Support And Elect Moe Davis For Congress

This is a small blog in the scheme of things. We seriously do try to get things right though. If there is a lasting hallmark, let it be that. We also, assiduously, try to stay out of primary politics.

There is one primary that is done and over though, and that is in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. NC-11. The Democratic nominee there is Moe Davis. Mr. Davis is not only a fantastic candidate, he is a friend to several of us at this blog, and not just through the electrons that are the internet, we know him in person. Moe is the real deal.

But since this can only go out via the electrons, here is a synopsis:

“Moe Davis is a retired Air Force Colonel, former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Director of the Air Force Judiciary, law professor, judge, speaker, writer and national security expert”

How did we here at Emptywheel come to know Moe? It almost seems quaint anymore. It was because of Guantanamo, the wrongs occasioned there and the few that stood up in the face of that failure. Moe was not just one, but was willing to be the face for the many.

In 2007, while serving as Chief Prosecutor for Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay, Davis dared to take on the Bush Administration. He was ordered to use evidence obtained through torture in his prosecutions. Davis refused. That decision came at a price; to uphold his principles, Davis had no choice but to resign his position at Guantanamo. Davis believes the Legion of Merit was initially withheld as punishment for defying the Bush Administration before he finally received the honor.

For his stand against torture and the political pressure placed on prosecutors at Guantanamo, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) honored Davis by including him in, “Those Who Dared: 30 Officials Who Stood Up For Our Country.”

That was not the last time Davis stood up for what he believed was right. In 2008, after retiring from the Air Force, Davis became assistant director and senior specialist in national security for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. But when Davis wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that was critical of the Obama Administration’s handling of prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay, he was fired.

Davis challenged his dismissal in court, believing his First Amendment right to free speech was infringed. He ultimately won his suit and received the Justice Charles E. Whittaker Award for professional courage and integrity. He also was given the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award.

Why take a stand and risk his career? As Davis said, borrowing from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s familiar theme, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.”

Indeed, it is always the right time to do the right thing. The right thing is Go help this man get to Congress.

John Lewis Was Not Always Old

Ode to Ella Baker” by Lisa McLymont (Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A few weeks ago, John Lewis put out a press release announcing to all that he is undergoing treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He later sent out a tweet, lifting up one of the best lines in that press statement:

I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

Lewis’ summary of his life is not hyperbole. He is the last living member of the Big Six, the speakers at the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, and now is a senior member of Congress. But it’s important to remember that John Lewis was not always old. He was just 23 when he spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) – an organization he co-founded three years earlier at age 20 – and at 21 was one of the original Freedom Riders.

Let me repeat it again: John Lewis was not always old. He has always been a fighter for civil rights, but he has not always been old.

In 2005, historian David McCullough noted how we as a society perceive great leaders in a speech about the Founders:

We tend to see them—Adams, Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Rush, George Washington—as figures in a costume pageant; that is often the way they’re portrayed. And we tend to see them as much older than they were because we’re seeing them in the portraits by Gilbert Stuart and others when they were truly the Founding Fathers—when they were president or chief justice of the Supreme Court and their hair, if it hadn’t turned white, was powdered white. We see the awkward teeth. We see the elder statesmen.

At the time of the Revolution, they were all young. It was a young man’s–young woman’s cause. George Washington took command of the Continental Army in the summer of 1775 at the age of 43. He was the oldest of them. Adams was 40. Jefferson was all of 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Rush—who was the leader of the antislavery movement at the time, who introduced the elective system into higher education in this country, who was the first to urge the humane treatment of patients in mental hospitals—was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, none of them had any prior experience in revolutions; they weren’t experienced revolutionaries who’d come in to take part in this biggest of all events. They were winging it. They were improvising.

This is not unique to the American Founders. Historians of social change who pay attention to the leaders of these movements often see the same thing. For example . . .

  • When Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955, he was just shy of 25 years old. When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was 35, and when was assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis hotel, he was only 39.
  • When Thurgood Marshall argued on behalf of racial justice in Shelley v. Kramer before SCOTUS in 1948 – six years before he did the same in Brown v. Board of Education – Marshall was 40 years old. He won both cases, the former striking down restricted housing covenants and the latter doing away with the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine that was at the heart of Jim Crow.
  • When Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela co-founded the ANC Youth League in 1944, they were 31, 26, and 25 years old respectively.
  • When Dr. Paul Volberding and nurse Cliff Morrison pushed against incredible medical and social prejudices to organize the nation’s first AIDS unit at San Francisco General Hospital in 1983 as the AIDS crisis continued to spiral out of control, they were 33 and 31 respectively.
  • When Gavin Newsom (then mayor of San Francisco) ordered the San Francisco clerk’s office to issue marriage licenses for couples regardless of the genders involved on February 14, 2004, he was 36.
  • When Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, exposing the ugly underside of the meatpacking industry and spurring social change with regard government oversight and regulation of food and drugs, he was 28.
  • When anti-lynching crusader and journalist Ida B. Wells published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases in 1892, she was 30.
  • When Elizabeth Cady Stanton co-organized the Seneca Falls Conference on Women’s Rights in 1848, she was 32.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the leaders of social change movements are more likely to be young than to be old.

After Lewis made his announcement, Marcy tweeted out her reactions to the news, including this:

Say a prayer–or whatever you do instead–to give John Lewis strength for this fight. But also commit to raise up a young moral leader who has inspired you. We can’t rely on 80 and 90 year olds to lead us in the troubled days going forward.

I’ve been chewing on that tweet for the better part of a month.

What immediately went through my head upon reading that tweet was the name Ella Baker, one of the less well-known leaders in the civil rights movement. In a story for the Tavis Smiley Show on PRI about the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis tells of Ella’s powerful role:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was so impressed by the actions of the students [and their non-violent lunchcounter sit-ins], says Lewis, that he asked a young woman by the name of Ella Baker to organize a conference, inviting students from 58 colleges and universities.

“More than 300 people showed up at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where SNCC was born,” said Lewis. “It was Easter weekend, 1960.”

Baker, considered by many as an unsung hero of the civil rights movement, was a “brilliant” radical who spurred on the creation of SNCC as an independent organization, says Lewis.

“She was a fiery speaker, and she would tell us to ‘organize, organize; agitate, agitate! Do what you think is right. Go for it!’ Dr. King wanted her to make SNCC the youth arm of his organization. But Ella Baker said we should be independent … and have our own organization.”

While the SNCC was deeply inspired by Dr. King and the SCLC, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the students in the organization didn’t always see eye-to-eye with SCLC leadership.

“We had a lot of young women, and SNCC didn’t like the idea of the male chauvinism that existed in the SCLC,” says Lewis. “The SCLC was dominated by primarily black Baptist Ministers. And these young women did all the work and they had been the head of their local organizations.”

I’m not sure where Smiley got the phrasing about Ella Baker being “a young woman” when this all happened, as she was 55 years old in 1960 and King was only 30. But Ella did exactly what Marcy was talking about in that tweet. When she saw an opening to act, she helped raise up hundreds of young moral leaders, and she helped them most by encouraging them to act out of their own gifts and strengths and not by tying themselves to the approaches of older leaders.

Which brings me to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the days following the massacre at MSD, the students there took matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for their elders to act. These are kids who grew up entirely in the post-Columbine High School shooting world, where active shooter drills were a regular part of school life. (I’m old: the only drills we had were “duck and cover” for a nuclear attack and “head for the hallway or basement” for tornadoes.) With each new shooting, they saw the same script written by the elders play out each time – thoughts and prayers for the victims, debate over gun laws, and nothing changes. They saw it happen around the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando a year and a half earlier. Talk, talk, talk and nothing changes.

This time, it wasn’t the elders running the show, however. It was Emma Gonzales, live on every cable network, who called BS on the NRA and the legislators who were intimidated by them. It was Cameron Kasky who gathered and organized his classmates to make this a movement. It was David Hogg and a dozen others, a hundred others, who did interviews, organized demonstrations, and the 1001 other things to give their work power. They reached out to other teens affected by gun violence, especially teens of color, to amplify the common message demanding change. They became a force to be reckoned with, not only in Tallahassee where they actually got gun laws changed, but in DC and around the country.

Behind these students, though, were their teachers. These are the folks who nourished the gifts of research and organization, of public speaking and political organizing in these young people. There were parents and other adults, who took their cues from the teens and did the things that you need someone over 21 to do, like sign rental bus agreements, for example. It is clear, though, that the moral leaders are the teens, with the elders in supporting roles.

Then there’s Greta Thunberg, relentlessly pushing the elders in seats of power to take action on the climate emergency gripping our planet.  Her messages are always a version of “This is not about me and my knowledge; it’s about the scientists and their knowledge – and they say we are going to burn the planet down if things don’t change fast.” She points to data, and forces her hearers to look at it. She may have gotten attention early on because of her youth (“O look at that cute little girl, doing cute little things and trying to get politicians to act”), but being a cute little girl doing cute little things doesn’t get you seat at the table at Davos. No, she got her seat at the tables of the powerful by being the young person who said over and over and over again that the emperors, the presidents, the corporate titans, and the powers of the planet aren’t wearing any clothes.

Just like young John Lewis.

The other part of Greta’s “It’s not about me” messaging is that she has sought out and nurtured other young people around the world, who have been organizing in their communities while she was at work in Sweden. She met Lakota activist Tokata Iron Eyes, who invited her to Standing Rock to see the work they are doing. Thunberg not only accepted, but eagerly lent her support to their work, not least of which came because of her larger media profile. When she spoke at Davos, it was as part of a panel of other young climate activists from Puerto Rico, southern Africa, and Canada.

Like the MSD students, Greta has passion for her activism, a data-driven focus that she hope can break through the cynicism and self-centeredness of world leaders, and a skill at building alliances with other like minded folks. And like the MSD students, people with power are listening — and are beginning to want to hear more. While Steve Mnuchen (following the lead of Donald Trump) mocked Thunberg for her youth, another world leader had a different reaction:

Angela Merkel, though, spoke warmly about the work of the new generation of climate activists.

“The impatience of our young people is something that we should tap,” the German chancellor said. In a special address to the WEF, Merkel called for more international cooperation to tackle climate change.

“I am totally convinced that the price of inaction will be far higher than the price of action,” she declared.

Over the last month, I’ve been looking at and interacting with the teenagers in my life a little bit differently, a little more intentionally, thanks in part to Marcy’s tweet. You see, one of those teens may just be another John Lewis, and I’d dearly love to be another Ella Baker.

Waiting

One of our dinner guests, a Parisian, discussing the politics of France, said something like “we feel like we are all waiting.” She explained that the economy is doing will by people with jobs, and the French safety net is strong enough to quell serious problems among the unemployed. But no one is inspired, and the various parties that have dominated French politics are moribund; they haven’t had a new idea in a long time. And so “we are waiting.” The conversation moved on, but that stuck with me. Waiting for what? I also feel like I’m waiting, at least for Trumpian Motion, that hurricane of corruption, lies and intentional cruelty, to subside. But that’s not what our guest was talking about, and it doesn’t explain my feelings either.

In context, I think the problem she described is a feeling of disgust for the French political parties. Francois Hollande, the previous president and a Socialist, was a profound disappointment and didn’t run for reelection. His successor finished a dismal fourth in the first round. The conservative, Francois Filon, was mired in a make-work scandal for his family and finished third. The two who survived to the second round were Marine Le Pen, the right-wing crazy, and Emmanuel Macron, a rich man who started his own party, La Republique En Marche (France On the March, shades of MAGA). Macron won in a landslide, and Le Pen’s party seems to have fallen to schism.

Macron is “business-friendly”, meaning neoliberalish in French terms. He has pushed reforms to the labor laws that are loathed by workers and the subject of massive resistance. Nobody except the rich thinks this will fix anything. The other parties seem irrelevant to our guest. That means there is little to look forward to on the part of the large French left. Something has to change, and she’s waiting.

I too think our party system is moribund. Neither legacy party commands 30% of the voters. The last election was a contest between a competent Democrat and a corrupt cruel liar. We don’t have majority rule here as they do in France, so the corrupt cruel liar was elected.

Oddly in a recent column in the New York Times, David Brooks seems to recognize that this is a problem, and argues for multi-member House districts and ranked-choice voting. Brooks thinks something needs to change, and so do I. We can’t go on like this. I mean that in a broader sense than Brooks, of course. I think we can’t keep going with a system that allows the minority to run the country, especially a racist minority, a misogynist minority, a fundamentalist minority, a cruel and stupid minority. Oops. I called them stupid. We aren’t supposed to call them stupid. It’s as bad as saying rat-fucker.

This is a huge problem. I’ll just address two parts of the Constitution that are problematic. One is our voting rules, the other our worship of private property. Aside from Republican skill at voter suppression gerrymandering and maybe worse, there are Constitutional provisions. Every state has two senators. The 22 smallest states have a total population less than California using Census Bureau estimates for 2017. They have 44 senators. Using the filibuster, it only takes 21 States to stop any legislation. Even without the filibuster, it takes 26 states to stop any legislation. The smallest 26 states have a population of about 57 million, less than the population of California and the New York metro area. Under winner take all rules, the minority can control the country with say 20 million voters, about 6% of the population. How many people in the US are like the people who turn out for Trump’s rallies?

Now consider the protection of property. One central feature of the Constitution is that it is designed to protect property rights. The most obvious parts relate to the protection of the interests of slavers, starting with the Three-Fifths Clause. Doubters should read this article. It also makes a broader point about protection of property, and says that the slavers had a disproportionate effect on US public policy in its early years. On this view, we have always been governed by a minority.

The Fifth Amendment is another obvious property protection: the Takings Clause bars governments from taking property without “just compensation”. All the rights of the slavers and the thinly populated states are protected by the provisions regarding amendments to the Constitution which make it possible for the tiny states and slave states to kill any amendment.

This love of property has become an obsession with Americans. “You Can’t Tell Me What To Do With My Property” should be the National Motto. One tiny bit of evidence of this is the ugliness of most US cities and towns, because people have no interest in the way their communities look if it means they can’t hang ugly signs and pave the countryside to build a Walgreen’s on every corner not occupied by a Taco Bell.

Another manifestation is the idea that taxation is theft as libertarians and not a few others say. Not that it really matters what people think, because Congress is afraid to tax anyone ever. In fact, historically Congress does what the filthy rich want and little else. Because, after all, protecting property is the point of the Constitution.

To top all that off, a large part of the population despises the libtards. No one knows how big that group is, because no one polls the question in that form. In recent polling, the percentage identifying as conservative is trending down while the percentage identifying as liberal is trending up, but the former leads the latter by 9%; moderates are also slipping down. At the end of 2017, conservatives and moderates were each at 35%, while liberals were at 26%. Of course, the operational definitions of all three groups have badly slipped to the right over the years. It doesn’t much matter right now, the conservatives can block any change.

Even if the Democrats start winning, which given their allegiance to neoliberalism is not a sure thing, the crazy right has made it clear that they will howl and throw feces at any action the Democrats might try and we have no reason to think the Democrats won’t cave and do the very least possible as they have done for decades.

So, here we are. Stuck. Interesting question: How long will the majority consent to be governed by the minority? Famous quote from Herb Stein: “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.” I’m waiting to see how that happens.

Alabama Getaway: Roy Moore’s Little Toy Gun Trash

It is 2017 and here we are. Yep, the greatest country ever. The face of humanity. Elected leaders won’t even admit global warming, much less try to fix it. Hell, they don’t even want the gays to have wedding cakes. “Creative” book schemers like Elon Musk are considered brilliant. But, hey, that is where we are.

No reason to ignore the truth. Unless you are Alabama.

Thirty two teeth in a jawbone
Alabama cryin’ for none
Before I have to hit him
I hope Roy’s got the sense to run.

Reason those poor young girls love him
Promise them anything
Reason they believe him
He wears a big diamond ring (and a little toy gun).

It used to be our little weekend Trash Talk was an escape. From politics. From war. From torture. From the idiocy. There is no escape now.

Welp, at least we know that Alabama football is totally clean and good. And that good old Nick Saban purity will have a test today against Mississippi State in Davis Wade Stadium. Starkville can be tough. It is hard to see anybody slowing the Tide’s roll, but this may be the best shot. Michigan State at the the Horseshoe and the Buckeyes should be really interesting. Not the blockbuster it once could have been, but still a huge game. A sleeper may be Oklahoma State at Iowa State. The best game though is Notre Dame at Miami. The Hurricanes have not had a game like this in a long time. Two storied programs, only one can win, both in effective dumpster fire mode for a long time. I’ll take the Canes. The other huge game is TCU’s Horned Frogs at Oklahoma. I wish FreePatriot were here for this. In his honor, I’ll take Baker Mayfield and the Sooners.

Now for the Pros. Roger Goodell versus the hick Simpson’s like looking villain Jerry Jones. Who do you root for there? Is there some way they can off each other in mutually assured destruction? That would be optimal.

The Cards lost their season on their home turf (yes, it is real grass) here Thursday night. Strange game, with injuries everywhere. Ugly. From there, can the Jaguars hold off the Bolts at home? Seems like a throwaway game, but it is really an interesting one. I have no clue, it is a toss up. There is no reason the Pack at Soldier Field should matter, but it kind of does. Same for Saints at Bills in Buffalo. And ditto for Vikes at Washington.

Vikes are fairly quietly 6-2. Sam Bradford may be fragile, but he is a pretty decent QB if he is on the field. But he is not, Case Keenum is piloting the ship, and doing so very well. Teddy Bridgewater may be back, but this is Keenum’s team right now. Probably I am a dope, but I like the Skins for the home upset win.

This weekend is the Brazilian Grand Prix. Like the Italian, there is just too much history to ever take your eye off the Brazilian. Ham has the Drivers, and Mercedes has the Constructors. What started as a real battle has turned into a yawner. That is not good for fans, and it is not good for F1. For now though, it is what it is. But Ham crashed out in qualifying, and teammate Valteri Bottas is on pole at Interlagos. With Vettel right behind. The Circus may have been decided for the year, but a very fun race may be on tap.

Okay. That is Trash for yet another week. Dumpster dive in with gusto. There is great music this week from both Honey Honey Band and the Dead. Killer tracks, give them a try. Or else I will send the guy with the short fingers and his friend with the little toy gun after you.

Democrats Need a Plan for National Voter Protection

Even as three different committees in Congress investigate how Russia tampered with our election last year, the Trump Administration and Congress are taking steps to tamper with the next election themselves.

The House Appropriations Committee just defunded the Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal entity to help states prevent getting hacked.

The head of Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission, Kris Kobach — fresh off court sanctions for lying to a court — sent a letter to all the Secretaries of State, asking them for their voting rolls (including party affiliation).

And then Trump named the loathsome Hans Van Spaskovsky, who has a history of suppressing the vote of people of color, to the Commission.

It’s probably no accident all this is happening as Trump and Mitch McConnell try to force through a massively unpopular change to ObamaCare. By making showy plans to cheat on a national scale, the Administration may be reassuring Republicans they can keep their job even by selling out their constituents in favor of a tax cut for the wealthy. They’ll just do it by cheating even more obviously than they have in the past.

Whatever the logic, though, Democrats are thus far responding to this obvious effort to cheat with half measures. While Democratic Secretaries of State are announcing they’re refuse to comply with Kobach’s request, that’s it. No discussion of anything more, not even an organized effort to point out that Pence didn’t mention cybersecurity in his statement the other day on “Election Integrity” even as Congress investigates the effect of hacks on the election last year. [This has been corrected to note it was Pence who didn’t mention cyber; Kobach does actually ask about technology in his letter.]

Just nine months after Democrats pushed for a national effort to protect the vote as it was being hacked by Russians only to have Republicans balk, Republicans are now embracing such a national effort. Yet Democrats are unprepared for what a nation-wide effort to ensure all Americans get to vote would look like.

This is an opportunity to lay out standards, within the framework permitted by federalism, for real election integrity. That might include things like:

  • Cybersecurity standards for both machines and electoral rolls
  • Standards for a paper trail on voting
  • Rules limiting how and when purges may happen
  • Affirmative restrictions on identity requirements that impose financial and time costs

Two noted racists are about to try to rebrand cheating as “integrity.” It’s time for the Democrats to do more than simply resist, but instead to lay out what real election integrity would look like in this country.

That’s all the more true given the investment Democrats have made in the Russian narrative. If Russia tampering with our vote is so important, then why is Republicans doing the same, much more aggressively and effectively, not worth the same effort?

The Questions That Should Be Being Asked About Trump’s Tax Returns

watch-trumps-tax-evasion[Editor’s Note – this is a guest post by a friend of ours here at the Emptywheel Blog, Bob Lord. Bob is a longtime tax attorney with some very salient thoughts on Trump’s taxes, and lack of production thereof]

By Robert J. Lord

A lot has been said about Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public. But despite the volume of commentary, it’s not clear the right questions even are being asked.

Trump claims he can’t release his returns because he’s under audit. At some level, that’s a legitimate concern. It would hardly be fair if thousands of tax professionals who oppose Trump politically helped the IRS by publishing their own analyses of the returns. Ultimately, however, it’s a phony excuse.

But rather than challenge the logic behind Trump’s refusal to release returns, a series of questions should be asked:

First, what tax years are under audit? Does it go back beyond 2012? If not, can the 2011 return be released? After all, the statute of limitations on the audit of that year has passed, so there’s no exposure to Trump by releasing that return. If not 2011, how about 2010?

Second, why haven’t the audit notices been released? An audit notice is a short, generic letter from the IRS stating that a taxpayer’s return has been selected for examination. There’s nothing so sensitive in such a generic notice that it could not be made public. At this point, Trump has not even offered up this most basic evidence that he is really even under audit. Why hasn’t proof been demanded?

Third, for the tax returns that are under audit, why can’t the first two pages be released? After all, those first two pages simultaneously contain the information most relevant to the public about a presidential candidate and contain no information that reveals the issues under audit. Although an audit ultimately impacts the numbers that appear on the first two pages of the return, it’s the schedules and other information that the IRS analyzes in an audit. For example, the first page of Trump’s return states the income or loss he received from partnerships and real estate investments, but it’s a schedule attached to the return, and the returns of the partnerships in which Trump is a partner, that contain the information the IRS would scrutinize in an audit.

Fourth, if for whatever reason the first two pages of the returns can’t be released, could Trump at least release five numbers from each of his returns: his gross income, his adjusted gross income, his taxable income, his self-employment tax liability, and his income tax liability? If not, then why not?

Fifth, is the sensitivity of Trump’s IRS audit the only reason behind his refusal to release the returns? Is Trump also under audit by any other tax agency, such as New York State’s Department of Revenue?

These questions would force Trump to take one of two approaches: Either continue to evade or allow the exposure of an uncomfortable (and intuitively obvious) reality – that the sensitivity of his audit is not the real reason for his refusal to release his returns. In all likelihood, he’d take the first approach, probably claiming that his tax advisors have told him not to release any information publicly. But, again, that cannot explain his refusal to release returns up to 2011, for which the statute of limitations have all expired.

What is the real reason Trump does not want to release the returns, even the first two pages? It could be that there’s some embarrassing piece of information in there somewhere and Trump learned from Romney’s refusal to go beyond a limited release of his returns that eventually people forget about a candidate’s refusal to come clean. More likely, however, the problem he’s facing is his own lack of credibility. The tax return of a real estate magnate like Trump paints a very distorted picture. Income will vary wildly from one year to the next. Important items might be buried in the return of a partnership or corporation that can’t be released because of minority partners or shareholders. Taxpayers in Trump’s position tend to bunch their charitable contributions, making them in the years they provide the most tax benefit. Unfortunately for Trump, that practice could make him appear incredibly tight-fisted if his returns over too short a period are seen in isolation.

And that’s where Trump could be trapped by his own lack of credibility. It may well be that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for whatever Trump would prefer not to be out there for public comment. Trump’s problem is that if the explanation comes from him, nobody will believe it. And he knows it.

At a minimum, however, the above critical questions must be asked. Even if Trump has to explain a few items on his returns, that is no greater fear or burden than every other previous Presidential candidate has faced. Certainly Trump may have varied financial interests, including charitable trusts. But so have other candidates before, including Hillary Clinton this election, and all have engaged in public transparency but for Trump.

Hopefully the press, including the debate moderators, will force Mr. Trump to answer these basic questions.

Robert J. Lord, a tax lawyer and former Congressional candidate, is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Bob previously served as an adjunct faculty member at the Arizona State University School of Law. Bob’s work focuses on the relationship of tax law to inequality. He contributes to both the Inequality.org website and to OtherWords, the Institute’s national syndicated editorial service. Bob also is a staff member at Blog For Arizona, the leading political blog in Arizona.

The [Emails Sent to] Clinton Story May End Up Being about Loyalty

I was surprised that this story voicing concerns that Clinton backers fear “old weaknesses stalk” her campaign (stalk!) didn’t mention one of the weaknesses from 2008 that bothered me the most: loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong. Loyalty is a good thing.

Except when loyalty to long-term friends drives your hiring decisions.

To me, Hillary’s failure in 2008 is best exemplified by her refusal to fire Mark Penn, even though he divided the campaign staff and made a lot of the decisions that let Obama beat her.

More recently, Hillary retained Sidney Blumenthal as an advisor even after the White House nixed him having an official role at State — a decision that lies behind some of the more controversial emails revealed as part of the email scandal.

Yet the WaPo article on potential Hillary stumbles doesn’t mention loyalty, not even in its discussion of the email scandal.

The e-mail issue has dampened Clinton’s support in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary, on Feb. 9. Sanders rose to a statistical tie there in the latest statewide poll, to the shock of some longtime Clinton backers. She is on safer ground in Iowa, which will hold the nation’s first presidential selection vote in the Feb. 1 caucuses.

Democrats in Washington fret that the e-mail liability is something Clinton brought on herself and has managed from a defensive crouch. The decision to operate a separate e-mail system parallel to the regular State Department system has resulted in an investigation that is now out of the control of Clinton and her campaign advisers.

Political strategists who have been through past such episodes note that an investigation like this can go in unexpected and damaging directions.

“I don’t think there’s a big smoking gun,” one Democrat said. “But it’s hard to explain why you had a private server, why you just now turned it over. . . .Shouldn’t you have had better judgment?”

As I have noted, everything we know about the email scandal confirms that any legal problems stem not from Hillary sitting down and transcribing the contents of a satellite-derived intelligence report into an unencrypted email, but from a staffer taking material he or she knew to be classified and including it in an email to Hillary. It’s not even clear that happened — the CIA has a nasty habit of claiming widely known facts are Top Secret, but that is the legal issue we’re discussing (go here to review my critique of Hillary’s over actions).

Both because they hate her, because she worked under a special status at State, and because there seems to be real reason to think she had a role in emails of question, the focus has now turned to Huma Abedin, currently Vice Chairwoman for Hillary’s campaign. This report on Abedin’s possible involvement emphasizes how closer Hillary and Abedin are.

Abedin, who’s been with Clinton for about two decades, started working for Clinton as a 19-year-old intern in the former first lady’s office.

At State and during the 2008 campaign she was considered Clinton’s “body woman,” never far from Clinton’s side and often seen watching her boss intently, ready to scramble to her aid at any minute. Top politicians, and even Bill Clinton, would phone her to reach Hillary, and emails released in recent months showed she enjoyed access to Clinton at her private home, too, dropping items off on her counter and instructing her how to dress and keeping her schedule.

In 2013, news broke that Abedin had been given a special government employee status, allowing her to be simultaneously on the payroll for the philanthropic Clinton Foundation and Teneo, a consulting firm founded by former Clinton White House adviser Doug Band. She previously had not disclosed the dual employment.

Abedin has said she stepped back from government work and became a contractor so she could be with her family and her newborn son. But since then, critics have questioned her about whether she had a conflict of interest while working at State and alongside close friends of the Clinton family.

There are a few other staffers whose names have been floated as potentially sending the emails with information deemed classified.

But if Abedin is among them, it poses the quintessential problem for Hillary: the possibility that dealing with this email problem would at the same time require distancing herself from a cherished associate. If someone like Abedin were involved in sending classified information, would Hillary do what she refused to do in 2008?

Pakistan’s Next Government Beginning to Take Shape

Most of the results from Saturday’s historic election in Pakistan are in. The biggest surprise is that Imran Khan’s PTI party, which had been viewed as a possible upset winner, fell to third place behind the outgoing PPP. Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N party came very close to achieving a majority in the National Assembly, but since a majority was not achieved, Sharif is now in the process of forging the alliances that will be needed for him to form a government for which he will once again become Prime Minister. Here are the latest numbers from the Express Tribune:

Contrary to most pre-poll predictions, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the single largest party by securing 123 seats of the National Assembly, according to the results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The election commission has received 256 results out of 268 constituencies, and are still waiting for results from 12 constituencies, a senior ECP official said.

In order to win a simple majority in the 342-member lower house, a party or coalition would need 172 seats. Of the total seats, 272 are for directly elected members while 60 are reserved seats for women and 10 are for minorities.

These reserved seats are allocated to parties as per their performance in the polls. As per the results from ECP, PML-N has secured 123 seats; Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) bagged 37 seats, followed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which managed to get 27 seats. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) won 18 seats, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) 10 seats, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) four seats, Jamaat-e-Islami three seats, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) two seats, NPP and PML two seats each.

We learn more about how the election proceeded from AFP (via the Express Tribune):

It was targeted by the Taliban, women and minorities were vastly under-represented, and videos of irregularities went viral online – yet Pakistan’s 2013 election may still have been its fairest ever.

A much improved voter roll, near-record turnout, and vigilant citizens tweeting alleged rigging all played their part in what former Norwegian PM and election observer Kjell Magne Bondevik called “a credible expression of the will of the people”.

Saturday’s election saw about 50 million Pakistanis vote, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif emerging the winner nearly 14 years after he was deposed in a coup.

/snip/

Violence in the run-up to polls and on election day itself killed more than 150 people, according to an AFP tally, as the Taliban set their sights in particular on secular parties that made up the outgoing government.

In a remarkable use of technology, voters were able to text their voter ID number to find out immediately the location of their polling station. Although 50 million votes were cast, the polling location service was accessed 55 million times.

Perhaps because of the unexpectedly poor performance of his party, Imran Khan is continuing to pursue charges of rigging in several districts: Read more

Imran Khan Injured, Doctors Order Rest Ahead of Saturday’s Election

Yesterday, former cricket star Imran Khan was injured when he fell off a lift that was raising him and a number of bodyguards to an elevated stage for a rally in Lahore. Prior to the injury, Khan and his PTI party were seen as slightly trailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PMN-L party for Saturday’s first-ever election in Pakistan after a civilian government (Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP party) has successfully completed a five year term in office. Pakistan’s Dawn News paints Khan’s injuries as serious while the Express Tribune downplays the seriousness.

Here is Dawn’s description of the fall and injuries:

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan Tuesday sustained serious injuries on his head and back after falling from a lifter during climbing up the stage installed for an election rally in Lahore.

TV footage showed him tumbling down along with three or four personal body guards on a pick up truck. The PTI chief was seen bleeding when he was taken away by his party supporters to the city’s Liberty Hospital.

/snip/

Khan sustained injuries on his head and back, said the hospital sources. They also said that Khan had to have as many as 16 stitches due to the injuries he sustained at back of his head.

The Express Tribune, meanwhile, claims the injuries are not serious:

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan will not attend a public meeting in Islamabad on Thursday (May 9).

Additional Information Secretary PTI Lahore Umar Khan, while talking to APP, said Imran Khan’s condition was not serious but he had been advised bed rest by doctors for a week.

This same article describes what appears to be spinal fractures but no damage to the spinal cord: Read more

Musharraf Banned from Politics for Life As Violence Flairs in Pakistan Ahead of Elections

Although he has been under house arrest since shortly after his return to Pakistan while facing trial on charges of arranging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was given a lifetime ban from holding political office by the Peshawar High Court:

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life.

The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the former army strongman over the rejection of his nomination papers for the National Assembly seat in Chitral.

A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and comprising of Justice Malik Manzoor, Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Ikramullah ruled that since Musharraf had abrogated the Constitution twice, he could not be allowed to contest elections for either the National Assembly or the Senate.

Isn’t that interesting? In Pakistan, violating the country’s constitution as President gets a lifetime ban from politics, while in the US the same offense allows the perpetrator to open a Presidential Lie Bury.

Meanwhile, as the May 11 elections draw nearer, violence is escalating. Today’s New York Times reports on a suicide bomber who killed nine in Peshawar in an attack that seemed aimed at creating an overall climate of fear rather than attacking a particular target:

An attacker riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the suspected target, a police patrol car, on busy University Road during the morning rush hour, killing a police constable and several bystanders, said Faisal Kamran, a senior police official.

/snip/

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Taliban have carried out a relentless series of attacks against secular political parties around the country in recent weeks as part of a drive to influence the elections.

Officials in Peshawar said the attack on Monday was different in that it did not appear to target a specific party but aimed instead to foster a broader climate of fear during the campaign season.

Sadly, two of the people who died were Afghan trade officials who most likely were not targeted but merely were victims of the senseless attack.

As stated above, most violence ahead of the election has been aimed at political parties and candidates. It has become so widespread that Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, calling for more protection of candidates and political parties:

Pakistan’s interim government should take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11, 2013.

Since April 21, when election campaigning formally began, the Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190. Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks.

That violence is continuing:

An independent election candidate and two of his relatives from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday night prompting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the elections in PB-32.

According to the police and relatives of the deceased, Abdul Fateh Magsi was kidnapped on Tuesday (sic) night and his bullet-riddled body was found on Tuesday morning.

Presumably, Magsi was kidnapped on Monday evening and his body found this morning.

There is a long article in today’s Washington Post handicapping the elections. I’m pretty sure that this passage is delivered without a clue to the level of hypocrisy it drips:

On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.

Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say.

Coming on the heels of Sandra Day O’Connor finally admitting the US Supreme Court should not have decided the 2000 Presidential Election and as the Post and other pundits continue to hype the Hillary Clinton vs. JEB! Bush 2016 contest, what more proof do we need that the US is completely free of corruption and elite political families?

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