Category Archives: Current Political Affairs

“The FISA judge was never informed that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier.”

Dems’ rebuttal to GOP FISA memo is released; Trump deems it a ‘bust’
www.foxnews.com

President Trump on Saturday dismissed a Democratic rebuttal to the GOP memo outlining government surveillance abuses in the 2016 campaign as a “total political and legal bust,” claiming that it only confirms the ”terrible things” that were done by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

The rebuttal, written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, concluded that officials at the FBI and Justice Department “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

Democrats sought to counter claims made in a Republican memo released this month that the FBI and DOJ relied on a Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier to ask the FISA court for a warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page.

Democrats have vehemently claimed that the Republican memo left out important information.

But Trump was unimpressed by the 10-page memo that resulted.

Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, D-Calif., countered by saying it confirmed that intelligence officials acted appropriately.

Republicans had found that the DOJ and FBI left out Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign funding of the dossier, as well as the anti-Trump motivations of author and former British spy Christopher Steele, in its request for a warrant. Indeed, Republicans have pointed to this as proof that intelligence agencies abused surveillance powers.

The Democratic rebuttal, though it did not directly challenge some of the key findings of the earlier one from Republicans, backed the FBI and DOJ in their pursuit of that FISA warrant to surveil Page.

“In fact, DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government,” the rebuttal said, adding that the DOJ met the “rigor, transparency, and evidentiary basis” needed to meet FISA’s probable-cause requirement.

The memo said the Page surveillance warrant produced intelligence deemed reliable, and sufficient to justify renewals every 90 days.

The rebuttal said the FBI had an “independent basis” for investigating Page’s motivations, and that he had been targeted for recruitment by the Russians. It also claimed that the DOJ “repeatedly informed the Court about Steele’s background, credibility, and potential bias.” And it maintained that the Justice Department infomed the FISA court that Steele had been hired by “politically motivated U.S. persons and entities and that his research appeared intended for use “to discredit” Trump’s campaign.

The rebuttal added that the DOJ only made “narrow use” of information from Steele’s sources and that  in later FISA renewals the DOJ provided “additional information obtained through multiple independent sources” that backed up Steele’s reporting. It  challenged the Republican assertion that the FBI authorized payment to Steele, saying that it neglected that the payment was canceled.

The memo, however, did not directly challenge the Republican assertion that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified to the House Committee that they would not have sought the Page surveillance warrant had it not been for that infamous dossier.

The new memo also asserted that the dossier had been corroborated by multiple sources. However, in June 2017 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI Director James Comey said the opposite — that three months after the warrant on Page had been granted he still considered the dossier “unverified” and “salacious” when he briefed incoming President Trump in January 2017 at Trump Tower.

The rebuttal was voted out of committee earlier this month but a redraft was ordered after the White House demanded that sensitive information be stripped out before the document be made public. The Justice Department and FBI claimed the initial draft would reveal information about sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

Schiff said the minority’s memo should “put to rest” any concerns about conduct by the intelligence agencies.

DEM MEMO – POINT BY POINT

His confidence notwithstanding, it seemed unlikely to mark an end to the ongoing fight over the FISA application and the role of that infamous dossier. Indeed, while the two parties clash over whether that dossier was a primary or secondary driver of the surveillance application, the newly declassified criminal referral for Christopher Steele from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the FBI and DOJ relied “heavily” on the controversial and salacious document for the FISA application.

And upon the new memo’s release, Republicans on the intel committee responded with rebuttals to the rebuttal, providing more evidence that this battle has legs. For instance, while the Democrats say that the court was given information about the political motivations of Steele, Republicans say that such a statement is “buried in a footnote” that obscures rather than clarifies his motives.

“The American people now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt paid for by the Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party,” Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. said in a statement.

“Furthermore, the FISA court was misled about Mr. Page’s past interactions with the FBI in which he helped build a case against Russian operatives in America who were brought to justice. It defies belief that the Department of Justice and FBI failed to provide information to a secret court that they had provided to an open federal court regarding their past interactions with Mr. Page,” he said.

The White House called the rebuttal a “politically driven document” that fails to answer the concerns raised by the Republican memo.

“As the Majority’s memorandum stated, the FISA judge was never informed that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier that was a basis for the Department of Justice’s FISA application,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“In addition, the Minority’s memo fails to even address the fact that the Deputy FBI Director told the Committee that had it not been for the dossier, no surveillance order would have been sought,” she added.

Democrats have claimed that the original Republican memo was an effort to attack FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in 2016. Trump had previously said that the memo “totally vindicates” him in the investigation.

Continue reading “The FISA judge was never informed that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier.”

JERUSALEM AND EAST JERUSALEM

Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem (Arabic: القدس الشرقية‎; Hebrew: מזרח ירושלים‎) is the sector of Jerusalem that was occupied by Jordan in 1948 and had remained out of the Israeli-held West Jerusalem at the end of the 1948–49 Arab–Israeli War. It includes Jerusalem’s Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, such as the Temple Mount, Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as a number of adjacent neighbourhoods. Israeli and Palestinian definitions of it differ;[1] the Palestinian official position is based on the 1949 Armistice Agreements, while the Israeli position is mainly based on the current municipality boundaries of Jerusalem, which resulted from a series of administrative enlargements decided by Israeli municipal authorities since the June 1967 Six-Day War. Despite its name, East Jerusalem includes neighborhoods to the north, east and south of the Old City, and in the wider definition of the term even on all these sides of West Jerusalem.

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jerusalem was contested between Jordan and Israel, and on the cessation of hostilities, the two countries secretly negotiated a division of the city, with the eastern sector coming under Jordanian rule. This arrangement was formalized in the Rhodes Agreement in March 1949.[2][3] A week after David Ben-Gurion presented his party’s assertion that “Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel” in December 1949,[4] Jordan annexed East Jerusalem.[5] These decisions were confirmed respectively in the Knesset in January 1950 and the Jordanian Parliament in April 1950.[6]

On being occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, East Jerusalem, with expanded borders, came under direct Israeli rule.[7] East Jerusalem had been occupied by Israel in June 1967. On 27–28 June 1967, East Jerusalem was integrated into Jerusalem by extension of its municipal borders and was placed under the law, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel.[8][9] In a unanimous General Assembly resolution, the UN declared the measures trying to change the status of the city invalid.[10] Jerusalem was effectively annexed by Israel in 1980, an act internationally condemned.[by whom?]

In the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988, Jerusalem is stated to be the capital of the State of Palestine. In 2000, the Palestinian Authority passed a law proclaiming Jerusalem as such, and in 2002, this law was ratified by then chairman Yasser Arafat,[11][12] although Israel does not allow Palestinian government offices in East Jerusalem. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) recognised East Jerusalem as capital of the State of Palestine on 13 December 2017.

Political term
History
See also: History of Jerusalem and Timeline of Jerusalem
1948 Arab–Israeli War aftermath

Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided into two parts. The western portion, populated primarily by Jews, came under Israeli rule, while the eastern portion, populated mainly by Muslim and Christian Palestinians, came under Jordanian rule. Arabs living in such western Jerusalem neighbourhoods as Katamon or Malha either fled or were in some cases forced out; the same fate befell Jews in the eastern areas, including the Old City and Silwan. The only eastern area of the city that remained in Israeli hands throughout the 19 years of Jordanian rule was Mount Scopus, where the Hebrew University is located, which formed an enclave during that period.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War, the eastern part of Jerusalem came under Israeli rule, along with the entire West Bank. Shortly after the Israeli takeover, East Jerusalem was annexed to West Jerusalem, together with several neighboring West Bank villages. In November 1967, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 was passed, calling for Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict” in exchange for peace treaties. In 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law, which declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, which is commonly called an act of annexation, though no such formal measure was even taken.[8][17] This declaration was determined to be “null and void” by United Nations Security Council Resolution 478.

Jordanian rule
See also: Jordanian annexation of the West Bank
King Hussein flying over the Temple Mount while it was under Jordanian control, 1965

Jerusalem was to be an international city under the 1947 UN Partition Plan. It was not included as a part of either the proposed Jewish or Arab states. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the western part of Jerusalem was captured by Israel, while East Jerusalem (including the Old City) was captured by Jordan. The war came to an end with the signing of the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

Upon its capture, the Jordanians immediately expelled all the Jewish residents of the Jewish Quarter. 58 synagogues were destroyed.[19][20] The ancient Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives was desecrated, and the tombstones there were used for construction and paving roads.[21] Jordan also destroyed the Jewish villages of Atarot and Neve Yaakov just north of Jerusalem (their sites became Jerusalem neighborhoods after 1967).

East Jerusalem absorbed some of the refugees from West Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods that came under Israeli rule. Thousands of Arab refugees who were displaced from their homes in Israeli-held West Jerusalem were settled in the previously Jewish areas of East Jerusalem.

In 1950 East Jerusalem, along with the rest of the West Bank, was annexed by Jordan. Nevertheless, the annexation of the West Bank was recognized only by the United Kingdom, although the Israeli and Jordanian annexations of the two parts of Jerusalem were given only de facto recognition. During the period of Jordanian rule, East Jerusalem lost much of its importance, as it was no longer a capital, and losing its link to the coast diminished its role as a commercial hub. It even saw a population decrease, with merchants and administrators moving to Amman. On the other hand, it maintained its religious importance, as well as its role as a regional center. Reaffirming a 1953 statement, Jordan in 1960 declared Jerusalem its second capital.[22] The USA (and other powers) protested this plan, and stated it could not “recognize or associate itself in any way with actions which confer upon Jerusalem the attributes of a seat of government…”

During the 1960s, Jerusalem saw economic improvement and its tourism industry developed significantly, and its holy sites attracted growing numbers of pilgrims, but Israelis of all religions were not allowed into East Jerusalem.[clarification needed][18][24] Israeli rule
After 1967 war

During the Six-Day War of 1967 Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and eventually incorporated Eastern Jerusalem and its surroundings into the municipality of Jerusalem, including several neighboring villages.[25] This move, amounting to 111 km2 (43 sq mi)[dubious ] of West Bank territory,[26] excluded many of East Jerusalem’s suburbs and divided several villages. The old Moroccan Quarter in front of the Western Wall was bulldozed three days after its capture, leading to the deaths of several residents in the forced resettlement of its 135 families.[26][27][28] It was replaced with a large open air plaza. The Jewish Quarter, destroyed in 1948, was depopulated, rebuilt and resettled by Jews.

After 1980 annexation
Israeli West Bank barrier in Jerusalem

Under Israeli rule, members of all religions are largely granted access to their holy sites, with the Muslim Waqf maintaining control of the Temple Mount and the Muslim holy sites there.

With the stated purpose of preventing infiltration during the Second Intifada, Israel decided to surround Jerusalem’s eastern perimeter with a security barrier. The structure has separated East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the West Bank suburbs, all of which are under the jurisdiction of Israel and the IDF. The planned route of the separation barrier has raised much criticism, with the Israeli Supreme Court ruling that certain sections of the barrier (including East Jerusalem sections) must be re-routed.

The Oslo Accords, prohibit the establishment of any activity of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. Under the pretext that they are part of the PA, Israel closed many Palestinian NGOs since 2001.

In the 25 January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Elections, 6,300 East Jerusalem Arabs were registered and permitted to vote locally. All other residents had to travel to West Bank polling stations. Hamas won four seats and Fatah two, even though Hamas was barred by Israel from campaigning in the city. Fewer than 6,000 residents were permitted to vote locally in the prior 1996 elections.

In March 2009, a confidential “EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem” was published, in which the Israeli government was accused of “actively pursuing the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem. The report stated: “Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ – including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions – increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”

A poll conducted by Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and American Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council on Foreign Relations, among East Jerusalem Arab residents in 2011 revealed that 39% of East Jerusalem Arab residents would prefer Israeli citizenship contrary to 31% who opted for Palestinian citizenship. According to the poll, 40% of Palestinian residents would prefer to leave their neighborhoods if they would be placed under Palestinian rule.

 

FBI DIR – THE CHINA THREAT

The director of the FBI says the whole of Chinese society is a threat to the US — and Americans must step up as a society

to defend themselves
www.businessinsider.com

FBI Director Christopher Wray; Chinese President Xi Jinping. AP/Andrew Harnik/Fred Dufour/Pool

FBI director Christopher Wray issued a dire warning against China’s growing influence during a Senate intelligence hearing on Tuesday.

He cited the variety of ways that China is implementing its plan to replace the US as the foremost global power, including infiltrating American academia.

China’s Confucius Institutes are ostensibly language learning centers, but often serve as vehicles for Chinese propaganda at universities around the world, including the US.

Intelligence experts also cited Chinese cybersecurity threats as a major concern in 2018.

FBI director Christopher Wray reiterated a commonly held view on Tuesday that China is seeking to become a global superpower through unconventional means — but framed the threat China poses to the US as not just a governmental one, but as a societal one, too.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee alongside the heads of other US intelligence agencies, Wray told Senators that China is using a host of methods to undermine American military, economic, cultural, and informational power across the globe that rely on more than just China’s state institutions.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole of government threat, but a whole of society threat on their end,” Wray said, “and I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed a similar sentiment after Sen. Marco Rubio asked him about China’s plans to overtake the US as the world’s supreme world power.

“There is no question that what you have just articulated is what’s happening with China,” Coats said. “They’re doing it in a very smart way; they’re doing it in a very effective way; they are looking beyond their own region.”

Coats said multiple agencies are conducting “intensive studies” to understand the ways China is looking to carry out its global agenda.

The double-edged sword of open academics
Wray pointed to China’s use of unconventional intelligence sources at US universities as a salient example of China’s reach.

In intelligence jargon, “collectors” are individuals who collect intelligence on behalf of agencies or governments. And he said they’ve infiltrated American universities.

“I think in this setting, I would just say that the use of non-traditional collectors — especially in the academic setting, whether it’s professors, scientists, students — we see in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country,” Wray said.

“They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have which we all revere, but they’re taking advantage of it,” Wray added, noting that there is a “naivete” amid academics about the risks posed by foreign nationals at universities.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) visits the The Confucius Institute at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago on January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Walker/Pool

As Wray mentioned, the openness of academia in general contributes to an open flow of ideas across the globe and the overall advancement of human knowledge and innovation.

To this end, US universities admit over a million international students, and Chinese students make up the largest share of these students. Nearly 329,000 Chinese nationals were enrolled in American colleges during the 2015-2016 school year, according to TIME.

While there is no evidence that a majority of Chinese students or academics pose any threat to US interests, there are a number of education efforts that the Chinese government uses as vehicles for soft power.

The first of these are the Confucius Institutes, which Rubio alluded to during his questioning of Wray and Coats at the Senate hearing.

These institutes mirror many other foreign-language education entities that countries fund around the world, but with a couple caveats. Rather than existing as stand-alone bodies, they are inserted into US universities, and in addition to teaching Mandarin Chinese, they also reportedly engage in disseminating Chinese propaganda and restricting what professors and students should say.

As a result of the dangers to open expression posed by these institutes, the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State have already closed the Confucius Institutes on their campuses. Other global universities have followed suit.

Confucius Institutes also have a strong presence on the African continent, where China is also in the process of growing its economic and political power. Africans in countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe are encouraged to view China as a positive economic force and a source of progress and opportunity as part of the “Look East” policy many African countries have implemented.

As a result of this push, the number of African students in China has skyrocketed over the last 10 years.

Chinese cybersecurity threats – During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, the top US intel chiefs drew attention to Chinese cybersecurity strategies.

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats said, “by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place” within the US.

U.S. security chiefs testify before Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in Washington Thomson Reuters

The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, also released Tuesday, outlines China’s online capabilities in detail.

“China will continue to use cyber espionage and bolster cyber attack capabilities to support national security priorities,” the report concluded. Coats added that China’s cyber activity is at much lower levels than it was before September 2015, but is still threatening

Most Chinese cyber operations that the US has detected targeting private industry are against defense contractors, IT, and communications firms. The assessment said these companies are often ones that support the international operations of both the US government and the private sector.

As a result of these findings, several intelligence heads reaffirmed the necessity to beef up US counterintelligence efforts in cyberspace. Many indeed identified it as one of the top priorities for the intelligence community in the coming year.

With so many facets of American society under threat, Wray said it would take a lot more than just work from intelligence agencies to combat China.

“It’s not just the intelligence community,” he said, “but it’s raising awareness within our academic sector, within our private sector, as part of the defense.”

COMMENTS (314)

“LIB FASCISM” – FAKE MORALITY AND GOVT GREED

Seattle attempts to impose morality with ridiculously high taxes on sugary drinks
rare.us

Seattle has decided to impose a 1.75 cent per ounce tax on all sugary beverages within the city with the hopes of raising a $15 million revenue stream that it will use for programs to help people “have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” as Seattle station KIRO 7 explains. The price of Gatorade Frost Variety Pack at Costco, usually $15.99, with the $10.34 tax, shot up to $26.33, leaving customers with sticker-shock.

There’s more than a few problems with the new tax scheme, which a sign right next to the Gatorade in Costco helpfully demonstrates.

As with all excise taxes, this one is easily avoided: customers can visit Costco stores in nearby Tukwila or Shoreline and skip paying the City of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax. Customers are less likely to make extra inconvenient trips if the price changes are barely noticeable–but with such a steep price change, many residents will likely take the extra trip.

Some are saying they will switch to diet soda instead, which city officials say is “the point,” according to KIRO7. “Not necessarily to switch to diet soda, but getting consumers to go for healthier options.”

The position the tax advocates take is oddly contradictory, as  Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation summarized on Twitter:

“First they interview people at the Costco who are rightfully shocked at how high prices on soda and sports drinks are now (they are almost doubled). Then they interview a public health advocate who says ‘that’s right! We want these prices to change people’s behavior and slow sales!’ Then they talk to the consumer, ‘think you’ll change your behavior, maybe even shop somewhere else?’ And she’s like, ‘ya the Tukwila store is close enough.’ Then they ask a city council member if this will hurt local [business], who says ‘there is no data’ suggesting that. Then the SAME public health advocate says that people won’t respond to price increases, shopping elsewhere because it isn’t ‘worth their while.”

If advocates are truly concerned about public health and want people to change their behavior by consuming sugarless beverages then the tax will indeed slow sales and hurt local businesses. It has to because that’s the only way it will actually induce people to lower their calories; assuming you believe that this model works.

But the government doesn’t actually want everyone to switch away from sugary drinks or it won’t be able to collect that $15 million it’s hoping for. That’s why using the tax code to punish or reward behavior is tragically short-sighted.

Government attempts to disincentive certain behavior often have subversive effects (beyond forcing people to take longer trips or purchase sugar-free brands.) The point of these policies is to drastically reduce usage; but while the pricing cuts demand, it also fuels smuggling and black markets.

A steep soda tax opens up the way for an illegal underground trade in soda. Before you laugh, realize that’s exactly the problem that arose in Philadelphia when similar taxes were introduced. In New York, these types of sin taxes led to stratospheric taxes on cigarettes, which buoyed an underground black market in “loosie” cigarettes. Tragically, police enforcement of the tax also led to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, who died in police custody after allegedly resisting arrest.

His action, selling loose cigarettes, was only a crime because of these types of policies. Governments, including the City of Seattle, should avoid creating similar situations.

COMMENTS (605)

HERE IT IS! THE GREAT TAX DEAL

TAX REFORM BILL RECONCILED!

Both houses of Congress have passed and negotiated the outstanding differences.

GOP slashes rates, kills Obamacare penalty!

  • Lawmakers released the full text of the Republican leadership-backed tax cut Friday evening.
  • The Senate is expected to vote Monday and House is expected to vote Tuesday.
  • Top income tax rate drops to 37 per cent from 39.6.
  • Corporate tax rate slashed to 21 per cent from 35 per cent.
  • Estates worth up to $11.2 million shielded from federal taxes.
  • State and local tax deduction capped at $10,000 as in House bill.
  • New York and California lawmakers railed against the elimination of SALT.
  • Latest Senate version reduces taxes $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
  • Doubling of child tax credit and increase in standard deduction.
  • White House says bill simplifies ‘rigged and burdensome tax code’

Republicans released their long-awaited tax overhaul bill late Friday afternoon, drawing months of negotiations to a close and setting up a pair of final votes on Monday and Tuesday.

>President Donald Trump has promised to deliver tax relief as a Christmas present. He ran on a pledge of making it happen and the Republican Party is betting that voters flush with newfound money will reward them at the polls.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act creates seven new tax brackets, including a 37 per cent rate – down from 39.6 per cent – for top-end wage earners.

The new rates start at 10 percent,  to 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 and 37 per cent.

The bill also lowers the top corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, the largest such reduction in U.S. history.

President Donald Trump has promised Americans a tax cut as a Christmas present and he’s betting that his base will support him even though the tax plan itself doesn’t poll well

DEATH TO OBAMACARE – Democrats are upset at a feature of the bill that repeals the Obamacare ‘individual mandate’ penalty, a tax paid by Americans who don’t buy medical insurance. This liberation from the extremely unpopular Democrat fascist imposition forced upon healthy younger taxpayers was nothing but a pyramid scheme to subsidize deadbeats and leeches – it was simply another Democrat “vote-buying scheme. “

The new tax formula changes the income levels where the tax rates would kick in, raising the top tier by about $30,000 so only those earning $500,000 or more would be in the top bracket.

A change to the deductibility of mortgage interest will limit it to the first $750,000 of new home loans.

And Americans who inherit property won’t have to pay estate taxes on the first $11.2 million. That’s double the current exemption.

Some tax breaks that were written out of early versions of the bill are back in.

Those include a deduction for medical expenses and an exemption for graduate school tuition waivers. Americans paying off student loans will still be able to deduct the interest.

A promised $10,000 deduction for income and property taxes paid to states, counties and cities is also included – a compromise that attracted the support of lawmakers from high-tax states like New York and California.

The bill includes an expanded child tax credit, a move calculated to win the support of last-minute holdout Marco Rubio,. a Florida Republican senator.

It also eliminates the tax penalty placed on Americans who don’t buy medical insurance required by Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has cautioned that this may lead to more Americans not buying insurance policies, which could then contribute to premium-hikes for those who do.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio became a ‘yes’ vote when lawmakers sweetened the pot for working families who claim a child tax credit

Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker surprised Washington on Friday by abandoning his opposition to the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax reform bill

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (center right, in blue) called the bill ‘awful’ and ‘one of the most irresponsible I’ve seen’

The White House said in a statement that ‘[b]y lowering tax rates, simplifying the rigged and burdensome tax code, and repealing the failed tax on lower- and middle-income households known as the Obamacare individual mandate, this legislation will grow our economy, raise wages, and promote economic competitiveness.’

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said that ‘China is already worried about this tax bill, because they know it will make America more competitive and spur greater investment here in America. This legislation will bring real relief to the middle class by taking money out of Washington’s pocket and putting it into theirs.’

Democrats were predictably sour on the legislation; it will surely result in major cuts to their out-of-control wasteful spending.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the bill ‘awful’ and ‘one of the most irresponsible I’ve seen.’ She has never encountered a tax cut she would support because her husband Richard Bloom enriched their own bank accounts by exploitation of government waste.  It is reported that their net worth exceeds 100 million now, since their early endeavors as slum-lords in San Francisco.

‘In addition to driving up the deficit, it will increase health care premiums in the individual market by 10 percent each year, leave 13 million more Americans without health insurance and threaten to destroy a pristine section of the Alaskan wilderness.

‘I’m surprised anyone can call this a tax reform bill with a straight face,’ she said. ‘This is nothing more than a huge tax cut for big corporations and the rich, paid for by the middle class.’

Under the plan, however, Americans claiming the standard deduction instead of itemizing will have the benefit of a deduction that’s nearly doubled.

Republicans say that will result in millions of Americans filing a single-page tax return.

The final per-child tax credit will give families making up to $400,000 a year a $2,000 benefit per child.

WHAT’S IN THE FINAL TAX BILL?

  • Top income tax bracket has dropped to 37 per cent from 39.6 per cent
  • Other brackets are zero, 12, 22, 24, 32 and 35 per cent
  • ‘Standard’ deduction for non-itemizers nearly doubles
  • Interest is deductible only on the first $750,000 of new home mortgages
  • Only individuals making more than $500,000 and couples earning $600,000 are in the top bracket
  • Corporate tax rates drop from 35 per cent to 21 per cent
  • Deduction for medical expenses and student loan interest and an exemption for graduate school tuition waivers
  • Ends Obamacare tax penalty for failing to buy health insurance
  • Doubles child tax credit to $2,000 for families earning up to $400,000
  • $1,400 of child credit is refundable even for families that don’t pay any income tax
  • Doubles estate tax exemption to the first $11.2 million of inheritances
  • Opens a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling
    ‘Pass-through’ corporations can deduct 20 per cent of income
  • Elimination of corporate Alternative Minimum Tax
  • No repeal of Johnson Amendment barring churches and religious organizations from election activity

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has called the tax cut a years-long goal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the legislation ‘will bring real relief to the middle class by taking money out of Washington’s pocket and putting it into theirs’

That doubles the child tax credit from the current maximum of $1,000 and makes it available to a greater number of middle- and upper-bracket families.

It would begin to phase out for families earning above $400,000. That’s down from a $500,000 cap in the original Senate measure, which passed earlier this month.

But it also benefits more working families by making it refundable, meaning even people who pay no tax would benefit.

Like all major legislation, there are pot-sweeteners inserted to win the support of hesitant legislators.

One, a carve-out for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, will open a tiny fraction of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

The 19.6-million-acre refuge in northeastern Alaska is one of the most pristine areas in the United States and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife.

Murkowski and other Republicans say drilling can be done safely with new technology, while ensuring a steady energy supply for West Coast refineries.

THE NEW RATES: A joint committee of House and Senate negotiators released this chart showing the personal income tax brackets for 2018, provided the bill becomes law

Small businesses organized as ‘pass-through’ corporations also get a break.

Most of these firms can write off 20 percent of their income tax-free, a change brought about by business groups and advocates including Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Democrats are expected to vote in lockstep against the bill in both the House and Senate. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats and need 50 to pass the bill – plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.

While Rubio and Corker have said publicly that they will vote yes, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona are still undeclared.

Republicans will need Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi to return in order to muster enough votes for passage.

Both men have been away fighting illnesses.

One provision of the tax law would open up a tiny portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration

One thing the final bill does not include is a measure that Trump had promised to evangelical voters – the repeal of a law forbidding churches from endorsing candidates and engaging in other explicit politicking.

The 1954 Johnson Amendment also keeps churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship from raising money for politicians unless they want to give up their federal tax-exempt status.

Trump pledged at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to ‘totally destroy’ the law.

The tax plan originally passed by the House included a repeal, but the Senate’s version did not. As lawmakers met to hammer out the differences, Democrats prevailed in stripping it out of the final compromise.

An analysis by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation showed that the bill would increase federal deficits by $1.46 trillion over 10 years.

But Republicans argue that economic growth resulting from changes in the tax code will more than make up for it.

Americans so far have been skeptical of a government promising tax cuts.

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Border Surge in November 2017

Illegal immigration on border surges back to Obama levels
www.washingtontimes.com

In this June 22, 2016, file photo, Border Patrol agent Eduardo Olmos walks near the secondary fence separating Tijuana, Mexico, background, and San Diego in San Diego. U.S. President Donald Trump will direct the Homeland Security Department to start building.

Illegal immigration across the Southwest border has surged back to Obama-era levels, according to the latest data released Friday that suggests the gains President Trump made early in his tenure have worn off.

Nearly 40,000 illegal immigrants were nabbed attempting to sneak in at the border in November, which was up about 12 percent compared to October, and more than twice the monthly numbers from March and April, when Mr. Trump touted his early accomplishments.

Perhaps just as worrisome for officials is the rise in families traveling together, which surged 45 percent last month, and unaccompanied minors traveling without parents, which rose 26 percent in November.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection called the rise an “uptick.”

The 39,006 people apprehended in November is still less than the previous two years, but is more than 2012, 2013 or 2014, signaling a return to Obama-era levels of illegal immigration on the border.

HOUSE PASSED! Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017

Introduced in House (01/03/2017)

HR 38 – Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017

House vote final tally

Passed House vote  on 6-NOV-2017

This bill amends the federal criminal code to allow a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms.

A qualified individual must: (1) be eligible to possess, transport, or receive a firearm under federal law; (2) carry a valid photo identification document; and (3) carry a valid concealed carry permit issued by, or be eligible to carry a concealed firearm in, his or her state of residence.

Additionally, the bill specifies that a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.

Constitutional Authority Statement

[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 1 (Tuesday, January 3, 2017)] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office

[www.gpo.gov]

By Mr. HUDSON:
H.R. 38.

Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following:
The 2nd Amendment, which states that “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
[Page H47]

About Constitutional Authority Statements

On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII. Rule XII, clause 7(c) requires that, to be accepted for introduction by the House Clerk, all bills (H.R.) and joint resolutions (H.J.Res.) must provide a document stating “as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.”

COMMENTARY:  By M Souza

The anti-2nd Amendment Left –

Constitutional Authority Statement
[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 1 (Tuesday, January 3, 2017)] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] By Mr. HUDSON:
H.R. 38.
Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant
to the following:
The 2nd Amendment, which states that “A well regulated
militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the
right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be
infringed.”
[Page H47]

About Constitutional Authority Statements

On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII. Rule XII, clause 7(c) requires that, to be accepted for introduction by the House Clerk, all bills (H.R.) and joint resolutions (H.J.Res.) must provide a document stating “as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.

including the overwhelming majority of members of the Democrat Party – are frequent to extoll the righteous virtues of Federal law across all states: except in matters of Immigration and Firearms. For these two categories, federal authority doesn’t apply.

3 MEDIA SCREW-UPS IN 1 WEEK!

The media’s Russia probe meltdown: 3 screw-ups in one week – Axios
www.axios.com

Rep. Trent Franks announced his immediate resignation on Friday, after saying Thursday he would be resigning effective January 31st after admitting he’d raised the topic of surrogacy with several of his staffers.

“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment. After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today,December 8th, 2017.”

Meanwhile… (same week)

CNN Botches Major ‘Bombshell’ Alleging Contacts Between Don Jr. And WikiLeaks
dailycaller.com

CNN misreported key details of an offer made to Donald Trump Jr. last year of a batch of stolen Wikileaks documents.

The story, which CNN published on Friday and covered extensively on TV, was touted as the first evidence that the Trump campaign was given a heads-up about documents stolen from Democrats.

But the story appears to have been riddled with errors, while also lacking key context.

Perhaps the most jarring error in the CNN report is the date on which Trump Jr. was sent the email. The network reported that a person named Mike Erickson emailed Trump Jr. and others on the Trump campaign on Sept. 4, 2016, with a link to Wikileaks documents as well as a decryption key to access them.

The email also offered access to emails that had been stolen from former Sec. of State Colin Powell, according to CNN.

But a copy of the email provided to The Daily Caller shows that Erickson sent the email on Sept. 14.

That date is significant because WikiLeaks had released a batch of stolen documents on Sept. 13. The group touted its release of the DNC documents, which were published by Guccifer 2.0.

The email shows that Erickson messaged Trump Jr. stating that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC.”

“It is too big for me to send you by e-mail attachments, but you can download it yourselves,” he added, providing a link to the same website cited by Wikileaks the day before.

He also included a link to a decryption key that could be used to access the documents.

The Washington Post first reported on the true date and wording of the Erickson email.

The site that Erickson linked to leads to a page where a file with the same file name referenced in the Wikileaks tweet could be downloaded.

Powell’s emails were also published online on Sept. 13. DC Leaks, a group that has been affiliated with the Russian government, published the documents online. The group granted access to the documents to several news organizations, including The Daily Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Colin Powell’s Emails Hacked, Published Online)

How CNN got its report so wrong is unclear.

The article states that its information was based on a read-out of the Trump Jr. email provided by multiple sources, none of who are identified. Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, speculated on Friday that the source was on the Democratic side of the House Intelligence Committee, which interviewed Trump Jr. earlier this week.

The spokesman for the committee Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

Erickson also appears not to be a super-secret Kremlin agent. The Post identified him as the president of an aviation management company.

Attempts made by The Daily Caller to contact him were unsuccessful.

Futerfas, the lawyer for Trump Jr., said that the real estate executive received “tons of unsolicited emails” during the campaign.

“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said in a statement.

“This email arrived after published media reports disclosed 12 hours earlier that hacked documents had been posted. The suggestion that this information was not public is false.”

Futerfas blasted the House Intelligence Committee over what he says is its leak of the story.

“It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” he said.

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DIRTY DOG AL FRANKEN

Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It
www.kabc.com
By Leeann Tweeden

Proof – pervert Sen Al Franken (D) groping Leeann Tweeden, asleep.

In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks. My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to servicemembers stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege.

Also on the trip were country music artists Darryl Worley, Mark Wills, Keni Thomas, and some cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. The headliner was comedian and now-senator, Al Franken.

Franken had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.

As a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model familiar to the audience from the covers of FHM, Maxim and Playboy, I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.

When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.

No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened.

At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it.

I tried to let it go, but I was angry.

Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again. I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.

Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.

But he didn’t stop there.

The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture.

I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.

But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.

Today, I am the news anchor on McIntyre in the Morning on KABC Radio in Los Angeles. My colleagues are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with in my career. Like everyone in the media, we’ve been reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations since they broke, and the flood of similar stories that have come out about others.

A few weeks ago, we had California Congresswoman Jackie Speier on the show and she told us her story of being sexually assaulted when she was a young Congressional aide. She described how a powerful man in the office where she worked ‘held her face, kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth.’

At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me.

I had locked up those memories of helplessness and violation for a long time, but they all came rushing back to me and my hands clinched into fists like it was yesterday.

I’m still angry at what Al Franken did to me.

Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was there to entertain the troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours. Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story.

That day is now.

Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.

You wrote the scene that would include you kissing me and then relentlessly badgered me into ‘rehearsing’ the kiss with you backstage when we were alone.

You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.

While debating whether or not to go public, I even thought to myself, so much worse has happened to so many others, maybe my story isn’t worth telling? But my story is worth telling.

Not just because 2017 is not 2006, or because I am much more secure in my career now than I was then, and not because I’m still angry.

I’m telling my story because there may be others.

I want to have the same effect on them that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me. I want them, and all the other victims of sexual assault, to be able to speak out immediately, and not keep their stories –and their anger– locked up inside for years, or decades.

I want the days of silence to be over forever.

Leeann Tweeden is morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles

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LIBERAL FASCISM BLAMED ON TRUMP!


Do Trump’s liberal critics seem increasingly unhinged?
thehill.com

Last week’s anniversary of Trump’s election sparked widespread teeth-gnashing by the nation’s pundits.  Trump is supposedly the gravest threat to American democracy since the secession of the Confederacy. His presidency, probably, continues to be a boon for antidepressant sales across the land.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, in a column last week headlined “Anniversary of the Apocalypse,” lamented the “terror-struck and vertiginous days” after Trump’s win and the ongoing “metaphysical whiplash” and “hideous interregnum,” which leaves her “poleaxed by grief at the destruction of our civic inheritance.” Professor Henry Giroux of McMaster University frothed that Trump’s “ascendancy in American politics has made visible a culture of cruelty, a contempt for civic literacy, a corrupt mode of governance and a disdain for informed judgment that has been decades in the making.”

It is understandable that folks would be riled by Trump’s bluster about revoking the broadcast licenses of his critics or calling for the firing of protesting football players. His administration’s rhetoric on trade and the drug war threaten to revive moronic policies that should have been banished forever by perennial failures.  But while Trump poses plenty of constitutional perils, many of his opponents are even more authoritarian.
Anti-Trump fervor is making liberals far more illiberal. Commentators in the Washington Post and New York Times have called for selective censorship of ideas and doctrines they abhor. A recent Washington Post article touted 38 fixes for democracy including mandating three years of compulsory labor for young people in the military of AmeriCorps-like programs, outlawing private education, punitively punishing gun owners, and vastly increasing redistribution to end racial inequities.

Thanks to Trump’s firing of James Comey, Democrats are exalting the FBI as if J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO never existed. Political mob violence by Antifa against conservatives was vindicated in the Washington Post and cheered by prominent Democrats as the moral equivalent of the American soldiers who stormed Normandy beaches in 1944.

Some liberals believe the federal government should become domineering to vanquish the fascist tendencies of Trump supporters. But this is imprudent unless liberals irrevocably control all three branches of the federal government.

Unfortunately, Trump’s biggest follies (thus far) have evoked the loudest cheers from his Washington critics. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, was sending 59 cruise missiles to blast the Syrian government based on mere allegations that it had carried out a chemical weapons attack. Pulling the rug from under the Iran deal (one of Obama’s solid achievements) was cheered by much of the foreign policy elite as if destabilizing the Middle East was akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea spurred no effective resistance on Capitol Hill. But blundering into another war would do more harm to American democracy than 10,000 raving Oval Office tweets.

Many Democrats sound ready to rush to impeachment regardless of what Trump has actually done. They seem inspired by the Soviet secret police chief who declared: “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.” Desperate assertions that $3000 in Russian-linked Facebook ads swung the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are indicative of the pathetic logic of many Trump critics.

Many Trump opponents are the same type of zealots who, in the late 1700s, proudly labeled themselves “Friends of Government.” In their eyes, Trump’s greatest sin is tarnishing the majesty of the presidency and the federal government. Trump is exposing the sham of a Leviathan Democracy which pretends that presidents will be philosopher kings — instead of merely talented vote catchers. However, Trump cannot be blamed for destroying Americans’ trust in Washington. This was already achieved by presidents such as George W. Bush and Obama who the media occasionally exalted to the skies.

Trump’s critics are correct that the president has too much arbitrary power. But many people happy to believe the worst about Trump will heave all their skepticism overboard when the next political savior is anointed. Such naivete is being encouraged at the highest levels of Democratic Party. Recall that Hillary Clinton’s recent book declared that the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 is that people should trust their leaders and the media.

Hysteria remains the 2017 political badge of honor. Last Wednesday, thousands of people gathered across the nation to shout at the sky to protest the anniversary of Trump’s victory. But righteous rage is no substitute for focusing on the real perils that Trump and any other president poses to our rights. The Friends of Freedom need to keep their intellectual ammo dry.

James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

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