear:

"Let them secede."

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | No. Letting them go would have been worse. I'd rather whisper "Appoint better generals now."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred / No - you need to tell him not to go to the Theatre

The disaster about your civil war was not the war but the following peace

locumranch said...


Falcon_Heavy launch proves that Elon Musk is a romantic 1980s MTV fan nostalgic for the music of his childhood, 'Bowie & the Boomers can bite me' he was heard to say, and the pending government shut-down may be our last best chance to rescue the American Republican from an eternal Establishmentarian Boot stomping on the human face forever:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGoF-Msc4Yg


Best

TCB said...

Curious and sad parallel between Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt: each won his war, had grand and noble plans for the postwar period, but died at the moment of victory (give or take a couple of weeks). To some degree, in both cases, the peace was lost; that is to say, its best possibilities were lost; and we can well imagine that even another year of life for these two men might have meant a different and better outcome.

In the case of Lincoln, another year might have been enough to smother Jim Crow in its cradle, at least partly.

In the case of Roosevelt, what we lost was a Second Bill of Rights, treating on economic rights not covered in the original Bill of Rights. He would have been insanely popular for a while and could handily have won whatever he asked for; it's safe to assume this would have included universal health care (the Canadians got that very thing at about the same time), free college for all, and certainly no Taft-Hartley union-busting...

madtom said...

About that emoluments clause - and several other issues, especially some biggies connected with the Bill of Rights . . .

Something about the even dozen of your books on my shelf (after Boyd and before Brunner) makes me want to hear your thoughts on the odds or mechanics of activating a legal (or publicity?) mechanism to bring charges of oath-breaking against Trump (and/or a large number of other public "servants") who are often and massively guilty of exactly that. It seems to me that such a finding would be grounds for instant removal from office, at whatever level.

No statute required, just proof of failure to faithfully follow the document they swore to uphold, as they were required to before taking office. In most cases, by okaying or enforcing a law that is obviously unconstitutional, from the clearest reading of the document by the average American. Think "civil" asset forfeiture, for starters.

A serious condition of employment has been violated so much that we seem to take it's violation for granted. Why? Yet somehow I've never heard of such a removal happening, or even being attempted. Maybe there's a story there.

Alfred Differ said...

In the case of Lincoln, another year might have been enough to smother Jim Crow in its cradle, at least partly.

I'm doubtful. Winning wars is one thing. Winning cultural battles is quite another. The latter probably requires something like a multi-generation campaign to snuff out language, literature, and other cultural traits or, if you can't wait that long, genocide. Sherman's march was brutal, but I don't think Northerners were willing to commit genocide. Long campaigns require long commitments and that wasn't in the cards either.

As for the theater, I suspect Lincoln would have been killed later if he avoided that one. Security wasn't such a tight thing then as it is today.

George Carty said...

The latter probably requires something like a multi-generation campaign to snuff out language, literature, and other cultural traits or, if you can't wait that long, genocide.

Or it requires being the lesser of two evils, as the Western Allies were for Germans in 1945. It's a pity that in 1865 there was no imperial Haiti invading the Confederacy from the south, as if there had been, Radical Reconstruction in the Union-occupied zone would have worked just fine.

Treebeard said...

Remember folks: space is not a resource or a frontier, it's an ALTAR, where would-be gods and priesthoods perform rituals to awe the earthbound masses and assert their power. That was certainly an impressive ritual High Space Priest Musk performed, in the grand tradition of high space rituals like the Apollo moon landings. What's funny is how easily geeks are fooled into thinking that this is anything but ritual--the modern equivalent of the pharaohs building their great pyramids as stairways to heaven.

LarryHart said...

madtom:

Something about the even dozen of your books on my shelf (after Boyd and before Brunner) makes me want to hear your thoughts on the odds or mechanics of activating a legal (or publicity?) mechanism to bring charges of oath-breaking against Trump (and/or a large number of other public "servants") who are often and massively guilty of exactly that. It seems to me that such a finding would be grounds for instant removal from office, at whatever level.


That's kind of what my position on this administration has been which makes me consider it illegitimate--not that Trump should be removed from office as that he's not technically filling it in the first place, and that his occupation of the office amounts to a sit-down strike.

Unfortunately, in the real world that we live in, there's simply no mechanism to act on that, in the same way that Tom Brady's cheating in a previous Super Bowl can't call back the official result. For better or worse, we're stuck with impeachment as the only mechanism available, and the congressional Republicans won't do that because they're complicit. Respected voices on this list, including some in the military, warn of the grave consequences of making declarations of illegitimacy outside the Constitutional order. So absent impeachment, I think the only way we'll get anywhere is if Trump's transgressions get so bad that a Constitutional Crisis is the least bad option.


raito said...

Duncan Cairncross,

Bowie? Sheesh. I'm just hoping there's no Locnar in the trunk.

David S said...

The federal supreme court refusing the hear the PA gerrymandering case is important, but the court refused to hear it because the gerrymandering was found to be unconstitutional to the Pennsylvanian state constitution. So I'm not sure what this says about the federal courts view on gerrymandering, except that fixing it on a state be state basis by amending each state's constitution would be an option.

LarryHart said...

@David S,

I think Alito correctly saw that the Pennsylvania ruling was entirely a state matter, and his refusal to take the matter to the USSC was on Consitiutionalist grounds. It also precisely avoided any federal level precedent other than "If a state decides that it can't gerrymander, who is the fed to dictate otherwise?"

I will give Alito faint credit for not going ahead and doing partisan interference anyway, as in Bush v Gore.

LarryHart said...

...
He (Alito) may also be angling for the reverse being just as valid. "If a state decides that it can gerrymander, who is the fed to dictate otherwise?"

locumranch said...


Yep. Aided & abetted by the liberal Governors of the East and West Coasts who are busy thumbing their noses at unpopular federal diktat, Alito and other conservative US Supreme Court judges are laying the groundwork for more State's Rights, legitimising the pending Red State secession when & if the politically correct pro-Globalists seize power again.

What's that? You disagree with federal immigration law, border control & drug control legislation, believing that it it is your right to establish Sanctuary Cities, flout federal law, pass unilateral gerrymandering (anti; pro) legislation, agree to international climate change treaties & negotiate directly with foreign powers without any federal authorisation, all while yelling 'Not MY President'?

Then, you too are a treasonous Confederate set on the destruction of the good old USA.

Keep up the good work, you foolish progs, you succeed at secession where many deplorables have previously failed, and all the Brietbarts of the world have to do is plead 'Oh, please don't throw me in that thar briar patch, Mr. Diversity Bear, that's the last place I wish to be'.

Breaking News: All Briar Trump has to do to force the US Democrats to disenfranchise themselves (about shutdown & whatnot) is to endorse the opposite.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard | What space effort would not qualify as a ritualistic event from your perspective? (Honest question)

David Brin said...

Hating on Elon is all that's needed, to show these loonies are anti-competitive, anti-innovation and anti-capitalist. Their cult has come full circle, and opposes absolutely every single thing that enables flat-fair-creative capitalism to function. And the left is too stupid to point this out.

onward to the story contest! But you guys keep jabbering here till the next major posting.

LarryHart said...

Ohio may be the next state (after Pennyslvania) where a Republican government voluntarily gives up gerrymandering.

I suspect they're afraid of an upcoming Democratic wave leading into a census, thinking that what they did in 2010 might be done to them in 2020.

My id says this is a slimy trick, and that Democrats deserve the same chance to railroad Republicans for a decade as the reverse. However, my more rational brain says this is exactly what was needed. Because unfair rules only get changed when Republicans have a reason to change them. We might as well be glad of the opportunity.

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Feb07.html#item-5

While the Supreme Court is considering several cases about the constitutionality of gerrymandering, the state of Ohio is also working on the problem. Much to everyone's surprise, a bipartisan compromise on the subject passed the legislature. (For readers too young to have experienced this phenomenon in their lifetimes, it means both parties agreed to the same bill.) The bill passed the Ohio Senate 31-0 on Monday and passed the Ohio House 83-10 yesterday. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is expected to sign the bill.

Interested Observer said...

Challenge accepted!

LarryHart said...

www.electoral-vote.com has its heart in the right place, but maybe misses a point. Or maybe the sarcasm is more intended than I thought:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Feb07.html#item-9


While he was in France, Donald Trump witnessed a large and very impressive military parade staged by the French in honor of Bastille Day. At the time, he mused that the United States ought to do something like that. As it turns out, he has not forgotten, and he is now pressing the Pentagon to get serious about looking into the possibility.

The Pentagon, for its part, really wants no part of this. They understand, even if Trump does not, that military parades are generally the province of fascists and dictators, not democratically-elected leaders.


Yeah? So what's your point, other than what we already know about President Snow?


Perhaps they might want to show the President a little picture called Triumph of the Will, so that he understands whom he would be mimicking.


I'm pretty sure he does understand who he is mimicking.

Berial said...

"The crux - mentioned by no pundits or dems - is that investigators and prosecutors - if they adhere to proper procedures - aren't required to be impartial! That's for judges. Investigators are supposed to want to get their man!"

The reason we haven't heard to much from Democrats might be the fact that the FISA court is something that would piss off most American's if they knew how it really works, and NO high level politicians want to bring attention to that fact, because BOTH SIDES (in this specific case) have voted to make FISA this way.

That's just my opinion, there might be 'good' reasons they (D's) aren't going off on the issue, but I haven't heard too many reasons that sound 'good' to me.

madtom said...

Thanks for your thoughts, LarryHart. It seems you're right about the mechanism being absent. There *is* an established legal mechanism to put someone into office, which requires an oath to the Constitution. But the mechanism of dealing with an oath-breaker is apparently left up to the God the oath was sworn to. Even impeachment names only much more general categories of misbehavior.

My first thought is "Of course, the founders lived in a more religious time than ours". My second thought is that swearing an oath to God has a lot more emotional meaning to many of Trump's supporters than to the other 2/3 of Americans. Which makes me wonder afresh about the political utility of publicly stressing oath-breaking by officials - even down to the Town Council level, where I once was.

The worth-arguing point being that both the founders and their constituents who accepted the Constitution for the first time, did so based on the clear and obvious meaning of its words. That's what they meant the oath to apply to. Not on a couple of centuries of mission-creep of the executive, riding on the ratchet-effect of ever-more-compliant court determinations of just how far government powers can be stretched.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Madtom

The problem is that your Federal Government was not intended to be your main government - the constitution was set up to limit it's powers

The idea was that the State Governments would be the important ones the Central Government would only do the stuff that it NEEDED to do.

But instead the state governments have eroded away and most of the most important stuff is now done at Federal level

So you are left with a Government with controls that are intended for a limited central organisation doing the job of a real governmnet

You can't simply have a vote of confidence and get a new election

Winter7 said...

I agree with David Brin's point of view regarding allowing immigrants to enter based on the fact that these immigrants are competent. I just hope you also consider it a good thing to avoid the persecution of immigrant women and children.
Certainly, they should prevent criminal groups from entering the United States. The mara gang saves trout from San Salvador is a great danger. Drug trafficking groups are more abundant than ever, and certainly, most drug traffickers do not enter the United States as illegals. They enter as tourists, with passports, and often have many American citizens working in the drug trafficking business. It's a complicated issue and certainly, Americans have the right to live in a safe environment. I am not opposed to the manufacture of the wall (A wall that sooner or later will have the same fate as the Berlin Wall, undoubtedly).
There is also the issue that while the police of the United States and Canada violate adolescent drug-seeking reviews, (police usually look for small quantities of hidden drugs in private places) (And there are videos of that problem) ( not all policemen do that, I guess not all states have the same procedures) at the same time, border agents pass containers with tons of drugs. (Yes, in the newspapers I found out how there are arrests of border police who let drugs pass) (but that is the fault of the Republican politicians who by majority approve misogynistic and brutal laws)
There are many details, but it is important that Americans make the changes they consider necessary to make the United States a safe and prosperous nation.

madtom said...

Sad but true, Duncan Cairncross. The treasure that is the government of America has grown to vast proportions, while the mechanisms that protect it from exploitation have not kept pace.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

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