Monday, February 22, 2016
Once upon a time, 1968 to be precise, Richard Nixon campaigned as the “New Nixon,” a statesman of maturity and judgment – no longer the red-baiting, confrontational Old Nixon. Of course, Nixon was Nixon. He couldn’t help himself. I remember during my 18 years in Massachusetts that Governor Dukakis presented himself as the New Dukakis. The hyper arrogant tax and spend nerd was defeated for reelection as Governor of Massachusetts in 1978. The compassionate New Dukakis, the man of the people, ran four years later and won and won again, as he financially ran Massachusetts into the ground, having temporarily glowed with the Mass Miracle, dependent on mini computers on Route 128. The new Dukakis was the old tax and spend Dukakis. He couldn’t change. And now we have the new civil President Obama, seeking peace and civility in politics. He gave a talk in Springfield, Illinois before the Illinois Legislature two weeks ago. He complained of the “poisonous political climate” threatening America today. He was apologetic for his failure to “reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics.” He wants a “modicum of civility” between the parties. The old Obama routinely excoriated Republicans, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, doctors, Sean Hannity, bankers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, white police officers, and Wall Street. He called Republicans “hostage takers.” Senator Obama had filibustered the appointment of Justice Alito to the Supreme Court. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, now says the President realizes that was a mistake. The New York Times reported that his staff held a strategy call with liberal advocacy groups last week for an all-out push for a confirmation of his nominee. We could call that a full court press. The New Obama broke precedence by not attending Justice Scalia’s funeral. He had no excuse for not attending. He went golfing instead. He spent less than 2 minutes at Justice Scalia’s memorial service. The reality is that the still petulant President did not like Justice Scalia’s opinions. Senator Chuck Schumer, soon to be the Senate Democratic leader, criticized President Obama’s proposed budget, which would cut the anti terror Urban Area Security Initiative from $600 million to $330 million. New York received $180 million of that funding last year. He called the cuts ill-advised and ill-timed. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, caustically responded last Wednesday: “At some point, Senator Schumer’s credibility in talking about national security issues, particularly when the facts are as they are when it relates to Homeland Security, have to be affected by the position he’s had on other issues.” Earnest continued: “He was wrong about that position.” Senator Schumer had disagreed with President Obama’s sell out to Iran. The new Obama is still the old Obama The previous four nominees to the Court were confirmed because they did not change the ideological makeup of the Court: conservatives Roberts and Alito for Rehnquist and O’Connor and liberals Sotomayor and Kagan for Souter and Stevens. One of the Obama standard operating practices is to gin up a crisis which demands immediate action. Thus, according to the Obamanistas, we are facing a Constitutional crisis. The pressure will be especially great on Senators Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Bob Portman (Ohio), and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). The Republicans need to understand that if they confirm an Obama nominee to the Supreme Court that their angry base will desert them in November. There is no constitutional crisis with a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The Constitution does not even require a nine Justice Court. The numbers have changed over time from 6 in 1790, to 7 to 9 in 1807, to 10 in 1863, and back down to nine in 1969. Even a 4-4 split on the Court simply means the lower court decision stands. President Obama is absolutely right in that he can nominate a justice to the Supreme Court. No one doubts that constitutional power of the President. He does not though have the constitutional right to force the Senate to confirm, or even consider, one of his appointments. The Senate can affirm, reject, or sit on a nominee. President Obama is also correct in that elections matter. He won the Presidency in 2008 and 2012. The Republicans won the Senate in 2014. Elections matter. Our Founding Fathers created a governor of checks and balances. Divided government is sometimes the best outcome for America. Conservatives are tired of watching “moderate” justices turn squishy and become liberals on the bench. They want no more David Souters. They even know that some conservative justices will also turn squishy and become liberals (Blackmun, Stevens, and partially Kennedy), but liberals usually don’t turn conservative. An Obama appointment will mark an ideological shift in the Court from conservative, respect the Constitution, to the progressive Living Constitution, which means whatever 5 justices want it to mean. The new Obama Supreme Court would reflect the often judicial lunacy of the Ninth Circuit. The defeat of Robert Bork ended the practice of nominating one of the most qualified lawyers or judges to the Supreme Court. Now they became raw political appointments. President Reagan nominated the distinguished, conservative Professor and Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. The Senate rejected the nomination 58-42 after a vicious, scurrilous campaign. Senator Ted Kennedy quickly initiated the anti-Bork campaign with a widely praised speech on the Senate floor. He said: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censured at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the millions of citizens …” The hearings went downhill from that point on. A verb entered the English language: “To Bork” a nominee. Justice Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1991 in spite of a vicious Borking attack. Then Senator Joe Biden presided over the Thomas hearing and allowed the vicious attacks to proceed. Senator Biden also urged in 1992 President George H. W. Bush to not name a replacement justice in the election year. He added that the Democratic Senate would seriously consider not scheduling appointment hearings on a nominee until after the election. Senator Chuck Schumer in a 2007 speech at the American Constitution Society, 18 months before the November 2008 election, said “I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.” Senator Patrick Leahy, formerly the Democratic Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said in 2004 “It is a well established practice that in Presidential election years, there comes a point when judicial confirmation hearings are not continued without agreement.” What goes around comes around. The last Supreme Court nominee confirmed in a Presidential election year was Justice Benjamin Cardozo in 1928. Vice President Biden and Senators Leahy and Schumer are now calling for confirmation of President Obama’s nominee. My biggest fear is that the Republicans will hold hearing, vote to break the filibuster, and then five Republican Senators will vote with the unified Democrats to confirm the nominee on a 51-49 vote, or even 50-50 with Vice President Biden breaking the tie.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Howard Beale (Network) Meet Donald Trump Finally, the Donald Trump Phenomenon makes sense. How such a walking, talking contradiction could get so much traction was seemingly inexplicable. The vitriolic bankrupt should be booed off the stage with a loud chorus of “You’re fired!” He’s certainly not a paragon of virtue. And then the epiphany! The 1976 Oscar winning movie Network. Peter Finch put in an emotion-filled rant as Howard Beale, a disillusioned broadcaster. Finally he blew: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” The American people during the Bicentennial said “I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Peter Finch posthumously won the Oscar for Best Actor. He was so emotionally wound up he died of a heart attack shortly after filming the movie. The American people, conservative and liberal, young and old, Caucasian and non-Caucasian, male and female, white collar and blue collar are “Mad as Hell” today. They see the American Dream failing. They see a stagnant economy. The students see piles of debt with diminished employment prospects. They see a declining, seemingly impotent America with America’s enemies taunting us. They see political correctness freezing thought. They see waves of immigrants crossing the southern border. Too many Americans discovered with ObamaCare that they could neither keep their doctor or health insurer. They see their hard-earned income being taxed to support non-functioning government. They receive no loyalty from employers. They see a government which cannot even take care of its veterans, much less its roads. They see the police being trashed, often by a criminal class. They know the President prefers to golf and vacation rather than govern. They don’t see leadership in the President or Congress. Americans are alienated from government. They voted eight years ago for Hope and Change. They got change, but lost hope. President Obama gets most of the blame for his feckless foreign policy. There’s enough blame to go around though. Republicans, having achieved control of Congress, seemingly caved to President Obama on almost everything. Americans no longer trust (career) politicians. Americans want leadership. They want leaders. Hell, America needs leaders. America is Mad as Hell and won’t take it any more. Hence, Donald Trump. Like him or not, he’s a straight shooter – no hallowed shibboleths, no sacred cows, no political correctness with The Donald. They see a fighter and a success. He’s a breath of fresh air in the miasma of the political swamp. Donald Trump is definitely not politically correct. He also cannot be bought or corrupted by the political class. Some seek salvation in the Independent Socialist Senator Sanders. More seek salvation in Donald Trump. They see hope in Donald Trump. They see no hope in the ruling class. America is still in the blind, infatuation stage with Donald Trump.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
We learn that Apple is refusing to cooperate with the FBI and follow a magistrate’s judicial order to help the FBI gain access to the encrypted data on Syed Rizwan Farook’s IPhone 5c. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were the Jihadist shooters in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. Is Apple aiding and abetting the terrorists? Is Apple being unpatriotic? Is Tim Cook willing to risk a patriotic backlash against Apple products? Is Apple just arrogant, believing it is above the government or the country? Is Apple a multi-national company, which considers itself a global citizen not subject to any sovereign government, such as the United States? Is Apple just being stupid? Is Silicon Valley bigger than the United States government? Perhaps some of the above, but in reality none of the above. The story is not what it seems at first glance. Apple has every right to litigate its legal rights. But should it? We know that Apple will ultimately have to comply if the Magistrate’s order is affirmed on appeal. Farook is dead and the phone belonged to his employer, the San Bernardino County Health Department, so it can’t be to protect his privacy. It’s to protect our privacy against an increasingly intrusive government. We know that the government can obtain Farook’s phone and text records elsewhere: i.e. who and when Farook has been in email and text communications. Indeed, the government already has that information from the phone companies. The government wants the information contained on his phone. Farood had stopped sending the info to the Cloud about six weeks before the shootings. Access to the encrypted information is password protected. Apple has a well-earned reputation for protecting the privacy of its customers and minimizing the risks of hacking. Its encryption software is increasingly sophisticated. By way of contrast, Microsoft’s Windows was known for its cybersecurity vulnerability, with constant hacks of personal computers. Apple stopped saving the passwords of its customers. The password program has an auto erase component whereby it automatically deletes all data on the phone or IPad after 10 consecutive filed attempts. Thus, the standard practice of using a computer program to automatically run through millions of possible combinations in seconds or minutes will fail. The FBI has been unable to access the encrypted information on the phone; it cannot get past the signon password. The FBI has not sought a traditional subpoena, such as for the list of calls or the info in the Cloud. Apple complies with those legal requests. Apple has provided the FBI the Cloud files of farook and his wife. The Magistrate wants Apple to turn off the auto erase function by creating a software program to disable or bypass the signon function. It is effectively asking Apple to create a backdoor for the government to enter everyone’s phone, tablet, or computer. The electronic companies have been resisting for months to cooperate with the federal government in providing the backdoor into their products. The FBI, especially, has become very upset. It believes the San Bernardino killings are the perfect opportunity to push its case for backdoor entry. It looks bad for Apple for it appears it is favoring a dead terrorist over the American people. Apple, Google and the other manufacturers are attempting to protect our privacy. If the comply with an order of the United States government to provide a backdoor to the government, then they will be at the mercy not only of the federal government, and not only almost any law enforcement agency in the United States, but also of any foreign government demanding similar access. Dictators and quasi-dictators will seek that information on residents they might suspect of disloyalty. Human rights advocates would be at great risk in many countries. The potential for abuse will be irresistible. Apple could thereby be effectively signing the death warrants of its customers if they allow access to the information. Hackers would also be able to access that stored information. The United States government in this electronic age has been known to abuse its vast powers, as shown by Edward Snowden, the IRS abuses, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi. No one’s electronic information will be secure.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Justice Scalia's Death Will Be the Defining Moment of the Obama Administration: The Senate is in Recess
President Obama and Justice Scalia’s fates are linked together. The President is fighting for his legacy, up to yesterday with the November election of his successor. Yet, the fate of much of his agenda lies in the hands of the nine justices of the Supreme Court. We know that the Court is generally split 5:4, usually on the conservative side. However, Justice Kennedy sides with the four liberal justices on some social issues, such as gay rights and perhaps capital punishment. Chief Justice Roberts twice saved ObamaCare, but he usually votes conservative. along with the conservative stalwarts of Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas. Issues before the Court this year include abortion rights, affirmative action, immigration and Presidential discretion, public employee rights, religious freedom, and climate change. Other issues that periodically return to the Court are property rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments, often intertwined with wetlands preservation and the definition of “waters of he United States.” At some point the FCC’s rules on net neutrality will work their way to the Court. Justice Scalia’s death comes at a rare moment when President Obama is in a win-win scenario. Everyone understands that the Republican Senate is not going to confirm one of his progressive nominees to replace the conservative Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court and thereby tilt the balance of power on the Court. He would normally welcome the sturm und drang of an epic election year confirmation battle in which he could play to the Democratic Party base. He would nominate, after careful political calculation, a liberal of a demographic or ethnicity the Democrats wish to garner on election day. The possibilities include a female African-American, Asian-American, or Latina, and then dare the Republicans to reject the nominee. He could do that for political advantage, but he probably won’t. He has a better, immediate option available – a recess appointment that will cement his legacy this fall. The new Congress takes office January 3. The President’s lasting legacy will be to stack the Court, at least though this year. He can do so for the next 8 days with a one year recess appointment. Congress through a joint resolution is in recess through February 22. The window will close after the 22nd. The Court has already rebuked the President on recess appointments 9-0 on appointments while Congress was technically in session. Thus, he will probably not want to push that button with a Supreme Court appointment during the session. My guess is that he will probably go for the sure thing and make the recess appointment in the next week. The Republicans will bitch and moan, but the President will be acting within his Constitutional rights. The Senate does not get a confirmation vote on an interim appointment, unless the President wishes to convert it into a permanent appointment. How ironic that he will adopt the originalism, the literal words of the Constitution of Justice Scalia. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides: “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the end of their next Session.” Justice Scalia was viewed as a conservative, indeed an originalist. His view was simple. The Constitution means what its words actually say. The words speak for themselves. It reflects the rule of law, the principles that have guided America since the founding of the United States. The opposite view, that of the liberals, is that the Constitution is a living document that evolves with changing mores and values. In other words, any five justices of the United States Supreme Court can rewrite the malleable Constitution anytime they wish. Justice Scalia’s untimely death is an Act of God for President Obama.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Here’s what we know after Iowa and New Hampshire going into Nevada and South Carolina. It looks like it won’t be Bush-Clinton. It undoubtedly will not be JEB bush for the Republicans while Hillary Clinton is increasingly shaky for the Democrats. The Democrat got trounced in New Hampshire, 60% to 38%, and may have actually lost Iowa. The Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party will not release the Iowa raw figures. The Chair had managed Hillary’s Iowa campaign in 2008. Hillary is under pressure to shake up her staff. The staff is not the problem. Hillary Clinton is the problem. She’s a tone-deaf candidate, who few trust, and is skating on thin ice around an indictment. She is becoming as inept a candidate as Governor Mitt Romney four years ago. Americans on both sides of the aisle are disillusioned with the government. Yet the choice on the Democratic side is between two senior citizens, 1) a former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State and 2) a member of Congress for 25 years. The Republicans currently feature a billionaire (?) real estate developer, two Senators, a sitting governor, a retired governor, and a retired surgeon, who is sadly, rapidly fading. Money supposedly corrupts today’s political system. Yet the billionaire has spent very little, and the big spenders, Hillary Clinton and JEB Bush, are floundering. Senator Sanders has recently been out-raising Secretary Clinton with small donations. The Democrats cry out against Citizens United and the Koch Brothers, but they eagerly accept contributions from lobbyists who work for the Koch Brothers. The Democratic campaign features a battle between self-proclaimed progressives, one of whom is an avowed socialist and proven progressive, and the other who veers between moderate and progressive depending on how the wind is blowing. The faux progressive prosecutes the “Republican War on Women,” but aided and abetted her husband’s misogynist behavior. The Republican campaign has mostly featured a circular firing squad to decide who will come in third. Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich have one major advantage over the other candidates. They offer a positive, upbeat message. Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are chronically negative while Governor Bush looks uncomfortable trashing his opponents. The Donald and the Canadian American have both succeeded by attacking illegal immigration. Americans have been concerned about the wide-open Southern Border and are now dearthly afraid of radical Islamic terrorism with attacks in Europe and the United States. Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton face tremendous challenges with Republicans, Independents, and even many Democrats in November if they continue to support open borders. Secretary Clinton is wrapping herself around President Obama in an attempt to resurrect the Obama Coalition, especially the African American vote in the Southern primaries. She is also trying to avoid an indictment by the Obama Administration. The late, magnificent Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, in the 1992 Florida primary referred to Governor Bill Clinton as a ‘pander bear” who would “say anything or do anything to get elected.” He repeatedly held up a stuffed panda bear to symbolize Bill Clinton. He added “The American people are going to find out and decide how cynical and unprincipled Bill Clinton is.” Secretary Clinton is channeling her inner Bill Clnton. The two Democrats are also endorsing Black Lives Matter and echoing the claims about an unfair justice system with too many Blacks in prison. They also believe the solution to economic inequality is to adopt policies that will increate inequality. The odds still favor Secretary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but they are shrinking. The Republican race is settling. The race is to be third in South Carolina. Governor Christie “mugged” Senator Rubio in the debate before the New Hampshire Primary, but lost politically as he dropped out of the race. Today’s Republican debate provides Senator Rubio the opportunity to redeem himself. If he succeeds, then he will become the best chance to beat out the top two. Let us remember that President Reagan lost badly to Walter Mondale in the first 1984 debate, but came back to decisively defeat the former Vice President in the subsequent debate. Governor Bush’s hasn’t found a successful strategy in this campaign. The American people see him flounder, which is not the leadership they seek this year. Governor Kasich soared in New Hampshire, essentially camping out in the state, but this is not the year for a compassionate conservative in the South. He hopes to survive until the Michigan primary. The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia today should change the dynamics of the race. Republicans need to understand that they must nominate a candidate with a real chance of winning in November rather than a flaky soul mate; to wit Donald trump or Ted Cruz.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Here’s what we know about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is ambitious Very ambitious She is mendacious An inveterate liar She is a populist A faux populist Senator Sanders said it best: “You can’t say that you are a moderate on one day and be a progressive on another day.” Senator Sanders has been a steadfast Progressive, whose views have not changed with the blowing wind or the audience. She is avaricious Show Hillary the money The latest revelations about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs reinforces the image of the one constant in her career. To paraphrase Jerry McGuire “Show her the money.” Anderson Cooper asked her why she took the Goldman Sachs $675,000? Her response was “Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered.” She could have said “No” to Goldman Sachs and the other financial interests, which have contributed over $100 million to her political campaigns, foundations, and finances. The financial industry, aka Wall Street, has contributed $2.9 million to her Presidential campaign through 2015 and another $14.3 million to a PAC supporting her election. What did she say that was worth $675,000 to Goldman Sachs? There are supposedly no recordings, but they are transcribed. The Washington Post has sought the transcripts for several weeks, but she is stonewalling. Reports are that she told the banking industry she would relax the post-collapse restrictions on the banking industry. If so, she is not only mendacious, but two-faced. She emulated Gary Hart last Wednesday at a CNN Forum. He dared the media to follow him in denying charges of womanizing. The Sunday New York Times ran his statement on May 3, 1987: “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be bored.” The Miami Herald reported on the same day that Donna Rice, a young woman, had spent the night at Senator Hart’s townhouse. Secretary Clinton said at the CNN forum: “Anybody who knows me who thinks that they can influence me, name anything they’ve influence me on.” Senator Sanders reported that Senator Elizabeth Warren has long contented that then Senator Clinton switched her vote on a bankruptcy bill in 2001 because of such influence. Lyndon Baines Johnson, an aspiring, ambitious politician in Texas, had the wisdom to avoid getting entangled with the oil industry. He knew it could endanger his higher ambitions. Not so Hillary Clinton with Wall Street. Show her the money. She echoes Senator sanders in decrying the big banks and financial institutions, but show her the money. It’s not just $675,000 from Goldman Sachs. She also picked up an additional $225,000 from Morgan Stanley, $225,000 from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and $485,000 from Deutsche Bank. Show her the money. Hillary though is a piker compared to her husband, Bill. He reaped $5.9 million from big banks. Hillary Clinton made $21,648,000 in 92 speeches from April 2013 through March 2015. Remember, Hillary Clinton is a populist. Let’s go back to 1978. She had $1,000 in a brokerage account, upon which she made a $12,000 investment in cattle futures. Her run of “good luck” netted her over $100,000, of which about $40,000 were by someone else, but shifted into her account. She then invested in the ill-fated 230 acre Whitewater development, which led to a financial loss. The Clintons though avoided the criminal prosecutions that bedeviled others entangled in the Whitewater morass. The intriguing billing records from the Rose law firm, which made her a partner when her husband was elected governor, went missing for two years. They mysteriously emerged in the White House. The populist served on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart from 1986 to 1992, as they continued to fight unions. Hillary said she and Bill were essentially broke when they left the White House. She forgot to mention the $8 million book advance she received from Random House. They have declared about $154 million in speech income from February 2001 through May 2015. In addition, the Clinton Foundation in its various manifestations has garnered about $2billion in contributions from individual, corporations, and foreign institutions and governments, much of which was received about the State Department under Secretary Clinton approved their projects and deals. Hillary Clinton is against inequality, but show her the money.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Donald Trump lost Iowa by 4 points to Senator Ted Cruz. The celebrity candidate gave a gracious concession speech and later conceded he was out-organized by the Senator and should have participated in the last debate. But then the petulant Donald trump emerged from his shell. No more Mr. Nice Guy – just another sore loser. American loves likable losers, such as Marv Throneberry and the Marvelous Mets of 1962, Rudy, Eddie the Eagle, and the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Donald trump blew his lead in the polls in Iowa by puling out of the debate. He is now blowing his lead in the polls in New Hampshire by pulling a petulant Richard Nixon who, after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial election, told the media “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” The Donald is accusing the Canadian anchor baby of voter fraud, and demanding not a recount, but a redo of the election. Donald Trump is delusional. Maybe the Cruz Campaign deliberately spread a misstatement about Dr. Ben Carson pulling out of the race right before the caucus votes. Maybe it was intentional. Maybe it was a miscommunication. Maybe it was an innocent mistake. This is the Presidential Election. It is not conducted by Marquis of Queensberry Rules. It is hard nosed, bare knuckle politics. Americans want a fighter to be President – not a whiny loser. Donald Trump made his fortune in New York real estate development. He understands ruthless competition. Or does he? He knows how to court politicians. He doesn’t know how to be elected. The Donald is a blustering, bluffing bully. Voters have caught up to the entertainer’s schtict. All for the show. The polls show him still in the lead in New Hampshire. They also show him slipping with Senators Rubio and Cruz, and Governors Kasich and Bush gaining. The trump Curve is on the way down. He ducked the Iowa Debate and now the New Hampshire snowstorm. He once again lacks a ground game in the state. Donald Trump is once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He will soon be a footnote in the history books. It’s tough being a political apprentice in the Presidential election. It’s even tougher when your personality gets in the way. Atlantic City casinos should give him the same odds they had when he led them into bankruptcy. Iowa and New Hampshire are performing their role in the Presidential Election. This election is literally for the future of America. The Donald is not the one. America knows it. He knows it. When I'm wrong, I'm wrong.