Recently in Politics Category

You Got to Know When to Fold 'Em

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How do you get judges confirmed in a legislative body where the minority has more power to block action than in nearly any other body in the world?  The WSJ has this editorial.

While you were watching other news, the U.S. Senate this week made major progress confirming judges. Credit goes to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who threatened to make Senators work on the weekend, including Friday. The horror.
The editorial concludes: "Maybe the Steve Bannonistas should start giving Mr. McConnell some political credit."

Manafort Indicted

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Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Weber report for the WSJ:

WASHINGTON--Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was taken into custody Monday on charges that he laundered more than $18 million in funds from his work for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine through offshore accounts.

In a separate plea deal in court documents that were unsealed Monday, George Papadopoulos, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, admitted to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with a professor connected to Russian government officials.

Cons for Congress?

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In a column in the WSJ, Karl Rove looks at "Steve Bannon's Motley Crew of Challengers."

The first House candidate Mr. Bannon has blessed is former Rep. Michael Grimm, who was forced to resign his New York seat in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. Recently released after seven months in the federal pen, Mr. Grimm will challenge his successor, Rep. Dan Donovan. Presumably Mr. Grimm won't campaign in his orange prison jumpsuit.
I've seen this movie before.  Nominate a bunch of unelectables and hand the seats and the majority to the Democrats on a silver platter.  I'd rather not see it again.

How Dare You Women Think For Yourselves?!

Just when you think the hypocrisy has reached absolute zero and can't go any lower ...

How Antifa Violence Has Split the Left

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Ian Lovett, Jennifer Levitz and Cameron McWhirter have this article in the WSJ with the above headline and the subhead "Tactics of the group are creating a rift among liberals about whether to denounce a radical fringe whose objectives, if not methods, they often share."

Massive Vote Suppression Down Under

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Australia is having a referendum on same-sex marriage, but there is a problem, Rob Taylor reports for the WSJ.

Far-leftists in Berkeley, California demonstrated once again this weekend how strongly they resemble the fascists they claim to oppose. James Queally, Paige St. John, Benjamin Oreskes and David Zahniser have this article in the L.A. Times.

Thousands of demonstrators carrying signs with slogans like "Stand Against Hate" descended on Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Park on Sunday for what many hoped would be a peaceful march against bigotry and President Trump.

But it was soon punctuated by tear gas and a scattering of violent skirmishes. Some anti-fascist protesters, wearing black and with their faces covered, chased or beat Trump supporters and organizers who had scheduled and then canceled the "anti-Marxist" rally, citing concerns over safety.
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In Berkeley, the demonstration of more than 4,000 people pulled heavily from area labor unions, church groups and liberal activists -- but also scores of young people clad in all black, some carrying shields and others with bandannas pulled over their faces.

Those activists are sometimes referred to as "antifa," a name taken by anti-fascist organizations formed to oppose white nationalists. They are known for their "punch a Nazi" bent.
There are two problems with "punch a Nazi."  First, even swastika-bedecked scum are entitled to express their repugnant beliefs as long as they do so peacefully.  Second, the person punched may not actually be a Nazi.  Say one of the "antifa" crowd takes it upon himself to decide who is a "hater" and act as legislator, judge, jury, and executioner to deliver the punishment he deems appropriate for what he deems to be an offense.  How is he any better or any less of a "hater" than those he opposes?  Obviously, he isn't.

Pardoning Sheriff Joe

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President Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio Friday, as he hinted he would at the earlier rally in Phoenix.  Arpaio was the Sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.  Shane Harris has this article in the WSJ on the divided reaction within the Republican Party.  The WSJ also has this editorial on the negative side of the reaction.

Voting From The Slammer

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Eleven years ago, the Second Circuit en banc rejected the notion that the Voting Rights Act prevents states from disenfranchising convicted felons while they are in prison.  In 2010, a panel rejected the notion that the Constitution requires it.  But no truly bad idea ever completely dies, it seems.  A ballot initiative has been proposed in California to let all felons vote, Patrick McGreevy reports for the L.A. Times.

So candidates for office should make a pitch for the votes of Charles Manson, Lawrence "Pliers" Bittaker, serial abductor/rapist/torturer/murderer Charles Ng, and other multiple murderers?  Prisons are often located in sparsely populated areas, so will prisoners elect their very own member of the county board of supervisors?

The good news is that felon disenfranchisement is in the California Constitution, and they will need 585,407 signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot.  McGreevy notes that this is "a difficult task for a largely grass-roots effort."

Not long ago, I would have predicted that even if it got on the ballot it would be soundly rejected, but given the vote on the addle-brained Proposition 57, I can't be confident of that any more.

Primary Notes

A couple of congressional primary elections were held yesterday.

Alabama held a primary to fill the remaining two years of Jeff Sessions' Senate term.  Senator and former AG Luther Strange, appointed to fill the seat until the election, finished second with 32.8% of the vote.  Former Chief Justice Roy "We Don't Need No Stinking Establishment Clause" Moore finished first with 38.9%.  Alabama has runoffs for primaries, so they will go "heads up" on September 26.

How will the voters who voted for other candidates divide in the runoff, if they show up at all?  I'm inclined to think they will break for Senator Strange in a large enough proportion to make up for his 6-point lag.  I hope so.  We don't need any more loose cannons in the Senate.  The general election is December 12.  The Dems have chosen former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones as their candidate.

Utah held a primary in the race to fill the vacant seat of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.  Provo Mayor John Curtis won the Republican nomination with 42% of the vote.  No runoffs in Utah.  Mayor Curtis was regarded as the more moderate candidate.  The district is overwhelmingly Republican, so the November general election is likely to be a blowout.

Trump and Sessions, the Path Forward

The appointment of Gen. Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, and his immediate replacement of the loose-lipped (to be kind) Anthony Scaramucci, may provide the occasion for a re-set of the frayed relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

We should remember the basics.  The President could hardly have done a better job finding a man with the experience and dedication to advance his justice-related agenda. The problem arose when Sessions recused himself from the Department's Russia investigation.  Reportedly, this made the President angry and frustrated, notwithstanding that Sessions' action was, as I and others have argued, wise if not required under the governing law.  (This may be the place to remember that there is governing law, and that recusal decisions are not just a matter of preference or perceived political interest).

It now seems that the President has, perhaps reluctantly, decided to retain the Attorney General.  Their relationship, however, can become cordial and productive, and consign to the past the tension that seems to exist now.  In other words, there is a constructive way forward.

Political Points vs. Public Safety

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The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has this post with the above title.

Efforts by state and local politicians in California to direct local law enforcement to not cooperate with the federal government may score points in the world of politics. In the real world, public safety is going to suffer.
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A more immediate consequence of refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement may be a decrease in funding, personnel, and equipment provided by federal authorities to local task forces which enforce California state laws. These task forces, including those led by the Sheriff's Department in Los Angeles and others across the state, combat a myriad of state crimes that include human trafficking, gangs, drugs, auto/cargo theft, hate crimes, and environmental crimes. Political decisions to end cooperation with federal authorities on their law enforcement priorities may result in the federal Department of Justice deciding to remove these resources and direct them to states not antagonistic to federal law enforcement. Such a move would diminish public safety in Los Angeles and across California, where local law enforcement is already understaffed and underfunded.

At the end of the day, refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement may be a winning political strategy; it is not a winning public safety strategy.
USA Today has published an op-ed I penned arguing that Bob Mueller, though a good man and a public servant of established integrity, is too close to his star witness, Jim Comey, to continue as Special Counsel. 

Under the same ethics rules that prompted the Attorney General to recuse himself from the Russia investigation  --  28 USC 528 and 28 CFR Sec. 45.2  --  Mueller should step aside, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should, if he be so advised, appoint a replacement. Mueller has a longtime relationship with Comey that "may result in a personal...conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof."  

For good reason, especially in a prominent investigation where public trust in government is so clearly at issue, it's more important, not less, that this high standard be rigorously obeyed.

My prior discussion of the case is here.

Executive Privilege or Stonewalling?

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In today's testimony, Attorney General Sessions declined to provide the substance of conversations he had with the President.  There was heated argument about this. The Democrats' point of view was that Sessions was necessarily either invoking executive privilege or simply stonewalling.

Question:  Which was it?

Answer:  Neither.  

It was the most recent iteration of an established policy grounded in separation of powers and used, quite a few times as it happens, by high officers of the Obama Administration.
Perhaps I should title this post, "Law and Economics."

The Attorney General gave his potentially explosive testimony this afternoon.  Within about an hour of the time he finished, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied off a two-day slump and finished at an all time high.

Is this necessarily an indication that the market was reacting to Sessions' testimony? Nope.  But it's unlikely that the market would hit a record close if it viewed developments in Congress as likely to de-stabilize the Administration.

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