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  • Jack 3:40 am on December 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Investigative Disaster 

    Special prosecutors, investigators, and counsels are usually a bad idea. They are admissions that constitutionally mandated institutions don’t work — and can be rescued only by supposed superhuman moralists, who are without the innate biases inherent in human nature.

    The record from Lawrence Walsh to Ken Starr to Patrick Fitzgerald suggests otherwise. Originally narrow mandates inevitably expand — on the cynical theory that everyone has something embarrassing to hide. Promised “short” timelines and limited budgets are quickly forgotten. Prosecutors search for ever new crimes to justify the expense and public expectations of the special-counsel appointment.

    Soon the investigators need to be investigated for their own conflicts of interest, as if we need special-special or really, really special prosecutors. Special investigations often quickly turn Soviet, in the sense of “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller has led what seems to be an exemplary life of public service. No doubt he believes that as a disinterested investigator he can get to the bottom of the once contentious charge of “Russian collusion” in the 2016 election. But can he?

    A Mandate Gone Wild

    Something has gone terribly wrong with the Mueller investigation.

    The investigation is venturing well beyond the original mandate of rooting out evidence of Russian collusion. Indeed, the word “collusion” is now rarely invoked at all. It has given way to its successor, “obstruction.” The latter likely will soon beget yet another catchphrase to justify the next iteration of the investigations.

    There seems far less special investigatory concern with the far more likely Russian collusion in the matters of the origins and dissemination of the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier, and its possible role in the Obama-administration gambit of improper or illegal surveilling, unmasking, and leaking of the names of American citizens.

    Leaks from the Mueller investigation so far abound. They have seemed calibrated to create a public consensus that particular individuals are currently under investigation, likely to be indicted — or indeed likely guilty.

    These public worries are not groundless. They are deeply rooted in the nature and liberal composition of the Mueller investigative team — whose left-leaning appointments just months ago had understandably made the liberal media giddy with anticipation from the outset. Wired, for instance, published this headline on June 14: “Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team.” Vox, on August 22, wrote: “Meet the all-star legal team who may take down Trump.” The Daily Beast, two day later, chimed in: “Inside Robert Mueller’s Army.”

    Whose ‘Army,’ Whose ‘Dream Team,’ and Whose ‘All-Stars’?

    Special Counsel Mueller was himself appointed in rather strange circumstances. Former FBI director James Comey (now reduced to ankle-biting the president on Twitter with Wikipedia-like quotes) stated under oath that he had deliberately leaked his own confidential notes about conversations with President Trump, hoping to prompt appointment of a special investigator to investigate a president — whom he said, also under oath, that he was not investigating.

    Comey’s ploy worked all too well. Department of Justice officials, now in the Trump Justice Department but who once served in Barack Obama’s administration, selected Comey’s close friend and long associate Robert Mueller as investigator. From that germination, an innate conflict of interest was born — given that Mueller’s appointment assumed that Comey himself would not come under his own investigation, a supposition that may be increasingly untenable.

    Okay — but one such conflict of interest swallow does not make a discredited spring.

    But then there was the weird position of Comey subordinate and deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. He ran the Washington, D.C., office that was involved in the Clinton email investigations. For some strange reason, McCabe did not recuse himself from the email investigation until one week before the presidential election, even though just months earlier his wife, Jill McCabe, had announced her Democratic campaign for a state senate seat in Virginia — and had received a huge donation of more than $675,000 from the political organizations of Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter and intimate. Like it or not, the behavior of the FBI during the Clinton email investigations also extends to the Russian-collusion probe, especially as it pertains to the Clinton-funded Fusion GPS/Steele dossier.

    Okay — Washington is an incestuous place, and such conflicts of interest may be unavoidable. Perhaps McCabe himself was not really so directly involved in the FBI investigations of Clinton, and perhaps he had not even talked about the current Mueller investigations.

    But then it was announced that at least six of Mueller’s staff of 15 lawyers, who previously had donated (in some cases quite generously) to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, were now investigating her arch foe Donald Trump.

    Okay — no doubt, such apparent conflicts of interests are not what they seem (given the overwhelming preponderance of liberal lawyers in general and in particular in Washington). After all, no one should be disqualified from government service for his or her political beliefs.

    But then we came to the inexplicable case of Peter Strzok, an FBI investigator assigned to the Mueller investigation of Russian collusion. Strzok and Lisa Page, a consulting FBI lawyer (part of Mueller’s once-ballyhooed “dream team”), were for some reason relieved from the investigation of Trump in late summer 2016. Mueller’s office refused to explain the departure of either, other than to let the media assume that the departures were both unrelated and due to normal revolving or transient appointments.

    Okay — even dream-teamers and all-stars occasionally move on, and the less said, the better.

    But then we learn that the two, while part of Mueller’s investigation of Trump, were having an extramarital affair, and exchanging some 10,000 texts, of which at least some were adamantly anti-Trump and pro-Clinton. One wonders, Why did that information, now confirmed, come out through leaks rather than through official Mueller communiqués? In other words, if there is nothing now deemed improper about the two Trump investigators’ amorous political expressions or in the anti-Trump nature of their exchanges, why was there apparently such a reluctance in August and September to avoid full disclosure concerning their abrupt departures?

    Okay — perhaps indiscreet electronic communications and affairs in the workplace are no big deal in Washington.

    But then Strzok apparently was also responsible for changing the wording of the official FBI report on the Clinton email affair. He crossed out the original finding of “grossly negligent,” which is legalese that under the statute constitutes a crime, and replaced it with “extremely careless,” which does not warrant prosecution.

    Okay — perhaps we can shrug and suggest that Strzok surely did not have the final say in such verbal gymnastics. Or perhaps his anti-Trump, pro-Clinton sentiments were not germane to his mere copy editing or his reliance on a thesaurus.

    But then we learned that Andrew Weissmann, who is another veteran prosecutor assigned to Mueller’s legal team, praised Sally Yates, an Obama-administration holdover at the Trump Department of Justice, for breaking her oath of office and refusing to carry out President Trump’s immigration order (Yates was summarily fired). “I am so proud,” he emailed Yates, on the day she publicly defied the president. “And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”

    Okay — it certainly does not look good that a disinterested government attorney investigating the president was so indiscreet as to write his admiration to a fellow Obama holdover who was fighting with Trump. But to give the anti-Trump attorneys the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Weissmann was merely reacting to Yates’s panache rather than to her shared political views?

    But then again, we learned that another attorney on the Mueller staff, Jeannie Rhee, was at one time the personal attorney of Ben Rhodes, the Obama deputy national-security adviser who is often mentioned as instrumental in making last-minute Obama-administrative-state appointments to thwart the incoming Trump administration. Rhee also provided legal counsel to the Clinton Foundation and was a generous donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

    Rhee seemingly could not be a disinterested investigator of Trump, given that she has had financial interests with those, past and present, who are fiercely opposed to the current likely target of her investigations.

    Okay — but perhaps in Washington’s upside-down world, lawyers are mere hired guns who have no real political loyalties and they investigate, without bias, those whose politics they detest. Why should they feel a need to be shy about their political agendas?

    But then again, most recently, it was disclosed that a senior Justice Department official, Bruce G. Ohr, connected with various ongoing investigations under the aegis of the Justice Department, was partially reassigned for his contact with the opposition-research firm responsible for the Clinton-funded, anti-Trump “dossier” — which in theory could be one catalyst for the original FBI investigation of “collusion” and thus additionally might be the reason cited to request FISA orders to surveil Trump associates during the 2016 campaign. And note that it was also never disclosed that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, whose expertise was Russian politics and history, actually worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign, when the opposition research firm’s discredited anti-Trump dossier alleging Russian collusion was leaked shortly before Election Day 2016.

    Okay — perhaps Ohr, as part of his job, was merely learning about aspects of the dossier from one of its owners, for future reference.

    But then again, we learned of the strange career odyssey of yet another person on Mueller’s legal team, Aaron Zebley (supposedly known in the past as Mueller’s “right-hand hand”). He once served as Mueller’s chief of staff while employed at the FBI and was also assigned to both the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. In addition, Zebley served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the National Security and Terrorism Unit in Virginia. Yet Zebley, as late as 2015, represented one Justin Cooper. The latter was the IT staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s likely illegal and unsecure server at her home, and who purportedly smashed Clinton’s various BlackBerries with a hammer in fear they would be subpoenaed. Zebley had come into contact once earlier with congressional investigators, when he was legal counsel for Cooper — and yet Zebley now is on Mueller’s team investigating Donald Trump.

    What’s Next?

    By now there are simply too many coincidental conflicts of interest and too much improper investigatory behavior to continue to give the Mueller investigation the benefit of doubt. Each is a light straw; together, they now have broken the back of the probe’s reputation.

    In inexplicable fashion, Mueller seems to have made almost no effort to select attorneys from outside Washington, from diverse private law firms across the country, who were without personal involvement with the Clinton machine, and who were politically astute or disinterested enough to keep their politics to themselves.

    Indeed, the special-counsel investigation has developed an eerie resemblance to the spate of sexual-harassment cases, in which the accused sluff off initial charges as irrelevant, unproven, or politically motivated, only to be confronted with more fresh allegations that insidiously point to a pattern of repeated behavior.

    What then is going on here?

    No one knows. We should assume that there will be almost daily new disclosures of the Mueller investigation’s conflicts of interest that were heretofore deliberately suppressed.

    Yet Donald Trump at this point would be unhinged if he were to fire Special Counsel Mueller — given that the investigators seem intent on digging their own graves through conflicts of interest, partisan politicking, leaking, improper amorous liaisons, indiscreet communications, and stonewalling the release of congressionally requested information.

    Indeed, the only remaining trajectory by which Mueller and his investigators can escape with their reputations intact is to dismiss those staff attorneys who have exhibited clear anti-Trump political sympathies, reboot the investigation, and then focus on what now seems the most likely criminal conduct: Russian and Clinton-campaign collusion in the creation of the anti-Trump Fusion GPS dossier and later possible U.S. government participation in the dissemination of it. If such a fraudulent document was used to gain court approval to surveil Trump associates, and under such cover to unmask and leak names of private U.S. citizens — at first to warp a U.S. election, and then later to thwart the work of an incoming elected administration — then Mueller will be tasked with getting to the bottom of one of the greatest political scandals in recent U.S. history. Indeed, his legacy may not be that he welcomed in known pro-Clinton, anti-Trump attorneys to investigate the Trump 2016 campaign where there was little likelihood of criminality, but that he ignored the most egregious case of government wrongdoing in the last half-century.


    See Also:

    (1) Trump lawyer wants separate special prosecutor to probe DOJ-Fusion conflicts

    (2) FBI’s McCabe ‘has an Ohr problem,’ will not testify on Tuesday, source says

    (3) Inside the Trump dossier handoff: McCain’s ‘go-between’ speaks out

  • Jack 3:26 am on December 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , heather wilhelm, , ,   

    ‘Evil’ Tax Cuts? 

    Ah, the holiday season. It’s a magical time, bursting with joy and merriment, the laughter of children, jolly parties, twinkling lights, mildly terrifying mall-dwelling Santas . . . and the faint sounds of caterwauling blue-state politicians shrieking that the GOP tax bill signals the end of civilization as we know it.

    Can you hear it? Fire and brimstone! The weeping and gnashing of teeth! According to Nancy Pelosi, this reshuffling of government regulations amounts to “Armageddon” and “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress.” California governor Jerry Brown labeled the tax bill “evil in the extreme.” According to Bernie Sanders, the proposal amounts to “class warfare” and “one of the greatest robberies in American history.” In terms of sheer melancholy drama, comedian Patton Oswalt might win the prize: Because of the GOP tax bill, “there’s no America now. Not the one we knew. Sorry, feeling real despair this morning.”

    Ah, yes. Thank goodness for people like Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, the New York Times editorial board, and other blue-state stalwarts, whose No. 1 concern is to fight this pernicious money grab by a sinister, well-organized, and garishly wealthy elite! But hark, New York Times: What have we here? Why, it’s an analysis from your own news pages, dated December 5, with a doozy of a headline: “Among the Tax Bill’s Biggest Losers: High-Income, Blue State Taxpayers.”

    Well, this is certainly awkward.

    If you know anything about California, you likely now know why good old Governor Moonbeam is freaking out. California may be filled with natural wonders, but it’s also a Democratic area chock full of people who earn $200,000 or more — and it’s also known for high state-level income taxes, with a top marginal rate of 13.3 percent. In the bad old days, Californians could count on simply deducting this highway robbery from their federal taxable income, masking the state’s shenanigans and blunting the financial pain. The GOP tax bill yanks what is essentially a federal subsidy away, forcing blue-state residents to face the reality of their local high-tax, high-spending regimes.

    This is basic federalism at work. In theory, it should encourage accountability, particularly among high-tax states long dependent on the federal tax code to soften the blow. But as we all know, accountability is no fun. Public panicking and blaming “the rich” — this is all rather hilarious, given that high-income earners in blue states are the losers here, with middle-class taxpayers and small businesses largely on the winning end — is apparently a far more amusing use of time.

    Thus, moving forward, when Jerry Brown moans about the tax bill benefiting “the rich,” please loosely translate it as this: “Quick! We need a distraction! California has long been soaking its upper middle class. The GOP tax bill will make it crystal-clear that a significant chunk of this tax burden is coming from . . . from . . . US!” Meanwhile, when New York governor Andrew Cuomo claims that the tax bill will “rape and pillage” his state — yes, he actually said this — and somberly declares that the bill “taxes the taxes that New York families pay,” he’s laughably wrong, and he probably knows it. Why should Americans who don’t live in New York have to cushion the state’s unwieldy, ossified tax-and-spend regime? True tax pillaging, after all, starts at home.

    It’s not news to point out that people are fleeing blue states for red states. Recent reports show that Texas gained 1.3 million new residents over the past ten years. (Texas, of course, has no state income tax.) During the same time period, Illinois and New York lost more than 2 million. The GOP tax bill, which rips the mask off of high state-tax regimes, could very well increase the bleeding. “High-income earners on the East Coast understand the implications of this,” a friend who works in finance told me this week. Some of his contacts on Wall Street, he added, are toying with the idea of voting with their feet.

    If blue states can’t get their act together soon, perhaps that’s not such a shabby idea. It would certainly send a message, loud and clear: “It’s not the tax bill that’s the problem, dear high-tax state governments. It’s you.”


  • Jack 3:26 am on December 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,   


    A short three hours after US President Donald Trump phoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to inform him of his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a number of Palestinian photojournalists received a phone call from Bethlehem.

    The callers were Palestinian “activists,” who invited the photographers to come to the city to document an “important event.” When the photographers arrived, they discovered that the “important event” was a handful of Palestinian “activists” who wanted to burn posters of Trump in front of the cameras.

    The “activists” waited patiently as the photojournalists and cameramen set up their equipment to get the “important event” on film. Shortly thereafter, the media was abuzz with reports about “angry Palestinian protesters taking to the streets to protest” Trump’s intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem and his recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. The five Palestinians who were filmed burning the Trump pictures were made to look as if they were part of a mass protest sweeping Palestinian communities.

    The incident represents yet another example of the collusion between the Palestinians and the media, whose representatives are always more than happy to serve as mouthpieces for the Palestinian propaganda machine and provide an open platform for broadcasting Palestinian threats against Israel and the US.

    Had the photographers and cameramen not shown up to the erstwhile “spontaneous” poster-burning event, the Palestinian activists would have been forced to quietly slink back to one of Bethlehem’s fine coffee shops.

    Yet, there was no worry on that score: the Palestinian activists are well aware that local and foreign reporters are starving for sensationalism — and what better fits the bill than posters of Trump going up in flames in the middle of the birthplace of Jesus, on the eve of Christmas and as thousands of Christian pilgrims and tourists are converging on the city?

    By misrepresenting the poster burning “ceremony” as a reflection of widespread Palestinian rage concerning Trump’s policy on Jerusalem, the international media is once again complicit in promoting the propaganda of Palestinian spin doctors. Palestinian leaders and spokesmen strive to create the impression that Trump’s policy regarding Jerusalem will bring the region down in flames. They also seek to send a message to the American people that their president’s policies endanger their lives. In effect, the media has volunteered to serve the Palestinian campaign of intimidation. And the media convergence on the poster-burning farce in Bethlehem is just the beginning.

    Now that the Palestinians have managed, with the help of the media, to burn these images into the minds of millions of Americans, they are planning more staged protests. The goal: to terrify the American public and force Trump to rescind his decision regarding the status of Jerusalem. This tactic of intimidation through the media is not new. In fact, it is something that has been happening for decades, largely thanks to the buy-in of the mainstream media in the West.

    Now, Palestinian and Western journalists have been invited to cover a series of protests planned by the Palestinians in the coming days and weeks in response to Trump’s policies. The journalists, including photographers and camera crews, have been handed detailed schedules of events that will take place in different parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The journalists have been promised more scenes of burning photos of Trump and US flags. Some of the journalists have even received tips as to the locations where “clashes” are supposed to take place between Palestinian rioters and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. In other words, the journalists have been told precisely where they need to be in order to document Palestinians throwing stones at the soldiers — and the predicted the IDF response.

    Here is the funny part. If, for whatever reason, the cameras are a no-show, the “activists” are likely to be as well. In the Palestinian world, it is all about manipulating the media and recruiting it in favor of the cause. And the cause is always bashing Israel — with bashing Trump not far behind.

    Yes, the Palestinians will protest in the coming days against Trump. Yes, they will take to the streets and throw stones at IDF soldiers. Yes, they will burn pictures of Trump and US flags. And yes, they will try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

    But when we sit in our living rooms and watch the news coming out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, let us ask ourselves: How many of these “events” are, in fact, media burlesques? Why are journalists allowing themselves to be duped by the Palestinian propaganda machine, which spews hatred and violence from morning until night? And, why are the journalists exaggerating and compounding the Palestinian threats for violence and anarchy?

    First, many of the journalists want to appease their readers and editors by offering them stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Second, some of the journalists believe that writing anti-Israel stories paves the way for them to win awards from assorted professed “virtue-signaling” organizations. Third, many journalists believe that writing anti-Israel reports give them access to so-called “liberals” and a supposedly “enlightened” coterie who romanticize being “on the right side of history.” They do not want to see that 21 Muslim states have been trying for many decades to destroy one Jewish state; instead, they appear to think that if journalists are “liberal” and “open-minded,” they need to support the “underdog,” who they believe are “the Palestinians.” Fourth, many of the journalists see the conflict as being between bad guys (supposedly the Israelis) and good guys (supposedly the Palestinians) and that it is their duty to stand with the “good guys,” even if the “good guys” are engaged in violence and terrorism.

    Recently, more than 300 Muslim worshipers were massacred by Muslim terrorists while praying in a mosque in Sinai, Egypt. That tragedy was probably covered by fewer journalists than the orchestrated Trump-poster episode in Bethlehem. Where was the outcry in the Arab and Islamic world? Now, Arabs and Muslims are talking about “days of rage” in protest against Trump. Why were there no “days of rage” in the Arab and Islamic countries when more than 300 worshipers, many of them children, were massacred during Friday prayers?

    It is high time for some self-reflection on the part of the media: Do they really wish to continue serving as a mouthpiece for those Arabs and Muslims who intimidate and terrorize the West?

    Journalists are actively colluding with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to create the false impression that World War III will erupt if the US embassy is moved to Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians have been massacred since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” more than six years ago. They were killed by Muslim terrorists and other Arabs. The bloodshed continues to this day in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

    So, make no mistake about it: the “rivers of blood” we are being promised are flowing as we speak. Yet, it is the knife that Arabs and Muslims take to one another’s throats that is the source of this crimson current, not some statement made by a US president. Perhaps that could finally be an event worth covering by the roving reporters of the region?

    Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.


    See Also:

    (1) Trump’s Jerusalem move triggers a global chain reaction as nations follow his lead

    (2) Trump Teaches Palestinians About the New Middle East

    (3) Trump Puts Fact Ahead of Fiction in Israel

  • Jack 3:23 am on December 8, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , makini brice, , , , , ,   


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken announced his resignation from office on Thursday, bowing to pressure from party colleagues after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him.

    Franken, 66, a former comedian who had been seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, said on the Senate floor he would be leaving in a few weeks.

    “I know in my heart that nothing I’ve done as a senator – nothing – has brought dishonor on this institution,” Franken said. “Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.”

    Franken is one of several prominent American men in politics, media and entertainment to be accused in recent months of sexual harassment and misconduct.

    “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently,” Franken said.

    The departure of the Minnesota Democrat presents an opening for Republicans to recapture a seat they lost when Franken won election in 2008, and to build on their slim 52-48 Senate majority.

    The election to succeed him, however, will not be held until November 2018. In the interim, Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, will appoint someone to take his place, ensuring Democrats hold the seat for now.

    “I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy. I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days,” Dayton said in a statement.

    Allegations that Franken had groped and tried to kiss women without their consent began to surface three weeks ago.

    After the initial accusations, Franken said he was embarrassed and ashamed by his behavior but would not resign. Rather, he said, he would cooperate with a Senate ethics probe and work to regain the trust of the people of Minnesota.

    However on Wednesday, calls for him to resign came from the majority of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and almost all of the Democratic women in the chamber. That pressure came as a new allegation hit the news.

    Politico reported that a congressional aide said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, before he was elected to the Senate. Franken denied the allegations, Politico reported.

    Reuters has not independently verified the accusations against him.


    U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) arrives at the U.S. Senate to announce his resignation over allegations of sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein


    Striking a somewhat defiant tone, Franken sought to contrast himself with two Republicans – President Donald Trump and Senate candidate Roy Moore.

    “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate, with the full support of his party,” he said.

    In a 2005 videotape that surfaced last year as he was running for the White House, Trump was heard bragging about kissing and touching women. Trump apologized for the remarks, but called them private “locker-room talk” and said he had not done the things he talked about. Trump also denied allegations at that time by at least 12 women of sexual advances and groping in the past.

    Reuters has not independently verified the accusations.

    Moore, who is running for the Senate in Alabama, has been accused by several women of sexual assault or misconduct when they were teenagers and Moore was in his early 30s. Moore, 70, has denied the accusations, which Reuters has not independently verified.

    Moore has been backed by Trump but Senate Republicans have been cooler toward his candidacy ahead of a special election on Tuesday.

    In pressing Franken to step aside, Democrats have tried to capture the moral high ground and draw a distinction between their party and Republicans.

    Democrat John Conyers, the longest serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, stepped down on Tuesday after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, the first member of Congress to leave his seat during the wave of high-profile harassment allegations. Conyers has denied the allegations against him.

    Several of Franken’s Democratic colleagues dabbed tears from their eyes while he spoke. His family watched from the balcony.

    Afterward, his Democratic colleagues lined up to embrace him, including many of the women who had called for his resignation.

    The election to fill Franken’s seat next year could be close.

    When he ran in 2008, the race was decided after an extensive recount, with Minnesota’s Supreme Court weighing in. In the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton, won the state by less than two points.

    Before he switched to politics, Franken rose to national prominence as a cast member on the long-running television program “Saturday Night Live.”

    Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Maria Caspani and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Frances Kerry


    See Also:

    (1) It Took Way Too Long for Senate Democrats to Demand Franken’s Resignation

    (2) Star Tribune Editorial Board: Franken should resign

    (3) Al Franken’s resignation gives Republicans ‘huge’ opportunity to win seat: GOP leader


  • Jack 3:35 am on December 4, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: chicago debt, , , , nicole gelinas, , ohio debt, ohio state, , , , , , rahm emanuel   

    Ohios’ Problem 

    The Windy City is using complex bonds to delay a financial reckoning and avoid cleaning up its fiscal mess.

    Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama...

    Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, the consummate cause of all of Chicago’s troubles.

    Chicago is in the throes of a New York-circa-1970s-style fiscal crisis, with a widening chasm between revenues and spending. Abetted by Illinois’ state government, the Windy City is adopting one of the borrowing tools that helped New York get its finances in order decades ago: a complex municipal bond, structured to protect investors in a possible bankruptcy. But unlike New York, Chicago and Illinois are using this invention to delay necessary budget reform—particularly to unaffordable retirement benefits for public-sector workers—instead of to enable it.

    Chicago has spent at least two decades digging itself into a massive financial hole. Back in 2000, the city had racked up $12.3 billion in debt, in current dollars; now, it owes $20.2 billion. Back then, the debt burden per person was roughly $4,400; these days, it’s $7,500. Even scarier is what Chicago owes to current and future pensioners: $31.5 billion, up from a $5 billion estimate in 2000. Last year, Chicago’s pension funds took in $900 million from the city and its employees and earned nearly $541 million in investment income, but the fund paid out more than $2 billion. Chicago actually has less money set aside in its pension funds today than it did a decade and a half ago. As of last December, the funds were less than 25 percent funded—perilously close to becoming another government expense (and a big one) instead of a pension system.

    Chicago has zero practical hope of fixing this mess if it keeps to its current path. Since 2000, it has run a budget surplus only once (in 2002), and ended last year $500 million in the red. Though Chicago’s annual pension payments have risen from $500 million to $800 million, the city should be making an additional $1.6 billion payment every year to cover future obligations. Perhaps the reddest flag: Chicago’s school district has been borrowing long-term not to fund infrastructure improvements or maintenance but to pay immediate expenses—a practice that New York City showed in the 1970s doesn’t end well and that no responsible municipality does today.

    Illinois and Chicago did try to reform the city’s pension plans, starting in 2014, by reducing benefits and requiring higher worker contributions. But last year, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the changes, observing that, though “fiscal soundness is important,” the state and city could “not utilize an unconstitutional method”—impairing certain benefits that the state constitution protected—“to achieve that end.”

    You would think that bondholders would worry about this unsustainable fiscal reality. Yet last February, they lent Chicago a fresh $1.2 billion, despite warning in bond documents that “the retirement funds have significant unfunded liabilities and low funding ratios” and despite the city holding a junk credit rating from Moody’s for more than two years. Customers were willing to buy the bond, maturing in 2029, at about 6 percent annual interest—considerably above the 3 percent rate that New York could borrow with over the same period, but not sufficient to deter Chicago from borrowing altogether. Increasingly, though, Chicago is worrying that interest rates will rise even higher, making it hard for the city to keep borrowing. The credit cutoff would serve as a powerful signal. Chicago keeps telling retirees and workers, including recent hires, that it can pay pensions that it can’t afford. The city apparently won’t stop doing that—until it is forced to.

    Rather than heed the marketplace’s muted alarm, Chicago and Illinois are trying to turn the alarm off. In August, to maintain the city’s ability to borrow cheaply, Illinois passed a law allowing Chicago to issue debt under a far more complex structure than regular “general-obligation” bonds. Some background: a city borrows, in general, to build or to maintain infrastructure. It typically has two ways to give investors confidence that it will repay that debt. One is via a “revenue bond,” backed by specific user revenues. If a city builds, say, a water-treatment plant, residents and businesses would pay a fee for the water that they consume, and investors can count on that money to repay the debt. Second, in cases where infrastructure doesn’t pay for itself—local roads, for instance—the city will borrow under a “general obligation” and pledge its “full faith and credit” to repay the bond. The implication is that the city will raise taxes or slash spending, or both, if all other repayment efforts fail.

    When investors no longer believe in that “full faith and credit,” a city can still borrow money through a third method, pioneered by New York during the 1970s fiscal crisis. Saddled by expanded social-welfare obligations, New York had reached the point where it could no longer repay its short-term debts, yet it needed to borrow more money to fund those obligations, as well as to provide other key services. New York’s financial industry solved this seemingly insoluble problem by inventing a hybrid bond that combined the strongest features of revenue and general-obligation bonds. Albany would set up a new nonprofit entity, known as a “Municipal Assistance Corporation.” MAC, as people soon called it, would borrow the money—and then give it to the city. To repay the debt, MAC would first collect the city’s sales taxes from the state, use those revenues to pay its debt obligations, and only then deliver any leftover money to the city. The sales taxes, in other words, were “securitized”—pledged to protect a certain kind of debt. The new instrument comforted bondholders. They no longer trusted New York City to pay back its borrowing with general tax revenues. But they felt that they could depend on the new state-chartered corporation to collect the money to pay the debt.

    The structure, in legal terms, was “bankruptcy remote.” New York could file for insolvency—as was then a real risk—but the sales taxes would continue to repay the special MAC debt, even in such a bankruptcy. Ratings agencies approved the new financial instrument, awarding it healthy “A” ratings even as they suspended the city’s credit ratings in the face of imminent default.

    Unfamiliar with the new bonds, investors initially showed minimal interest in buying them. New York State had to win federal guarantees for the city’s debt to help Gotham avoid a sustained default. But instead of being an aberration, New York’s MAC bonds became a template. “The idea of carving out revenue streams that might normally be used for general obligation [bonds] took hold in the New York City financial crisis,” says Joseph Krist, a veteran of that era and a partner at Court Street Group Research, a consulting firm. “We see this same structuring philosophy applied to other situations.”

    The structure can have real benefits. First, the ability to borrow through a safer instrument can buy a distressed municipality time to reduce its spending in an orderly fashion. After its 2013 bankruptcy, for instance, Detroit turned to a MAC-style mechanism to issue debt backed by sales- and income-tax revenue. State governments can also use the power that the mechanism affords to oversee local finances, whether through bankruptcy, as in Detroit, or outside of it, as in New York. Yet this form of structured finance has real drawbacks, too—above all, that it can make it possible for municipalities to avoid tackling serious problems for years. In New York State, debt-ridden Nassau County turned to a MAC-type organization, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, to fund itself when it got into fiscal trouble two decades ago. It’s not clear what has been “interim” about the arrangement—Nassau officials have done zilch since the authority’s creation to get the county finances in order, including failing to cut unpayable future benefits for public-sector workers.

    The potential for this kind of irresponsibility is particularly evident in Chicago. Thanks to the new Illinois law, Chicago has followed New York’s 1970s lead, creating a MAC-like organization that is issuing bonds this autumn. Like Gotham, Chicago is securitizing the bonds with its share of state sales-tax revenues. Because the state will pay the interest on the new debt before sending the remaining funds to Chicago, “the city’s hope is to achieve higher credit ratings and reduce debt-service costs,” noted The Bond Buyer, a financial industry publication. “The program is designed to bypass the city’s weak bond ratings by insulating the bonds and assigned revenues from the risk of being dragged into bankruptcy.”

    The new bond structure marks the second time in a year that Chicago has issued such tightly structured debt. Last winter, Chicago’s school district—a legally separate municipality, despite relying on the same tax base as the city—issued a half-billion dollars in bonds through a new instrument designed, as Reuters put it, “to separate the debt from the district’s severe financial woes and protect it in a potential bankruptcy filing.” Investors in the new school bonds rely on revenues from a specific capital-improvement tax, again avoiding Chicago’s junk-level credit. Chicago constructed “what they consider this strong bankruptcy-remote structure because of the acute and growing risks perceived by investors related to the general-obligation pledge,” says Bill Bonawitz, director of municipal research at PNC Capital Advisors. Bond raters rewarded the school bonds with a grade of “A,” eight steps above the city schools’ credit rating at the time; as of mid-September, the bonds traded at just above 4 percent annual interest, lower than the school district’s overall cost of borrowing.

    Yet this kind of financial mechanism works only if big fiscal reforms accompany it, and, in Chicago’s case, there are reasons to worry. New York State let New York City issue MAC bonds only if it acceded to a state takeover of its finances. Gotham had to pare spending and hike taxes—and then the city struck luck in the early 1980s, when Wall Street took off, bringing in lots of revenues. Chicago, by contrast, will continue to manage its own finances.

    Further, the city faces a far more severe long-term financial outlook than New York did. Seventies-era New York experienced a liquidity crisis, which could be solved with higher tax revenues and a reduction in public services. Chicago is looking at a solvency crisis: even with giant tax increases and serious service cuts (both of which could drive away wealthier and middle-class residents), the city is unlikely to be able to make good on its pension commitments. And Illinois, with its own credit rating hovering just above junk and with pension problems in other municipalities, is in a much weaker position to help its marquee city than New York State was decades ago. Indeed, in early September, the state was itself preparing to borrow $6 billion to pay its bills.

    Illustration by Robert Pizzo
    Illustration by Robert Pizzo

    It’s not clear that this “bankruptcy-remote” structure really would protect against losses if Chicago defaults on its general-obligation bonds. “The corporate bankruptcy code is very well established,” says Bonawitz, with “a clear line of who gets paid and how.” With the government, he observes, the case law is “very, very limited.” Even with bond prospectuses running to 568 pages, as was true of Chicago’s new school-financing plan, “there’s still a good chance” that issuers and investors “won’t get it right,” Bonawitz adds.

    True, New York’s novel bond structure worked; investors were repaid. In fact, the city, despite a AA credit rating and record tax haul, continues to issue MAC-type bonds today, through a public corporation called the “Transitional Finance Authority.” Through the 20-year-old TFA, New York owes $38 billion—almost equivalent to its general-obligation debt. The TFA bonds, backed by the city’s personal income tax and by state payments for school construction, garner a AAA rating—the highest possible—letting New York borrow more cheaply than it can on its general-obligation bonds. But these bonds may work less because of their airtight design than because New York is in such a solid fiscal position, at least for the moment. Elsewhere, municipal borrowers that issued similar bonds and subsequently found themselves in weaker fiscal positions aren’t faring so well—and offer a warning for Chicago.

    Take Puerto Rico, even before Hurricane Maria hit. In 2007, the territory’s economy was seemingly doing well, with five straight years of growth, and unemployment falling. Still, it owed 70.2 percent of its GNP, and the government had shut down the previous year in a battle over how to fund a nearly billion-dollar deficit. Officials approved the territory’s first-ever sales tax to finance that gap, but Puerto Rico didn’t trim its bloated budget with the proceeds. Instead, it issued $1.3 billion in new bonds, backed by the sales tax, via a MAC-style outfit, Cofina. The government warned investors that the borrowing was not backed “by the full faith, credit and taxing power of the commonwealth”—but it reassured them, too, that it would collect more than enough from the sales tax to cover payments on the bonds. Investors bought the bonds later that year at below 6 percent interest, similar to Chicago’s cost last February.

    Investors comfortable with Cofina made it possible for Puerto Rico eventually to raise $17 billion in new debt, almost as much as it owed in general-obligation bonds. By 2012, the territory owed nearly 100 percent of its GNP—and now its economy was in trouble. Five years later, it would be bankrupt, under a new version of legal default that the federal government authorized for it. Cofina’s structure failed to help Puerto Rico establish financial stability, and it failed to protect investors, too—the territory defaulted not only on its general-obligation bonds but also on Cofina debt. It may be years before Cofina bondholders know whether they will do better or worse than the territory’s general-obligation investors.

    Another warning sign for Chicago comes from closer to home. Illinois has done its borrowing through a AAA-rated, tax-backed mechanism called “Build Illinois” for decades. Thanks to the cheap financing, Illinois borrowed more than it otherwise could have. In June, Standard & Poor’s bond-rating agency downgraded Build Illinois’ bonds from AAA, noting that “with the negative pressure on the state’s creditworthiness intensifying, the risk of interference with the flow of revenues pledged to the repayment” of the sales-tax bonds “has increased.” Even without a default, investors in these bonds paid a higher price for a sterling rating, which has been lost. If this tax-backed structure won’t work as advertised on the state level, how can anyone be sure that it will work on the city level?

    With no clear precedent to guide them, bond analysts are debating whether structured municipal finance offers much, if any, protection to investors. The pro-protection argument goes as follows. Even if investors in Puerto Rico’s Cofina, say, or in Chicago’s securitized-tax debt suffer losses, they will suffer less than other bondholders. A bankruptcy judge will respect the fact that the elected local government designed the bonds to offer greater protection. “Nothing is absolutely bullet-proof,” acknowledges one top municipal-bankruptcy attorney, but “if you’ve got a lien” in the form of securitized tax revenue, the borrower defaulting on this debt, and thus diverting the collateral behind that lien to other purposes, represents “an unconstitutional violation of the takings clause, the impairments clause.” These structures, he believes, should work “most of the time.”

    Contrarians, though, contend that no matter how tangled their borrowing, a state or city has just one tax base and, in a crisis, will have no reason to protect one set of bondholders over another. A bond secured by tax revenues is different, too, from one secured by a more traditional kind of asset, such as a parking garage. As Cate Long, who leads a private research service for Puerto Rico bondholders, notes, a key element of the territory’s insolvency proceedings is whether Cofina funds are “available resources” under the Puerto Rico constitution—“available,” that is, to fund public services and payments to public-sector retirees. If they are available, “then the lien and trust will be broken and Cofina sales-tax revenues will revert to the Puerto Rico general-treasury account,” says Long. The same scenario could arise in Chicago.

    In fact, cities and states might have an incentive to favor their general-obligation bondholders. After all, an entity like the one that Chicago is about to create to issue sales-tax-backed debt has no real purpose but to issue such bonds. Like a corporation, it could default, and vanish; Chicago, by contrast, will stick around. The city will want to maintain its ability to issue debt after any bankruptcy, by making good on its general-obligation bonds.

    Further, one precedent set in Detroit likely will affect tax-backed bonds. Many investors once thought that municipalities in severe distress would favor bondholders over public-sector workers and retirees. But, as William Sims of the H. J. Sims bond-underwriting firm observes, “the old days of the bonds coming before labor, that has gone.” Concurs Bonawitz, “it’s a lot easier to disrupt bondholder payments than it is to affect employees and pensioners and service recipients. If you’re a bondholder, no matter what the documents say . . . you’re an outsider.”

    MAC-style securitized debt for municipalities is a good idea only if it helps them avoid abrupt, radical change—shutting off streetlights at night, for example, to save money. It’s not a good idea when it delays needed change and makes any eventual adjustment—for citizens, taxpayers, and public workers alike—even harsher when it becomes inescapable. In devising legal structures to protect bondholders from a crisis, Chicago may wind up making that crisis worse, when it hits.


  • Jack 2:21 pm on December 3, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Entrapment? Possibly! 

    Ed. Note:  As a matter of general interest I once read cover to cover Sun Zu’s epic treatise “The Art Of War” followed since time immemorial by wise military and business tacticians.  The short story (aside from many other good ideas): In brief it describes the prospect of letting the enemy think they are winning,  all the while leading them exactly where you want them to go…and when the proper time arrives you turn on them and beat them to death with a very big club.

    Ghengis Khan and his armies were famous for this tactic and he conquered most of the known world of the time through it’s use.  Closer to the present, it is clear Bannon has read that book and so has Trump.

    Apparently, Mueller and Rosenstein have not, much to their NOW occurring embarrassment.  Finally we get to watch the much encouraged “fish” fight on the end of the baited hook they so eagerly devoured “lo these many months”.

    Big fish, yes (it’s a whopper).

    Bigger hook definitely (they can’t escape).

    Folks, it’s peanuts, popcorn and lot’s of beer time.

    Christmas has arrived early for Trump supporters.

    Two senior Justice Department officials have confirmed to Fox News that the department’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the role played in the Hillary Clinton email investigation by Peter Strzok, a former deputy director for counterintelligence at the FBI who was removed from the staff of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III earlier this year, after Mueller learned that Strzok had exchanged anti-Trump texts with a colleague.

    A source close to the matter said the OIG probe, which will examine Strzok’s roles in a number of other politically sensitive cases, should be completed by “very early next year.”

    The task will be exceedingly complex, given Strzok’s consequential portfolio. He participated in the FBI’s fateful interview with Hillary Clinton on July 2, 2016 – just days before then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was declining to recommend prosecution of Mrs. Clinton in connection with her use, as secretary of state, of a private email server.

    As deputy FBI director for counterintelligence, Strzok also enjoyed liaison with various agencies in the intelligence community, including the CIA, then led by Director John Brennan.

    Key figure

    House investigators told Fox News they have long regarded Strzok as a key figure in the chain of events when the bureau, in 2016, received the infamous anti-Trump “dossier” and launched a counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the election that ultimately came to encompass FISA surveillance of a Trump campaign associate.

    The “dossier” was a compendium of salacious and largely unverified allegations about then-candidate Trump and others around him that was compiled by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The firm’s bank records, obtained by House investigators, revealed that the project was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, D-Calif., has sought documents and witnesses from the Department of Justice and FBI to determine what role, if any, the dossier played in the move to place a Trump campaign associate under foreign surveillance.

    Strzok himself briefed the committee on Dec. 5, 2016, the sources said, but within months of that session House Intelligence Committee investigators were contacted by an informant suggesting that there was “documentary evidence” that Strzok was purportedly obstructing the House probe into the dossier.

    In early October, Nunes personally asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who has overseen the Trump-Russia probe since the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions – to make Strzok available to the committee for questioning, sources said.

    While Strzok’s removal from the Mueller team had been publicly reported in August, the Justice Department never disclosed the anti-Trump texts to the House investigators. The denial of access to Strzok was instead predicated, sources said, on broad “personnel” grounds.

    When a month had elapsed, House investigators – having issued three subpoenas for various witnesses and documents – formally recommended to Nunes that DOJ and FBI be held in contempt of Congress. Nunes continued pressing DOJ, including a conversation with Rosenstein as recently as last Wednesday.

    That turned out to be 12 days after DOJ and FBI had made Strzok available to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own parallel investigation into the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

    Contempt citations?

    Responding to the revelations about Strzok’s texts on Saturday, Nunes said he has now directed his staff to draft contempt-of-Congress citations against Rosenstein and the new FBI director, Christopher Wray. Unless DOJ and FBI comply with all os his outstanding requests for documents and witnesses by the close of business on Monday, Nunes said, he would seek a resolution on the contempt citations before year’s end.

    “We now know why Strzok was dismissed, why the FBI and DOJ refused to provide us this explanation, and at least one reason why they previously refused to make [FBI] Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe available to the Committee for an interview,” Nunes said in a statement.

    Early Saturday afternoon, after Strzok’s texts were cited in published reports by the New York Times and the Washington Post – and Fox News had followed up with inquiries about the department’s refusal to make Strzok available to House investigators – the Justice Department contacted the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan to establish a date for Strzok’s appearance before House Intelligence Committee staff, along with two other witnesses long sought by the Nunes team.

    Those witnesses are FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the FBI officer said to have handled Christopher Steele, the British spy who used Russian sources to compile the dossier for Fusion GPS. The official said to be Steele’s FBI handler has also appeared already before the Senate panel.

    The Justice Department maintained that the decision to clear Strzok for House interrogation had occurred a few hours prior to the appearance of the Times and Post stories.

    In addition, Rosenstein is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 13.

    The Justice Department maintains that it has been very responsive to the House intel panel’s demands, including private briefings for panel staff by senior DOJ and FBI personnel and the production of several hundred pages of classified materials available in a secure reading room at DOJ headquarters on Oct. 31.

    Behind the scenes

    Sources said Speaker Ryan has worked quietly behind the scenes to try to resolve the clash over dossier-related evidence and witnesses between the House intel panel on the one hand and DOJ and FBI on the other. In October, however, the speaker took the unusual step of saying publicly that the two agencies were “stonewalling” Congress.

    All parties agree that some records being sought by the Nunes team belong to categories of documents that have historically never been shared with the committees that conduct oversight of the intelligence community.

    Federal officials told Fox News the requested records include “highly sensitive raw intelligence,” so sensitive that officials from foreign governments have emphasized to the U.S. the “potential danger and chilling effect” it could place on foreign intelligence sources.

    Justice Department officials noted that Nunes did not appear for a document-review session that his committee’s ranking Democrat, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., attended, and once rejected a briefing by an FBI official if the panel’s Democratic members were permitted to attend.

    Sources close to the various investigations agreed the discovery of Strzok’s texts raised important questions about his work on the Clinton email case, the Trump-Russia probe, and the dossier matter.

    “That’s why the IG is looking into all of those things,” a Justice Department official told Fox News on Saturday.

    A top House investigator asked: “If Mueller knew about the texts, what did he know about the dossier?”

    Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, said: “Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation.”

    Carr declined to comment on the extent to which Mueller has examined the dossier and its relationship, if any, to the counterintelligence investigation that Strzok launched during the height of the campaign season.


    See Also:

    (1) Mueller Investigation: Politics, Not Law Enforcement or Counterintelligence

    (2) Mulvaney scrutinizing 125 CFPB cases opened by liberal predecessor

    (3) Deep State Russia Meddling Cover-Up

    (4) Flashback: Obama State Department – ‘No Problem’ with Trump Transition Team Contacting Foreign Officials

  • Jack 3:32 am on November 29, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , rep. raul m. grijalva, , secret hush fund,   

    Another One? 

    Rep. Raul M. Grijalva quietly arranged a “severance package” in 2015 for one of his top staffers who threatened a lawsuit claiming the Democrat was frequently drunk and created a hostile workplace environment, revealing yet another way that lawmakers can use taxpayer dollars to hide their misbehavior on Capitol Hill.

    While the Office of Compliance has been the focus of outrage on Capitol Hill for hush-money payouts in sexual harassment cases, the Grijalva payout points to another office that lawmakers can use to sweep accusations under the rug with taxpayer-funded settlements negotiated by the House Employment Counsel, which acts as the attorney for all House offices.

    The employment counsel negotiated a deal for taxpayers to give $48,395 — five additional months’ salary — to the female aide, who left her job after three months. She didn’t pursue the hostile workplace complaint further.

    The arrangement appears to run contrary to House rules that constrain severance packages, and it caught the eye of watchdogs who were already demanding answers about payouts in the wake of harassment complaints.

    “It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress,” said Melanie Sloan, an ethics lawyer in Washington. “A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”

    In the case of Mr. Grijalva, the senior employee left after three months on the job. Her position was filled immediately by another worker, and her email and cellphone were deactivated.

    When the woman hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit, Mr. Grijalva halted her salary as part of the House Employment Counsel’s strategy to force her to settle the matter, according to Capitol Hill sources.

    The agreement provided for her pay to resume at her full salary for five months after she left the office.

    Mr. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, told The Washington Times that the pay was a severance package and that the agreement was reached without a complaint lodged with the Office of Compliance, which handles workplace grievances by congressional employees.

    “On the advice of House Employment Counsel, I provided a severance package to a former employee who resigned. The severance did not involve the Office of Compliance and at no time was any allegation of sexual harassment made, and no sexual harassment occurred,” Mr. Grijalva said in an email to The Washington Times.

    “Under the terms of the agreement, had there been an allegation of sexual harassment, the employee would have been free to report it. Regrettably, for me to provide any further details on this matter would violate the agreement,” he said.

    Mr. Grijalva did not respond to repeated inquiries about why he agreed to a more than $48,000 severance package for an employee on the job for just three months.

    The woman, whose name is being withheld by The Times, declined to comment for this article.

    The payoff in the Grijalva case appeared to violate House rules that prohibit a Congress member from retaining “an employee who does not perform duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation such employee receives.”

    A legitimate severance package also should be paid in a lump sum and reported separately, according to House rules.

    The role of the House Employment Counsel in squelching workplace complaints emerged amid flurry of sexual harassment accusations and shock that Congress has covered it up for years.

    Most of the focus has been on Congress’ Office of Compliance, which over the past 20 years paid out $17.2 million to settle 264 complaints of sexual harassment and other workplace violations on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post reported this month.

    In the absence of a human resources department for Congress, the Office of Compliance handles sexual harassment and other workplace grievances. The settlements are secret, and the complaint process is arduous and can drag out for months with mandatory counseling for victims and other requirements.

    Victims also are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before the matter can be resolved.

    That appears to have happened in the Grijalva case with the Employment Counsel as well.

    Peter Flaherty, president of the watchdog organization National Legal and Policy Center, said the secrecy of the congressional offices makes it difficult to figure out how widespread the problems are.

    “Sexual harassment settlements are sometimes disguised as other transactions, like severance payments. These are very hard to unravel,” he said. “These settlements were made with public funds. Since we taxpayers were parties to these agreements, we have the right to know who on whose behalf we settled.”

    Mr. Flaherty said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, should make public all the names of all the lawmakers accused of sexual harassment and the amounts of settlements paid in each case, while preserving the anonymity of the victims.

    Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Republican, called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate every use of taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims in Congress.

    “It’s unbelievable — and unacceptable — that elected officials have been using taxpayer dollars to cover up sexual harassment suits for years,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “As if the American people needed another example of politicians playing by a different set of rules, this is an affront to the hardworking taxpayers forced to foot the bill for these heinous actions.”

    His office said the demand for investigation applied to the House Employment Counsel, the Office of Compliance and any other method of settling claims.

    The complaints against members of Congress are piling up.

    Ms. Sloan, the ethics lawyer, said she was victimized in 1998 while working for Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat. She said she was verbally abused and one occasion was called into the congressman’s office, where she found him in his underwear.

    Her complaints at the time were largely ignored, and Mr. Conyers’ office said she was “mentally unstable.”

    Ms. Sloan is among three women who have come forward with complaints of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Conyers.

    One female staffer was paid $27,000 in 2015 as part of a confidentiality agreement after she accused Mr. Conyers of firing her when she refused to have sex with him, BuzzFeed reported.

    The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the sexual harassment accusation against Mr. Conyers, who denied wrongdoing but stepped down from his position as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

    On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Al Franken also faces a possible ethics investigation after radio newscaster Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a USO tour in 2006, before the Minnesota Democrat was elected in 2008.

    Another woman came forward to accuse the senator of grabbing her buttocks while they were at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

    Mr. Franken has made several apologies.

    “I know that I’ve let a lot of people down,” he said Monday when returning to work in the Senate.

    It’s part of a flood of sexual harassment accusations against powerful men that began with women speaking out about movie producer Harvey Weinstein and spread through Hollywood to journalism and Capitol Hill.

    The Senate voted this month to institute mandatory training to combat sexual harassment, and Mr. Ryan ordered all House members and staff to receive training.

    At the time, Mr. Grijalva applauded the move and called for more action.


    See Also:

    (1) Accusing Moore’s Accusers

    (2) Voters increasingly skeptical of allegations against Roy Moore in Alabama Senate race

    (3) Why Roy Moore Matters (Read it all-Roe vs Wade)

  • Jack 3:32 am on November 29, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , daniel john sobieski, , , , net neutrality, ,   

    Obama Corrected 

    The FCC is expected to vote and approve on December 14 Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to end the so-called “net neutrality” rules imposed by President Obama’s FCC in 2015. This has provoked howls from liberals and tech giants that this is a blow for Internet freedom and another boon for big business. It is exactly the opposite. It is in fact a boon for economic and political freedom as are all the other Obama-era regulations rescinded by the Trump administration that have promoted economic growth and lessened our dependency on big government. As the Washington Examiner notes:

    Sometimes you have to wonder how sincere people are when they gnash their teeth and pull out their hair over President Trump blocking or reversing an Obama-era regulation.

    The latest cries of distress about anarchy and market apocalypse can be heard about an announcement by the Federal Communications Commission that it will roll back “net neutrality.”

    Net neutrality’s dubious value is made obvious by the misleading way Democrats and many news outlets reported the decision. “F.C.C. plans net neutrality repeal in a victory for telecoms,” wrote the New York Times. Missing from the headline or lede was that the decision was a loss for Netflix, Amazon, Google, and other corporate giants that provide content.

    Liberals oppose the free flow of information they can’t control and in the name of providing equal access to all they sought to regulate the access of everybody. They., in effect, sought to put toll booths and speed bumps on the information superhighway. As the Daily Signal reported:

    On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revealed his most important change yet: eliminating the spectacularly nonsensical “net neutrality” rules imposed by President Barack Obama’s FCC in 2015.

    The 2015 rules deemed internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast to be “common carriers” under the 80-year-old Communications Act.

    This allowed the FCC to subject those companies to meticulous FCC control over how they provide service –specifically, net neutrality rules requiring providers to treat all internet transmissions equally, even if the sender or consumer would prefer customized service.

    Not surprisingly, investment in broadband networks subsequently declined, and innovation — such as certain free data service plans — was threatened.

    But Wednesday, the FCC chairman revealed plans to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order and return to what he described as “the light-touch regulatory framework that served our nation so well.”

    President Obama feared the free flow of information as a threat to his power grabs and attempt to fundamentally transform the United States. Just as cable news eliminated the old guard network’s role as gatekeepers of what we saw and heard, the Internet freed information consumers to seek the truth and speak their minds in an unfettered environment.

    Under net neutrality, the FCC took for itself the power to regulate how Internet providers manage their networks and how they serve their customers. The FCC would decide how and what information could flow through the Internet, all in the name of providing access to the alleged victims of corporate greed.

    The Internet, perhaps as much as the first printing press, has freed the minds of men from the tyranny of those gatekeepers who know that if you can control what people say and know, you can control the people themselves. And that is what President Obama feared. In a May 2010 commencement speech to graduates at Hampton University in Virginia, President Obama complained that too much information is actually a threat to democracy.

    Obama’s fear of Internet freedom and the free flow of information was noted by Investor’s Business Daily when it editorialized in 2014:

    We would suggest that it is because Obama has long opposed the free flow of information as a hindrance to his ambitious big-government agenda, an animus that started with diatribes against cable outlets such as Fox News and conservative talk radio.

    In a 2010 speech to graduates at Hampton University in Virginia, Obama complained that too much information is a threat to democracy.

    “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a means of emancipation,” he opined.

    “All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”

    We said at the time that we disagreed with his views. Dissent, we argued, doesn’t threaten our republic. But free speech restrains the tyrants and socialists who would steal our freedoms. The Internet is the direct descendant of the pamphleteers who energized the American Revolution. This time it’s not the British coming as tyrants, but Obama and the FCC.

    In George Orwell’s classic 1984, the control of information and its flow was critical to “Big Brother” maintaining is control over the people and in manipulating their passions. Authoritarian governments and dictators worldwide know that lesson well. Now the Obama administration wants globalists to be the “Big Brother” of the Internet.

    The ability to see how others live and the ability to exchange ideas is a catalyst to dissent and unrest. It is the preserver of freedom. The ability to choke off that flow is a necessity for authoritarian governments. That is why the Obama administration so hated outlets like Fox News and talk radio. The Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have helped fuel democratic movements from our own Tea Party to the Iranian dissidents.

    It used to be three networks controlled the information we saw and heard. Thanks to the Internet, talk radio, and cable news, we have access to formerly unheard and suppressed voices. News and commentary no longer has to get past the gatekeepers at CBS, ABC, NBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

    The Founding Fathers wisely provided for freedom of speech and of the press as a means of guaranteeing our freedom and our democracy. The Internet is the new free press and an outlet for or free speech.

    As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized in January 2011, an unfettered Internet is exactly what the Founders had in mind and what tyrants fear most:

    Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, but if Thomas Jefferson could have he would have. The Internet, with its Facebooks and Twitters, is the perfect venue for and example of the free speech the Founding Fathers enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment….

    The issue is not access, but control. In February 2008, FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd, an admirer of what Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez did to silence his country’s media, wrote about net neutrality in an article, “Net Neutrality Is A Civil Rights Issue,” published by CommonDreams.org.

    “Unfortunately, the powerful cable and telecom industry doesn’t value the Internet for its public interest benefits,” Lloyd wrote. “Instead, these companies too often believe that to safeguard their profits, they must control what content you see and how you get it.” Lloyd feels government should be the voice controlling what you see and hear.

    Like the “control voice” on the old Outer Limits series, Obama and the liberals wanted to control everything you say and hear. Senator Ted Cruz, who opposed giving away U.S. control of the Internet to the United Nations or any foreign regulatory body, in 2014 rightly compared net neutrality to ObamaCare:

    Cruz, who is mulling a run for president in 2016, compared the entire concept of “net neutrality” — which posits that internet companies should not be allowed to speed or slow down their services for certain users — to Obama’s much-maligned healthcare reform.'”Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,” Cruz wrote on Twitter. Cruz’s spokeswoman, Amanda Carpenter, added that net neutrality would place the government “in charge of determining pricing, terms of service, and what products can be delivered. Sound like Obamacare much?”

    Net neutrality was not designed to liberate but to suppress. It is the Fairness Doctrine of the Internet that like Obama’s war on Fox News and conservative talk radio is designed to marginalize and silence those who disagree with those in power.


  • Jack 3:49 am on November 28, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: alan dershowitz, , , , , , ,   

    Cry Babies 

    Palestinian terrorist leaders often use teenagers to commit acts of terror because they know the Israeli legal system treats children more leniently than adults. Now 10 Democrats belonging to the Congressional Progressive Caucus are trying to give terrorist leaders yet another reason for using young people to murder even more innocent civilians.

    Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., introduced legislation Nov. 14 – co-sponsored by nine other Democrats – calling on the State Department to “prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.”

    In a news release about the proposed legislation, McCollum said: “This legislation highlights Israel’s system of military detention of Palestinian children and ensures that no American assistance to Israel supports human rights violations …. Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”

    It is well established that recruiting and using young Palestinians to wage terror on Israeli civilians is part of the modus operandi of Palestinian terrorist leaders. For decades, members of the radical Palestinian political and religious leadership have been stirring up young people to wage war against the Jews and the Jewish State.

    This was seen in the gruesome intifada that began in 2000, in which Palestinian teenagers committed dozens of attacks against Jewish Israelis on buses, in cafes and at nightclubs.

    More recently – in what has become known as the “lone-wolf” intifada – children as young as 13 have stabbed Israelis with scissors, screwdrivers and knives.

    Legislation proposed by the 10 Democrats is titled the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. The bill does not explicitly define at what age a person moves from childhood to adulthood.

    While noting that children between the ages of 12 and 17 are held and prosecuted by Israeli military courts, the bill fails to acknowledge that some of the most barbaric terrorist attacks against Jewish Israelis have been committed by Palestinian teens.

    Consider the terrorist attack that took place over this past summer in Halamish, about an hour outside Jerusalem. A Palestinian in his late teens – from a nearby village controlled by the Palestinian Authority – chose a Jewish house at random and fatally stabbed three members of a family as they ate their Sabbath dinner.

    The Palestinian “child” murderer also wounded several other family members, while one mother hid her young children in an upstairs room until the terrorist left.

    The triple-murder is reminiscent of a similar attack that occurred only six years earlier when two Palestinian teens armed with knives broke into the Fogel family home in Itamar as they slept on Friday night. The “children” butchered the mother, father and three of their children – including a 3-month-old baby as she slept in her crib.

    As a result of such deadly terrorist attacks by Palestinian teenagers, Israel has had to introduce legislation to deal with the problem. In August 2016, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) passed a bill allowing imprisonment of terrorists as young as 12.

    The new law allows for leniency. The courts can not only postpone the convicted minor’s transfer date from a closed holding facility to prison, but can also shorten or cancel the prison sentence altogether, if warranted by the circumstances.

    In introducing the bill, Knesset Member Anat Berko said: “This law was born of necessity. We have been experiencing a wave of terror for quite some time. A society is allowed to protect itself. To those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15. We’ve witnessed numerous cases where 11-year-old children were suicide bombers. Perhaps this law will also do something to protect these children from being used to slaughter people.”

    In a desperate effort to justify her proposed legislation, Rep. McCollum argued that “peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children.”

    McCollum’s hypocrisy in this context is palpable. She claims to be an advocate for “the rights of children.” Yet she refuses to acknowledge or condemn Palestinians who perpetrate acts of child abuse by recruiting children to commit terrorist attacks on Jews.

    McCollum expressed no outrage when Palestinian leaders were caught posting material on social media inciting and encouraging young Palestinians to stab Israelis.

    And the Minnesota member of Congress failed to protest when Hamas set up training camps – under the mantra “Vanguards of Liberation” – aimed at training children as young as 15 to use weapons against Israel. Nor did she speak up when children in Gaza were crushed to death when the terror tunnels they were recruited by the Hamas leadership to build collapsed on their bodies.

    So I ask: What do these members of Congress think Israel should do? If children as young as 13 were roaming the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Boston stabbing elderly women as they shopped at the supermarket or waited at a bus stop, would the Democrats protest the apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators? Of course not.

    No country in the world would tolerate terror in its cities, regardless of the age of the terrorists.

    Israel has a right – according to international law – to protect its citizens from constant terror attacks, including those committed by young Palestinians. It actually has an obligation to do so.

    If Israel is punished for trying to protect its citizens from teen terrorists, this would incentivize terrorist leaders to keep using children in pursuit of their goal of wiping the Israel off the map.

    But rather than condemning the abhorrent and unlawful use of children as terrorist pawns, the 10 congressional Democrats chose to single out Israel for punishment.

    People of good faith on both sides of the aisle should call out this double standard for what it really is: an attack on Jewish victims of teenage terrorism and the Jewish State.

    For Shame on this group of biased anti-Israel Democrats, which includes the following members of Congress: Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Earl Blumenauer of Oregon: André Carson of Indiana: John Conyers of Michigan; Danny K. Davis of Illinois; Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon; Raul Grijalva and Luis V. Gutiérrez of Arizona; and Chellie Pingree of Maine. They give a bad name to the Democratic Party, to the Progressive Caucus and to Congress.


  • Jack 4:05 am on November 26, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , elfego baca, , , , , senate procedure,   

    On “Pro Forma” 

    The most interesting question about the Alabama Senate race is why would the REPUBLICAN majority spend $30 million of precious money trying to defeat an established, conservative brand name politician in the state who is likely to mostly vote with the Republicans? After all, name recognition is half the battle, party affiliation the other half. In a state that voted 62.9% for Trump vs. 34.6% for Hillary, why not just accept a cake walk? It is a mystery…

    What is the reason for this Gatling gun friendly fire? Would a nominal 53rd Republican senator really be so frightening? Say for a moment, as distasteful as it may be, that you are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and that in order to sabotage the repeal of Obamacare you have to find another no vote beyond McCain and the female Senator from Maine. It should be easy. The aptly named Senator Flake? The traitorous Corker who enabled Iran? Once you have sided with Iran, it should be pretty easy to be a no vote on complicated tax stuff, and pretend it is for the good of the party, and of course, the country.

    No, the fear of having a larger majority alone, with fewer plausible explanations for defeats and failures to investigate the crimes of the last eight years, cannot explain the panic among the Republican Establishment that Judge Roy Moore might win. You see the problem with Roy Moore is not his lack of character, but rather, the presence of his character and his demonstrable willingness to do what is called for and what is right. He believes in God. He believes in America. Like Roe v. Wade, he thinks that killing viable seven-month-old fetuses is murder. He goes by the book, the Good Book. He takes his responsibilities personally, and seriously. And therein lies the problem.

    Judge Roy Moore will do what is right for Alabama and for America. And when Majority Leader McConnell calls for a unanimous vote to declare the Senate to be in a Pro Forma Session, Senator Moore will not mislabel it. If Congress is in recess, and no serious business is being conducted, he will vote to call it a recess. You see, Congress has these “pro forma” sessions that pretend Congress is still in session so the President cannot make any recess appointments to any position. But I suspect the key to these votes is that they have been unanimous. Under Senate rules, if just one senator doesn’t play ball, a vote is required on the record. Senator Moore is likely to be that one senator. And the other senators don’t want to be on the record, sabotaging their President. And therein lies the $30 million problem….

    Once upon a time, Presidents routinely made recess appointments. President Clinton made 139 recess appointments, and President George W. Bush made 171. But when he was majority leader, Senator Reid used the pro forma rules to stymie President Bush. Turnabout is fair play. Senator McConnell used the same technique to stymie President Obama appointees. Of course, President Obama, with no respect for tradition or rules, appointed people anyway, only to have his appointments struck down by the Supreme Court.

    Now comes Senator McConnell, and in a scene out of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards, is using the “pro forma” vote to sabotage his own party’s President, which happened in August of 2017 when Senator Murkowski set up a series of pro forma sessions to prevent President Trump from making any recess appointments. Meanwhile, according to CNN, by November 19 of the year following their election, President Bush had 455 confirmed appointees, and President Obama had 310 confirmed appointees, but President Trump only had 249 appointees confirmed. Altogether, President Trump is supposed to appoint 4,000 employees. At this pace, he will place less than 25% of the positions allotted to the Executive Branch. The Democrats and the Republicans are working together to stop Trump from getting his people into position.

    If Judge Moore is elected, however, Trump will get some daylight to run the government instead of being tied up by the Lilliputians. In addition, perhaps the real threat is that the people currently serving under Trump will realize that they can be quickly replaced. The phrase “You’re fired!” comes to mind. The fear of that may get some of his appointees to do what Trump actually wants them to do.

    Pro forma sessions rarely are initiated by the House of Representatives. There are just too many straight up guys like Louie Gohmert that come from an 80% majority district and can actually just vote what is good for the Republic. Senator Moore will likely do the same, and, to mix metaphors about a man who went to West Point and served as a Captain in Vietnam, the torpedoes be damned. And Alabama, which for years has been considered a backwater by our betters on the Coasts, will get to weigh in on what’s really important, and whether Alabama’s social culture is boorishly crude or actually superior to that, say, of Hollywood. To which I say, Thank God.


    See Also:

    (1) Congressional Sexual Harassment Settlements in Spotlight as Pressure to Lift Veil of Secrecy Grows

    (2) Shaky Allegations Against Roy Moore Are Not Enough to Disqualify Him

    (3) New John Conyers accuser: He showed up to a meeting in his underwear

  • Jack 2:42 pm on November 24, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , treason, , us-iran relations   


    Iran is determined to terrorize and weaken American interests, whether it is helping proxies fire missiles at the Saudi Arabian capital, trying to kill Americans, attacking Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, or supporting Sunni-terrorist groups such as the Taliban.

    Only now are we learning how diverse the mullah’s malevolence really is. A trove of hundreds of thousands of documents from the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan has at last been declassified, after years being kept under wraps for grossly deceitful and dangerous political purposes by former President Barack Obama. The documents show that Iran retained a close relationship with al Qaeda, proving a safe haven for its officers, plus training and support for its murderers.

    Why are we only seeing these documents six years after the bin Laden raid? The answer is simple and a disgraceful stain on Obama’s administration. He feared that if voters knew the truth about how Iran worked to support al Qaeda after 9/11, they would oppose his nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    President Trump deserves credit for letting Americans see the truth, and he must continue acting to constrain Iran’s international predations. Two incidents from last Saturday underscore the reasons why.

    First was the ballistic missile attack on Riyadh, conducted by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran almost certainly had an intimate role in its deployment. We can say this confidently, because Houthi commanders would not risk jeopardizing Iran’s longstanding command and control, logistics and training support by taking such aggressive action against the Saudi capital without Iran’s blessing.

    Then there was Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s decision to resign, claiming Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, were plotting to assassinate him. Hariri’s position had become increasingly tenuous in recent months, as Hezbollah assumed greater influence over the Lebanese armed forces and senior political figures such as President Michel Aoun. Hariri evidently concluded that his resistance to Hezbollah interests had become life-threatening. It’s a justifiable concern; in 2005, Hariri’s father was assassinated when Iran’s puppets, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, blew up his motorcade.

    Saturday’s events reveal escalating Iranian efforts to weaken American allies. They deserve a proportionate U.S. response.

    First, in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. should support Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s attempts to remake his nation as a westward-looking, opportunity-driven society.

    Second, in Lebanon, the U.S. should work to ensure that only military officers independent of Hezbollah receive American aid. We should also sanction officers who kneel to Hezbollah’s flag.

    Third, recognizing that Iran may believe America is distracted by North Korea, Trump should consider deploying a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf.

    As it confronts these latest challenges, the Trump administration must be aware of history. Following the 2011 Iranian bomb plot against a Saudi ambassador and other diners in a Washington restaurant, the Obama administration responded with characteristically limp inaction. In 2013, Jim Mattis, who is now defense secretary, explained the risks of Obama’s appeasement.

    The “[Iranian revolutionary guards] are like children balancing lightbulbs full of nitroglycerin, you get the picture … One of these days they’re going to drop one and it’s going to knock out the London stock exchange or Wall Street, because we never drew a line and said you won’t do it. Now it’s very important we stand up as Americans and say this is what I stand for, but it’s also very important once in a while that we say this is absolutely what we won’t tolerate.”

    Whether plotting against America or our allies, Iran never encountered the pushback that we so urgently needed to administer. Now, as Iran now rolls the dice again, the Trump administration must not make the same mistakes as its predecessor.


    See Also:

    (1) Iran’s Gen. Soleimani takes personal command of Abu Kamal battle. His deputy killed.

    (2) Saudi Prince Muhammad is on eve of accession, plans war on Iran, with Israeli attack on Hizballah

    (3) Madrassa molestation: Investigation unveils pervasive sexual abuse at Pakistan Islamic schools


  • Jack 3:13 pm on November 23, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: adelle nazarian, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   


    Stephen K. Bannon believes that the Democratic Party’s obsession with identity politics will ultimately backfire against them. In fact, he believes this has broken the party to such a degree that it will never recover.

    The process has already begun.

    In his new book Bannon: Always the Rebel, released on Monday, Keith Koffler notes that the former White House Chief Strategist revealed a deep flaw in the Democratic Party’s hand that showed its poker face as a transparent window to the true nature of the party’s illusion of strength.

    It was through Bannon’s travel ban, which was expeditiously rolled out, that this revelation was made. The ban, quickly branded a “Muslim Ban” by the left, and some on the right, was intended to take attention off a second order that Bannon believed was much more significant; the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” order signed on January 25, which called for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep illegal aliens out.

    Bannon, with the whiteboard in his office and his eagerness to check off Trump campaign promises as accomplished, took the brunt of the blame for the administration moving too quickly. But he says the uproar had its upside: It helped create “the resistance” that Bannon believes thoroughly delegitimizes the Democratic Party with average voters it needs to win elections. He claimed he knew the outrage was coming, and that the Left had fallen into a trap. “The Left bit on it, and created the resistance, and it blew up, and now it’s part of the political movement,” Bannon said. “It’s what’s broken the Democratic Party.”

    As Koffler points out in his book on Bannon, the left’s reaction to the temporary travel ban showed that the Democratic Party “has become a mere anti-Trump party that gives aid, comfort, and protection to sometimes violent street protestors.”

    He also noted Bannon’s belief that the Democratic Party’s addiction to divisive identity politics may succeed in stirring up much noise on the fringes, but that this very tactic will work against them among the very same minority groups they are using to cause an uprising.

    President Trump’s temporary ban targeted seven terror-prone states identified by President Barack Obama’s administration, pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. The word “Muslim” is not once mentioned in the text of the temporary ban and it does not cover 87 percent of the world’s Muslims, who largely live in other countries than those listed.

    Koffler writes, “Concluding that the United States was now serious about deporting them, illegal immigrants stopped showing up at the border. From February to June 2017, apprehensions at the border were down 58 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.” Homeland Security Department spokesman David Lapan is quoted in the book saying, “A lot of the discussion about changes in our enforcement policy and the way we are going about doing business, we believe that has deterred people. When you get here, it is likely you are going to get caught. You are going to be returned to your country.”

    Bannon: Always the Rebel is available for purchase at bookstores and online.


  • Jack 3:26 am on November 21, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , ed klein,   

    “There’s More?!” 

    Edward Klein is the former editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine and the author of numerous bestsellers including his fourth book on the Clintons, Guilty as Sin, in 2016. His latest book is All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump was released on October 30, 2017. 

    Bill Clinton is facing explosive new charges of sexual assault from four women, according to highly placed Democratic Party sources and an official who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

    The current accusations against the 71-year-old former president — whose past is littered with charges of sexual misconduct — stem from the period after he left the White House in 2001, say the sources.

    Attorneys representing the women, who are coordinating their efforts, have notified Clinton they are preparing to file four separate lawsuits against him.

    As part of the ongoing negotiations, the attorneys for the women are asking for substantial payouts in return for their clients’ silence.

    A member of Clinton’s legal team has confirmed the existence of the new allegations.

    President Clinton, here with residents at the William Rivera Betancourt Vocational School which was turned into an emergency shelter in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, is facing accusations of sexual assault from four unidentified women, highly placed Democratic Party sources told author Ed Klein

    President Clinton, here with residents at the William Rivera Betancourt Vocational School which was turned into an emergency shelter in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, is facing accusations of sexual assault from four unidentified women, highly placed Democratic Party sources told author Ed Klein

    The women alleged the former president assaulted them in the early 2000s, during the time Clinton was working with playboy billionaire investor Ron Burkle (pictured together in 2006)

    The women alleged the former president assaulted them in the early 2000s, during the time Clinton was working with playboy billionaire investor Ron Burkle (pictured together in 2006)

    The unidentified women were employed in low-level positions at the Burkle organization and in their late teens at the time of the alleged assaults. Clinton helped Burkle generate business and flew around the world on Burkle's private jet, which was nicknamed 'Air F**k One' (pictured)

    The unidentified women were employed in low-level positions at the Burkle organization and in their late teens at the time of the alleged assaults. Clinton helped Burkle generate business and flew around the world on Burkle’s private jet, which was nicknamed ‘Air F**k One’ (pictured)

    Back in the late 1990s, Clinton paid $850,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee whose case led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal by the Senate in 1999.

    The negotiations in the new lawsuits are said to have reached a critical stage.

    If they fail, according to sources in Clinton’s inner circle, the four women are said to be ready to air their accusations of sexual assault at a press conference, making Clinton the latest — and most famous — figure in a long list of men from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey who have recently been accused of sexual assault.

    The new allegations refer to incidents that  took place more than 10 years ago, in the early 2000s, when Clinton was hired by Ron Burkle, the playboy billionaire investor, to work at his Yucaipa companies.

    Clinton helped Burkle generate business and flew around the world with a flock of beautiful young women on Burkle’s private jet, which was nicknamed ‘Air F**k One.’

    The four women, who have not yet revealed their identities, were employed in low-level positions at the Burkle organization when they were in their late teens and claim they were sexually assaulted by the former president.

    The 71-year-old politician has been followed throughout his years in public office with allegations of sexual misconduct, reaching its peak with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Pictured: Clinton with White House intern Lewinsky in 1998 

    The 71-year-old politician has been followed throughout his years in public office with allegations of sexual misconduct, reaching its peak with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Pictured: Clinton with White House intern Lewinsky in 1998

    Back in the late 1990s, Clinton paid $850,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones

    She was a former Arkansas state employee whose case led to Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal by the Senate in 1999

    In the late 1990s, Clinton paid $850,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones (left and right), a former Arkansas state employee whose case led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal by the Senate in 1999.

    The new charges are likely to revive the debate over why Democrats defended Clinton and why liberals and feminists ignored credible charges of sexual assault against Clinton from Juanita Broaddrick (pictured)

    Kathleen Willey

    The new charges are likely to revive the debate over why Democrats defended Clinton and why liberals and feminists ignored credible charges of sexual assault against Clinton from Juanita Broaddrick (left) and Kathleen Willey (right)

    There is no evidence that Burkle knew anything about these alleged assaults by Clinton.

    Contacted for a comment on the women’s allegations, a member of Clinton’s legal team said: ‘Obviously, I’m aware of [the allegations] but can’t talk about them.’

    The new charges are likely to revive the debate over why Democrats defended Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and why liberals and feminists ignored credible charges of sexual assault against the 42nd president, not only from Paula Jones, but also from Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and others.

    ‘Bill is distraught at the thought of having to testify and defend himself against sex charges again,’ said a Democratic Party official who is familiar with the case.

    ‘He hopes his legal team can somehow stop the women from filing charges and drag him through the mud.’

    The source added that Hillary Clinton is furious with her husband for getting entangled in yet another sexual scandal.

    Hillary Clinton allegedly offered to hire private detectives to find dirt on the new accusers, but Clinton's legal team advised against it, sources said

    Hillary Clinton allegedly offered to hire private detectives to find dirt on the new accusers, but Clinton’s legal team advised against it, sources said.

    'Bill spends a great deal of his time in his penthouse apartment above the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Hillary occasionally goes to Little Rock, but she refuses to stay in the apartment because she knows that's his love nest,' a source said

    ‘Bill spends a great deal of his time in his penthouse apartment above the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Hillary occasionally goes to Little Rock, but she refuses to stay in the apartment because she knows that’s his love nest,’ a source said.

    She reportedly offered to hire private detectives to dig up dirt on the women, but Bill Clinton’s attorneys persuaded her to not interfere.

    ‘In the past Hillary had a team of detectives that managed to silence a number of women in Little Rock who had complaints about Bill’s unwanted sexual advances,’ said the source.

    Klein's latest book, All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump, was released on October 30, 2017

    Klein’s latest book, All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump, was released on October 30, 2017

    ‘But now Hillary admits there’s a different atmosphere in our culture about sexual harassment and it’s not possible to intimidate women into silence about charges once they make up their mind to speak up.

    ‘Hillary wants to remain in the public eye as a leader of the resistance to Donald Trump and play a major role in politics for years to come, including maybe even running for president again in 2020,’ the source continued.

    ‘She’s afraid this latest scandal could destroy the Clinton legacy and torpedo her plans.

    ‘The relationship between Bill and Hillary has been more of a business relationship for a number of years, except when it comes to their daughter and grandchildren.

    ‘They haven’t lived as man and wife for a number of years, mostly due to Bill’s running around with other women.

    ‘It became obvious years ago that even age wasn’t going to make Bill settle down and stop chasing women. Hillary has simply ignored it and lived her separate life.

    ‘Bill spends a great deal of his time in his penthouse apartment above the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.

    ‘Hillary occasionally goes to Little Rock, but she refuses to stay in the apartment because she knows that’s his love nest.’


  • Jack 3:00 am on November 17, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , stephen dinan, , ,   


    With spines stiffened by a presidential pep talk, House Republicans easily approved a $1.4 trillion tax cut Thursday, taking the first big step toward a decades-overdue overhaul that the GOP hopes will send the economy soaring.

    Desperate for a legislative win, Republicans linked arms and plowed ahead, brushing aside Democratic warnings that the bill will be seen as a sop to the wealthy instead of a boost to the middle class that President Trump had promised.

    “America needs a comeback,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican. “This is your comeback.”

    Thursday’s 227-205 vote marks the first major step, but Republicans still have a number of hills to climb. The Senate is aiming to pass its own version after Thanksgiving, then the measures need to be squared with each other.

    No Democrats backed the bill.

    “This is the most irresponsible bill I will have been confronted with in 37 years,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat who said the massive deficits — as much as $2 trillion, when interest costs and other extensions are included — are a betrayed of what Republicans have long argued for.

    Democrats said they could have supported a bill that cut taxes for those with middle incomes, but rejected any relief for the wealthy.

    The bill actually doesn’t change the top tax rate of more than 39 percent, but raises the thresholds so it kicks in only at a higher income — more than $1 million for a married couple filing jointly. The bill then cuts the six other existing tax brackets down to three, and raises most of the income thresholds so Americans would see tax breaks.

    A near-doubling of the standard deduction will help most taxpayers, and raising the per-child tax credit will help families, the GOP said.

    On the business side, the corporate income tax rate will be lowered from 35 percent to 20 percent, taking it from the highest among major industrialized economies down below the global average.

    And small businesses who pay taxes as personal income would see cuts as well, though the actual rates depend on a complex set of calculations.

    The bill also eliminates the estate tax, leaving what’s estimated to be more than $170 billion in the hands of wealthy Americans.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quoted Catholic writings by St. Augustine in blasting the GOP’s plan, saying it was unjust.

    “Our votes today will decide the future of the American middle class and those who aspire to it,” the California Democrat said, repeatedly calling the bill the “GOP tax scam.”

    She pointed to analysis that found some Americans will end up worse off under the bill, because they’ll lose tax breaks for state and local tax deductions or student loan interest.

    Republicans acknowledged instances where someone might have been claiming a number of breaks to lower their tax bill, but said nearly every family will save by eliminating the breaks but getting a lower rate.

    “What we are doing here is determining the kind of country we’re going to have,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said, casting the bill a chance for the economy to finally escape the doldrums the economy has been trapped in the decade since the Wall Street collapse.

    “Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help these middle-income families that are struggling,” he said.

    Of the 1.4 trillion in total tax cuts, the House bill delivers more than 70 percent of that benefit to businesses in the form of the corporate and small business cuts.


  • Jack 3:23 am on November 16, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   


    Jeff Sessions is a man in search of a banana peel. When he can’t find one to step on, he supplies his own.

    Sessions is not a bad man, but he is a bad attorney general, as he demonstrated again Tuesday.

    By writing to Republicans in Congress just hours before he was scheduled to testify that he was open to appointing a special prosecutor to examine former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail case and the notorious Uranium One deal, Sessions primed the pump for a really big show.

    Democrats arrived furious and Republicans gleefully expected an ah-ha moment. Both came away unsatisfied and unhappy.

    Unfortunately for Sessions, the old conceit in journalism — that if both sides are angry at your story, you’ve done something right — doesn’t apply to being attorney general. When nobody’s happy, including your boss, you’re failing.

    While Democrats and Republicans are angry at Sessions for different reasons, there’s no rule saying both can’t be right.

    The litany of things he couldn’t remember or couldn’t discuss seemed calculated to frustrate rather than enlighten. The fact that he thought non-answers to big questions would be good enough reflects how poorly he fits his job.

    His faulty judgment has become a calling card, which is why I’ve argued that appointing Sessions was Trump’s biggest personnel mistake; yesterday’s performance did nothing to change my view.

    There’s also a new bonus reason: had Sessions stayed as a senator from Alabama, Roy Moore’s dirty history would have remained a secret instead of a national scandal that could help flip Senate control.

    Sessions’ decision to recuse himself, then tell Trump, from anything related to the 2016 campaign led to the enormous cloud over the White House that has distorted the first year of the new presidency.

    Consider the alternative. Imagine that Robert Mueller were still in private law practice, and there were no open-ended investigation of everybody connected to the Trump campaign.

    Then all of Washington would have to accept the election as settled and deal with Trump as president, not as a pinata on a short-term lease.

    So while Trump erred in naming Sessions, Sessions is responsible for taking the job when he knew he would have to sit out the most important matter before his agency, one that increasingly smells like an extension of the Democrats’ bid to overturn the election.

    In that sense, it was especially galling that Sessions refused to answer direct questions about the Russian dossier prepared for Clinton’s campaign, including whether the FBI under Comey paid the author and used the document to request wiretaps on Trump associates. Sessions never gave a reason why he couldn’t answer such important questions.

    Then there’s the Uranium One deal, which allowed Russia to gain control of 20 percent of America’s uranium supply. On its face, the 2010 deal made little sense but drew little attention because so little was known of it.

    That was by intent, with the role of an FBI informant who blew the whistle on the crimes of an involved Russian company kept secret as the Obama administration, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, green-lighted the deal.

    Soon, a gusher of money flowed the Clintons’ way, with Bill getting a $500,000 speaking gig in Moscow and as much as $145 million going to the Clinton Foundation from parties with a stake in the transaction.

    That Mueller was the head of the FBI then, and Rod Rosenstein was the US Attorney in Maryland, is not incidental. Both played major roles in a case that now looks like a cover-up, yet they are now deciding the fate of the Trump presidency.

    Rosenstein, as Sessions’ deputy, assumed his powers after the recusal and named his friend Mueller special counsel. Neither they nor Comey should be above scrutiny or rules governing conflicts of interest.

    In obvious ways, Sessions’ letter saying he was open to a new special counsel for these issues looked like both a tit-for-tat move and a response to Trump’s demands to investigate Clinton.

    Those suspicions were raised by Dems, which was both inevitable and pointless. The only test that matters is whether the former administration tried to hide facts that would have killed the uranium deal, whether the former secretary of state gave her approval in exchange for a windfall, and whether the probe of her e-mails was rigged by the Obama Justice Department.

    Yet once again, Sessions quibbled with most of those questions rather than answer them directly, leaving confusion about why he wrote the letter in the first place and whether he actually intends to do anything.

    Because of the Moore mess and Trump’s unhappiness with Sessions, the White House has floated the idea that Sessions might want to go back to his Senate seat. The move could simultaneously solve two problems, and though it would be tricky, Sessions’ latest flubs prove it is the best possible outcome.


    See Also:

    (1) AG Sessions: ‘Something Is Lost Whenever You Provide an Amnesty’ to Illegal Aliens

    (2) Sessions: DOJ Might Go After Press For National Security Leaks

    (3) Media Freak Out After Sessions Suggests He’ll Subpoena Reporters

    (4) Jeff Sessions: ‘Not enough basis’ for special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton

    (5) Sessions says he has ‘no reason to doubt’ Moore accusers

    (6) What Jeff Sessions’s Hearing Proved

    (7) Jeff Sessions can save Republicans from Roy Moore mess in Alabama

  • Jack 3:49 am on November 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , cla, , dave boyer, , dni, , , james clapper, , john brennan, , , , ,   


    President Trump said Saturday that he accepts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials about election meddling, and doesn’t want to press him further as he seeks Moscow’s help on global hot spots such as North Korea, Syria and Ukraine.

    Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One in Vietnam that he asked Mr. Putin again about Russia’s election interference during a private meeting on the sidelines of a summit.

    “Every time he sees me he says ‘I didn’t do that’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” the president said. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country. He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. You can only ask so many times. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election.”

    The president suggested he puts more stock in Mr. Putin than in three former U.S. officials who stated Russia interfered in the election — former CIA Director John Brennan, fired FBI Director James B. Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    “They’re political hacks,” Mr. Trump said. “So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”

    Mr. Trump blamed the tensions with Russia on Democrats and Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state had clumsily tried to “reset” relations with Russia by displaying a large button with “reset” spelled incorrectly in Russian.

    “She hit that reset button, it was a joke. But she tried and she failed,” the president said. “Sometimes you don’t have chemistry with someone you don’t. But [President] Obama did not have the right chemistry and Hilary was in way over her head. Russia could really help us and the Democrats wanted to have a good relationship with Russia but they couldn’t do it because they didn’t have the talent, they didn’t have the chemistry to do it, they didn’t have what it takes.”

    He said it’s a “shame” that Democrats tried to ruin U.S. relations with Moscow with allegations of election meddling — allegations which are supported by U.S. intelligence agencies.

    “That whole thing was set up by the Democrats,” Mr. Trump said. “Look at [Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta, look at all the things that they have done with the phony dossier. Those are the big events.”

    He added, “There is a time when I think Putin and I president Putin and I would have a great relationship and that would be great for both countries. And it would take a lot of danger out of this world. It’s a dangerous time – this isn’t small stuff. This is a very dangerous time. Having a great relationship or even a good relationship with the president of Russia – Hillary tried it, she failed, nobody mentions it.”

    The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid in 2016 for a dossier with information about Mr. Trump from Russian sources, including salacious claims about Mr. Trump’s travels to Russia.

    Mr. Trump said he doesn’t intend to pursue the election issue with Mr. Putin any longer because there are challenges around the world to solve with Russia’s help, such as the agreement he reached with Mr. Putin on Saturday to join forces in defeating the Islamic State in Syria, and on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

    “Look, I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria, I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine rather than arguing about whether or not [Russia meddled in the election],” he said. “This is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia. You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”

    He said he has “a good feeling toward getting things done” with Mr. Putin.

    “If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing,” he said. “In fact it would be a great thing, not a bad thing, because he could really help us on North Korea. We have a big problem with North Korea and China is helping us. And because of the lack of the relationship that we have with Russia, because of this artificial thing that’s happening with this Democratic-inspired thing. We could really be helped a lot with Russia having to do with North Korea. You know you are talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff, this is the real deal. And if Russia helped us in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster.”

    He said China is cooperating with the U.S. by cutting off oil supplies to North Korea and reducing other trade.

    “But Russia on the other hand may be making up the difference,” he said.


    See Also:

    (1) Former intel chiefs Brennan, Clapper unload on President Trump (Ed: This pair look in the photo like a pair of lifers to me.)

    (2) Turns out Trump didn’t ruin America’s economy

    (3) World ‘transfixed’: Each Trump tweet gets an average 98,000 likes says new study

    (4) Donald Trump Signals Concern Over CNN and AT&T Merger

    (5) Report: Bodyguard Says Trump Rejected Offer of Russian Women

    (6) WATCH — Breitbart’s Kassam Tells Kansas Conservatives: ‘Trump’s Instincts Are Right, He Must Proscribe Muslim Brotherhood Now’

    (7) Paul Ryan Rebukes 13 GOP Reps Who Urge No-Strings Amnesty Giveaway

  • Jack 3:49 am on November 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , ian mason, , , , , ,   


    In his Friday evening keynote at the Citadel Republican Society’s 2017 Patriot Dinner, Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon made the case that the populist-nationalist social awakening behind the twin revolutions of Brexit and President Donald Trump’s election represent one unified challenge to the post-war globalist economic order that has prevailed since 1945.

    Occurring back to back, Brexit and Trump came as complete shocks to the Transatlantic political system, the direction of which toward free trade and globalization has continued largely unchanged since shortly after the allied victory in World War Two.

    The two consensus-shattering events were, according to Bannon, “inextricably linked” – part of the same backlash against the globalist class that benefits from exporting production to the developing world. Bannon told the crowd about the two events:

    Here’s what links them: China. It’s exporting Chinese inflation, Chinese excess capacity. That’s where the jobs in Midland England went, that’s where the Labour [Party] vote that got Brexit done [is from]. That’s the upper Midwest. That’s Ohio. That’s Pennsylvania and Detriot, Michigan.

    Key to both victories, according to Bannon, was breaking the complete stranglehold of the globalists on media outlets. “When Brexit happened, Nigel Farage went on the BBC the next morning and said: ‘Had Breitbart London not been created there’d be no Brexit. We had the media, we had the platform, to tell our story,” he said.

    Sociology drives what Bannon calls the fourth “great turning” of American history after the Revolution, the Civil War, and the saga of the Great Depression and the Second World War. “Read the book Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, a Marine Corps officer,” Bannon said, praising the national bestseller oft-cited by coastal elites as a manual for understanding the white working class. “Magnificent book, you ought to read it, the sociological underpinnings of the Trump revolution as told through the story of a family.”

    Bannon cited, along with Vance, studies from MIT and Harvard that show “a direct correlation between the factories that went to Asia, the jobs they took with them, and the opioid crisis among the workers left behind.”

    “Folks we have a culture and a society that is just about to go into free fall,” Bannon said, continuing:

    You go through the industrial heartland of this country, it’s been gutted. Okay? And that’s not the second law of thermodynamics, that not any law of physics that did that. That’s human agency. That is us. We allowed that to happen, right? Those jobs were shipped over to Asia, those workers were left behind and a lot of people in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, in Hollywood and in the imperial capitol of America, Washington, DC, made an awful lot of money. The ascendant economy in this country took off and the descendant economy got left behind without a fair do well.

    “If you’re not angry about that, then you’re not an American,” Bannon harangued the crowd. “Bernie Sanders’ guys are angry about it. And I gotta tell you, 60 percent of Sanders guys voted for us in some of the key districts. Trust me, mainstream media, there’s an awful lot of guys on the Sanders side who are going to come in and vote for us in 2020.”


    See Also:

    (1) Post and Courier: ‘Patriot’ Steve Bannon Gets ‘Rockstar’ Welcome in South Carolina

    (2) Uranium none

    (3) James Woods — bam! Take that, Barack Obama

  • Jack 3:40 am on November 11, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , kimberly strassel, , , , , ,   

    Extreme Anger 

    The Steele dossier has already become a thing of John le Carré-like intrigue—British spies, Kremlin agents, legal cutouts, hidden bank accounts. What all this obscures is the more immediate point: The dossier amounts to one of the dirtiest tricks in U.S. political history. It was perpetrated by Team Clinton and yielded a vast payoff for Hillary’s campaign.

    The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign hired the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS in April 2016 to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. Fusion in turn hired former U.K. spook Christopher Steele to assemble the (now largely discredited) dossier. That full dossier of allegations wasn’t made public until after the election, in January 2017. And the media and Democrats continue to peddle the line that it played no role during the election itself.

    “Details from the dossier were not reported before Election Day,” ran a recent CNN story. Hillary Clinton herself stressed the point in a recent “Daily Show” appearance. The dossier, she said, is “part of what happens in a campaign where you get information that may or may not be useful and you try to make sure anything you put out in the public arena is accurate. So this thing didn’t come out until after the election, and it’s still being evaluated.”

    This is utterly untrue. In British court documents Mr. Steele has acknowledged he briefed U.S. reporters about the dossier in September 2016. Those briefed included journalists from the New York Times , the Washington Post, Yahoo News and others. Mr. Steele, by his own admission (in an interview with Mother Jones), also gave his dossier in July 2016 to the FBI.

    Among the dossier’s contents were allegations that in early July 2016 Carter Page, sometimes described as a foreign-policy adviser to Candidate Trump, held a “secret” meeting with two high-ranking Russians connected to President Vladimir Putin. It even claimed these Russians offered to give Mr. Page a 19% share in Russia’s state oil company in return for a future President Trump lifting U.S. sanctions. This dossier allegation is ludicrous on its face. Mr. Page was at most a minor figure in the campaign and has testified under oath that he never met the two men in question or had such a conversation.

    Yet the press ran with it. On Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo News’s Michael Isikoff published a bombshell story under the headline: “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” Mr. Isikoff said “U.S. officials” had “received intelligence” about Mr. Page and Russians, and then went on to recite verbatim all the unfounded dossier allegations. He attributed all this to a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” making it sound as if this info had come from someone in government rather than from an ex-spy-for-hire.

    The Clinton campaign jumped all over it, spinning its own oppo research as a government investigation into Mr. Trump. Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s communications director, the next day took to television to tout the Isikoff story and cite “U.S. intelligence officials” in the same breath as Mr. Page. Other Clinton surrogates fanned out on TV and Twitter to spread the allegations.

    The Isikoff piece publicly launched the Trump-Russia collusion narrative—only 1½ months from the election—and the whole dossier operation counts as one of the greatest political stitch-ups of all time. Most campaigns content themselves with planting oppo research with media sources. The Clinton campaign commissioned a foreign ex-spy to gin up rumors, which made it to U.S. intelligence agencies, and then got reporters to cite it as government-sourced. Mrs. Clinton now dismisses the dossier as routine oppo research, ignoring that her operation specifically engineered the contents to be referred to throughout the campaign as “intelligence” or a “government investigation.”

    Making matters worse, there may be a grain of truth to that last claim. If the Washington Post’s reporting is correct, it was in the summer of 2016 that Jim Comey’s FBI obtained a wiretap warrant on Mr. Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If it was the dossier that provoked that warrant, then the wrongs here are grave. Mr. Page is suing Yahoo News over that Isikoff story, but he may have a better case against the Clinton campaign and the federal government if they jointly spun a smear document into an abusive investigation.

    To that point, it is fair to ask if the entire Trump-Russia narrative—which has played a central role in our political discourse for a year, and is now resulting in a special counsel issuing unrelated indictments—is based on nothing more than a political smear document. Is there any reason to believe the FBI was probing a Trump-Russia angle before the dossier? Is there any collusion allegation that doesn’t come in some form from the dossier?

    The idea that the federal government and a special counsel were mobilized—that American citizens were monitored and continue to be investigated—based on a campaign-funded hit document is extraordinary. Especially given that to this day no one has publicly produced a single piece of evidence to support any of the dossier’s substantive allegations about Trump team members.

    So yes, Mrs. Clinton, the dossier—which you paid for—was used in the election. And we are only beginning to understand in how many ways.

    Write to kim@wsj.com.

    Appeared in the November 10, 2017, print edition.


  • Jack 3:25 pm on November 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , michael flynn, , , , , unidentified sources, , , , yaron steinbuch   

    Pure Horseshit 

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing an alleged plot by former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to seize a Muslim cleric living in the US and deliver him to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, according to a report.

    Under the plan, Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for removing Fethullah Gulen from his home in the Poconos and sending him to Turkey, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long pressed the US government to extradite Gulen, whom he has accused of instigating a failed coup in July 2016 and wants to face trial. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup.

    President Trump fired Flynn after just 24 days on the job when news reports revealed he had been in contact with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign and kept the White House in the dark about those meetings.

    Flynn waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did for a Turkish businessman.

    Last week, it was reported that Mueller has collected enough evidence to charge Flynn and his son as part of his sweeping probe into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion by the Trump campaign.

    Fethullah GulenAP

    The FBI has been looking into claims made by former CIA Director James Woolsey that Flynn and Turkish officials discussed a plot to kick Gulen out of the United States.

    According to a recent Reuters report, Woolsey pitched a $10 million contract to two Turkish businessmen to help discredit Gulen while Woolsey was an adviser to Trump’s election campaign.

    Woolsey was a member of Flynn’s firm, the Flynn Intel Group, according to a Justice Department filing by the firm and an archive of the company’s website.

    According to the Journal, FBI agents have asked at least four people about a meeting in mid-December at the upscale “21” Club in Manhattan where Flynn and Turkish government representatives discussed removing Gulen.

    The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of flying Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, one of the sources who has spoken to the feds told the Journal.

    Flynn was offered upward of $15 million — to be paid directly or indirectly — if he could seal the deal, two sources familiar with the meeting told NBC News.

    Investigators also are looking into what possible role Flynn’s son may have played in the alleged plot, the network reported. Flynn Jr. worked closely with his dad at his lobbying firm.

    A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal.

    The elder Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests by NBC News for comment. The younger Flynn’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined comment.

    Three people familiar with the probe told NBC News that authorities also are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the US.

    Zarrab faces federal charges that he helped Iran avoid American sanctions.

    A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal.

    The elder Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests by NBC News for comment. The younger Flynn’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined comment.

    Three people familiar with the probe told NBC News that authorities also are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the US.

    Zarrab faces federal charges that he helped Iran avoid American sanctions.


  • Jack 4:27 am on November 7, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , fred bauer, george h. w. bush, , laura ingraham,   

    Excellent Book 

    The presidency always attracts media attention, but President Trump seems to have occupied almost every neuron of the collective media brain: There he is in scary clown makeup lurking in between the trees of The New Yorker’s cover — and catch him again in the next breathless cable-news panel! This Trump obsession may represent maximum brand saturation, but it also may cause both political and intellectual distortions. Donald Trump’s triumph in the GOP primary and his surprise victory last November were the signs of a broader political crisis, which may have deepened in the year since the election. A series of policy failures — including economic decline, administrative ineptitude, and frustration in foreign affairs — has helped foment public unrest. As the nation lurches from crisis to crisis, public faith in its core institutions weakens. And a governing elite unable to reform itself is one that will soon find itself embattled.

    In order to understand our current political crisis, of which Donald Trump’s election is a symptom, we need to understand the context in which he rose. Laura Ingraham’s latest book, Billionaire at the Barricades, offers a polemical history of American politics over the past 30 years. Casting populism not as incidental to the rise of conservatism but as instrumental to it, she portrays President Trump as the response to long-simmering populist anger. Ingraham claims that many of Trump’s predecessors appealed to populists, but only Ronald Reagan tried to deliver on populist priorities. George H. W. Bush sold out the Reagan legacy, Bill Clinton surrendered his populist bona fides and unleashed a “NAFTA nightmare,” George W. Bush failed to live up to the “populist campaign promises” he made in the 2000 election, and Barack Obama similarly infuriated populists.

    Not everyone will agree with Ingraham’s history, which is not exactly sympathetic in its portrayal of Trump’s Republican predecessors and his 2016 primary challengers (she even takes National Review to task for its “Against Trump” issue). Some conservatives might challenge Ingraham’s policy preferences or quarrel with her narrative of Republican politics since 1980. Those disputes aside, however, Ingraham’s work draws attention to some of the conditions that allowed for a Trump presidency, and it encourages conservatives to develop more worker-friendly policies. The failure to adapt conservatism to the realities of the 21st century and the Left’s indulgence in radical identity politics gave Trump a tremendous political opening, which he used to win the White House.

    Ingraham homes in on the topics of immigration and trade, two areas in which the elites of both parties have (or at least until 2016 had) more in common with each other than with the general public. While top lawmakers of both parties have been fairly sympathetic to immigration maximalism, the general public is much more hostile to the idea of serial amnesties, giant guest-worker programs, and large increases in legal immigration. The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations had many commonalities on trade policy, supporting trade agreements such as NAFTA and the ascension of China into the WTO. Populists on the left and the right have been skeptical of both open borders and many internationally managed trade compacts, and Ingraham situates Donald Trump as a successor to populist-oriented presidential candidates Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot.

    Billionaire at the Barricades attributes the economic stagnation of the past 16 years in part to those trade and immigration policies: An influx of illegal immigrants and guest workers slashed wages for the working class, while trade (especially with China) shuttered factories and sapped America’s economic vitality. Economists and pundits will no doubt continue to debate exactly how much trade and immigration policies have contributed to economic decline, or whether they have contributed to it at all. What is less open to dispute is the way that debate on trade, immigration, and other policies has been short-circuited through bad-faith messaging and shame politics.

    On immigration, the rhetorical distortions are legion. Our national immigration debate has been toxified by a host of broken promises of enforcement and efforts to shut down a rigorous conversation about what our legal-immigration system should look like. On trade, too, the promises of the powerful have fallen short. For instance, a 2000 letter signed by the heads of almost 200 high-tech companies and pushed by the Clinton White House projected that helping China enter the WTO would “increase U.S. jobs and reduce our trade deficit.” Despite that promise, the trade deficit has unambiguously increased since 2000. By 2005, the overall annual trade deficit had increased by over $300 billion since 2000; the trade deficit with China alone increased from about $84 billion in 2000 to $202 billion in 2005. Trade deficits have grown even bigger since 2005. One might argue, as some economists do, that a large trade deficit is not necessarily a problem. But a record of failed promises on trade, health care, immigration, and other issues has helped inject a radical distrust into political debates. And Donald Trump’s ascent was premised on that crisis of public trust.

    Trump also benefited from the broader desert of nostalgia in which many Republicans (and not only Republicans) had lost their way. Instead of confronting the realities of current politics, too many leaders were content to indulge in ideological mirages, in which the policy proposals of 1981 would be eternal verities. Nostalgia often falsifies history, so turning to history can be one way of countering nostalgia’s distortion of the past.

    Like Henry Olsen’s recent The Working Class Republican, Ingraham’s book returns to Ronald Reagan’s actual historical record, which complicates some of the conventional narratives of his presidency. Yes, Reagan often put a sunny face on conservatism, but he did not flinch from discussing contemporary shortcomings. While he championed limited government, Reagan often resisted austerity politics in the name of sustaining the social safety net. While sympathetic to the claims of “free trade,” he was also willing to take government action to support manufacturing; a 1988 Cato Institute report slammed Reagan as “the most protectionist president since Herbert Hoover.” Far from being an exemplar of ideological “purity,” Reagan governed in a way that combined principle with attention to real-world circumstances.

    Ingraham argues that Republicans should expand their political coalition by reaching out to the working class and revising policies to speak to populist sentiments. At its outset, Billionaire at the Barricades insists that there could be a possible alliance between populism and conservatism: “Conservatism and populism overlap in their opposition to ‘big things’ — big government, big international organizations, big media, big business cronyism. These distant, uncaring entities rob people of decision making and ignore their interests.” Support for diffusing power and rebuilding local entities could indeed be one area where populists and conservatives could ally. A sense of withered community has helped fuel a broader alienation, and public trust has dropped in many national institutions in part because many of the powerful have responded to their failures not with humility but with increasingly shrill displays of self-righteousness. In domestic policy, rebuilding that community could also involve efforts to increase the incomes of working families. Increased and widely dispersed economic opportunity gives families more economic capital to invest in their communities (which, of course, need more than merely economic capital to flourish).

    One might add that there are even areas of alliance (or at least détente) between populists and conservatives on foreign affairs, where tensions at times can be sharper. Over the last 70 years, the United States has been able to build and sustain many important international institutions in part because of its great economic strength and civic integrity. Decline at home almost necessarily guarantees withdrawal abroad. Economic hollowing-out makes it harder to maintain many of America’s international commitments, and internal political vitriol can have implications for U.S. conduct in foreign affairs. A nation in which political leaders declare a huge chunk of voters to be irredeemable “deplorables” is one that will be more vulnerable to foreign intrigue. American political leaders know that creating more economic opportunity and civic integration at home is a precondition for success in many affairs abroad. Furthermore, since many elements of the existing global order benefit the U.S. and other nations, a policy regime that prioritizes bettering the lives of Americans will often rebuke isolationism. In both domestic and foreign-policy efforts, reform might help more than rigidity to preserve what is good.

    Whether Donald Trump can fuse conservatism and populism into a successful governing strategy may be one of the more significant political questions of our time. Laura Ingraham has great hopes that he will be able to accomplish this fusion, though her book also notes many points where the president has sabotaged himself by igniting unnecessary controversies. While circumstances might give a politician an opening, character, prudence, and discipline help determine whether he is able to make the most of that opening. Time will tell, but a failure to rise to the challenges of the moment could cause the president to face his own insurgency.


    See Also:

    (1) Billionaire at the Barricades

  • Jack 3:27 am on November 6, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , , us sovereignty, ,   

    Political Nightmare 

    WASHINGTON, DC — Former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon declared to a passionate room full of immigration activists on Saturday that the sovereignty of the United States has been the central issue of the 2016 election, fights on Capitol Hill, and within the Republican Party.

    Bannon took the crowd gathered for the Remembrance Project event back through several points of the 2016 election, such as then-candidate Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico to meet with the Mexican President and talk about immigration, and the subsequent visit to Phoenix, Arizona, meeting with Angel moms and holding a rally there.

    Bannon said that people remember that the biggest fight in the Republican Party and on Capitol Hill hasn’t been taxes, Obamacare, or Afghanistan, “it’s been the central issue of the sovereignty of our country.”

    “It was the stories and putting the faces to these stories to the American people that was the key that picked the lock for President Trump’s victory,” said Bannon.

    He went on to list the names of about a dozen Americans, many just in their teens, who have been the victims of violent crime by illegal aliens in the United States. At Bannon’s request, the crowd then applauded and rose to their feet to honor these fallen Americans.

    He asked the crowd why illegal aliens are called “DREAMers” rather than these Americans who won’t get to live out their dreams.

    “This is not some random law of the universe,” said Bannon. He called out the “economic, the political and the media elites,” for allowing this to happen, for wanting it to happen, calling their actions “an act of commission.” He called out the corporations that want cheap labor and the progressives who want “cheap votes.”

    Bannon called out the suppression of information on illegal immigration and the stories of those killed by illegal aliens. “Why was this suppressed?” He called out 60 Minutes, NBC, and CNN for going around the world to show everything wrong with America but ignoring those victimized by illegal immigration. He pinpointed the issue of who the victims who are: “Hispanic and black and Asian and white working class men and women, the backbone of this country.”

    He spoke of the contempt of elites for those in the room, crediting the efforts of those at the event, a “handful of journalists,” and Donald J Trump for shining a light on the issue of illegal immigration.

    Bannon went on to emphasize that for the political elites, “the only business they’re in is the business of getting re-elected.” He spoke also of Trump’s 10-point plan on immigration.

    He pointed to the ouster of Eric Cantor, a member of the Republican leadership, by someone with far less money but who talked about the problem of illegal immigration. He then turned to talk of the Virginia governor’s race being held just a few days away and the 2018 elections. Bannon stressed the importance of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie talking about issues like illegal immigration if he wants to get Trump voters to turn out to help him win the election.

    Bannon told the crowd that the elites hold contempt for them and are willing to hide information for their own money and power.

    He called out House Speaker Paul Ryan and warned of the trouble to come in those 2018 elections if Ryan tries to slip amnesty through.

    “It’s obvious to everybody that we’re going to have to take over the Republican Party,” said Bannon. They can “go the easy way or the hard way, but they’re goin’.”

    He spoke of the mountains of money the Republican establishment uses to try and win elections, like in Alabama where Judge Roy Moore beat the establishment candidate. Bannon pointed out that now “the more money they spend the fewer votes they get.” He added, “We’ve turned their greatest asset, their money, into their greatest liability.” He said that candidates are no longer seeking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement but are now “running from it.”

    Bannon said that Trump is on track to be one of the greatest presidents, like Reagan, Lincoln, or Jackson, but he has to “just stick to the plan.”

    He told the crowd that the fight in 2018 is going to be so “nasty,” but he’s glad to be on their side. He told them that they represent the 12-13 generations of working class, middle-class people. Referencing Trump’s 2016 election wins in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Missouri, Bannon told the crowd that the Majority Leader owes his position to them.

    Bannon closed with a warning, saying, “you’ve got tough days ahead of you” but with encouragement to “hang in there and fight.”


    See Also:

    (1) Steve Bannon to Remembrance Project Members: ‘Elites in Republican Party Can Either Go the Easy Way or the Hard Way, But They’re Going’

    (2) Bannon: Trump, Stewart Voters Going to Win Virginia Governorship for ‘Bush Guy’ Gillespie

    (3) Steve Bannon on Illegal Immigration: ‘Globalist Corporations Want Cheap Labor, Left Wants Cheap Votes’

    (4) Steve Bannon Warns Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell: ‘If There Is Amnesty, They’re Going to Get Blown Out’

    (5) Tancredo: Left’s Attacks on Bannon Indicate ‘How Afraid They Are of Him’

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