More Corruption and Destruction of the Public Good

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Donald Trump recently announced his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary (HHS), Alex Azar. Here is his tweet:

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Is Alex Azar a “star for better healthcare and lower drug prices?” Let’s construct a resume of Azar’s accomplishments to see if he qualifies for this role.

Alex Azar is a former top executive for Eli Lilly. What happened under Azar’s watch?

1. Eli Lilly more than doubled the price of the diabetes treatment Humalog. This drug is an insulin injection used to help people control their blood sugar level. Humalog went from $123 per vial in January 2012 to $255 per vial when Azar left Lilly. Does this give anyone confidence that Azar will lower drug prices?
2. Azar was a lobbyist for Eli Lilly. What happened to draining the swamp?
3. A lawsuit is pending against Eli Lilly for price fixing. Novo Nordisk and Sanofi are also targets of the lawsuit because the plaintiffs allege these companies coordinated price increases.
4. The price of Humulin, an insulin drug skyrocketed since 2011.

Trump chose another industry insider to lead a government agency they despise. We should have no confidence in Azar’s desire to make the HHS stronger. Azar shares the interests of corporate lobbyists and he will work to further weaken our health care system. Donald Trump has failed to nominate a person who will work for the good of the country.

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My Views on Roy Moore

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Roy Moore is running for Senate in the state of Alabama. He is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with at least four women. Supporting Roy Moore is unconscionable in my view. One of the reasons I’m against Roy Moore is because he has a deeply flawed character.

Memo and the Law

Roy Moore issued a memo to probate judges forbidding them from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Here is the relevant portion of the memo:

Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975. (see pg. 5 of the memo)

Article 1 of the Alabama Constitution clearly states that “[m]arriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman.” The Constitution also affirms that “[a] marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid” in the state  (pg. 3)

This paragraph is followed by a threat to all Alabama probate judges:

Should any Probate Judge of this state fail to follow the Constitution and statutes of Alabama as stated, it would be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley, in whom the Constitution vests “the supreme executive power of this state,” Art. V, § 113,Ala. Const. 1901, to ensure the execution of the law. “The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Art. V, § 120, Ala. Const. 1901. “‘If the governor’s “supreme executive power” means anything, it means that when the governor makes a determination that the laws are not being faithfully executed, he can act using the legal means that are at his disposal.'” Tyson v. Jones, 60 So. 3d 831, 850 (Ala. 2010) (quoting Riley v. Cornerstone, 57 So. 3d 704, 733 (Ala. 2010)). (pgs. 5-6)

This memo was issued February 8th of 2015. U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade ruled that Alabama’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional in January of that same year. A formal suit was eventually filed against Moore with an Alabama judicial oversight body. Roy Moore was removed from the bench as a result of the charges.

Moore denied ever ordering Alabama state probates to reject requests for same-sex marriage licenses. The court said Moore’s statements were “misleading” and consisted of “intentional omission.” Keep in mind the memo is signed by Moore and the clear wording of the memo is contained in this blog. (pg. 6)

So, on the one hand, we know that Moore has a proclivity to deceive, and on the other hand, we have four women who claimed that Moore violated them and their credibility has not been impugned. Who should we believe in this case?

Roy Moore’s Views

This is not the only reason I think Moore is a terrible candidate. Here is a list of other objectionable views of his:

1. He believes Muslims shouldn’t serve in Congress
2. He believes 9/11 happened because we’ve distanced ourselves from God
3. He doesn’t believe Barack Obama was born in America

Here’s a big one:

4. He also believes the last time America was great was during the time of slavery!

One of Trump’s surrogates tried to defend Moore on Anderson Cooper 360 and it did not go well.

The Republican Party is broken!

The United Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does it again!

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The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCSSB) wrote a letter to the US Congress about their recent tax plan. The letter is well written and sufficiently detailed. I think it strikes the right notes in many ways, although I don’t agree with everything in the letter.

November 9, 2017

United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

Decisions about taxation involve fundamental concerns of “justice and equity”, with the goal of taxes and public spending “becoming an instrument of development and solidarity” (Mater et Magistra, 132; Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 355). On October 27, the USCCB offered six moral principles to guide debate on tax reform, centered on care for the poor and concern for families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains many fundamental structural flaws that must be corrected. As currently written, the proposal is unacceptable.

Care for the Poor. Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill. However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy. This is simply unconscionable. The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) indicates that by 2023 this tax plan will raise taxes on average tax payers making between $20,000 and $40,000 per year. Taxes for this group will be raised again in 2025, and again in 2027. Taxes will also increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025. The federal poverty line is $12,228 for one person, and $24,339 for a two-parent family with two children. Nearly one in three Americans live in a family with income below 200% of the poverty line. Meanwhile, average taxpayers who make over $1 million experience dramatic tax cuts for the same periods. No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens.

Several other tax provisions that assist the working poor and others who may struggle economically are also eliminated, including:

• the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which incentivizes hiring of the disabled, veterans, those who have been unemployed for long periods, and individuals receiving federal poverty-related assistance;
• the tax deductions to reduce the burdens of tuition and student loans;
• the income tax credit to persons who retire on disability;
the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes, which may impact people in higher tax states;
• the tax deduction for employee business expenses; and
• tax incentives to employers and employees to help with moving expenses for a new job.

Strengthening Families. Society, in Pope Francis’ words, is in “debt” to the family. The family is the most important institution in society because education, formation, and care for the human person, especially children, take place more in the family than anywhere else. Expanded access to schools of choice is a positive step in this legislation, and we would encourage Congress to go even further by empowering more parents in directing their child’s education. We also appreciate that the legislation recognizes unborn children as eligible beneficiaries for parents’ 529 education savings account contributions.

However, this tax plan places new and unreasonable burdens on families, especially those who welcome life or experience serious hardships:

• It removes the adoption tax credit which provides important and life-affirming assistance for families to adopt children desperately in need of love and support.

The plan also repeals the exclusion for adoption assistance programs, which allows a family to exclude money paid by an employer for adoption costs up to the amount of the adoption tax credit as an alternative. This exclusion also allows those who adopt a child with special needs to receive the full value of the exclusion regardless of actual adoption costs.

Eliminating the credit and exclusion sends the wrong message about our national priorities, which ought to protect life, strengthen families, and affirm the value of every human being. The savings to society from children finding loving homes is well beyond any revenue lost due to the credit and exclusion.

It eliminates the personal exemption. Even with the doubling of the standard deduction, some larger families will pay more, including many two-parent families with more than three children, and single-parent families with more than one child. It is laudable that the child tax credit has been expanded and removes the marriage penalty. However, the modest increase in the credit does not fully compensate for the elimination of the personal exemption for some larger families. Moreover, because the child tax credit only remains refundable up to $1,000, lower income families will get no additional benefits from the child tax credit, while suffering the full loss of the personal exemption.

• It eliminates the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction for families facing serious or chronic illness.

It eliminates tax incentives to employers to provide dependent care assistance or child care. The family flexibility credit, at $300 per taxpayer, is some help, but is set to expire after five years and does not offset the greater losses.

It eliminates the qualified tuition reduction for children of teachers, which will raise taxes on educational institutions and disrupt family arrangements.

It repeals mortgage tax credit certificates, which are only available for first-time home buyers under certain income thresholds.

Other aspects of the plan also have consequences for families. By creating stricter rules around parents’ social security numbers, the plan makes it more difficult for immigrant taxpayers to receive the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit for their families, or to receive assistance in seeking advancement through education.

Progressivity of the Tax Code. Pope St. John XXIII wrote that a progressive tax code is required by “justice and equity.” The “Unified Framework,” upon which this tax plan was based, promised that any new tax code would be “at least” as progressive as the present code. This plan breaks that promise. It raises taxes on the working poor, while simultaneously providing large tax breaks to high-income taxpayers. It also repeals the estate tax (which applies to the estates of single people valued at more than $5.5 million and married couples valued greater than $11 million), and eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was designed to prevent high-income earners from avoiding tax liability through loopholes. In the years that the working poor suffer a tax increase under this bill, millionaires and billionaires will see significant tax decreases. This must be fixed. Those who stand to benefit the most from proposed tax policies ought to be the ones to bear most of the risk associated with them, rather than those who are struggling and in need.

Adequate Revenue for the Common Good and Avoiding Future Cuts to Poverty Programs. The state has a legitimate role in promoting the common good, and a legitimate interest in collecting taxes to do so. This tax plan, by design, will result in a nearly $1.5 trillion deficit over ten years. Even with the potential benefits of economic growth from individual and corporate tax cuts—which cannot be guaranteed—the poor should not be the ones to finance these changes. Undoubtedly, the deficit will be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty. Repeal of the AMT and estate tax alone comprise a good portion of the deficit that is built into the plan. Rather than exploring even modest reductions to these dramatic cuts for the wealthiest, the bill raises taxes on the vulnerable and creates a strong incentive to cut the social safety net.

Incentive for Charitable Giving and Development. Doubling the standard deduction will bring tax relief to many people. However, for those who give to charity, it will make the charitable deduction increasingly a benefit only available to high income families. An “above-the-line” deduction would incentivize and assist charitable giving at all income levels, and increase the amounts people can give. It would also guard against a multi-billion-dollar decrease in charitable giving that this plan would otherwise cause, shrinking civil society and cutting income to nonprofits that help the poor, just as government aid to the poor is jeopardized, as noted above. By and large, money given to charity helps those in need. The tax code should encourage voluntary association, mutual aid, and a culture of giving, helping rather than hurting groups that will be asked to do more for the poor in the days ahead. Similarly, this plan will lower the value of affordable housing and community revitalization incentives. Public-private partnerships that benefit the poor and the greater community should not be discouraged.

Because tax policy is far-reaching, Congress must provide ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects. The current timetable does not provide adequate time for that discussion. In many ways, this legislation is unacceptable in its present form and requires amendment. It must be changed for the sake of families—the bedrock of our country—and for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.

I’m not a Catholic, but letters like this makes me consider becoming one.

Some Positives and Ultimate Peril of the Senate Tax Bill

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Senate Republicans voted on, and passed a draft of a tax bill yesterday. There are a number of good things in this bill:

1. Expansion of the child tax credit: Today, filers can deduct $1,000 for children 17 years old or younger. This bill increases the deduction to $2000 for children 18 years old or younger. This is a particular sweet spot for me. I’m all for measures that favor families.
2. Preserves the mortgage interest deduction
3. Increase teacher deduction: Teachers can deduct of $250 when they purchase supplies for their classroom. This bill doubles that amount to $500. No doubt, this measure helped persuade Senator Susan Collins to support the bill.

The terrible things in this bill include:

1. It will result in 13 million more Americans lacking health insurance
2. Puerto Rico was just destroyed by Hurricane Maria. This bill will result in the loss of some of the few big businesses that remain on the island.
3. Repeal of the state and local tax deduction: Individual filers can no longer deduct their property taxes, state and local income taxes, or sales taxes.
4. Both House and Senate bills create a new 1.4 percent tax on private college endowments. This tax impacts Ivy League schools like Harvard University.
5. Corporate tax rates will be cut from 35% to 20%.
6. This bill changes how multinational corporations are taxed
7. One of the most egregious aspects of this tax bill is that taxpayers “in the top 1 percent of the income distribution would receive an average tax cut of 1.4 percent of after-tax income, accounting for 62 percent of the total benefit for that year” according to analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

Perhaps you think the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the bill is bias. There are three nonpartisan entities that scored the bill:

A. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO): We profiled this governmental body in previous posts.
B. Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT): JCT is a nonpartisan committee that is responsible for assisting Congressional tax-writing committees and members of Congress with development and analysis of legislative proposals and investigating the federal tax system. Members of this body include Ph.D. economists, lawyers, and accountants.
C. Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM): This is a research organization at the University of Pennsylvania. The analysis provided here will use dynamic scoring, a method preferred by the current administration.

According to these analytical bodies the bill will:

8. Result in revenue losses that will fall between $1.3 trillion and $1.5 trillion over 10-years (PWBM).
9.Increase the debt by somewhere between $1.4 trillion and $1.6 trillion (PMBM). The JCT says the deficit will increase by $1,414 billion over the next 10 years.
10. PBS News Hour Summarized the CBO’s analysis of the gains and losses of the Senate tax bill in a helpful chart:

The benefit or drawback of the senate plan relative to income levels (chart)

The House Tax Bill will:

11. Eliminate the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a provision that incentives hiring of the disabled, veterans, and people receiving federal poverty-related assistance

12. Eliminates the medical tax deduction. CNN/Money:

House Republicans recommended eliminating the medical tax deduction, a provision that allows people to write off qualifying medical and dental expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. As of now, individuals can deduct their own expenses and those of their tax dependents, which includes aging parents who live with the individual and meet other criteria.

Roughly 6% of tax filers take advantage of this deduction, and their ranks include those with expensive care needs: seniors in nursing homes, people with chronic medical conditions, and parents of disabled children

13. Removes the adoption tax credit
14. Eliminates the student loan interest deduction. CNN/Money Magazine:

The GOP plan also eliminates the student loan interest deduction. Under current rules, borrowers paying off education loans can deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on student loans.

Deductions, which lower your taxable income, are nearly always less valuable than credits, which reduce you tax liability dollar-for-dollar. So the maximum benefit from the student loan interest deduction is $625, and the average benefit is just $202, according to an analysis from the American Enterprise Institute.

This is basically a transfer of wealth from the bottom income earners to the top income earners. These bills should be rejected for the negative reasons itemized in this blog post. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have failed to deliver good tax bills. These tax bills should be rejected by everyone.

Is Racism Dead in America?

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Emphatically stated: No! There is a fire chief maintaining an interesting list in Pennsylvania. Paul Smith is the fire chief of a township just outside of Pittsburgh. He maintains a racist list called a “list of no-good niggers.”

The Intercept:

Do you have a “list of no-good niggers” that you keep around the house? Maybe you use the notes app on your phone, or even a Google Doc?

Paul Smith has a “list of no-good niggers.” He’s the chief of the Cecil Township Fire Department, about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh. On Sunday, he felt so comfortable announcing to the world who had just been added to his “list of no-good niggers” that he posted it as a status on his Facebook page.

We’re not quite clear on how exhaustive a list Smith has built over the years, but this much we do know, thanks to the Facebook post: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has now found himself on Smith’s list. What’s strange is that Smith didn’t put Tomlin on his “list of no-good niggers” — instead, Tomlin put himself on that list.

“Tomlin just added himself to the list of no-good niggers,” Smith wrote. To be clear that he wasn’t fooling around about Tomlin being on his list, Smith finished off his post with, “Yes I said it.”

The Intercept reached out to Tomlin to see when and how he added himself to Smith’s “list of no-good niggers,” but we have not heard back yet.

Later, after the post, Smith offered something of an apology and said he simply couldn’t help himself, offering something of an explanation along the way. “I was frustrated and angry at the Steelers not standing for the anthem,” Smith texted a local reporter — and when Smith gets angry and frustrated, black men add themselves to his “list of no-good niggers.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Secret Republican Tax Punishment

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A lot of important news is being overlooked by the noise created by main street news. Republicans in the House and Senate are drafting their respective tax bills, but most people are not aware of the harm the bills will cause.

Bruce Bartlett was a senior policy analyst for President Ronald Reagan and he is considered an expert in economics. He wrote a recent article in the Washington Post about the impact of current Republican economic policy. Needless to say, the diagnosis is dire. He says the bill will result in a $4 trillion cut in Social Security and Medicaid.

Why are the cuts so deep? First, the Senate passed a bill in October that will result in a $1.5 trillion deficit over ten years. The pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule requires that deficits be offset in some way. If the Senate fails to make spending cuts that will close the $1.5 trillion gap, automatic spending cuts will trigger.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says the following programs could see crippling reductions in funding:

Program 2018 Sequester Cut (%) 2027 Sequester Cut (%)
Medicare $28 billion (capped at 4%) $56 billion (capped at 4%)
Agricultural Subsidies and Supports $14 billion (100%) $11 billion (96%)
Affordable Care Act’s Risk Adjustment Program $5 billion (100%) $9 billion (96%)
Operations and Support for Customs and Border Patrol $2 billion (100%) $3 billion (96%)
Student Loan Administration $2 billion (100%) $2 billion (96%)
All Other Programs $62 billion (100%*) $69 billion (96%*)
Total $114 billion (100%) $150 billion (96%)

Republicans justify the bill by arguing that the bill will generate tremendous economic growth. Will the bill deliver? The underlying theory is huge tax cuts will lead to more investment, higher pay, and more jobs.

Magical Growth

Prominent economists are wary of the administration’s claims. Joel Slemrod is the Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics. He says a tax cut “isn’t by itself enough to make a dent in the growth rate.”

Average American families are supposed to see $4000 from the Trump tax cut. Mihir Desai, Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard University, is a fan of the underlying conservative principles, but he says the numbers don’t add up.

The Myth of Trickle-Down Economics

Both House and Senate versions of the tax bill rely on trickle-down economics. Let’s refer to another article written by Bruce Bartlett where he made the argument for the failure of trickle-down economics. First, he lays out the usual argument made in favor of trickle-down economics:

• The tax system has an enormously powerful effect on economic growth and employment.
• High taxes and tax rates were largely responsible for stagflation in the 1970s.
• Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was based on a bill, co-sponsored by Kemp and Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), that I helped design, unleashed the American economy and led to an abundance of growth.

He counters this argument in this way:

The Reagan tax cut did have a positive effect on the economy, but the prosperity of the ’80s is overrated in the Republican mind. In fact, aggregate real gross domestic product growth was higher in the ’70s — 37.2 percent vs. 35.9 percent.

Moreover, GOP tax mythology usually leaves out other factors that also contributed to growth in the 1980s: First was the sharp reduction in interest rates by the Federal Reserve. The fed funds rate fell by more than half, from about 19 percent in July 1981 to about 9 percent in November 1982. Second, Reagan’s defense buildup and highway construction programs greatly increased the federal government’s purchases of goods and services. This is textbook Keynesian economics.

Third, there was the simple bounce-back from the recession of 1981-82. Recoveries in the postwar era tended to be V-shaped — they were as sharp as the downturns they followed. The deeper the recession, the more robust the recovery.

Finally, I’m not sure how many Republicans even know anymore that Reagan raised taxes several times after 1981. His last budget showed that as of 1988, the aggregate, cumulative revenue loss from the 1981 tax cut was $264 billion and legislated tax increases brought about half of that back.

Today, Republicans extol the virtues of lowering marginal tax rates, citing as their model the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which lowered the top individual income tax rate to just 28 percent from 50 percent, and the corporate tax rate to 34 percent from 46 percent. What follows, they say, would be an economic boon. Indeed, textbook tax theory says that lowering marginal tax rates while holding revenue constant unambiguously raises growth.

But there is no evidence showing a boost in growth from the 1986 act. The economy remained on the same track, with huge stock market crashes — 1987’s “Black Monday,” 1989’s Friday the 13th “mini-crash” and a recession beginning in 1990. Real wages fell.

We are about to be sold a basket of rotten eggs. It’s time to oppose this bill before the damage is codified. Donald Trump has failed to deliver a prosperous economy.

John Kelly and Robert E. Lee

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I want to make sure this story stays fresh in the minds of Americans.

John Kelly went on Laura Ingraham’s show “The Ingraham Angle” Monday night and said Robert E. Lee is “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.” This is a lie and Kelly should be ashamed. I rehearsed the sins of Robert E. Lee in a previous blog about Martin Luther King’s birthday. Here is an excerpt from that blog:

Lee was a hard taskmaster. He broke up slave families and salves would run away from his plantation. Lee had runaways severely whipped for this infraction. A firsthand retelling of Lee’s brutality was written in the April 14, 1866 printing of the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Here is the account of Wesley Norris, a recipient of one of the beatings ordered by Lee:

My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years; I remained with Gen. Lee for about seventeen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well, an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week, when we were sent to Nelson county, where we were hired out by Gen. Lee’s agent to work on the Orange and Alexander railroad; we remained thus employed for about seven months, and were then sent to Alabama, and put to work on what is known as the Northeastern railroad; in January, 1863, we were sent to Richmond, from which place I finally made my escape through the rebel lines to freedom; I have nothing further to say; what I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements: I am at present employed by the Government; and am at work in the National Cemetary on Arlington Heights, where I can be found by those who desire further particulars; my sister referred to is at present employed by the French Minister at Washington, and will confirm my statement. (Emphasis Mine)

John Kelly should be condemned and dismissed if he said this with full knowledge of history.

Roy Moore: Relevant Circumstantial Evidence

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We are surrounded by news reports about Roy Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct. Cases like these are difficult to prove and unimpeachable evidence is often never found. Assessment of these cases is aided by circumstantial evidence. A consistent pattern of behavior from disparate witnesses can serve as helpful evidence in adjudicating the case.

One such piece of evidence comes from the Birmingham News:

Roy Moore’s penchant for flirting with teen girls was “common knowledge” and “not a big secret” around Gadsden, according to some area residents.

The Senate candidate has denied any wrongdoing in the wake of a report from The Washington Post in which four women accused Moore of inappropriate advances – and in one instance, a sexual encounter – toward them when they were teens and he was in his early 30s.

One of the four women claims she was 14 at the time, making her the only one whose claim would represent a legal violation. Moore has said he never met her. A fifth woman came forward this afternoon.

Moore and other Republican leaders have questioned why it took so long for his accusers, now in their 50s, to come forward publicly.

And yet people who lived in Etowah County during that time have said Moore’s flirting with and dating much younger women and girls was no secret.

“These stories have been going around this town for 30 years,” said Blake Usry, who grew up in the area and lives in Gadsden. “Nobody could believe they hadn’t come out yet.”

Usry, a traveling nurse, said he knew several of the girls that Moore tried to flirt with.

“It’s not a big secret in this town about Roy Moore,” he said. “That’s why it’s sort of frustrating to watch” the public disbelieve the women who have come forward, he said.

… Jason Nelms, who now lives in Tennessee but grew up in nearby Southside, was a regular at the mall when he was a teenager.

He recalled being told by a mall employee that they kept watch for an older guy who was known to pick up younger girls.

Nelms said he was told later by a concession worker at the mall that it was Roy Moore.

Greg Legat worked at the Record Bar, a music store near Sears in the mall, from 1981-1985. The store was just down from the back entrance of the mall, near the three-screen Mall Theatre. It was a popular place for parents dropping off their teens in the evenings and on weekends.

Legat, now 59, said an off-duty Gadsden police officer named J.D. Thomas told him about various people he should look out for when he was working. This was around 1981, and Thomas worked security at the mall.

One of the people was a pickpocket, he said, while another was someone prone to pick fights.

One was Roy Moore.

“I asked him, ‘What did he do?'” Legat recalled. “He said, ‘If you see him, let me know. I’ll take care of it.'”

Moore had a pattern of flirting with young girls in a local mall. The 14-year-old featured in the Washington Post article worked at the mall mentioned in this story. This circumstantial evidence adds credibility to other allegations because it shows the alleged behavior is not out of character for Moore.

We will wait to see what emerges in the future.

Money, Senators, Representatives, and the NRA

 

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There will, no doubt, be calls for new legislation after the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. David Leonhardt, Ian Prasad Philbrick, and Stuart A. Thompson wrote an important story in the New York Times that needs little explanation. The authors list the top ten recipients of NRA money in the House and Senate. This is an important issue to consider before a possible vote on a bill to regulate bump stops and other gun accessories. Here is the list:

Senate

1. John McCain (R- AZ) – $7,740,521
2. Richard Burr (R- NC) – $6,986,620
3. Roy Blunt (R- MO) – $4,551,146
4. Thom Tillis (R- NC) – $4,418,012
5. Cory Gardner (R- CO) – $3,879,064
6. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – $3,303,355
7. Joni Ernst (R-IA) – $3,124,273
8. Rob Portman (R-OH) – $3,061,941
9. Todd Young (R-IN) – $2,896,732
10. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – $2,861,047

House

1. French Hill (R-AK) – $1,089,477
2. Ken Buck (R-CO) – $800,544
3. David Young (R-IA) – $707,662
4. Mike Simpson (R-ID) – $385,731
5. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) – $344,630
6. Don Young (R-AK) – $245,720
7. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) – $221,736
8. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) – $201,398
9. Pete Sessions (R-TX) – $158,111
10. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) – $137,232

Let’s watch to see how they vote on the gun control bill.