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Paying Child support But Not His Kid, Running Over Protesters, Ending Income Tax Deduction – Double Taxation, SNOPES in the News, Kushner’s Memory, Foreign-born recruits promised citizenship by the Pentagon flee the country to avoid deportation, Reality Check-Can Scotland and Wales block the repeal bill, Saudi Arabia investigates video of woman in miniskirt, Is Russia the Cylons and is the West the 12 Colonies and Battlestar Galactica?, More
GUEST: OPEN FORUM
Welcome to Thinkwing Radio with Mike Honig (@ThinkwingRadio), a listener call-in show airing live every Monday night from 9-10 PM (CT) on KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston). My engineer is Bob Gartner.
Listen live on the radio or on the internet from anywhere in the world! When the show is live, we take calls at 713-526-5738. (Long distance charges may apply.)
For the purposes of this show, I operate on two mottoes:
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts;
- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
“All empires fall, eventually. But why? It’s not for lack of power. In fact, it seems to be the opposite. Their power lulls them into comfort. They become undisciplined. Those who had to earn power are replaced by those who have known nothing else. Who have no comprehension of the need to rise above base desires.” ~ Max Barry, from his book “Lexicon”(page 311, Penguin, 2014 – Fiction – 390 pages)
- Texas bill would ease liability for running over protesters – Bill’s sponsor says many people are misinterpreting his proposal, By Paul Cobler, [Houston Chronicle] Updated 5:18 pm, Saturday, July 22, 2017
- AUSTIN — [Representative Pat Fallon] (R-Frisco), on Thursday filed House Bill 250, which would make the operator of a motor vehicle not liable if they injure a protester in the road while exercising due care. Similar legislation has been proposed in several other states as well.
- The bill created a mini-storm on social media, with some people criticizing the bill and others saying protesters put their own lives at risk when they unlawfully stand in traffic.
- Fallon said he thinks people are misinterpreting the bill.
- … Fallon said. “The bill is not saying if somebody goes and protests you can just run them over. What we’re trying to say, is if someone is lawfully operating a vehicle and being careful and you decide to protest and leap out in front of the road, how could the driver possibly be held liable?”
- …Fallon’s bill is highly unlikely to get a vote.
- “We never file a bill that we wouldn’t want to eventually become a law,” Fallon said. “Any bill that’s filed is an uphill battle, and that’s just a part of the legislative process.”
- [The real issue here is double taxation: Should you pay taxes on money you’re paying in taxes? – Mike] Republicans embrace tax hike targeting Democratic states, By Stephen Ohlemacher [WASHINGTON POST/ AP] July 22
- WASHINGTON — Republicans aren’t usually big on raising taxes, but they’re really eager to eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes.
- Why? A look at the states that benefit the most from the tax break helps explain it — they are all Democratic strongholds. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California top the list of states where taxpayers get the biggest deductions. Not a single Republican-leaning state ranks in the top 10.
- … said Martin Sullivan, chief economist for Tax Analysts. “It provides massively disproportionate deductions to high-tax states controlled by Democrats.”
- … they are getting a lot of pushback from Republican lawmakers in Democratic-controlled states.
- …Nationally, the average deduction is about $11,800, but it is much bigger in many blue states. New York is tops with an average deduction of more than $21,000. Connecticut is next at $18,900, followed by New Jersey at $17,200 and California at $17,100.
- These are states with high property values, high costs of living, high incomes and relatively high state and local taxes compared to other states. They are also states President Donald Trump lost in last year’s election.
- …The deduction allows taxpayers to write off real estate taxes, and state and local income taxes. If your state doesn’t have an income tax, you can deduct sales taxes. The deduction is heavily weighted to families with high incomes. Seventy-five percent of the benefits went to families making more than $100,000.
- Kevin Brady, R-Texas, says eliminating a tax break that helps some people will help lawmakers lower tax rates for everyone.
- “We’re proposing a much simpler code with lower rates where everyone gets help whether they are paying their state and local taxes or they are putting their kids in college,” said Brady, who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
- Eliminating the tax break would raise $1.3 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, money that could be used to help pay for lower income tax rates.
- The House Republican plan would eliminate most itemized deductions while nearly doubling the standard deduction, to $24,000 for married couples. Notably, the plan would keep the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
- The White House and congressional Republicans have been privately negotiating their tax package for weeks, with no public sign that they’re near a consensus. Democrats have been excluded from the talks.
- Some Republicans claim the deduction for state and local taxes encourages states to spend and tax more because the taxes can be deducted at the federal level. Some also complain that the deduction forces low-tax Republican states to subsidize high taxes in Democratic states.
- … many blue-state Republicans don’t buy those arguments. They note that most high-cost blue states send more tax dollars to Washington than they receive in federal benefits. And who benefits from those tax dollars? Low-cost red states where incomes are generally lower.
- “If we’re going to have a discussion about who is subsidizing whom, it must be across the board. It can’t be just one provision,” said Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.
- Lance is teaming up with Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-N.J., in an effort to maintain the tax break.
- “In New Jersey, (the deduction) encourages very strong public schools,” Lance said. “I want to maintain strong public schools. For there to be strong public schools, there has to be adequate spending.”
- “I know the White House is committed to bringing taxes down for everybody,” MacArthur said. “But people in high-tax states under the plan they’re proposing would basically be at a break-even while everyone else in the county enjoys tax relief. That’s not fair.”
4. At a time when debunking “fake news” has become more important than ever, Snopes Faces an Ugly Legal Battle – The internet’s favorite fact-checkers are caught in a messy dispute. by Alexis C. Madrigal [theatlantic.com] 7/24/2017 4:57 PM ET
[Snopes has] been around for more than 20 years—and that’s become a vital part of internet infrastructure in the #fakenews era. The site’s readers have responded. Already, more than $92,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe with a goal of $500,000.
Snopes began in the early 1990s as a small website built by the husband-and-wife team of David and Barbara Mikkelson. … In 2003, the Mikkelsons founded a parent company, Bardav, for the site.
The founders divorced in 2015, … Both founders received 50 percent of the company.
In the summer of that year, Bardav had entered into an agreement with a newish San Diego company called Proper Media to “provide content and website development services as well as advertising sales and trafficking” to Snopes. Proper Media’s principals were Chris Richmond, who had founded a wiki called TV Tropes, and Drew Schoentrup, both now described in court filings as residents of Puerto Rico (more on that shortly). Each of these men had a 40 percent share in the company. They were joined by three other people who had smaller equity stakes: Tyler Dunn, Ryan Miller, and Vincent Green.
In July 2016, Barbara Mikkelson sold her half of Bardav to these five men, leaving her ex-husband with five new partners in the company. Because Bardav was an S corporation, its shareholders had to be people, not other companies. So, the stock purchase agreement between Mikkelson and the men assigned them each equity on the same split that they had in Proper Media.
Diamond Creek Capital financed a big chunk of the deal with help from Barbara Mikkelson herself. Each of the five men in on the deal from the Proper Media side signed personal-liability notes with Diamond Creek Capital.
For a time, it seemed as if the arrangement was working out. The San Diego Union Tribune visited the Proper Media offices, out of which Snopes employees were working. The story featured Vincent Green, a former Marine who’d been an intern only months before, and Brooke Binkowski, the site’s managing editor and a long-time journalist.
…behind the scenes, there was trouble. Proper Media’s CEO and president had moved to Puerto Rico, according to a cross-complaint filed by [Snopes employee Vincent] Green, and corroborated by their own filings. They set up a separate company there, which Green claims was a tax-avoidance scheme that he told them he was uncomfortable with.
… the site’s editors worried that the co-owners didn’t understand what Snopes was, and that they only wanted to juice its revenues, so they could sell it.
On February 18—in a much disputed series of events—Green and Proper Media’s largest shareholders, Richmond and Schoentrup, had a contentious meeting. In the weeks that followed, Green either left or was forced out, and he went to work at Bardav, which is to say Snopes, where he remains.
On March 10, in an action that Proper Media disputes, David Mikkelson canceled the contract that had been in place governing interactions between Bardav and Proper Media. Mikkelson claims that he had a right to do so as CEO and sole director. Proper Media says that he could not because it was understood that Drew Schoentrup was a director of the company as well, even though he had not been elected through a formal process.
Proper Media’s lawyer, Karl Kronenberger, told me that they’ve alleged that “David Mikkelson has engaged in gross financial, technical, and corporate mismanagement.” Mikkelson told me that Proper Media “continue to hold themselves out as authorized advertising representatives. They have continued to collect the revenue and they have not paid us any advertising revenue.”
What does the future hold for Snopes? That could become slightly more clear next Friday, when there is a hearing in San Diego to address competing motions. Mikkelson is seeking an injunction to force Proper Media to hand over control of the site. Meanwhile, Proper Media is seeking to remove Mikkelson as a director of Bardav.
Houston man must pay child support for kid that’s not his, By Fernando Alfonso III, Chron.com / [Houston Chronicle] Updated 10:46 am, Sunday, July 23, 2017
A Houston man is on the hook for $65,000 in child support for a child that’s not his.
Gabriel Cornejo, 45, took a DNA test proving a child his ex-girlfriend had 16 years ago was not his.
The test was too late. In 2003, a child support court in Houston ruled that Cornejo owed his ex-girlfriend child support because, she claims, there was no way he wasn’t the father.
At the crux of why Cornejo must pay up is Texas’ family code, chapter 161, which states, even if you’re not the biological father, you still owe child support that accrued before the DNA test proves you’re not the father, Cornejo’s lawyer Cheryl Coleman told com.
Even If Kushner Can’t Recall His Russia Talks, the FBI Would, By Issie Lapowsky [wired.com] 24.17 04:40 pm
- In his prepared remarks for Congress, Kushner described several interactions he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but also claimed to have no record or recollection of other conversations that have been previously reported by the media.
- Fortunately, investigators don’t need to rely on Kushner’s apparently porous memory about whom he spoke with when, and about what. The Federal Bureau of Investigation likely has it all on tape.
- Listening In: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA for short, permits intelligence agencies to collect the communications of any “agents of a foreign power,” including diplomats. …says William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University Law School and director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.
- That means that while Kushner failed to report many of his meetings with foreign officials on his official SF-86 form—an innocent mistake by his assistant, Kushner insists—Congressional investigators and indeed the Department of Justice’s special counsel Robert Mueller could easily check Kushner’s statements with the FBI’s own intercepts–particularly the two reported 2016 phone calls that Kushner says he does not remember. (The FBI handles FISA collection in the US, which would include the Russian embassy, while the NSA listens in abroad.)
- Playing Telephone – Naveed Jamali, author of the book How to Catch a Russian Spy, became a double agent for the FBI back in 2005, working alongside Russian intelligence and feeding whatever he learned back to the FBI.
- … Even if Kushner believed the meeting wasted his time, the Russians may have found it to be an excellent use of theirs. Kushner’s statements, Jamali says, may not reveal an intent to collude with Russia, but they show a very deep naïveté on the campaign’s part about Russia’s diplomatic intentions. Kushner explains how he asked for Kislyak’s advice about creating a secure communication channel with Russian officials, and sent his assistant to a meeting with the ambassador “to avoid offending” him. He took a meeting with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, Kushner said, because “the Ambassador has been so insistent.” Whether Kushner meant to or not, Jamali says, he gave Russian intelligence agents the impression he was susceptible to their direction.
- “I believe the Russians looked at Jared Kushner and others as a potential, if not current, asset,” Jamali says. “The fact that this kept happening, and he kept engaging, is something the Russians would take as a sign that there’s an interest in building a relationship.”
- Whether that constitutes a criminal act on Kushner’s part is a far more complicated question. In that case, intent does matter. The FBI’s records should be able to corroborate—or refute—the who, what, when, and where of Kushner’s many meetings and phone calls with Russian officials. The trick, though, remains figuring out why he was there in the first place.
Foreign-born recruits, promised citizenship by the Pentagon, flee the country to avoid deportation, By Alex Horton [WASHINGTON POST] July 17, 2017 at 6:30 AM
- …as the Pentagon’s program, designed to leverage medical and language skills of immigrants in exchange for fast-tracked citizenship, was log-jammed with additional security measures for recruits last fall, stressing an already overburdened screening process.
- The program was put on hold in September … sparking fear … across the recruit population that their path to citizenship would abruptly end.
- On June 26, The Post first reported on the Defense Department’s internal recommendations to shutter the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which has naturalized 10,400 troops since 2009, and to cancel the contracts of 1,800 of recruits … who are waiting to train.
- About 1,000 of those recruits have waited so long that they have fallen out of legal immigration status. An internal Defense Department memo obtained by The Post acknowledges that canceling these contracts would expose the recruits to deportation. In response, lawmakers urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to honor the contracts of those recruits.
- The recruits, who have already sworn allegiance to the United States in their oaths of enlistment, could potentially face harsh interrogations or jail time if they are deported to countries such as China or Russia, said Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration.
President Trump Unveils Goals for a New NAFTA Deal With Canada and Mexico, By Josh Boak / AP [TIME.COM] 7/17/2017, 7:31 PM ET
- President Donald Trump vowed Monday to boost U.S. manufacturing by cutting the $64 billion trade deficit with Mexico as he showcased products made in all 50 states — everything from a fire truck to a baseball bat.
- …the president has a conflicted relationship with global trade. His namesake clothing business depended on the work of low-wage workers living overseas, as does the fashion line of his daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump.
- …the U.S. trade representative released an 18-page report about its goals for updating the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In addition to reducing the trade deficit, the administration wants to insert a chapter on the digital economy into the deal. It also wants to strengthen labor and environmental obligations, as well as amending the rules of origin so that more of the products traded come from the United States and North America.
- [Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee] said he wants stronger protections for intellectual property rights as part of an amended agreement with Canada and Mexico.
- When NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the United States ran a small trade surplus in goods with Mexico and a slight deficit with Canada. But the size of the deficits steadily began to increase afterward.
- By last year, the United States ran a $64 billion trade deficit with Mexico and a nearly $11 billion gap with Canada. Neither trade deficit is near its peak level. The trade deficit with Canada hit a high in 2008, while the trade gap with Mexico nearly reached $75 billion in 2007.
Saudi Arabia investigates video of woman in miniskirt, [BBC.COM] 7/17/2017
- The authorities in Saudi Arabia are investigating a young woman who posted a video of herself wearing a miniskirt and crop-top in public.
- The woman, a model called “Khulood”, shared the clip of her walking around a historic fort in Ushayqir.
- The footage sparked a heated debate on social media, with some calling for her arrest for breaking the conservative Muslim country’s strict dress code.
Reality Check: Can Scotland and Wales block the repeal bill?, [BBC.COM] 14 July 2017
- The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, known as the repeal bill, will convert EU laws into UK laws. Some of these will be in areas such as the environment and agriculture, which are normally the responsibility of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones, have described the bill as a “naked power-grab” that undermines devolution. But do they have the power to block it?
- The UK government says it will negotiate with the devolved governments and attempt to seek consensus. Ultimately… the bill could pass even without the agreement of Scotland and Wales, but not without the potential for severe political consequences.
- …Devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland transfers the power to make laws in some policy areas from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly.
- But there are times when the UK Parliament still legislates in these areas. The Sewel Convention states that when it does so, it should normally seek the consent of the devolved legislature.
- …It may just be a convention but it is regarded by many as a key aspect of the devolution settlement and an important part of the UK’s constitution.
Trump voter fraud panel may spark partisan voting rights battle – President Trump’s quest to reign in the millions of supposed illegal voters has hit a snag. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@fantasticmrnate) reports. Buzz60, By Heidi M Przybyla, [USA TODAY] Published 3:08 p.m. ET July 10, 2017 | Updated 3:31 p.m. ET July 10, 2017
- A private document snapped by an alert Associated Press photographer offers clues about where President Trump’s new voter fraud panel may be headed — and it risks a hyper partisan battle over voting rights. The paperwork held by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who heads Trump’s panel, was captured after a November interview at then president-elect Trump’s Bedminster golf course. It appears to propose changes to the U.S. National Voter Registration Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
- The document may soon become public after Kobach was fined two weeks ago by a federal magistrate for “patently misleading representations” about its contents and was ordered to hand it over to the ACLU. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging the committee is failing to adhere to federal transparency rules, part of a flurry of recent legal challenges.
- The document, Kobach’s record of furthering strict voting rules in Kansas — and the fact that the publicly available voter data the commission is using precludes a reliable study — has several U.S. elections scholars interviewed by USA TODAY worried. …The scattered voter registration information available to Trump’s panel is likely to create a misleading report that fuels debates over voter restrictions bubbling in at least 31 states if GOP-led state legislatures and Republican leaders in Congress rely on its work, according to experts.
- If policy changes are recommended based on bad data, it could inflame partisan tensions far more than allegations by Democrats that Trump created the commission simply to produce evidence supporting his claim that millions voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. At least 99 bills to “restrict access to registration and voting” have been introduced, and 35 of them are progressing, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Most are laws requiring photo I.D. but they extend to shortened early voting periods, among other changes.
- “I fully expect wildly exaggerated claims of wrongdoing that feed directly into policy recommendations Secretary Kobach and others have been dying to make for a long time,” said Levitt. “Count me as least surprised when they say ‘hey, we ought to have an amendment to the National Voter Registration Act,” he said.
- Refusals to submit data – Secretaries of state in at least 14 states are outright refusing to provide the more comprehensive data the commission is requesting, including partial voter Social Security numbers, out of privacy and federal government abuse concerns. Mississippi’s Republican secretary of state said his response will be to tell Kobach to “Jump in the Gulf of Mexico.” The deadline for submissions is July 14.
- Without such granular detail, the panel is left with practically meaningless data that inflates the number of “false positives,” or individuals who may be double registered, among other voter roll errors, the experts say.
- “Ironically, the states resisting is actually going to empower the commission to make even wilder claims about fraud and double voting in the system,” said Michael McDonald, a professor who runs the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. “An explosive report will be put out to give cover to Republicans in Congress to move forward. That’s where this is going,” he said.
- “We’re moving election administration into a polarizing mode,” said Charles Stewart, an elections systems scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is part of a voting technology project.
- To be sure, matching voter data can be useful in maintaining voter rolls, but only if it’s done through an exhaustive and highly technical process. Yet the panel made its data request to the states before consulting such outside experts.
- The commission is simply seeking publicly available data to weed out potentially fraudulent registrations while also looking at voter suppression and cyber security, with the ultimate goal being to “recommend best practices to states,” said White House spokesman Marc Lotter.
- “This commission does not have the power to remove anyone from a voter roll,” said Lotter. He also said it will produce a report regardless of whether states comply, without ruling out changes to the NVRA. “They’re going to go where the data leads them,” he said, referring questions about the file to Kobach’s personal office.
- Hans von Spakovsky, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation and one of the panel members, said the goal is to clean up U.S. voting rolls, including removing dead people; to delete non-U.S. citizens who may be registered; and to find people who may be double registered in different states. He also said the panel may recommend changes to the voter registration act.
- “I just don’t see why this is a big deal. I’ve been recommending changes to the NVRA for more than a decade to fix some of the problems in it,” said von Spakovsky. He also agreed the panel can’t be effective without more precise data, including at least partial Social Security numbers to positively I.D. voters. “It’s hard to work without the kind of data the commission is asking for,” he said.
- The U.S. Justice Department could ultimately force states to provide the data, said von Spakovsky, a move civil rights groups worry will have a chilling effect on registration. The Justice Department has said it is reviewing voter registration list maintenance procedures in each state covered by the NVRA and asking states how they plan to remove voters from the rolls.
- Kobach a polarizing figure – According to Brennan, Kobach, who is running for governor next year, is “a key architect behind many of the nation’s anti-voter and anti-immigration policies,” including strict photo ID requirements requiring a birth certificate or passport to register. Since then, one of every seven Kansans who’ve tried to register has been blocked, according to the ACLU.
- The U.S. Appeals Court Judge Jerome Holmes found Kobach had engaged in “mass denial of a fundamental right” by blocking 18,000 motor voter applicants from registering to vote in Kansas.
- Motor voter is the process by which anyone who interacts with the Department of Motor Vehicles has a chance to register. According to Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, changes Kobach may seek would “be devastating” to voting rights, including making voter registration drives nearly impossible since many Americans don’t carry birth certificates or passports on them.
- Panel flags – Experts raise a number of initial concerns, starting with flawed data. “If they proceed down this path, I know what the results of the data analysis are going to be. They’re going to be worthless,” said David Becker, who heads the Center for Election for Election Innovation and Research and has been working with voter files for a decade.
- “There are literally hundreds of thousands of Sean O’Hara’s born in the same year. And many even with the same birth date,” said Becker, who helped found ERIC, a resource used by many states to maintain accurate registration records. “You’re going to have hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of false positives,” he said. The results could also find more double entries for Democrats since they tend to be younger, lower income and hence more transient, said McDonald.
- Concerns extend to a lack of transparency and the panel’s request for voter party affiliation. Finally, many states are already conducting on their own ID’ing efforts, while the real threat to the United States is coming from attempted Russian infiltration of U.S. voting systems.
- There have been numerous reports, including by Ohio’s Republican administration and during the former George W. Bush administration, showing the incidence of voter fraud is statistically insignificant.
- Lotter pointed to the case of a Virginia university student who recently pled guilty to submitting the names of deceased individuals as part of his job with an outside Democratic organization to register as many voters as possible.
- Other flags – The panel is requesting a number of data points from states, including party affiliation. Voter data experts said there is no reason Trump officials would need that information to conduct a simple identity match on voters. “I cannot think of a legitimate use for that information,” said Levitt. “There’s no need for the federal government to know people’s party affiliations,” said Stewart, at MIT.
- Yet, according to McDonald, the most troubling thing may be that Kobach made his request knowing many states couldn’t comply with it. “Even Kobach knew he wouldn’t be able to comply with his own data request. He was well aware states would balk” about handing voters’ private information to the federal government, he said. At least 10 states would have to pass new laws to share the data with the federal government, McDonald said.
- Yet “It allowed him to say, ‘we’re not going to be able to get to the bottom of this because they’re protecting this fraud’ and the next day Trump tweets the same thing,” said McDonald. The effect is simply to undermine voter confidence in the U.S. election system, he said.
How many Americans does it take for Trump to become a strongman?
- As Trump wages war on the media, the echoes of Erdogan grow louder, By Ishaan Tharoor By Ishaan Tharoor [WASHINGTON POST] July 3, 2017 at 1:00 AM
- … President Trump’s relentless war on America’s mainstream media. The … cheesy hashtags and nicknames for his perceived adversaries: There’s “psycho” Joe Scarborough and “low I.Q. crazy” Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC, the “failing” New York Times and The Washington Post (for the record, we’re both doing pretty well in the age of Trump), and Trump’s favorite target, “fake” or “fraud” CNN.
- On Sunday, Trump, … tweeted a childish clip of him wrestling down a person representing CNN.
- At a time when a GOP politician has actually body-slammed a journalist, it wasn’t funny. Brian Stelter, CNN’s media reporter, tweeted a CNN statement saying it was “a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”
- But for Trump, the relentless drumbeat of anger against the press is a clear political tactic, designed to stoke his base and build up a narrative of victimization. The president has complained virtually nonstop …about the supposedly unfair coverage surrounding the White House, casting journalists as the opposition. He has also …fanned the flames of right-wing extremism … and shamelessly spouted numerous falsehoods on both trivial and consequential matters. …
- In the wake of Trump’s Sunday tweet, Richard Haass, the president of the indisputably bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations, likened Trump’s rhetoric to that of a more practiced strongman president. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan]
- … Erdogan withstood a violent coup attempt a year ago, which prompted his government to embark on a vast purge of state institutions and civil society. More than 100 journalists have been thrown into prison or forced into exile. Dozens of media outlets have been closed or taken over by state authorities. Newspapers that were once titans of the establishment have seen their editors criminalized and offices raided.
- .But there are some important similarities to bear in mind. Both Erdogan and Trump channel a kind of majoritarian nationalism anchored in grievance at cosmopolitan elites. And both paint their critics as threats to the nation. Over the weekend, Erdogan labeled a peaceful opposition protest march from Ankara to Istanbul as the work of “terrorist” sympathizers.
- The echoes of Erdogan in Trump’s political style offer an uncomfortable new reality for Americans, suggested Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman.
- “It is that, given enough time, any democratic system is vulnerable to assaults from a determined, dictatorial leader,” wrote Rachman earlier this year. “Mr. Erdogan became prime minister in 2003 and, over time, utterly changed his country. As one Turkish intellectual put it to me … ‘Things that I would once have thought impossible are now happening on a daily basis.’”
- “Trump is not yet going nearly as far as Erdogan, who jails journalists, but the preliminary logic is the same — an attempt to undermine the credibility of those who hold power to account,” wrote Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and author of a recent book on the erosion of democracies, in January.The German newsweekly Der Spiegel put it most starkly in a February editorial: “Erdogan and Trump are positioning themselves as the only ones capable of truly understanding the people and speaking for them. It’s their view that freedom of the press does not protect democracy and that the press isn’t reverent enough to them and is therefore useless. They believe that the words that come from their mouths as powerful leaders are the truth and that the media, when it strays from them, is telling lies. That’s autocratic thinking — and it is how you sustain a dictatorship.”
- Tellingly, the two leaders have defended the other from their critics. In the wake of Erdogan’s purge, Trump said the United States didn’t have much right to criticize the Turkish president’s crackdown; in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, Erdogan described protests against the new president as “disrespectful” and applauded Trump’s singling out CNN as “fake news” during a testy exchange at a news conference.
- That day, Erdogan congratulated Trump for putting the CNN reporter “in his place.” It’s the same sentiment many Trump supporters probably feel with every new hashtag and barbed insult hurled at journalists.
Will the Supreme Court’s Trinity decision lead to the spread of school voucher programs?, By Valerie Strauss [washingtonpost.com] June 26, 2017 at 2:56 PM
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday on a case that public school and First Amendment advocates feared might harm the future of public education in the United States. Will it?
- The case is Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, in which the Missouri church sued after being denied state funding to refurbish its preschool playground because, it was told, the state Constitution forbids financially supporting a religious institution. Though the policy in the state has since been changed, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on Monday, the justices ruled 7 to 2 that the state’s original decision violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion by excluding churches from state programs with a secular intent.
- The bottom line in the Supreme Court’s Trinity decision is that it has shown that it is not against public money being used for secular reasons at a religious institution — and that this could later expand to educational costs. Public education advocates are still hoping the court will set limits on the use of public funds for religious schools, but the tide, at least in the Trump era, is against maintaining church-state protections and protecting the public education system
.Why the Supreme Court’s decision to review Wisconsin’s gerrymandering is such a big deal, By Christopher Ingraham June 19, 2017 at 4:38 PM [Washington post]
- The Supreme Court will hear a case on political gerrymandering that could reshape the way states draw their congressional districts for decades to come.
- Last year a federal court found that Wisconsin’s congressional districts, created by the state’s Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R), were unconstitutionally drawn to disadvantage Democratic voters.
- The first piece of evidence for this is in the imbalance between the statewide popular vote and the partisan makeup of the Wisconsin Assembly: in 2012, Republican candidates earned 48.6 percent of the statewide popular vote. But because of how they had drawn district boundaries the prior year, they won more than 60 percent of the Assembly seats.
- Their argument centers on the idea of the “wasted” vote: to win an election in our winner-take-all system you need 50.1 percent of the vote. Any margin above that is wasted. Similarly, all votes cast for the opposing side are wasted, since those people’s preferred candidate doesn’t make it into office.
- This notion was first articulated by a pair of academics in a 2015 paper. In any given election, there are going to be a lot of wasted votes. In a perfectly fair (theoretical) world, those wasted votes would kind of cancel out between the parties. But savvy politicians can draw district lines so that their adversaries waste many more votes.
Is It Time for the U.S. to Rein in the Presidency? Two historians consider whether it’s time to raise the possibility of decentralization amid frustrations with the federal government. By Julian E. Zelizer and Morton Keller [Theatlantic.Com] Jun 9, 2017
- there are … systemic issues to which I think we should turn our attention. These are: 1) the current state and future prospects of the imperial presidency, and 2) the current state and future prospects of the imperial bureaucracy.
- there are other systemic issues to which I think we should turn our attention. These are: One, the current state and future prospects of the imperial presidency, and two, the current state and future prospects of the imperial bureaucracy.
- Existing judicial and congressional restraints were substantially reduced during the decades of Democratic ascendancy, the demands of the civil-rights revolution, the steady growth of entitlements, and the Cold War. Democrats Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, each in their own way, added to the scope of the office, whereas Republicans Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the Bushes diminished neither presidential authority nor the expanding state.
- For all of the uproar over President Trump’s aggressive use of presidential authority, it is easy to imagine that when he is gone, politicians in both parties will settle with the status quo rather than changing it. After the 2008 election, with all of the uproar over President Bush’s vast expansion of the national security state, we didn’t really see many transformations after a historic election that seemed to be a mandate for change. Even during President Nixon’s demise, Congress passed laws reasserting its power (such as the War Powers Act of 1973 and the Budget Reform of 1974)—yet the presidency seems to be doing pretty well. Given that right now Republicans control Congress as well, they might not be willing to do that much to reform government if they anticipate keeping control once Trump is gone.
- The social welfare state is certainly under attack, here and elsewhere, yet we have also seen how the popularity of many programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, proves to be a powerful counterforce to conservative retrenchment. I do think federalism is enjoying a period of resurgence—with liberals also turning to states and localities as the engine for progressive change, not simply the right—federal programs still hold considerable appeal.
TOPICS FROM PREVIOUS WEEKS:
Is It Time for the U.S. to Rein in the Presidency? Two historians consider whether it’s time to raise the possibility of decentralization amid frustrations with the federal government. By Julian E. Zelizer and Morton Keller [Theatlantic.Com] Jun 9, 2017
Exclusive: In latest job, Jim DeMint wants to give Tea Party ‘ a new mission’,by Fredreka Schouten , [USA TODAY] Published 6:02 a.m. ET June 12, 2017
- Former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, ousted last month as head of the Heritage Foundation think tank, is joining a fast-growing, conservative movement that is pushing states to seek a constitutional convention to rein in federal spending and power.
- DeMint, a prominent figure among the Tea Party activists who helped Republicans seize control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, will serve as a senior adviser to the Convention of the States Project, providing a jolt to its efforts to marshal grassroots support for a state-led movement to amend the U.S. Constitution.
- Under Article V of the Constitution, there are two avenues to propose amendments: Two-thirds of each house of Congress can vote to do so or two-thirds of the states – 34 in total – can request the convention.
- In either case, three-fourths of the states – or 38 states – must ratify any amendment proposed by convention delegates.
- The movement DeMint is joining asks for a convention covering three sweeping topics: imposing “fiscal restraint” on Washington, reducing the federal government’s authority over states and imposing term limits on federal officials.
- The group said the convention that results from the state applications could also propose a range of amendments from one requiring the federal government to balance the budget or to one ending lifetime appointments for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices.
- At the center of the effort: Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and his nonprofit, Citizens for Self-Governance. Meckler has teamed up with other conservative groups, including American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), to advance the plan at the state level.
- Later this summer, he will travel to Denver to address conservative state legislators at ALEC’s annual gathering. ALEC, whose members include Republican lawmakers and business interests, writes model legislation, allowing conservative lawmakers to quickly replicate bills across the country. It has adopted the Article V language advanced by Meckler’s group.
- Legal questions abound: Would the convention be open to the public? Is it fair to allow tiny states like Maine to have the same power as populous states like California at a convention? And how would states prevent a “runaway convention” that could make wholesale changes to the Constitution on everything from religion and gun rights?
- Proponent[s] say their application limits of the scope of a convention to amendments that deal with federal term limits, fiscal restraints on the federal government and limits on Washington’s power.
- Bu[t] some legal experts question whether organizers can limit the topics at all. “When there’s a constitutional convention, in a sense, all bets are off,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on the Constitution and a law professor at the University of North Carolina. “I would think almost anything would be fair game.”
- As the under-the-radar movement gains steam, some liberal groups and Democratic legislators are scrambling to block proponents from reaching the two-thirds threshold. This year, New Mexico, Maryland and Nevada all rescinded their applications for a convention, some of them on the books for decades. Delaware did so last year.
- Opponents say the topics described by the convention advocates are broad enough to bring sweeping change. “This idea of opening up our Constitution, which gives everyone in the country our basic protections, is a bad idea, particularly in this hyper-partisan environment,” said Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. She helped lead the successful effort to yank New Mexico’s convention applications — one of which dated to 1951.
ALEC’s Application for a Convention of the States under Article V of the Constitution of the United States
Article V, U.S. Constitution (The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
- The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
FREE SPEECH: What’s constitutionally guaranteed and what’s culturally expected
- 1st Amendment: First Amendment | Constitution | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
- The Amendment protects us against Government interference in speech, press and religion.
- NON-government interference – private businesses, publishers. Etc. – is more culturally entrenched but usually not illegal.
- The Amendment protects us against Government interference in speech, press and religion.
- NON-government interference – private businesses, publishers. Etc. – is more culturally entrenched but usually not illegal.
- A Civics discussion:
- Our founders did not design our government to be “efficient”. They designed it to be “safe”.
- People who say that they want government to run like a business miss the point: Government is NOT a business.
- People who say that they want government to run like a household miss the point: Government is NOT a household.
- Government is a Sovereign, which is an entirely different and unique thing, totally unlike a business or a household.
- No one branch of government is meant to be ‘supreme’. The 3 branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – were designed to be co-equal.
- The tug-of-war that goes on among them – this inefficient, tug-of-war that goes on among them – is designed to slow things down, and make them “safe” but “inefficient’.
- In today’s terminology, the inefficiency designed into our government is not a “bug”. It’s a “feature”.
- I’ve said for many years that people who have run big businesses should not be politicians, and certainly should not be president. If there was ever an example of why I believe that, it’s Trump.
- We are now experiencing the wisdom of that “feature”, as the Trump regime attempts to establish its Supremacy over the other branches.
- Leaked NSA Report Suggests Russian Hacking Could Have Affected Election Day Itself, By Ed Kilgore [NYMAG.COM/DAILY/INTELLIGENCER] June 5, 2017 6:52 pm
- So “Comey Week” in Washington has taken a new turn with the disclosure by The Intercept of a National Security Agency report documenting a sophisticated Russian military intelligence operation before the 2016 election aimed at compromising state and local election infrastructure systems. The document has been subsequently verified as a legitimate by CBS News.
- There’s more smoke than fire in the report, which mainly establishes that the Russians were making an effort to gain access to voter registration database information—though that’s a big deal given the impact of voter registration information on access to the ballot. But it also opened up the possibility the hackers got access to vote-counting machinery as well, particularly in states with electronic voting machines (which happen to include Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two of the three states that decided the presidential election).
- More importantly, the report could change the scope of the various investigations by Congress, the FBI, and special prosecutor Bob Mueller of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible Trump campaign collusion with that interference. Up until now we’ve mostly been focused on Russian (or Trump/Russian) efforts to change the external political dynamics of the election, such as WikiLeaks’ slow-drip release of Pedesta emails, and social media promotion of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton memes. Now we’re talking about direct interference with the integrity of the election that made Trump president. And if that is even close to being established, then the possibility of Trump campaign collusion in such interference takes on a whole new dimension of horrific malfeasance, and potentially “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
- Contractor charged in NSA document leak case, Washington Post – 1 hour ago
- A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news organization.
- America successfully tests ICBM defense system in the Pacific, By Associated Press [NY POST] May 30, 2017 | 4:47pm
- WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said it successfully used a “kill vehicle” to knock down an intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday as North Korea ramps up its belligerent behavior, according to several reports.
- The test involved the Pentagon Missile Defense Agency launching an ICBM from a base in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and firing a ground-based rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California 4,200 miles away to intercept it.The intercept rocket released a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” that collided with the mock warhead over the Pacific and destroyed it through the sheer force of the impact, an endeavor likened to shooting a bullet with a bullet.
NATO – Topic: Collective defence – Article 5
- Collective defence means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.
- The principle of collective defence is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
- NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
- NATO has taken collective defence measures on several occasions, for instance in response to the situation in Syria and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
- NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence efforts on a permanent basis.
- TEXT: NATO Article 5
- “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
- ii) Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.” “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
- Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
- Emoluments Clause of the Constitution (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):
- The Ineligibility Clause, one of the two clauses often called the Emoluments Clause, and sometimes also referred to as the Incompatibility Clause or the Sinecure Clause, is found in Article 1, Section 6, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution. It places limitations upon the employment of members of Congress and prohibits employees of the Executive Branch from serving in Congress during their terms in office. The name “Ineligibility Clause” is only used by a minority of writers, as compared to the name “Emoluments Clause”.
- The clause states: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.”
- Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Twenty-fifth Amendment (Amendment XXV) to the United States Constitution deals with succession to the Presidency and establishes procedures both for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, as well as responding to Presidential disabilities. It supersedes the ambiguous wording of Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution, which does not expressly state whether the Vice President becomes the President or Acting President if the President dies, resigns, is removed from office or is otherwise unable to discharge the powers of the presidency. The Twenty-fifth Amendment was adopted on February 10, 1967.
- Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
- Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
- Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
- Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
- Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
- Group will sue Trump over business’ foreign profits, By Cyra Master 2 hrs ago (The Hill) 1/22/2017 via MSN
- The Title of Nobility Clause [Also known as the Emoluments Clause] is a provision in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, that prohibits the federal government from granting titles of nobility, and restricts members of the government from receiving gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states without the consent of the United States Congress. Also known as the Emoluments Clause, it was designed to shield the republican character of the United States against so–called “corrupting foreign influences”. This shield is reinforced by the corresponding prohibition on state titles of nobility in Article I, Section 10, and more generally by the Republican Guarantee Clause in Article IV, Section ~ Title of Nobility Clause – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_of_Nobility_Clause
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced Sunday night it is bringing a suit “to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution (the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause ) by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments.”
- At issue is Trump’s refusal to divest from his business or place his assets into a blind trust, which would separate him entirely from his business empire. He has said his adult sons will run his business while he is in office, that they will not conduct any foreign deals and will subject any domestic deals to an ethics review.
SOURCES WHICH MAY BE RELEVANT TO OTHER DISCUSSION:
- Trial Balloon for a Coup? Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours, by Yonatan Zunger
- Four Freedoms, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of worship
- Freedom from want
- Freedom from fear
- Roosevelt delivered his speech 11 months before the United States declared war on Japan, December 8, 1941. The State of the Union speech before Congress was largely about the national security of the United States and the threat to other democracies from world war that was being waged across the continents in the eastern hemisphere. In the speech, he made a break with the tradition of United States non-interventionism that had long been held in the United States. He outlined the U.S. role in helping allies already engaged in warfare.
- Differences between Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians and neo-Conservatives
- Left–right politics, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- History of the terms: The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville, explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” However the Right opposed the seating arrangement because they believed that deputies should support private or general interests but should not form factions or political parties. The contemporary press occasionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.
- Greens and Libertarians: The yin and yang of our political future, by Dan Sullivan (originally appearing in Green Revolution, Volume 49, No. 2, summer, 1992)
- … Libertarians tend to be logical and analytical. They are confident that their principles will create an ideal society, even though they have no consensus of what that society would be like. Greens, on the other hand, tend to be more intuitive and imaginative. They have clear images of what kind of society they want, but are fuzzy about the principles on which that society would be based.
- Ironically, Libertarians tend to be more utopian and uncompromising about their political positions, and are often unable to focus on politically winnable proposals to make the system more consistent with their overall goals. Greens on the other hand, embrace immediate proposals with ease, but are often unable to show how those proposals fit in to their ultimate goals.
- The most difficult differences to reconcile, however, stem from baggage that members of each party have brought with them from their former political affiliations. Most Libertarians are overly hostile to government and cling to the fiction that virtually all private fortunes are legitimately earned. Most Greens are overly hostile to free enterprise and cling to the fiction that harmony and balance can be achieved through increased government intervention.
- Amongst published researchers, there is agreement that the Left includes anarchists, communists, socialists, progressives, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, anti-racists, democratic socialists, greens, left-libertarians, social democrats, and social liberals.
- Researchers have also said that the Right includes capitalists, conservatives, monarchists, nationalists, neoconservatives, neoliberals, reactionaries, imperialists, right-libertarians, social authoritarians, religious fundamentalists, and traditionalists.
- Left–right politics, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia