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?

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.

Chutzpah

There are two quotations in this story about Trump’s voting commission that pretty much define chutzpah:

‘‘Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?,’’ Trump said in a tweet Saturday.

This from a man who refused to release his tax returns as Presidents have for the past 40 plus years. What does he have to hide?

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted the decision by some governors and secretaries of state not to comply.

‘‘I think that that’s mostly about a political stunt,’’ she told reporters at a White House briefing Friday

Given that there is no evidence of the type of in person voter fraud that this commission has been charged with investigating, it’s obvious that the whole thing is a political stunt.

And Trump who tweets about ‘Fake News’ lies more than any person I’ve ever known.

Really, Trump’s administration lives on chutzpah.

Republicans don’t care about the integrity of the voting booth

The Washington Post has a major article on Russia’s attempt to influence the election:

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Russians had hacked into multiple political organizations (the DNC and RNC among others), had distributed fake news stories, and had tried breaking in to multiple states’ election systems. Here is the Republican response:

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance. The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday. Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.

Donald Trump, of course, continues to doubt that the Russians were behind anything

But let’s go back to look at Brian Kemp, here’s a story about him:

In the weeks leading up to the 2012 election, Helen Ho, an attorney who has worked to register newly naturalized immigrants to vote in the Southeast, made an alarming discovery. Some new citizens that her group, then known as the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, had tried to register in Georgia were still not on the rolls. Early voting had begun and polling places were challenging and even turning away new citizens seeking to vote for the first time.

After more than a week of seeking answers from the office of Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, which oversees elections, AALAC issued a sharply worded open letter on October 31 demanding that Georgia take immediate action to ensure the new citizens could vote.

Two days later Ho received her response. In a letter, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, offered few specific assurances about the new voters in question and informed Ho that his office was launching an investigation into how AALAC registered these would-be voters. Kemp’s office asked that AALAC turn over certain records of its registration efforts, citing “potential legal concerns surrounding AALAC’s photocopying and public disclosure of voter registration applications.”

The investigation targeted her group not for any voter fraud, per se, but for more technical issues, such as whether canvassers had people’s explicit, written consent to photocopy their registration forms before mailing the originals to the elections office. Kemp’s investigation into AALAC lasted nearly two-and-a-half years. This past March 12th, it ended with no finding of violations.

In 2010—for the first time in the county’s history—the county elected a majority-black school board. This upset victory followed a sudden surge in local black voting that was catalyzed by a group of get-out-the-vote activists.

For weeks after the historic primary, Kemp’s armed investigators, along with officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, went door-to-door in Quitman’s black neighborhoods. Without evidence of actual voter fraud in Quitman, the state’s case against the town’s voting activists came to rely on allegations of less glaring breaches of absentee ballot procedure.

State agents arrested a dozen voting organizers, three of whom had won seats on the county school board. With the charges pending, Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, issued an executive order temporarily removing those women from their posts, reinstating the county’s white-majority school board.

A Quitman resident named Lula Smart faced 32 felony counts that could have carried more than a hundred years in prison, largely for charges of carrying envelopes containing completed absentee ballots to the mailbox for voters. Smart told me that in the first year of the prosecution she contemplated taking her life.

Another Quitman resident, Debra Dennard, faced two felony charges of voter fraud for helping her father fill out his absentee ballot. Her father, David Dennard, is missing both legs and is partially blind. Mr. Dennard says that with his daughter’s assistance he voted for just who he wanted to without any coercion or meddling. “All she did was help me—just as she helps me with almost everything,” the father told me last year. “I knew who I wanted to vote for, and I signed the ballot myself.”

Last September—four years after the election in question—a jury in Quitman cleared Lula Smart on every count against her. This past December, the state dropped all of its remaining charges against the group. A dozen arrests netted not a single conviction or plea deal in Quitman. (One member of the group died in 2012.)

Kemp sure seems to want to make sure there is no voter fraud …. when it might help Democrats. On the other hand, he’s not going to allow a Democrat to investigate possible problems–not because he has a problem with an investigation he just is for local control. Well, unless he wants to overturn the voters’ will in a town.

If it isn’t obvious, Republicans don’t care about voter fraud they care about people voting for Democrats.

That’s why I love this story:

Two members of a presidential commission charged with investigating alleged voter fraud want the panel to focus on what could be the biggest fraudulent scheme of all: attempted Russian hacking of numerous state election systems.

The call, by the secretaries of state in New Hampshire and Maine, presents a potential change in direction for a special commission that has widely been seen as a political smoke screen to justify the president’s unfounded claims about widespread fraud by individual voters in such places as New Hampshire and California.

That’s funny, Trump set up a panel to investigate ‘voter fraud’ because he didn’t like all the stories saying that Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes. Now it very well might be investigating Russian voter fraud that helped him win. Tee hee.

The GOP Tax Cut is here

The Senate GOP has finally released its plan for massive tax cuts for the rich, what they call their healthcare bill. Other places will look at all the details, so I’ll just look at the important bits:

The 400 highest-income taxpayers alone would receive tax cuts worth about $33 billion from 2019 through 2028, which is more than the federal spending cuts from ending the Medicaid expansion in any one of 20 expansion states and the District of Columbia.  In fact, the tax cuts for the top 400 roughly equal the federal cost of maintaining the expansion in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Alaska combined.  (See Figure 1.)  Policymakers face a stark choice: maintain the Medicaid expansion coverage for 726,000 people in these four states, or advance the pending legislation and cut taxes by millions of dollars a year for 400 households whose annual incomes average more than $300 million apiece.

I left that last bit in just for laughs–the choice for Republicans is clear: tax cuts for the ultra rich.

Households with incomes above $1 million a year would get annual tax cuts averaging more than $50,000 apiece

Meanwhile, the House-passed bill would spend about $700 billion from 2019 through 2028 on tax cuts mainly for high-income people and wealthy corporations from repealing the ACA taxes that fall on them, we estimate based on Joint Committee on Taxation data.

Now if you cut taxes by $700 billion you’re going to have to cut benefits by about the same amount. Since Republicans are back in power they no longer care about the deficit but Reconciliation rules (this bill is going through the Senate using this) means it can’t increase the deficit by much.

So, remember that this is what Republicans are for: cutting benefits to millions of who are poor or middle-class to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich and especially the ultra-rich.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: