Trump in Oval Office

Trump’s threat to “break up” the 9th Circuit because “everybody immediately runs” to it doesn’t make much more sense. It is true that the Constitution gives Congress the power to reorganize the federal judicial system, and some conservative legislators have floated proposals to create a new court that would cover some jurisdictions currently covered by the large and rapidly growing 9th Circuit. (Since this would mean a lot of new Republican judges — which is the real point — this would have no chance of passing the Senate as long as the filibuster remains in place.) But needless to say, even if the 9th Circuit was broken up this wouldn’t stop forum (or what Trump calls “judge”) shopping because suits could still be filed in the jurisdictions the 9th Circuit does cover.


It’s not exactly news that Trump’s tweets and interviews tend not to withstand rigorous, or even cursory, scrutiny. The bigger problem for Trump is that you can say the same thing about his sanctuary city order.

1987 CASE

In a 1987 case which upheld the use of federal highway funds to establish a de facto national drinking age, the Supreme Court gave Congress a broad (although not unlimited) ability to use its spending power to persuade states to advance federal objectives. One of the limits that the Court placed, however, was that if Congress wants to put conditions on federal funding it “must do so unambiguously” so that states “exercise their choice knowingly, cognizant of the consequences of their participation.” In addition, any conditions placed on spending must be “relevant to federal interest in the project and to the over-all objectives thereof.” Congress could withhold highway spending to compel states to raise their drinking ages because it was related to the federal interest in highway safety, but it could not accomplish the same goal by threatening to withhold Social Security spending.


These restrictions made it nearly inevitable that the courts would find Trump’s order unconstitutional. Judge Orrick’s holding that Trump’s order is not sufficiently related to the federal grants in question is debatable, although the case is strong. But it’s obvious that Congress did not “unambiguously” make clear that the grants in question were conditioned on local officials enforcing federal immigration law. The Supreme Court can revise its own precedents, but lower courts cannot — hence, Orrick had no real choice but to find that the order was unconstitutional.


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Trump and Flynn

Famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein says that the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn could end up revealing a “cover-up” of alleged connections between President Donald Trump‘s team and Russia.


“There, he is central to what the FBI believes is a cover-up going on among people close to the president of the United States about what happened with the Trump campaign and Russia,” Mr Bernstein, who is now a CNN commentator, said. “The FBI, the congressional investigators are trying to learn what happened. And Flynn is almost like the ball of yarn that begins to unspool and is key to understanding it.”

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein on Trump-Russia investigation: ‘Oh my god, there’s a cover-up going on’


Mr Bernstein said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, now that he is leading the Justice Department’s probe into Russia’s role alleged in the election, will eventually see that there is a cover-up as well.

“He is going to see, ‘Oh my god, there’s a cover-up going on,’” Bernstein said.


The comments came just a day after a bipartisan press conference in which the top members of the House Oversight Committee said that Mr Flynn likely violated the law by failing to disclose foreign connections and payments when applying for a security clearance.


Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee, said that he had seen no indicator that the disgraced national security adviser disclosed a $45,000 payment he had received from Russian state-owned television network RT for giving a speech. Mr Flynn also appeared to have received more than $500,000 for representing the Turkish government.

“I think it’s obvious that Gen. Flynn is in up to his neck in terms, not just of possible crimes involving his speeches and whether or not he registered as a foreign agent, which he should have and didn’t,” Mr Bernstein said.


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Posted by: maboulette | April 28, 2017

The Pope’s Perilous Mission to Egypt

new pope francis

When Pope Francis travels to Egypt today, he will retrace a journey his namesake made nearly 800 years ago, with a somewhat similar mission in mind.


In 1219, St. Francis crossed battlefields scattered with slain soldiers to reach the Muslim sultan’s camp in Egypt. His aim was to end the Crusades an act of idealism that fellow Christians feared would end in Francis’ death.

The friar survived, but his plan didn’t. Malik al-Kamil refused to convert to Christianity.


But the conversation was courteous, according to tradition, and ended with the sultan offering a peace treaty that included Christian control of Jerusalem. The Crusaders rejected the proposal, and fighting continued for another 72 years.


Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt is filled with dangers of its own, from fears of a terrorist attack to questions about allying with an Egyptian president who, according to watchdog groups, has run roughshod over human rights.


In a report released on Wednesday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called human rights conditions in Egypt “deplorable” but said the situation had somewhat improved for Christians, who compose about 10% of the Muslim-majority country. Most of those Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.


But ISIS and other radical extremists have targeted the Copts, launching repeated attacks on their communities and churches, increasing tensions between Christians and Muslims.


ISIS-aligned fighters bombed two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday, killing 45 and injuring dozens more. On April 18, more Islamic State militants attacked a monastery in Sinai, killing a police officer and wounding four others.


As if often does, the Vatican downplayed security concerns about the Pope’s trip.

“The security measures are the same as for other trips,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke. The Pope will travel in a regular car, not a bulletproof vehicle, and the Vatican is not sending additional bodyguards.

“We are not worried. The Egyptians want everything to go smoothly.”

But Francis will not linger long in Egypt. He will arrive in Cairo on Friday morning and leave Saturday afternoon. In the hours between, he plans to:

  • Meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi;
  • Attend a peace conference with Muslim and Orthodox Christian leaders;
  • Meet with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church;
  • Celebrate Mass in Cairo;
  • Visit Egypt’s small Catholic community.


In a video released this week, the Pope said he hopes Egyptians will view him as a “messenger of peace” and a pilgrim traveling to the land that, according to the Bible, gave refuge to the infant Jesus and his parents.


That history will provide the Pope an opportunity to plead, again, for nations to open their borders to migrants fleeing violence in the Middle East, a stance that puts him at odds with populists in the United States and Europe.


The meetings with prominent Muslim leaders including the Grand Imam of the venerated al-Azhar University, offers a chance for the Pope to continue an oft-overlooked aspect of his papacy: his outreach to Muslims. The Egyptian trip will be Francis’ sixth to a Muslim-majority territory, a significant chunk of his overseas travels.

“The Holy Father recognizes that, from the church’s perspective, there is no relationship more important than the one between Muslims and Christians,” said Gabriel Said Reynolds, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame who was chosen by the Vatican to participate in talks with al-Azhar scholars in preparation for the Pope’s visit.

“It’s important both for the sake of religious minorities living in Muslim countries, but also for the larger social mission of promoting peace and tolerance and co-existence.”


On Friday, Francis will be the first pontiff since Pope John Paul II in 2000 to visit al-Azhar, the premier seat of higher learning among Sunni Muslims.


The Pope is expected to meet privately with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and the university’s former president. It will be the second meeting between the two religious leaders, after el-Tayeb visited the Vatican last May. Afterward, Pope Francis said of that encounter, “The meeting is the message.”

Al-Azhar, which runs a network of schools, has lost some luster in recent years, said Reynolds, because its leaders are seen as closely aligned with the Egyptian government. Still, the university holds enormous sway over Sunni theology, issuing religious edicts and convening conferences like the peace gathering Pope Francis is scheduled to address on Friday.


 The Pope will have a delicate task in that address: Christians will expect him to clearly condemn Islamic extremism; Muslims will expect him to avoid indicting Islam itself.


 El-Tayeb and other Muslim leaders have been keen to point out that Christians aren’t the only victims of terrorism. Many Muslims suffer as well. Al-Azhar broke off dialogue with the Vatican in 2011 after taking offense at former Pope Benedict XVI’s condemnation of a church bombing in which 21 Coptic Christians died.

 “It was taken by al-Azhar as an unwarranted intrusion into Egyptian affairs and a misapprehending of the rights of Christians in Egypt,” Reynolds said.

 Still, many Christians may expect Francis to raise the issue of their rights in Muslim-majority countries, where they are often treated as second-class citizens.

 The Egyptian government, for example, imposes legal penalties on Muslim-born citizens who convert, and does not recognize their new religious identities, according to the US State Department.

 His Grace Anba Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in England, said he hopes al-Azhar will be urged to reexamine religious texts used in its university and network of schools.

 “Some of these texts are used, or misused, by radical groups, and there needs to be credible Islamic institution that can explain them in a different way. That’s something that really only al-Azhar can do.”


The Roman Catholic Church isn’t the only religious group that calls its supreme spiritual leader a pope. The Alexandria-based Coptic Orthodox Church does as well.

Like the Catholic church, which traces its papal lineage back to St. Peter, Copts link their patronage to an apostle, St. Mark, who was believed to have evangelized in Egypt.

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros have more in common than their religious title. They were chosen to lead their churches within several months of each other, Tawadros in November 2012, Francis in March 2013. And like Francis, Tawadros studied chemistry — he was a pharmacist for several years — before entering religious life.

Though the churches disagree on some aspects of theology — the Coptic Orthodox Church splintered from the Catholic church in the 5th century — Bishop Angaelos said the two popes have a good relationship. They have bonded in recent years over the persecution of Christians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, a bittersweet circumstance that Pope Francis calls an “ecumenism of blood.”

Ecumencial Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, also will attend the peace conference at al-Azhar on Friday. The rare convening of the Catholic, Coptic and Orthodox patriarchs will send a message to Christians worldwide, said Bishop Angaelos.

 “There is a myth around the world that Christianity is becoming weaker, and that we are all merely infighting and competitive with each other,” he said.

“The reality is that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us.”


Trump today

A recently revealed poll show that 98% of voters for Trump said they regret the choice.  This is a number that’s too hard to believe and it infuriates me.  Especially when we could have had a president who was smarter than almost anyone who ever ran for the office.   No matter who you talk to Trump’s first 100 days have been a test for the republic we live in.  He is ignorant, and in-compliant on what the president can and can’t do. 


At the center of this administration is a chief executive who knows absolutely nothing.  You can tell when he knows no details because he starts using his mental superlatives such as “very, very” or “tremendous” or “terrific” – I can’t stand listening to this arrogant man talk.  And he comes across as not very smart.  When he is struggling to answer issue-oriented details; he walks away leaving me thinking that he is scatter brained, and barely coherent. And what man, smart man runs his company by Twitter – Trump gets mad at someone and the entire world knows about it because he has a twitter storm like a teenager who is mad at his girlfriend. We have a president who talks to the world by Twitter; doesn’t this bother you?


He can’t talk without making big mistakes – for example the last time he talked about Syria, he told Fox Business that he had bombed Iraq, and he didn’t know how many missiles he used 59 or 79.


And he apparently thinks that the United States government, along with Social Security and the Pentagon are “companies”- 2 of the 3 largest companies in the world.  In our country government and government agencies are not companies; nor do they operate anything like a company.


If we lived in times that were normal and if our president was halfway normal, this following quote would have erupted into a major scandal – especially if the president was a Democrat.  Trump can apparently get away with madness like this:

Interviewer: And that’s one of the difficulties I think presidents have had is that you can have these personal relationships with people from the other party, but then it’s hard to actually change how people vote or change how people —

 Trump: No I have; it’s interesting; I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people; it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game; I did his show that morning. It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, [CBS News’ “Face the Nation” host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or, as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center, since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage. 


Nothing, nothing in that answer is on the subject – what is wrong with him?



Tax cuts

President Trump has outlined the major tax cuts for Americans Wednesday that could cost $6 trillion dollar to $9.5 trillion from the federal government over the next 10 years and lump it into the national debt.


What it boils down to is this: major hikes in the amount that people are able to deduct from their taxes as well as large cuts for small businesses and corporations – cuts amounting to almost 25% of what they pay now.


At the present time, individuals are able to claim a $6,300 deduction on their income that is taxable.  That will rises to $12,600 for married couples who file taxes together.  Under the Trump’s plan, those numbers will be much higher, according to people briefed on the plan and who spoke anonymously to the Washington Post.


On top of these tax cuts, Trump is expected to outline his proposal to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. And he will seek out reclassification for small, individually-owned businesses that currently file their taxes under the individual code will be able to file their taxes under the corporate tax code instead.


The plan Trump campaigned on laid out the most significant tax cuts for Americans since Reagan introduced his measures in the 1980s.  The problem is after Reagan made these cuts, he had to go back and raise taxes during his second term.  The reason is that “trickle-down economics” looks good on a single piece of paper but doesn’t work and we have two Republican administrations to show as examples.


The theory is that when business taxes go down by 20%, these businesses will use this money to grow their businesses and hire more employees but that has never worked.  It didn’t work under Reagan or GWBush.  Trickle-down economics does not work because it does not pay for itself and all it would do is raise the national debt.

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Posted by: maboulette | April 28, 2017

Feel Good Story for the Day

An unlikely guest never misses a visit to this 81-year-old’s home on the mountainside.


The wild stag is named Flippen, and he has been dropping by to check on his old friend twice a day for the last four years.


In return for the animal’s companionship, Mette Kvam of Aurland, Norway, returns his affection by giving him head rubs and feeding him bread and other snacks.


“She says that they are so lucky for having each other,” Britt Haugsevje Vangn, who caught the display on camera, told Caters News. “Mette has no kids and since her husband passed away she has no one — she only has Flippen in her life now.”


But, it seems like Flippen has no problem keeping the widow company. He’s even sometimes spotted sleeping outside her home.


“It seems like they are best friends,” Haugsevje Vangen said. “The hunters in the area have decided not to shoot him because of their friendship.”


Posted by: maboulette | April 27, 2017

Twitterstorm Trump Aims At Democrats on Spending Bill

Trump tweets

President Donald Trump on Thursday unleashed a tweetstorm of reproach of Democrats tangled in negotiations extremely tense on a spending bill to keep the government open, accusing them of wanting to close national parks and endanger the safety of U.S. troops over demands to provide Americans with health care.


The talks involving congressional Republicans and Democrats had proceeded relatively effortlessly after the White House had backed off a threat to withhold payments that help lower-income Americans pay their medical bills and Trump dropped a demand for money for the border wall.


A temporary funding bill expires Friday at midnight, and GOP leaders late Wednesday came out with a short-term spending bill through May 5 to prevent a government shutdown this weekend.


The House and Senate were widely expected to pass this measure on strong bipartisan votes to give mediators more time to work out their differences and avoid a humiliating shutdown on Trump’s 100th day in office Saturday.  In a series of tweets Thursday morning, the president lashed out at Democrats.


“As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks – Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!”


“Democrats jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies. It is time to put #AmericaFirst,” he wrote.


Even with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, the Trump administration is learning that Democrats retain momentous leverage when their votes are needed on must-pass legislation.

“I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “It is time that this essential work is completed so that critical programs and activities, including national defense, are properly and adequately funded for the year.”


House Republicans also had a breakthrough on their waning health care legislation when a key group of conservatives, the House Freedom Caucus, announced it would back a revised version of the bill. Their disagreement was a main ingredient in the legislation’s failure a month ago, an embarrassing episode for Republicans that called into question their ability to govern given that they’ve been promising for 7 years to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.


A new wrinkle arose as Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the 2nd-ranking Democrat in the House, threatened to withhold votes for the spending bill if Republicans tried to push for a vote this week on a revived health care repeal.


“If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well,” Hoyer said in a statement.


Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered no timing for a vote, telling reporters on Thursday, “we want to go when we’re ready to go.”


One important moderate, GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, discharged the Freedom Caucus’ about-face as “a matter of blame-shifting and face-saving” for a bill going nowhere. Even if the legislation passes the House, it will face major hurdles in the Senate and is certain to be extensively reviewed if it survives at all.


The changes in the bill would let states escape requirements under Obama’s health law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill people the same rates, and cover a list of specified services like maternity care.


Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that Republicans who back the health bill will regret it, calling it a “lose-lose-lose” situation. Polls show majority disapproval of the GOP alternative to the 2010 law.


“Say they pass it, even worse … it’s largely unpassable in the Senate. Walk the plank for nothing. Thank you Mr. President,” Pelosi told reporters.


The White House has been exerting intense pressure on House GOP leaders to deliver any perceptible legislative accomplishments ahead of Trump’s 100-day mark Saturday, something that has yet to occur aside from Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.


The spending measure, which would wrap together 11 unfinished spending bills into a single bill, represents the first real bipartisan legislation of Trump’s presidency.


Democratic votes are needed to pass the measure over tea party opposition in the House and to provide enough support to clear a filibuster hurdle in the Senate, which has led negotiators to strip away controversial policy add-ons and ignore $18 billion in unpopular spending cuts submitted by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.


The outlines of a potential agreement remained fuzzy, but aides familiar with the talks said Trump would emerge with border security money that’s unrelated to the wall and a $15 billion down payment for military readiness accounts on top of $578 billion in already-negotiated Pentagon funding. Democrats won funding for medical research, Pell Grants and foreign aid.


I have one question – who do these people work for?  You and I and they are not worried about how we feel.  I say that it is time for the Democrats to get phone calls and start standing up to Trump’s twitter storms.  We need a grownup for President.


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Jared Kushner

Even as the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal has dissolved into disaster due to the increasingly suspect behavior of chairman Devin Nunes, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the same scandal continues to kick into high gear. Its own Trump-Russia hearings are set to begin with their first round on Thursday. In the meantime the Senate Committee continues to show it means business. According to the New York Times, the committee is now formally targeting Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner.


Kushner had previously acknowledged to having secretly met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York. But now it’s been discovered that the process continued beyond that meeting, and concluded in Kushner ultimately meeting with the head of a Russian bank at Kislyak’s behest. As such the Senate Intelligence Committee has announced its intention to question Kushner over his role in the Trump-Russia scandal.


This may be crucial in light of the separate revelation this week from reporter Louise Mensch that Donald Trump and three former campaign advisers were named in an earlier FISA surveillance warrant which targeted two Russian banks for money laundering. One of those three advisers, Boris Epshteyn, abruptly resigned his White House job over the weekend.


It’s not yet clear what role Jared Kushner may have had in this Russian bank money laundering order which appeared to have directly involved his father in law Donald Trump. But as The NY Times now reports, it is clear that the Senate Intel Committee now intends to obtain those answers.

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Posted by: maboulette | April 27, 2017

Massive Ordinance Air Blast – MOAB


Just three days after 37 year old Green Beret Staff Sgt. Mark D. Alengar was killed fighting ISIS in Afghanistan, the United States took to the air with a cargo plane on a mission. Only, this cargo plane was on a different kind of mission than usual. It was on a mission to destroy one of the many tunnel networks that ISIS uses to get safely from one area to the other.

Wait… cargo plane?

Yes, you read that right. The bomb the U.S. dropped on ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan was so big — weighing in at 21,000 lb. — that only a cargo plane could carry it. One spokesperson told Fox News that they just “kicked it out the back door.”


The Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB) as used in the hopes of hitting deep enough to destroy some of the tunnels that ISIS frequent. The attack was coordinated specifically to avoid any civilian casualties, if possible. Smaller bombs, like the 1,000 lb. Tomahawk cruiser missiles used against Syria last week, simply weren’t enough to get the job done.


If the bomb was as effective as the U.S. hopes, we can expect to see more of them targeting ISIS tunnel networks that are difficult to reach by any other means. The Mother of All Bombs,” as they are calling it, has been tested, but never before used in a combat situation.


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ooBoris Epshteyn.jpg

One month ago Boris Epshteyn resigned quietly from a high ranking position in Trump’s White House, at the end of a week which had seen Congressman Devin Nunes trying to alert Trump that someone from the transition team had been caught on surveillance. It’s led to a number of questions about why Epshteyn suddenly bolted. Now comes a report that declares Epshteyn was caught running a Russian counterintelligence operation within the White House.


The Intel community source belongs to Claude Taylor, a veteran of the Bill Clinton administration. The allegation is that Boris Epshteyn had been demanding raw data from the National Security Council in order to carry out a mole hunt on behalf of Russian counterintelligence, meaning an agency such as the FSB or GRU. If this proves correct, it would tie together a number of lingering questions about Epshteyn’s role in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga.


For instance it’s widely suspected, though never confirmed, that Boris Epshteyn is the infamous “Source E” in former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier. Much of the dossier itself has been confirmed since first leaked out. Source E is alleged to have set up Donald Trump with Russian prostitutes for the purpose of allowing the Kremlin to blackmail him, which in turn would mean that Source E was a Russian agent all along.


Epshteyn never had a role that was clearly defined in the Trump campaign, leading to this question; why he was really there. He was regularly used as a campaign surrogate on television, in spite of being so ill suited at it that other pundits would make fun of his ineptness to his face. He had listed himself as a “Senior Adviser” to the Trump campaign on his own social media pages, in spite of seemingly not being in charge of anything. And he was one of the very few public faces of the Trump campaign who went on to also become a member of the transition team and a member of the Trump White House team.


Earlier this month, other intel sources stated that Epshteyn had been caught on surveillance debating a plan to court Russian election collusion, along with Paul Manafort and Carter Page. There is also the fact that Epshteyn went off the grid for three key days in August which saw the Trump campaign allegedly wrapped up in everything from secret meetings to Russian hackers. And as was pointed out by reporter DeAnn Smith today, Epshteyn quit the White House just one day after FBI Director James Comey had visited the White House. This in turn was just a few days after the Devin Nunes meltdown about surveillance on a transition team that Epshteyn had been on.


The essential question is whether or not Boris Epshteyn, who was born in the Soviet Union, has been a Russian counterintelligence agent all along. Is there publicly available proof of this? Absolutely not. But there is more than enough circumstantial evidence, together with a growing list of claims from various sources, to merit asking the question of whether or not Boris is Russian FSB. 

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