The Pony in the Manure

Clarice Feldman at American Thinker has an article up summarizing the mess regarding the intelligence community. It’s a good one. If you care about America and/or the world, I’d advise you to read it, and try to understand it as well. Here’s a bit

There’s so much in print and online about the House and Senate intelligence committees and Russian “collusion” with Trump that I can’t blame people with real lives to lead who just throw their hands up and garden or go hiking. Some will assume there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere, as Ronald Reagan used to joke about the kid digging through manure. I think there is, but it isn’t that Russia corrupted the 2016 election, it’s that Obama and his closest aides, including some at the highest level in the intelligence community, illegally intercepted one or more Republican candidates’ communications before the election, circulated them widely to their cohorts and then tried to use this information to defeat and later to hamstring Trump when Hillary — to their surprise — lost the election.

I also suspect that the attacks on Flynn have nothing to do with his Russian contacts which he disclosed, but, rather, to misdeeds respecting the Middle East, particularly Iran, the country he observed as Obama’s head of the DIA.

The Surveillance and “Unmasking” of Trump and his Associates 

We learned this week that surveillance of Trump began long before he was the Republican nominee, and that the names in the intercepted communications were “unmasked” — that is, identified by name or context — by someone high up in the intelligence community.

In addition, citizens affiliated with Trump’s team who were unmasked were not associated with any intelligence about Russia or other foreign intelligence, sources confirmed. The initial unmasking led to other surveillance, which led to other private citizens being wrongly unmasked, sources said.

“Unmasking is not unprecedented, but unmasking for political purposes… specifically of Trump transition team members… is highly suspect and questionable,” an intelligence source told Fox News. “Opposition by some in the intelligence agencies who were very connected to the Obama and Clinton teams was strong. After Trump was elected, they decided they were going to ruin his presidency by picking them off one by one.”

Nunes and Surveillance Reports

The best summation of this week’s distraction — respecting chairman of the House intelligence committee, Devin Nunes — is Victor Davis Hanson’s which I urge those of you interested to read in its entirety. [I do too, Neo]

First, the central question remains who leaked what classified information for what reasons; second, since when is it improper or even unwise for an apprehensive intelligence official to bring information of some importance to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for external review — in a climate of endemic distrust of all intelligence agencies?[snip] Nunes also said that the surveillance shown to him “was essentially a lot of information on the President-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.” Further, he suggested that the surveillance may have involved high-level Obama officials. When a reporter at Nunes’ second March 22 press conference asked, “Can you rule out the possibility that senior Obama-administration officials were involved in this?” Nunes replied, “No, we cannot.” Ipso facto these are startling disclosures of historical proportions — if true, of an anti-constitutional magnitude comparable to Watergate. Given the stakes, we should expect hysteria to follow, and it has followed. [snip]

Some notion of such intrigue, or rather the former nexus between Congress, the Obama administration, the intelligence agencies, and the monitoring of incoming Trump officials, was inadvertently disclosed recently by former Obama-administration Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary and current MSNBC commentator Evelyn Farkas. In an interview that originally aired on March 2 and that was reported on this week by Fox, Farkas seemed to brag on air about her own efforts scrambling to release information on the incoming Trump team’s purported talks with the Russians. Farkas’s revelation might put into context the eleventh-hour Obama effort to more widely disseminate intelligence findings among officials, one that followed even earlier attempts to broaden access to Obama-administration surveillance.

She goes on to specify at least most of the major players and their roles. Do read it, it’s the best rational guidebook to this that I have seen.

Nor do I have much to add except that in my experience, the only reason to overcomplicate and obfuscate almost anything is to avoid responsibility and blame. That what this whole thing reeks of. From the intelligence community, especially CIA, FBI, and NSA, from Clinton, Inc, far beyond the campaign, and from the news media, but then I threepeat myself, for they are all interlocked in so many hidden ways. And as a bit of an aside, this is far more important than any scandal in my lifetime, including Watergate.

Time to muck out the stable, and see if the pony really is there. Nothing really new here, though, Sir Walter Scott observed back around 1808

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.

Welcoming Britannia Home

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, …

And so it is done, and the hard work of making the Mission Statement true begins.

Last Tuesday, 28 March 2017, Prime Minister Teresa May signed the letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, giving notice that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union within two years. It’s been a contentious debate since the people were asked. They said pretty clearly, “Let’s get out of here.” After the fall of the Prime Minister who promised and held that referendum, a court case that would have done the sue-happy United States proud, and enabling legislation passed by both houses of Parliament, with the Queen’s consent, the UK has decided to regain its independence.

Many of us here, and in the UK saw the analogy as we came up to the referendum, between the American Revolution, and Brexit, both bore very heavily indeed on the sovereignty of the people. It is a true analogy. But it will also hold in the days, weeks, months, and yes, years to come. Invoking Article 50, like our Declaration is a mission statement. It says we will be our own nation.

We fought a war against the most powerful empire in the world for seven long years, to make it so. The UK may not have it quite that hard, but it will be hard. There are forces, especially in Scotland, that wish to dismember the Union. They control Holyrood, at the moment, although their incompetence at governing is becoming legend, thus they use devolution as a smoke screen to remain in power, as they hurt the people, especially the poor. Personally, I think their time has come, and gone. The Scots are canny people, they can see through this wisp of smoke, and as they said a couple years ago, England and Scotland are better together.

Europe will try to browbeat Britain, of course. Thing is, that’s all they really have. The EU is a crumbling house of cards, with centripetal forces all over Europe trying to tear it asunder. In truth in large measure, it has become a Deutsches Zollverein, as Germany becomes more and more dominant in it. Along, of course, with the autocratic, corrupt bureaucracy in Brussels.

It is, in fact, and partly because of the Union itself, the only market in the world that is not growing. The United Kingdom has very much indeed to offer the world, once it is no longer stifled by Europe. This is, after all, the people that taught Americans to be Americans. Almost all that we are, and believe, comes directly to us from British history. From the power of trade, and the necessity of freedom of the seas, to the evil of slavery, this was our school marm. We learned well, we hope Britain has remembered the lessons, as well.

But you know, the British, especially the English do have form on this, as well. Almost 500 years ago King Henry VIII turned his back on Europe, broke with Rome, founded the Royal Navy and started the adventure that led to the modern world. That was the point where the die was cast, that the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Modern India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and many more would happen. It all dates to that day, 3 November 1534, when Parliament declared that Henry was “the only supreme head on Earth of the Church of England” and that the English crown shall enjoy “all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.”

That was the day that made 4 July 1776 possible, and I think it possible that 4 July 1776 made possible 28 March 2017. Such are the ways of history. People who have tasted freedom find it good, and are not amused when others try to take it away from them.

And now it is time for us to support the cousins, as they have supported us. Not because we owe it to them, but because we owe it to ourselves. And you know, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t profitable to us and our economy, as well.

We are very pleased indeed that the United Kingdom will again “ have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” Although we would be remiss not to remind them that it is a very rough road, and that they will need to do as our founders did.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Welcome home, Britannia.

Ethics and Sausage Factories

A few days ago, S.M. Hutchens on The Touchstone Blog published an article dealing with Betsy DeVos and the Education Department in relationship to the teachers union from the perspective of Reinhold Niebuhr’s group v. personal ethics. Good and interesting thinking. Here’s some

[…] Unions depict themselves as combinations of the weak against the strong in the service of justice, for fair pay, decent working conditions, and respect their members otherwise would not enjoy—goals not unworthy in themselves. The concentration of power in the teachers’ unions, with the full collusion of a Democrat Party dominated by its left wing, however, has given rise to a set of conditions unfavorable to education, and to which sensible Americans are now calling a halt.

Reinhold Niebuhr, in Moral Man and Immoral Society, a book as penetrating and significant now as when published in 1932, analyzes the inferiority of group morality to that of individuals in terms of a focused, collective egoism that repels self-criticism and is constitutionally bereft of the spirit of contrition and amendment that only religion can bring—an egoism by nature irreformable and increasingly destructive of both itself and its society.

Applying Niebuhr’s analysis to the teachers’ unions one finds a group of mainly decent people, few of whom are manifestly vicious or selfish, with many dedicated to the work of educating children, but who are part of a malign collective.  For the individual teacher as a positive moral agent there is a heavy price to pay for union membership, for only to a point will society accept the union’s plea that it only seeks justice for its members, especially when it detects that in the exercise of its power it has become increasingly inimical to the interests of the students it professes to serve.

When, for example, the teachers’ unions, in the spirit of Governor Wallace, enrich politicians for standing in the way of voucher programs that have helped underprivileged children receive better educations than have been available to them in the inner-city government schools, and for which Mrs. DeVos is a fervent advocate–programs for which their parents are clamoring, ignored by their Democrat representatives who do not send their own children to these schools (the Clintons and Obamas being recent examples)—nowhere is the hypocrisy and selfishness of these unions, and the necessity of breaking them as a negative social element, more evident.

via Betsy DeVos and the Immoral Society – Mere Comments Do read it all, I think he makes a good case here.

But I think we need to widen it out some. Isn’t this true for any organization? I think we know it is. When we join together in a group, often the group becomes more important than the members. It’s true for unions (as described here), but isn’t it also true for business, civic groups, governments, and yes, even churches?

Isn’t this the root of the Reformation, which we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of later this year? Dr. Luther found the Catholic Church, composed mostly of good, caring, even Godly people, had become a corrupt organization putting itself above the people, and even above God, Himself.

Don’t we sometimes see this ourselves in our local organizations? Our local governments, our civic organizations, and yes, our churches. Almost everyone concerned (with exceptions, of course) wants to do a good, moral job. But for whatever reason, peer pressure, regulations, individual dislike, or many others, they put the organization ahead of their personal morality

Answers are few, nebulous, and temporary, I suspect. I think it is a just a fact of organizational behavior. Most of us want to do the right thing, but the right thing for whom, or for what organization? How do we deal with conflicting aims, all of which may be good.

For me, it is an argument for making anything we can, a small, lean organization, as close to those who are the ‘customers’ (used very loosely here) as possible. In other words, what we Americans call Federalism in government and what the Catholics call Subsidiarity.

It’s simply much easier to keep a neighborhood organization on track, all things being equal, than it is, for example, the United States government. It just tends to be more transparent, and if we can’t avoid seeing the sausage being made, we will likely know what is in the recipe, or go find another sausage factory.

Rep Nunes, Trump, and Russia

I think that’s the full version of the press conference, which is what I wanted because I don’t really trust anyone’s editing anymore.

This is my comment yesterday on a Brit blog whose author said they are seeing very little on it. I think it’s fairly close.

My best guess, from my reading (which I’m informed I do too much of, since I managed to cross names on Twitter) is that NSA and/or GCHQ slurp up nearly every electronic communication in the US. That was the point of that hugely expensive new installation in the west. What happened here, I think, is that somebody in the former administration ran one (or more) data searches specifically on Trump and/or his close supporters. The next stage was that Obama quietly authorized wide distribution of that information, and some/most/all of it was leaked, by what we’re currently calling the deep state, and the most supposedly damaging (to Trump) published to damage his administration.

Or something like that. Will we ever know? Maybe, maybe not. The Russians? Why would they favor Trump over a proven non-leader when he was fairly obviously going to revive American business, especially oil exploration and export to their detriment as well as reinvigorating the American military. Putin is simply another fall guy, I think. At least, that’s how I see it, after reading some of Nunes testimony. There are some really wild conjectures floating around, and while I don’t give them a lot of credence, in this “Alice in Wonderland” world, I won’t say they’re impossible either.

I have found Mollie Hemingway to be a pretty reliable source, here’s her take from The Federalist yesterday.

In the last three months of the Obama presidency, significant personal information from and about the Trump transition was collected and widely disseminated at intelligence agencies, according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

Dozens of intelligence reports provided to Nunes by an unnamed whistleblower were floating around during the sensitive transition period following the election, he said. The information collection itself may have technically been legal, but the failure to properly mask the information “alarmed” the California congressman, who notified the White House of the surveillance and dissemination of information on Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the reporters present didn’t seem to grasp the significance of what Nunes revealed. You can — and should — watch that press conference here.

Nunes began his remarks by reiterating his Monday request that anyone with information on surveillance of Trump or his team come forward. “I also said while there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower, I was concerned that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.” While Nunes’ earlier refutation of Trump’s wiretap claim received outsize attention by the media, his concern about other surveillance did not.

He then dropped the bombshell: “First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Second, details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. Fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.” Again:

Ace did the bullet points for us.

1. “I briefed the president on the concerns I had concerning the incidental collection of data.”

2. The reports I was able to see did not have anything to do with the Russian ties investigation.

3. Reporter gets huffy and demands to know why he is briefing the president about this matter, as the reporter thinks Trump is a criminal and should not be told about the Legal Noose tightening around his gangster neck.

4. He answers that the reason is that from what he saw, the surveillance had nothing to do with the Russian investigation.

5. “Brings up a lot of concerns about whether things were properly minimized or not” (minimized = masking/redacting names of US citizens before disseminating)

6. “What I’ve read bothers me, and it should bother the President himself and his team, because some of it seems inappropiate.”

7. “It definitely goes beyond General Flynn.” “We don’t know how [that name] was picked up [collected, intercepted].”…

More at both links. Well, that what I think, and why I think it. I could easily be wrong, of course. We’ll just have to see. But if I am anywhere right, we have a major problem in the government, and we’d best start thinking how to fix it.

Judicial Tyranny

This terrific overreach by the federal judiciary is becoming most concerning. Donald Trump, like the first 44 incumbents, is President of the United States, whether you (or the federal judges) like it or not. He has all the rights, obligations, and duties of his predecessors. Like most of us, I worried about Obama’s overreach into prerogative rule with his pen and his phone. But we’ve seen none of that with Trump, his every action has been well within the Constitution. Mark Pulliam has some thoughts.

Daniel Horowitz’s Stolen Sovereignty: How to Stop Unelected Judges from Transforming America (2016), published before the presidential election, is proving to be prescient—even prophetic.

Horowitz is a columnist for Mark Levin’s Conservative Review who writes frequently about constitutional issues. In Stolen Sovereignty he decries “a runaway judicial oligarchy and an unaccountable bureaucratic state.” He is concerned that the Left “has irrevocably co-opted [the courts and bureaucracy] into serving as conduits for their radical and revolutionary ideas—to the point that even if we win back the presidency and elect only constitutional conservatives to Congress, . . . it won’t matter.”

These words may have seemed like hyperbole at the time, but the federal courts’ implacable opposition to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration suggest that they were on the mark. In a recent post, I expressed dismay at the judicial resistance to the President’s first executive order on immigration (E.O. 13769). Unelected federal judges blocked the President from fulfilling a campaign promise to the American electorate—without even citing the federal statute that expressly authorizes his action.[1]

Some commentators saw the Ninth Circuit’s ludicrous decision as nothing short of a judicial coup d’état. Rather than challenge it in the deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court, on March 6 President Trump issued a revised executive order (E.O. 13780), attempting to correct the alleged defects. Incredibly, the revised order has met with even stronger judicial resistance, spurring  multiple lawsuits and injunctions: a limited temporary restraining order issued by Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin, a partial injunction issued by Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, and a nationwide injunction issued by Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii. (All three were appointed by President Obama.)

This judicial obstruction of the executive branch on matters expressly entrusted to the President by Congress grossly violates the separation of powers and constitutes a grave threat to our republican form of government. The courts’ usurpation of presidential authority should be deeply troubling regardless of one’s political affiliation. Indeed one libertarian legal scholar, Josh Blackman, who is no fan of the President (he signed the Originalists Against Trump statement prior to the election), has harshly criticized the judges’ interference with these immigration orders, calling the Ninth Circuit’s ruling a “contrived comedy of errors.”

In a three-part blog post for Lawfare on the revised executive order, Professor Blackman concludes that the President’s authority to act unilaterally pursuant to Section 1182(f) is well-established:

Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all issued proclamations under § 1182(f), and there was never even the hint that the notice-and-comment process was required.

No court has ever held that aliens that are seeking entry, who have zero connection to the United States, or its residents, have due process rights. . . . . In short, the small subset of aliens who would in fact be denied entry under this policy have no cognizable due process rights, and to the extent that courts find some interest exist, the review and denial by a consular officer provides all the process that is due.

(…) In Horowitz’s view, the modest concept of judicial review expressed in Marbury v. Madison (1803) “has been transmogrified into complete authority over the future of sovereignty, marriage, culture, and the power to regulate every industry in our economy.” Simultaneously, the federal courts have become a bastion of liberal politics; unelected judges now wield more power than legislators; and judicial activism has become the favored means of Progressive policymaking.

via Judicial Tyranny’s Final Frontier – Online Library of Law & Liberty

That’s all true and very troubling, but what can we do about it? These are all Article III judges appointed during good behavior (which is not defined)m in other words, essentially for life, although they can be impeached, it is a very rare occurrence. It is also just possible that they could be removed by a writ of scire facias, a form of Chancery order which dates back to Edward I. The actual writ of scire facias has been suspended in the Federal district courts by Rule 81(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but the rule still allows for granting relief formerly available through scire facias by prosecuting a civil action.

Other than that, there is little legally to be done. I seem to remember that while the Supreme Court is constitutionally mandated, all the rest are the creation of the Congress, and could simply be disestablished, and new ones established, although at best, that would have the effect of retiring the judges, not firing them, and would certainly be messy for all concerned.

But perhaps there is a less, shall we say, formal method. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline writes this:

President Trump admires Andrew Jackson. He sees himself as Jacksonian.

Accordingly, it might instructive to recall how President Jackson is said to have responded when the Supreme Court ruled, in Worcester v. Georgia, that Georgia laws calling for the seizure of Cherokee lands violated federal treaties. Here is the statement Jackson may have made:

John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.

Jackson may never have uttered these words. However, both Georgia and Jackson ignored the Supreme Court’s decision. Chief Justice Marshall’s decision was never enforced.

At the rate liberal judges are going, we might see similar defiance of the judiciary by President Trump. I don’t expect Trump to respond that way if the ruling that he cannot temporarily ban immigration from six countries fails to survive judicial review. That ruling doesn’t seem important enough to defy the judiciary over.

I don’t either, but I can foresee occasions where it might be necessary. The founders considered the judiciary the weakest branch, and so there are fewer safeguards here, than anywhere else. That started changing with John Marshall and Marbury v. Madison, and that unchecked power has metatized rather badly in the last fifty years. I don’t know what the answer is, but a solution is needed.

Budget Day

Yesterday, OMB Director Mulvaney had a press conference on the new budget. Pretty good one in my view. $0 for NPR, PBS, and NEA, 50% reduction for the UN, down 30% + for EPA, a lot for State as well, more for the Pentagon which needs it (it also needs much better and leaner management). Nothing about entitlements in this one, that comes later.

Here’s Mulvaney, he a joy to listen to, a man who knows his subject thoroughly, stays calm and answers the question. And the budget is a good start.

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