A spineless Congress

It’s no wonder Americans have such a low regard for Congress, when government officials are allowed to thumb their noses at it with impunity.  In recent memory the worst sanction the legislature has given to a recalcitrant official has been to hold Eric Holder in “contempt of Congress” — the first sitting Attorney General ever to be so designated.  That only has effect if the target has any sense of shame, which few in D.C. Mordor do anymore.  Official designation or not, it’s clear much of official Washington shares that contempt.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s no coincidence that defiance from Holder, Lerner, Rosenstein and Wray parallels the public’s near-record low approval of Congress, which, according to the RealClearPolitics average, hit a meager 14.2 percent earlier this week.

But Congress has only itself to blame because the Constitution gives the first branch it created “all of the ultimate weapons in any showdown with either of the other two branches,” in the memorable phrasing of professors Willmoore Kendall and George Carey in their classic “The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition.”

Here are five of those “ultimate weapons,” whose deployment ultimately depends on the will of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to defend the right of Congress to be the people’s representatives…

Put somebody in jail.

Impose a big fine.

Invoke the power of the purse

Cut the workforce.

More political appointees.

It’s worth reading the description of these five options at the link.  Despite the frequency of choreographed televised hearings, Congress has largely abdicated its oversight role with regard to the Federal bureaucracy.  This was apparent at least by the time of the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal and the IRS investigations, during which the agencies slow-rolled Congress’ requests for information with impunity.  True oversight involves exercising the power to compel compliance.  The Founders intended the legislature to be “first among equals” within the branches of government.  They, not unelected paper-pushers, represent the people.

The president has less power than people imagine over employees in the Executive Branch.  While he can fire political appointees, career bureaucrats have created a byzantine disciplinary process that, in effect, prevents nearly anyone from losing their job.  I encountered this while supervising relatively low-level “civil servants” — I can only imagine how much more difficult things are in the executive suites.

With a majority in Congress, however, it should be a simple thing to put entire departments like the FBI on notice: comply with legislative directives and requests, or perish as an agency.  Congress can defund any activity of the government with a simple vote.  Unfortunately, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have shown zero interest in actually asserting Congress’ prerogatives.  They are as much a part of the swamp as the agencies running amok, as the recent omnibus bill debacle shows.  That should be a key issue during these midterms — voters need to seek candidates who will support Trump’s “swamp draining,” and that includes pledging to vote in new Congressional leadership.

But for any of this to happen, We the People will need to be more focused than ever this election cycle.  The election of Trump will accomplish little if voters allow the legislature to defend the status quo by resolute inaction.

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Hating Trump > loving America

The $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate last night is a gigantic middle finger to middle America and to President Trump’s stated agenda (upon which he was elected).  It is proof positive once again the establishment Republican party is utterly useless in the fight to regain control of our government and our country by “we the people.”  Consider:

  • A supposedly “fiscally conservative” GOP passed the largest spending bill in U.S. history, after removing the debt ceiling and spending caps earlier this year
  • Despite complaints over procedure in the passage of Obamacare and other legislation in recent years, Congressmen were given just 1,000 minutes to review a 2,232-page abomination.  This comes after the GOP previously pledged to post legislation online for public review at least 72 hours before any vote.
  • The record spending level included $2.7 billion for international disaster relief and $1.37 billion for “contributions to international organizations.”  It even provides the Defense Department authority to “spend what funds it determines” to enhance the border security of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.  But in response to President Trump’s $25 billion in long-term funding for U.S. border security, the omnibus provides a mere $1.6 billion, with specific restrictions against building a solid wall, and only targeting 33 out of 1,954 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border.
  • No funding was cut to self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities” and states such as California that are flaunting Federal immigration authority on a daily basis.
  • The bill continues the practice of forcing taxpayers to subsidize the murder of babies by Planned Parenthood to the tune of more than $500 million annually.

Voting on the bill began Thursday, with current budget authority set to expire at 12:01 Saturday morning.  The “Republicans” in the House supported it 145-90, and 23 of 51 GOP Senators also voted “yes.” Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell no doubt delighted in sticking a finger in Trump’s eye, presenting him with an attempted fait accompli — a choice between accepting a bill no different from what Pelosi and Schumer would have produced, or taking public blame for “shutting down the government” (which, really, doesn’t sound like a bad thing anymore).

As I write this, the President just publicly signed the bill, expressing his displeasure, but claiming it was necessary to secure defense funding.  This is ridiculous, and I’m highly disappointed in him for submitting to the blackmail of a jammed-up deadline.  Sure, he said he’d never sign such a hastily prepared bill again — but he shouldn’t have accepted this one, either.  The purpose of a presidential veto is to tell Congress “rethink your actions.”  There is no more appropriate situation to exercise that authority than this one, in which Congressional leadership used procedure to force through folly.  Trump will pay a political price for accepting this.

Make no mistake: there is a war waging in D.C right now.  It is not between Republicans and Democrats (which are simply two flavors of the same poison).  It’s between those who believe this is a nation of laws, run with accountability to the people, and those who believe they can talk a good talk during campaigns, then do whatever the hell they want in the intervening years.  The war is being fought on several fronts: the budget, the special counsel farce, in the courts over immigration authority, and behind the scenes with an attempt to expose and prosecute the corruption of federal agencies accelerated by the last administration.  There is also good reason to believe the GOP leadership is only happy to ensure they lose majority status in this year’s mid-term election, which would clear the way for the Democrats to redouble their baseless efforts to impeach and remove Trump, who, despite his flaws and mistakes, remains more attuned to the dreams of real Americans than just about anyone else in D.C. Mordor.

In short, the GOP hates Trump more than it loves America.  Think about that.

bi-factional ruling party
There is no meaningful difference in how these four set policy.  None of them give a damn what Americans really want.  They all need to go.

Break the shackles

Vox has an important post up noting that the tech giants have the ability to shut down any speech they dislike, because they control the popular platforms.  As he puts it, “stop fighting on their ground.”  It’s important to reach the public beyond an echo chamber, so it’s not necessarily wrong to engage on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  The problem is those platforms are strongly converged and in no way believe in unfettered free speech.  So if Christians, American traditionalists, classical conservatives and libertarians are going to continue to have a voice online, they are going to have to have alternative channels.

In other words, it’s time to break the monopolies.

I’ve already gotten into the habit of using DuckDuckGo for my online searches.  (In an era where “google” has become a verb, this has been an interesting exercise in habit-breaking.)  This avoids the way Google skews search results, and also denies them my traffic and data to track.  I strongly urge all my readers to do the same.

Other alternative platforms available and/or in development:

Instead of Google’s Chrome browser, try Brave.

Instead of the socially leftist Wikipedia, use Infogalactic for encyclopedic information.

Instead of YouTube (owned by Google), develop and view content on BitChute.

Instead of Twitter (which recently purged a number of conservatives and broke up a number of members’ “following” communities), try out Gab.

Instead of Facebook, look into Minds.

As time permits, I’m developing a presence on each of the above, and will eventually update the header on this blog so those who are inclined to do so can find me.  I’m still active on Twitter, but with the awareness they can shut me down at any point just like any other voice they want to silence.  The alternative sites listed above have publicly committed to free and open discussion.  What a concept.

Our use of a given platform is what gives it power and influence.  Stop feeding the tech giants who have already proven themselves hostile to anything short of Leftist conformity.  Support the efforts to break their stranglehold on the public conversation.  It will take time — and the breaking of deeply ingrained habits — for these alternatives to pose a threat to the stifled communities they are trying to supplant.

The rise of the Internet broke the information chokehold of the legacy corporate media.  It’s not surprising The Powers That Be have spent time and effort to reestablish that grip.  With your participation — and, more importantly, spreading the word — this new effort to break the monopoly again can flourish.

And so can the free exchange of ideas once more.

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Calling them out

The corporate press in America preens about being an agent of accountability for public officials.  In recent years, though, many Americans have come to wonder “who watches the watchers?”

Thanks to the internet, the answer can be: everybody.  Knowing this, President Trump executed a genius communication move last night by announcing his “1st Annual Fake News Awards.”  While some may have laughed at the claim these were “highly anticipated,” events bore the description out as the hosting GOP website crashed for approximately two hours after the tweet (from all the incoming traffic), and on Twitter the hashtag #FakeNewsAwards trended globally (it still is as of this writing, more than 14 hours later).

Some in the press are trying to counter by pointing out the mistakes on the list were later acknowledged and corrected.  And for the most part, they’re correct — while still being disingenuous.  Any student of journalism knows the first copy is what gets the attention — retractions almost never get the same level of resonance.  What Trump’s compilation does is remind and show overall just how sloppy/slanted/partisan the news coverage was in 2017 as the press hurried to seize on anything that might remotely make him look bad, without taking time to verify or research context.  (Hint to media executives: when your only source is that another news outlet is reporting something, you’re on very shaky ground.)  It is a very damning list.

By releasing the compliation on Twitter, Trump circumvented the media gatekeepers.  His public stature prevents Twitter from blocking such a move, but it’s worth noting plenty of voices on the Right are being silenced deliberately there and on other prominent internet platforms.  The press is working overtime to respond to Trump today, but that means they are reacting to his messaging, rather than producing their own biased news cycles.  And in doing so, they are giving the compilation even more coverage, potentially showing more Americans the sum total of what the epithet “fake news” really means.

As I said, it was a genius communication move.

In desperation, some have taken to claiming that Trump’s effort to point out media errors amounts to attacking the First Amendment, and equating it to various dictators’ muzzling of opponents.  This childishness trivializes the very real dangers advocates of free speech, criticism and accountability face around the world today.  Let’s be blunt: the First Amendment does not provide anyone the right to print whatever they want without being challenged for it.  When corporate news have to have the administration’s prior permission to run their stories, or CNN’s Jim Acosta is arrested or killed I might reevaluate the vacuousness of this whining, but not until.

I still shake my head in amazement that our nation’s reached the point where Donald Trump could become president.  But as others have pointed out, he looks a lot better if you evaluate him by what he’s done, versus what he says or what’s said about him.  In the meantime, Trump is showing how to play offense in this struggle, the media are getting a dose of their own medicine and it’s clear they don’t like it one little bit.  To which I can only say:

It’s about time.

Two words for the United Nations

…and they ain’t “Merry Christmas.”  The UN General Assembly today voted 128-9 to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  Some of those 128 countries don’t have a lot of room for criticizing anybody, as Jake Tapper admirably points out:

It’s time these folks were sent packing. Ironically, though, by ignoring Nikki Halley’s warning two days ago, the UN may have given Americans an unintended Christmas gift:

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These are the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid.  Israel (as expected) did not support the UN resolution against the U.S.  Of the others, Nigeria abstained, and the rest voted literally to bite the hand that feeds them!

Here’s what I find interesting about this: If you add up all the assistance aside from Israel’s, it comes to $10.2 billion dollars.  In 2016, the United States also gave the United Nations about $10 billion in total contributions.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security publicly estimated construction of Trump’s promised enhanced border with Mexico (“the wall”) would cost around $21 billion.

Ditch the ingrates, and the wall is paid for without adding a penny to the deficit.  Thanks, UN!

THIS is what an American-first administration looks like.  Let’s see what President Trump does with Ambassador Haley’s “list of names.”  The “bully pulpit” could make continued Congressional funding of these international leeches a lot less palatable than has been the case in the past.

Making a list, checking it twice

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations plans to note who’s naughty or nice:

America First

This is long overdue in our international relations, and should be a key plank of the new National Security Strategy to put American interests first (see pages 19 and 40 here).  Much of the foreign aid we give out yields dubious returns for America.  And unlike other nations (*cough* China *cough*), we aren’t exactly smart in our use of “soft power.”  Much of the “aid” we supply all too often ends up in the hands of local thugs in power, while China’s efforts produce visible changes and local goodwill.  No doubt if the locals balk, China is not reluctant to tighten the purse strings.

So why do we not do the same with our spending overseas?  At its most blatant, foreign aid is about “winning friends and influencing people.”  But how much influence do you really wield if the recipients of your largesse habitually spit in your eye, knowing they can get away with it?

We are not in the financial position we were after World War II, where America accounted for nearly one-quarter of the global economy.  The Marshall Plan of the late 1940s was unprecedented in scale for American foreign policy, but it also seemed a relatively small price to pay to stabilize Europe and inoculate it against further communist encroachment.  Today, advocates of foreign aid like to point out that it makes up “about one percent of the federal budget” — but that still amounts to billions of dollars that produce scant results compared to the Marshall Plan.

Here’s hoping those countries put on Nikki Haley’s “naughty list” Thursday feel the choking off of unappreciated American dollars.  Since the Federal Government currently borrows nearly 1 in every 5 dollars it spends, those dollars are more appropriately spent at home.

Swamps, RINOs and Trump

Many in the press hope they see a big story developing: a Republican “civil war” between those aligned with the president or Steve Bannon and the “establishment” GOP.  But as one outlet has already realized, the momentum is with the president:

Traditional Republicans fancying the cracks in their party as an opening to primary President Trump in 2020 need to deal with one inconvenient fact: Republican voters aren’t interested.

The brawl for dominance in the Republican Party is certainly remarkable. Former President George W. Bush; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; the chairmen of two top Senate committees; and now Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; all have sharply rebuked Trump, questioning his fitness, integrity, and moral authority.

But their resistance, though hardly isolated, is missing one crucial element: a significant measure of enthusiasm from Republican voters. That’s a weak foundation from which to pursue a challenge to the renomination of a sitting president.

Why is Trump’s base willing to overlook his unorthodox presidential behavior? Here the article nails it:

…where Trump’s Republican opposition sees a dangerous political provocateur, the GOP base sees a fighter who is defending them and their values — against the cultural oppression of the liberal elites in New York and Hollywood and against a political establishment in Washington that bends the rules for everyone but them.

Trump’s coalition includes true conservatives (as opposed to the think-tank faux conservatives in D.C.) and blue-collar Democrats who are tired of seeing everything and everyone put ahead of the needs of honest Americans.  The “have you no decency” outrage from the GOP establishment is easily ignored when one remembers how often they have failed to keep their promises to the voters (Obamacare repeal?  Immigration enforcement?  Tax and regulation relief?).  The problem with most Republican members of Congress is they are “Republican In Name Only (RINO).”  The Tea Party movement was a “civil” attempt to protest this repeated betrayal, and the bi-factional ruling party attacked it — the Republicans by painting it unfairly as racist, and the Democrats by illegally unleashing the IRS and other government agencies on the various groups.  In the latter case, no accountability has been forthcoming against Lois Lerner and her helpers, either.

Is it any wonder a large part of the voting population now wants to burn the establishment to the ground?

Not only has the administration outlasted the Democrats’ frantic efforts to delegitimize it, the shoe is rapidly moving to the other foot as:

These stories are far more important than the manufactured distraction over presidential condolence calls to Gold Star families. Those who care about America should not allow the topic du jour to “move on” from them.

The real fight now is not over the survival of the Trump administration (even the NYT admits “he’s not going anywhere“). It’s over whether he will have a more cooperative Congress to deal with after 2018.  Steve Bannon is rallying insurgent candidates* across the country, and even sitting Senators are reading the tea leaves (finally).  The election of Trump represented a bursting point of extreme voter dissatisfaction with business as usual.  “Civil” didn’t get voters anywhere, so they went with the bull in the china shop. Whether that voter anger and focus can be maintained through the next election cycle is the question of the decade.  If it is, the Trump victory in 2016 will be seen not as a fluke, but as a pivotal moment in American politics when the Swamp was finally confronted head on.

* While Bannon rallies Republican insurgents with name recognition, there are also complete outsiders like Tony Monetti in Missouri, who is challenging established Republican candidates in the primary to run against vulnerable Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.  Be sure to pay attention to ALL the candidates in the races for which you can vote.