RNC afraid to show Trump’s polling numbers — to Republicans


BIG BROTHER is watching

❝ President Trump’s poll numbers are so bad the Republican National Committee is hiding them from local candidates, leaving them in the dark in key must-win races.

In an extensive report on how the party has turned into the cult of Trump, ProPublica reports that critical “voter scores” — sophisticated analytics based on polling that are distributed to party committees and candidates — have disappeared since Trump’s election. The lack of data leaves Republican candidates in the dark about how their districts feel about Trump…

❝ Former RNC chairman Michael Steele, a longtime Trump critic, told ProPublica that the Republican Party is hurting its own candidates to protect Trump from embarrassment.

“There’s a lot of data they’re sitting on that they’re not sharing,” Steele said, adding that under Trump, “the RNC is not an independent actor; the RNC is now a part of the Trump campaign. The question now isn’t, ‘What do you need?’ The question is, ‘Do you support Donald Trump?’”

Michael Steele continues to get in trouble with Trumpublicans for telling the truth. A habit Republicans loyal to their fearless leader seem to have given up altogether.

Some music lover in Copenhagen hid enough hash in the Opera House to jack up the whole city

Police in Denmark discovered a massive haul of cannabis stashed away in the roof of a local opera house.

Copenhagen police first discovered the 165 pounds of cannabis in the ventilation system under the Copenhagen Opera House’s roof in February, but decided to go public with the search after the investigation yielded no results.

“The hashish was well hidden, and our investigation has not been able to uncover who put it there,” Copenhagen police investigator Steffen Steffensen said…

After seven months of investigation the drug haul has officially been classified “lost property” by police…

The Opera House is located near Christiania’s Pusher Street, an open-air cannabis market, but police are unsure if the drugs were intended to be sent there.

I keep forgetting. There are civilized countries in this world that don’t believe in abusing citizens who choose to alter reality with vegetables more directly than with alcohol derivatives.

The oil Patch Boys have known about climate change since the 1980s

Just months after the New York attorney general launched an investigation into oil giant ExxonMobil over allegations that it misled investors about climate change, a newly surfaced report suggests the oil industry’s largest trade group may have had early, detailed knowledge of climate change as well.

In 1982, the American Petroleum Institute commissioned a report from scientists at Columbia University that predicted destructive global warming and linked it to fossil fuel use, according to the nonprofit InsideClimate News, which received a copy of the original report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

One year after the trade association received the report, API disbanded the task force it had set up to monitor climate change research, according to InsideClimate News. API then launched a multimillion-dollar campaign in the 1990s to persuade the public that the science around climate change was “uncertain…”

The Columbia researchers who prepared the report for API predicted global temperatures would rise by up to 4 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years. A 4-degree increase would likely have devastating effects on the planet, including widespread species loss, increased food insecurity, stronger storms and more severe coastal flooding, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Columbia report also said the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “is expected to double some time in the [21st] century. Just when depends on the particular estimate of the level of increasing energy use per year and the mix of carbon based fuels…”

Instead of cleaning up its act, Exxon waged a $16 million campaign in the 1990s to block proposed regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and to persuade the public that climate science was unreliable…It became clear in December that several major oil companies affiliated with API had early knowledge of climate change. The newly surfaced report obtained by InsideClimate News shows that the information about global warming available to members of the trade group was detailed and clearly outlined the risks of emitting large volumes of CO2…

The campaign of political disinformation continues. Even if most of the educated world understands the sum of scientific investigation into climate change there are enough willing dodos committed to being foot soldiers for any conservative cause. Self-interest is limited to a pat on the head from the boss – just as it always has. Care and concern for the planet and life on it – doesn’t raise the least interest among the nutball lobby, some paid, some volunteers. The creeps who pick up the tab are the same corporate executives who have been at it for decades.

We’re just getting a clearer picture is all.

Where do the really, really wealthy park their money?


Come to the Caribbean — visit Mitt Romney’s money

In some circles, “redistribution” of wealth has become a dirty word, and recent efforts to make the tax system more progressive have run into serious political resistance, above all from Republicans. But whatever your political party, you are unlikely to approve of the illegal use of tax havens. As it turns out, a lot of wealthy people in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have been hiding money in foreign countries — above all, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands. As a result, they have been able to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Until recently, however, officials have not known the magnitude of that problem.

But people are paying increasing attention to it. A vivid new documentary, The Price We Pay, connects tax havens, inequality, and insufficient regulation of financial transactions. The film makes a provocative argument that a new economic elite—wealthy managers and holders of capital—is now able to operate on a global scale, outside the constraints of any legal framework. In a particularly chilling moment, it shows one of the beneficiaries of the system cheerfully announcing on camera: “I don’t feel any remorse about not paying taxes. I think it’s a marvelous way in life.”

Gabriel Zucman, who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, has two goals in his new book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations: to specify the costs of tax havens, and to figure out how to reduce those costs. While much of his analysis is technical, he writes with moral passion, even outrage; he sees tax havens as a “scourge.”

His figures are arresting. About 8 percent of the world’s wealth, or $7.6 trillion, is held in tax havens. In 2015, Switzerland alone held $2.3 trillion in foreign wealth. As a result of fraud from unreported foreign accounts, governments around the world lose about $200 billion in tax revenue each year. Most of this amount comes from the evasion of taxes on investment income, but a significant chunk comes from fraud on inheritances. In the United States, the annual tax loss is $35 billion; in Europe, it is $78 billion. In African nations, it is $14 billion.

Zucman is the first economist to produce specific numbers of this kind, and to do so, he had to undertake some creative detective work. In order to identify hidden wealth, he focuses on “anomalies”—situations in which international balance sheets show, in aggregate, more liabilities than assets…Zucman puts it this way: “as far back as statistics go, there is a ‘hole’; if we look at the world balance sheet, more financial assets are recorded as liabilities than as assets, as if planet Earth were in part held by Mars.”

For the purpose of producing an accounting of hidden wealth, that is actually helpful, because “money doesn’t evaporate randomly into the ether, but instead follows a precise pattern of tax evasion…”

A strong virtue of Zucman’s book is that it puts a bright spotlight on an area in which significant reforms might appeal to people who otherwise disagree on a great deal. You might believe that the tax system should be made more progressive, or you might believe that it should be made less so. But whatever you think, you are unlikely to support a situation in which trillions of dollars are hardly taxed at all.

RTFA for quite a detailed discussion internal to Sunstein and Zucman. As complex as the topic – but, you learn even more about the politics of wealth and deceit.

France presents citizenship to Malian hero of Kosher market standoff

FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO
Click to enlarge

What should have been an average workday for 24-year-old Malian, Lassana Bathily, an employee of a Parisian kosher supermarket, turned into a hostage nightmare that shook the world just days after one of the deadliest attacks in France in decades.

On Friday, Jan. 9, Bathily, a practicing Muslim, went far beyond his daily responsibilities as a shopkeeper. He courageously aided law enforcement and store patrons through one of two simultaneous standoffs…

His actions inspired a Change.org petition, which compiled more than 300,000 signatures, calling for him to be granted French citizenship and the Legion of Honor. French officials agreed.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declared Bathily a hero and announced that the country would expedite his citizenship and naturalize him next Tuesday for his bravery.

Bathily came to customers’ aid that fateful Friday, when attacker Amed Coulibaly stormed into the busy Hyper Cache as shoppers prepared for the Sabbath. The gunman threatened to kill the hostages if the police didn’t release brothers Säid Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, the men responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack who were, at the time, engaged in a separate hostage standoff in the French countryside.

Bathily valiantly guided costumers into a cold-storage space for protection, turned off the refrigeration, and fled the shop to notify the French police of the heist.

Initially the police considered him a suspect and handcuffed him for an hour and a half…Bathily was eventually able to convince police that he was not an accomplice, but an employee who could aid in the unnerving standoff.

With his knowledge of the store, he provided authorities with critical information about the layout and location of the hostages. Despite their collaborative efforts, four customers were killed that day. Nevertheless, Bathily emerged as the heroic civilian during 54 hours of violence that wracked the nation.

With France now experiencing heightened Islamophobia and anti-Semitism after the attacks, Bathily said he was not fazed by some of the divisiveness.

“We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims,” Bathily declared. “We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis.”

Just one more ordinary working man rising to the demands of crisis around him.

An object lesson for the idjits who descend to bigotry in the face of perceived danger.

Leaked data reveals much about hidden global wealth

They are a large and diverse group that includes a Spanish heiress; the daughter of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos; and Denise Rich, the former wife of the disgraced trader Marc Rich, who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. But, according to a trove of secret financial information released Thursday, all have money and share a desire to hide it.

And, it seems safe to say, they — and thousands of others in Europe and far beyond, in places like Mongolia — are suddenly very anxious after the leak of 2.5 million files detailing the offshore bank accounts and shell companies of wealthy individuals and tax-averse companies.

The leaked files include the names of 4,000 Americans, celebrities as well as more mundane doctors and dentists.

It is not the first time leaks have dented a thick carapace of confidentiality that usually protects the identities of those who stash money in the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and other havens. Nor, in most cases, is keeping money in such places illegal…

…Lifting the curtain on the identities of those who keep their money offshore is likely to cause particular anger in austerity-blighted Europe, where governments have been telling people to tighten their belts but have mostly turned a blind eye to wealthier citizens who skirt taxes with help from so-called offshore financial centers…

The consortium of investigative journalists did not specify how it got the information or where it came from. On its Web site, the group said “the leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.”

I’m confident there ain’t anyone from my neighborhood on the list. Might be some folks from the posh end of town, though. 🙂

Karl Rove’s SuperPAC blatantly ignores federal election law

A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and the FBI against U.S. superpac Crossroads GPS for not disclosing its contributors.

In the complaint to the FEC and the letter to the FBI, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Crossroads GPS violated federal election law by failing to disclose the identities of contributors, as mentioned by Crossroads head Karl Rove, who donated $6 million specifically to fund independent expenditures in the Ohio Senate race.

CREW said Crossroads GPS also broke the law by soliciting donations to be spent on the Virginia, Montana and Nevada Senate races, but failed to disclose the donors.

“Karl Rove and Crossroads GPS didn’t just skirt around the edges of the law. This time it appears they jumped headlong into a criminal conspiracy,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said Thursday in a release.

Federal law requires groups such as Crossroads GPS to disclose sources of its money to the FEC if the donors earmarked their funds for specific advertisements.

CREW said during an August fundraiser, Rove said an anonymous donor gave Crossroads GPS $3 million specifically for the Ohio Senate race, telling Rove it was a “matching challenge” dependent on the group raising another $3 million for the race. Crossroads GPS spent $6.36 million on independent expenditures in the Ohio race, but did not disclose any donors in any of the reports filed with the FEC.

During the same event, CREW alleged, Crossroads GPS showed participants an ad it made for five other Senate races, after which former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Crossroads GPS President Steven Law asked donors for more money, which CREW said presumably was to fund the ads or others similar to them. Crossroads GPS spent $17.4 million in these races after the fundraiser, but did not disclose any donors in the reports it filed, CREW said.

Face it. The Republican Party has the ideological wing of the Supreme Court in their pants pocket. The sleazy Citizens United decision proved it. It opened the floodgates for just about any expense, fundraising, rathole money to be protected from public oversight during and after an election.

The solution will require Congressional legislation – and replacing a few of the outdated conservative flunkies on the Supreme Court.

Boy takes his parents’ savings, $4,000 – spends it on candy

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy spent nearly $4,000 on candy in several days, the money coming from his parents’ savings hidden in a couch.

“The disappearance [of the money] was first spotted by his father. He opened the stash and saw it was empty,” said Tatyana Kushnerova of the Konotop, Ukraine police department.

After an argument, the son admitted taking the money during his autumn school holiday, $3,300 in U.S. cash and about 600 euros, converting it to Ukrainian hryvnas with the help of an adult acquaintance and spending it on candy, which he shared with friends…

He should be sick for a year. Which is OK – it’s likely to be that long before his family lets him back in the house.

New technology may have found Virginia Dare colony

For centuries, the Tidewater coast of North Carolina has held one of early America’s oldest secrets: the fate of more than 100 English colonists who vanished from their island outpost in the late 1500s.

Theories abound about what happened to the so-called Lost Colony, ranging from sober scholarship to science fiction…The shroud of mystery may finally be lifting. The British Museum’s re-examination of a 16th-century coastal map using 21st-century imaging techniques has revealed hidden markings that show an inland fort where the colonists could have resettled after abandoning the coast…

James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, cautioned that the Lost Colony had not been found. But the findings do provide the clearest marker yet for future archaeological excavations, which, if successful, could pinpoint where the settlers went…

The discovery came from a watercolor map in the British Museum’s permanent collection that was drawn by the colony’s governor, John White. Hoping to establish a New World foothold for the English, White took the settlers to their original location, Roanoke Island, just inside the chain of barrier islands known today as the Outer Banks…

White returned to England for supplies, but an attack by the Spanish Armada delayed his return for three years. When he did return, the settlers had vanished…

Even White’s map, which was included in a 2007 British Museum exhibition, appeared to hold no clues. But two small patches layered atop the map intrigued Brent Lane, a member of the board of the First Colony Foundation who was helping research the site of an American Indian village…

The British Museum agreed to investigate, and it used infrared light, X-ray spectroscopy and other imaging techniques to look beneath the patches. The larger patch, which was the focus of Mr. Lane’s curiosity, indeed appeared to show a correction to coastal topography.

What lay under the second one stunned Mr. Lane. The patch hid a four-pointed star outlined in blue and filled in red, according to the British Museum’s report. The patch also covered a smaller, enigmatic marking, possibly a second settlement.

To historians, the star where two rivers emptied into Albemarle Sound probably represented a fort or the intended location of one, and its discovery greatly increases the likelihood that the colonists retreated to the spot…

All of which only deepens the mystery, said Karen Kupperman, a colonial history scholar at New York University. She called the finding “very, very interesting.”

“To my mind, the most interesting question at this point is why were the patches put on, and who put them on, and when,” she said.

Time to start the dig. 🙂

Dutch Catholic Church failed victims of years of sexual abuse


Wim Deetman
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation.

The report by an independent commission said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse “to prevent scandals”. The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions probably lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report…

The commission said it received 1,800 complaints of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages and that the institutions suffered from “a failure of oversight”. It then conducted the broader survey of the general population for a more comprehensive analysis of the scale and nature of sexual abuse of minors.

The commission was set up last year under the leadership of former government minister Wim Deetman to investigate allegations of abuse dating from 1945…

The investigation followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that quickly spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country, echoing similar scandals around the world.

The commission identified about 800 priests, brothers, pastors or lay people working for the church who had been named in the complaints. About 105 of them were still alive, although it was not known if they remained in church positions, the report said. It identified them as “perpetrators” rather than “offenders”, meaning they had not been proven to have committed a crime.

The Dutch Catholic Church says it will agree to a system of compensation for victims of priests and church staff. No details, yet.

Anyone expect whatever is volunteered will be closer to real compensation than the amounts contained in first offers from other national branches of the Catholic Church?