Brexit and the Ides of March

Nothing much changed except Ides of March now looms before April Fools Day.

Everything has continued to develope along the lines explained in that article.

Most likely outcome seems to be an overwhelming Parliamentary vote endorsing the only “deal” available, subject to a referendum with the option to reject the only deal and consequently remain in the EU. The EU will certainly agree to an extension of the deadline to allow the referendum to resolve the issue.

That is clearly what the Government has openly been aiming for, with only a pointless token pretense of some third option resulting from imaginary further negotiations with the EU or a widely believed but completely ludicrous imaginary threat to leave with no deal by April Fool’s Day.

Parliament has spelled out that no deal is not an option and could enforce that if necessary. The government would not refuse assent by the Crown even if it voted against such legislation. I doubt that such legislation will be necessary as the ritualistic threats of no deal are basically over already.

The Government has spelled out that the only other options are the current deal agreed with the EU or cancelling Brexit.

The hard core Brexiteers were always a minority and are now totally isolated. They lied about what the options were in the previous referendum and they, along with everybody else, have now been clearly told what the actual options are. Whatever they do there will be little damage done by their “outrage”.

Given the alternative of becoming a vassal state of the EU and nobody seriously supporting that, lots of people who previously voted for Brexit can be expected to just stay home muttering rather than turn up at the referendum to vote against remaining. The remainers can be expected to turn up in larger numbers and are already a majority in polls.

If unexpectedly the vassal state option wins there will be no great damage done. Just further humiliation for the Brexiteers eventually ending up either rejoining an EU that has meanwhile benefited from the absence of a British veto on deepening the union or agreeing on some less humiliating BRINO more like Norway (and rejoining free movement of labor).

Other alternatives still possible, but I don’t see any reason for a successful no confidence vote in Parliament that could result in an early election.

Theresa May has won and both Corbyn and the Tory Brexiteers have lost.

Twilight Zone Trump

Politics today frequently makes me think I’m in the Twilight Zone. The words were made famous by a television anthology series that I loved in the 1960s and continue to re-watch today (on DVD). It dealt with bizarre and fantastic themes, often in a social realist setting and with a twist at the end.

Rod Serling, the show’s creator and main writer, was a small ‘l’ liberal. He was progressive on some key issues in the 1950s and 1960s, such as civil liberties and opposition to racism, and opposition to the US war in Vietnam. I’ve read a few biographies about him and he was an internationalist, cosmopolitan, opponent of tyrants and supporter of basic democracy: all values that Trump opposes. Serling would be in the globalist camp today.

This meme is too good not to share…

Serling on Trump meme

 

Constitutional Ignorance and Criminal Policies towards refugees

With the general collapse of mainstream politics it is not surprising that both politicans and journalists are completely ignorant of current constitutional arrangements.

But we have now got to the point where Constitutional lawyers are also clueless.

Here is one arguing that the Government would be “mad” not to allow enactment of the “medevac” legislation approved by both Houses of Parliament.

https://theconversation.com/why-a-government-would-be-mad-to-advise-the-refusal-of-royal-assent-to-a-bill-passed-against-its-will-110501

The use of “mad” of course signals a political rather than a legal constitutional argument, which is quite normal for constitutional lawyers. The blather about a dilemma for the Governor-General as to whether to act on the advice of the two Houses or of the Government can also be dismissed as just the usual pomposous embroidery that constitutional lawyers like to dress up in rather than an expression of fundamental ignorance.

But here is the ignorance:

There is a reason why there is no precedent of a government in the UK or Australia advising the refusal of assent in such circumstances. It would not only be a constitutionally dubious thing to do, but would also be politically stupid.

Actually there is a precedent in Australia. I do not have time to look it up but a Government bill that had passed both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament was subsequently refused assent simply because the Government had changed its mind.

The whole point of the consent of the Executive Government being required for legislation has little to do with anachronistic survivals of monarchy. In a crowned republic or “constitutional monarchy”, just as in any other form of government, enacting laws opposed by the executive responsible for enforcing them only invites trouble.

The reason there are few precedents is simply that the anachronistic single member electorates produces a two party system in which the largest party usually has a guaranteed majority. With a genuinely representative legislature it would be quite normal for governments to be faced with bills passing that they have to decide whether to enact or not and face the consequences of their decisions, including the possibility of ceasing to be the government.

The actual “constitutional” situation is that the government made a political decision to enact this legislation.

Both parties agree on a policy of destroying the boats that refugees arrive in to increase the cost of transport so as to insulate an island continent from the large refugee flows faced by much poorer countries with land borders such as Pakistan and Iran. This naturally resulted in use of cheap unseaworthy boats, which resulted in deaths at sea. Both parties want to pretend that they are locking people up outside Australia to prevent deaths at sea caused by the criminal policies they actually both support.

But they both need to keep up the “debate” between them and keep that debate away from the criminal policy of destroying the boats that people flee in.

Notes on Trump 41 – the shutdown

I’m still not following it closely enough to predict an outcome. But I’m not seeing anything that suggests I was wrong to expect the media and Democrats would continue to play into Trump’s hands as usual.

Here’s CNN celebrating:

“…Trump ultimately caved, telling Pelosi he will wait until the shutdown is over to deliver the traditional address.

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/24/politics/donald-trump-state-of-the-union-behind-the-scenes/index.html

That is the sort of “victory” that liberals celebrate.

The shutdown is not going to end with a two-thirds majority overiding a Presidential veto or replacing Trump with Vice President Pence.

Trump’s total focus on mobilizing his base regardless of wider unpopularity has paid off.

https://thebulwark.com/trumps-loyal-senate-republicans/

Only a handful of GOP Senators feel safe enough from being primaried to openly resist. Opponents of Trump simultaneously crowing and whining that this is costing them wider public support just don’t get it. Trump still has nearly 90% approval among GOP voters likely to turn up at primaries so few of his opponents will get to campaign for wider public support. Meanwhile he still has nearly two more years for the Democrats to demonstrate that Washington will remain completely gridlocked until there are less of them in office.

According to a WAPO oped the recent Senate votes confirming that situation means that Trump has lost a lot of leverage.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/24/trump-just-lost-key-leverage-shutdown/

I cannot even guess why a Democrat would believe confirmation of Trump’s grip on the GOP gives them “leverage”. Presumably if they actually got a funding bill to Trump’s desk for him to veto that would count as total victory.

The shutdown might end with Trump losing in which case they are celebrating having given him the optimum opportunity to pretend otherwise as usual.

It might end with the Democrats losing. They could not resist denouncing the offer of only a 3 year delay in deporting millions of “illegal” immigrants in terms that open up the possibility of agreeing to billions for border security as long as it isn’t called a wall in exchange for Trump ceasing to pretend he could deport millions of people. Even I doubt that they are that pathetically inept but they will certainly go for “strong” gestures like not inviting Trump to speak in the House rather than actually resolving their internal differences and mobilizing a fight on immigration.

Most likely it will end with some sort of compromise, with both sides claiming victory. Again, they are celebrating having helped Trump to present himself optimally as having stuck by his base to the bitter end.

Trump’s approval rating among likely voters has declined significantly (currently at around 44% to 55%). But he has the initiative and can land it in the courts any time he wants. His preposterous claim that he could divert funds appropriated to the military for disaster relief into building his wall would be immediately blocked by court orders. Whether or not the Supreme Court agrees there is no reason for them not to take their time about it.

Meanwhile Trump gets to continue fighting elections on “build the wall” while Democrats cement their enthusiasm for gestures and gridlock.

I’m still expecting the Democrats to start embracing “victories” by delivering bipartisan huge deficits, infrastructure programs and healthcare etc that will help maximize Trump’s chances of re-election. Nothing confirming that yet but gestures like not inviting him to speak are a suitable prelude for “forcing” him into such “defeats”.

 

 

Notes on Trump 40

I started this post a month ago and have not been monitoring news on Trump (or Brexit) much since so had better get it out now with just a bunch of links at the end but no explanation of them.

1. Recent developments seem to confirm my take on Brexit a month ago:

Brexit April Fool’s day joke could be nearly over

Ministers now openly confirming they will have to request a postponement until after April Fool’s Day to sort themselves out whatever happens now:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-theresa-may-deal-article-50-extend-parliament-commons-eu-withdrawal-a8723281.html

I’m not following the death throes, but May seems focussed on defanging the Brexiteers screams of “Treason” when Brexit fails by setting up a situation in which they take the blame for voting “No Deal” to the only deal available thus making “No Brexit” inevitable after initial postponement.

2. As predicted when focus was on campaign finance, the campaign about Trump is now back where Trump wants it – firmly focussed on Russia:

Insane version:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/here-are-18-reasons-why-trump-could-be-a-russian-asset/2019/01/13/45b1b250-174f-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.6a08d7dee4b4

Less insane version (“we already knew”):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-putin-revelations-are-nothing-new-why-are-people-so-excited/2019/01/13/a3ab6434-1775-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.b815ec58de7b

The less insane one sort of prepares readers for a Mueller report expected to not provide any way to get rid of Trump while not preventing them from continuing to bloviate about him being a Russian “asset” instead of developing actual policies.

I haven’t followed the latest “shutdown”. Trump approval currently down to 45% after near 50% late last year. Seems plausible that he will end it with a “State of Emergency” to be quashed by Supreme Court so he consolidates his base by having done everything he could to deliver on promises but was stopped by Democrats.

Meanwhile Democrats have gone out of their way not to actually fight on immigration issues but support border security. So support for “the wall” (now actually a fence) has RISEN from a year ago:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-gop-blamed-shutdown-crisis-fewer-oppose-wall/story?id=60337670

Now the minority support is 42%/54% while a year ago it was 34%/67%.

So Trump takes the blame for fighting hard for his promises while winning greater support for his policies.

Not much sign of “bipartisan” moves to help relect Trump by delivering on infrastructure spending, healthcare and massive deficits yet.

But this item on prison reform actually delivered is a straw in the wind – especially relevant to reducing the black turnout for Democrats:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/19/trumps-prison-reform-win-great-trump-paradox-it-reveals/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bcf87f0d94d8

3. I don’t know what’s going on with Syria policy.

Kurds and Turks clashing in northern Syria indicates increasing irrelevance of both Daesh and Assad regime, despite Daesh still existing and regime still holding ALL the cities.

Turkey seems to be stepping forward as the protector of Sunnis with a US withdrawal and Russian military police in areas that fighters withdrew from under cease fire agreements potentially able to hand over to them.

Al Qaeda is now the main threat to democratic revolution and has strengthened its position in Idlib embedded in close alliance with other Sunni forces, although now isolated from the opposition to regime in other areas. Interesting that Turkish tanks are being openly moved to the border of Idlib:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkey-reinforces-troops-on-border-with-syrias-idlib-anadolu-idUSKCN1P51MU

Some deal was arranged between Russia, Iran, Turkey and the more democratic resistance long ago, but I only know it could not be for long term occupation of Syria by Russian and Iranian forces and the other option of an Alawi enclave in Latakia has been foreclosed by the regime’s occupation of all cities. Media claims victory for Assad (and Russia and Iran). They are clearly wrong but I don’t know what is happening or when.

For an opposite view, here’s “Voice of America”:

https://www.voanews.com/a/arab-nations-inch-toward-rehabilitating-syria-president-assad/4741186.html

Meanwhile Trump’s focus is clearly domestic and his withdrawal announcement will be popular with the overwhelming isolationist sentiment in both his base and the Democrat base while the denunciations for “playing into Russian and Iranian hands” will only reinforce isolationist sentiment among Americans who might support democratic revolution but are rightly unenthused about maintaining imperial boundaries against other powers. As long as there are few US casualties it won’t matter much domestically whether the announced withdrawal actually happens or whether covert and air operations continue. Isolationist sentiment will still be strengthened and Trump will still benefit from the announcement. As for the impact in Syria, the Turks are far more important and the Kurds would be well advised to pull back and not turn towards the regime.

4. Now here’s what I started a month ago:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/byron-york-sudden-shift-in-get-trump-talk-now-its-campaign-finance-not-russia

This summary of current Democrat theme looks about right to me. Only missing a couple of points.

1. They won’t drop Russia and are starting to convince themselves that Trump’s lawyer thinking about bribing Putin with an apartment at a hoped for Trump tower in Moscow could at last be proof the Kremlin has something on him that explains how they lost the election.

2. Trump benefits from Democrats impeaching him and splitting about such idiotic tactics.

But it does confirm they are headed straight for it, even on something as utterly pointless as trying to convince more than a third of GOP Senators to remove him from office (and later get removed themselves by GOP primaries), for using his own money to pay off people he had sex with not to talk about it during his campaign.

Sudden shift in get-Trump talk; now it’s campaign finance, not Russia

by Byron York

December 10, 2018 03:48 PM

Prosecutors investigating President Trump made big news Friday, but it wasn’t about Russia. Rather, in their sentencing recommendation for fixer Michael Cohen, lawyers with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote that in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump directed Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who wanted money to keep quiet about sexual dalliances. While such arrangements are legal, prosecutors argued that since the payoffs occurred during the campaign, they were violations of campaign finance laws.

Cohen, who is cooperating because prosecutors nailed him for tax evasion and bank fraud in his private business, pleaded guilty to two felony campaign finance violations. So no one has to talk about an “alleged” campaign finance scheme; there’s already a guilty plea. But what was really significant about the sentencing memo was that prosecutors specifically said Trump told Cohen to do it.

“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” prosecutors said. “He acted in coordination with and at the direction of [Trump].”

Those words caused a sudden shift in the debate over investigating the president. What had been a two-year-long conversation about Trump and Russia instantly became a conversation about Trump and campaign finance.
“Prosecutors are now implicating the president in at least two felonies,” said CNN.

“Federal prosecutors in New York say that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to commit two felonies,” said NBC’s Chuck Todd.

“At least two felonies,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy.

“Implicated in two felonies,” said anti-Trump gadfly George Conway, husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
And so on.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him,” said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee next month, “that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who will chair the House Judiciary Committee, said the campaign finance charges “would be impeachable offenses because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.” Nadler said he has still not determined whether the charges, even thoughthey could be the basis for impeachment, are important enough to actually go forward, at least yet.
Nadler’s public caution is understandable; his committee will have the responsibility of starting the impeachment process, if that is what Democratic leaders decide. But the fact is, a number of Democrats clearly believe they already have enough evidence to impeach.

One significant problem could be that the campaign finance charge against the president is a pretty iffy case. Back in 2010, the Justice Department accused 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards of a similar scheme — an alleged campaign finance violation based on a payoff to a woman with whom Edwards had had an affair (and a child).
Edwards said he arranged the payment to save his reputation and hide the affair from his wife. The Justice Department said it was to influence the outcome of a presidential election.

The New York Times called the Edwards indictment “a case that had no precedent.” Noting that campaign finance law is “ever changing,” the paper said the Edwards case came down to one question: “Were the donations for the sole purpose of influencing the campaign or merely one purpose?”

The Justice Department failed miserably at trial. Edwards was acquitted on one count, while the jury deadlocked in Edwards’ favor on the others. Prosecutors opted not to try again.

President Trump would point out that the accusation against him differs in at least one key respect from Edwards. Prosecutors accused Edwards of raising donor money to pay off the woman. Trump used his own money, which even the byzantine and restrictive campaign finance laws give candidates a lot of freedom to use in unlimited amounts.
So even more than Edwards, if the Justice Department pursued a case against Trump, it would be on unprecedented grounds.
But the political reality is, it doesn’t really matter if it is a weak case. And it doesn’t matter if Trump himself has not been indicted, or even that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Because now, Democrats can say, “The Justice Department has implicated the president in two felonies. Two felonies. TWO FELONIES!”

Politically, that’s as good as an indictment of Trump. Perhaps even better, since it does not give the president a forum to make a proper legal defense.

The last few days have seen a big pivot in the campaign against Donald Trump. For two-plus years, it was Russia, Russia, Russia. But despite various revelations in the Russia probe, the case for collusion remains as sketchy as ever. Now, though, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have given Democrats a new weapon against the president. Look for them to use it.

A subsequent item indicates there is more solid grounds for eventually convicting Trump of a campaign finance violation than the Edwards case:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/trumps-john-edwards-defense-further-dissipates

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/06/how-trumps-approval-rating-has-evolved-according-data-scientist-donald-trump/

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/trump-s-tariffs-could-clinch-electoral-college

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/huawei-arrest-gives-u-s-leverage-over-china-on-technology

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/07/latest-filings-show-that-nobody-can-save-trump-now/?utm_term=.2bf06befaf27

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/08/donald-trump-denies-wrongdoing-amid-accusations-prosecutors-mueller/2249001002/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/07/michael-cohen-sentencing-memo-key-takeaways/2243428002/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/08/donald-trump-mueller-investigation-cohen-manafort

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/08/donald-trump-mueller-investigation-cohen-manafort

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/08/europe/russia-putin-trump-bromance-intl/index.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/07/opinions/mueller-is-putting-the-puzzle-pieces-together-on-trump-honig/index.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/07/opinions/mueller-is-putting-the-puzzle-pieces-together-on-trump-honig/index.html

https://www.newyorker.com/news/swamp-chronicles/the-michael-cohen-sentencing-memos-are-damning-for-trump

https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/trump-s-tweeting-veers-into-suspected-witness-tampering-territory-20181204-p50jzk.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/08/george-conway-blasts-trumps-claim-that-cohen-filing-totally-clears-president/?utm_term=.71abf94e1d8e

Reminder of the spirit

Here’s something from my old files, from 1972, when Fergus Robinson and Brian Pola and I were imprisoned at Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne for contempt of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

I love the spirit in which my father, Loreto, wrote it – and the fact that he wrote it at all.

 

loreto york letter to vice chancellor myers, published in vanguard 13 july 1972