Let's Fix This Country
investigations

Same Story, Opposite Reactions, in America vs. America

This is about a story that three New York Times reporters broke on May 16th and the very different interpretations that greeted their findings, an exhibit of how impossibly and irrationally divided we have become in the age of Trump.

They reported that immediately after the FBI launched an investigation into the Trump campaign almost two years ago on July 31, the Bureau sent two agents to
London on a mission that has been kept secret until now. The assignment was to interview Australia's ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Downer. The FBI had learned of his encounter with a Trump campaign aide named George Papadopoulos who, during a night of drinking, had told Downer that he knew — and this was before the Wikileaks release of the Clinton emails — that Russia had a trove of damaging material on her.

The Clinton investigation had just ended, and explosively, with FBI Director James Comey announcing in a press conference the highly controversial conclusion that, while her email use outside the State Department on her own server was "extremely careless", it did not rise to a level justifying prosecution. That would lead to months of Republican-led hearings in Congress, with Comey defending the reasons for his actions, and …

politics

House Intelligence Committee Says Nothing to See Here. Move On.

Russia probe halted with false conclusions and much undone

The yearlong investigation by the House Intelligence Committee into Russian interference in the 2016 election came to a close with a 250-page report issued at the end of April, authored solely by Republicans, that Democrats on the committee know to be a sham designed to protect President Trump. The report says the committee found no collusion with Russians, claims Russian interference was not slanted to help Trump win the election, faults the FBI, the intelligence agencies, the Clinton campaign for opposition research based on Russian sources — but not itself for an investigation that left so much unexplored.

oops

On the same day the report was released saying no collusion found, the Russian lawyer who enticed Donald Trump Jr. and others to the July 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton admitted she was directly connected to the Kremlin. Natalia Veselnitskaya admitted to NBC's Richard Engel, "I am a lawyer and I am an informant. Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general", Yuri Chaika.

That differed markedly from what she told the Senate Judiciary Committee in November…

"I operate independently of any government bodies. I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives and his institutions other than those related to my professional function as a lawyer".

That attempt to disassociate the Russian government from the July meeting collapsed when Engel showed Ms Veselnitskaya email between herself and…

economy

Pay Everyone a Basic Income? Why Is This Now a Hot Topic?

It's a seemingly nutty idea that only bleeding heart liberals could have come up with, right? Except Milton Friedman once proposed it. C'mon, it must come from all those Marxists at universities. Except so did Richard Nixon advance the idea. Nixon saw a guaranteed income as a cure for welfare. Friedman, the late libertarian economist, favored it to end the intrusiveness of the welfare state,
although preferring diminished amounts at higher income levels.

And half a century later, there's Mark Zuckerberg proposing a universal basic income in his commencement address at Harvard. Elon Musk thinks it will become a necessity.

The idea of paying everyone a basic income — which we wrote about briefly a couple of years ago — seems to have sprouted from a number of sources lately. There isn't a chance of such a scheme happening any time soon, but the idea attracts for different reasons.

two schools

Conservatives are drawn to it as a way to get rid of the tangle of overlapping social programs. Those on the right have often thought an unconditional basic income paid to every American, rich or poor, would be better than the minimum wage. What's odd is they would prefer to draw from the public till to pay supplemental…

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foreign policy

Trump Announces a Third Withdrawal from the World

Against all pleadings, he cancels U.S. participation in the Iran deal

On his first day in office, President Trump ended United States participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — the 12-nation alliance of countries around the Pacific Rim that would have stood as a bulwark against China. He soon thereafter ended America's commitment to the Paris Accord — the pledge by every country in the world to reduce carbon emissions — which left the United States as the only outlier. And now, because it was a campaign pledge made when he provably knew little about it, he has single-mindedly, ignoring universal outcry from all but the war lovers who now make up his inner circle, withdrawn America from the seven-nation deal that prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Stringent sanctions held back by the deal will go into effect and Iran hard-liners
have already said that that makes them free to set their centrifuges spinning once again. Trump has freed Iran to go nuclear just before he will seek the opposite from North Korea, and in the process has made that negotiation more difficult. What added price will Kim Jong-un exact now that Trump has proven that the United States cannot be trusted?

He has aligned American foreign policy with Israel and Saudi Arabia while turning America's back on our European allies — Britain, France and Germany — who are party to the Iran deal. Israel, the country that has occupied another people's land for half a century and has blockaded Gaza in what is called "an open-air prison" for almost four years. Saudi Arabia, the country that provided 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers and is now killing civilians indiscriminately in Yemen bombings.

In announcing the breach, Trump made one of his most bewildered… Read More »

elections

Will the Supreme Court Finally Rid Us of Gerrymandering?

It is certainly strange in this putatively representative democracy that a corrosive practice just the opposite has been allowed since almost the nation's birth. Gerrymandering — the mapping of
The original gerrymander, from the
Boston Gazette of 26 March 1812,
named after Governor Elbridge Gerry
for signing a bill that redistricted
Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic
party. It was thought to look
like a salamander.

electoral districts so as to all but guarantee outcomes — goes on and on. It dates from 1812.

In June or before, the Supreme Court is expected to have its say on whether a couple of states — Wisconsin and Maryland — have gone too far. The Court has several times in the past stepped in to halt mapping that is clearly race-based. It did so almost a year ago when it slammed North Carolina for packing blacks into two districts — "with almost surgical precision”, the court said — to remove their influence from neighboring areas. But the Court has never until now accepted cases where the…

elections

The Justices Could If They Weren’t Technology Ignorant

Justices of the Supreme Court considering two cases (see companion article) wish there were some standard by which overly partisan gerrymandering could be struck down. Rather than petitioning the Court to hear one after another electoral district dispute, a standard would inhibit the states from drafting violations in the first place, knowing what would be the outcome.

What is dismaying is that the answer is hiding in plain sight, an answer that would do away with gerrymandering and partisan bias altogether, a solution that, inexcusably, none of the justices or lawyers for either party of these disputes seem to know anything about.

The answer lies in politically blind apportionment. Why couldn't that same software, guilty of drawing grotesque monstrosities such as the Maryland district (pictured)
Blue marks the challenged
Democratic district, part of which
lies along Chesapeake Bay, in black.

before the court, be reworked to produce agnostic district maps…

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