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.

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.

Trump administration out to cut contraception

It seems that Trump officials in Health and Human Services lie as much as he does (via here):

Secretary Tom Price, who has claimed that “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control on her own (despite the high up-front cost of the most reliable contraceptives).

She (Teresa Manning) insists that contraception is ineffective, despite evidence that hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

She (Charmaine Yoest) asserts that condoms (whose use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by at least 70%) do not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Yoest also claims contraception does not reduce the number of abortions and says that to accept this argument “would be, frankly, carrying water for the other side to allow them to redefine the issue in that way.”

Yoest and Manning are joined by Katy Talento, who has been named to the Domestic Policy Council, in claiming that the most effective types of contraceptives cause infertility and miscarriages. Talento has published some particularly outlandish articles on this topic, mis-citing a 2012 study whose author disavowed her description of his work in asserting that contraceptives are “breaking your uterus.”

Even worse, Yoest continues to cite long-discredited studies that used retrospective reporting to support her assertion that abortion causes breast cancer, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from properly constructed prospective studies. … Nor, as she has claimed, does abortion cause mental illness; in fact, a long-term study that compared women who were denied abortions with those who were able to obtain them revealed that it is being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term that is associated with near-term adverse psychological outcomes.

Perhaps the most insidious and politically potent assertion by these appointees is that common forms of contraception are actually abortifacients.

Hormonal contraceptives work primarily by preventing ovulation and thereby preventing fertilization. Even in cases in which they affect the endometrium, studies more recent than those used for the initial Food and Drug Administration–approved labeling have shown they do not interrupt an established pregnancy.

These people are against contraception but they know that a large majority of Americans support the use of contraception:

More than nine-in-ten adults think using birth control is either morally acceptable (36%) or not a moral issue at all (57%); just 4% say using contraception is morally wrong.

so they try to bend the definition of contraception to claim it’s abortion. It’s not and they’re lying to try to get rid of contraception.

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.

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