Monday, February 17, 2020

It's a Funny Old World: Bloomberg Edition

I’m one of those reluctant Trump supporters who are more or less pleased with his policies, but just wish he’d STFU once in a while. I’d like a better Republican choice, like Nikki Haley perhaps, but that’s not in the cards for this year. On balance then, I’d like to see four more years and a couple more Supreme Court picks for Donald Trump.

St, Michael of the Blessed Democratic Party
 None of the Democrats running for president, all 24 of them at one point, struck me as having anything particularly appealing to offer the voting public. Mostly a bunch of puffed-up Senators and second-rate posers/opportunists, but I repeat myself. Biden concerned me for a little while, but once he appeared on the campaign stage, it was painfully obvious that he was well past his sell-by date. The first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire suggest that the rest of the Democratic electorate see that too. Trump could have saved himself the four months of impeachment headaches from that Zelensky phone call. It turns out Biden was destined to blow himself up without any help from Hunter or the Ukrainians! Hah! Who knew?

But for the past several months I’ve been concerned … really concerned, that Mike Bloomberg just might have what it takes to beat Donald Trump. Bloomberg is a guy with some gravitas. He built a multibillion-dollar technology company from the ground up. He was, by most accounts, a successful mayor of America’s largest city where he regularly dealt with big issues of real significance. Oh … and the money. Don’t forget the money. He’s got billions and billions of dollars, and he’s apparently decided he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump. Judging by what I read, Bloomberg’s advertising buys are apparently an order of magnitude greater than anything ever seen before in modern politics.

And I see the appeal of Mike Bloomberg. I kind of like some of the things he stands for. Despite being currently registered as a Libertarian, I’m not particularly offended by his support of the stop-and-frisk policy. It may have been politically incorrect, but Bloomberg, following in Rudy’s footsteps, recognized that the gun violence in New York City was largely a problem within one particular demographic. And that demographic didn’t just describe the perpetrators of the violence, but the victims as well. Bloomberg supported a controversial policy that may not have sat well with the ACLU, but it worked. I guess I’m one of those pragmatic Libertarians. Profiling does not send me looking for the smelling salts. And today I saw an old video of Bloomberg talking about how meaningful healthcare reform will require saying no to some people. Well, duh! What true Libertarian will disagree with that?

Oddly enough, you know what this card-carrying Libertarian objects to the most about Michael Bloomberg? His soda ban! While mayor of New York City, he instituted a limit on the size of your soda cup because he thought he should decide for you how large a soda to purchase. For your own good, of course! You were too stupid to make that decision for yourself. Mike Bloomberg, clothed in the robes of the All-Powerful Nanny State would make that decision on your behalf.

So I kind of like Policy Mike Bloomberg, but I hate Nanny-State Mike Bloomberg. How petty is that? Well, as it turns out, not really so petty after all. Mike Bloomberg is also a gun control freak and a climate alarmist. So, this Libertarian can comfortably oppose him on solid policy grounds without having to look like a petulant child throwing a tantrum because my Mountain Dew portion is too small.

So, back to my previous concern. What if this guy wins? It could happen. I kind of like him. Some Republicans and plenty of independents will like him. And the Donald is such a blowhard. He pisses off a lot of people. So many voters viscerally hate him. Plus, Donald inherited his fortune and squandered a lot of it. Bloomberg earned every penny of his. Bloomberg may not be the showman Trump is, but does anybody really doubt that Bloomberg is probably a lot smarter and way more capable than Donald Trump?

And the money. All that money! And despite Bloomberg’s nominally Republican past, he would be a disaster for conservatism in this country. And he could win. Did I mention that? Abortion-on-demand judges, trillions frittered away on the Green New Deal, and the Second Amendment facing the most significant threat in my lifetime. That’s what a Bloomberg presidency could mean.

Here’s where we stand today: It’s still a crowded Democratic field. There’s a progressive lane dominated by Bernie Sanders and a so-called moderate lane still cluttered with a slew of possibly viable contenders, none of whom can emerge because the others won’t get out of the way. And to the horror of the Democratic establishment, it’s starting to look like Bernie Sanders could win with an anemic plurality. Bernie emerges victorious, by some reckoning, because he is the cleanest dirty shirt. And swooping in to take advantage of this lack of clarity in the Democratic race is the seemingly invincible Mike Bloomberg. It’s a plausible scenario. I was starting to get worried. I was almost convinced.

But then, something happened. Something changed. I’m still not complacent, but I see a few green shoots of hope blossoming from the election results of the past few weeks. It turns out, this Libertarian isn’t the only one who is worried about Mike Bloomberg. It turns out there are a lot of Democrats who are worried about him too. I’m starting to see news stories and anti-Bloomberg ads paid for by other Democrats. Every other Democrat in the moderate lane opposes him because he’s their competition. They resent his Johnny-come-lately entry into the race while they’ve been slogging away for months. They resent his bottomless well of money that will be spent against them before any of it is spent on Trump. And they resent that he is climbing up in the polls based on advertising while never having had to face the scrutiny of the debate stage.

If the moderates resent him, the Bernie Bros absolutely despise him. He represents everything they hate in politics. Bloomberg is a billionaire former Republican who is buying the election, and who, no matter what he says now, has had impure thoughts in the past on some of the most sacred tenets of progressive orthodoxy. The moderates, if defeated, will fall in line behind Bloomberg. But Bernie would probably cut off his left testicle before he would endorse Mike Bloomberg for president.  Some of the Bernie Bros will swallow hard and vote for Bloomberg. Many will stay home or vote Green. Oddly enough, the Donald will likely convince some to vote Trump in 2020. Either way, the edifice that is Mike Bloomberg seems to be slightly less imposing now that his Democratic opponents have seen fit to focus more attention on him. And the irony is that if Bloomberg is defeated, it will not be at the hands of Donald Trump, but at the hands of his fellow Democrats. The same fellow Democrats for whom he represents, even if they don’t realize it, the only real possibility of beating Donald Trump. Trump should lay off of Mini-Mike for the time being. Let the Democrats beat up on Bloomberg for him. It’s time for the Donald to channel his inner Napoleon. Don’t interrupt your enemies while they are destroying themselves.

The irony of this situation is difficult to ignore. If Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination, he alienates, perhaps permanently, a sizeable portion of the Democratic coalition. If he loses, he cedes the stage to a much more beatable alternative, no matter who that is. Republicans, who have the most to fear from Mike Bloomberg, needn’t lift a finger to oppose him, at least not yet. Democrats are rushing forward to take up the banner against him. After months of campaigning by a lackluster group of Democratic presidential candidates, one late arrival starts to emerge as someone who actually has the capacity to beat Donald Trump. A star has appeared in the eastern sky. A potential savior has been born unto the Democrats to wash away the sins of months of clumsy, ineffectual, and at times viciously adversarial campaigning, and the response of the rest of the Democrats is to try and smother the new arrival in his crib. Mike Bloomberg, the brightest hope the Democratic Party has for rescuing them from four more years of Donald Trump might just end up being defeated by the very people he is trying to rescue. It’s a funny old world.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Don't Deny Coercion. Defend It.

Sunday was a good day for the Democrats. Let's concede that. Every major television network devotes an hour of their Sunday morning programming to their political shows, and today, all anybody was talking about was the Ukraine conversation. The Democratic Party sent a message today through their MSM allies that the president is corrupt, and he should be impeached. If the only political news you ever got came from Sunday morning TV, you probably think so too. There were a few token voices of reason like Hugh Hewitt and Rich Lowry, but for the most part, the opposing side of the debate did not get an invitation to the party. And don't get me started on Rudy Giuliani! 

It is axiomatic in military strategy terms that if you are going to engage in warfare, you should do what you can to choose the ground upon which you will do battle. The Republicans have failed to heed that advice. There are too many poor souls in the Republican Party who are trying to deny that Trump offered Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky a quid pro quo. It's true that it was not explicitly stated in the conversation, but it can be reasonably argued that it was implied. As the Democrats are quick to point out, when you are a helpless supplicant like Ukraine and your potential protector asks you for a favor, you would be foolish indeed to ignore the wider implications of that request. The existence of that quid pro quo is deniable I suppose; maybe even legitimately so. But why pitch your tent on such shaky ground? President Trump was engaged in diplomacy, and nothing in diplomacy is free. Everything is a quid pro quo. President Trump was engaged in some arm twisting. It was gentle and polite arm twisting perhaps, but arm twisting nevertheless. 

President Trump wanted some favors. In diplomacy, favors are defined as things I want you to do for me for which I will do something in return. President Trump asked for two favors in particular, and you could argue about the relative importance of each favor. In order of precedence, the first favor, and perhaps therefore the most important, was help in the investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion scandal. The Obama Justice Department and Intelligence Community spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. There are credible allegations that some of the Steele Dossier material upon which that spying was predicated came from Ukrainian sources. President Trump believes that the Dossier was a hoax; a political dirty trick. The president wants an investigation, and he has a right to expect Ukraine to assist Attorney General Barr in completing that investigation. 

The second favor is a bit more problematic. (Thank you Captain Obvious!) The president asked Ukraine to look into the Bidens. Again, choose your ground for battle. The optics of that request are terrible. Don't deny that. Defend it! Yes, it is bad optics for the president to request a foreign country to investigate a political rival. You know what else has terrible optics? Hunter Biden accepting $600,000 a year from a foreign company to perform a job for which his only qualification is his last name. How about them optics? I've heard critics of the president point out that if it was really corruption that concerned Mr. Trump, then Ukraine is apparently the only place on earth where the president is bothered by corruption. That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes this president does the right thing by accident. American politics are conducted as a form of Kabuki theater in which an elected Republican defender of the president can't say that the president did the right thing by accident, but I can say it. Devin Nunes or Jim Jordan may have to pretend that the president's motivations were saintly and insightful, but I don't have to pretend that. And to claim that the actions of Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine are beyond scrutiny because of Joe's presidential candidacy is like giving a Get Out of Jail Free Card to any politician under suspicion of corruption. Just run for office and you're untouchable. The president did the right thing for the wrong reasons. There! That wasn't so hard, was it? Trump was looking for a little extra help in the 2020 race. He wasn't looking for money. He wasn't looking for Facebook ads. And there is absolutely no indication that he was looking for investigators in Ukraine to lie, no matter what kind of parody Adam Schiff can conjure up as he beclowns himself. Trump was looking for information. Information does not have a nationality. There is no such thing as American information or Ukrainian information. Since 2016, Democrats have attempted to stigmatize foreign sourced information as somehow tainted or illegitimate. Personally, I think that as long as it is the truth, information is always welcome no matter where it comes from. I felt the same way about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting, the Democrats' squawking about campaign finance and “thing of value” not withstanding. Information is like speech. To stifle information is to stifle free speech. At the end of the day, the president was pursuing information. Were the optics bad? Yes. But did that situation cry out for an investigation? Oh hell yes! The president may have done the crime, metaphorically speaking, but he shouldn't do the time. The proposed punishment is pure politics. If the voters disagree, well that's what we have elections for. 

 But what about Trump's withholding of aid? Surely that cannot be defended. Of course it can. We do not know, and we should not presume, that the president intended to withhold that military aid indefinitely. I don't think I am na├»ve to believe it was merely a bargaining position; quickly abandoned once the president got what he wanted, and never intended to be kept in place even if the president's requests had been refused. And who are the Democrats to bemoan a slight delay in the release of this lethal aid? The Obama administration flat out denied lethal aid to Ukraine all together. 

Well what about the attempt to cover up the conversation? What were they trying to hide? As is clear from the Democrats' reaction to this conversation, it is obvious that due to the optics of President Trump's request, this conversation had the potential to be spun to the president's disadvantage. White House staff apparently recognized that, even if the president did not. And a little extra context is important here. This is the same White House which may still employ the author of that September 5, 2018 NY Times op-ed “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Remember that several other conversations between President Trump and other heads of state have been leaked to the press with the purpose of embarrassing the president. Under the circumstances, the fact that the record of this conversation was placed on a highly classified server is of little concern to me. 

 Finally, a word about the Democrats' desperate attempt to subvert the results of the 2016 election. There is mounting evidence that this latest “scandal” was a coordinated effort between “resistance' elements inside the White House, inside the Intelligence Community, and in the Congress, to sabotage this president. At the risk of inviting accusations of being a conspiracy theorist, I'd go so far as to suggest that the pending release of DOJ IG Michael Horowitz' report and the ongoing Barr/Durham “investigation of the investigators” may have played a role in the timing of this whistleblower's complaint. 

Today was a bad day for the president. The Dems scored some unanswered points this morning. But tomorrow is another day. I'm hopeful that Team Trump still has a few special plays up its sleeve.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Trial of Bijan Rafiekian

  The following is a compilation of articles about the trial of Flynn business partner Bijan Rafiekian.  It was due to Flynn's anticipated testimony/cooperation at this trial that his sentencing in his own matter of lying to the FBI has been repeatedly delayed.


Recently, the government suddenly changed course and announced they would not be calling Flynn as a witness following his refusal to state that he knowingly filed a false FARA document. 


Subsequent to that refusal, the government also reversed course on their position that Flynn was not a co conspirator in the Rafiekian trial, now maintaining that he wss a co conspirator.  If they could support this claim in court, it would allow them to present hearsay evidence from Flynn against Rafiekian that they otherwise not be able to present.


My focus on this case has more to do with what effect it will have on sentencing in the lying to the FBI case.  Flynn wa still willing to cooperate/testify, but not willing to admit knowingly falsifying the FARA. 

Michael Flynn Attorney Suggests Special Counsel Withheld Key Information From His Defense

Michael Flynn’s new attorney Sidney Powell suggested the special counsel may not have produced classified information relevant to Flynn’s case. Powell intends to obtain it.



Defense straddles strategies as trial opens for Flynn business partner


LAWYERSPOTTING: Among the onlookers at opening statements in Flynn business partner Kian's trial today: Flynn attorney Powell, Flynn prosecutor Van Grack, and US Atty for EDVA Terwilliger

Flynn’s ex-lawyer takes witness stand for the prosecution


It's not every day a defense attorney gets called to testify for the prosecution, but it happened today to Gen. Mike Flynn's ex-lawyer, Rob Kelner. The cross-examination produced some friction. More here:

Flynn juggled Trump campaign role with foreign lobbying, jurors told

His foreign lobbying role has been central to the case against Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner.

At trial today of Gen. Mike Flynn's business partner, a retired FBI agent recalled this blunt response to the defendant's plan to avoid registering as a foreign agent: 'I wouldn't f--- around with that.'

PAY TO PLAY? We knew that while sending over $500,000 to Flynn during the campaign, his Turkish client was complaining to a Flynn aide that Trump wasn't being supportive enough. In court today, we found out Flynn heard those pleas directly

Judge withholds ruling on acquitting Flynn partner

Bijan Rafiekian is on trial for acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey during his work for Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm.

NEW: Prosecutors narrowly escaped a judge-ordered acquittal today for Flynn business partner charged with foreign-agent crimes following Mueller probe. Looks like judge will let jury deliberate in case, while not ruling out tossing it--or part of it--later

After completing his testimony at trial of Flynn biz partner Bijan Kian on foreign-agent charges, lobbyist
did something unusual for a prosecution witness: gave the defendant a firm, enthusiastic handshake in front of the jury

Latest Development In Flynn Case Proves Special Counsel Was A Cover For Taking Down Trump


His former lawyer’s latest testimony establishes two facts, both of which benefit Michael Flynn and both of which the media has missed.