Breaking News: Hillary Clinton is Still a Political Disaster

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For all of you who still don’t realize that Hillary Clinton is political disaster we now have polling to support this sound thesis. Hillary Clinton cannot peel away Trump supporters, a necessary feat if Democrats want to win the White House again. According to the Washington Post:

There are no signs of major slippage in support among those who voted for Trump. His approval rating among those who cast ballots for him stands at 94 percent. Among Republicans, it is 84 percent. Asked of those who voted for him whether they regret doing so, 2 percent say they do, while 96 percent say supporting Trump was the right thing to do. When asked if they would vote for him again, 96 percent say they would, which is higher than the 85 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they would support her again.

Democrats! Wake up and smell the Folgers! Hillary Clinton is not a viable candidate!

Are Sanctuary Cities More Dangerous Places to Live?

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“Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets”Jeff Sessions

We talked about sanctuary cities on this blog in the past. I want to devote this blog to an analysis of crime and sanctuary cities.

Donald Trump wants to punish sanctuary cities because he thinks they are a public threat. One would expect sanctuary cities to have more crime and that immigrants would have higher incarceration rates.

I want to cite two studies that contradict this narrative.

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The American Immigration Council Study (2015)

This study was authored by researcher Walter Ewing and professors Daniel Martinez (George Washington University), and Ruben Rumbaut (UC Irvine). Here is a summary of their findings:

Immigrants are Less Likely to be Criminals Than the Native-Born

Higher Immigration is Associated with Lower Crime Rates

• Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.
• During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary.

Immigrants are Less Likely than the Native-Born to Be Behind Bars

• According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community
Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.
• The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated
Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent—more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.

Immigrants are Less Likely Than the Native-Born to Engage in Criminal Behavior

• A variety of different studies using different methodologies have found that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in either violent or nonviolent “antisocial” behaviors; that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be repeat offenders among “high risk” adolescents; and that immigrant youth who were students in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s and are now young adults have among the lowest delinquency rates of all young people.

The Tom Wong Study

Tom K. Wong is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Wong produced an in-depth study on sanctuary cities titled, “The Effects of Sanctuary Policies on Crime and the Economy.”

There are a number of positive features of this study. First, Wong chose to define sanctuary city the same way the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) defines the term. ICE has designated 608 cities as sanctuary cities or cities that are no willing to accept detainers. A detainer is a request that a law enforcement entity hold a person for 48 hours after their date of release so ICE can decide if they want to take a person into custody for immigration detention. The relevant document for this process is ICE Form I-247D. The intent of the detainer is clear if you read the form linked in the previous sentence.

Second, Wong compares crime rates of sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities. Third the study compares data on a number of demographic characteristics including: poverty, labor force participation and reliance on public assistance.

Here are his main findings:

• There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
• Median household annual income is, on average, $4,353 higher in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
• The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower, on average, in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
• Unemployment is, on average, 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
• While the results hold true across sanctuary jurisdictions, the sanctuary counties with the smallest populations see the most pronounced effects

For the purposes of this study, the term crime refers to violent crimes like: murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults—and property crimes—burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle thefts, and arsons.

To be clear, the study is not arguing a causal relationship between being a sanctuary city and these characteristics. I use this study to show that sanctuary cities fare much better than some politicians say they do.

List of Donald Trump’s and his Administration’s Biggest Lies

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All statements are linked to sites that will provide the truth about the related lie.

Barack Obama’s Birthplace

Trump tweeted: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
Trump said:“I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.”
Trump to Meredith Vieira on the TODAY Show: “Right now, I have some real doubts.”
Trump also tweeted: “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”
Trump also said: “I’m starting to think that he was not born here”
Trump said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “His grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh, no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.’ She’s on tape. I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon. Somebody is coming out with a book in two weeks, it will be very interesting.”

Wire Tapping

On March 4, 2017 Trump tweeted he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” He also tweeted: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The Travel Ban

President Trump said in a statement on Facebook: “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”

Russia’s Influence on the 2016 Election

On March 20, 2017 Trump tweeted “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”

The Popular Vote

He said he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” in a tweet sent on November 27th, 2016.

Sanctuary Cities

Trump said he is going to “[b]lock funding for sanctuary cities … no more funding. We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths.” He is suggesting that sanctuary cities have a higher crime rate than cities that cooperate with federal authorities.

Miss Universe

He said there are sex tapes of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado

Sean Spicer

The Travel Ban

Sean Spicer said the immigration executive order was not a “ban.” He forgot he and Trump said it was a ban the day before.

Kellyanne Conway

Bowling Green Massacre

Conway referred to a nonexistent massacre on two occasions.

What can we Learn from Trump’s Taxes?

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It is well-known that Donald Trump refuses to release his taxes. He said they won’t reveal much. We should examine why tax returns are so important.

Historical Precedent

Richard Nixon kicked off the tradition of releasing tax returns. Essentially, Nixon placed his foot in his mouth by asking his Democratic opponents, Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman, to reveal their financial histories. Nixon was running for vice president at the time. Stevenson and Sparkman released their tax returns for the previous 10 years; Nixon didn’t release any of his taxes.

In 1967 Nixon ran for president against Michigan Governor George Romney. The governor released 12 years of tax information, but Nixon only revealed three years of information. Naturally suspicions were raised.

We would later learn what Nixon was hiding. In 1969 Nixon took a peculiar tax break. Here is how Bloomberg describes the anomaly:

The Washington Post determined that he had deeded his vice-presidential papers to the National Archives and taken a charitable deduction of around $500,000. Amazingly, such practices had been legal until 1969: Presidents and vice presidents donated their public papers and took a write-off. But that year, Congress closed the loophole.

Nonetheless, Nixon was eager to take every deduction imaginable. In a memo written that year, the presidential aide John Ehrlichman wrote his deputy, Edward Morgan, telling him that Nixon believed “a public man does very little of a personal nature. Virtually all of his entertainment and activity is related to his ‘business.’” That meant that virtually any expense — “wedding gifts to congressmen’s daughters, flowers at funerals, etc.” — could be written off.

This attitude apparently carried over to charitable contributions, too. In 1970, Nixon proceeded to donate his papers, but ordered Morgan to backdate the deed of gift to March 27, 1969, before the law made it illegal for him to take the deduction.

But this wasn’t known at the time. In 1973, however, as the Watergate scandal put a spotlight on the secretive president, tax experts called for the IRS to audit Nixon. The agency refused. Then in early October, an employee at an IRS service center in West Virginia leaked information about Nixon’s tax returns showing that the president had only paid $792.81 in federal income taxes in 1970 and $878.03 in 1971, but reported income in excess of $200,000. The explanation, of course, was the fishy charitable donation.

Nixon donated his vice-presidential papers to the National Archives and wrote it off as a charitable deduction of about $500,000 in 1969. Not only this, he backdated a donation to a time before the write-off was legal. This shows he knew the law and committed fraud. These are substantive revelations about Nixon we learned through his tax returns.

What can we learn from Trump’s tax returns?

1. There is a pending lawsuit against Trump alleging that he violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The lawyers in that case want to know if he is receiving money from foreign powers that could lead to presidential corruption.
2. We would learn Trump’s debt expenses if he released his taxes. We can see if Trump is acting in self-interest if we see him advocate policies and write executive orders that benefit him, but hurt the American people or have little to no relevance to the greater citizenry.
3. We can see if his words match his actual business dealings. Many people voted for him because of his stated business record. His tax returns will reveal his financial acumen. CNN/Money puts it this way:

But one of the biggest windows into Trump as a businessman would be in his many Schedule Cs, which detail the profits, losses and expenses from his hundreds of businesses. On those forms he must declare whether he “materially participated” in a given business. In cases where he did, he could really reduce his tax bill because he’d be allowed to use losses from that business to offset taxable profits from other businesses or investments, said tax lawyer Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

4. How much he paid in taxes to foreign governments
5. How much he gave to charity

Trump and the Poor: How will Trump’s Budget Affect the Poor?

 

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Here is a list of cuts that will affect the poor:

1. Trump would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which helps almost 2 million people a year. The agency helps poor people find lawyers to resolve housing cases and navigate bankruptcy, and helps victims of domestic violence get protective court orders. (Source: CNN/Money)
2. The Corporation for National and Community Service, best known for Americorps, the organization that sends Americans to help communities out in all sorts of ways, would be wiped out. It has a larger budget than some other agencies, asking for just over $1 billion for 2017, but it is broadly popular. (Source: VICE News)
3. The budget could cut funding for Meals on Wheels, a program that provides meals for older, poor Americans. Meals on Wheels says about 3% of its funding comes from government grants. (Source: CNN/Money)
4. The administration’s changes include eliminating funding for a $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, one of the longest continuously run HUD programs that’s been in existence since 1974. The program provides cities with money to address a range of community development needs such as affordable housing, rehabilitating homes in neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures, and preventing or eliminating slums and community blight. (Source: The Washington Post)
5. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness coordinates efforts on homelessness, of course, and costs the government just $3.5 million. That’s too much money for the Trump administration. (Source: VICE News)
6. Also on the chopping block: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known by its acronym LIHEAP. This program, part of the Health and Human Services budget, helps homeowners cover monthly energy costs, or repair broken or inefficient furnaces and air conditioners. The program is usually underfunded; LIHEAP says that on average, only about 20 percent of the households that qualify for assistance receive benefits before the money runs out. Congress sometimes adds funding during emergencies or energy shortages when costs spike. (Source: The Washington Post)
7. The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, also known as Neighborworks America, uses its budget of around $140 million to fund a variety of community-based programs, like affordable housing and assisting homeless veterans. Trump would end all that. (Source: VICE News)

Persecution of Gay Men in Chechnya

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Disturbing details are surfacing about the treatment of gay men in Chechnya. As many as 100 men have been rounded up and imprisoned according to some reports. The men are being subjected to beatings and electrocution and three men were killed. Government officials were asked about these detentions and they gave a chilling response according to The Telegraph:

When originally confronted with the allegations. Alvi Karimov, the spokesman for the Chechen leader, told Interfax that: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.

If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

President Ramzan Kadyrov labeled the allegations as “absolute lies and disinformation” according to the New York Times. Some news outlets are suggesting that Kadyrov has a history of human rights abuses. FOX News writes:

Chechen’s President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a key ally of Vladimir Putin, accused of ordering the clampdown, denied the allegations claiming “it’s impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic”.

The Chechen government suggested there are no gay people in their country.

The Kremlin-backed Kadyrov is widely accused of extensive human rights violations. He has brought Islam to the fore of Chechnya’s daily life, including opening what is called Europe’s biggest mosque.

Human rights groups have accused security forces controlled by Kadyrov of resorting to disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions, and the collective punishment of suspects’ extended families in their fight with Islamist insurgents.

I’m not sure about the veracity of these allegations, but they are troubling if true.

Building Corruption?

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Troubling details of Donald Trump’s business dealings continue to emerge. A recent piece in the New Yorker by Adam Davidson provides the latest details of allegations involving the Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, Ziya Mammadov.

Mammadov is a deeply corrupt politician who the US suspects was involved with money laundering. Trump’s business partner was Ziya Mammadov’s son. Bloomberg News reports:

A central issue in Azerbaijan was Trump’s partners. Trump’s initial deal there, signed in 2012 and announced in 2014, was with Anar Mammadov, the 35-year-old founder of Garant Holding, with more than 30 companies in construction, transportation and telecommunications. Mammadov is the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, a close ally of President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled since he took over from his father in 2003. Trump’s recent fees came from a company set up by Ziya’s brother, Elton Mammadov, a member of parliament until last year.

The two men partnered to build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku. The Trumps joined the $35 million project in 2012. We know Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, visited Baku in October 2014. Ivanka posted a video of her visit on Facebook.

To be clear, Trump and his business partners in Azerbaijan had a licensing agreement to use his name on the building. The agreement was with the Mammadovs. Trump canceled the deal when he was elected in November. Trump received at least $3 million from this deal.

Legal Concerns

According to Newsweek,

…Mammadov in 2008 approved contracts to Iranian construction company Azarpassillo, headed by Keyumars Darvishi. The link is significant as Darvishi was once the chairman of Raman, the Iranian construction firm that acted as a direct arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The report alleges that the Azarpassillo company essentially acts as a front for the Iranian force.

The US believes the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sponsors terrorism around the world. The IRGC is also accused of drug trafficking.

If these allegations are true, Trump would be in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Legal expert and assistant dean of George Washington University Law School, Jessica Tillipman said, “The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.” Here is how the New Yorker describes the legal violation:

No evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump, or any of his employees involved in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, or other illegal behavior. But the Trump Organization may have broken the law in its work with the Mammadov family. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, forbade American companies from participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment. The law even made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so. This closed what was known as the “head in the sand” loophole.

This is yet another story in the face-paced drama of the Trump presidency.

Trump’s Syrian Strike: My Initial Reaction

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Image from The Telegraph

Donald Trump was steadfast in his opposition to military action in Syria:

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Why Now?

Why did the recent chemical attack change Donald Trump’s mind about military action in Syria? After all, Trump sent these tweets after Assad launched a chemical attack.

Let’s look back in time.

Barack Obama said in August 2012, “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. … There would be enormous consequences.”

Remember, it was clear in August of 2013 that Bashar Al-Assad carried out a chemical attack. The White House posted a public statement affirming the attack. The statement reads in part, “[a] preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children….” What makes this attack any different? The latest fatality count for this attack is between 85 to 100 people total, including 20 children. More people were killed in the attack that violated Obama’s red line, yet Trump advised against military action. What changed?

Was this military action partially an attempt to divert attention away from the Russian collusion investigations?

What is the administration’s goal?

Russia

How will Vladimir Putin respond? It looks like our relationship with Russia may be rapidly deteriorating. According to new reporting by The Guardian:

The Russian military says it will help Syria strengthen its air defences after the US strike on a Syrian air base, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said that a “complex of measures” to strengthen Syrian air defences will be done shortly to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.”

Konashenkov said “the combat efficiency of the U.S. strike was very low,” adding that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles reached the Shayrat air base in the province of Homs.

He said it destroyed six MiG-23 fighter jets of the Syrian air force which were under repairs, but didn’t damage other Syrian warplanes at the base.

Konashenkov added that the base’s runway also has been left undamaged.

There are more unanswered questions: What will the administration do to cool relations with Russia? Did Trump get Congressional approval to launch this attack? What will be Assad’s next move? How will China respond?

Caveat: This launch could be a better strategy than Obama’s drone strikes if Trump is able to: 1.  Limit military operations to this strike 2. Score no causalities 3. Reach a diplomatic solution to the Syrian Crisis with no other military action.