Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Month: February 2017

Give a Leak, Take a Leak: Welcome to Washington

Leaks

 

Leaks come from disgruntled career bureaucrats, or disgruntled  former security contractors and  internet provocateurs, or candidates floating trial balloons,  or political opponents with scores to settle. And now that war has gone digital, leaks can be a military offensive.

 Take a leak like the outing of bad boy Mike Flynn. His past successes  taught him to ignore the rules. For example, when he was in charge of routing ISIS, he decided to leak  US intelligence to Pakistan about Pakistan. Just to show those bastards we know where they live. Well of course we do; we have GPS. It was a blatant violation disclosing classified information. But he got away with it. 

Now the tables have been turned.   His back channel bromance with Russian ambassador Kislyak became front page news. So did his lying to Mike Pence about their sanctions pillow talk. Out came the secret, and down went Flynn.  The source of the leak is a mystery still. Like one of those English mystery stories where the stiff had so many enemies, lots of suspects had opportunity and motive.

 So who are the suspects in this one? The intelligence community for sure. Just yesterday, they said they’re going to withhold information from the President because they don’t trust him. Imagine that. They don’t trust Him with their information because they think he’ll give it to America’s enemies. You don’t need Julius Rosenberg if you’ve got Donald Trump.

A lot of media outlets are pissed off at this administration too. They’ve all been thrown out of the press conferences except for Breitbart and Golf Courses of the World. Not that it matters.  Nothing really is being said at press conference these days that isn’t contradicted  by somebody else in the administration five minutes before or after.  

 If I had to guess, though, I would say it’s some career government employee, stashed in one of the intelligence agencies,  who got so pissed off that he ended up blowing the whistle. Kind of like Milton in the movie, “Office Space.” You just don’t screw around with a guy’s stapler.

 Deep Throat, America’s most famous leaker, is gone, but his advice still rings true: follow the money. It’s a little more challenging though when we have to convert from dollars to rubles.

Leaks are political safety valves and have a purpose; a fact of nature, like gas escaping a Swamp.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

If the Office Doesn’t Fit…

“Not fit,” determined almost every established newspaper to weigh in on the candidate’s qualifications for office. This includes several papers that usually don’t give endorsements and others that have not endorsed a Democrat since the Year of the Flood.   These journalists, even Republican partisans, gave fair warning. The man with the orange visage does not know how to run a government and is not temperamentally disposed to the job.  Not just unqualified, but not fit to hold the office.

Former Presidents and other Republican officeholders also said that he was not fit. So did Barack Obama.  

Mental Health experts offered the same opinion. Lots of them.

He won anyway, and after the first three weeks of Trump administration, the White House is in turmoil. There is a communication breakdown among the senior staff.  Mike Flynn, the National Security Adviser resigned – or was asked to resign – you can read it either way.  He admits to lying to V.P. Pence, who seems to be kept at arms’ length on decisions, and may have lied to the F.B.I., in which case it’s a felony. The President knew for at least a few weeks that Flynn had lied and was under investigation for conferring with Russian diplomats before the inauguration.  Trump waited until the story leaked, then feigned ignorance before Flynn was forced to step down.

Kellyanne Conway took to the airwaves to say that Flynn had the President’s complete support. Within one hour, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the President was re-evaluating. By the end of the day, Flynn was gone.

The White House is still reeling from its disastrous immigrant travel ban.  A federal appeals court put the kibosh on implementing the ban.  The White House threatened to take the case to the Supreme Court but decided against it.  It hasn’t taken any new action, and judges from other jurisdictions – Virginia, most recently – have continued to throw dirt on the Executive Order.  It wasn’t so much that the idea was bad – ok, there was no evidence offered to support the action – but it was so incompetently put together that a middle school civics student could have pointed out the unconstitutional flaws.

The President walked back from the following campaign pledges:  repeal Obamacare immediately.  Seems to be a little more complicated than he thought. He dropped his divide and conquer approach to China, after cozying up to Taiwan.  

He backed away from supporting new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, after  approving them, and stuck to a two-state solution.  Until today, that is. With the Israeli Prime Minister visiting, he announced that a one state solution could work, too. Either one is fine with him.  Not even the Israelis and Palestinians think so, but whatever.

His Labor nominee was forced to withdraw; another nanny-gate, as well as union-busting.

We’re not talking politics at all. We’re talking performance.  Every new president is bound to make mistakes.  This surpasses mistakes.  He doesn’t seem to get it, or he really believes what Richard Nixon learned the hard way.  Something is not legal just because the president says it or does it.  He’s not the Chairman of the Board or the CEO.  He doesn’t have unlimited, unchecked powers.

This past week, a new voice, Stephen Miller, entered the fray. Kellyanne on PEDs.  When he was an assistant to Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the Attorney General, he sent out so many emails that his own caucus marked them as spam.  Steve Miller says that the President has unquestioned power. He’s a joker.

And that’s just this week, and it’s only Wednesday.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

General Washington, Meet Mr. Trump

 

Let’s get legal for a minute. Last night, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate even temporarily the immigration travel ban, handing the Trump administration a defeat on one of its signature issues. For several reasons, it’s huge.

The Constitution creates three branches of government and gives certain powers to each branch. In this case, the Executive branch has the power to administer matters of immigration, as well as primacy in matters of national security. The Ninth Circuit decision in the case, improbably named Washington v. Trump, addressed whether this power has any limitation and, if so, whether the Judicial branch can restrain the Executive. The Court decided that it did indeed have the power to review and determine if the Executive Order is unconstitutional. Because if the courts can’t do it, who or what is there to stop an Executive from violating the Constitution?

This is not as obvious as it sounds. Lots of times, the Executive or Legislative branch cannot be checked by the courts. For example, the Executive has the exclusive power over foreign relations. Under the law, the courts have refused to get involved, calling it a political question. The government argued the same principle in this case.

Three Ninth Circuit judges speaking as one rejected the Government’s argument.

“Our court has likewise made clear that “[a]lthough alienage classifications are closely connected to matters of foreign policy and national security,” courts “can and do review foreign policy arguments that are offered to justify legislative or executive action when constitutional rights are at stake.” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno, 70 F.3d 1045, 1056 (9th Cir. 1995).”

That’s the nub of it. The courts will step in when the constitutional rights of individuals are at stake. Make no mistake. Given the first few weeks of the new administration, a showdown over the limitation of Presidential power was inevitable. We can expect a lot of cases about Presidential power, and we can expect the courts to reel in the power of the executive, especially with one who has disdained the authority, competence and fairness of the judicial system.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

Bring Your Daughter to Work

Presidents are parents too.  In addition to his duty of attacking the media and the judiciary, insulting America’s allies and threatening its adversaries, the current officeholder is the latest daddy to defend the honor of his daughter. Yesterday, he took to the cybersphere after Ivanka’s fashion line was dropped by Nordstrom, the prominent national retailer.

Give ’em Hell, Harry!

Le Grand Orange follows in the tradition of Harry Truman. First Daughter Margaret Truman received generally negative reviews of her professional singing engagements. Washington Post reviewer Paul Hume wrote in 1950 that Margaret Truman was “extremely attractive on the stage… [but] cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. And still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”

Papa Harry, rising to the defense of his daughter, wrote to Mr. Hume. “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

 

 

A Matter of National Security

From his personal account, the President pro tem tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by ‪@Nordstrom‬. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” A few minutes later, the blast was retweeted from his official government account, sparking a debate about over ethical violations.

The tweet hit the internet at about twenty minutes into a national security briefing. It would seem that his concern for protecting America from radical Islamic terrorism competes for time with his daughter’s fashion accessories line, a business she had supposedly dropped.

The Rack Fights Back

A Nordstrom spokesman responded by stating that the decision to drop the Ivanka line reflected poor sales, nothing more. Its publicly traded shares wobbled just after the Presidential tweet. By the end of the trading day, the stock had risen 4%.

Many shoppers, mostly those associated with the  #grabyourwallet boycott, have attacked retailers carrying Trump lines. Many other tweeters attacked Nordstrom and backed the President and his daughter. They pledged to boycott the retail giant for yielding to the pressure of liberal shoppers.

The Trump clan views the White House as the world’s greatest branding opportunity. So far, Donald, Daughter Ivanka, First Lady Melania and Son Eric have experienced recoil from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Much to Daddy Donald’s chagrin, there is no judge to blame.

Melania Goes to Court

With Donald Trump as President, upon my first glance at the newspaper each morning I ask, “What fresh hell is this?” This morning’s edition carries an especially odious story. Melania Trump has refiled her lawsuit in a federal court in New York against the Daily Mail over her claim that it falsely accused her of working for an escort service in the past. Her first filing in Maryland was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The Article

In August, the Daily Mail ran a story reporting that a Slovenian periodical had run an article stating that Mrs. Trump, a Slovenian native, worked as a high-end escort before marrying the New York mogul.  The Daily Mail retracted the story.

The Mouthpiece

Nevertheless, Melania hired Charles Harder, an American attorney, to attack the Mail and Webster Tarpley, a blogger, for posting and publicizing the Slovenian report.   Mr. Harder recently had celebrated his victory over the Gawker, driving it out of business,  for posting a story about former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan having sex with his former manager’s wife. The wife had admitted that the story was true and that she had leaked it to the Gawker.  Mr. Harder was just the guy for Mrs. Trump. See Escort-Gate.

This morning’s paper reported the refiling of the suit, calling attention to the $150 million claim for damages, as follows:

Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance….

The case is Swiss cheese. The claim of defamation is dubious. The Daily Mail only reported statements made by a third-party, disclaiming any knowledge of the facts and casting no judgment on its veracity. Then, Melania Trump is a public figure, and under the libel law, she must prove that the publication was malicious. The claimed harm, the damages, are speculative unless Mrs. Trump had a contract that was canceled; negotiations that were terminate; or a prospect business partner who ran from her like she’d had the Plague.

An Honor to Serve

What was most sickening was that the First Lady is suing because her plan to use her status for financial gain had been torpedoed.  Interestingly, Mrs. Trump has not moved into the White House or assumed any duties, although she did hire a chief of staff last week.  Lindsey Reynolds, a former Bush White House employee, has been named to oversee the First Lady’s portfolio, the first item of which is to clean up the White House so that the tours will be “top-notch.”

It was too much to expect that Mrs. Trump would take on a public service role, like advocating against childhood obesity, as did Michelle Obama, or lobbying for early education, as did Laura Bush.  But it is sad to see that she planned to turn the East Wing into a shopping mall.

Immigration Ban Losing Its Appeal


 This past Friday, Hon. James Robart, a Republican-appointed federal district court judge, declared unconstitutional the presidential immigration ban, allowing immigration travel to resume without delay.

Stay Denied

The Justice Department filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and asked the court to stay the Judge Robart’s decision striking the executive order until the appeal is heard, meaning that the ban should stay in effect until there has been a final decision on the appeal. The Court of Appeals turned down the Justice Department plea, permitting flights into the United States to resume for the time being.  At the same time, the Court of Appeals set a very rapid schedule for the parties to file their briefs, signifying that a decision would be made rapidly.

 What It Means

The Circuit Court decision represents a minor victory for the anti-administration position. It suggests, at most,  that the court expects to uphold Judge Robart’s decision. At the least, it means that, given the short briefing schedule, no real harm will be done by allowing flights to be rescheduled.  Judges frequently it will overcome a request for temporary relief by shortening the time involved.

In part, it is a reflection that the court expects to rule against the executive order. It doesn’t represent an in qualified victory for the anti-administration position. Only after the case is briefed, argued and decided will we know what this appellate court thinks about the executive order.

Constitutional Problems

 The administration has several problems with its position. The first is that it is well known now that it was conceived as a means to stop entry of Muslims into the United States.  It was so declared by its conceiver, Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and currently the reincarnation of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Giuliani proudly admits taking the idea of a Muslim ban and couching it in terms of banning entry by nationals of certain  Muslim-majority countries.

However, those countries do not account for an imminent threat or a single act of terrorism on United States soil. Moreover, the executive order also exempted religious minorities from those countries. It reads like a ban against all people of Islam. Oops!

 National Security 

The administration’s second problem is that it relies entirely on the President’s motivation on the need of national security, which in turn is based on his belief, as opposed to evidence. No doubt, there is an underlying national security need to exclude potential terrorists. By declaring everyone (except Christians) from certain Muslim-majority countries to be excluded, the administration painted with a broad and religiously discriminatory brush.

Second, the administration has offered no proof of a national security risk if the immigration ban is not enforced.  There is no publicly available information suggesting a threat of terrorism by one or more individuals emigrating from the targeted countries. Addition, there is no explanation why other Muslim-majority countries are not included in the executive order-such as Saudi Arabia. If there is information and it’s confidential, the Justice Department could offer to show the courts the information on a confidential basis, so that the classified nature is not destroyed. The Justice Department has not offered to do that.

Cyber-Based Terrorism

There is a third factor, and it is important. The attacks within the United States and in Western Europe over the last couple of years were thought to be Lone-wolf actions or the act of ISIS  sympathizers. The people carrying out the attacks were lawfully in the countries where the attacks took place. Most recently, investigation suggests that these were not Lone-wolf attacks but in fact were directed by ISIS through instant messaging via the Internet. The domestic terrorism issue is as much an issue of cyber security as it is about admitting potential terrorists into the country.

In addition to being unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, the executive order may be ineffectual in stopping domestic terrorism.

  What else can the Justice Department say? It will probably argue that the executive order is an exercise of the presidential prerogative to maintain national security.  This argument is not persuasive.  It is too easy for the administration to assert a national security pretext to cover otherwise unjustifiable actions.  

If the administration is able to present some tangible evidence of an imminent risk, no doubt the court would take such evidence very seriously and would uphold the ban in some modified form that would address the potential danger. But the court cannot grant blanket use of a national security exception without creating an opportunity for abuse by the administration.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies

 

 

 

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