Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE WORLD POST’)

 

Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

By Nathan Gardels, WorldPost editor in chief

Corporate concentration in the United States is not only increasing inequality but also undermining competition and consumers’ standard of living. Politically, the commensurate lobbying influence of big tech, big finance and other large conglomerates has created what political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy” — where vested concerns have amassed the clout to choke off legislative reforms that would diminish their spoils.

Why the opposite is happening in the European Union is an unfamiliar tale of how governance one step removed from electoral democracy has been able to resist the lobbying of organized special interests to make policy that benefits the average person.

Active antitrust policies in the second half of the 20th century fairly leveled the playing field of American commerce. “But starting around 2000, U.S. markets began to lose their competitive edge,” Germán Gutiérrez and Thomas Philippon write, based on a new study of theirs.

“Now, Internet access and monthly cellphone plans are much cheaper in Europe than in America, as are flights. Even in Mexico, mobile data plans are better priced than in the United States. … Meanwhile in the United States, deregulation and antitrust efforts have nearly ground to a halt. The United States has not completed a major reform to the goods and services market since 1996, and as a result, its industries have grown increasingly concentrated.”

What explains this stunning shift is deliberate policy choices. As the authors relate: “European countries created the single market, which took effect in 1993, and deregulated their domestic markets. Today, most European Union countries score better than the United States in enacting policies that make industries more competitive. Not surprisingly, antitrust enforcement remains active in Europe, with two recent cases against Google resulting in over $7.7 billion in fines. European markets are also less concentrated than U.S. markets.”

Gutiérrez and Philippon argue that “free markets are supposed to discipline private companies, but today, many private companies have grown so dominant that they can get away with bad service, high prices and deficient privacy safeguards. … If America wants to lead once more in this realm, it must remember its own history and relearn the lessons it successfully taught the rest of the world.”

Mario Monti — who was Italian prime minister from 2011 to 2013 as well as the E.U. competition commissioner from 1999 to 2004 and is famous for “shooting down mergers in flames” — agrees with Gutiérrez and Philippon. But he adds an important dimension they don’t discuss: how the much-maligned “technocratic” European Commission has been more able than American antitrust authorities to resist undue corporate influence over policy decisions.

While antitrust efforts in the United States are highly sensitive to election cycles and outcomes, Monti points out, the European Commission (which is indirectly elected by the European Parliament) operates at arm’s length from politics and can make decisions that are independent from lobbyist pressures on parliaments at both the national and European level. As he put it in a recent interview, “the more far away you are, the less you feel under pressure.”

The result is policy decisions that are more disinterested because the process is less politicized. This same technocratic distance in Brussels that has enabled a vigorous competition policy also applies to Europe’s landmark privacy regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), passed earlier this year.

Yet as Giovanni Buttarelli, the E.U.’s data protection supervisor charged with implementing the GDPR, laments, passing a law is only the beginning of reining in big tech abuses. “First came the scaremongering. Then came the strong-arming. After being contested in arguably the biggest lobbying exercise in the history of the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation became fully applicable at the end of May,” he writes from Brussels. “Since its passage, there have been great efforts at compliance, which regulators recognize. At the same time, unfortunately, consumers have felt nudged or bullied by companies into agreeing to business as usual. This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new law.”

The challenge of implementing the law now, says Buttarelli, is continually challenging big tech. As he puts it, “The E.U. is seeking to prevent people from being cajoled into ‘consenting’ to unfair contracts and accepting surveillance in exchange for a service.”

Buttarelli is looking ahead to the next phase of reform. Under that reform, “Devices and programming would be geared by default to safeguard people’s privacy and freedom. Today’s overcentralized Internet would be de-concentrated, as advocated by Tim Berners-Lee, who first invented the Internet, with a fairer allocation of the digital dividend and with the control of information handed back to individuals from big tech and the state.”

While big tech lobbyists have so far frustrated privacy legislation at the national level in the United States, California has been able to pass curbs on abuses of personal data. Ironically, this was due not to technocratic insulation from politics but its opposite: the citizens’ ballot initiative. A San Francisco real estate magnate funded the gathering of qualifying signatures for a proposition that would impose the same kind of limits on use of personal data in California as contained in the GDPR, forcing big tech to come — reluctantly — to the table.

State legislators then negotiated and passed a measure this summer along GDPR lines that would be open to amendment as technology evolves. With legislation secured, the initiative was withdrawn from the public ballot. (If law is made by the citizens’ ballot initiative, it can only be amended by another vote of the public.) As state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D), who crafted the compromise between privacy advocates and the tech companies, notes, the law in effect makes California’s attorney general the nation’s “chief privacy officer,” since most of the big tech companies affected are located in Silicon Valley.

Making a market that works for the average citizen requires government that acts in the public interest, not at the behest of the largest players in the economy who underwrite the electoral and legislative process. To the extent that elected legislatures are captured by organized special interests, the “vetocracy” can be circumvented either by indirectly elected technocratic authorities or by direct democracy through the citizens’ ballot initiative.

The experiences with antitrust and privacy regulation examined in The WorldPost this week suggest that a mixed system that combines disinterested technocrats, elected representatives and direct democracy — each as a check and balance on the other — would be the most intelligent form of governance.

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Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

The rare rebuke comes after the president revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.
X

In a joint statement Thursday, a dozen of the nation’s leading former intelligence officials slammed President Donald Trump’s recent decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.

The officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, include former CIA Directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, William Webster, Porter Goss, David Petraeus and George Tenet, several of the agency’s former deputy directors and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“We all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances ― and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” they wrote. “You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information.”

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Elana Schor

@eschor

New: Statement from a dozen former top intelligence officials representing R and D admins (including ex-CIA chiefs) says yanking Brennan’s clearance has “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he had revoked Brennan’s clearance, part of an ongoing effort to retaliate against those who have criticized the administration. Former top intelligence and law enforcement officials have traditionally been allowed to retain their clearances as a professional courtesy, which also allows future administrations to call upon them for their expertise.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday also read a list of several other former officials whose credentials are currently being reviewed, including two people who signed Thursday’s statement.

“We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case,” the 12 intelligence leaders wrote. The officials, who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, stressed that Brennan was an “enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation.”

Brennan himself fired back at the White House after the announcement, saying it was “an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge” Trump.

Despite the outcry, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump felt bolstered by his decision and was eager to revoke the clearances of others in the near future, an effort sure to provoke the signers of Thursday’s statement.

“As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech ― even when that right has been used to criticize us ― that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable,” the former intelligence officials wrote.

Trump’s Russia Admission Is No Mere Scandal. It’s a Betrayal.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BLOOMBERG NEWS AGENCY)

 

Trump’s Russia Admission Is No Mere Scandal. It’s a Betrayal.

Accepting help “to get information on an opponent” was an ugly and unpatriotic act.

So much for national loyalty.

Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

During a presidential campaign, accepting help from Russia “to get information on an opponent” is an ugly and unpatriotic act. It casts contempt on the countless people who have put their lives on the line for our republic and the principles for which it stands.

In 2007 and 2008, I was honored to work with the campaign of Senator Barack Obama as an occasional, informal adviser. I received plenty of ideas from friends, acquaintances and strangers about how to win the presidency.

No offers of help came from anyone associated with a foreign government. But if they had, my only question would have been this: Do I go directly to the FBI, or do I go to people in a higher position in the campaign, and ask them to go directly to the FBI?

Like many millions of Americans (Republicans and Democrats alike), I had long been hoping that the 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower, including Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer connected with the Kremlin, involved issues of adoption policy (as the White House previously told us).

Last weekend, President Donald Trump disclosed, “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent.”

Americans should never forget that the Soviet Union played a heroic and indispensable role in winning World War II. And Trump is right to insist that the United States has a keen interest in maintaining a peaceful, cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Russia.

But it should go without saying that the highest loyalty of any candidate, and any president, is to his nation, not to electoral victory. The Russian government has been working to weaken, undermine and destabilize our country.

No candidate for high office, and no presidential campaign, should even think about accepting Russia’s help “to get information on an opponent.”

This conclusion is not merely a matter of common sense. It is linked with the deepest fears of those who founded our nation. Many people are puzzled by the constitutional provision limiting eligibility for the presidency to “natural born” citizens. But it attests to the founders’ desire to ensure something they prized perhaps above all: loyalty.

In the decisive debates over the impeachment clause, James Madison pointed to the risk that a president “might betray his trust to foreign powers.” Focusing on the electoral process itself, George Mason asked, “Shall the man who has practised corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment?”

As far as I am aware, there is as yet no evidence that the meeting at Trump Tower had any effect on the 2016 election, or that the president knew about the meeting at the time. But here is a general principle: Successfully enlisting Russia’s help to procure the presidency would count as a high crime or misdemeanor within the meaning of the impeachment clause – whether or not it’s technically a crime within federal law.

But is it a federal crime? Federal law makes it unlawful “to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation . . . from a foreign national.” A contribution includes “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” Lawyers are now discussing, and disputing, whether “information on an opponent” counts as “anything of value.”

Let’s put the legal niceties to one side. In my view, it was reasonable for President Trump to say that as a matter of principle, professional athletes ought to show respect for the American flag and the national anthem. “E pluribus unum” is the motto on the nation’s seal. It dates from the period of the Revolutionary War.

Seeking Russia’s help, to get “information on an opponent,” is worse than a scandal. It is a betrayal.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Cass Sunstein at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at [email protected]

If Our President Is Found Guilty Of Treason: Then What? Part 1 of 2

 

For those of you who follow this blog I know that you are aware that I am not a fan of Donald Trump or of Mike Pence. You would also know that I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, the Republican Party or of the Democratic Party. I believe that all of the fore mentioned are selfish, self-centered, crooked, ego maniacs who care nothing about America or of the people of this Country. I believe that by definition, they are all guilty of Treason toward the American people and of the Constitution they swore on a Bible to uphold.

 

I looked up the word Treason online to see what Google had to say about the definition of the word and it gave me a couple of responses of which I am going to share with you now.

  1. A violation of allegiance to one’s Sovereign or to one’s State. 2. The betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith, treachery.

In yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post under a column they call their “Truth Checker” it said that since Donald Trump became our President he has averaged telling 7.6 untruths per day. You know something, I really do wish that the American Media Outlets would quit saying “untruths” and simply call them what they are, they are called lies folks. Think about it folks, our own President has averaged lying to you and to me 8 times every day since he took Office. Mr. Trump is averaging lying to us more than 50 per week, every week. How would you feel if your spouse lied to you more than 50 times every week? How about your supervisor at your job? How could you or I be expected to believe a single thing that ever comes out of their mouth? I’m sorry but there is no way I could! I love my wife but if I realized that she was constantly lying to me about basically everything, I would insist she find another place to live, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you feel that you had been betrayed? How in the heck is it any difference with our President, shouldn’t ‘we the people’ insist that Mr. Trump find another place to live, like in the basement in Leavenworth Federal Prison?

 

I have heard several people say that “they just can’t believe that someone has not shot him (Mr. Trump) yet.” I have told them that I believe a much better response by the American people and legal system would be if that whole Trump crew were impeached, imprisoned for life and to have all of their earthly possessions stripper from them, sold to the highest bidder with all of the money being used to pay down the National Debt. I believe that would hurt them much more than lets say, a firing squad. Obviously I believe that President Trump is guilty of several impeachable crimes, including treason against America and our people. Honestly I believe that a Country, any Country, is their people, not their government. I believe that every single day since Mr. Trump became a viable/possible Presidential contender during his Campaign up until this moment that he and several members of his direct family and staff have been committing treason against us, the American people.

 

Folks, now comes the basic question of this letter to you. If the Republican Party, and my glorious Senator Mitch McConnell (Senate majority leader) grows a set, what is next? I know quite a few folks from Indiana including family members who have lived there for decades who have told me over and over again that they believe that Vice President Mike Pence is even more dangerous to the American people than Donald Trump is.  Until Mr. Pence became a VP Candidate I honestly didn’t know a lot about him but what I have seen of him since then has given me no confidence at all in him as a Leader. By the American legal code set up in the U.S. Constitution if Mr. Trump is impeached then Mr. Pence becomes our President. Will that mean that with him America will get “back on track?” Honestly I don’t believe that Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party will do anything toward impeaching Mr. Trump until after the elections this November. I believe that the Republican Party has decided to ‘throw their hat’ in with the President for the Elections this fall. I believe that they will live or die with him until then. Personally I believe that in November the Republicans will lose the House by a large margin, the Senate is the main question. The biggest question will be if the Democrats can pick up two Senate Seats to take over the Leadership of the Senate. If this were to happen I believe that Mr. Trump will be impeached by the Senate. This November only 5 Republican ‘at risk’ Senate Seats are on the Ballot, in the 2020 Presidential Elections more than 20 of these Republican Seats ‘will be at risk.’ If the Republicans lose both Houses this November they will not want to go into that election in 2020 with Mr. Trump in the White House. This is what I believe it will take for the Republicans to vote for impeachment. I also believe that if Mr. Trump is impeached that Mr. Pence, as our new President, will pull a ‘Gerald Ford’ and Pardon him as his first official act as President to ‘help America start to heal.” Question is, can we the American people ever really heal with either the Republicans or the Democrats at the Helm of Our Ship?

Court Rules Trump Sanctuary City Order Unconstitutional

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

Federal appeals court rules Trump sanctuary city order unconstitutional

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A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump exceeded his authority when he threatened to withhold funds from “sanctuary cities” that do not fully cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump’s January 2017 executive order, cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities, was unconstitutional. But the court also ruled that a lower court went too far when it blocked the order nationwide.

“Absent congressional authorization, the administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals,” Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the majority.

Our view: Both sides mischaracterize sanctuary cities

Oakland: Why we’re a sanctuary city

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said the executive order was a legal use of the president’s power. He called the 9th Circuit’s decision a victory for “criminal aliens in California, who can continue to commit crimes knowing that the state’s leadership will protect them from federal immigration officers whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country.”

“The Justice Department remains committed to the rule of law, to protecting public safety, and to keeping criminal aliens off the streets,” he said.

Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 25, 2017, just five days after taking office, calling undocumented immigration a “clear and present danger” to national security. But U.S. District Judge William Orrick called the threat “coercive” and said spending powers belonged to the legislative, not executive, branch of government.

Orrick’s ruling was the result of lawsuits filed by two California counties – San Francisco and Santa Clara. His decision cited statements from Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which indicated that the order could jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds. The government argued that the order only applied to three Justice Department and Homeland Security grants that would affect less than $1 million for Santa Clara and possibly no money for San Francisco.

Justice Department attorney Chad Readler told the 9th Circuit judges that the order was limited in scope and that public statements from Trump or other administration officials should not be given too much weight.

“When a president overreaches and tries to assert authority he doesn’t have under the Constitution, there needs to be a check on that power grab,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement Wednesday. “The courts did that today, which is exactly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.”

The administration’s fight against sanctuary cities also suffered a setback last week, when a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss the city of Chicago’s lawsuit over Sessions’ efforts to force cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officers.

In September, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber issued an injunction against Sessions’ order that required police to cooperate with federal agents or risk losing federal law enforcement grants. Session wanted to require local police to tell the government before releasing undocumented immigrants from custody, to allow federal immigration agents into city jails and to share people’s immigration status with federal officials.

Leinenweber’s injunction was initially nationwide, but in June the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restricted it to Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The full appeals court will decide whether or not that injunction should be nationwide in September.

Contributing: Alan Gomez, Aamer Madhani, Richard Wolf,USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press 

More: Appeals court deals another blow to Trump effort to withhold funds from sanctuary cities

If Mueller Is Fired: Then Trump And Sessions Must Be Impeached Right Now

AGAIN TODAY TRUMP IS TELLING ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS TO FIRE SPECIAL COUNCIL ROBERT MUELLER AND TO SHUT DOWN THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: RIGHT NOW!

 

The U.S. Congress can not Impeach a sitting President, only the U.S. Senate can do that. Back when Bill Clinton was President the Republican led Congress voted to Impeach Bill Clinton because an adult female intern gave him oral sex in the Oval Office. What Mr. Clinton did was morally wrong but so is being a liar, a tax fraud, or colluding with a know enemy to commit treason. All are sins, all are wrong, just like making up evidence so that you can go bomb people is a sin, morally and physically. When the Republican led Congress voted to Impeach Mr. Clinton the whole act was nothing but symbolic, the vote had no teeth. Via the U.S. Constitution only the U.S. Senate can Impeach a sitting President and to do so it will require 67 of the 100 Senators to vote for the impeachment, in the Clinton case the Senate didn’t even hold a vote on the issue. There is another set of rules as far as Impeaching the Attorney General is concerned though. To do this, a simple majority of the Congress has to vote to Impeach and then the Senate would have to get 67 of their 100 to vote to Impeach.

 

One of the many things that Mr. Trump has proven over and over again is that he is a total habitual liar, folks this is not a quality trait for anyone to have, especially the Leader of any group or organization. If you can not believe anything that is coming out of a persons mouth, what good are they as a person or as a Leader? If you remember, right after Jeff Sessions was approved by the Senate to be Mr. Trumps Attorney General he was caught lying at least twice to the Senate about his Russian contacts during the Presidential campaign of 2016. This is why Mr. Sessions recused himself from anything to do with any investigation into any Russian collusion during the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Mr. Sessions turned over this investigation to his number two-man Rob Rosenthal who then appointed the former Republican FBI Director Bob Mueller to head this investigation. As you most likely know, this whole set of events infuriated Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has tried to get Mr. Sessions to fire Mr. Rosenthal several times but Mr. Sessions has refused to do so. Now Mr. Trump is demanding that Mr. Sessions fire the Special Council, Mr. Mueller. One of the many realities of the real world that Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that Mr. Sessions can not legally fire the Special Council or shut down the Russia investigation because Mr. Sessions in his recusing himself made it to where he can not legally do what the President is demanding that he do.

 

As a 62-year-old citizen of the United States I have learned very plainly that the politicians on both sides of the ‘political isle’ both Republicans and Democrats, as a whole do not give a damn about this country or the people who live within its borders. The only reason that the Republicans in the Congress and the Senate are backing Mr. Trump is because the President says he is a Republican. If Mr. Trump was a Democrat these same Republicans like my disgusting home state Senator Mitch McConnell would have been trying to get him Impeached ever since he took Office on January 20th of 2017. I am not by any means going to give the Democrats a free pass here in this article today either, to do so would be total hypocrisy. If the Congress and the Senate were controlled by the Democrats at this time and Hillary Clinton were the President and she had done all these exact same treasonous sins that Mr. Trump has done (she has many of her own personal sins which she should be in prison for, just some different ones than Mr. Trump has) the Democratic leadership would be shielding her from Impeachment just like the Republicans are doing right now with Mr. Trump. To hell with the Country, to hell with the people, the only things that matter are ‘the Party’,  personal power and bigger bank accounts. If you don’t think so my friend, you are being naive at best.

 

Evidently by law the President can fire the Special Council, Mr. Mueller himself, just as he can fire Jeff Sessions and or Mr. Rosenthal and he can assign some flunky into those positions. This ‘flunky’ could then fire Mr. Mueller and shut down every thing that the DOJ (Department Of Justice) is investigating concerning the crimes that Mr. Trump and his family are so obviously guilty of. Then all the world will see if Mitch McConnell will grow a set of balls and insist that a vote for Impeachment take place, at once.  My guess is no, he won’t. The reason that I believe this is because of seeing how these bought and paid for pieces of trash have operated over the past 50 or so odd years. I have absolutely no faith in either ‘Party’ to ever simply be honest with the American people and to do their damn jobs that the people have been paying them to do. To me, if the events do play out like I believe they will with Mr. Trump and several members of his family being charged with major crimes against the sovereignty and security of the people of Our Nation, then it is time for the people to remove all the trash in the Senate and the Congress who are betraying us. Simply put, the people must then Impeach them ourselves, or we don’t deserve a free Country to live in!

Treason = Impeachment = Hang Them High?

 

This article to you today is simply my attempt to get you to think about some very serious issues with our (the U.S.) government that does effect every person in this country as well as in many other Nations.  I’m writing this article in the form of ‘what if’s’. What if President Trump really isn’t the legitimate President and that ends up being proven beyond any reasonable doubt? Pretty much everyone on earth except Donald Trump knows and understands that the Russian government with orders from their President attacked the voting computers of 21 states during the 2016 U.S. elections. It is only logical that being if in deed Mr. Putin wanted Mr. Trump to win that election he would only target states that were expected to be somewhat close. If the Russian hackers had been ignorant they would have targeted states like New York and California where Hillary was going to win by huge amounts. If they had done that then everyone would have known that the machines had been compromised. Swinging a states numbers that were very close, say 52% to 48% for Hillary to a 52-48 for Trump would be believable. If this is what did happen and it can be proven, now what folks?

 

If Mr. Mueller and his team can prove that Mr. Trump along with members of his family and staff colluded with the Russian government to steal the election, is this treason? Personally I believe that it is, also personally I then believe that everything that Mr. Trump and the Congress has signed into law since January 20th of 2017 would have to be removed. Without a doubt this would really be a mess like this Nation has never had happen to us. For those of you who do not know me, do not get me wrong, I personally can’t stand the lying witch Hillary either and no, I did not vote for her, nor did I vote for Mr. Trump, I voted for Gary Johnson. There are some things that I believed about Hillary and Donald before the election in November of 2016 and nothing has changed my beliefs on these two since then. First, I believed that both people are total egomaniacs and both are totally habitual liars who will do anything for money or to win. Now the difference that I see in the two is that in my opinion Hillary is totally evil but she is also very smart, on the other hand Donald is very evil but he is about as ignorant of a person that I have ever come across. So, for President, should I have voted for a smart evil person or a dumb ass evil person? Which one would be the least evil for the American people? I thought Hillary would win and I do believe that she did, so I voted for a person that I knew very well was not going to garner more than a couple of percentage points.

 

Okay, I have made my point that I believe that Donald Trump, members of his immediate family and members of his personal staff are guilty of treason against the American people. Now I wont you to consider another issue please and this is the Republican Congress and the Republican Senate. Unless a person is clueless to reality it is very obvious that the majority of the Republicans in the Congress and the Senate can not stand Donald Trump as a person, yet they have in almost all issues sided with Mr. Trump on programs that Mr. Trump has wanted to make into law. The reason is simple folks, the Republicans realize that with a Republican in the White House they are able to get some of their own personal agenda passed into law, things like the new tax law and getting more Republicans onto the Supreme Court. This sickening display of cowardliness and treason by the Republican leaders like Senator McConnell is enough to make an Independent puke at the sight of their face and unfortunately he is my home state Senator so I see his face often. In the past I have voted for Republicans and Democrats at about a 50/50 clip but because of the disgusting display of Republicans kissing the ass of this dangerous un-genius stupid ass I will never ever vote for another Republican for any office at any level of government. Here is another slap of reality though, I totally believe that if Hillary was the current President the Democrats in the Congress and the Senate would be doing the exact same dirty tricks for her. Neither one of these ‘Parties’ gives a damn about the United States or of our people, they only care about their selves.

 

Now, what should ‘We The People’ do about it when Mr. Mueller and his team prove that these people have committed treason against us? Should we insist that those in Office be impeached as once? Should we insist that all of those folks be put into a maximum security prison for the rest of their lives and have all of their assets stripped from them and sold to the highest bidder with the proceeds put toward the National Debt? Should people in the Congress and the Senate like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell suffer the same fate as those in the Executive Branch? Should they all be made an example of like being shot by a firing squad, or better yet, hung from the Statue Of Liberty for defiling Our Constitution and of ‘We The People’ of OUR NATION? What do you think should be done to these people if they are proven to be the Criminals that they all appear to be?

Trump: released FISA documents show is that Republicans have been lying for months

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THINKPROGRESS’)

 

The only thing the newly released FISA documents show is that Republicans have been lying for months

Trump and his allies claim the Steele Dossier was the sole basis for a surveillance warrant of Carter Page. They are lying.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 12, 2016: Carter Page, Global Energy Capital LLC Managing Partner and a former foreign policy adviser to U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, makes a presentation titled " Departing from Hypocrisy: Potential Strategies in the Era of Global Economic Stagnation, Security Threats and Fake News" during his visit to Moscow. Credit: Artyom Korotayev/TASS via Getty Images
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 12, 2016: CARTER PAGE, GLOBAL ENERGY CAPITAL LLC MANAGING PARTNER AND A FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP, MAKES A PRESENTATION TITLED ” DEPARTING FROM HYPOCRISY: POTENTIAL STRATEGIES IN THE ERA OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC STAGNATION, SECURITY THREATS AND FAKE NEWS” DURING HIS VISIT TO MOSCOW. CREDIT: ARTYOM KOROTAYEV/TASS VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

On Saturday night, the New York Times published a report detailing the public disclosure of more than 400 pages of heavily redacted documents related to a FISA warrant filed in 2016 against Carter Page, an advisor for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Page has been a key focus of the intelligence community’s investigation into Russian interference from the very beginning. And as Saturday’s disclosure reveals, the FBI presented enough probable cause suggesting Page had been recruited by Russian officials that four separate Republican-appointed judges authorized still-undisclosed surveillance measures targeting Page.

Oddly, both Donald Trump and Carter Page tried to spin Saturday’s disclosure as some kind of victory. Several members of the far-right fringe in Congress — led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) — lied to the public several months ago via a memo that falsely asserted the FBI sought the warrant on the sole basis of the infamous Steele dossier, a Republican-conceived memo written by a former British intelligence officer containing several salacious rumors about Donald Trump.

As Democrats and the FBI later disclosed — and as Saturday’s release makes clear — the dossier was far from the only evidence provided to the FISA court, and its inclusion contained a lengthy caveat noting the politicized nature and unsubstantiated claims contained within the document. Incidentally, several of the allegations contained in the dossier have since been verified. On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper invited Page to respond to Saturday’s revelations, and it took exactly one question for him to trip over the facts of the case.

“The document accuses you of being an ‘agent of a foreign power.’ Were you?,” asked Tapper.

Jake, this is so ridiculous, it’s just beyond words,” said Page. “You know, it’s — you’re talking about misleading the courts. It’s just so misleading, going through those 400-plus page documents, where do we even begin? It’s literally a complete joke, and it only continues. It’s just really sad.”

Tapper, who was still waiting for Page to answer his question, tried again. “Were you ever an agent of a foreign power? Did you ever advise the Kremlin or work with the Kremlin on anything?” 

After more stammering, Page finally got around to a “no,” before immediately admitting that he had, in fact, served as an advisor to the Kremlin and met several times with Russian officials during multiple trips to Russia over a period of years leading up to and including 2016.

Page went on to claim that the courts were misled by the FBI, alleging the agency knowingly relied on incorrect or incomplete information in seeking their warrant. He offered no basis for those allegations however, and the documents released on Saturday in fact make it clear that the FBI was very forthright about the sourcing of its information.

Of course, that didn’t stop Donald Trump from leveling the same false allegation. He tweeted about the release of the FISA documents early Sunday, lying about law enforcement agencies “misleading” the FISA court.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents. As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of “Justice” and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!

Because the FISA documents were heavily redacted, there isn’t very much new information the public learned on Saturday. One thing was made very clear though: the Trump administration and their extremist allies in Congress have been lying to the public for months.

Is President Guilty Of Treason?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Putin weaves KGB trade craft and attention to detail in a remarkable meeting with Trump

Putin weaves KGB tradecraft and attention to detail in a remarkable meeting with Trump
Russian President Vladimir Putin shown at a news conference in the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (Anatoly Maltsev/EPA/Shutterstock)

 

At a rally before cheering supporters this month in Montana, President Trump declared nonchalantly of his then-upcoming summit with Russia’s leader: “I have been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”

But on Monday, with a world audience looking on, the summit looked far more like a culminating moment in the political life of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

The 65-year-old Russian president was by turns commanding and confident as he stood side-by-side with Trump at a news conference, artfully mixing in occasional expressions of boredom or bemusement as he spoke. Virtually unchallenged by Trump, he asserted that Moscow has “never interfered” in an American political contest, and would not do so in the future.

That, of course, flies in the face of U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow mounted a comprehensive campaign against the U.S. electoral system in 2016, and is pressing ahead with that effort, with midterm elections just four months away.

For Putin, a former spymaster who once lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century and has long sought at least symbolically equal footing with the world’s only other nuclear superpower, Helsinki was a moment of triumph.

The Aurus Senat presidential state car of Russian President Vladimir Putin idles during a welcome ceremony at Helsinki Airport in Finland on Monday.
The Aurus Senat presidential state car of Russian President Vladimir Putin idles during a welcome ceremony at Helsinki Airport in Finland on Monday. (Mikhail Metzel / Kremlin/Sputnik)

 

But while the joint news conference was perhaps the apex of Putin’s nearly two decades on the global stage, it was also in some ways a return to his roots. The Russian leader made explicit reference to his long career as a KGB operative, alluding almost teasingly to his intimate knowledge of tradecraft even as he listened to the U.S. president cast doubt on the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

“I was an intelligence officer myself,” he said dryly at one point. Asked directly by a U.S. reporter whether he had compromising material on Trump, Putin dodged the query by pointing out that hundreds of American business figures had visited Moscow, as the U.S. president did years before his candidacy.

“Do you think we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them?” the Russian leader asked scornfully.

Later, in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Putin categorically denied that Russia had anything compromising on Trump. “Unlike you, unlike the United States, we don’t do this. We don’t have enough resources,” he said.

It was in 1999, in a chaotic and floundering post-Soviet Russia, that Putin was plucked from relative obscurity as a KGB functionary to assume first the post of prime minister and then the presidency. He has never since been out of power.

To survive in the cutthroat world of Russian politics, Putin drew upon the ruthless persona he cultivated during his intelligence career. Few serious challenges to his power have emerged, but when they have, critics and human rights groups say he has repeatedly shown himself willing to sideline foes by deadly means if necessary.

Over the years, Putin learned ways large and small to keep adversaries off balance, once bringing a dog to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was known to fear them. In Helsinki, he employed a longtime strategem, keeping Trump waiting for nearly an hour as he arrived late for the summit’s start.

And he carried over a long-held habit from his intelligence days: strict attention to detail, with the ability to regurgitate arcane information at will.

Putin crisply demonstrated his comprehensive grasp of policy questions, including provisions contained in decades-old arms treaties; Trump, by contrast, seemed confused during a pre-summit meeting with Finland’s president as to whether the host country is a member of NATO. (It is not.)

At the news conference, Putin was studiedly bland in characterizing the closed-door talks with the U.S. side, discussions that included more than two hours spent one-on-one with Trump. “Businesslike” was his description of the summit talks.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference after their summit on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland.
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference after their summit on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland. (Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

 

But his veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was freer to telegraph the Kremlin’s sentiments, wearing a broad smile as he entered the room where the news conference was held. Russian media afterward quoted him as summing up the summit as “fabulous … better than super.”

In Helsinki, Putin reverted to a classic Kremlin playbook when U.S. reporters asked him about election interference, protesting that he had not been provided with the details of accusations against his government, and offering Russian investigative assistance to get to the bottom of the affair.

That echoed Moscow’s response to the poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent this year of Russian turncoat spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil. A British woman died and her companion was seriously sickened after apparently coming in accidental contact with a remnant.

Like any good KGB case officer, Putin managed Monday to weave subtle and not-so-subtle threats into seemingly conciliatory statements.One was directed at the American-born British financier Bill Browder, who made billions in Russia before running afoul of the Kremlin.

Browder has lobbied governments around the world to adopt a sanctions-imposing mechanism named for his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died under suspicious circumstances in Russian custody. In offering to “assist” in the U.S. probe of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election, Putin suggested that Russian authorities should be allowed to question U.S. intelligence officers who, he suggested, were complicit in supposed tax violations by Browder.

At the news conference, Putin did not even have to offer up defenses for Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula or the downing that year of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine that killed some 300 people. Trump in essence did that for him, saying he held “both countries responsible” for the fraught state of U.S.-Russia relations.

In Putin’s early years in power, his heavy hand with the country’s oligarchs and mafia impressed the West, and domestically, Russians embraced his policies even as he stifled independent media and muzzled critics.

There was no indication that Trump brought up Putin’s pitiless style in confronting perceived enemies, but in the Fox interview, aired hours after the summit, Wallace pressed the Russian leader on opponents who “wound up dead.” Putin retorted: “Haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?”

Putin’s course toward a more authoritarian government became most apparent four years into his presidency, when two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine, sought to turn toward the West. The Kremlin perceived this as a threat, and Putin tightened his grip on dissent at home.

Then came massive street protests in Ukraine over the decision by Ukraine’s then-president, a Putin ally, to not sign an association agreement with the European Union. Putin sent in troops to Ukrainian Crimea, organized what was derided as a sham referendum and annexed the peninsula.

The United States and the European Union placed harsh economic sanctions on Russia for the Crimean annexation, and Putin’s position on the world stage deteriorated. Meanwhile, he was praised at home for defying the West, but economic malaise and dissatisfaction over corruption have dragged down his approval ratings.

Heading into the summit, Trump insisted that personal chemistry with Putin would be key to resolving U.S.-Russia tensions. At the news conference, the U.S. leader suggested that the initial one-on-one meeting, with only interpreters present, had eased prior antagonisms.

“That changed as of about four hours ago,” Trump said, referring to the time frame of the start of the private session. “I really believe that.”

Putin, though, swiftly pivoted to a far more realpolitik-style description of the relationship between the two, declaring that both leaders pursued the interests of their own countries.

“Where did you get the idea that the president trusts me?” he asked. “Or I trust him?”

Special correspondent Ayres reported from Helsinki and Times staff writer King from Washington.

5:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with reaction, background, Fox interview.

Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

A clear and present danger to the rule of law

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Essentially all presidents sooner or later end up commissioning lawyers to put forward an expansive view of presidential power, but those lawyers take pains to argue that they are notmaking the case for a totally unchecked executive whose existence would pose a fundamental threat to American values.

Donald Trump, however, is a different kind of president.

In a 20-page memo written by Trump’s legal team and delivered to Robert Mueller, as reported by the New York Time’s this weekend, they make an unusually frank case for a tyrannical interpretation of presidential power.

Trump’s lawyers say he has unlimited power over criminal justice

The key passage in the memo is one in which Trump’s lawyers argue that not only was there nothing shady going on when FBI Director James Comey got fired there isn’t even any potentialshadiness to investigate because the president is allowed to be as shady as he wants to be when it comes to overseeing federal law enforcement. He can fire whoever he wants. Shut down any investigation or open up a new one.

Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.

This is a particularly extreme version of the “unitary executive” doctrine that conservative legal scholars sometimes appeal to (especially when there’s a Republican president), drawing on the notion that the executive branch of government — including the federal police agencies and federal prosecutors — are a single entity personified by the president.

But to push that logic into this terrain would not only give the president carte blanche to persecute his enemies but essentially vitiate the idea that there are any enforceable laws at all.

Donald Trump’s impunity store

Consider that if the memo is correct, there would be nothing wrong with Trump setting up a booth somewhere in Washington, DC where wealthy individuals could hand checks to Trump, and in exchange Trump would make whatever federal legal trouble they are in go it away. You could call it “The Trump Hotel” or maybe bundle a room to stay in along with the legal impunity.

Having cut your check, you’d then have carte blanche to commit bank fraud or dump toxic waste in violation of the Clean Water Act or whatever else you want to do. Tony Soprano could get the feds off his case, and so could the perpetrators of the next Enron fraud or whatever else.

Perhaps most egregiously, since Washington DC isn’t a state all criminal law here is federal criminal law, so the president could have his staff murder opposition party senators or inconvenient judges and then block any investigation into what’s happening.

Of course, as the memo notes, to an extent this kind of power to undermine the rule of law already exists in the form of the essentially unlimited pardon power. This power has never been a good idea and it has been abused in the past by George H.W. Bush to kill the Iran-Contra investigation and by Bill Clinton to win his wife votes in a New York Senate race. Trump has started using the power abusively and capriciously early in his tenure in office in a disturbing way, but has not yet tried to pardon his way out of the Russia investigation in part because there is one important limit on the pardon power — you have to do it in public. The only check on pardons is political, but the political check is quite real (which is why both Bush and Clinton did their mischievous pardons as lame ducks) and the new theory that Trump can simply make whole investigations vanish would eliminate it.

This issue is bigger than Comey or Mueller

Much of the argument about Trump and the rule of law has focused rather narrowly on the particular case of Comey’s firing and the potential future dismissal of Robert Mueller.

These are important questions, in the sense that an FBI Director is an important person and a special counsel investigation is an important matter, but the memo is a reminder that they offer much too narrow a view of what the real extent of the problem is here.

One of the main purposes of the government is to protect the weak from exploitation at the hands of the strong by making certain forms of misconduct illegal. Trump’s assertion that he can simply waive-away investigations into misconduct because he is worried that the investigation might end badly for his friends or family members is toxic to that entire scheme. Trump, like most presidents, has plenty of rich and powerful friends and a much longer list of rich and powerful people who would like to be his friends.

If he really does have the power to just make anyone’s legal trouble go away because he happens to feel like it, then we’re all in a world of trouble.

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Hi, my name is Ashley Ferguson. I feel like my very own blog is a great way to express my thoughts, opinions and experiences in life.

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