Archive for the ‘US government’ Category

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A Constitutionalist Revolution?

January 7, 2017

Where do I sign up?

Jeff G sent this shortly before last Thanksgiving. On the one hand, I’d be thrilled if this turns out to be true. On the other, I’m not sure it applies to the Trump voters I know. Most of those were concerned about (a) the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court and (b) defeating Hillary Clinton at all costs (not necessarily in that order).

Maybe the "SCOTUS voters" had this constitutionalist point in mind. But I’m thinking they could have made the point more clearly by voting for Johnson-Weld.

Here’s John C. Eastman, a constitutional law scholar, writing at the Claremont Review of Books last November. It’s an interesting read and he makes some very good points.

The Constitutionalist Revolution

It started even before Donald Trump was declared the winner. The pundits and commentators, stunned beyond belief, began to pontificate about how this could possibly have happened. No one they know thought that Trump was anything but a boorish oaf. And the uniform view in their circles was that Trump’s supporters were even worse. Must be, else they wouldn’t be Trump supporters.

Then I started to notice a different narrative as the night wore on while the country was awaiting results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—the so-called rust belt. White, blue collar workers were angry at Washington, the pundits conceded. They have lost their jobs to a global economy that they cannot control, and the government—their government—was ignoring their plight. Whether Trump could deliver on his promise to help them, they seemed to know that Hillary Clinton would not.

Notice the underlying assumption. Trump’s voters were angry because government was not doing enough for them, not that it was doing too much to them. Six years into the Tea Party revolution — and make no mistake, this is an ongoing manifestation of the Tea Party revolution — the Washington crowd still does not get it.

I spoke to a lot of Tea Party groups when I was running for California Attorney General back in 2010. These were not (and are not) people seeking more handouts from government to make their lives better. And they were not backward hicks clinging to their guns and Bibles, as the Washington establishment on both sides of the political aisle believed. They are rock-solid citizens, deeply concerned about handing a $20 trillion debt to their kids, but even more concerned that we seemed to have incurred that debt in utter disregard of the limits our Constitution places on government. Eight years of President Obama exacerbated those concerns to the breaking point, and the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton doubling down on rule by executive pen, by acting assistant deputy secretaries, by “guidance” memos from deep in the bowels of an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy, provoked a citizen uprising. Not a populist revolt, as the pundits believe, but a constitutionalist revolt. […]

You see, the D.C. crowd has viewed the lack of a revolt to their expansion of government beyond its constitutional tether as indicative of agreement rather than mere toleration while the abuses remained tolerable. They should have read another line in that old Declaration: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” […]

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The beams in our eyes

December 26, 2016

Saying “The Russians hacked the election” is really lame in my view. It’s the kind of statement intended to get a knee-jerk reaction from the implication that Russians hacked the voting process. I don’t know of any reputable claims of that happening and I don’t believe it did.

Since the Democrats don’t disavow the content of their hacked e-mails, their claim that they were injured by the release of those messages basically shows that they were hoist by their own petard. "Oops… we didn’t want that to go public."

FWIW, the Wall Street Journal reports that Russian hackers tried to get into the Republicans’ systems too.

So John Podesta was hacked. The election was not.

Or see this tweet for an even pithier (and more amusing) summary.

Personally, I thought that Jonathon Gruber’s comments about how the PPACA was passed would be enough to keep anyone from voting for Secretary Clinton.


But all that said, a separate and more important point is that the U.S. isn’t blameless in this regard. This article from the Independent Institute’s The Beacon recounts ways the U.S. has interfered in the elections or governments of other countries.

Russia’s Election Hacks Are Child’s Play

The FBI and CIA are in agreement that Russia in some way interfered in the U.S. election. What is known so far is that Russian hackers were able to access the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Hackers also breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

According to sources, the Russian government sought to hinder the Clinton campaign and work to assist Trump in winning the presidency. […]

People seem floored by these revelations. How could Russia interfere in the workings of the U.S. political process? How dare they try to manipulate the outcome of a presidential election?!

I’m reminded of a Biblical passage.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?

Those barking loudly over Russia’s involvement with the U.S. political process would do well to take a look at the history of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government has a long history, some two hundred years long, of interfering in the politics of other countries—and we’re not just talking emails. […]

1898—In the aftermath of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. government invaded the Philippines, reneging on a deal with Philippine rebels to help the nation win independence and overthrowing the country’s new government.

1903—The U.S. government helped Panama secede from Colombia. […]

1953—The U.S. government launched operations to overthrow the government in Guatemala. […]

1958-1960—CIA engineered at least three coups in Laos.

1966—Kwame Nkrumah was the Prime Minister of Ghana when the country gained independence from the British. The U.S. government was not fond of his socialist, anti-imperialist views. As such, the U.S. government, via the CIA, worked to oust him in a coup in 1966.

(Note: the above is woefully incomplete. For a couple more list of U.S. efforts to interfere in other countries’ governance, see here and here.) […]

And this article doesn’t mention either the U.S. involvement in the Iranian coup of 1953 (which succeeded) or the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 (which failed).


Update 1/1/17::

A little humor about the DNC hacking from IowaHawk, who was on a roll last Friday (the 30th).

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What’ll happen in the Real Election?

December 18, 2016

Tomorrow’s the day the members of the Electoral College meet to elect the next president. Since I visited the HamiltonElectors site this week, Google Ads has been showing me things like this since.

hamilton-electors-2

I thought the "Make Russia Great Again" cap was a clever touch.

Here’s the most recent video from HamiltonElectors.

This clip is different than the one I saw earlier this week, which featured Martin Sheen and a group of entertainers. That one’s been removed from YouTube unfortunately. I found it amusing to hear them going on about the sanctity of the Constitution – that came across as an argument of convenience. (But no matter; why anyone cares about celebrities’ political opinions is still beyond me.)


Update 1/16/17:
And here’s Tucker Carlson interviewing two electors (about a month ago).

I found Carlson’s argument that the electors would be acting as an ‘oligarchy’ pretty lame. Electors only have the power they do because of the system they’re involved in. They didn’t invent that system – and they’re only Oligarchs-for-a-Day.

The leaders of Congress or the Supreme Court would be more apt examples of an oligarchy.

Since the earlier video isn’t available, here’s a different one of Tucker Carlson debating Bret Chiafalo about his position as an ‘Hamilton elector’.

As before, I don’t agree with Carlson’s partisan argument. What’s the point of having an Electoral College if the electors have no choice but to reflect the popular vote? It’s too bad Chiafalo didn’t ask Carlson that question.

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What he said (11)

December 9, 2016

John Stossel wrote an op-ed and closed it with this:

I don’t want a “strong leader.” I want a president of this constitutional republic to preside over limited government and leave us free to lead our own lives.

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How crony capitalism works

December 2, 2016

Kevin Williamson has a good article about how Trump ‘saved’ jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana. RTWT.

The Economic Stupidity of the Carrier Bailout

One particularly tough and indigestible nugget of talk-radio stupidity afflicting the guts of conservatism is the idea that there is some sort of fundamental difference between bribing a business with tax cuts and bribing it with a wheelbarrow full of cash. The Trump-Pence bailout of Carrier’s operations in Indiana provides an illustrative case. […]

Republicans might have had a little bit of a point in the question of general tax cuts: A tax cut and spending are different things, even if the budgetary effects are exactly the same.

But in the matter of industry-specific or firm-specific tax benefits of the sort extended to Carrier in Indiana, they do not have a leg to stand on. These are straight-up corporate welfare, ethically and fiscally indistinguishable from shipping containers full of $100 bills. […]

For Carrier’s accountant, any pecuniary benefit will do. So far as the bottom line is concerned, a $7 million tax credit is the same as a $7 million check or $7 million in Apple stock or $7 million in gold. It’s all +$7 million on the line where you want it. […]

This is a case of Frédéric Bastiat’s problem of the seen vs. the unseen. The benefits are easy to see, all those sympathetic workers in Indiana. The costs are born by sympathetic workers, too, around the country, and by their families and by their neighbors. But those are widely dispersed, so they are harder to see and do not hit with the same dramatic impact.

But the math is the math is the math. Trump and Pence are trying to sell you a free lunch, the same way the Keynesians and their magical spending multiplier do when they promise that government stimulus programs (Trump is pushing one of those, too) will somehow magically pay for themselves. […]

I suppose the good news for most of us is that the State of Indiana (and its taxpayers) will be the ones picking up the tab for this.

Bastiat’s That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.

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Curiouser and curiouser

October 7, 2016

Here’s interesting news from CNN about hacked voting systems, publishing hacked DNC documents, and the coming election.

US accuses Russia of trying to interfere with 2016 election
US officially blames Russia for political hacks

Washington (CNN)The Obama administration said Friday it was “confident” that Russia was behind recent hackings of emails about upcoming US elections in an attempt to interfere with the process.

The announcement marks the first time the US administration has officially accused Russia of hacking into US political systems. Earlier in the week, the two countries broke off formal talks about a ceasefire in Syria.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement added. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”

The announcement was referring to the breach of Democratic National Committee emails and the sites of other Democratic Party-linked organizations disclosed over the summer. […]

I’m not sure what to make of this report. Taking it at face value leaves me wondering what the Russian intent is. Do they want to discredit the Democrats (and thus Clinton) by releasing hacked documents and so sway voters to elect Trump? Would Putin prefer Trump as his counterpart? That seems the obvious conclusion – if the Russian Federation really is behind the hacking.

Or maybe the situation’s like a spy novel and there are wheels within wheels here. Is the Obama administration making this announcement with the hope that people will reach the conclusion above? Does the White House want to make sure people think that Russia favors Trump and so sway voters to Clinton? President Obama has endorsed Clinton after all.

That seems a bit of a stretch, since it’s sure to cause another kerfuffle with the Russians – at a time when relations are already a bit sour over Syria.

It all leaves me wondering who’s playing whom here. And I suppose that’s a third point: that I’m not confident I can trust this administration to play "straight baseball".

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time the President’s administration gamed the American public.


Update: Wow, this was quick. The WSJ reports this evening (~10 PM EST):

WikiLeaks Stirs Up Trouble for Hillary Clinton
Email correspondence is said to show excerpts of paid speeches before her presidential bid

The organization WikiLeaks on Friday released what it claimed to be Clinton campaign email correspondence revealing excerpts from paid speeches that Hillary Clinton gave in recent years, before her presidential bid.

A Clinton campaign spokesman declined to verify whether the documents are authentic.

The emails appear to show Mrs. Clinton taking a tone in private that is more favorable to free trade and to banks than she has often taken on the campaign trail. The emails also suggest she was aware of security concerns regarding electronic devices, which could feed into criticism that Mrs. Clinton was careless with national secrets when she was secretary of state.

The release marks the latest time WikiLeaks has inserted itself into this year’s presidential campaign, and it came the same day the U.S. intelligence community accused the Russian government of trying to interfere in the U.S. elections by purposefully leaking emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and other entities. The intelligence agencies alleged the hacks were directed by the most senior officials in the Russian government, with WikiLeaks one of the entities whose methods are consistent with those of a Russia-directed effort.

“Earlier today the U.S. government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy,” said Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin in a statement. “We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, whose emails were WikiLeaks’s primary target, sent several tweets on the subject late Friday.

“I’m not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump,” he wrote. “Don’t have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.” […]

Obviously, the Democrats want us to think that Wikileaks is trying to get Trump elected. I think it’s a safe guess that the president agrees with that. So the question left is whether the Russians are coordinating and/or controlling what Wikileaks is doing as the administration claims.

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The time and place for paper records

October 3, 2016

From MIT Technology Review. RTWT.

The Internet Is No Place for Elections

Despite what your local election officials may tell you, you can’t trust the Internet with your vote.

This election year we’ve seen foreign hackers infiltrate the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system as well as voter databases in Arizona and Illinois. These attacks have reinforced what political scientists and technical experts alike have been saying for more than a decade: public elections should stay offline. It’s not yet feasible to build a secure and truly democratic Internet-connected voting system. […]

Nevertheless, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow at least some absentee voters (in most cases just voters who live overseas or serve in the military) to return their completed ballots using poorly secured e-mail, Internet-connected fax machines, or websites. In the most extreme example, all voters in Alaska are allowed to return their completed ballots over a supposedly secure website. And there is a danger that Internet voting could expand. Vendors like the Spanish company Scytl, which supplied Alaska’s system, and Southern California-based Everyone Counts keep marketing these systems to election boards against the advice of security experts. And they haven’t opened their systems to public security testing. […]

Even if the risk of cybercrime could be mitigated, building an online voting system that preserves the core components we expect from democratic elections would be technically complex. Today’s commercial systems do not achieve this; most of the states that offer ballot return via the Internet ask that voters first waive their right to a secret ballot. The key challenge is building an online system that generates some sort of credible evidence that proves the outcome “is what you say it is” during an audit, while maintaining voter privacy and the secret ballot, says Rivest. […]

In the 90s, when my business partner and I were trying to solve problems with telephone automation*, we kicked around the idea of voting by phone. After several goes at that idea, we concluded there was no practical way to (a) make it secure and (b) keep it secret. Not much as changed in the interval, despite different technologies.

*For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

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