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Wait… you mean it’s not supposed to be rigged?

July 6, 2016

I don’t get too excited by political scandals. The large majority of them seem to be much ado about very little. But there are exceptions proving this rule, of course. I recall the day Richard Nixon left the White House. He wasn’t tarred and feathered… maybe because it would have been too good for him.

I’ll be very surprised, though, if the way Secretary Clinton and her staff handled e-mail correspondence was even a tenth as serious as Nixon’s crimes. Barring a revelation that the Clinton Foundation has profited from information Ms. Clinton leaked via insecure servers (always possible, I suppose) or some foreign government publishing emails that had been hacked from her servers (also possible), this looks like a bad decision made by a technically illiterate boss. And that’s hardly news; I mean, how many times does that happen?

Nonetheless, what the Secretary & staff did are accused of doing (and have kinda, sorta admitted doing) violated Federal law. Clinton rebuts FBI charge of recklessness, by the way.

So the contrast between how Ms. Clinton’s case has been handled and how Federal prosecutions of ordinary citizens are handled is striking. Innocent-until-proven-guilty applies to politicians too, so we’d need to wait for a judge or jury to convict her before we could say she’s guilty. But that can never happen if she’s never prosecuted, can it? The process was short-circuited in her favor.

As an example, here’s how the FBI treated a similar case last year for someone who wasn’t so favored. Folsom Naval Reservist is Sentenced After Pleading Guilty to Unauthorized Removal and Retention of Classified Materials.

And here’s an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal. (My emphasis below.)

Jim Comey’s Clinton Standard
He shows how she broke the law then rationalizes no indictment.

For our money, the most revealing words in FBI Director James Comey’s statement Tuesday explaining his decision not to recommend prosecuting Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information were these: “This is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

So there it is in the political raw: One standard exists for a Democratic candidate for President and another for the hoi polloi. We’re not sure if Mr. Comey, the erstwhile Eliot Ness, intended to be so obvious, but what a depressing moment this is for the American rule of law. No wonder so many voters think Washington is rigged for the powerful. […]

Yep. Secretary Clinton violated the letter of the law in several occasions… no biggie. But don’t you dare get caught doing that.

Here’s a clip called the Email Scandal Supercut from Reason TV. Nice juxtaposition.

For reference, FBI Director Comey’s full press conference.

But the best question I saw about this was Warren Meyer’s. (My emphasis again.)

Hillary Clinton and “Intent” — Can the Rest Of Us Get A Mens Rea Defense From Prosecution?

Yesterday, the FBI said that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted because, though she clearly violated laws about management of confidential information, she had no “intent” to do so. Two thoughts […]

If politicians are going to grant each other a strong mens rea (guilty mind or criminal intent) requirements for criminal prosecution, then politicians need to give this to the rest of us as well. Every year, individuals and companies are successfully prosecuted for accidentally falling afoul of some complex and arcane Federal law. Someone needs to ask Hillary where she stands on Federal mens rea reform.

If you’re not familiar with the term mens rea, follow the link at the end of that snippet. Basically, los Federales can prosecute you for crimes without having to show that you intended to commit a crime or that you were even aware that you’d committed one.

Here’s an example (from this post):

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Happy Independence Day

July 4, 2016

NASA’s Juno Probe Just Made It Safely Into Jupiter’s Orbit

AT 11:54 PM Eastern tonight, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California erupted into cheers. No ooohs and aaaahs at fireworks displays here: The team of engineers had just received confirmation that their intrepid space probe, Juno, has successfully made its way into Jupiter’s orbit.

That maneuver, a 35-minute burn that began at 11:18 pm Eastern tonight, was the culmination of a five-year journey through space and many more years of work from the JPL team.

Juno has been whizzing toward Jupiter since it left Earth on August 5, 2011. And these 35 minutes have always been the 35 most perilous moments since launch. Juno had to turn on its engines precisely 2,609 miles away from Jupiter to get into position. If it didn’t slow down enough, the probe would go right past Jupiter, missing its target. At just the right speed, it would sync up with Jupiter’s gravity. […]

To make this even more of a nail-biter, signals from Jupiter take almost 49 minutes to reach Earth. That means by the time NASA got the signal that Juno had started slowing down, the probe had already slowed down enough to enter Jupiter’s orbit. If something went wrong, there’s no remote fix — and no way to know until after it’s all over. […]

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You in?

June 30, 2016

Here’s a pretty nicely done ad from Team Johnson-Weld. #youin.

As I’ve said earlier, the Libertarians look like the best bet in November.

I’m not sure I’d be saying how "easy" good government is, though. A recalcitrant Congress could change that tune pretty quickly. (But I Am Not A Politician.)

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Say no more, Donald. Say no more…

June 28, 2016

The good news is that Donald Trump has finally spouted enough nonsense that I can tune him out completely with the knowledge I won’t be missing anything worthwhile. He’s said something so incredibly obtuse that he’s hit the firewall: no more packets allowed from that address.

Here’s a report about a recent Trump speech in Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump targets globalization and free trade as job-killers

MONESSEN, Pa. — While attacking Hillary Clinton and other career politicians, Donald Trump took aim Tuesday at two other prominent election targets: globalization and free trade.

“Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very, very wealthy … but it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache,” Trump told supporters during a prepared speech targeting free trade in a nearly-shuttered former steel town in Pennsylvania.

In a speech devoted to what he called “How To Make America Wealthy Again,” Trump offered a series of familiar plans designed to deal with what he called “failed trade policies” — including rejection of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Pacific Rim nations and re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, withdrawing from it if necessary. […]

Trump’s remarks on free trade are pretty unequivocal evidence he should never be president. He shouldn’t even be mayor of a major U.S. city. Dogcatcher? Maybe.

The man would be a positive danger to the global economy. And as economic questions go, so go political questions. See Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act if you need an historical reminder.

Mr. "Art of the Deal" thinks the global economy is a zero sum game? Bzzt! Sorry, Don, but the 18th century is long gone, my man.

Mr. "Think Big and Kick Ass" supposes he has a better handle on NAFTA than Presidents Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and Clinton – plus, of course, the U.S. House and Senate? He’s ready to reverse the Republican party’s policy of 30-plus years?

Yeah, right… what a maroon. Not meaning to insult anybody, but I sincerely hope that no one I know votes for Trump.

Somebody should send Mr.Trump a copy of The Wealth of Nations – or, better yet, read it aloud to him to make sure he hears it.

Maybe there’s an illustrated version that he’d understand.


Let’s Make the Constitution Great Again!

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Drug War warrior

June 26, 2016

Here’s an interesting article from today’s Post-Dispatch. A young Missourian wants state agencies to live up to the state’s motto: Show Me.

A Missouri man seeking ammunition in his war on the war on drugs

MEXICO, MO. • A smartphone camera poked out of his shirt pocket. An attorney stood at his side. And in his right hand was a manila folder containing a printout of a law whose impotence would soon be revealed.

“Hi, there,” said Aaron Malin to a jailer behind a security window at the Audrain County Jail. “We are here for a meeting of the East Central Drug Task Force.”

Malin and lawyer David Roland were buzzed in, but then were told to leave.

“This meeting’s not a public meeting,” said a man, identifying himself as a detective.

“Yeah, it is,” Malin said.

They argued for the next two minutes, until the officer said: “You need to leave, man. I’m not going to ask you again.”

“There’s going to be statutory liability,” Malin said. Then he asked Roland: “How fast do you think we can get this filed?”

“I bet not before the meeting is over,” the officer quipped.

Ten days later, Malin filed a lawsuit. He was 21 years old, but he had already earned a reputation for attacking situations he deemed unjust with unrivaled tenacity.

Years earlier, he had concluded that the War on Drugs ruins more lives than it saves. Now he was focused on obtaining records to expose how that war is fought. Those details, he believed, would sway public sentiment. […]

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Anyone need the services of a former MEP?

June 24, 2016

Daniel Hannan argued that voters should fire him from his job as MEP by voting for Brexit. He got his wish.

Can this cat talk or what? What an orator! His closing lines here are by Tennyson:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are”

I don’t know whether Brexit was a good move or not. I hope it was because Mr. Hannan makes such good sense on other, related topics. ‘Twould be a pity if he were wrong about this one.


Update 2: The headline of Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece says it all:

The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened
If you believe there’s such a thing as “too much democracy,” you probably don’t believe in democracy at all

In 1934, at the dawn of the Stalinist Terror, the great Russian writer Isaac Babel offered a daring quip at the International Writers Conference in Moscow:

“Everything is given to us by the party and the government. Only one right is taken away: the right to write badly.”

As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.

This is all relevant in the wake of the Brexit referendum, in which British citizens narrowly voted to exit the European Union. […]

Update: Here’s an interesting column about Brexit at Hit & Run.

‘Who Rules Over You?’ Is Democracy’s Most Important Question
If there shouldn’t have been a Brexit referendum, should there even be elections?

The Washington Post headline bluntly declares “Brexit is a reminder that some things just shouldn’t be decided by referendum.” [Sounds like Mr. Hannan quoting Jean-Claude Juncker, doesn’t it? Ed.]

Writer Emily Badger, whose focus is generally on urban policy, brings up American ballot initiatives—particularly those in California — as an example of how referendums can lead to bad outcomes, or rather outcomes that certain people don’t like.

After talking about a handful of Brits who publicly regret their vote (keep in mind that millions of people voted to leave), Badger points out correctly that public referendums can be used to undermine democratic institutions, both purposefully by special interest groups ranging from public sector unions to private corporations by directing taxes and government programs in their directions and by simple and not-so-simple unintended (or unpublicized) consequences.

Still, even when making this point, Badger commits some possibly unconscious biases to print when she writes about California, “Back in 1978, California voters generously decided in a ballot measure to cap their own property taxes in a way — amending the state constitution — that has hobbled ever since California’s ability to generate revenue and create reasonable housing policy.” The bold emphasis is mine to point out that her idea of a problematic referendum seems to inherently be anything that restrains the authority of the state. California’s ability to generate revenue has most assuredly not been hobbled even with this one restriction. It’s got some of the highest taxes and fees in the country. She uses “hobbled” to describe the idea that there are limits to what the state of California can afford to do, assuming that these are things that should be done.

But what should also be obvious during this entire “populist” vs. “elites” political battle happening both in the United States and Europe is that representative democracy under legislators has also led to taxes and government programs being directed to interest groups and all sorts of unintended or unpublicized consequences. And it’s an issue that some these same people do not want to seem to deal with. Instead, we get the “uneducated poor people voting against their own self-interest” arguments, like we see about Wales.

These responses are of the “These communities get more money from the European Union than they pay in” vein. We have seen similar arguments about American states who get more “money” from the federal government than they pay in taxes. Such an argument ignores the fact that these targeted communities don’t actually get more “money” than what they pay into the pool; what they get is more government administration and programs put together by various interest groups that tend to direct these subsidies to those with the right connections (in other words—”elites”). […]

The question of who rules over you is an elemental, central component of having a democratic republic. Treating Brexit like it’s just some complicated but very broad referendum is ignoring the nature of the question behind it. If British citizens shouldn’t get to vote whether to be in the European Union because they don’t “understand” all the issues involved, then why should they even get to vote on their legislators? Indeed, why have them vote at all?

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Venezuelan CLAP

June 23, 2016

Wow… Take a lesson about how to FUBAR your country.

Whatever happened to “To each, according to his need”? I don’t recall that maxim mentioning party membership.

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