Trump Tax Plan Contains $2 Trillion Error

Money Bag. Photo By Barbara Lock [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Barbara Lock

by Christopher Bates

On July 22, 1962, the Mariner I was launched after years of planning and preparation. Its mission, in the midst of the space race, was to conduct a flyby of Venus. Mariner never made it, since it exploded five minutes after takeoff. The reason? A missing dash in the mathematical coding done by NASA. It’s famously known as the “$80 million punctuation error.”

That $80 million is equivalent to a bit more than $650 million today. Still, if any of those scientists are still with us, they can sleep a little better, because their mistake is a drop in the bucket compared to the accounting error in Donald Trump’s budget. [Read more…]

“We Will Be Okay”: An Open Letter to Fellow Rabbis and Faith Leaders

Will we be okay? What do I tell my kids?

These are two questions that have been asked since the nation elected Donald Trump as president of the United States. The answer to the first question is yes. And we will tell our children the following: On November 8, our country elected Mr. Trump to be our next president. For many of us, he was not the person we wanted, but our nation has spoken in a way that makes this country extraordinary. We voted and we decided. Our process worked. Despite our deep disagreements, we all have a president-elect.

usflagNow it is time to find a way to move forward. We will pray our new president embraces the ideal that he is the president of all people of the United States and that the United States has unique responsibilities because it holds a unique role in the world. Whether we agree with Mr. Trump’s personal or political views, we hope for his success as the leader of our nation. At the same time, we need to embrace our important place to fight for what we believe to be right, especially given the circumstances that brought us to this place.

We have long relied on government intervention to address issues and solve problems. However, for many in America, that did not work. They felt abandoned, if not betrayed, with promises of protection broken, and a system unresponsive to their needs.

And for many others of us, we have been lulled into complacency and a false sense of security. This election is a harsh wake-up call and rouses us to action, not against the government, but aware of governments’ limitations to help the governed. It is up to us to create the change we seek, now more than ever. Voting is only the first step in a process of engagement. Showing up at local meetings, petitioning Congress and holding the new president — and every part of government — accountable must ensue. Community organizing is vital. Our aspirations and goals are in our hands. We cannot relegate them to another’s care, certainly not now. Our community groups, both religious and civic, can use this moment in our history to reinvigorate and rededicate themselves, advancing important values of dignity, equality and justice.

Yes, we will be all right. The United States of America is strong, and we, her people, are resilient. But the future is in our hands. It is our work as rabbis and other faith leaders to help guide and support the people as teachers, chaplains and champions of social justice and the values we hold dear. There is much to do, and our work has never been more important.

Trump’s Secret Server Connected to Russia

 the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia,

Trump Tower Server connected to Russia.

In response to a new report from Slate showing that the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia, Hillary for America Senior Policy Adviser Jake Sullivan released the following statement Monday:

This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.

This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.

This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin and endorsement of so many pro-Kremlin positions throughout this campaign. It raises even more troubling questions in light of Russia’s masterminding of hacking efforts that are clearly intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.

[Read more…]

GOP unveils stage for convention

(Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch)

The GOP released a model of the stage for their 2016 convention.

A couple of thoughts:

  1. Because it’s a model, I don’t think releasing it achieved the effect they desired. It kind of looks like a middle-school panorama project.
  2. It looks like a standard convention stage. Anyone expecting anything dramatically different for a Trump convention won’t find it here.

[Read more…]

Trump’s Rhetoric on Immigration Hurts US, Helps ISIL

A K-1 (Fiancee) Visa

A K-1 (Fiancee) Visa

It is a rare day when Dick Cheney and Lindsay Graham are in agreement with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump’s calls to ban Muslim entry into the U.S. are so absurd and outrageous that he has people on both sides of the aisle railing against him.

In Trump’s simplistic, uninformed world view, the constitutional questions of a religious test to enter the U.S. are of no concern. Neither are details of how one would determine who is a Muslim. Would Trump call for Caucasian or Christian males like himself be barred from theaters, schools, or political gatherings since the majority of mass shooters share his ethnicity or religion?

Ignorant of the thousands of applicants whose visas are denied, revoked, cancelled, or stuck in interminable security checks every day, Trump’s proposed solution accepts the radical’s narrative of religion, exposes his ignorance on the laws and processes of this country, and poses an even greater threat to national security than the national security problems they purport to solve. This latest proposal is much the same as his “solution” for immigration reform in general: build a wall.

The reality is comprehensive inter-agency counter-terrorism screening has been a part of the process for admission of foreign nationals since before 9/11. Since then, the visa issuance process has become vastly more complex. Applicants are screened regardless of the type of visa they apply for, be it as a student, tourist, worker, artist, or under the Visa Waiver Program, or as a permanent resident.

If a case is flagged for review based on law enforcement or intelligence, State Department regulations require a Security Advisory Opinion, or SAO, to be obtained before the foreign national can receive a visa to enter the U.S. The foreign national is run through as many as seven different interconnected government databases. Other federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and the NSA are constantly consulted to update visa issuance procedures. The data in these databases is also dynamic, and can be updated quickly in response to new intelligence.

Counter-terrorism screening works, and it happens every day for every type of visa. The refugee screening process is even more exhaustive. It can take between 18 and 24 months and it takes longer to screen refugees because they usually do not have documents with them.

A “security check” is not some pro-forma review done for appearance’s sake, but is instead a thorough screening to determine whether this person will be allowed into the U.S. They are performed by government agents who take their job very seriously. Trump’s rhetoric is a slap in the face of these dedicated public servants.

Many politicians are questioning “fiancee” (K-1) visa procedures. This is also a misguided inquiry. The issue is counter-terrorism screening, not the particular visa process. And counter-terrorism screening already happens for all visas. While no system is perfect, shutting the whole thing down actually enhances the threat to America. Do Trump & Co. really think the complex security check process run and maintained by experienced officials would have been established if it would have been easier to just stop immigration?

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Trump’s proposal only feeds into the problem that he is trying to address. National security specialist Benjamin Wittes noted that rejecting refugees, particularly on the basis of their religion or national origin, actually presents ISIL and other extremist groups fodder for their narrative of an apocalyptic clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. ISIL profits from Trump rhetoric. Moreover, such a call would break up families, hinder business and effectively build a wall from the rest of the world.

Terrorism has multiple causes. Pretending it can be stopped by banning Muslim entry is a fantasy soundbite made to get ratings. But real lives are at stake here. This is not the time for a knee-jerk reaction.

A robust background check system — which we already have — must be considered as one part of a broader national security strategy. Rejecting xenophobia in favor of actually countering ISIL is not just the right thing to do — it is also the safer one.

Donald Trump Addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition

— by Richard Chaitt and Scott Schley

Real estate mogul Donald Trump was among the thirteen Republican candidates speaking at the RJC Presidential Presidential Forum.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

He was introduced as “a mensch with chutzpah.” Trump mentioned that his daughter and grandchildren are Jewish joking that the RJC only likes him because his daughter was Jewish and that made him mishpacha. He said having a Jewish daughter was great, except he can’t get her on the phone on Saturday.

While he asked for the Republican Jewish Council’s support, he did not ask for money as he is self-funding his campaign. The audience found Trump and the many jokes he told very humorous, but he did not say much of substance.

Trump said “Obama was the worst thing ever for Israel. Our negotiations with Iran was horrible and we did not bargain from strength.” He criticized Obama for being unwilling to use the term ‘radical Islam’. He argued that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should not be allowed to run, claiming that what she did with her emails was criminal.

Donald Trump has been a strong supporter of Israel. He told the story of how he was asked by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to do an election commercial for him. He said the commercial must have worked, since Bibi won. Trump called himself a great deal maker and thinks he can make a deal for peace. He would not commit to having a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This caused “boos” from the audience. However, Trump countered that “To do a deal, you do not reveal your cards up front.”

In conclusion, Trump was very charismatic, sharp and funny, but there was no there there. He only spoke in generalities without being specific.

Speeches by the other Republican presidential candidates is available in our full coverage of the RJC presidential forum.

GOP Presidential Candidates Blast Iran Deal in Primetime Debate

Ten Republican presidential candidates participated in Fox News’s primetime debate:

  • businessman Donald Trump,
  • former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker,
  • former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee,
  • neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson,
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio,
  • Kentucky Senator Rand Paul,
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Walker said that if the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, negotiated by the Obama administration and pending congress review, is signed and he is elected president, he will cancel it immediately:

I still remember, as a kid, tying a yellow ribbon around a tree in front of my house during the 444 days that Iran held 52 Americans hostage. Iran is not a place we should be doing business with.

To me, you terminate the deal on day one, you reinstate the sanctions authorized by Congress, you go to Congress and put in place even more crippling sanctions in place, and then you convince our allies to do the same.

This is not just bad with Iran, this is bad with ISIS. It is tied together, and, once and for all, we need a leader who’s gonna stand up and do something about it.

Paul criticized the agreement as well, mentioning former President Ronald Reagan as an example for a better approach:

I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets. But you have to negotiate from a position of strength, and I think President Obama gave away too much, too early.

If there’s going to be a negotiation, you’re going to have to believe somehow that the Iranians are going to comply. I asked this question to John Kerry, I said “do you believe they’re trustworthy?” and he said “No.”

And I said, “well, how are we gonna get them to comply?” I would have never released the sanctions before there was consistent evidence of compliance.

Huckabee mentioned Reagan as well:

Ronald Reagan said “trust, but verify.” President Obama is “trust, but vilify.” He trusts our enemies and vilifies everyone who disagrees with him. And the reason we disagree with him has nothing to do with party. It has to do with the incredibly dangerous place that this world is gonna be as a result of a deal in which we got nothing.

We didn’t even get four hostages out. We got nothing, and Iran gets everything they want. We said we would have anywhere, anytime negotiations and inspections, we gave that up. We said that we would make sure that they didn’t have any nuclear capacity, we gave that up.

The president can’t tell you what we got. I’ll tell you what the world got. The world has a burgeoning nuclear power that didn’t, as the Soviets, say “we might defend ourselves in a war.” What the Iranians have said is, “we will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and we will bring death to America.”

When someone points a gun at your head and loads it, by God, you ought to take them seriously, and we need to take that seriously.

Romney’s “Moral Failure” to Challenge Trump on Birther Conspiracies

— by David A. Harris

Leave it to Mitt Romney to bring me together in agreement with George Will, who yesterday called Donald Trump a “bloviating ignoramus.”

It is disturbing in the extreme that too many Americans already harbor any thought that our president is not an American — particularly after the release of the long-form birth certificate, which one might think would have shut down the birther cottage industry. That this lunacy would actually be advanced by Mitt Romney’s surrogate and fundraising headliner du jour — the nutty Trump, who offensively doubled-down on his crazy birther questions even this morning — is just astonishing given that we’re talking about the GOP standard-bearer.

The most important thing here is what this says about Mitt Romney: when confronted by press with the inevitable questions, does he separate from Trump? Does he even appropriately challenge these outlandish claims, as John McCain did in 2008? No — he takes some variation of the “I don’t agree with every supporter” line. It’s an utter moral failure, plain and simple. What will hurt Romney most in the eyes of some independent voters is his refusal to stand up and say the right thing — to do anything, really — out of an apparent fear of offending the most extreme radical fringe of his party.

Originally published in Politico. David A. Harris is the President and CEO of the NJDC

Fact Check: Birther Debate

Trump, who is considering a run for president, said in a telephone interview on the program that he would not back off the issue, and that over the last few weeks he has only become more skeptical that Obama was born in the U.S.

Donald Trump’s claims have been debunked by repeatedly. See for example PolitiFact, CNN, and Snopes.

Obama’s birth certificate follows the jump along with more comments from PolitiFact.

Trump also defended his position, saying, “His grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.’ Now, she’s on tape and I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon …The grandmother in Kenya is on record saying he was born in Kenya.”

Trump made an identical claim in a Today Show interview the same morning: “His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, okay?”

This is actually an old claim that has been bouncing around the Internet for years. But keeping up with the latest birther claims is often like playing Whac-A-Mole, and we never got around to this one. So here we go.

The claim is based on an Oct. 16, 2008, telephone call between Bishop Ron McRae of the Anabaptist Churches of North America and Sarah Obama of Kenya, Barack Obama’s elderly step-grandmother. The interview is complicated by the addition of at least one translator, because Sarah Obama, then 86, spoke Swahili.

The edited portion that often makes the rounds on the Internet includes this part of the interview:

McRae: “Could I ask her about his actual birthplace? I would like to see his birthplace when I come to visit Kenya in December. Was she present when he was born in Kenya?”

“She says yes she was. She was present when Obama was born,” said the translator.

Smoking gun? Only if you stop the tape there and don’t listen to the rest of the interview.

McRae immediately followed up by saying, “Okay, when I come in December, I would like to go by the place, the hospital where he was born. Could you tell me where he was born? Was he born in Mombasa?”

The translator can be heard translating, and then, he said, “No. Obama was not born in Mombasa. He was born in America.”

Said McRae: “Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.”

The response came back, “He was born in America, not in Mombasa.”

“Do you know where he was born?” McRae continued. “I thought he was born in Kenya. I was gonna go by and see where he was born.”

“Hawaii. She says he was born in Hawaii,” the translator said. “In the state of Hawaii, where his father, his father was also learning there. The state of Hawaii.”

“I thought she said she was present,” McRae said. “Was she able to see him being born in Hawaii?”

“No, no,” the translator said. “…She was not … she was here in Kenya. Obama was born in America … Because the grandmother was back in Kenya and Obama was born in America, where he is from, where his father was learning, learning in America, the United States.”

Listen to the full conversation yourself. The parts in question begin about the 4:20 mark.