June 23, 2017

Jane Sanders under investigation (with Actual Flatticus refudiations)

Jane Sanders, via Burlington College
The wife of former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Jane Sanders, IS part of an FBI investigation into financial matters at non-defunct Burlington College, detailed at VTDigger.

Update, June 23: Bernie and Jane have lawyered up, over questions about allegedly improper loans. Part of the allegations? Bernie's Senate staff pushed for shaky loans to be made to Jane for her Burlington expansion dream.

That said, per the story, if one-quarter is true, it mirrors Bernie's own transition from some sort of actual semi-Socialist to "he's really a Dem" in all but name Democratic Party hack.

Also look at the bottom of the piece. Harry Jaffe first covered Bernie in the 1970s. This isn't a fly-by-night journalist, or piece. Jaffe even wrote an unauthorized bio of Bernie.

Per Jaffe's bio, he's also not an ax-grinding wingnut. He was Pat Leahy's press secretary for a couple of years, after all. One might partially hold working with Michelle Rhee against him. That makes him more neoliberal than Bernie. Not the devil.

And, if you want to decide for yourself on bias or not, here's the Google book preview version of the book. If anything else, it seems to have a mix of animus for Bernie's bluntness with at least as much hagiography. That said, he's spot on with the Bernie "brand."

Also contradicting Actual Flatticus in other ways? The FDIC as well as the FBI are investigating, per VT Digger. It in turn notes that Seven Days in Vermont had written about some of the investigation. 

No real surprise to me. Sorry, Berners, Berners thinking about becoming Greens, etc.

I had speculated on these pages more than once last year if Jane, when president of the college, was trading on Bernie's name when trying to raise a big loan for glorious dreams of the college's future. And, given it closed suddenly last May, Bernie's lucky he wasn't nominated; media might have started nosing around this issue more at that time.

It is interesting that the investigation, per Burlington's board president, appears to have started before the college's official announcement of closure. Bradley Toensing's records request must have been treated fairly seriously from near the start — which could bring in a Barack Obama angle and/or a Hillary Clinton one, as well as the GOP one driven by Toensing — getcha popcorn, round two!

To both Berniecrats and Never Trumpers of any stripe who see the name "Bradley Toensing" and say, well, Trump must be behind this? The Obama era DA for Vermont opened the investigation. The U.S. District Attorney's office for the District of Vermont didn't have to investigate anything. Just because, per Alan Simpson and Anita Hill, someone throws something over  transom doesn't make the DA forced to investigate it. Only if the DA's office deems it's a legit complaint or issue does that happen.

And, Actual Flatticus knows how DAs operate, too.

Beyond that, VT Digger notes the FBI subpoenaed related records in 2016. Remind me again, Flatticus and others, who was president then? There's also a timeline issue involved. VT Digger notes it first reported the donations issue in January 2016, and only then did Toensing make his investigation request. Click that link for other timeline issues, including how much investigatory work was being done before Jan. 20, 2017. Or, per this story, note that Burlington board of trustees members apparently knew an investigation was ongoing as of May 2016.

Is it true that Trumpers are distorting the issues? Like alleged actor James Woods claiming flat-out that Bernie himself committed bank fraud?

But of course.


And Trumpers also distorted Hillary Clinton email issues. So?

Update, July 6: Toensing says he was told a tip by a New Hampshire state senator, who in turn says he never would have told the feds. And why not? State Sen. Don Turner, a Republican, called it "hearsay" not worth passing on in that way. That said, this talk was after Toensing filed his first complaint in January 2016; it was behind his May 2016 complaint.

Now if, per that timeline, one wants to claim that someone in the FBI, or the Vermont US District Attorney's office, was a Hillbot doing HER bidding, bring it on. But, per what I said, no, there's no Trump Train conspiracy here.

Also per these pages in the past, I've suspected Jane was a fair part of the impetus behind Bernie's run, and in addition to his own political animalism, may have been part of the impetus behind his political shifts from the 1980s to today.

Politics is blood sport, per James Stewart. Bernie's deal-cutting with the Vermont Democratic Party in the past shows he knows this well.

That said, do I think she did anything illegal? Very likely not.

Something unethical, whether by official college ethics standards or everyday ones? Possibly.

Something fiscally dumb, and that she knew it at the time? Yes.

==

Update, June 14: Maybe not "fiscally dumb" after all.

Independent news site VT Digger has a whole nother story about Jane Sanders and her time at Burlington.

Here’s a sample of the mixtape:
While one deal struck by Jane O’Meara Sanders during her time as Burlington College’s president has triggered a federal investigation, another arrangement she engineered is breeding claims of nepotism and allegations of veiled threats against her husband’s presidential campaign. 
The bad blood centers on the relationship the college forged with the Vermont Woodworking School, co-founded and run by Sanders’ daughter, Carina Driscoll. 
Carol Moore, the final president at Burlington College, broadly blames the school’s 2016 closing on Sanders. In a scathing op-ed last year, Moore wrote: “BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president.” ... 
Moore is equally critical of a deal Jane Sanders brokered between the college and Driscoll’s Vermont Woodworking School, a facility in Franklin County where Burlington College students took courses. 
In interviews with VTDigger, Moore said the college got the short end of the stick.
“This was a sweetheart deal for Carina Driscoll, Jane Sanders’ daughter,” said Moore. Driscoll is the stepdaughter of Bernie Sanders. ...
 
Moore alleges the woodworking school was “gouging the college.” She praised the academic merits of the program but said it was “barely” profitable. 
Students began attending the woodworking school in 2009 on what appears to have been a handshake deal. A formalized contract was made only under Jane Sanders’ successor as president, Christine Plunkett.
That's plenty enough for teaser, and all I can post under good fair use standards.

I lied. One more extract:
The Burlington College-Vermont Woodworking School connection is not the first time Sanders and her daughter have been accused of nepotism. 
Sanders & Driscoll LLC — a mother-daughter limited liability corporation — offered political consulting for Bernie Sanders’ 2002 and 2004 House races, and Jane Sanders drew more than $90,000 from the campaigns. The practice was allowed but frowned upon because of the opportunity to benefit from campaign donations.
It’s true that Bernie was one of 32 Members of Congress to do this in 2012.

Still, that’s little more than 5 percent of the membership, and is another black eye for Sanders’ fiscal honesty reputation.

Based on this story, I think I have a lot more confirmation about my theory of a full year ago and more than Jane was the one pushing Bernie's campaign. That said, Driscoll claims that Moore had it out for her and used the publicity about Bernie's prez run to try to browbeat her. She also claims she admitted the deal was unfair. But, apparently, never actually offered to redo it, which leads back to her mom.

Jane's reward? Running the Sanders Institute, with its hacktacular fellows such as Robert Reich, Ben Jealous and Cornel West. (Greens, stop fetishizing the man.) And, there's also Islamophobic fascist fellow traveler Tulsi Gabbard.

With all that in mind, it's no wonder Bernie won't talk to Vermont media. And, it's not just in Vermont; he and his staffers won't talk to Vermont media from their Capitol Hill perches in DC, either.

==

Sidebars — First Too many Greenies are too polite, or something, if they think discussion of this is a "smear" of Jane Sanders. It's not. Per Jaffe, bank fraud is hard to prove, but, it does happen. And, per Jaffe, even if the fraud can't be proven, the influence trading is a mile wide.

Otherwise, on the "Minnesota Nice" or whatever? Dear Leader wasn't the only person wrong to sing Kumbaya.

And, the half-siblings of AccommoGreens, those folks known as GreenieCrats, still don't want to believe their beloved Bernie is in trouble, let alone that Jane was trading on his name.

As for Greens who think it's irrelevant to the Green Party? Erm, wrong! Some Berniecrats, ignoring that the Green Party, and the Socialist Party USA, and others, exist, want him — or at least key loyalists — to start a third party.

Second — Quasi-Berniecrats (I'm thinking of one Twitter presence in particular) don't want to face the light. No, Bernie may not have committed bank fraud in the legal sense because, yes, it's damned hard to prove. At the same time, he may well have pressured a bank, with Jane already trading on his name in a small state. That's the ethical equivalent of bank fraud.

This is the same Bernie who lusts for F-35s, who threatened to have pro-Palestinian visitors to his office arrested as part of his blank check for Israel and more.

And, that one Twitter nitpicker? The Actual Flatticus who I've touted before? Claims this is a nothingburger. Claims that the fact Jane Sanders has him blocked on Twitter is proof that it's a nothingburger to him.

Seems to want to have the last works a lot for calling it a "nothingburger." He's also gotten the "framing" wrong vis-a-vis Tensing and the Obama-adminstration DA for Vermont, NOT Trump's, opening the investigation. And, he protests when other people in a threat post links to the likes of VT Digger. I posted one myself from there about Bernie yelling at staffers as proof that Jaffe's not the only person to say this.

He's been wrong a couple other times, on other issues. It's not a double Whopper to me; it's a regular-sized hamburger, though. Actually, no, it IS a double Whopper, in reflecting back on something from a couple of weeks ago. In claiming Amy Goodman once made $1 million a year, he cited from a website that touts chemtrails, 9/11 trutherism and other conspiracy theories, along with claiming the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are real. Also, the person who wrote the particular article he linked had sued WBAI and thus had a definite bias. Either Smithee didn't know that (I didn't have a chance to tell him before he blocked me) and so, again, his information isn't always correct, or he did know it and posted anyway.

Oh, and he was wrong as hell about Presidents allegedly not being subject to the Emoluments Clause.

Anyway, I don't need this to turn into a blog post about him.

What is at least a single Whopper, having now received it myself, is the amount of vitriol in which he engages, not so much with bigwig media professionals as with everyday John and Jane Does. And, I'll offer a bit of apology for a couple of cases in which I needlessly piled on.

Alternative voting systems and cultism

The title is deliberately chosen, and deliberately chosen because it's provocative.

If you don't like it, especially because you're one of those devotees of approval voting whom I, in my second blog post, and first with some depth, about alternative voting around a decade ago, thought were semi-cultic in their attachment, then that's your problem. (I also indicated that worry to some degree in my third post about it.) And your fault. Comments on and about my recent post about ranked choice, the Green Party, and Maine 2018 have only increased that stance.

Also, yes, IRV had a "Condorcet stumble" in Maine; other systems will too, if they're used as often or more. Period.

Per the above, I'm not a pilgrim to the discussion of alternatives to first past the post plurality voting in single-member electoral districts. I'm also not, despite what some may think, a cultist for instant-runoff voting. Or necessarily attached to IRV. See point three immediately below for that.

I am attached to an honest consideration of the benefits and faults of ALL alternatives to FPTP, and "consideration" means more than lip service.

First, per Wikipedia, in its article on ranked voting systemscardinal voting systems, and tactical voting, a few stipulations.
1. All FPTP alternatives are subject to tactical voting.
2. No alternative to FPTP (other than some unwieldy ones, not suitable for elections otherwise, that Wiki did not list in its statement about this) can guarantee a majoritarian winner. (Just recently, Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen at the NY Review of Books weigh in on this.)
3. "There is no consensus among academics or public servants as to the best electoral system." (From the ranked voting piece.)
4. On cardinal systems, they may not be subject to Arrow's theorem, but that's not necessarily a good point.

Point 1 is the second-biggest issue. On tactical voting concerns, Wiki notes they can vary, in severity and specific effects, from system to system. They can also vary by how much voters know alternatives, and how much information they have about other voters.

In local and regional elections, especially in non-presidential years, major parties could work on informing better-knowledged voters how to vote most strategically. Per Wiki's link, range voting, which some approval voting touters like even more but think it would be too complicated, is according to some research, the system most vulnerable to tactical voting, for example.

Since we're not likely to often hit areas of Point One concern, and also, for this blog post, Point 3, with Points 1 and 4 in support, is the biggie. See below for more.

A few other deck-clearing points.

1. If you're going to point out that, yes, there are systems that will guarantee majoritarian winners, before noting that, yes, they're otherwise unusable, and not note that Wiki was specifically talking about the commonly discussed ones — and apparently didn't check that — you're straining at a bit of gnats.

2. If you're going to offer up a utilitarian defense of approval voting, or even of range voting, note that what utilitarian benefits are best, or most desirable, are in the eye of the beholder. This beholder's eye has already said he doesn't like approval voting precisely because it tends to elect more moderate candidates. In my recent post about IRV, Maine 2018 and the Green Party, I noted that I liked ConservaGreens (or AccommoGreens, if you want another mash-up word) no more than ConservaDems.

Neither Clay on that post, nor Aaron in a Facebook group about such issues, refuted that fact of approval voting.

Beyond that, no alternative to FPTP seems to have an advantage over others on third-party visibility. ANY alternative will increase the possibility of third-party wins, and thus increase third party enthusiasm as well as viability, thus addressing the visibility issue.

3. Bayesian probabilities, and related Bayesian ideas, are a real deal. But, as I've noted repeatedly with Bayesian probabilities as used by leading Jesus mythicist Mark Carrier, most notably at this blog post, followed by this one where Carrier admits to Bayesian book-cooking, and as noted in comments on my previous blog post about IRV about Bayesian regret, Bayesianism in general can be used pretty subjectively. That's not necessarily the case, using "necessarily" both empirically and logically, but it is indeed the case at times.

Indeed:

"When I hear the word 'Bayesian,' I loosen the safety catch on my Browning." — Hanns Johst, falsely attributed to Hermann Göring.

So, yeah, if you're going to make Bayesian regret a prime argument for approval voting, and try to claim its either logically or empirically rigorous, I'm going to pretty much kick you in the nads. Again, deal with it.

My final worry is that cultists or semi-cultists, for 2020 or possibly already for 2018, will work to get the national Green Party to take an official stance supporting approval voting out of the various FPTP systems. That's despite what I said, quoting Wiki, re Point 3 near the top. IF something like that happened, it would probably be yet more reason for me to, in line with the thought of a Mark Lause, look for alternative parties of the left.

Indeed, I suspect people like this are behind the idea that the GP needed to stand against IRV that sprang up immediately after election day this year.

A noun, a verb and Bernie for the #IronStache!

Now that Rob Quist and Jon Ossoff got their butts kicked in special elections, the David Brock wing of the Democratic Party is now touting Randy Bryce, the "Iron Stache," as a hero for the 2018 midterm regular election. A spate of national news stories came out about him shortly after he cut his first campaign video announcing his run in Wisconsin against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Those stories didn't come out of nowhere. They came out of the D.C.-based Democratic PR former of Hilltop Public Solutions, a place so astroturfy it invented the word "grasstops." That's the "HPS" in the photo.

And yes, it is astroturfy, too.

Meanwhile, in our Peter-principled inside-the-Beltway media, a young Washington Post writer Wednesday was clueless that she was even being fed this shite by high-dollar PR flaks.

When American democracy dies, it will be from the last reporter swallowing the PR sausage in entrails of political flaks, to riff on Voltaire.

As for policies, Bryce has none that he's willing to stand on.

Asked by Sarah Jones of The New Republic to comment on single-payer national health care, the response of the man who went through testicular cancer and whose family is a walking billboard for it, said, "I favor getting there."

Yep, that was it.

This, of course, leeds to spoofing.

Higher minimum wage? "I favor getting there."

Peace in the Middle East? "I favor getting there."

Draining the swamp? "I favor getting there."

Campaign finance reform? "I favor getting there."

Trans Pacific Partnership? "I favor getting there."

Moving beyond the current Democratic establishment? "I favor getting there."

Sadly, short of Counterpunch, that will never be covered. Even at The Nation, John Nichols can't or won't tell you that Bryce is already being "packaged" by DC political consultants. Or that these consultants are ultimately the David Brock wing of the Democratic Party.

Down with Tyranny puffs him too, insinuating he's a Berniecrat, when he's not, per his Twitter at right, and that doesn't mean that much anyway, other than the Sanders Institute funneling money to him, maybe?

(Bryce has now pulled down the Twitter post. I'm leaving the photographically blank space as a sign of how much of a political "Player" he is. In the first 72 hours after his campaign, after people like me and others started looking through his Twitter feed, he started doing — or HPS started doing — a massive cleanup effort on his account.)

Beyond that, the Stache is "meh" on the Trans Pacific Partnership and otherwise closer to being a Hillbot than a Berniecrat. Don't believe me? Go to his website or run through his Twitter feed, especially before he tries to clean up more stuff.

DWT also says "But Obama won that district in 2008." Big deal. Obama won by 3 percentage points while Ryan dodged Dear Leader's short coattails and was re-elected by 19.

Also don't forget he is not the only Dem in the race. Yes, there's an actual primary. And one of Bryce's three previous electoral losses was in a primary.

This obviously a coronation by DC folks sniffing way too much George Lakoff.

And there's more. The Stache loves him some Russian nutbar conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch. Loves her so much that he even offered her some neocon "Freedom Fries" in one Tweet.

This guy is Joe the Plumber with the addition of a David Brock tramp stamp.

And an FEC fine for failure to disclose campaign contributions when treasurer for Rob Zerban's Congressional run, it seems.

Others are noting his establishmentarianism, along with some of his fence-straddling. This one is not bad, though it tries to paint him as a full Berniecrat, which he wasn't at all.

I do appreciate one Twitterer for pointing me toward some of the things for this post. Sadly, I cannot recommend following him overall; it would probably be like the frog asking the alligator for a ride across a stream, or similar anecdotes about taking a scorpion too close to one's breast.

June 22, 2017

The Sanders Money Mafia Machine, part 1

It's no wonder Bernie Sanders won't talk to Vermont media, especially independent media or NPR/PBS.

To extensively update a previous post, not only did VTDigger break the details that Jane Sanders, Bernie's wife, was part of an FBI investigation into financial matters at now-defunct Burlington College, it's now added newer, and juicier fuel to that fire.

Update, June 23: Bernie and Jane have reportedly "lawyered up."

We'll keep an eye on that. Meanwhile, note that that's not the only problem they face.

Jane Sanders, via Burlington College
VT Digger now has a whole nother story about Jane Sanders and her time at Burlington.

Here’s a sample of the mixtape:
While one deal struck by Jane O’Meara Sanders during her time as Burlington College’s president has triggered a federal investigation, another arrangement she engineered is breeding claims of nepotism and allegations of veiled threats against her husband’s presidential campaign. 
The bad blood centers on the relationship the college forged with the Vermont Woodworking School, co-founded and run by Sanders’ daughter, Carina Driscoll. 
Carol Moore, the final president at Burlington College, broadly blames the school’s 2016 closing on Sanders. In a scathing op-ed last year, Moore wrote: “BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president.” ... 
Moore is equally critical of a deal Jane Sanders brokered between the college and Driscoll’s Vermont Woodworking School, a facility in Franklin County where Burlington College students took courses. 
In interviews with VTDigger, Moore said the college got the short end of the stick.
“This was a sweetheart deal for Carina Driscoll, Jane Sanders’ daughter,” said Moore. Driscoll is the stepdaughter of Bernie Sanders. ...
 
Moore alleges the woodworking school was “gouging the college.” She praised the academic merits of the program but said it was “barely” profitable. 
Students began attending the woodworking school in 2009 on what appears to have been a handshake deal. A formalized contract was made only under Jane Sanders’ successor as president, Christine Plunkett.
That's plenty enough for teaser, and all I can post under good fair use standards.

I lied. One more extract:
The Burlington College-Vermont Woodworking School connection is not the first time Sanders and her daughter have been accused of nepotism. 
Sanders & Driscoll LLC — a mother-daughter limited liability corporation — offered political consulting for Bernie Sanders’ 2002 and 2004 House races, and Jane Sanders drew more than $90,000 from the campaigns. The practice was allowed but frowned upon because of the opportunity to benefit from campaign donations.
It’s true that Bernie was one of 32 Members of Congress to do this in 2012.

Still, that’s little more than 5 percent of the membership, and is another black eye for Sanders’ fiscal honesty reputation.

Based on this story, I think I have a lot more confirmation about my theory of a full year ago and more than Jane was the one pushing Bernie's campaign. That said, Driscoll claims that Moore had it out for her and used the publicity about Bernie's prez run to try to browbeat her. She also claims she admitted the deal was unfair. But, apparently, never actually offered to redo it, which leads back to her mom.

I had speculated on these pages more than once last year if Jane, when president of the college, was trading on Bernie's name when trying to raise a big loan for glorious dreams of the college's future. And, given it closed suddenly last May, Bernie's lucky he wasn't nominated; media might have started nosing around this issue more at that time. Vermont local media probably were nosing around more.

I now have more confirmation for that idea, that Jane was trading on Bernie's name when she launched her big Burlington expansion scheme for "huge tracts of land." Maybe not a full shakedown, as she may already have been thinking about Bernie for Prez at that time, but hints, nods and expectations? Oh, hellz yes.

No real surprise to me. Sorry, Berners, Berners thinking about becoming Greens, etc. (And there aren't a lot of the latter; I see Berniecrat Twitterers touting Tulsi Gabbard for 2020; you're really, really wedded to the duopoly.)

It is also interesting that the investigation in the first link, per Burlington's board president, appears to have started before the college's official announcement of closure. Bradley Toensing's records request must have been treated fairly seriously from near the start — which could bring in a Barack Obama angle and/or a Hillary Clinton one, as well as the GOP one driven by Toensing — getcha popcorn, round two!

Also per these pages in the past, I've suspected Jane was a fair part of the impetus behind Bernie's run, and in addition to his own political animalism, may have been part of the impetus behind his political shifts from the 1980s to today.

Politics is blood sport, per James Stewart. Bernie's deal-cutting with the Vermont Democratic Party in the past shows he knows this well.

That said, do I think she did anything illegal? Very likely not. I'm not totally sure one way or the other now, to update from the original.

Something unethical, whether by official college ethics standards or everyday ones? Pretty likely.

Something fiscally dumb, and that she knew it at the time? More than just "dumb."

Jane's reward? Running the Sanders Institute, with its hacktacular fellows such as Robert Reich, Ben Jealous and Cornel West. (Greens, stop fetishizing the man.) And, there's also Islamophobic fascist fellow traveler Gabbard.

Any of them getting paid with the dark or soft money they're already starting to rake in? As a 501(c)3, not a (c)4, they're likely going to peddle in soft, not dark money, per Open Secrets' explainer. But, ALL of the 501(c) classes do not have to disclose any donors. So, in that sense of the word, it's darkness all the way down.

Now, Jane and Bernie may make a voluntary decision otherwise.

Don't hold your breath.

Do hold your breath, or rather, stand by, though, for something else.

Per the header, I'm sure there will be at least a Part 2 on this.

June 21, 2017

The Emoluments Clause does indeed apply to presidents

I love used to love me some Alan Smithee (make sure you click that link for the right one I removed the link because he blocked me after I challenged his command of facts one too many times for his taste) on Twitter. Sharp, smart, a demon for fighting dark and soft money in the political process. Hates neoliberalism. Doesn’t yet vote third-party, I think, and a bit harsher on Stein, and a bit more harsher on the Green Party as a whole, than I am.

But, those are minor quibbles.

A big error?

He’s simply wrong when he claims the Emoluments Clause doesn’t apply to the president.

Per Wiki, here’s the actual language, first of all.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Seems pretty clear to me. And to tens of thousands of constitutional law scholar lawyers and academics, and thousands of U.S. judges down through history.

Offices, of course, being normally executive offices, as constitutionally, the executive conducts foreign policy, and is most liable to being “emoled.”

But not to Smithee. He cites a Northwestern law prof. Seth Tillman, whoclaims that “office” in this case is only appointed offices.

Balderdash! And laughable in a great degree if not coming from him. It reads like a TrumpTrain claim. In fact, I stopped reading at that point, because I did start laughing!

Back to Wiki, and some background:
The prohibition against officers receiving a present or emolument is essentially an antibribery rule to prevent influence by a foreign power. At the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Edmund Randolph, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, identified the Clause as a key "provision against the danger . . . of the president receiving emoluments from foreign powers." 
The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel has held
The language of the Emoluments Clause is both sweeping and unqualified. See 49 Comp. Gen. 819, 821 (1970) (the “drafters [of the Clause] intended the prohibition to have the broadest possible scope and applicability”). It prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from “any . . . foreign State” unless Congress consents. U.S. Const, art. I, § 9, cl. 8 (emphasis added). . . . The decision whether to permit exceptions that qualify the Clause’s absolute prohibition or that temper any harshness it may cause is textually committed to Congress, which may give consent to the acceptance of offices or emoluments otherwise barred by the Clause.
The word "emolument" has a broad meaning. At the time of the Founding, it meant "profit," "benefit," or "advantage" of any kind. Because of the "sweeping and unqualified" nature of the constitutional prohibition, and in light of the more sophisticated understanding of conflicts of interest that developed after the Richard Nixon presidency, modern presidents have chosen to eliminate any risk of conflict of interest that may arise by choosing to vest their assets into a blind trust. As the Office of Legal Counsel has held, the Constitution is violated when the holder of an Office of Profit or Trust, like the President, receives money from a partnership or similar entity in which he has a stake, and the amount he receives is "a function of the amount paid to the [entity] by the foreign government."
Broad and sweeping. Indeed.

Next, the historical interpretation:
Foreign states often present the President of the United States with gifts. In order to comply with the Clause's prohibition on accepting presents from foreign governments, the President of the United States has traditionally sought permission from Congress to keep the present himself. Absent permission, the President will deposit the present with the Department of State. For example, Andrew Jackson sought permission from Congress to keep a gold medal presented by Simon Bolivar; Congress refused to grant consent, and so Jackson deposited the medal with the Department of State. Martin Van Buren and John Tyler received gifts from the Imam of Muscat, for which they received congressional authorization either to transfer them to the United States Government or to auction them with proceeds vesting to the United States Treasury. 
While President, George Washington received a present from the Marquis de Lafayette, who considered Washington to be his "adoptive father." and kept the gift without obtaining congressional consent. There is no indication in the historical record that Lafayette was presenting the gift on behalf of the French government. To the contrary, the letter that Lafayette sent to accompany the gift stated that it was "a tribute Which I owe as A Son to My Adoptive father." Because the gift did not come from a "foreign state," it did not violate the Clause. George Washington also took home to Mount Vernon a portrait of a then-guillotined French King that he had received from the then-monarchy while President.
I mean, even Andrew Jackson, who ignored the Supreme Court on Indian removal, followed the will of Congress. It’s clear that both Congresses and Presidents have historically understood it as applying above all to Presidents. Mother Jones, in a new piece about emoluments-based suits against Trump, notes that JFK turned down an honorary Irish citizenship over concerns.

The fact, per Prof. Tillman, that Hamilton gave members of Congress a list of “office holders” that included appointed officials only proves nothing. Later history, per Jackson, et al, shows that Presidents and Congresses alike didn’t think that held on the Emoluments Clause, if they even knew it existed. Plus, Hamilton, the man who once proposed a president for life, had every reason to be Cheney-like here.

In short, absent a specific judicial ruling — a specific Constitutional ruling that would ultimately come from the Supreme Court — to the contrary, we have what we might have Constitutional common law on this issue.

Smithee then goes on to cite that last-mentioned action of George Washington as proof for his interpretation.

Bullshit.

What happened is that Washington acted unconstitutionally, as Louis XVI held the throne at the time of the gift, which would legally be considered the controlling time. He then split hairs trying to justify his unconstitutional action and got away with it because Congressional Federalists weren’t about to call him out, and only the more radical Republicans (not yet Democratic-Republicans!) would have attacked “The Father of the Country.” Smithee himself once said, in essence, the only good presidents were dead presidents. Weird for him to cite this as a proof action.

Zephyr Teachout, to whom Tillman is responding, suggests the same as one possible interpretation.

And, not all of them are needed, as far as her different possible interpretations.

The only other one I’d entertain is that Washington claimed it was a “personal” gift. That, in turn, is a distinction the Emoluments Clause doesn’t recognize, in its clear language, therefore it’s really, ultimately, a subset of him acting — and deciding to act — unconstitutionally. *

Tillman then claims he’s refuted what I note about Jackson, Van Buren, etc., claiming that she hasn’t proven these are more “controlling” than Hamilton.

Actually, Tillman, my “constitutional common law” has proven exactly that. YOU are the one who’s proven nothing.

The Blount impeachment? Red herring by Tillman. Has nothing to do with the Emoluments Clause, therefore irrelevant to its definition of “office.”

I ignore their back and forth over state officials, as the constitution did not begin to be federalized until 1868, and that’s an incomplete process today.

I now, instead, break from Tillman and go back to history.

Modern history.

The US interaction with foreign powers increased after World War I and greatly after World War II.

Something else started then — presidential libraries.

Do you actually go to such a place as a library? NO! You visit it as a museum.

A museum where the president of library naming has donated all the tchotchkes he got while president, rather than handing them over to Congress at the end of his term.

The PRESIDENT can’t keep them, but the library can. And they know it.

Otherwise, presidential grifters would have Saudi swords and other shite hanging on the walls of their homes.

Finally, once more, unto what I said about “constitutional common law.”

Tillman doesn’t cite a judicial ruling supporting his interpretation. He can’t. Neither can Smithee.

This isn't a pissing match with him. But, given that he has a lot of followers, they need to know that — even though he tells them to check everything he posts — he's not always right. And, Tweeting it with a callout to him may help a few.

(I mean, I first blogged about this last November.)

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* If you're shocked by the idea that George Washington would act unconstitutionally, either wake up or grow up. Probably half our presidents violated the letter of the Constitution they swore to uphold at least once, and all have violated its spirit, I'll bet I can show.

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Update, Sept. 17: Derek Cressman has a good take on specific emoluments issues Trump faces.

June 20, 2017

eXXXon head-fakes on #carbontax part three

I guess two separate blog posts about Exxon Mobil's alleged enthusiasm for a carbon tax, and the reality behind that, aren't enough to get some allegedly green people to open their eyes.

They're now Tweeting the newest version of its idea, written in conjunction with other Big Oil companies and "moderate Republicans," a species in reality almost as extinct as the dinosaurs from which eXXXon gets its oil.

Here’s big problem No. 1:
The proposal also says companies that emit greenhouse gases should be protected from lawsuits over their contribution to climate change.
I presume that is eXXXon wanting a legal shield if New York State’s attorney general brings it to trial over misrepresenting to shareholders its liabilities over carbon. More details in the Carbon Leadership Council's "Four Pillars," the fourth of which is specifically titled "Significant Regulatory Rollback."

NO, NO, NO!

A legal flack at the piece then says if carbon is taxed high enough, that would be better than lawsuits. Un, Michael Gerrard, only if part of that carbon tax remediates climate damage also done. And, that doesn’t address the shareholder issue.

Then, a direct rebate of the tax?

NO, NO, NO! 

I’ve addressed various problems with that in both previous posts.

From the first blog post, I brought up this issue directly when I asked rhetorically if eXXXonMobil had suddenly "gotten religion" about climate change because it's calling for a carbon tax?

Don't you believe it, not for a minute, I responded.

Here's the nut graf:
The world's largest oil company wants a simple tax charged on extracted carbon, such as oil and gas, in lieu of complicated regulations or trading schemes that too often create unintended consequences. Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson also wants the money returned to the public to offset the cost to consumers.
Note the last sentence.

No, what that really does is remove any "bite" from a carbon tax, making it a toothless tiger, hence harmless to Tillerson, eXXXon and the rest of Big Oil.

And, there's also the fact that this might be a deliberate trap, as I noted in the second post.

How the hell are you going to cut rebates, as nearly exactly as possible, for 320 million Americans? You imagine how massive a bureaucracy that would take?

I suspect eXXXon already HAS imagined just that, and envisions a full rebate as a black knight, lead anchor, or whatever. Something that would make a carbon tax prohibitively expensive.

Next, "border adjustments" aren't the same as "carbon tariff." Until I hear "carbon tariff" out of these folks' mouths, I have another reason to stay skeptical.

Don't even cite Nature Conservancy. Yes, it protects land, but other than that, it's the most right of Gang Green environmental groups.

In my second blog post, I asked mainstream biz media:
Why don't you ask old Rex Tillerson about that, next time he talks up a carbon tax? Why don't you also ask him why his company continues to fund climate change denialist groups? That alone should tell you the carbon tax proposal it has on the floor is a head fake, a big biz move, or both.
I make that same statement now to alleged greenies touting the eXXXon move. DO NOT trust these people. Like anybody who has worked for David Brock, they have forfeited the right to be trusted.

The fact that tech-neoliberals from Silicon Valley, like Steve Jobs' widow, are signing off on this, make me even more skeptical. So does that of Michael Bloomberg. Folks like this will only support something like this if it does little to hurt hypercapitalism, which comes ahead of truly addressing the problem.

Between individuals and businesses signing off, you've got petroleum and related businesses that would be hurt by a real carbon tax, vulture capitalists both inside and outside politics, and turd-polishing politicos and academics.

I'm still trying to figure out how skeptical, or not, basic income guru Scott Santens is of libertarian versions of basic income. His touting of this eXXXon PR move doesn't help him on the basic income count in my eyes.

Texas Progressives extend belated #Juneteenth wishes

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a full load of scurrilous innuendo for you in this week's roundup, while hoping you celebrated Juneteenth if you were in a place that had an event. If you’re not a Texan, here’s what you’re missing.

Off the Kuff looks at the latest approval ratings in Texas for Donald Trump.

SocraticGadfly takes a much more extensive look at basic income, finding it one tool — one nice tool, yes — but just one tool in a full arsenal of what working Americans need.

Maybe he's just a little crazy from the heat and a slowly-forming tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs arrived at the conclusion that voting might not be making enough of a difference in our country's future direction.

Neil at All People Have Value asked for citizens to consider in advance their response if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Jobsanger talks about income inequality.

Lewisville Texan Journal notes that that city’s state reps recently held a town hall — but only answering pre-submitted questions.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast applauds Samantha Bee's takedown of junk forensic science.

Sen. Kirk Watson invites Greg Abbott to take a deep whiff of Austin.

Paradise in Hell finds the transcript to that Trump Cabinet meeting.

Kyle Shelton and Yujie Hu identify what makes some intersections dangerous.

Lone Star Ma suggests an old school tactic for pressuring lawmakers on Trumpcare.

R.G. Ratcliffe tackles Greg Abbott’s war on local government.

Somervell County Salon has Sid Miller in its sights.

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June 19, 2017

Green Party: Headed closer to a crack-up?

On Friday, the Green Party tweeted a report saluting Jill Stein's recount.
It sure seems that way.

First, a couple of weeks ago, the national party gave Chemtrails Bob Fitrakis a platform to tout Jill Stein's recount of last fall, even though it was Stein's private recount, not the party's recount, because the executive committee never approved it. Left hands, right hands, and lack of knowledge, eh?

That, in turn was part of a larger post about how the Green Party is still having trouble distinguishing itself from Berniecrats. Why? Probably in part because both Stein and her campaign manager, and 2004 party presidential candidate himself, David Cobb, are both AccommoGreens.

Then, there's the Texas Greens, with an even bigger cracking up at this year's state convention. Friend Brains has the intro, on a post talking about how voting options seem to get worse and worse. (Hold that thought.)

One of his links is to Texas Greens stalwart David Bruce Collins, who was at the convention and reports his thoughts. There were apparently a number of rifts at the convention, some of them driven by troll-like personalities, at least one of whom Brains has had a run-in or two with in the past. Brains also links to Kat Gruene, who apparently was a target of multiple shitstorms at the state convo, some driven by personality animus, others driven by old white dudes who continue to give the party a bad image in more ways than one at times.

Collins does note one good thing. Apparently, 2018 candidates will actually have professional websites, which was one of my main complaints at the state level in my 2016 post-mortem. Now, let's see if Greens get some more professional candidates next year. (Brandon Parmers need not apply.)

That was just one of my plaints, though.

Although Stein herself is not anti-vaxxer, she did play some political footsie on the issue.

And, although Greens are very willing to "follow the science" on climate change, they generally refuse to do so on GMOs, even though their safety has at least as high a degree of scientific consensus as does the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

Hey, I'm OK with questioning (with factual knowledge) business matters of Big Ag. And food safety. But, again, with facts. (Oh, on the financial side, Monsanto of GMO "infamy" has, and has had, a smaller market capitalization than Starbucks. Just saying.)

That said, in a closed Facebook Green Party-affiliated group? I can't quote, or name names, but, my ethics will let me make several observations. Neither anti-vaxxerism nor anti-GMOism have been huge. But, I've blocked multiple 9/11 Truthers. Several of them believed in other conspiracy theories, most notably the chemtrails of Chemtrails Bob Fitrakis.

Like Mark Lause, who had a great post in North Star late last year that I blogged about in detail, if the Green Party has reached the end of its tether, it then has done so.

To riff on Brains, I seriously considered voting Socialist Party USA's presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik last year. He was available by write-in here in Texas. Unfortunately the "reveal" about Stein having Big Oil stocks and Big Military stocks, just like Ralph Nader, came after I had early voted.

BUT ... Soltysik has said that the SPUSA will look at its platform. On GMOs, it's currently where the Greens are, but he supposedly wants to move it in a more science-friendly direction.

If that happens before 2020, especially if Greens don't up their game nationally, and get some of the state parties, like Fitrakis' Ohio, to stop being private fiefdoms, etc., then that's my tipping point and I move on.

If SPUSA does NOT improve, and keeps a platform that I noted was worse in some ways than Greens, and Greens slouch further toward Gomorrah, than at least a selective non-voting is also possible.