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.

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.

Republican tax-cut bill has no transparency

It seems Republicans don’t want anyone to know about their healthcare proposal:

This has become more evident each day, as the Senate plots out a secretive path toward Obamacare repeal — and top White House officials (including the president) consistently lie about what the House bill actually does.

There was even a brief moment Tuesday where Senate Republicans flirted with the idea of banning on-camera interviews in congressional hallways, a plan quickly reversed after outcry from the press.

Republicans decried the secrecy of the ACA but:

“There were hundreds of hearings and markups that lasted days — or in the case of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, months,” Rovner recalls in her piece.

Senators wanted to talk about the Affordable Care Act and why they believed they needed to pass it. They gave floor speech and after floor speech defending its provisions. Patients had months to lobby their legislators on particular issues that they thought were important. A few months ago I interviewed one woman, for example, who successfully lobbied former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) to add a ban on lifetime limits in health insurance.

I remember Christmas Eve 2009 in particular, when I lived in New York and my roommate’s family came to visit for the holiday. They opened presents in our living room. I was holed up in my bedroom watching the Senate vote on the ACA, the culmination of a 25-day floor debate.

They really don’t want any time for the public to complain:

There are some factors that could slow down the Senate. In comparison to the House, the Senate is barred from voting on a bill before a cost and impact estimate is released from the nonpartisan CBO.

But if the Senate is to really vote before they leave town for a week on June 30th, a goal that many Republicans hope is still achievable, that leaves little time for the public to see legislation. A CBO score takes 10 to 14 days to produce. There are only 17 days left before the end of the month.

The approach is broadly similar to the process that produced the American Health Care Act in the House last month. At the time, leaders released a finished bill and voted on it within 24 hours — so fast that the Congressional Budget Office couldn’t estimate its cost and effects for another three weeks. The move was a jarring shift after years of promises from House GOP leaders to slow down major legislation and post all bills online several days before a vote.

That last bit is obviously ironic as Republicans never seem to have a problem breaking promises or norms.

Some Republicans are complaining about the secrecy:

“I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. “The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.”

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

“I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

Mr. Paul said he had no plans to bring out the copy machine again, but he suggested that the Senate’s current course left something to be desired. “My preference would be a more open process in committees,” he said, “with hearings and people on both sides.”

but they obviously don’t really mean it. After all there are at least three Senate Republicans saying they would like the bill to be more open and yet it’s not open. Since there are 52 Republicans in the Senate and all Democrats are opposed to the bill, three Republicans could kill the bill. This gives them a lot of power and yet, somehow, they’re not using it to make the process more open. That tells you they don’t really care. Just like Republicans don’t care if millions of Americans lose their health insurance.

Fuck violence

A Congressman along with three others was shot today:

A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover. The assailant, prepared with ‘‘a lot of ammo,’’ fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.

The only type of thing this type of violence is good for is creating more violence. Violence can come from any political faction and in all cases is both unacceptable and stupid.

And there’s much too much of it:

A UPS employee opened fire at a San Francisco package delivery facility on Wednesday, killing three employees and then himself as officers closed in, police said.

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