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123. Ford v. Kavanaugh * Revised

19 Sep

(Revisions are in blue)

As I was listening to commentators discussing the alleged sexual assault on Professor Christine B. Ford by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in high school; I heard statements that I think need clarification. But before I begin, I must emphasize that rape (and attempted rape) is a serious crime, is never justified, and should be severely punished. I think that Prof. Ford should be taken very seriously and given a clear opportunity to make her case. Since I wrote the original, a date was set Monday 9-24-18 (a week later) when both parties could testify.  Dr. Ford has requested an FBI investigation before testifying.

Here are my thoughts about Ford vs. Kavanaugh.

First, the argument that holding back this issue was based on politics is not supported by any facts. Prof. Ford wanted to maintain her anonymity. She decided to come forward when her name was leaked. Also, Sen. Feinstein early on, sent information based on the  Ford letter to the FBI. The FBI confirmed this communication.

It is well-known that lie-detector tests are not 100% reliable, but could be used in conjunction with other evidence in a “hearing” (but not necessarily in a court). Prof. Ford passed a lie-detector test and that fact should be given some consideration.

An FBI investigation may sound like a good idea but could be a waste of taxpayer money. It is extremely unlikely that any physical evidence would be discovered, and testimony after all this time might never be fully trusted. If anyone else has information about this issue, the publicity about it would stimulate a response, if there were willing parties. That may have been that Ford’s original intent.  After further thought, I think it is possible that further testimony could be obtained. 

It is a valid argument that serious errors occurring in high-school should not be given great weight and should not ruin the rest of a person’s life. No “criminal” charges were made at the time. The issues of this controversy are difficult, and I can see both sides, and of course, I sympathize with Prof. Ford’s trauma, then and the death threats now.

Brett Kavanaugh’s friend in the room would have to deny what happened, or else he could be considered an accomplice. So his denial would be expected and not of relevance (not exculpatory). On the other hand, if he jumped on Kavanaugh to help Ford, then he should get some credit.

My tentative conclusion is that, so far, this particular case against Kavanaugh is compelling, but not conclusive.  I feel that there are better reasons, already elucidated in the hearings, for rejecting his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Revision added: Dr. Ford’s request for an FBI investigation supports her claim and the Republican refusal is further support for her. Generally speaking, a person who lies would not want to be questioned by the FBI.

(Revisions are in blue)

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120. Where Democracy is Dead

28 Aug

An article by Paul Krugman (NY-Times, 8-27-18) is so profound and insightful that I had to write this small blog. Krugman states that democracy is dead in Poland and Hungary, both members of the European Union. Both of these countries have powerful ruling parties.

In both countries, there are elections, but Krugman points out that they: “have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent.”  

The effect of these aberrations is that it is likely that there will be “one-party rule for the foreseeable future.”  Krugman warns that this could easily happen here.

Our current ruling party and our current POTUS, are increasingly engaging in these anti-democratic activities. If the next election fails to reverse this process, the USA will further deteriorate to a point where recovery may not be possible. My previous blogs have discussed these issues in detail.  Briefly, I am concerned about: nominations to the Supreme Court, attacks on the FBI, emolument violations, threats toward the press, criminal actions by POTUS staff and consultants, gerrymandering and other interferences with our election process.

 

 

  

 

 

 

118. President Cornered

25 Aug

Today is August 24, 2018, marking 581 days of Trump presidency.
The case against Trump (and staff) is accelerating. In the last few weeks, there have been very significant events. I have tried to document the most important factors and much of the emphasis is based on Trump denial arguments. Here is my list.

A very significant event was back on April 9, 2018: Michael Cohen‘s (Trump personal lawyer) office was searched and documents confiscated. This influenced many of the events below and also the subpoena for Trump’s long-term accountant, CFO Allen Weisselberg in July 2018. Just added, Allen W. was given immunity.

The following all occurred within about a week.

Recently reported: White House counsel, Donald McGahn, was interviewed for 30 hours by the Mueller investigators, and provided extensive valuable information.

Trump has been accused of treasonous actions (for example, Steve Schmidt) in his dealing with Putin. Maybe worst of all is that he often did not recognize (or respond to) Russian attacks on our election system. There are claims that you cannot have “treason” without a war — but there is a very real and dangerous USA-Russian cyber war with ongoing covert battles.

Trump’s first supporter in Congress, Chris Collins (R-NY) was charged with
insider-trading. His second supporter, Duncan Hunter (R-CA), was indicted for misusing campaign funds.

August 21, 2018: Paul Manafort convicted on eight counts. He was Trump campaign manager starting June 20, 2016, although he worked on the campaign starting in March 2016. He resigned August 19, 2016. So, he worked for the campaign for about six months and was manager for two months. Trump had occasional interactions with Manafort since around 1980.

Trump, when in debt, likely earned millions by helping Russians launder money. It was done by Russians buying Trump-owned over-priced condos. This occurred over many years, but recently came to light in the writings of Craig Unger. Unger also describes possible interactions of Trump and the Russian Mafia. These Russian relationships may explain his strange favoritism towards Putin.

Omarosa Manigault just published a tell-all book “Unhinged” about Trump. She has tapes recording various interactions with Trump and staff, which she will make available to Special Counsel Mueller.

Michael Cohen confessed to crimes associated with Trump’s election, and implicated Trump as a director of illegal actions.

David Pecker, publisher of National Enquirer, and long-term friend of Trump, was granted immunity in the Michael Cohen investigation. He may have important info regarding Trump’s questionable activities.

Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) answered Trump back regarding recent criticism of his running of the DOJ. Sessions strongly disagreed with the assertion that he “never took control” of the department. He also praised its personnel and affirmed its independence. This is the first time that he has really defended himself from Trump’s numerous attacks.

Trump has recently admitted to criminal actions because he does not understand our laws. For example, he admitted to campaign expense violations because he thinks that the source of funds must be strictly from the campaign. Campaigns can be financed by many means including by the candidate himself.

Robert Mueller has indicted or secured guilty pleas from a total of 32 persons. Please note that Mueller is a Republican and highly respected by both parties.

Looking at all of the above, the Trump claim of “witch hunt” is ridiculous. He has a long history of shady practices (like Trump University) and he has illegally profited from his presidential status in several well-documented ways.

 

 

 

Blog 111. Trump Attacks The Press

24 Oct

In one small foreign country, its president owns all of the major banks, unfairly enriching himself by this corrupt practice. Similar corruption is found in many
large and small foreign countries.
Trump appears to have a similar pattern. He uses most of the methods that past and current tyrants have employed to maintain their power and control. Trump intimidates critics, admires other tyrants, and much of his communication is regarding his exaggerated achievements. Also typical is his use of office to promote his businesses. His hotels are advertised in his speeches and by his trips, and foreign leaders stay in Trump Tower rooms. He failed to divest his business interests and severely violates nepotism rules. He ignores huge areas of government, like the State Department and CIA. He whimsically establishes the most vital policies and makes little use the departments designed to help.

Trump’s attack on the press is very typical of authoritarians. Robert Reich discusses several methods used in such attacks, which helps to achieve greater control over the citizens. See:    http://robertreich.org/post/154819980595
Four attacks are described:
“1. Berate the media and turn the public against it.” See his speeches.
“2. Limit media access.” Example: almost no news conferences.
“3. Threaten the media” Examples: threatening to sue newspapers and revoke licenses.
“4. Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly.” Example: Tweets

Trump wants to rewrite history to support his programs and candidacy. Past USA leaders have been occassionally annoyed with the press and have criticized reporting. We have never had such a complete labeling as: all news is “fake” news. I am always amazed at how his supporters take his word over the most revered and reliable of USA newspapers, the N.Y. Times, with 120 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Trump has been rejected by many Republicans including: George Will, Past-President Bush, Joe Scarborough (now an independent), John McCain, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and last but not least, his Secretary of State called him a “moron.” But he does have support from David Duke of the KKK who thanked Trump for “his honesty and courage.” Megyn Kelly, who feuded with Trump, left conservative Fox News and joined the liberal MSNBC.
Have you watched the N. Korean military lined up and clapping like zombies with their leader, Kim. You can see the same thing with Trump supporters. Each member of his cabinet tries to outdo the flattery bestowed by the others.

108. Imminent Danger of POTUS

28 Aug

The investigation of Trump and his associates is going slowly (as expected), but the dangerous actions already taken, and worse decisions in the future, are so dire that we must think about quick action. Congress must consider the consequences of his continuing in office. Below, I have listed some of these grim possibilities:

Naive and blatant coercive interactions with certain countries, such as North Korea and Pakistan (and even China and Russia) can move us closer to disastrous situations and even horrible world wars.

Further reductions of government regulations, which could result in serious health factors due to air and water pollution.

Other losses of regulations affect the financial stability of major banks and investment houses. When there are failures, ordinary taxpayers lose money by bailing them out.

Failure to raise the debt ceiling will cause the USA to default on loans. The
consequence of this would be:
1. A lower credit rating will cause an increase in the interest the USA is paying on its loans, and the result is that we, the taxpayers will lose.
2. With less trust in the US dollar, we could lose our Reserve Currency status.
Reserve currency is the money used for international trade, which currently is the US dollar. There are numerous benefits to this status.
3. The US is a world leader in many ways. With a poor credit rating, world respect would diminish.

Trump has alienated many of our traditional allies by egocentric dealings and accidental insults. Allies are helpful for many kinds of international problems and conflicts.

Trump encourages alt-right groups, so that our world-wide reputation for the respect of human dignity is being diminished.

Our traditional system of free public education could be compromised and human resources would be diminished. He sets a bad example for children, by his support of violence and his aberrant actions.

Failure to support climate change remedies can lead to disastrous and costly human migrations, storms, floods, and the formation of new deserts.

Trump has allowed Russians to infiltrate our society and elections. He tends to ignore or even support Russia and has made little progress in fighting cyber-crime.

Trump re-writes history according to his own needs. He tells blatant lies and fails to coordinate with assistants, which causes confusion and distrust at home and abroad.

His attacks on the press undermine a system that is vital for any democracy.  This encourages ruthless leaders abroad to attack, jail, or even murder reporters.  It is telling that so many media organizations are critical of him.  He should be supporting traditional reliable sources like the NY Times, CNN, and the Washington Post.

105. Balancing Rich vs. Poor

8 Jul

Our country (USA) now has a certain established income (mostly from tax), and established expenditures. An increase or decrease in any source of income or expense will, as a general rule, either raise or lower the nation debt. To keep the budget constant and free of debt increase, you must keep all parts of it about the same, or set up see-saw rules: up in one area, down in another, and visa-versa. (These rules hold in general, but there can be minor complications.)

So if someone proposes more military spending then there will be less for other areas, for example, infrastructure spending. If we take away huge amounts of income by lowering taxes for the rich, then there could be less for Medicaid, education, environmental protection, or something else.

Trump and Republicans have always proposed decreasing our national income by lowering wealthy taxes. This by itself would increase the national debt. Further, Trump wants to greatly increase military spending. So now we have a lot of spending, with the consequence that other programs will suffer. Rich folks will buy more luxury items, and will be more effective in influencing Congress. And poor people will suffer as their special programs (such as Medicaid) will be diminished. There is a clear ethical problem: less luxury for millionaires (even billionaires) versus the deaths of people who lack health care.

For Trump, having a powerful military is very important because it is helpful in coercion, forcing other countries to go along with his plans. After all, his political and negotiating skills don’t seem to be very good, so he needs a very powerful military to get his way. Also, his political mistakes can be minimized by showing off his military might — similar to the displays of armaments by North Korea.

Another bonus for very rich people would be eliminating the inheritance tax. The cut-off for this tax is the inheritance of five-million dollars so it only applies to rich folk. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support the continuation of this tax.  I have noticed that when Trump mentions inheritance tax, it is very quickly and with a lowered voice.

If the Republicans can achieve the above goals, which make wealthy people even richer, then these are some of the areas that could be adversely affected:
education, health care, State Department functions, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, Medicare, infrastructure improvement, scientific research, medical research, various tech programs, environmental protections, etc. Let’s ask Trump to do with the Military, what he has proposed in other situations — lets hold the extra spending and make it more efficient instead.

 

104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.