James Comey Again…

Not Unprecedented

James Comey is about to get the Ken Starr treatment. The old saw has it that when the facts are against you, argue the law; when the law is against you, argue the facts; when they are both against you, attack the prosecutor. That’s where we are now in the Clinton e-mail saga. The Clinton machine is gearing up for a ferocious assault on FBI Director Comey designed to change the subject from her e-mails to Justice Department protocols.



In what the New York Times describes as a coordinated attack by Hillary Clinton and her allies, Mrs. Clinton assailed Mr. Comey’s decision to notify Congress of his decision to re-open the e-mail investigation as “unprecedented” and “troubling”. If I were Mrs. Clinton and I continuously lied about my e-mail server I would be troubled too. But Comey’s action is hardly unprecedented.


In July of 2008 Alaska’s senior Senator, Ted Stevens, a Republican, was indicted by the Justice Department on corruption charges. He was subsequently convicted on October 28, 2008, just days before the election. He lost his re-election bid by a narrow margin.


The story doesn’t end there. Attorney General Eric Holder moved to have the verdict set aside in 2009 after an investigation found that the investigation and prosecution of Stevens “…were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness”.


And then there is the Presidential election of 1992. Larry Walsh, the Special Prosecutor in the Iran-Contra affair, abused his power when re-indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on October 30, the Friday before the Presidential election. There was no reason for Walsh to have taken such a step except to influence the Presidential election, which it almost certainly did, in favor of Bill Clinton.


Somehow or other I don’t remember the Clinton’s complaining about that one.


About Those Protocols

Note the irony. Hillary Clinton breached every protocol known to mankind, or at least the State Department, when she set up her private e-mail server and when she mixed Clinton Foundation business with State Department business. Not to mention the impropriety of Bill Clinton meeting privately with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the back of an airplane shortly before the decision not to prosecute Mrs. Clinton.


And now she and her sycophants are complaining about Comey not adhering to protocol. That is rather amusing, n’est pas?


It is all part of the same old story. The Clinton’s are essentially lawless; they play by their own rules, which is to say that for them—there are no rules. Even down to securing building permits, as it turns out. Sunday’s New York Times describes how the Clinton’s just go ahead and build away without bothering to secure the necessary permits. So it is in matters big and small.


The Upshot

It is true that when James Comey wrote to Congress to inform them of the latest developments in the e-mail saga he probably violated policy and guidelines. Comey has been grandstanding like this for years. As the Clinton’s would say, nothing new to see here.


According to Justice guidelines, officials are supposed to refrain from taking actions that might influence election outcomes. But no matter what he did, either by commission or omission Comey’s actions could influence this year’s election. Even if he had chosen to stay silent, the story probably would have leaked anyway. And it is hard to take complaints about protocol violations seriously from people who had no problem with Bill Clinton meeting with Loretta Lynch privately in the back of an airplane while Hillary was the subject of an ongoing investigation. But that is all inside baseball.


What really matters is the heart of the story. Once again, the Clinton operation has been shown to be untruthful. More to the point there is the ongoing damage to fundamental institutions that seems to follow the Clinton’s everywhere they go. After staining State and Justice, Hillary Clinton is now attacking the FBI in an effort to destroy its institutional credibility and that of its Director in order to salvage her Presidential quest. That, apparently, is her idea of stewardship.

If history is any guide, we can expect more bombshells in the days ahead. Strap in.




Comey Calls a Do-Over

Another Day, Another Bombshell

Only eleven days before the election FBI Director James Comey has sent a letter to Congress effectively re-opening the Bureau’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. The proximate cause was the discovery of additional Clinton e-mails “pertinent to the investigation” from an unrelated case.


It appears that the unrelated case is that of Anthony Weiner, former Congressman and estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a top aide of Hillary Clinton. The FBI found e-mails pertinent to the Clinton case on one of Weiner’s computers. According to The New York Times, a senior law enforcement official said that “tens of thousands” of e-mails belonging to Abedin were on Weiner’s laptop. Law enforcement indicated it didn’t know if any were duplicates of e-mails discovered earlier.


Not surprisingly these developments produced wall-to-wall news coverage, giving the faltering Trump campaign a shot in the arm while inflicting damage on Clinton in what was already a terrible week for her. The Comey letter comes on top of the news released by the Obama Administration that Obamacare premiums on average were slated to rise about 25% before subsidies. In addition there was a constant stream of Wikileaks revealing tension in the Clinton campaign over her email scandals.


Answering her own question about why Clinton tried to keep her e-mail arrangement secret, close advisor Neera Tanden who described the e-mails as a “Cheryl [Mills] special”, said: “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”


For her part Hillary Clinton reverted to form. She intimated that Comey sent his now famous letter only to Republicans. He didn’t. It was addressed to the Republican Chairs and Democratic Ranking Members of the relevant committees. Clinton also demanded that the FBI turn over the information to the public, which she knows the FBI is not going to do.

It is also worth paying attention to Secretary Clinton’s comment noting that millions of people have voted already. Which is to say that is a textbook example of why early voting schemes are a really bad idea.


Speculation is Now Over the Top

There is now rampant speculation as to why Comey decided to continue with the investigation, and to make that fact public. Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, claims there is a bombshell of a story in the newly discovered e-mails. He said


“We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the Director of the FBI would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified e-mails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation.”


Then again there is also the possibility that Comey was simply getting ahead of career FBI personnel who were about to leak the story anyway.


What Was Comey Thinking?

The better possibility is that the FBI was simply trapped by it’s own incompetence and had no choice. Here we have a situation in which it is reported that there are tens of thousands of Huma Abedin’s e-mails floating around on non-government servers, including her estranged husband’s laptop. How could the FBI possibly spend over a year investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mail set up and be oblivious to all these e-mails in the possession of her top aide and her top aide’s husband? Didn’t they question Huma Abedin as part of the investigation? If not, why not? If so, how could they not have inquired about Abedin’s e-mails? Or did Abedin have some sort of immunity deal? Let’s not forget that as part of Cheryl Mills’s immunity deal, the FBI agreed to destroy her laptop. 


Let’s also remember Comey’s rationale for jumping in to violate all protocols by announcing on television that he was not going to recommend prosecuting Clinton, thereby short-circuiting the process. In July he said: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” (emphasis added).


So Comey incorporated what lawyers refer to as “specific intent” as a requirement for prosecution even though (a) it is not part of the relevant statute and (b) it makes no sense to require intent when gross negligence is the evidentiary threshold specified in the statute, which it is in this case. You don’t intend to be negligent; you simply are negligent. Unless for some reason  the FBI is investigating to see if there is evidence of specific intent in the new e-mails this is about as pointless as it gets, unless it involves some other area of malfeasance. For example, that could include evidence of a quid-pro-quo relating to the Clinton Foundation and government policy. With the Clinton’s that is always a very real possibility. Let’s face reality; it is a near certainty that a Hillary Clinton Presidency would bring with it unending scandal.


In the end, it is reasonable to assume that this whole situation stems from FBI incompetence combined with Clintonian corruption. Which is to say, same old, same old.











The Circus is Still in Town

Is A Tie Still Possible ?

Interestingly enough, the polls are starting to tighten even though Trump has had probably the worst Presidential campaign month in modern history. To some extent this is to be expected. In the waning moments of a Presidential campaign undecided but party affiliated voters start to head home. This favors Trump because has had far more problems with Republicans than Clinton has had with Democrats.


But the odds still strongly favor Clinton. Trump would have to win all the toss-up states and flip New Hampshire to win. If he did that, but lost Utah to Evan McMullin in Utah, the race would go to the House. Very unlikely, but still possible.


Chris Smith: Hardly a Profile in Courage

Chris Smith, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District and senior member of New Jersey’s delegation is running for re-election. He has been endorsed by the Asbury Park Press, and according to his campaign website he is “tied for second” out of all 435 current Members of the House in authoring bills that have been signed into law. There are those of us who would rather see Congress spend more time repealing laws instead of passing new ones.


According to The Auditor | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, Smith has taken “a leadership role” in helping to elect Donald Trump President. Smith’s re-election slogan is “A Leader We Can Trust.”


Trust to do what, exactly?


Smith has a reasonably safe seat that he is intent on keeping. Even if it means actively supporting Donald J Trump. That just might be a bridge too far.



Bill Clinton Inc.

The Washington Post has today published a front-page story based on the latest Wikileaks dump of John Podesta e-mails. It details how the Clinton’s used their foundation as a conduit for enriching themselves. In a classic shakedown operation the Foundation’s fundraisers not only raised lots of money from large multi-national corporations while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, they also solicited money for Bill Clinton personally. The Washington Post delicately refers to the arrangement as the “intersection of charity and personal income.”


Details of the arrangement are outlined in a memo written by former Clinton aide and confidante Doug Band, who later referred to the operation as “Bill Clinton Inc.” Essentially what it boils down to is this. Large potential contributors were invited to buy their way into some elbow rubbing by making contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative and to Bill Clinton personally. The Clinton’s managed to amass well over $100 million this way.


Democrats who continue to (justifiably) link Republican candidates to Donald Trump’s outlandish behavior tend to be reticent about all this, except to try to change the subject.


And while we are still on the subject, is there anybody left in the world who actually believes that Hillary Clinton’s destroyed e-mails contained nothing more than wedding plans and Yoga routines? Is there anybody who actually believes the hacked e-mails are not authentic? Is there anybody who doesn’t believe that Hillary and Bill Clinton are corrupt on a heretofore unimaginable scale?


Just checking.


Be prepared for four more years of never-ending Clinton sleaze.





A Write-in Vote for Ben Sasse (R, NE)

One of the most passionate and thoughtless (the two fit together naturally) of Presidential campaigns is coming to a close, and not a moment too soon. It is by now abundantly clear that there are deep fissures in the body politic whose creation has been years in the making. In the years ahead, leaders will need to address some significant problems that were exposed, but not caused, by a campaign long on vitriol and short on insight.



Unfortunately, after the post-election dust settles, a decreasingly likely event, neither of the major party candidates is even remotely up to the task of asking the right questions, much less capable of leading the way back from the abyss. That is because they are each determined to expand the nanny state and its centripetal urge toward the bureaucratization of American life.


That leaves a choice: sit this one out, or write in somebody sensible, either of which is a perfectly sensible and honorable choice.


Several people currently in public life have the experience, judgment and temperament to assume the responsibilities of the Presidency. Each is certainly worth considering for a write-in vote. They include former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to name just a few.


This writer intends to write-in the name of Ben Sasse, a Republican, and junior Senator from Nebraska. Before his election to the Senate in 2014, Sasse was President of Fremont University in Nebraska. Sasse, who graduated from Harvard in 1994 with a BA in government, earned his PhD from Yale (in History) in 2004. He joined the faculty of the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs before going on to become Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS in 2007 until the end of the second Bush Administration. In 2009, at age 37, he became 15th President of Midland University where he stayed until his election to the Senate.


Early on Senator Sasse announced he could never support Donald Trump’s quest for the presidency, a position he still holds. More than anything, Sasse can be described as a strict Constitutionalist who thinks that government should do fewer things, but do them better.


The best way to understand where Senator Sasse stands is to listen to him. The video below that contains clips from his maiden speech in the Senate is a good place to start.


What’s a Libertarian to Do?

With the election a little over 2 weeks away, the question of what to do presents itself with some urgency.


Donald Trump for the Republicans

The candidacy of Republican Donald J. Trump does not need a lot of discussion. He has spent the last year or so demonstrating that he is a simpleton who is spectacularly unqualified for any political office, let alone the Presidency. He has displayed an astonishing ignorance of even the most basic features of the government he proposes to lead. His policy knowledge concerning the important questions of the day is largely non-existent. His entire thought process, to the extent he thinks at all, is driven by narcissism. Unable to speak in complete sentences, he has the temperament of a psychologically disturbed adolescent, with all due apologies to psychologically disturbed adolescents.

He should be dismissed out of hand.

Hillary Clinton for the Democrats

Truth be told, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has not spent the last year or so demonstrating her unsuitability. It has been more like a 30-year project.


The public has had a chance to observe Mrs. Clinton as First Lady, Senator from New York and as Secretary of State. And if the polls are to be believed, the public views her as Lady Macbeth: scheming, unscrupulous, ruthless and dishonest, with a driving ambition that knows no bounds. The public’s estimation is essentially correct.


Mrs. Clinton invariably describes her own experience in terms of process, not measureable results. That is because once we go beyond the bumper sticker slogans that represent the bulk of Mrs. Clinton’s public utterances, we are left with a record of unremitting policy failure. It was Mrs. Clinton who got us into a war in Libya for no good reason. It is Mrs. Clinton who has supported piling on the regulations that have slowed GDP growth to a trickle. It is Mrs. Clinton who led the Russian reset. And it is even now that Mrs. Clinton wants to set up a no-fly zone over Syria, the enforcement of which would require us to shoot down Russian war planes and risk a war with Russia—and for what reason, exactly?


But while Mrs. Clinton’s record of policy failure is unsettling, it alone does not disqualify her from occupying the Oval Office. It is her lawlessness that does so.


The incoming President of the United States swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of United States” which includes the duty to see to it that the laws are faithfully executed. Mrs. Clinton’s suitability for this is on the order of hiring John Dillinger as a bank guard. Time and time again she has shown her disdain for the rule of law both as it pertains to limits on government power and with respect to her personal behavior.


Mrs. Clinton does not stand on the shoulders of giants. She stands on a mountain of sleaze. From the early days in 1978 when she managed to “earn” $100,000 trading cattle futures, to the mixing of the business of the State Department with the family slush fund otherwise known as the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton and her husband have mastered the art of selling policy and access to the highest bidder. The entire Clinton operation is corruption on an industrial scale.



Still it is not Clinton’s personal and petty corruption that is so problematic. It is the transformative nature of her corruption of fundamental institutions of government and civil society that she and her husband leave in their wake wherever they go. This corruption, the cynicism it breeds, and its continual redefinition of deviancy down represents an existential threat to the cultural conditions necessary for the maintenance of ordered liberty.


Consider for instance, the now infamous “homebrew” server Clinton used for her State Department e-mails.


She has consistently (sometimes under oath) lied about why she had it set up and what was on it. She lied about the system’s security. Again and again, she lied about receipt and delivery of classified messages on the system. She lied about turning over all work related e-mails to the FBI. And she illegally destroyed something in the vicinity of 30,000 e-mails that were already under subpoena that she was legally obligated to protect.


And then FBI Director James Comey declined to prosecute what should have been an easy case. But only after he lied when he insisted that the senior staff of the FBI backed him. He gave himself cover by giving Clinton a public tongue lashing, while publicly (and incorrectly) asserting that no reasonable prosecutor would make the case. In so doing he took Attorney General Loretta Young off the hook, shortly after she met privately with Bill Clinton in the back of an airplane parked on a tarmac in Arizona.


And so with this sordid affair, she damaged the institutional integrity of the FBI, the Department of Justice and the State Department, all to achieve her political ambitions. And even that is not the worst of it.


Hillary Clinton has repeatedly shown her contempt for Constitutional norms, the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and constraints on executive power generally. As recently as the third Presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton, graduate of Yale Law School, demonstrated that she still seems to have trouble differentiating between the legislative and judicial branches. In response to a question about the Supreme Court Mrs. Clinton replied:


“The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court… And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”


But Mrs. Clinton’s defense of rights rings a little hollow when you realize that she excludes individual rights explicitly specified in the Constitution meant to restrain government power. She continues to attack the the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech by promising to overturn Citizen’s United. She made it demonstrably clear that she means to break religion to the saddle of the state so religious organizations might serve as instruments of state power. That is what explains her opposition to the Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The same goes for the hacked Podesta e-mails describing efforts to foment a “Catholic Spring”.



Nor is Hillary Clinton a fan of the Second Amendment that protects a citizen’s right of self-defense. It is pretty hard to square the vast snooping apparatus of the NSA (supported by Hillary Clinton) with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, and a requirement for a specific search warrant.


And then there is the Fifth Amendment that prohibits the taking of life, liberty or property without due process of law, which would seem to rule out the summary execution of American citizens who find their way onto a Presidential “kill list.” Not only does Hillary Clinton support such a disgrace; she actually suggested “droning” Julian Assange, a political nemesis of hers. Finally, it is or ought to be, clear that Clinton has no use for the idea embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments that the legal use of federal power is limited to those activities enumerated in the Constitution, and that all other powers are reserved to the States and the people.


In the end it ought to be clear to all who are not willfully blind that Hillary Clinton is lawless and corrupt; that her corruption is endemic and infects everyone and everything in her orbit. Driven by blind ambition she will continue to subvert the institutions and norms that protect liberty and decency. She, no less than Donald Trump, represents an existential threat to freedom and decency in America.


For the Libertarians: Gary Johnson


The candidacy of Gary Johnson is a profound disappointment. At a time when so many citizens have expressed regret at the choices offered by the two major political parties, the time should have been ripe for a libertarian alternative. But it has not turned out that way.


Gary Johnson has shown himself to be unprepared for the job. He has displayed an appalling lack of understanding of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, his view of world politics seems bereft of an analytic framework that extends beyond saying that we will respond if attacked.


On the domestic front his enthusiasm for unfettered free markets in refreshing. But it is troubling when a libertarian seems so eager to use state power to enforce emerging social norms, as Johnson seems to be willing to do. All citizens are entitled to the protection of the law, and so discrimination in public accommodations or the provision of public goods, should be prohibited. But Johnson does not seem to recognize that government policies that seek to force some religious organizations and owners of small businesses to provide goods and services that are antithetical to their religious beliefs are in collision with the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech, religion and association.


In fact, Johnson seems only barely familiar with the arguments; has repeatedly adjusted his positions, and in the end decided that the Hobby Lobby case was wrongly decided. He has voiced agreement with the Obamacare mandate that required religious organizations (and certain business owners) to provide certain contraceptive services and abortifacients over religious objections. In Johnson’s view, the mandate trumps the First Amendment. That is deeply troubling.




Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld are pro-abortion extremists, though not quite as extreme as Hillary Clinton. (Or for that matter Donald Trump before his conveniently timed change of heart.) Hillary Clinton makes clear her desire to get rid of the Hyde amendment to pave the way for government-financed abortions. Johnson still supports the Hyde Amendment, but that’s about the only difference.


The “prime directive” so to speak of libertarians is the non-aggression principle (NAP). It prohibits the initiation of the use of force or coercion; the use of force is only permissible in self-defense. While abortion is a fiercely debated topic in libertarian circles, this libertarian leaning writer finds it difficult to square abortion rights with the non-aggression principle.


Unfortunately, after toting up the pros and cons, the Libertarian ticket has not shown itself to be up to the task.


So What’s a Libertarian to Do?


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have shown themselves to be fundamental threats to liberty. Gary Johnson has not shown himself to be up to the task. The remaining options are (1) to sit it out or (2) write in a name. Possible write-in candidates will be addressed in the near future.




According to Merriam-Webster the definition of “rig” is (1) to manipulate or control usually by deceptive means, or (2) to fix in advance for a desired result.


Since Donald Trump is almost certainly headed for a well-deserved shellacking on November 8, he has taken to traveling around the country complaining that the election is “rigged”. The “riggers” include everyone in the press with the exception of Sean Hannity; the Republican Party establishment, any pollster showing Trump is likely to lose, the growing collection of women who say that Trump did to them what he bragged about doing, and the great majority of people who live on this side of sanity.


On its face, the Trump charge is nonsense. It is obviously designed to challenge the legitimacy of the eventual victor and perhaps provide a post election platform for Trump and his army of aggrieved voters. But it would be a disservice to leave the issue at that. It is entirely legitimate to consider whether the rules governing elections in the United States are neutral in their intent and implementation.


Are the Rules Neutral?


It is perfectly obvious that the rules are not neutral. Right off the bat, election rules in the U.S. are designed to support a two-party system, which is to say a two-party duopoly. Scholars can (and do) argue about the wisdom of this, but it is indisputable that there is a bi-partisan thumb on the scale designed to protect the two major parties from external competition.


This was made glaringly evident by the recent decision of the Presidential Commission to exclude Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, from participating in the Presidential debates. Johnson, it should be noted, was polling in the 8% to 10% range in national surveys, and is on the ballot of all 50 states. In addition, a Morning Consult poll taken in early September found that a majority (52%) of respondents thought that Johnson should be included in the first debate.


The Commission responded that Johnson did not meet the threshold for participation required by the rules. But of course the Commission, created in 1987, consists of Democratic and Republican partisans who wrote the rules. And the rules protect the incumbent parties because they require that candidates be on enough state ballots to win 270 electoral votes and attain an average 15% standing in the polls prior to the debates. That is a steep (and expensive) hill to climb for new potential entrants. As constituted, the Debate Commission, a private non-profit entity, is a significant barrier to entry for competitors.


It doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot. There are also barriers to entry down the ballot. And then there is the matter of apportionment. The Constitution specifies that state legislatures determine Congressional Districts, although Arizona for one, has defied that requirement by implementing a supposedly bipartisan (there you go again) Commission to exercise legislative powers. Is there anyone on the planet who believes that state legislatures do not protect their own as they hammer out bargains on apportionment? Or that their supposedly independent commissions don’t know who their masters are?  And, by the way, minority majority districts were created specifically for the purpose of electing minority members to Congress. These are textbook cases of “fixing rules in advance for a desired result.”


Then there are “independent agencies” some of which are required by law to be equally staffed by Democrats and Republicans. So let’s not kid ourselves. The rules of the system are written to achieve a desired result. The desired result is to protect the incumbent Democratic and Republican Parties’ duopolies all the way from the national level down to county commissioners and small town Mayors.



A Brief History of Electoral Corruption in the United States


Democrats and Republicans take turns making speeches about the sanctity of election results while charging each other with manipulating the electoral processes that produced those results. Consider the latest broadside from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Patron Saint of progressives. Never mind that Republicans are scrambling away from Trump’s rigging claim. In a Washington Post Op-ed Warren claims (without a shred of evidence) that for years the GOP has employed actual electoral fraud in the form of voter suppression, in addition to making up stories of ballot stuffing; the latter to de-legitimize Democrats and their appointees.


Warren says that 45% of Republicans polled believe that voter fraud is a serious problem because the GOP has served up a steady diet of stories about imaginary cheating. But, she says, there is no evidence that widespread voter fraud is a factor in modern American elections. Note the rhetorical sleight-of-hand with the inclusion of the modifier “widespread”. For fraud to be a problem it now has to be “widespread.” Well, bank robbery and kidnapping are problems but they are not particularly widespread.


Leaving that aside is there any evidence that electoral fraud in the U.S. is or has been a problem in recent history? Well, let’s posit that systematically denying likely opponents the right to vote is electoral fraud. It should be obvious that denying legitimate access to voters has the same effect as ballot stuffing. So it turns out that apparently unbeknownst to Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren actually argues that voter fraud is a problem. In a speech she delivered at the Edward M Kennedy Institute as recently as September 27, 2015, she said the following.


“And what about voting rights? Two years ago, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates ever wider for measures designed to suppress minority voting. Today, the specific tools of oppression have changed-voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and mass disfranchisement through a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates black citizens. The tools have changed, but black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process.”


So Elizabeth Warren, who says election rigging is not a problem, also charges that minority voters are systematically deprived of their voting rights as a result of decisions reached by “five conservative justices on the Supreme Court”. That would seem to meet the definition of setting the rules to achieve a desired result. More than that, she is also implicitly accuses the conservative justices of seeking that result. Remember that when she complains about attacking political legitimacy. She is attacking both the Supreme Court as well as the electoral process.


If we compare Warren’s speeches to her actual record on racial justice we see what we can politely call a divergence. Take the case of Laquan McDonald, in which McDonald was unjustifiably shot by a Chicago policeman on video: and remember it was on video. However Democratic Mayor and Obama confidant Rahm Emanuel suppressed the existence and contents of the video for almost 1 year for electoral purposes. Here’s what Senator Warren had to say about that in an interview on NPR.


MCEVERS: Let’s talk of this video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Doesn’t the buck stop with the mayor?


WARREN: Yeah. I mean, I think so. I mean – and this, again, is all a window onto very systemic problems – the police code of silence, using endless alleged investigations as some bone-wearying way to cover things up, private financial settlements by governments to avoid a larger public scrutiny. That’s all stuff that’s part of the governmental fabric in Chicago, which he inherited. And while he didn’t create the basic problems in the department, it’s still verged on the absurd to stand up, as he did, at a press conference after that video was disclosed, and say, I’ve never seen this video. He knew exactly what was in that video, whether he’d actually watched it or not, which is why he got the Chicago City Council to approve a $5 million payment to the victim’s family just a few days after his own reelection runoff victory this year.”



So Warren acknowledges that Emanuel knew what was on the video, acknowledges he arranged a $5 million settlement for political purposes; acknowledges a cover-up and describes Emanuel’s claim not to have seen the video as “absurd”. And where does she place accountability? Not on the Democratic party that has run Chicago roughly forever.


She refers to systemic problems; a cover-up; private financial arrangements to avoid public scrutiny, which she describes as the “part of the governmental fabric of Chicago”. No kidding. And who has been running Chicago for the last 50 years or so? Hint: it wasn’t Republicans. It was (and is) a corrupt Democratic machine. Or as the old joke has it, Dan Rostenkowski became a Congressman because he wasn’t smart enough to be an alderman


Somehow or other even though Warren acknowledges a systematic and ongoing government failure, she doesn’t seem to be too exercised about it. Perhaps that’s because Chicago is the epitome of corrupt Democratic Party machine politics; and a  reliable supplier of Democratic votes, particularly in Cook county, historically one of the most efficient practitioners of electoral fraud in the United States.


Chicago is not an isolated example of electoral fraud and the misuse of State power to achieve desired electoral outcomes, although along with New Jersey, it is a serious contender for the Gold Medal of bad governance. For example, there is a substantial body of evidence that John Kennedy stole the 1960 Presidential election through the machinations of Richard Daley of (surprise) Chicago, and Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Then there was Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which in the end was all about the misuse of government power to achieve preferred electoral outcomes. It ultimately led to the resignation of then President Richard Nixon and the jailing of Attorney General Mitchell.


Currently we have the “Bridgegate” scandal brought to us by the Administration of NJ Republican Governor and Trump acolyte Chris Christie. In this sad tale, the Administration shut down a few lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid. In New Jersey, misuse of government power is not restricted to the Governor’s office. In October of 2002 the New Jersey Supreme Court ignored what the relevant election law clearly said in order to allow the Democratic Party to substitute Frank Lautenberg on the ballot for Robert Torrecilli so as to avoid an impending Democratic defeat in the general election.


Then there is the recent case of Lois Lerner and the IRS. It is now beyond dispute that the IRS, using Obama political appointees, systematically and largely successfully shut down the funding of conservative and Tea Party operations to render them ineffective for the 2012 elections. And they did this at the behest of senior Democratic operatives and elected officials including Dick Durbin of – where else—Illinois. (For full account see Kimberly Strassel’s excellent book The Intimidation Game.)



While we are on current scandals let’s not leave out how the DNC worked hand-in-glove with the Clinton campaign to stack the rules to make sure that Bernie Sanders never had a chance to win the Democratic nomination. It got to the point that Clinton had some of the questions she would be asked given to her in advance of the Democratic debates. Now that Wikileaks is leaking a treasure trove of damaging material about the DNC and Hillary Clinton, Ecuador has cut off the Internet access of Julian Assange, insisting that it was not at the request of John Kerry. It is quite the coincidence though. And the denial is plausible if you believe in the tooth fairy.


Political Legitimacy


We are now told that the latest Trumpian meltdown (they are pretty much a daily occurrence) in which he claims that the election is rigged is “dangerous for our democracy.” It is dangerous because in challenging the legitimacy of the election (that he is bound to lose) he is challenging the very idea of democracy. Nonsense. This is nothing but hysteria. We have been here before, cheered on by people with far more intellectual gravitas than Donald Trump, which admittedly is not a very selective club.


Consider Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman. In the wake of Bush v. Gore in 2000 he didn’t just question the legitimacy of Bush’s election. He called into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as well, and said that the Senate should refuse to confirm any justices nominated by George W. Bush. Two salient paragraphs from an article Ackerman published in The American Prospect in February 2001 follow below.


“This is not the first time in history that the Supreme Court has made a decision that called its fundamental legitimacy into question. But on past occasions, the normal operation of the system provided a remedy. As the wheel of mortality turned and justices were replaced, the Court regained credibility as an independently elected president and Senate appointed new members. But this time, the president has not been independently elected. He is in the White House as a result of an unprincipled judicial decision that brought the electoral contest to a premature end. If such a president is allowed to fill the Court, he will be acting as an agent of the narrow right-wing majority that secured his victory in the first place.


In our democracy, there is one basic check on a runaway Court: presidential elections. And a majority of the justices have conspired to eliminate this check. The Supreme Court cannot be permitted to arrange for its own succession. To allow this president to serve as the Court’s agent is a fundamental violation of the separation of powers. It is one thing for unelected judges to exercise the sovereign power of judicial review; it’s quite another for them to insulate themselves yet further from popular control. When sitting justices retire or die, the Senate should refuse to confirm any nominations offered up by President Bush.”


Note the conspiracy accusation.


Let’s take a brief look at the historical record. Thomas Alan Schwartz of Vanderbilt University says that questioning a President’s legitimacy was a common albeit nasty habit in the 19th century. President Tyler was known as “His Accidency” because he was the first to assume office as a result of the death of the President. Rutherford B. Hays was called “His Fraudulency” because he lost the popular vote in the election of 1876.

David Crockett, a professor of history at Trinity University in Texas says that Thomas Jefferson was accused of not being a legitimate American because of his foreign ties. Teddy Roosevelt thought his successor William Howard Taft was illegitimate because Roosevelt disagreed with his (Taft’s) policies. Roosevelt called Taft “a fathead.” And then there was Martin Van Buren who was deemed unfit because it was alleged he secretly wore a woman’s corset.


Perhaps one of the most lurid accusations of illegitimacy was hurled at Lyndon Johnson. The argument was that Johnson was complicit in the Kennedy assassination and therefore not a legitimate successor. Roger Stone, a Trump sycophant, wrote a book on the subject.


The net of all this is: We’ve been here before and the world hasn’t ended. We’ll be here again. So it’s time to calm down.


And About That Rigged Economy

Bernie Sanders spent the better part of a year arguing that the economy is “rigged.” In this he was supported by (of course) Elizabeth Warren, which is a lesson about the dangers of combining high conviction with boundless ignorance. It is worth noting that in his defense of the U.S. electoral system, President Obama made the obvious but critical point that it would be extremely difficult to win the Presidency by ballot stuffing because the system is so decentralized.


That Obama made this point is interesting for two reasons. First, one of the many benefits of free markets over central planning is that there are many competing buyers and sellers. Millions of people execute freely negotiated transactions on a daily basis. And buyers and sellers adjust their expectations and behavior as prices change. Monopolies are a short-term phenomenon unless they are supported and protected by the State. The forces of competition that allow for Schumpeterian creative destruction see to that. In fact, decentralization is one of the reasons it is simply impossible to “rig” a free market economy.


There is a second reason why it is interesting (and a little amusing) to hear Obama defend the election process by citing decentralization. It is because his entire tenure as President has been to actively promote the centralization and concentration of power. He has done so through questionable executive orders; end runs around Congress both in domestic policy and in war making; and through rules written by the federal bureaucracy, including those written by supposedly independent agencies.


This has had two results. The first is to seriously undermine the Madisonian architecture of checks and balances that progressives so disdain, thereby increasing federal power. The second is to force consolidation in the private sector so that there are fewer but larger firms that can be more easily broken to the saddle of the State. Then more central planning can proceed apace. The process is currently underway with a vengeance in financial services, health care and telecommunications.


For example, the number of community banks (those with assets under $10 billion) shrank by 14% between 2010 and 2014 as Dodd-Frank went into effect. (See Dodd-Frank is Hurting Community Banks.) Or take the health care industry. According to the Alliance for Health Reform:

  • There were 1,299 mergers and acquisitions in the health care sector in 2014 at a value of $387 billion, both record highs.


  • Health care mergers and acquisitions were up 26 percent from 2013 to 2014, and the value of those deals rose 137 percent. The pharmaceutical sector, which accounted for 55 percent of spending and 14 percent of deal volume, drove much of the increase.


  • Activity in the provider sector slowed, although it picked up toward the end of 2014. Altogether for the year, there were 79 hospital mergers, down from 94 in 2012, and 58 physician practice groups merged or were purchased, down from 65 in 2013.


  • The estimated national market share for the five largest insurers in 2014 was 83 percent, up from 79 percent in 2010 and 74 percent in 2006.


  • Proposed mergers would combine the “Big 5” into three firms.


In the telecom industry the Times reported back in 2014 that the consolidation had progressed so far that bankers were running out of deals to pitch.


So here we are again. Economic and political power is being centralized in the federal bureaucracy.

We would be fine if the candidates were interested in good policy. But they are not. Instead, they each wish to expand the powers of the Imperial Presidency; neither could care less about protecting individual liberty.


Good policy would entail simplifying the tax code, flattening and lowering marginal rates, reducing spending, reforming entitlements and reducing regulation. Good policy is the last thing on their minds. They are both in the good old progressive business of handing out free stuff in exchange for votes. That represents a very real and ongoing threat to liberty.


And before long the electorate is going to realize just how expensive all that free stuff is. If we are lucky it won’t be too late.



Enough of the Sanctimony Already

It is perfectly obvious that Donald Trump is spectacularly unqualified to occupy the Oval Office. And roughly no one would be surprised to find there is serious proof that he is in fact a serial predator. And it ought to be beyond dispute that he is the poster boy for all that is wrong with the popular culture. As Nobelist Bob Dylan said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.


But can we please ease up on the sanctimony for just a minute?


Consider: Here we have Michelle Obama denouncing Trump because “[Trump…] has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today.” Really? Well that’s very interesting because Michelle and Barack Obama are fans and friends of Jay Z and Beyonce, who have been guests of the Obama’s on multiple occasions.


So here are some of the lyrics that their friend Beyonce sings:


“Now my mascara running, red lipstick smudged

Yeah, he’s so horny he wants to fuck

He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse

He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown

Oh Daddy, Daddy, he didn’t bring the towel

Oh baby, baby, we better slow it down.”


If that’s not enough, there is the rapper Rick Ross who was invited to the White House with other rappers to discuss the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. Mr. Ross has an impressive rap sheet that in addition to a gun arrest includes indictments for kidnapping and assault. In fact when he showed up at the White House to proffer his policy advice he was wearing an ankle bracelet.


Anyway, in the lyric department Ross makes Beyonce seem comparatively tame. Among other things, the unprintable lyrics to his song “U.O.E.N.O”, an ode to misogyny, celebrate an incident of date rape. The lyrics are feely available on the web at this link.


There are lots of other examples, but they are not worth dwelling on. Suffice it to say that the hypocrisy has become suffocating. One the one hand the Evangelicals backing Trump have suddenly decided that, come to think of it, character isn’t so important after all. And then there is Christian Conservative Mike Pence. Way back on September 23rd Pence thought character mattered. In a speech at the Living World Bible Church he referenced the Clinton scandals of the 1990s and went on to say “Character matters to the presidency and Donald Trump will bring the highest level of integrity to the highest office in the land. You can count on it.”


Well that was then.


On the other hand Michelle Obama is shocked—just shocked—that Donald Trump could talk the way their friends and guests do. Shaken to the core, as she put it. And when, it is reasonable to wonder, did Hillary Clinton become such a girl scout. Driven by blind ambition she enabled her husband’s serial predations for decades, in the White House and out. Not to mention the lies that are too numerous to count on the e-mail scandal. Or the slush fund that is the Clinton Foundation.


And then we have the press. The other day important news about the Clintons, John Podesta and other senior campaign staff came out as a result of a Wikileaks data dump. It received a total of 57 seconds of network coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC. On the same day the networks provided 23 minutes of coverage for the 4 women who accused Trump of assaulting them. More details about the coverage are available in a story published by “The Hill”.


As Mercutio said: “A plague on both your houses.”



The Bizarre World of Donald J. Trump

Donald Trump apparently can’t understand why women haven’t come forward to accuse President Obama of sexual assault. Perhaps it’s because, unlike Trump, Obama isn’t a predator. Just a guess.


In the meantime Trump announced that he doesn’t much care for Hillary Clinton’s looks, clearly an important consideration when choosing a President.

You really have to hand it to Donald Trump though. He is probably the only man in the entire universe who could hand over the high road—or the less low road—to Hillary Clinton.


Team Trump Strikes Again


And for sheer stupidity it is hard to beat the latest gambit by team Trump. They decided to rebut one of Trump’s accusers by trotting out a certain Anthony Gilberthorpe to say that he sat across from Trump on the flight in the early 1980s where Trump was accused of groping Jessica Leeds. Gilberthorpe says he didn’t see anything untoward going on.


But they omitted a couple of details. Like this one. It turns out that… “Gilberthorpe made headlines in 2014, when he went public with a claim that as a 17-year old he procured boys (some who “could have been” underage) for sex parties with high-ranking British politicians”.


So to vouch for Trump, his campaign managed to produce a guy who got his start as a teenage pimp. That would be the Donald Trump who is going to “surround himself with the best people.”



Another Day Another Rant


“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.” –Donald Trump at a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, on this past Thursday.


As numerous observers have pointed out, Trump’s language seems to mimic that of anti-Semitic tracts like the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Perhaps. But it isn’t necessary to look for subtle links here. It should be pretty obvious by now that the man is a psychopath.


That should be enough.



Could There be a Tie in the Electoral College? Then What?

It appears that although Hillary Clinton got quite a bounce from the Trump Groping scandal, Trump’s poll numbers may be stabilizing, and even coming back a bit. To be sure the odds of a Clinton victory are in the vicinity of 9 to 1; Clinton still has an advantage in the battleground states, and Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes is narrow. But after enduring two of the worst weeks in campaign history, Trump is still standing, however tenuously.


Moreover by declaring open warfare on the Republican Party establishment, Trump may open the door for traditional blue collar Democrats to vote Republican even as college educated whites run away from the Republican nominee. This could be critical for two reasons. First, non-college educated whites outnumber college educated whites. Second, college educated whites increasingly live in states like New York and California which are going Democratic in November regardless. But a large Republican pickup of whites without college degrees could alter the electoral map by putting heartland states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in play.


On the other hand, Trump could lose Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, but still carry Florida and New Hampshire. In either scenario, the remaining and decisive state would be none other than Utah.


Here is where it gets really interesting. Utah is very red, and it has a very large conservative Mormon population that is decidedly uncomfortable with the way Trump has conducted himself. But Utah is getting increasingly comfortable with Evan McMullen who is running as a third party candidate. He is an ex CIA official, and former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. He has a conservative platform and he is a Mormon. Recent polls have put McMullen, Trump and Clinton in the low to mid 20s, within the margin of error.


If McMullen were to carry Utah, there are at least 3 or 4 plausible scenarios that would deny any candidate the 270 electoral votes needed to win, thus throwing the election into Congress. (Please see the Electoral College Maps below outlining possible tie scenarios). Were that to happen the newly elected Congress would decide who would be President and the Senate would choose the Vice-President.



Scenario 1
Scenario 2




But the President would not be selected by a majority of House members. The President would be selected by a majority of House delegations. At the moment the Republicans control 33 House delegations, the Democrats control 14 and 3 are tied. One reason Republicans control so many delegations is that Democrats tend to be concentrated in large urban areas while Republicans are more spread out. So it is likely that if the election were to be thrown to the House, the Republicans would dominate.


But it isn’t clear that the Republicans would necessarily vote for Trump, given Trump’s open declaration of war against the party. It is entirely possible that the Republican House could pick someone like ex Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, or Governor Kasich of Ohio, or former Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels. Meanwhile, the Senate could vote to make Tim Kaine VP, thus creating a sort of center right national unity government.


None of these scenarios are likely. But they are not impossible either.