Again, nothing on the public record so far shows that anyone on Team Trump said anything improper on those calls.
It’s no surprise that US spooks intercept foreign officials’ calls. But intelligence community reports don’t disclose the names of US citizens on the other end. To get that info, a high official must (but rarely does) push to “unmask” the Americans’ names.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake now reports that Rice started doing just that last year.
That was perfectly legal. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the “unmasked” transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.
The motive for that was (supposedly) to prevent Team Trump from burying it all once it took over. But the result was that it made it relatively safe for someone (or someones) to leak the info to the press.
Which made it likely somebody would leak. So Team Obama’s “spread the info” initiative certainly broke the spirit of the laws. Read the rest of this entry »
Mark Moore reports: Former President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice asked for the identities of Americans in intelligence reports that are connected to officials on President Trump’s campaign and transition teams, according to a report Monday citing US officials.
A National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of Americans caught up in incidental surveillance revealed Rice’s requests, Bloomberg reported.
The identities of citizens collected are normally redacted from the intelligence reports and are designated as something like “US Person One,” Bloomberg reported.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC’s senior director for intelligence, uncovered Rice’s multiple requests related to the Trump transition in February while conducting the review and alerted the White House General Counsel’s Office, which undertook another review of Rice and told him to stop his investigation into the unmasking, the website reported.
The intelligence documents contained summaries of conversations monitored between foreign officials talking about the Trump transition. They also contained some instances of communication between Trump associates and foreign officials, the report said.
In another #onlyatYAF lecture, Dinesh D’Souza blasts the left for their fascist roots and anti-minority bigotry, two things they have become adept at throwing at the right. In fact, the history of the Democratic Party is a history of corruption, bigotry, and totalitarianism. Dinesh D’Souza is UNCHAINED at Trinity University.
“We’ve worked quietly behind the scenes for months to resolve this, but YouTube’s censorship continues, leaving us with no option but to go public.”
PragerU stands for Prager University. Its four- to five-minute videos promote Judeo-Christian values and principles and are ideal for young people as they distill complex issues into concise bullet points with stimulating graphics.
“There is no excuse for Google and YouTube censoring and restricting any PragerU videos, which are produced with the sole intent of educating people of all ages about America’s founding values.”
YouTube is owned by Google, and PragerU states on its website that “in response to an official complaint we filed, Google specialists defended their restriction of our videos, and said, ‘We don’t censor anyone,’ although they do ‘take into consideration what the intent of the video is….(read more)
Here’s a list of the 21 videos PragerU has requested YouTube remove immediately from restricted mode, some of which are directly related to higher education topics:
Are The Police Racist?
Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?
Why Did America Fight the Korean War?
Who’s More Pro-Choice: Europe or America?
What ISIS Wants
Why Are There Still Palestinian Refugees?
Are 1 in 5 Women Raped at College?
Islamic Terror: What Muslim Americans Can Do
Did Bush Lie About Iraq? Read the rest of this entry »
‘None of these people have any incentive to undertake the job of decreasing the complexity of the tax system.’
primatologist writes: If most people in the US knew the truth about the tax system in their country, there would be blood in the streets. Most individuals file a very simple federal income tax return – perhaps they take a few deductions for their mortgage interest, medical costs and the like. But this annual experience for the vast majority of Americans gives them a very skewed view of the great mass of the US tax system – it is the tiniest visible sign of an enormous tumor that grows beneath the surface, invisible to most US citizens and tax payers.
“This is how it works: To escape the high tax rates on business activities in the US, armies of lobbyists work ceaselessly to insert arcane, narrow exceptions and exemptions into federal and state tax laws at the legislative level. The exceptions and exemptions are as narrow as possible and often use very convoluted and technical language. The use of opaque language is intentional: it helps legislators avoid the kind of political trouble that comes from handing out tax exemptions.”
Two facts that are rarely discussed by the US media and which never come to the attention of the majority of US individual taxpayers illustrate this: The US has by far the highest corporate income tax rate of any developed country (and among the highest marginal tax rates for individuals who live in high tax states), and the US has an incredibly large and complex structure of tax laws. While most US taxpayers don’t know about the relatively high rates of US taxation, the crucial reality of the US tax system that is hidden from almost everyone is the insane complexity of the US tax code that applies to investment and business activities.
“Why uncertainty? Because as the tax laws and regulations become more and more complex, and the language in which they are expressed becomes more and more divorced from normal usage, only very intelligent people who spend all their time doing nothing but learning and manipulating tax language can even begin to know what the laws and rules mean.”
This is how it works: To escape the high tax rates on business activities in the US, armies of lobbyists work ceaselessly to insert arcane, narrow exceptions and exemptions into federal and state tax laws at the legislative level. The exceptions and exemptions are as narrow as possible and often use very convoluted and technical language.
The use of opaque language is intentional: it helps legislators avoid the kind of political trouble that comes from handing out tax exemptions. (There is also the factor that legislators all play the game of “I’ll vote for your campaign contributor’s tax exemption if you’ll vote for mine.”) Tax authorities (that’s the IRS for the federal government, but it happens at the state and local level, too, in high-tax states and cities) create voluminous regulations to implement these tax laws. Lobbyists also work to influence that process, as well as returning to the legislature to create exceptions to the exceptions to the exceptions created in the regulations.
“Trying to undo the complexity of the tax code would reveal all this incredible responsive complexity: And it would cause massive economic losses. Trillions and trillions of dollars worth of value is invested in ways that are structured in response to the complexity of our tax laws. Without those giant stacks of tax rules and exceptions and exceptions to exceptions, etc., those investment and business operations structures would not make sense legally or economically.”
Meanwhile, “tax planning” to take advantage of this constantly growing and increasingly complex web of laws and regulations becomes a bigger and bigger part of how businesses structure their enterprises and investments. “Tax planning” is carried out by armies of accountants and lawyers and consultants, all of whom are handsomely paid to do work that contributes nothing to economic growth or prosperity.
The work of the “tax planning” professionals becomes more and more complex and incomprehensible to those outside their fraternity, as it is essentially the incantation of linguistic “magic spells” that have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual business enterprise, and everything to do with fitting into the ever-more-convoluted language of the tax codes. More and more layers of complexity are added, each with additional cost and uncertainty.
“The same process applies to entirely domestic business. Entrepreneurs and investors spend huge amounts of money on lawyers, accountants and consultants to create complex – and completely unnecessary – corporate and operational structures aimed solely at taking advantages of complex tax benefits.”
Why uncertainty? Because as the tax laws and regulations become more and more complex, and the language in which they are expressed becomes more and more divorced from normal usage, only very intelligent people who spend all their time doing nothing but learning and manipulating tax language can even begin to know what the laws and rules mean.
“One consequence of this process that everyone who is involved in international business knows very well is that no one wants to do business in the United States if they can help it.“
And they won’t all agree – until a very clear case is litigated to conclusion in a court or the IRS issues a “clarification,” it’s all just educated guesses. By the time a term comes to have well-understood meaning, the exceptions to the rules that use that term – using new words that were intentionally difficult to understand in the first place – have to be interpreted and clarified.
“And here’s the real horror: No one outside the fraternity of tax regulators, lobbyists, tax lawyers, accountants and consultants really perceives how enormous the structure of tax complexity is. Investors and entrepreneurs learn no more than they have to – just what they have to know to do the specific deal they’re working on or carry out their own narrow business operations.”
This process has been going on for well over a hundred years with no let up. In fact, the scale and complexity of the tax codes continues to grow exponentially, as the feedback process of high tax rates leading to exceptions leading to exceptions to exceptions continues ad infinitum.
“Unwinding all that complexity would wipe out huge swathes of the US economy – and create a whole new set of winners and losers that has nothing to do with the underlying matter of actually creating real value in the real world.”
One consequence of this process that everyone who is involved in international business knows very well is that NO ONE WANTS TO DO BUSINESS IN THE UNITED STATES IF THEY CAN HELP IT. This is the world I work in. In my professional world it is simply taken for granted that people with money to invest will do anything in their power to structure their business so that no possible argument can be made that they did business or invested in the US. Companies and wealthy individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid putting any kind of investment into the US if it is at all possible.
Does this mean that no one invests in US businesses? No. The US consumer market is too big, and innovation in the US is too valuable for that to be true. What it does mean, though is that below a certain very large scale, it just doesn’t pay. Even more important, it also means that every investment in the US is “taxed” in a way that does no one (outside of the business of avoiding tax) any good: Huge amounts of money are spent creating unnecessary complexity to minimize US taxation as much as possible: Extra layers of incorporation and complex accounting structures are created to do everything possible to minimize the amount of income earned in the US. All that time, effort and money spent avoiding US taxation adds to the cost of investment without creating one dime of revenue for the US government. Finally, foreign investors in the US do everything they can to get their money out of the US as quickly as possible: The more time an investment is exposed to US tax law, the larger the chance that some tax law magic spell will be countered by some other tax law magic spell and – BANG! – there go all the profits. Read the rest of this entry »
“The American tax code is intentionally complex—it’s Washington’s safe haven for carve-outs, loopholes, and subsidies for special interests.”
According to the report, the federal tax code is 2,412,000 words long, and federal tax regulations are 7,655,000 words long.
“America’s tax code will continue to impede growth and opportunity until policy leaders prioritize reform and face cronyism head-on.”
— Andy Koenig, Freedom Partners’ senior policy analyst
In 1955, the federal tax code and regulations together totaled 1.4 million words. Since then, the combined length has increased more than seven fold, growing at a pace of 144,500 words per year.
According to the Tax Foundation, the length of the tax code correlates with the complexity of the federal tax system and the difficulties faced by Americans trying to file their taxes.
“The American tax code is intentionally complex—it’s Washington’s safe haven for carve-outs, loopholes, and subsidies for special interests,” said Andy Koenig, Freedom Partners’ senior policy analyst. Read the rest of this entry »
A Power Derived From Mistrust of Police and Government
Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Is the gun lobby still invincible? Yeah, pretty much. The reason is trust. And if you want more trust, police and politicians must be more trustworthy.
In 2012, Room for Debate asked ”Is the Gun Lobby Invincible?” Since then, the answer has turned out to be “yeah, pretty much.” And the reason is trust.
According to a recent Pew poll, more Americans support gun rights than gun control. That represents a significant shift over the situation a few decades ago. And I believe the reason is that people don’t trust the government to protect them anymore, and, in fact, that they don’t trust the government in general….(read more)
“A few things are going on here. One is that the president is positioning himself to ride into Paris on a white charger when world leaders convene there to negotiate a broad emissions treaty — a treaty that the U.S. Senate under Republican control is unlikely to ratify. The ratification of the treaty is not the object; the rejection of the treaty is the object, giving Democrats a low-cost opportunity to engage in moral preening on the environment and to tsk-tsk Republicans and their purportedly anti-science attitudes. The second thing that this accomplishes is that coal companies, business organizations in coal-heavy states, and their political allies — not habitual friends of the progressive wing of the Democratic party — will be obliged to spend millions or billions of dollars and countless man-hours defending themselves against the new mandate, while hedge-funders long on politically connected green-energy companies — prominent sponsors of many Democratic endeavors — will be enriched.”
Predictable Catastrophe: Money Squandered as Confusing and Lenient Policies Encourage Border Crossings
Stephen Dinan reports: The U.S. government paid for a classroom full of computers in El Salvador, but the Salvadoran government never bothered to hire a teacher, investigators said Wednesday — one of a series of bungles in the Obama administration’s plan to flood Central America with U.S. money to try to stem another surge of illegal immigration.
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families.”
In an expansive report on last summer’s surge, the Government Accountability Office said confusing and lenient U.S. policies pushed illegal immigrants to make the crossing, and even cited administration officials who said President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty for so-called Dreamers did entice some of the surge.
President Barack Obama attempts to respond to Ju Hong (lower left), who began to heckle him about anti-deportation policies at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
“Initially officials blamed dangerous and economically depressed conditions in three key Central American nations for pushing illegal immigrants north, but eventually Homeland Security officials admitted that confusing and lenient policies — at least as far as illegal immigrants were concerned — were serving as a magnet to draw illegal immigrants.”
Trying to get a handle on the flood, Mr. Obama has requested hundreds of millions of dollars to try to bolster society in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three countries chiefly responsible for the surge, but GAO investigators said corruption or incompetence among the Central American governments may hinder those efforts.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Homeland Security officials poured money into public relations campaigns to try to warn would-be crossers against attempting it, but the government has no idea if those efforts worked, the GAO said.
“The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers.”
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families,” the GAO said in its report.
Both the State Department and Homeland Security admitted they need to do a better job collecting information and evaluating what they’re doing.
The report comes a year after the surge of illegal immigrant children and families reshaped the immigration debate, drawing attention to a still-porous border and helping sidetrack President Obama’s hopes of getting Congress to approve a bill legalizing illegal immigrants already in the country.
The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers. Read the rest of this entry »
The National Labor Relations Board’s new election rule runs roughshod over the rights of nonunion workers.
Peter Schaumber writes: You may have heard of the National Labor Relations Board’s new “ambush election” rule—so-called because it hurriedly schedules union elections within as little as two weeks, depriving employers of the time needed to learn about the union and express their views to employees.
But what you may not know is that the rule requires an employer to provide union organizers with the personal cellphone numbers and email addresses of its employees before they vote in a union election. So much for the right to privacy.
It doesn’t seem to matter to the Obama-era NLRB that a worker may have provided this personal information on condition that it be kept confidential and used only in an emergency. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert W. Merry reviews Grover Norquist’s new book
Robert W. Merry writes: Among the more enjoyable spectacles of Washington in recent years has been watching Grover Norquist eluding once again a contingent of media foxhounds in full bray, yelping and jumping at the bottom of a tree in which, they are convinced, they have finally trapped the prominent anti-tax guru. One such episode took place in November 2012, shortly after President Obama’s reelection—and at a time when official Washington faced a choice between a grand fiscal compromise and the austere budget cuts that would kick in automatically under what was known as “sequestration.”
Congress would never allow sequestration to take effect, according to the media wisdom of the day, and hence Republicans would have to accept tax increases as part of the alternative fiscal bargain. That would mean the GOP would have to repudiate the famous Tax Pledge devised by Norquist and signed by nearly every congressional Republican. That, in turn, would destroy the force and power of that nettlesome Tax Pledge—and dislodge Norquist from his prominent place as Horatio at the bridge of tax policy.
This particular episode took place around the luncheon table of the Center for the National Interest (publisher of this website and its allied magazine), and the media hounds went after Norquist with the glee of those who know they are about to witness a political comeuppance of serious magnitude. Through it all, the imperturbable Norquist confidently and quietly held his ground—never ruffled, never riled, never lacking in magnanimity, seemingly sure of his aces. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said, and laid out a lucid political explanation for why his Pledge would hold, even in the face of such tectonic pressures.
The next day, the Los Angeles Times offered an analysis entitled, “Grover Norquist the has-been.” It proclaimed that “even he can’t ignore the signs that his hold is slipping.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, after quoting Norquist’s insistence that congressional Republicans would adhere to their anti-tax heritage, even in the face of the looming sequestration decision, wrote with a smirk, “Also, the dog ate Norquist’s homework.” He added that Norquist’s confidence on the matter suggested he “had been on a long trip in a remote location.” The New York Times, in a front-page feature, suggested Norquist “finds himself in a tricky spot.”
What happened next? The sequestration deadline came and went, no grand fiscal compromise emerged, the austere spending cuts went into effect, and Norquist’s famous Pledge remained intact, as did the political standing and influence of Norquist himself. Dana Milbank never got around to revealing to his readers his own remote location whenthe dog was eating his prediction of Norquist’s political demise. Truly, Norquist is a Washington figure to be reckoned with.
Now he bundles up his anti-tax sentiments and political assessments into a sprightly volume entitled: End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America. It’s a book of many parts: primer on America’s tax history and growth in government; polemical expose of liberal legerdemain on the issue; policy recommendations for smaller government, strong economic growth and a streamlined tax system; and paean to the energy and efficiency of unfettered capitalism. He even provides an amusing narrative of the earnest efforts of his adversaries to obliterate his famous Pledge, all to no avail.
The reason they can’t obliterate it, writes Norquist, is that the American people are on to the ominous consequences of inexorable governmental expansion and fiscal incontinence. Currently, U.S. governmental spending—federal, state and local—amounts to 34 percent of the national economy, while taxes consume about 30 percent of annual GDP. And what’s going to happen to tax rates and the governmental share of GDP, he asks, when it comes time to pay down the $17 trillion in federal debt (nearly $8 trillion of it added on Obama’s watch) or the $123 trillion in “unfunded liabilities” accumulated through years of irresponsible government spending?
All this has generated civic angers that in turn spawned the Tea Party phenomenon of the early Obama years—the country’s first mass movement focused primarily on governmental spending. During the week of April 15, 2009, Americans gathered across the country in more than 600—perhaps as many as a thousand—anti-spending rallies with up to a million participants. As Norquist puts it, “A wall of opposition to government spending rose up.” At the next election, Republicans campaigning against government spending and Obama’s stimulus legislation captured the House by gaining sixty-three seats in that chamber; they also picked up a net gain of six Senate seats.
Two years later, though, the Tea Party movement seemed to have petered out. Republicans failed to oust Obama from the White House or to capture the four Senate seats needed for control of that chamber. What happened?
Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail address that she used while secretary of state reinforces everything people don’t like about her, argues The Post’s Chris Cillizza, and is very dangerous to her presidential ambitions
The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records reviewed by The Associated Press.
The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives. It also would distinguish Clinton’s secretive email practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians, including Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who were caught conducting official business using free email services operated by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.
There’s any number of problematic phrases in those two paragraphs but two stand out: 1)”impressive control over limiting access to her message archives” and 2) “secretive email practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians.”
“This wasn’t some garden variety home email system; it was “sophisticated” in ways that went well beyond what candidates like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin — both of whom used private email accounts to do official business — put in place.”
Let’s take them one by one.
The first phrase speaks to the suspicion that has long hung around the Clintons that they are always working the angles, stretching the limits of how business can be conducted for their own benefit. It seemed clear that Clinton went out of her way to avoid the federal disclosure requirements related to email by never even setting up an official account. That she took it another step and created a “homebrew” email system that would given her “impressive control over limiting access” is stunning — at least to me — given that she (or someone close to her) had to have a sense that this would not look good if it ever came out.
“That level of sophistication speaks to the fact that this was not thrown together at the last minute; instead it was a planned manuever to give the Clintons more control over their electronic correspondence.”
Yes, her allies have maintained that she turned over more than 55,000 pages of emails from her time as Secretary of State. But, the decisions over which emails to turn over were made by Clinton and/or her staff. That’s not exactly the height of transparency for someone who is the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephen Dinan reports: The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually.
The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.
“It is my understanding that in May 2014, Commissioner Koskinen responded to this request by indicating that the IRS would be able to address new topics such as these following its completion of document productions already in progress,” Mr. Eggleston wrote in a Feb. 17 letter. “To the extent that the committee continues to have an oversight interest in this matter, I encourage you to continue working with the IRS to address those questions.”
“The IRS has been under fire for years over several scandals, including its targeting of tea party groups for politically motivated scrutiny and its illegal release of private taxpayer information…”
But IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s letter last year didn’t say that. Instead Mr. Koskinen said the IRS was logistically incapable of performing the search because it would have required combing through 90,000 email accounts.
The White House’s stiff-arm comes even though it performed a similar kind of email search in the past after the IRS lost thousands of emails of former division chief Lois G. Lerner, a key figure in the tea party targeting.
Mr. Ryan is trying to figure out whether the laws that govern taxpayer information security are working, which is part of his committee’s jurisdiction.
“The White House’s stiff-arm comes even though it performed a similar kind of email search in the past after the IRS lost thousands of emails of former division chief Lois G. Lerner, a key figure in the tea party targeting.”
The IRS has been under fire for years over several scandals, including its targeting of tea party groups for politically motivated scrutiny and its illegal release of private taxpayer information concerning the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS insisted the disclosure was accidental and not politically motivated, but it did pay a settlement to the organization.
Some outside pressure groups argue the IRS’s improper behavior goes further, and includes disclosing private taxpayer information to the White House. The groups point to comments by a top White House economic adviser who in 2010 said Koch Industries, the company run by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, paid no corporate income taxes. Read the rest of this entry »
A favorite tactic of Obama and members of his Regime, is to run with the biggest, boldest lie possible, and dare anyone to question it. Eric Holder – easily the most corrupt Attorney General in our nation’s history – fully embraced that tactic in spectacular fashion at a press conference Tuesday when he made the ludicrous claim that he cleaned up Bush’s Justice Dept.
Attorney General Eric Holder pushed back against Republicans who said the Justice Department, under his leadership, had become little more than a political machine to push liberal causes — and said that he’s actually cleaned up all the politicking that had taken place under the former Bush administration.
In a press conference that began with his personal introduction — “For the record, I am Eric Holder” — the exiting agency head took shots at critics who suggested…
The Egyptian-American reporter told MSNBC’s Morning Joeon Thursday that if audiences “don’t know anything about Chris Kyle — don’t know if it was a true story — this is a great movie.”
[Ayman Mohyeldin (Arabic: أيمن محيى الدين) is an Egyptian-American journalist based in Los Angeles for NBC News. He previously worked for Al Jazeera and CNN. You can send a message to compliment his fine reporting and insightful analysis @AymanM]
But, Mohyeldin argued, the heroic way Chris Kyle is portrayed in the film is “very far from reality.”
“A lot of his own personal opinions about what he was doing in Iraq,” he explained. “How he viewed Iraqis. Some of what people described as his racist tendencies towards Iraqis and Muslims as he was going on some these killing sprees in Iraq.”