Monday, October 31, 2016

No, Trump, the FBI Letter About Clinton's Emails Is Not 'Bigger Than Watergate'

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaking at a rally in New Hampshire on Friday. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaking at a rally in New Hampshire on Friday. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

By Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress
31 October 16
Trump falsely claimed that the FBI is reopening its investigation.

n Friday, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Republican members of Congress informing them that he had obtained emails that may be relevant to the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The details were vague, and information is still slowly trickling out as to what these emails might contain and whether they were even sent or received by Clinton herself.

But her Republican rival Donald Trump wasted no time in commenting on the news. At a rally in New Hampshire shortly after it broke, he told a crowd that it’s “bigger than Watergate.”

The Watergate scandal in the 70s involved burglars connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign getting arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee offices while trying to steal documents and wiretap phones. Nixon himself attempted to cover up the operation and stop the FBI investigation, including paying off the people who were arrested so they wouldn’t talk, destroying evidence, and firing staff who wouldn’t go along.

The incident eventually brought to light a much larger campaign of espionage and sabotage that Nixon had waged against his political opponents, deploying illegal FBI surveillance, forging and manufacturing stories, stealing documents, and planting provocateurs and other actors in their midst. When the full extent of the scandal became public, Nixon became the first and only U.S. president to resign.

It’s difficult to see how the new FBI revelation about Clinton’s emails could compare to those events. The new emails in question were reportedly discovered on a laptop shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, unearthed as part of the FBI’s investigation into charges that Weiner sent sexually explicit texts to an underage girl.

Much is still not known about the emails. But media outlets reported that they may be simply duplicates of ones the FBI has already reviewed, while the Los Angeles Times reports that they weren’t even addressed to or from Clinton. The FBI now has to reportedly get court permission to look through the emails to determine whether they are relevant and, if so, if they show any mishandling of classified information while Clinton was Secretary of State.

At the same rally on Friday, Trump claimed that the FBI is “reopening the case into [Clinton’s] criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America.”

Nothing in that sentence is true. Comey’s letter said nothing about reopening the case, as it had never been officially closed. Instead, emails are being reviewed to determine whether they are relevant to the investigation.

Meanwhile, in July, Comey announced that he would recommend against criminal charges for Clinton because “no reasonable prosecutor” could determine that they are warranted. To have brought them, Comey would have needed evidence that Clinton knowingly mishandled classified emails or acted in gross negligence and bad faith with information that could have harmed the country. That would be true of the new emails as well: to change Comey’s decision, they would have to prove that Clinton knew she was violating laws about classified emails.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Anthony Weiner? Seriously?

Anthony Weiner. (photo: WNYC)
Anthony Weiner. (photo: WNYC)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
29 October 16
Two days ago the media said it was a blowout. Now they'll say it's a horse race.

K, I've had it. Fire all the writers. This TV series called 2016 has jumped the shark at a sufficient altitude that it is now clearing the rings of Saturn. I'm kicking around Stephen King country in northern New England with El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago and, by the time I get to this tight little burg that probably is only 40 percent likely to be inhabited by vampires, the story of the election takes another violent twist and we find that the world's greatest democracy has ended up (again) at Anthony Weiner's zipper.

No kidding. Bloodbath in the Writer's Room. Nobody gets out alive.

In merciful brief, sometime shortly before Donald Trump took the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday afternoon, FBI director James Comey released a letter that he had sent to a whole bunch of committee chairmen in Congress. The text, courtesy of The New York Times, reads as follows:

Dear Messrs Chairmen:

In previous congressional testimony, l referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton's personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.

In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.

Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.

Almost immediately, every Republican, including the nominee that so many of them had spent the past three weeks denying, jumped all over this as Comey's having "reopened" the investigation that had cleared Hillary Rodham Clinton last summer, even though that is plainly not the case, as a careful reading of Comey's letter makes clear.

(Maybe this is a good thing, given the job he has, but James Comey has the political instincts of a tackhammer.)

Trump took the stage and told the crowd that a) the investigation had been "reopened," and b) that he didn't think the FBI was part of the rigged system anymore. (That, I thought, was big of him.) "This," he said, traducing the good name of dead Dick Nixon, "is a bigger political scandal than Watergate." The crowd exploded, louder than any of his crowds have since at least the end of the Republican convention. Finally, they had their smoking gun.

OK, that's a bad metaphor for what came later.

In the time it took me to drive here from Manchester, the story turned into giddy vaudeville. It turns out that this had nothing to do with HRC's private e-mail server, or the 33,000 "missing e-mails" that we've heard so much about, or even Benghazi, for that matter. As the Times reported later on Friday afternoon, the e-mails to which Comey was referring came from an investigation of...hell, I can't even type this....

A new trove of emails that appear pertinent to the now-closed investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server was discovered after the F.B.I. seized at least one electronic device shared by Anthony D. Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, federal law enforcement officials said Friday.

The F.B.I. is investigating illicit text messages that Mr. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. The bureau told Congress on Friday that it had uncovered new emails related to the Clinton case...potentially reigniting an issue that has weighed on the presidential campaign and offering a lifeline to Donald J. Trump less than two weeks before the election.

In truth, Comey was effectively middled on this development. His earlier congressional testimony obligated him to keep Congress apprised of any new developments regarding the case, no matter how tangential those developments might be. That obligation held whether he learned that information 11 days or 11 minutes before the election. Since there is no way on earth any probe into these new e-mails will be finished before Christmas, let alone before the election, their relevance to who the next president will be rests solely on the use to which they will be put by the Trump campaign, by a suddenly unified Republican Party, and by the elite political media, which might see a chance to make a horse race out of what looked like a blowout 48 hours ago.

As nearly as can be told, all we found out on Friday was that Anthony Weiner continues to be a stubborn skin disease on the Democratic Party, that it is very unlikely now that Huma Abedin will have a conspicuous place in any HRC administration, and that the script on the 2016 race for the presidency is now being written by five acid casualties and a basset hound. I'll tell you about Trump tomorrow. For now, I'm checking the news to make sure H.R. Haldeman has not risen from the grave.

Headline Premium Increases Do Not Reflect What Arizona Consumers Actually Pay


74 Percent of Arizona Consumers Can Find Marketplace Plans for Less than $75 Per Month
With Start of Window Shopping, Arizona Consumers Can Now Check Out Options for 2017 Coverage

With the November 1 start of Open Enrollment just days away, Arizona consumers can now visit to check out their options for 2017 coverage. A new report released today shows that 74 percent of Arizona Marketplace consumers will be able to find a plan with a premium of less than $75 per month, and 78 percent will be able to find plans with premiums below $100. The report also shows that Arizona consumers who come back to shop will have options, with an average of 4 plans to choose from.

“Thanks to financial assistance, the large majority of current Marketplace consumers in Arizona will be able to find plans with premiums between $50 and $100 per month,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Many uninsured Arizonans could also qualify for financial assistance, as could 33,000 Arizonans currently paying full price for off-Marketplace coverage. I encourage anyone who might need 2017 coverage to visit and check out this year’s options for themselves.”

Thanks in significant part to the Health Insurance Marketplace, the share of Americans without health insurance is at its lowest level in history, and the share of Arizonans without health insurance stands at 10.8 percent, down 36 percent since 2010. This year’s Open Enrollment offers the chance to build on that progress and further improve access to care and financial security for Arizonans.

Financial Assistance and Shopping Help Keep Coverage Affordable for Arizona Consumers

74 percent of current Arizona Marketplace consumers are eligible for tax credits that bring down the cost of coverage, and, nationwide, about 85 percent of Marketplace-eligible uninsured Americans also qualify for tax credits. In addition, an estimated 33,000 Arizonans currently paying full price for health insurance in the off-Marketplace individual market could be eligible for tax credits if they purchase 2017 coverage through the Marketplace.

Tax credits increase dollar for dollar with the cost of a consumer’s benchmark plan, and so they protect the large majority of consumers from rate increases. For example, a 27-year-old in Phoenix, Arizona with income of $25,000 paid $143 per month to purchase the benchmark (second-lowest cost silver) plan in 2016. For 2017, a 27-year-old with income of $25,000 will pay almost the exact same amount ($142 per month), because, while benchmark premiums have increased, tax credits will increase to compensate.

Shopping also helps keep coverage affordable for consumers. If every returning consumer in Arizona selected the lowest-cost plan available within their current metal level, average premiums would increase by only $18 per month, or 11 percent, from 2016 to 2017. In fact, many consumers do not choose the lowest-cost plan available, because they are willing to pay more for a wider network or other plan features. But this calculation confirms that affordable options for 2017 coverage are available to consumers who shop around to find a better deal.

This year, Marketplace consumers in Arizona will be able to choose from an average of 4 health insurance plans. Arizonans will be able to choose among plans with different combinations of premiums, out-of-pocket costs, networks of hospitals and physicians, and prescription drug coverage options. For people with employer-sponsored health insurance, plan choice is typically narrower: for example, in 2015, 30 percent of people with employer coverage not only had just one issuer, but also just one plan option.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Marijuana's $2.4 Billion Impact in Colorado Is a Lesson for 5 States Considering Legalization

Medical cannabis patients, families, and supporters demanding the government prioritize patients over politics in its decisions involving marijuana legalization. (photo: Evan Jones/Daily Free Press)
Medical cannabis patients, families, and supporters demanding the government prioritize patients over politics in its decisions involving marijuana legalization. (photo: Evan Jones/Daily Free Press)

By Alan Pyke, ThinkProgress
29 October 16
Colorado’s experience suggests starting a legal cannabis industry is one of the most efficient ways to generate new economic activity.

t turns out pot is a stronger economic driver than 90 percent of the industries active in Colorado.

Legal weed created 18,005 full-time jobs and added about $2.4 billion to the state’s economy last year, an analysis from the Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) shows.

Between the dollars that customers spend and the money businesspeople invest in their crops and shops, pot is generating more wealth and activity than almost anything else on a pound-for-pound basis. Every dollar spent in the industry generates between $2.13 and $2.40 in economic activity. Only federal government spending has a higher multiplier.

The numbers land just weeks before voters in five other states must decide whether or not to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska into the legal, recreational marijuana future. Three further states are weighing new medical marijuana systems, and Montana voters face a referendum on changes to a dozen-year-old medicinal cannabis program there that’s all but locked up thanks to years of legislative sabotage in Bismarck.

Medical systems in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota would bring their own economic dividends. But tax-and-regulate legalization for adult recreational use is where the real money is.

The Colorado economics modeling can’t give precise, reliable projections for how adult-use pot legalization would play out in California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona. Sales volumes are particularly volatile to project as the green frontier opens wider, potentially redistributing pot tourism spending between states.

But while it wouldn’t be fair to simply apply the Colorado economics modeling to projected sales in the five states that may legalize next month, combining the MPG model with tax revenue forecasts by legislative bean-counters does offer some back-of-envelope guesstimates.

The 15 percent special excise tax on marijuana sales in Arizona’s legalization proposal would likely generate over $114 million in new tax revenue in 2019 and 2020, according to state fiscal analysts. That implies sales volume of over $760 million in two years, less than half the total revenue volume in Colorado’s first two years.

Even that comparatively slack rate of sales, though, could generate about $1.8 billion in new economic activity in Arizona, if the multipliers from Colorado’s economic experience prove typical of the industry elsewhere. State and local governments would see roughly $200 million in new tax revenue from pot taxes, standard sales taxes, and licensing fees for new cannabusinesses.

Arizona’s measure mandates that the bulk of the new money would go to schools, a provision copied from Colorado’s referendum. Aside from the new job creation and economic activity, the state’s K-12 system would get an $86 million cash infusion over two years from legalization, according to the state fiscal analysis.

The legalization measure in Maine would set a 10 percent tax on marijuana, though it’s unclear if the state’s 5.5 percent sales tax is included in that or tacked on atop it.

Fiscal analysis accompanying the measure suggests the state anticipates sales volume between $69 and $107 million annually once the system envisioned by this year’s ballot question is fully online. Behind every one of those sales dollars, there’s spending on payroll, construction, fertilizer, and other industry inputs. Legalization would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity in a state that ranks near the bottom of the nation in total economic output.

But in the other three states weighing legalization, conjecture about economic impacts is much tougher to come by.

The numbers are fuzzier in California, in part because of the sheer size of the state. A dense fiscal analysis of that state’s ballot proposal for legalization found that combined excise, sales tax, and licensing revenues would range “from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually.”

Atop that vagueness, California already has a large, established cannabis industry thanks to both its longstanding medical marijuana program and its decades-old role as a primary source of American-grown cannabis in the black market. (The California measure also sets aside a share of new state tax revenues for environmental projects to mitigate the negative impacts of illegal grow operations in the wilderness, which have been damaging the state’s ecosystems throughout the prohibition era.)

Whatever its other impacts, legalization would represent at least a modest shakeup to the status quo there—making it almost impossible to venture a credible estimate of economic growth or job creation there based on the Colorado modeling.

In Massachusetts and Nevada, meanwhile, state fiscal analysts are essentially refusing to offer estimates ahead of November’s referenda.

Nevada’s Secretary of State has detailed the costs that various state agencies would face to set up new computer systems and oversight staffs for the cannabis economy, should voters approve Question 2 there. But the same document argues that state fiscal analysts “cannot determine the amount of revenue that will be generated” because they can’t gauge demand for marijuana products and cannabusiness licenses.

With the official taxpayer-employed analysts abstaining, voters are left with estimates from MPG itself. The group’s study of potential legalization in Nevada, released in July, estimated that people would spend about $394 million a year on legal marijuana if Question 2 passes. Over the first seven years, the report found, Nevada would see a $7.5 billion bump to its total economic output and gain about 41,000 jobs.

The Massachusetts measure would set pot taxes far lower than in other legalization states, at just 3.75 percent statewide. Local governments could tack another 2 percentage points onto that, and cannabis sales would be subject to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. Lawmakers would probably move to impose Colorado- and Washington-style excise taxes in the low double digits.

But there is no official state estimate of tax collections stemming from legalization. One Senate committee report, which is largely negative on the idea, estimated annual sales of about $500 million once the smoke clears. If that’s right, Colorado’s experience suggests Massachusetts could expect well over a billion dollars in new economic activity from legalization.

Looming over all these billions of dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs: federal prohibition. It’s harder than it should be for states to realize the full economic benefits of all this new activity because cannabusinesses still can’t access traditional financial services.

Normally a business boom redounds immense benefits to people far outside of its immediate influence, as the money generated in one set of activities gets recirculated into others through consumer spending and business investment. But federal prohibition puts undue friction on that cycle, preventing it from reaching its full potential to create jobs and generate new opportunities.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Trump Campaign Boasts of 'Major Voter Suppression' Effort Targeting Women and Black People

Voters stand in line at a polling station. (photo: John Bazemore/AP)
Voters stand in line at a polling station. (photo: John Bazemore/AP)

By Alice Miranda Ollstein, ThinkProgress
28 October 16
So who is rigging the election, Donald?

ith two weeks to go before Election Day and victory slipping further out of Donald Trump's reach, the hotel mogul's campaign is launching what they call a "major voter suppression" effort aimed at driving down turnout among white progressives, young women, and African Americans.

Senior Trump campaign officials told Bloomberg News they are using targeted radio spots, social media posts, and campaign events in neighborhoods of color to push messages they think will discourage voting in those demographics. Namely, they hope that invoking the machinations described in the Clinton campaigns leaked e-mails will turn off progressives, that dredging up decades-old sexual assault accusations against Bill Clinton will turn off women, and reminders that Hillary Clinton referred to some black teenagers as "superpredators" in the 1990s will turn off African Americans.

The latter strategy, reportedly led by Breitbart's Steve Bannon, is "a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls - particularly in Florida." The campaign is planning a barrage of Facebook "dark posts" with the "superpredators" message targeted at likely Clinton voters.

Rather than attempting to win their votes for Donald Trump, the campaign hopes these voters will not vote all."Principally, doing that is about suppression of vote," a high-level Trump campaign source told Yahoo News. "Like, you know, 'I'm not going to get out of bed. I'm not going to go vote for her.' If we can pick up some votes along the way, that's fantastic, but it's really about the suppression of votes."

Elections expert Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, says this tactic "may be odious, but it is not illegal."

"There is no law against negative campaigning, or discouraging people from voting through legal means," he wrote on his blog.

Of course, this messaging strategy is not guaranteed to have the Trump campaign's intended effect. As Bloomberg notes: "There's no scientific basis for thinking this ploy will convince these voters to stay home. It could just as easily end up motivating them."

Kierra Johnson, with the advocacy group All Above All Action Fund, believes this will be the case.

"Of course the only thing this campaign offers to young people, women, and Black communities is manipulation and fear designed to keep us home on Election Day," she wrote in a statement.

"I've got news for Trump," she continued, "his sneaky Facebook fear campaign is not going to work. We've fought too long and come too far and we will be casting ballots come November 8th. I hope he's ready to reap what he has sown."

While Trump's tactics may not work as intended, they fit into a larger pattern.

Trump has encouraged his supporters in recent weeks to go into "certain areas" on and before Election Day to monitor for voter fraud, and some of those supporters have said outright that they interpret this as a license to racially profile voters and "make them a little bit nervous." This week, the Democratic National Committee asked a federal court to hold the Republican National Committee in contempt over Trump's comments, calling them an effort to "intimidate and discourage minority voters from voting in the 2016 Presidential Election."

Republicans in many states have also attempted this year to shrink the electorate through a combination of legislation and lawsuits.

Indiana officials raided and shut down the offices of a non-profit that registered 45,000 black voters. Republican-controlled county election boards in North Carolina voted to drastically reduce early voting, especially in neighborhoods with many students and African Americans. A Republican-appointed county clerk in Green Bay, Wisconsin refused to allow an early voting site on a college campus because "students lean more toward the Democrats." In Virginia, the Republican Party sued to block hundreds of thousands of former felons from regaining their voting rights.

In some states, including North Carolina and Texas, federal courts have determined that Republicans passed voter ID laws, cuts to early voting, and other voting restrictions with the explicit intent of making it harder for people of color to vote.

Such laws have the potential to keep many more voters away from the polls than the Trump campaign's eleventh-hour strategy of discouragement.

The Democratic Party, in contrast, has aggressively fought in court this year to allow more people to vote. In Florida, they won a case extending the voter registration deadline after Hurricane Matthew, allowing 100,000 more people to register to vote. In Ohio, they won a last-minute court order that will restore the rights of thousands of voters who were illegally purged from the rolls.

Democrats have also dominated this year in registering more voters, staffing more field offices, and turning out more people to vote early in key swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Nevada.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Indiana Republicans Use Cops to Block Almost 45,000 Black Citizens From Voting

Voters line-up to register and cast their early votes at the City-County Building Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. (photo: Darron Cummings/AP)
Voters line-up to register and cast their early votes at the City-County Building Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. (photo: Darron Cummings/AP)

By Kira Lerner, ThinkProgress
26 October 16
So Donald, tell us again who's trying to steal this election
oughly 45,000 newly registered voters in Indiana — almost all of whom are black — may not be allowed to vote next month after state police targeted the state’s largest voter registration drive, forcing it to shut down its operation.

Police raided the Indiana Voter Registration Project (IVRP) offices on October 4, seizing documents and equipment and forcing the group to cease its get-out-the-vote efforts one week before the end of the state’s registration period. Bill Buck, a spokesperson for the liberal nonprofit Patriot Majority USA which runs the IVRP, told ThinkProgress that IVRP could have registered about 5,000 more voters in that additional week.

The IVRP is still unsure whether the 45,000 people it registered will be permitted to vote this year, or how the state will handle their applications while the police investigation is ongoing. Bill Bursten, chief public information officer for the Indiana State Police, told ThinkProgress that law enforcement is investigating whether IVRP violating fraud and forgery laws.

“It will be up to each prosecutor to review the completed investigation and take whatever action they, as the local prosecuting authority, deem appropriate,” Bursten said. “Investigations of this nature are complicated and can take an extended period of time to complete.”

Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R)’s office declined to comment, and Buck said IVRP is still unclear what law it violated or why it’s being aggressively targeted by election officials and police.

The IVRP launched in April of this year to improve voter participation in Indiana, particularly in African American neighborhoods in Indianapolis and the Chicago suburbs. In 2014, Indiana had the worst voter turnout rate in the country.

But Lawson, a Republican secretary of state, decided not to address her state’s abysmal participation levels (as a legislator, she cosponsored the state’s strict voter ID law). Instead, she went after voter registration groups. In September, she sent a letter to state elections officials warning them about groups like IVRP.

“Unfortunately, it has recently come to my attention that nefarious actors are operating here in Indiana,” she wrote. “A group by the name of the Indiana Voter Registration Project has forged voter registrations… If you receive one of these applications, please contact the Indiana State Police Special Investigations.”

Buck said that at the time, they had no evidence that IVRP was intentionally submitting forged or fraudulent applications. While Republicans claim otherwise, voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

Almost three weeks later, as IVRP was planning for one final week of its registration efforts, police entered the group’s offices with a search warrant and seized equipment and paperwork.

Patriot Majority alleges the investigation and raid were political moves, and that Lawson worked closely with Gov. Mike Pence (R), who has pushed the “voter fraud” conspiracy on the campaign trail alongside Donald Trump.

“We’ve seen nothing but partisan activity from the secretary of state, and even from the police,” Buck said. “They saw that there was a very successful voter registration drive happening, and this was an attempt to shut it down.”

“It’s clear that the governor or the governor’s staff are very aware and involved in what’s happening,” he continued. “It fits into the Trump/Pence narrative that in certain neighborhoods, you have to watch how many times people show up to vote and how things happen.”

Political police
State elections officials have also enlisted the help of the Indiana State Police to push the “voter fraud” myth. Superintendent Doug Carter, who was chosen for the position by Pence, has been on television and was interviewed on right-wing radio Tuesday morning about the ongoing investigation.

On conservative talk radio, Carter said that “the notion that there is voter registration fraud is very real,” but denied that the investigation is “driven by politics.”

He accused the IVRP of forging signatures and making up people’s names. “To what purpose? We don’t know,” he told radio host Tony Katz. “That’s the purpose of the investigation. Were these acts of gross negligence? Were they acts of intent? That’s what we don’t know, and we don’t want to speculate.”

He added that police are going through thousands of registrations to make sure that nothing nefarious occurred.

“While I’ve been blamed by some of intentionally disenfranchising voters, nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

On TV, Carter also called it “unconscionable” that anyone would imply that Pence ordered the raid, while also indicating his close relationship with the governor.

“I wish people could know Mike Pence like I do,” he said. “He has never ever tried to influence me with a decision that I had to make within the state police as we protect the citizens of this state.”

Buck called it “completely bizarre” that the police have become spokespeople for Indiana’s electoral system.

Aggressive tactics

Before raiding IVRP’s offices, police were already using aggressive tactics during their investigation of the group. 

According to the New Republic, “police detectives arrived unannounced at the homes of get-out-the-vote activists to interrogate them about their voter registration work.”

Lydia Garrett, a 57-year-old voter registration worker, told the New Republic that police came to her home and repeatedly asked her if the group illegally sets quotas for canvassers.

“That’s what they kept on asking me: ‘How many did they tell you to get? How many did they tell you to get?’” she told a reporter. “And I said: ‘Sir, you can come back with two or three [registrations] and you’re still paid. I don’t understand what you’re saying.’”

Garrett claims that investigators kept questioning her, trying to get her to “say something negative.” She said police even asked her if she would be willing to submit to a polygraph test about her registration work.

Neither the police nor the secretary of state’s office would not comment on their tactics.

Local news also reported that police seized at least 250 voter registrations, but state officials only informed IVRP of about ten problematic applications, none of which show a fraudulent intent.

Under Indiana law, the project is required to submit all voter registration forms, regardless of how they are filled out or if there are imperfections, Buck said.

Voter registration drives across the country follow similar protocol, without being subject to investigations. A Huffington Post investigation reported that “it seems the extraordinary investigation is likely to find no more than potential technical violations of obscure regulations for third-party voter registration groups.”

Two days after the police raid, the IVRP asked the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to initiate an investigation.

“We’ve never had the state police involved in any voter registration project,” Buck said. “It’s pretty unprecedented for this to happen.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Nasty women have much work to do

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

No favors to companies that send jobs overseas

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
We thought we could help the world without hurting ourselves.  Markets grow when competition replaces poverty, but sometimes profit becomes more important than value.  To create or consume, that is the question.
It was 35 years ago.  We had a new president, Ronald Reagan.  It would be 12 years before the election of Bill Clinton, the man that Republicans incorrectly blame for lost jobs.  It would be 27 years before irrational over-exuberance and banking deregulation led to the Bush Administration’s financial disaster and 8 more years until Donald Trump blamed it all on the Carrier Corporation.
I was on the opposite side of the earth, moving manufacturing to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.  It seemed distant in those days because there were no cell phones or internet.  A telephone connection to America was like contacting Mars by ham radio.  Communications used a TWX machine.  You placed your message into a discarded bathtub to be sent.  It overflowed with hundreds of messages and new messages, on top and ever coming, would be sent ahead of yours.
It was like that at the grocery store.  Lines were a novelty.  You could not stand there waiting for your turn because it would never come.  Instead, you had to behave like everyone else, elbow yourself to the front, and along with half a dozen other people wave your money at the cashier.  When she grabbed your cash, you were next.  You bought fresh chicken alive.  You did not pay for refrigeration or worry about out-of-date meat.  There was only a single can of beer in shoppers’ grocery carts because it did not come in six packs.  There was a shocked look on the cashier’s face when I bought the beer for the company party.  She thought she had met Satan incarnate.
Colonel Sanders chicken was just like in the USA, but waiters, fancy tablecloths, silverware, beer, and a quart bottle of sweet hot sauce to be slavered over everything in copious quantities were features not found in America’s fast food version.
Natives took their left-over dinner to the roadside and sold it cheaply without license or regulation.  It eliminated the problem of hunger and built community, but page two of the newspaper was an ad for worm medicine.  In America we could eliminate food stamps this way.
Malaysian cooking was a delight, lacking the overemphasis on red meat so common to the American diet.  A chicken dinner at a restaurant was a drumstick and a large plate of coconut rice.  When you ordered satay, the fiery hot sauce was served separately in a tiny bowl.  In America we have chili cook-offs, but we are missing the amazing pallet of curries.
Our plant was air conditioned but birds lived within the air conditioning ducts.  Their nesting materials, gathered from the company cafeteria, hung from never cleaned vents.  Bird watching and song was our reward for sharing our table and a grain of rice from our plate with them.  Lunch choices included expensive American sodas and potato chips instead of much cheaper papaya, mango, pineapple, and fruit juices.  
Streets crossing modern high-speed freeways created huge traffic jams that tied up the police.  Because of that, drivers could run red lights, straddle the center line, and go off-road or on the wrong side of the road without apprehension.  You could get where you were going without expensive overpasses. 
Hollywood movies led the envious to believe that Americans were wealthy.  Natives could not afford air conditioning in their petite homes.  The limp newspaper did not rustle when its pages were turned.  It kept the electricity bill low.
A television set on display at the department store drew crowds who gazed through the window to take in what they had never seen before.  It was showing Grizzly Adams, an American TV show, but government censored the bear.  Malaysians were spared the sex, guns, and violence of banal American TV.
As I walked around town, I looked for a garbage can so I could throw candy wrappers away, but there was none.  Political correctness called for it to be thrown on the ground.  It was swept up and raked into large piles where monkeys played.  These were set on fire every weekend eliminating the need for waste disposal.
The Malaysian “Superman”, a creation of their own film industry, must have weighed 105 pounds but otherwise was just like America’s 1952 version.  When I rode the train to Butterworth and took the ferry to Penang Island my 140 pound body barely fit in the frugal quarters. 
In the jungle, daytime temperatures reach 110 F with near 100% humidity.  Temperatures rarely go below 85 F.  I waited in the steamy night at eight pm to catch a taxi to Kuala Lumpur.  The lights at the guard shack attracted clouds of hungry jungle bugs that were periodically fended off with cans of insect spray.  As I waited there, I noticed that the telephones were not politically correct.   Their ring was constant, annoying, lacking cadence, and persisted until the phone was answered.  There were thunder-storms every day.  Unregulated taxi drivers picked up soaked riders before servicing your call.  The wait to catch a cab was hours.
In the guard shack there was a painting of a snow-covered cabin in the Alps.  The workers knew what snow was, but did they really?  In a world where everyone drives on the “wrong” side of the road, did I really understand what culture was?
A power transistor that cost twenty dollars in 1965 now costs twenty cents.  It leads to slim profit margins and low cost electronics for American consumers.  Big companies need more profit than bank interest to convince them to take a risk.  Sunset products are preferred by some users, but grow incompatible with new manufacturing technology.  They provide the stepping stone for countries to modernize and develop a middle class that can afford to buy American products.  A USA head count reduction is part of the justification for relocation programs, but when companies make more profit they can afford to invest in new jobs in America.
Our overseas plants were competing with one another, so they needed to be productive.  They had to become self-sufficient.  That night the production crew was holding its weekly unpaid overtime Participative Management meetings.  It would extend their working day to 10 pm.  There were millions of dollars in complicated computer controlled systems that required workers to engage in dialog with the apparatus and make quick decisions.  Our broad customer base and small order size meant that there would be a change in process every fifteen minutes.  How does one know things are working correctly?  One machine can take the place of twenty workers, but it can also make costly mistakes twenty times as fast.
My first thought was that unpaid overtime would not go over very well in America; however this was compensated.  Our company fed its employees, provided transportation to and from Klang by bus, and set up the same number of holidays as in America, but that had a complication.  It was necessary to make a place inside the plant to allow religious celebration during normal working hours.  It contained idols, burning incense, and piles of broken coconuts that were used in religious observances.
Government conducted regular audits to guard against abuse.  They had to do this, because the newspaper published regular accounts of firefights with Communists who wanted to upset the apple cart.  I felt uneasy when we were stopped by what looked like 12 year olds armed with 30 caliber machine guns and hand grenades.
Our media televised how we made things in foreign sweat shops.  Our plant in Petaling Jaya ran the air conditioning at 80 degrees.  Americans found it hotter than the production crew who had grown accustomed to the year round heat.  Almost sixty years ago I had a summer job in an Arizona factory that lacked air conditioning.  I turned boxes that came lengthwise on a conveyor belt sideways so they would fit into a gluing machine.  We won’t make America great by bringing back jobs like that.
Some things were sent overseas that weren’t perfect, but when your operation on the opposite side of the earth supplies the entire world, you want equipment that works.  We had reconditioned everything.  Our apparatus was actually in worse condition when it was used in the states.
Malaysia is a melting pot of nationalities and religions, like what America is becoming.  It seemed that the Chinese ran the country, but the government discriminated against them.  The newspaper said, “Wanted, male Bumiputera between the ages of 21 and 30, must have a degree from Oxford”.  The dominant religion was Islam, but Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Taoism, Christianity, and strands of ancient indigenous religion existed.  The plant was once shut down when a worker saw a ghost through a microscope.  That problem was cured by an exorcism.
Culture shock occurs when the past meets the future.  In Malaysia it was where modern skyscrapers abut old architecture.  It was fifty gallon barrels of giant N-Nitride bi-directional, tri-state integrated circuits, but the nearest 100 watt soldering iron had to be ordered from Singapore and would take a month to arrive.  In America, it is immigrants who have a dream to share with us.  It is discovering that we depend on the rest of the world.  We are only one of many players in the game.  They will become competitors as well as collaborators.  It is not winning or losing as Donald Trump seems to see it.  There are benefits from the game well played and rules that stimulate competition.
Economic Honesty
It is failure to understand complexity that makes Republicans see dishonesty.  What are open borders?  Are they travel, trade, immigration, or all of these?  How do we deal with agriculture versus manufacturing, big business versus the working man, competing communities, and personal reality instead of statistical abstraction?
Trade includes intellectual property, the environment, and health.  It can bring war or peace.  The 640 employee, 164 country World Trade Organization (WTO) writes trade rules that must be consistently applied.  They require consensus and government approval.  However, our president can issue orders to protect an industry, our economy, or national security. 
Will isolationist backlash increase American prosperity?  When Donald rambles that he would quit the WTO and impose a 35 percent tariff on Carrier products built in Mexico, he would replace Adam Smith’s unseen hand with his own.  That isn’t free enterprise.  It is a knee-jerk response to opportunities stereotyped as threats.  It appeals to justifiably angry people who remember the good old days when they purchased a new American car every year.
Trade grows our economy.  When the pie becomes bigger, it is not so important to worry about the size of our piece, but if we are starving we might need to grab a slice immediately.  The Peterson Institute for International Economics has warned that Trump’s promises would cause the US economy to lose more than 4 million jobs and plunge the world into a recession.  The pro-labor Economic Policy Institute claims that Trump’s proposed tariffs won’t help American workers or the economy.  Trump’s money will come from tax cuts for the wealthy and big business.  Republicans refer to the Laffer curve to argue this point, but it is not in college economics books.  That curve is like a hill where maximum revenue occurs at the high point.  At first, revenue increases with taxes, but as you pass the peak of the hill, revenue declines with further taxation.  The problem with this model is that the hill has many holes.  There are income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, capital gains, dividends, carried interest, estate taxes, and corporate inversions.  Donald Trump and his economic team of wealthy financiers and billionaire friends don’t experience the same tax reality as we do.
A Solution  
Universities and big business have adapted to globalization, but blue collar workers lost their jobs because of outsourcing, automation, and union busting.  They have a stake in globalization.  Trade deals that prioritize creating over consuming, unions with apprenticeships, and vocational-technical education with a path to a PHD, will create American jobs.  We should not give favors to companies who send jobs overseas, ignoring the fate of communities and their workers.