Let’s vote blindly

You might remember that old Republican talking point where Representative Pelosi says the other reps will have to vote on the ACA to see what’s in it. This is wrong (she was saying that there was so much disinformation around that the public wouldn’t really know what it did until it was passed into law), but now look what Republicans are doing:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled the initial vote on beginning debate for Tuesday, though it remained unclear exactly which version of the legislation would be in play.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic, McConnell expects Republicans to vote to open up debate on some bill even though they don’t know which bill. They will literally have to vote to see which bill they’re going to debate.

Update: And the Republicans voted to debate some bill, any bill, to give the rich huge tax cuts.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I went to the Gardner Museum, so here are some pictures:

It’s an impressive little house in the Fenway. The building is also nice but they’re fixing it up right now so you can mostly only see construction.

The laws of math

Australia is considering a law that will make it mandatory for all device manufacturers to assist police with decrypting messages sent through their device. This post isn’t about that but about the response by the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcom Turnbull, when he was told that that might be mathematically impossible without also allowing many others access (since it would mean the encryption would have to be weaker):

“The laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that,” he said on Friday. “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.”

I wonder if he has the same thoughts about gravity?

Republican tax cuts

Hey, it seems that Donald Trump’s tax ‘proposal’ (basically one page of notes) has been analyzed. Take a look:

A new analysis by the Tax Policy Center finds that the tax cuts included in the Trump administration’s outline for tax reform released in April could cut federal revenues by as much as $7.8 trillion over 10 years, and that the benefits would go almost exclusively to the top 5 percent of earners.

Even if the plan included some very large tax hikes to offset the cuts (like doing away with personal exemptions and other common deductions) and taking into account effect on economic growth, the cost still comes to $3.4 trillion over 10 years.

The revenue raisers also serve to make Trump’s plan even more regressive. If you just look at the tax cuts he’s proposing, 60.9 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent of Americans. That’s a pretty astonishing tilt toward the rich. But if you look at the combined effects of the cuts and the revenue raisers, 76.3 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent, and 94.8 percent go to the top 5 percent.

Trump’s proposal gives the vast majority of the tax cuts to the rich and blows a hole in the budget? I’m stunned. Or the opposite of that.

Into the mist

Donald Trump campaigned about ‘draining the swamp’, how does his administration function?

President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations.

But the effort — a signature theme in Trump’s populist campaign — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts.

Most agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But The New York Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records, and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the law, members of the Trump administration can seek ethics waivers to work on issues that overlap with their past business careers. They can also formally recuse themselves when potential conflicts arise.

In many cases, the administration has refused to say if appointees to Trump’s deregulation teams have done either.

It’s part of the Republican ethos that government is bad, but everything in the story is typical of private business. It’s government that is open, it’s government that’s accountable, it’s government where a conflict of interest is bad. And none of it is true for private businesses, they’re accountable for profit and that’s it. The Trump administration is run like his business and what we’re finding out is that that’s bad government.

Donald Trump Jr. seems to tweet evidence that he committed a crime

The NY Times was ready to publish emails from Donald Jr, so he put them out himself and it’s not pretty (I reversed the order so they are in order they were sent):

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government‘s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best
Rob Goldstone

Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?

Best,
Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that l schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?

i assume it would be at your office.

Best
Rob Goldstone

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D

Perfect… I won’t sit in on the meeting, but will bring them at 3pm and introduce you etc.

I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when l have them later today.

Best
Rob

Great.  It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.

Now let’s look at the law on campaign finance at Election Law Blog:

It is illegal for a person to solicit a contribution to a campaign from a foreign individual or entity.

Hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation. Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it. As I explained earlier, such information can be considered a “thing of value” for purposes of the campaign finance law.

And it’s not just Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort also went to the meeting.

How stupid are these people? I wonder how much money they sent to those nice Nigerians?

Hobby Lobby only wants others to follow its religious views

You remember Hobby Lobby, it’s the corporation that was so upset that the ACA forced them to sell insurance that paid for contraception that they took it to the Supreme Court. They claimed, and the Supreme Court agreed, that a corporation could have religious views and couldn’t be forced to do something that went against its religion. It seems they don’t exactly practice what they preach:

Prosecutors said in the complaint that Hobby Lobby, whose evangelical Christian owners have long maintained an interest in the biblical Middle East, began in 2009 to assemble a collection of cultural artifacts from the Fertile Crescent. The company went so far as to send its president and an antiquities consultant to the United Arab Emirates to inspect a large number of rare cuneiform tablets — traditional clay slabs with wedge-shaped writing that originated in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.

Hobby Lobby’s purchase of the artifacts in December 2010 was fraught with “red flags,” according to the prosecutors. Not only did the company get conflicting information about the origin of the pieces, its representatives never met or spoke with the dealer who supposedly owned them, according to the complaint.

Instead, on the instructions of a second dealer, Hobby Lobby wired payments to seven separate personal bank accounts, the prosecutors said. The first dealer then shipped the items marked as clay or ceramic tiles to three Hobby Lobby sites in Oklahoma. All the packages had labels falsely identifying their country of origin as Turkey, prosecutors said.

So, they lied to the government so they could have the antiques smuggled out of Iraq where they may have been looted. Last I checked, Christians considered lying bad but I guess it’s ok for the owners not to follow their religious precepts.

There’s more here.

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