James Comey

When James Comey sent his infamous letter to Congress days before Election Day, there was speculation as to his motives. The emails discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop were very unlikely to provide any new information, as anyone thinking about the actual situation rather than the partisan situation would have to conclude. The FBI hadn’t tried to get a court order to read the emails, hadn’t even contacted Huma Abedin’s lawyer to see if she would simply consent to search of the emails.

When the leaks came gushing out after the letter, we learned that there were a group of agents in the FBI office who were more interested in attacking Clinton than in pursuing justice, who had been prosecutor-shopping hoping to get more resources to dig further into a hit-piece of a book of shaky provenance funded by the CEO of the Trump campaign. The perception was that fear of leaks had forced Comey’s hand. 

I had assumed that maybe his reputation as the hero who had stood up against the Bush administration’s attempt to get a hospitalized John Ashcroft to sign off on the domestic spying program had gone to his head, that he saw himself as the Last Honest Man in Washington.  Others, noting that he was a Republican, thought he was trying to protect his standing in that party.

The latest revelations about the intelligence concerning Russian interference in our election raise new questions about Comey and the letter. Comey was part of the delegation that briefed Congressional leaders about this intelligence. He knew that the administration in which he serves was asking for a bipartisan statement about that intelligence. He was also aware that Mitch McConnell, the craven and cynical Senate Majority leader, rejected the intelligence and the idea of a statement. With all that knowledge, he sent a letter based on no evidence of wrongdoing to Congress that very likely tipped the election.

Leaks from rogue FBI agents would not have commanded the same level of credibility that a letter to Congress from the FBI head did. I had assumed that Comey risked the election to save his own hide, not really thinking it would be the tipping point. Now we know that Comey had heard from Mitch McConnell about the impact something like that could have. Did Comey deliberately throw the election, and why?

Is he just a self-righteous prig, or like the rest of his party, rotten to the core and willing to do anything for power?

Death Penalty

I’m less optimistic now than I was when I heard the arguments that SCOTUS will overturn the ruling in Moore v. Texas. That’s because the justices split 4-4 and therefore denied a stay of execution to an Alabama inmate. Typically, a 5th “courtesy” vote for a stay is granted while the justices decide whether to review the case, but in this case, it was denied. No explanations are provided for denying stays, so we don’t know what, if any, discussions were held.

The inmate was challenging the constitutionality of his death sentence because a jury had sentenced him to life in prison, but the judge overrode the jury’s decision and sentenced him to death. Alabama is the only state that allows this practice.

The other challenge the inmate was bringing was concerning the drug midazolam, which has been associated with several botched executions. As it turns out, when SCOTUS refused to grant the stay, Ronald Bert Smith, Jr was executed, in yet another botched execution.

Ronald Bert Smith, Jr was not a particularly sympathetic character. Alabama did not execute an innocent man in this case. But what purpose did his state imposed murder serve? Why was it necessary to override the decision of the jury? And why do we tolerate such barbaric means for execution?

Party before country

There are still people who think a Republican Congress will impeach Trump if he goes too far off the rails. Given how Republican office holders have dealt with Trump to date, this seems like wishful thinking at best, dangerous delusion at worst. In light of this latest WaPo article, I’m moving in the direction of delusion.

A bipartisan group of Congressional leaders were presented with evidence that Russia was involved not just with disrupting our election, but with attempting to throw the election to Trump. Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, refused to do anything, and without bipartisan agreement, the Obama administration wouldn’t make the information public out of fear of being accused of using the information for partisan purposes. In other words, McConnell had no problem with blocking the informant for partisan purposes. He’d rather see a Russian puppet elected president than risk his majority.

Still feel good about a Republican Congress restraining Trump? Who’s going to restrain them?

War on Taxes

America has been fighting a war on taxes for thirty years, and this is one war we’ve won, though that hasn’t stopped us from fighting or believing that we are over-taxed. Trump, in one of his many lies, claimed that American corporations were taxed more heavily than in any other country. Even if corporations actually paid their taxes, it wouldn’t be true, but as this Bloomberg article explains, many of our corporations park a lot of money offshore. Then they take advantage of a loophole to get paid for doing so.

Trump is likely to propose a repatriation tax holiday to allow companies to bring that money back into the US, on the theory that they will invest it in jobs. Not likely. This has been tried before, under George W. Bush. The money brought back goes into rewarding shareholders and executives through stock buybacks and bonuses, not into hiring. Apple, the biggest user of this mechanism, is not going to start manufacturing iPhones in America because of a tax holiday. They’re not going to hire a bunch of people. They can do that already; they can borrow money at low interest rates and deduct the interest to reduce the little tax they do pay if they needed to hire more people.

They will take the tax holiday, push up their stock price by buying back stock, and go right back to stashing the cash overseas, waiting for the next tax holiday.

%d bloggers like this: