Sunday, December 17, 2017

America’s economic inequality is on track to become much worse because of GOPlin’s tax cuts

AZ Blue Meanie directs our attention to the recent 2018 World Inequality Report: inequality in U.S. is a result of deliberate policy decisions. The World Inequality Report 2018 was summarized in an article in the Washington Post, U.S. lawmakers are redistributing income from the poor to the rich, according to massive new study. Here is some of the Post’s reporting.

Back in 1980, the bottom 50 percent of wage-earners in the United States earned about 21 percent of all income in the country — nearly twice as much as the share of income (11 percent) earned by the top 1 percent of Americans.

But today, according to a massive new study on global inequality, those numbers have nearly reversed: The bottom 50 percent take in only 13 percent of the income pie, while the top 1 percent grab over 20 percent of the country’s income.

What’s more: the US is unique among western democracies.

That trend is even more remarkable when you set it against comparable numbers for wealthy nations in Western Europe. There, the bottom 50 percent earn nearly 22 percent of the income in those economies, while the top 1 percent take in just over 12 percent of the money.

And that has not changed much in the studied period, 1980–2016. Here’s the graph comparing the US and Western European nations.

The Blue Meanie sums up with a disheartening appraisal.

And then there were none … Senator Bob Corker, who was the only Tea-Publican to vote against the Senate GOP tax bill, announced on Friday that he will vote for the final GOP tax bill. Et tu, Corker? …

You want to know how corrupt is the GOP? Corker’s flip informs us. John Cassidy (New Yorker) assesses the damage to be inflicted by the GOPlin’s bill: The Final Version of the G.O.P. Tax Bill Is a Corrupt, Cruel, Budget-Busting Hairball, and closes with this juicy example of GOP hypocrisy.

Another provision, which wasn’t in the House or Senate bills, allows real-estate developers who own buildings through L.L.C.s, as Trump does, to deduct twenty per cent of the income that these properties generate. To qualify for the break, the properties have to be newish ones that haven’t been fully depreciated. “This helps people who have held property for a while, like Donald Trump,” David Kamin, a law professor at New York University, told David Sirota and Josh Keefe, of the International Business Times.

Another beneficiary of this provision may well be Senator Bob Corker, of Tennessee, who is also a real-estate investor. Corker had been the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill, but on Friday he announced that he’d changed his mind, and that “after great thought and consideration, I believe this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss.” Corker didn’t mention his personal interests, but Sirota and Keefe did. “Federal records reviewed by IBT show that Corker has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate-related LLCs that could also benefit” from the final bill, they reported.

Read Cassidy’s report for more examples of what got added to the tax bill at the last moment - in secret.

Scriber agrees with the Meanie in predicting passage of the tax bill - with only Republican votes.

The GOP tax bill in all likelihood is going to pass on a party-line vote: all Tea-Publicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

The GOP exists for one purpose, and one purpose only: to serve the interests of corporations and wealthy plutocrats who are systematically turning our country into an authoritarian oligarchy. They do not represent the interests of working Americans, the retired, the disabled, or the poor — the 99%.

Now that the GOP’s wealthy plutocrat donors have their tax bill, next year they are coming for the spare change they have left in your pockets, i.e., America’s safety net: social security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The GOP tax bill already includes massive cuts to Medicaid, and if Congress does not vote to waive the PAYGO rules, the GOP tax bill will also trigger massive cuts to Medicare, and other social welfare programs. The GOP tax bill will also undermine the “Obamacare” health insurance system. It is all about taking wealth from average Americans and redistributing it upwards to the wealthy plutocrats at the top who seek to lord over us all in an authoritarian oligarchy.

Touching the third-rail of American politics, social security, will prove to be a heavier lift for the GOP. But as we are seeing with the GOP tax bill, they have the votes to do as they please, regardless of public opinion, because they do not serve your interests.

The bottom line is that we should prepare for the worst. Hoping for the best is futile when it comes to GOP and their wealthy corporate masters. The next chapter in this sorry saga will be an assault on the social safety net - which has already begun in the repeal of ACA individual mandate. Trump will eventually go, but the GOPlins’ deal with the devil will be with us for a long time.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

John NIchols: Trump’s “most brutal blow to democracy”

John Nichols, friend of the Democratic Club of the Santa Rita Area, explains in The Nation how Gutting Net Neutrality Is the Trump Administration’s Most Brutal Blow to Democracy Yet. He says ”This cannot be the end of a free and open Internet. Activists must fight on in the courts, in Congress, and in the streets.”

Despite overwhelming public support for a free and open Internet, the [FCC’s] Trump-aligned majority engineered a 3–2 vote to overturn net-neutrality rules that have required Internet service providers to treat all online communications equally—and, in a related move, the commission majority rejected the authority of the FCC to protect a free and open Internet. Commission chair Ajit Pai, the telecommunications-industry lawyer who has done Donald Trump’s bidding in debates on a host of media and democracy issues, has cleared the way for service providers to establish information superhighways for political and corporate elites, while consigning communications from grassroots activists to digital dirt roads.

Much of the debate about overturning net neutrality has been focused on the damage the move will do to consumers, and there can be no question that clearing the way for unprecedented profiteering by telecommunications corporations barters off our digital future to the same grifters who have turned broadcast- and cable-media platforms into vast wastelands of commercial excess. “ISPs want to turn the internet into cable,” says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA). “[They] want people to pay for every application.”

But the biggest cost of eliminating net neutrality will be to the American experiment in citizen-driven dialogue, discourse, and decision making. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says:

The internet makes it easier for people to get organized and amplify their voices. Ending Net Neutrality will make it harder for the people to fight powerful interests.

Describing net neutrality as a racial-justice, social-justice, and economic-justice issue, Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, explained that “A free and open Internet allows us to organize and resist. We need that now more than ever.”

And that is why the alliance4action and similar groups need to ramp up their resistance to what the FCC has done - as Nichols notes:

Ellison is right. Those who would resist the Trump administration’s most authoritarian and anti-democratic instincts—on issues ranging from voter suppression to freedom of the press to civil rights and civil liberties—have used a free and open Internet to organize throughout 2017. They will need to continue to do so in 2018 and beyond.

Nichols cites a dissenting opinion of one of the FCC commissioners.

This is not good. Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online. Not good for the democratizing force that depends on openness to thrive. Moreover, it is not good for American leadership on the global stage of our new and complex digital world,

[Jessica] Rosenworcel said of the FCC vote.

I’m not alone with these concerns. Everyone from the creator of the world wide web to religious leaders to governors and mayors of big cities and small towns to musicians to actors and actresses to entrepreneurs and academics and activists has registered their upset and anger. They are reeling at how this agency could make this kind of mistake. They are wondering how it could be so tone deaf. And they are justifiably concerned that just a few un-elected officials could make such vast and far-reaching decisions about the future of the Internet.

So is the FCC’s 3–2 vote the end of it?

No. Net neutrality’s defenders will fight on in Congress, in the courts and at the ballot box to overturn this wrongheaded decision. Groups associated with the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition—led by the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and 18 Million Rising—intend to fight on for net neutrality with legislative and legal strategies.

They have reason to be confident.

Martha McSally’s dithering is a death watch

Michael Bryan explains McSally’s Holding Pattern at Blog for Arizona.

The bottom line: Bryan makes some predictions about what explains CD2 Rep. McSally’s apparent dithering (and what roles Sen. McCain and Gov. Doozy are playing).

(1) McCain will announce his immediate resignation from the Senate before or at the end of this session of the Senate on December 29, 2017.
(2) McCain will make it known that McSally has his support to be appointed to his seat.
(3)Ducey will appoint McSally to McCain’s seat.
(4) McSally will run for the remainder of McCain’s term in the 2018 election substantially or completely unopposed in the Republican primary.

Here’s the longer story that supports Bryan’s predictions.

Arizona has become one of the few states that are key to control of the U.S. Senate in 2018. With Flake declining to run for re-election and McCain facing the end of his life, both of Arizona’s Senate seats are in flux at a time when electoral tides are strongly disadvantaging Republicans. When McCain inevitably lays down his duties and resigns, one would expect there will be a wide field of both Democratic and Republican candidates vying for Arizona’s two open Senate seats.

One of the most salient players in this drama has remained purposefully and stubbornly obscure as to her next moves, however: Representative Martha McSally. While it is widely known that her ambition, and her current intention, is to move up to the Senate, she has remained stubbornly non-committal regarding launching a campaign for Flake’s seat in 2018.

She is certain to run for Senate; she has already recruited (and McSally’s political shop is running the nascent campaign of) Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Lea Márquez-Peterson to try to succeed her [in CD2]. Since it seems certain that she plans on departing her current office for the Senate, but is passing up weeks of fund-raising and earned media in a primary against her main rival for the nomination for Flake’s seat, Kelli Ward, what could explain her current passivity?

McSally simply doesn’t plan to enter the primary for Flake’s seat. She expects to take over McCain’s seat, likely well before the primary election next year — probably before the end of this year.

Appointment to replace McCain provides several advantages to McSally. She would likely quash any primary challenge merely by occupying the seat, especially if she is perceived as McCain’s own choice to replace him. Even if she does not quash all opposition, incumbency conveys powerful advantages against both primary and general election challengers. Appointment to McCain’s seat also avoids an unpleasant primary contest with Ward, which would serve to further irritate the far-right Trumpian faction of Arizona’s Republicans, whom McSally has already irritated more than once.

Governor Ducey, likely with the knowledge and blessing of McCain, must be planning to appoint McSally to fill McCain’s seat when he resigns due to his failing health. It is unlikely that McSally would sit on the sidelines like this if she did not have assurances that the appointment to McCain’s seat was hers.

A fellow author at Blog for Arizona, Larry Bodine, concurs and comments on McSally’s “death watch.”

Michael – you are right on the money. McSally is on a death watch, waiting for McCain to die so she can take his seat.

McSally does not like dealing with her pesky constituents or showing up at town hall meetings with us annoying voters. An appointment would be her dream: a US Senate seat without having to face the voters.

She has been actively campaigning for the Senate seat…with anti-education Governor Doug Ducey. McSally has also been tweeting pictures of herself with Trump and is no doubt getting checks and instructions from the Koch brothers. All the pieces are in place for her coronation.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Disrespect for workers binds Trump and the GOP

This morning I am going to connect two dots. One is what Republicans think about workers. The other is what Donald Trump thinks about other people. Let’s start with the GOP.

Paul Krugman posted about how Republicans Despise the Working Class. Snippets follow.

You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. That was true under George W. Bush, who sharply cut tax rates on the top 1 percent and tried to privatize Social Security. It has been equally true under President Trump; G.O.P. legislative proposals show not a hint of the populism Trump espoused on the campaign trail.

But as a terrible, no good, very bad tax bill heads for a final vote, something has been added to the mix. As usual, Republicans seek to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, but they don’t treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill — on which we don’t have full details, but whose shape is clear — hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living.

And this privileging of nonwage income isn’t an accident. Modern Republicans exalt “job creators,” that is, people who own businesses directly or indirectly via their stockholdings. Meanwhile, they show implicit contempt for mere employees.

More about that contempt in a moment. First, about that tax bill: The biggest-ticket item is a sharp cut in corporate taxes. While some of this tax cut might trickle down in the form of higher wages, the consensus among tax economists is that most of the break will accrue to shareholders as opposed to workers. So it’s mainly a tax cut for investors, not people who work for a living.

And the second most important element in the bill is a tax break for people whose income comes from owning a business rather than in the form of wages. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has evaluated the Senate bill, which the final bill is expected to resemble. It finds that the bill would reduce taxes on business owners, on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one.

So why are they doing this?

After all, the tax bill appears to be terrible politics as well as terrible policy. Cutting corporate taxes is hugely unpopular; even Republicans are almost as likely to say they should be raised as to say they should be lowered. The Bush tax cuts, at least initially, had wide (though unjustified) popular support; but the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the current Republican plan.

But Republicans don’t seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can’t contain it.

When I realized the extent to which G.O.P. tax plans were going to favor business owners over ordinary workers, I found myself remembering what happened in 2012, when Eric Cantor — then the House majority leader — tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have “built a business and earned their own success.”

Yes, it was just a gaffe, but a revealing one; Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.

And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else — that is, the vast majority of Americans — as a second-class citizen.

Trump: “most people aren’t worthy of respect”

Back in October 2016 I picked up on a NY Times report and posted on this telling quote: Donald Trump: “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”

What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show. The New York Times obtained “Recordings of Donald J. Trump [that] reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status and contemptuous of those who fall from grace.”

The Times reported:

Who earns his respect? “For the most part,” he said, “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

That contempt for others, the lack of respect particularly for workers, is shared by Trump and the GOP. And that is a deep psychological reason why the GOP will not abandon Trump.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Election 2018: The US Senate is in play and “Arizona votes may just matter like they never have before.

Joe Ferguson at the Arizona Daily Star reports on CD2 with the announcement that Hispanic Chamber CEO Lea Márquez-Peterson enters Southern Arizona’s CD2 race. However, Márquez-Peterson promises to withdraw should current CD2 Republican Rep. Martha McSally run for reelection in CD2.

But the bigger story is what may happen to Arizona’s two US Senate seats with Flake not running and McCain’s uncertain health.

McSally’s silence on her political ambitions is a course of lots of speculation. Scriber’s favorite is this column by Blake “What the Devil won’t tell you” Morlock in the Tucson Sentinel, Showstopper: Ala. result means Senate control will rest with Az voters. 2 branches of government on the line; 2 Senate races possible here next year. Snippets follow.

We’ll have at least one hotly contested U.S. Senate race here next year, and it’s a distinct possibility we’ll have two happening at the same time. And control of the U.S. Senate will be on the line.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake announced in November he would not seek a second term in the Senate, just as hard-charging Democrat Kyrsten Sinema stepped up and conservative insurgent Kelli Ward, a former state representative, surged forth in the polls. Were it not for the Jones win in Alabama, Democrats could win Arizona’s Senate seat but in the best-case scenario, that would still leave the party in a 50–50 tie with the GOP. Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie and let the Republicans organize the majority. Arizona would be relevant but less than decisive.

Well, that all changed Tuesday night [with the election of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones to the US Senate].

The road for control of the Senate now runs down Speedway, up Central Avenue, traces along Montezuma in Prescott and threads through Broad Street in Globe to the railroad tracks in Flagstaff.

No Democrat has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona since 1988 but we have been inching into the purple.

A lot of smart people on the right are going to dismiss the [AZ Rep. Kyrsten] Sinema threat. They’re kidding themselves. I’m not her biggest fan, but she is very smart, she works her ass off and she’s moved in Congress from the far left to the hippie-punching middle. She’s lost liberal friends but those butt-hurt lefties have seen the fruits of treating former friends like abject enemies. They got Donald Trump. Trump’s been nothing but kicking them in the ribs for going on a year. To fight back, they’ll have to vote for Sinema. So liberals will likely show that minimum degree of horse sense. I’m reaching, but we’re seeing it in Virginia and Alabama.

I have yet to mention U.S. Rep. Martha McSally for an uncomfortable reason. I have no doubt that we’ve seen the last of her re-election bids for the U.S. House of Representatives. Lea Marquez Peterson, head of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is a McSally supporter running for her House seat. Like everyone else, I’m making the obvious assumption that Peterson got the congresswoman’s “all clear.”

The question is (shift in my seat and figure out how to phrase it) whether McSally seeks Flake’s seat or holds out for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s. Captain Straight Talk is not doing well. A nasty strain of cancer has struck his brain. How much longer will he be in office? It would be terrible if illness cut his life and career shorter than it would be otherwise, but if happens Arizona is out two incumbents.

McSally could be appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to take McCain’s seat and then have to stand for election at the soonest possible date. The good news for her would be that McSally could ascend to the Senate without facing a primary against “Chemtrail” Kelli Ward or a general election race against Sinema. But that seat may also be put before the voters next August (in the primaries) and November (to determine who’ll fill out the remainder of the term, through 2020).

Sinema can take Ward, who is running as Trump’s affirmation.

I get that would be a preferable path on one level but it’s less than ideal. I can’t imagine McSally would enjoy being caught waiting on McCain and depending on Ducey to appoint her. That’s a lot of moving parts and some icky karma.

But it’s a very possible scenario and it also explains why she’s taking so long to announce her bid.

The point is: Arizona could have two Senate seats on the ballot in the same year with control of the Senate on the line. That would be a political showstopper.

In the increasingly unlikely event McCain stays healthy and in office, McSally would have to duke it out with Ward in a nasty primary. Already, the culture warriors and laissez faire conservatives are lining up for Ward and against the Tucson Democrat. The big-business guys at Club for Growth and the Koch brothers’ Freedom Works are already on board for Ward. Ken Cuccinelli and the godfather of the Religious Right, Richard Viguerie, have pledged to beat McSally because she doesn’t suit up for the culture war (she just fought in real ones, but that’s not enough).

As an aside, Arizona’s almost certainly going to send our first female senator to D.C. We’ve sent 12 men over the century Arizona’s been a state, and this time, all of the top-level candidates are women: Ward and McSally on the GOP side, and Sinema and political newcomer Deedra Abboud for the Dems. What remains to be seen is which other candidates might yet jump in, especially on the Democratic side if that second seat is in play, but they’d face an uphill climb.

A lot of smart people are going to be trying to sound smarter than they are by detailing exactly what Jone’s victory means for the midterm elections. I kinda doubt Democrats are going to be lucky enough to face Republicans as flawed as Moore. There are only so many mall-trolling, tween-chasing candidates who are nostalgic for the days of slavery.

Say what you want about Kelli Ward but she ain’t that.

I’m going to go with the one analysis I trust. That’s from Alabamian and former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines. That’s right. The great grey flagship of the media elite was once run by a good-old boy from the South. Raines makes the case that Moore represents the fading glory of George Wallace’s Alabama. Much less eloquently, Charles Barkley hit the note with Trumpian aplomb telling Alabamians,”At some point, we gotta stop looking like idiots to the nation.” That’s would seem to be a Deep South thing aimed at the suburbs.

Moore was never that popular with Alabamians and the president picked Election Day to send out the most vile tweet of the Trump era. He called a sitting U.S. senator a slut performing sexual favors for campaign cash. Y’know, just in case women in suburban Birmingham were on the fence.

The effect of Alabama’s vote in a unique race will be overstated. Democrats can roll back into control of the House with the kind of turnout they showed in Virginia and Alabama. The Senate hasn’t been in play until now.

At some point in the coming months, the national political press will look at the map and their eyes will fall down to the bottom left side. They’ll be on a plane for Sky Harbor, about to learn the glory of bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Arizona votes may just matter like they never have before.

USA Today wars on Deviant Donald and his putrid politics

USA Today’s Editorial Board has all but declared war on Donald Trump by asking Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom? (h/t AZ Blue Meanie) Here is the editorial (emphases added).

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

Donald J. Trump
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
6:03 AM - Dec 12, 2017

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the president’s smear as a misunderstanding because he used similar language about men. Of course, words used about men and women are different. When candidate Trump said a journalist was bleeding from her “wherever,” he didn’t mean her nose.

And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.

A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.

This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.

Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.

It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.” Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:

  • He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”
  • Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
  • Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 — is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t. It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
  • A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
  • Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory. He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit. He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.

Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.

Here is more commentary from AZBlueMeanie.

Trump’s sycophant cult of personality supporters — in particular, the conservative media entertainment complex — are seeking to normalize his boorishness and belligerence and utter lack of character, and conduct previously considered outside the bounds of normal acceptable behavior and common human decency. These sycophants, in particular the conservative media entertainment complex, the conspiracy theory fever swamp from which Donald Trump emerged two years ago, are also “defining deviancy down.” They are systematically destroying the norms of a civilized democratic society.

The [USA Today] editors effectively call on Donald Trump to resign. Given his recent bouts of slurred speech and obvious mental deterioration, the 25th Amendment is also seriously in play. And Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on obstruction of justice charges that will merit impeachment. No patriotic American should support the degradation of the office of the presidency and the undermining of our democracy that Donald Trump and his sycophant supporters represent.

So this, our country needs to be rid of Deviant Donald, the worst president ever, before he plunges us yet deeper into his unique, putrid political cess pool.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

1.5% is the most significant digit this morning - Jones whupped Moore in Alabama

49.9 percent–48.4 percent
Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore with 49.9 percent of the vote to Moore’s 48.4 percent in the Alabama special U.S. Senate election for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. [FiveThirtyEight]

Watching MSNBC’s coverage of the Alabama special election last night, it was a bit of a nail-biter, but it became clear that Democrat Doug Jones had won even before the news outlets started calling it. The MSNBC numbers junkie Steve Kornacki explained that all of Moore’s votes were in but Jones-favoring precincts were still reporting. And that was that.

This morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, Jonathan Karl called the Jones win in deeply red Alabama “a harbinger” of the 2018 election. Also on that program, it was noted that a recount is unlikely. Jones’ margin was 1.5%, three times the trigger of 0.5% for a recount.

And here is the latest significant digit: 49. That is now the latest count of Democratic votes in the Senate.

I‘ll end with a personal note. Your Scriber really did not think that the state of Alabama could rise above its religion, its politics, and its history to reject an accused sexual offender. But enough of the voters did that. I owe 1.5% of the Alabama voters an apology.

CD2 update - Ann Kirkpatrick at DGT

Larry Bodine reports on CD2 candidate Ann Kirkpatrick’s presentation to the Democrats of Greater Tucson (DGT) in Congress Candidate Ann Kirkpatrick Vows to Take on GOP at Blog for Arizona. Here are some highlights.

”My focus is on holding (House majority leader) Paul Ryan accountable,” she said. “He is complicit. We have a slight chance of taking back the majority in the House, and we could be a check on Trump and hold him responsible.”

Kirkpatrick is considered the favorite by national news outlets in the crowded Democratic race to take back Congressional District 2. “Hillary won by 5 points in this district, and it should be a Democratic seat,” she said. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Kirkpatrick in its Red to Blue program, which highlights strong Democratic candidates and opens doors to donors.

Kirkpatrick has the endorsement of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Rep. Ruben Gallego, EMILY’s List and End Citizens United.

Tax bill and Social Safety. She condemned Senate and House Republicans for jamming the tax perversion bill through with no hearings and no open sessions. “Call your Senator and say ‘do not vote for this,’” she said. The GOP bill will add more than $1 trillion to the federal deficit. “And you can see it coming, they will try to take that money out of Medicare and Social Security,” she said.

Dark Money. Kirkpatrick supports the campaign to outlaw dirty money in political campaigns. …

Education.… Kirkpatrick said that US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos “is the worst person who could have been chosen.” … Kirkpatrick pointed out that the GOP tax bill taxes graduate students on the tuition waivers they get. “That’s how most grad students pay for their education. It will not be worth getting a graduate degree, and we won’t have grad students to do research. It’s one more piece in the effort to dismantle public education,” she said.

Climate change. She called for a new national energy policy that deals with climate change. … Arizona should be the solar power capital of the world, Kirkpatrick said. “The Republicans have done their best to dismantle that,” she said. “When I was in the legislature, I worked for tax credits for people who installed solar on their roof. That’s gone away completely.”

GOPlins’ “tax reform” fraud is a precursor to Ryan’s assault on Medicare ...

… and everything else that provides economic security to millions of Americans. Read on.

When you perform any task, you are faced with what psychologists call a speed-accuracy tradeoff. Speed-accuracy trading is ubiquitous: “Who has not encountered that a decision, made in haste, often leads to err? Who has not felt the deleterious effects of time pressure on ultimate outcomes?”

Apparently not Republican lawmakers. Erica Werner writes in the Washington Post that Precision sacrificed for speed as GOP rushes ahead on taxes.

Republicans are moving their tax plan toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they’ve had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the types of expensive problems popping up in their massive and complex plan.

Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes, which must be tackled by congressional negotiators working to reconcile competing versions of the legislation passed separately by the House and the Senate.

The specific legislation that probably will become law, sold as a middle-class tax cut but featuring a massive corporate rate reduction at its center, is moving from release toward passage without any hearings, unusual for a bill of such magnitude. And as it tumbled along it picked up some startling new features, to the surprise of affected industries, Democrats and in some cases Republicans themselves.

As they got additional drafts of the bill, Democrats were incensed at some of what they found, including new breaks for the oil and gas industry, and a provision that appeared aimed specifically at helping Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan that doesn’t accept federal funding and has a large endowment funded by wealthy conservatives — including the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

An angry Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood on his chamber’s floor to declare that “the federal treasury is being looted.” In their one victory of the debate, Democrats offered an amendment to strike the Hillsdale provision, and with the help of four Republicans it passed. [Scriber: only 4???]

The frenzy, and I would call it a frenzy, to get it done and have a Christmas present for America — number one, I think it’s unnecessary; it’s a self-imposed deadline, and number two, it makes the possibility for error much greater,” said Steve Bell, a senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center who was staff director of the Senate Budget Committee during the 1986 tax effort. “This is a rush without a reason other than the political desire for a Rose Garden signing ceremony.”

See? Speed-accuracy trading.

That’s not the only source of error in the Republicans’ “rush without a reason.” Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports Trump’s Treasury Dept embarrasses itself with one-page ‘analysis’.

As regular readers know, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured lawmakers and the public that he had dozens of officials working on creating a detailed analysis of the Republican tax plan he helped craft. The report, Mnuchin added, would be available before Congress voted.

None of that was true. The New York Times reported two weeks ago that officials inside the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy claim to have been “largely shut out of the process” and haven’t “worked on the type of detailed analysis” that Mnuchin described.

Two weeks later, the good news is that Donald Trump’s Treasury Department has prepared an analysis and made it available to the public. The bad news is, it’s so absurd, I almost feel sorry for the officials who work there. Politico reported:

The Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself.

Tax cuts alone aren’t enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy.

The entire document is online here (pdf).

There are three key angles to this, and let’s start with the substance of the Treasury’s document. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have sworn up and down that the GOP’s tax package would pay for itself, ignoring the conclusions of every independent analysis, including data from Congress’ own Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Treasury Department argued this morning that the Republican promise will prove to be true if (a) we assume that the regressive tax breaks supercharge the economy; and (b) policymakers also agree to pass Trump’s non-existent infrastructure plan, Trump’s non-existent welfare reform plan, and wait for Trump’s regulatory reform plan to work wonders.

In other words, the Trump administration is conceding that Republicans are wrong about one of the core promises of the party’s own tax plan. The Treasury effectively declared this morning, “The tax plan will pay for itself if everyone agrees to pass a bunch of other proposals, which haven’t been written, and which have nothing to do with the tax plan.”

Second, let’s not skip past that “welfare reform” tidbit too quickly. Trump’s Treasury Department is now saying, in writing, that Republicans can pay for tax breaks for the wealthy, not only by raising taxes on the middle class, but by cutting benefits to the nation’s most vulnerable. The document is describing class warfare at its most depraved – taking money from food-stamp beneficiaries, and giving it to millionaires.

And third, the entire Treasury Department analysis literally fits on one page. If we exclude the headline, the document isn’t quite 400 words (by comparison, the blog post you’re reading right now is 622 words).

What the Trump administration released this morning isn’t an analysis of tax legislation; it’s a joke. …

Right, but let’s follow John Cassidy’s take on the “welfare reform tidbit.” He predicts The Next Step in the Radical Trump-G.O.P. Agenda: Gut the Welfare State in his New Yorker column. ”Paul Ryan has indicated that the tax bill is only a precursor to a renewed Republican drive to achieve other long-standing domestic priorities.”

In a radio interview on [a week ago] Wednesday, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, talked about the budget-busting, reward-the-rich G.O.P. tax bill—he didn’t describe it that way, of course—and what will happen after Trump signs it into law, assuming the House-Senate conference can agree on a final text. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid “are the big drivers of debt,” he went on, “so we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Even by the standards of today’s Republican Party, Ryan’s comments were pretty brazen. No such worry about deficits came up when the G.O.P. proposed slashing taxes for the wealthy. This about-face wasn’t anything new, however. For the G.O.P., tax reform was always part of a larger agenda: dismantling the welfare state, rolling back the regulatory state, and crippling the Democratic Party. Other prominent Republican politicians have made similar comments to Ryan’s, including Senator Marco Rubio and Trump himself. In a speech last week, the President talked about moving onto “welfare reform”—seemingly oblivious to the fact that Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress dismantled the primary welfare programs back in the late nineteen-nineties. About the only big federal means-tested programs left are Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Evidently, these will be on the Republican hit list, even though the primary populations they serve are the sick, the elderly, and children.

Ryan’s remarks illustrate why he and other Republican leaders have refused to break with Trump despite his frequent outrages, which, most recently, have included endorsing a U.S. Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who stands accused of repeatedly molesting teen-age girls. …

Ryan needs only Trump’s signature on some bill - never mind the details. As long as it chips away at programs like ACA, CHIP, TANF, Medicaid, Medicare, and eventually Social Security, Trumpism can fall but Ryanism will triumph. Trump might fall along with Moore (who, surprisingly for Scriber, lost last night’s election), but Ryan will keep chugging along like a Stephen King version of the energizer bunny who shreds the social safety net.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Independence, timeliness, and proportionality would make a fair system for dealing with sexual harassment cases

Part of the problem with how Congress is dealing with (or not dealing with) accusations of sexual misconduct is that its investigative processes are flawed. Zephyr Teachout, an Associate Professor of Law at Fordham, proposes a fair system for dealing with sexual harassment complaints against members of Congress in I’m Not Convinced Franken Should Quit.

I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know — myself included — were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down.

Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. … Due process means a fair, full investigation, with a chance for the accused to respond. And proportionality means that while all forms of inappropriate sexual behavior should be addressed, the response should be based on the nature of the transgressions.

… here’s what a fair system might look like: Congress should empower an independent arbiter to investigate complaints — like a Government Accountability Office, with trained experts in the field. Clearly understood mechanisms for reporting should be established. A timetable should be set that ensures complaints receive a prompt response. Both the accuser and the accused could submit questions and would have access to trained advocates and free legal consultation.

The independent arbiter would then make a nonbinding proposal addressing what happened and what should be done. It could include a call to resign or for censure, or a range of other responses tailored to the findings.

… the current alternative — off with the head of the accused, regardless of the accusation — is too quick, too easily subject to political manipulation and too vulnerable to the passions of the moment.

We don’t have the system I’m suggesting. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on process. On Nov. 30, a Senate ethics panel announced the beginning of an investigation into the allegations against Senator Franken. It should run its course, and we should see the results. Then we’ll know whether his planned resignation was warranted.

With time, and the existing ethics procedures, things are likely to emerge that will surprise us all. New facts may put Senator Franken in a better light, or a far worse one, and we should be open to both.

The quick rush to public condemnation … fueled by the media, end[s]up hurting the accuser and the accused … condemning a sitting lawmaker is a public choice and one our representatives should make judiciously.

As it now stands the “off with the head” resignation, like a Presidential pardon, is an admission of guilt but one foisted on the accused by that “quick rush to public condemnation.” As a nation of laws we have to do better than that.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pence’s rule for males - Thou shalt not befriend females

EJ Montini (The Republic) asks Must all men follow ‘Pence Rule’ to avoid sexual harassment?

[Vice President Mike] Pence has said in interviews that he follows strict self-imposed rules when it comes to being in the company of women. He has said (and he seems to actually believe it) the rules are meant to stave off any “temptations.” And they are meant to avoid any situation where there would be even a hint of impropriety.

Pence had a rule while he was in Congress that if he needed an aide to stay late in the office and work with him it had to be a male assistant.

He has a rule saying he would never dine alone with a woman who is not his wife, Karen, and that he would not attend an event where alcohol is served if Karen isn’t with him.

He refers to it as “building a zone around your marriage.”

These days, it could be the model for a man in a position of authority wishing to build a zone around his career.

The world has changed.

It’s as if, all of a sudden, America has decided the 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally” is not a light-hearted romantic comedy but a dark existentialist allegory …

in which all male-female friendships are suspect.

But the world has yet to change for Donald Trump

Speaking of a married women [on the Hollywood Access tape] Trump said, “I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it. … I did try and f— her. She was married. … I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there.”

A lot of people asked Pence what he thought of such talk when the tape became public, particularly the part where Trump says of women, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the p—y. You can do anything.”

Pence avoided the subject for several days then finally issued a statement saying: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has express remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart …”

What Trump showed, ultimately, is that nothing has changed. Not for him, anyway.

Weird isn’t it?

Just about every boss in America is at risk of being fired if he doesn’t follow some version of the “Pence Rule.”

Except Pence’s boss.

UPDATE:. Trump showed “what is in his heart” when he endorsed Roy Moore. I wonder which Mike Pence will have something to say about that. Alabamans are about to send Moore to the Senate. Will the Senate have the spine to do anything at all about that? Stay tuned. The answers to these and other questions start coming our way tomorrow night.

Greedy Old Perverts, the A-Moore-al Majority, and the Eleventh Commandment

Correct! There are only 10 commandments on Moses’ tablets. The missing eleventh commandment gives Alabamans who intend to vote for Roy Moore a pass. None of the commandments stop Trump from being Trump.

There’s that and Moore illustrated news in the Mournday Mourning edition of the toons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Here’s one of my favorites with a comment: “Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote”and by evangelicals who do.

What else is funny this morning? You do remember all those promises Sen. Susan Collins got in return for her vote on the tax bill? Well, Joan McCarter at Daily Kos springs a big Surprise! McConnell just broke all those promises Susan Collins got in exchange for her tax vote.

Remember when Maine Sen. Susan Collins was pretending like she really didn’t want to pass a massive tax bill to reward Republicans’ big corporate donors? When she was extracting promises from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, promises that everyone knew he could not keep? But he made them, all right. And then promptly broke them.

BREAKING: The 3 big promises @SenatorCollins got will NOT be done before the final vote on the tax bill. The bill to keep the govt open does NOT include Alexander-Murray, reinsurance, or waiver of Medicare cuts

The link there is to the House’s short-term funding bill that Congress is going to pass—or try to pass—before the final vote on the tax bill. Remember when we said that McConnell couldn’t make promises for the House? Yeah, that. You already know what’s not in it: everything that Collins said McConnell promised was going to happen in exchange for her vote.

Collins isn’t stupid, she knew there was no value in any of what McConnell was promising, and probably also knows that even were the fixes to the Affordable Care Act that are in Alexander-Murray and reinsurance passed, they wouldn’t counteract the dire impact that repealing the individual mandate is going to have on the law.

No, she’s not stupid, but she hopes the American people are. She hopes that we’re dumb enough to believe that she was dumb enough to be snookered by McConnell. We’re not.

After having voted for the tax cut, now she’s thinking about voting against it. CNN, among other sources, reports: GOP Sen. Susan Collins: Not sure if I will support tax reform plan. It’s not “reform”, Senator, it’s a big transfer of wealth from the middle class to the uber-rich. She’s selling her vote for tweaks to a truly terrible bill.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

50 Shades of Grey - sexual harassment and its consequences are not all-or-nothing

That significant number, 50, is my guess at the number of members of Congress sweating over an allegation that they looked at their staffer’s chest - or legs or face or whatever. “Did I say something wrong” our hypothetical congressman worries, and antagonizes “Did he/she take my smile the wrong way?” or “My hug was meant to be a friendly, supportive gesture. Did she take it some other way?” Or “Did he take it some other way?

If you’ve been following my posts on this stuff you should know three things. One, I despise those who use the power of their office to coerce others and then cover for sexual harassment (or worse); a cultural correction is long overdue. Two, it is ironic (Al Franken’s word) that accused members of Congress are gone while the arguably worse culprits remain in the White House and the Alabama election. Three, I think the current feeding frenzy has gone off the rails and an overcorrection is in progress.

Before proceeding, let me emphasize that I am not making a case for a false equivalence. The major political parties are not equal when it comes to their treatment of those accused of qualitatively and quantitatively worse conduct (Trump and Moore) than either Representative Trent Franks or Senator Al Franken. Masha Gessen in The New Yorker extends this difference by observing the selectivity of the #MeToo movement.

The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken’s own constituents to consider their choice. … the force works selectively. … Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country. That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of—and in clear reaction to—genuine moral depravity on the other side.

Along similar lines, check out the discussion on Morning Joe starting at about 8:40 in this YouTube video: Here’s How Democrats Could’ve Better Handled Senator Al Franken. Co-host Mika Brzezinski worries about an automatic bias favoring accusers that prevents due process for the accused.

Blake Morlock writes his column “What the Devil won’t tell you” in the Tucson Sentinel. Yesterday afternoon (Friday, Dec. 8th) he posted Trent Franks deserved a fair shot at due process. The essential message is that Media shouldn’t be left to dole out justice in sexual harassment cases.

Franks did not get his “fair shot at due process.” Neither did Al Franken. “Due process” in both cases would have been an Ethics Committee investigation and hearings. Instead, Franks was removed from office by one person on the right - Speaker Paul Ryan. Franken was removed by his colleagues on the left who, I think, wanted to make an example of their practice of zero tolerance. Morlock makes my case.

Lest my point be too subtle, let me be clear: It’s about time that the “I-prefer-you-in-stillettos” pack got busted. And it’s way past time that the “stand-there-while-I-masturbate” fraternity gets exiled to a cultural leper colony. The day is long in coming that more pedestrian sexual harassment gets called out.

I’m not talking about setting the #MeToo movement back, but moving it forward and normalizing it. It needs to move past where it is today, when justice is dispensed by the instincts of the media pack. Thrusting a mic in a politician’s face and demanding to know when they or a colleague is going to resign is not the answer.

Morlock argues that “the line is fuzzy about what offends whom, and needed to be clarified beyond what might make someone uncomfortable. Franks’ case illustrates the need for a process because right now the media is acting the role of cop, judge, jury and executioner. It’s not good at any of that.”

We have no idea if Franks’ version is the all there is to the story, but the way to get to the bottom of this isn’t to simply demand that the accused step aside. [Scriber says ditto for Franken.][See the update at the end of this post about more on the Franks’ story.]

There seems to be a strange trading of sacrifice going on in D.C. The Democrats need a clean shot at Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore over the highly detailed accusations that he chased teen-aged girls when he was in his 30s, so they drummed U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) out of office. The Republicans can’t seem to have done nothing in the face of scandal. Moore is in a tight race. President Trump ain’t going anywhere. So Ryan tells Franks to go.

Also, Franks is an easy sacrifice. He represents the arch-conservative Phoenix suburbs of Glendale, Sun City and Surprise. The seat will most likely stay Republican …

None of this has anything to do with the facts of Franks’ case. He should be allowed to realize his fate in a more workable way but the congressional process for investigating sexual harassment isn’t taken seriously, so the media has stepped in.

… The climate has grown so super-heated that we are in zero-tolerance territory. The presence of gray equals an unacceptable degree of evil. Franken was drubbed out of office with anonymous accusers …

… zero tolerance means zero distinction and that always leads us down a bad path.

Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post asks Was Al Franken’s punishment fair? She thinks zero tolerance is fine but it’s been accompanied by a lack of calibration - an all or nothing approach to punishment. She writes “The right policy is zero tolerance. That does not answer the question about what is the right punishment, or what proof there should be before it is meted out.”

Consider: One of Franken’s colleagues, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, is under federal indictment for allegedly taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts and using the power of his office to help a campaign donor/friend in dealings with the federal government. Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury last month, after which the Ethics Committee announced it would resume its inquiry into his conduct.

If senators have the patience to let the ethics process proceed in the Menendez case, why not with Franken? What about weighing whether some lesser punishment than what was essentially forced resignation would better fit Franken’s circumstances?

Although it’s now moot, feminist writer Kate Harding admitted back in November that I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign.. She wanted the ethics investigation to run its course and other forms of penance for Franken.

When it comes to intolerance for sexual harassment vs. due process for those so accused, there are nuances piled on nuances. So, read Morlock’s column and the other essays mentioned here as a remedy for whatever damage my shortened account has done to their stories. I’ll let Morlock have the last word.

… Women have no place being harassed. The accused deserve an airing. We’ve seen what happens when the system is weighted toward the men and it’s unacceptable. Over-correcting with zero tolerance for an allegation isn’t a good answer either.

UPDATE: AZ BlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona reviews reports of what may be more to the Franks story in Creepy Trent Franks’ resignation effective immediately after more details emerge, saying that “there was more to Rep. Trent Franks sudden resignation — and I don’t believe the latest reporting is the full story either (there have been rumors circulating about him for years).” But your Scriber reminds us all, in the absence of a congressional ethics investigation, those “rumors” are the bases for Franks’ trial by media.

The Blue Meanie reports this interesting piece of history.

Before winning election to Congress, Franks founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family.” The group later changed its name to the Center for Arizona Policy, which is now run by Cathi Herrod. Herrod hasn’t commented on Franks departure …

Update on AZ US Senate and CD2 races

Larry Bodine, writing at Blog for Arizona, reports that Kyrsten Sinema Stakes Out 5 Positions in US Senate Race.

Krysten Sinema, 41, is a three-term Democratic member of the U.S. House representing Arizona’s 9th Congressional District based in suburban Phoenix. In her first race in 2012, she won with 49 percent; she was re-elected in 2014 and 2016 with 55 percent and 61 percent of the vote, respectively.

She is considered one of the most moderate, bipartisan, aisle-crossing Democrats in all of D.C. [Scriber: That is what will sap her support among progressive Dems.]

Sinema is running for the US Senate seat occupied by unpopular incumbent Jeff Flake, a pro-Trump voter and anti-Trump talker who said he will not run again. In the Democratic primary, Sinema is running against political unknowns Deedra Abboud, Bob Bishop, Chris Russell and Richard Sherzan.

On the GOP side, right-wing fringe candidate Kelli Ward will be a primary opponent for Rep. Martha McSally of Tucson, who has recently wrapped herself around Trump.

Which “who”? I guess he means Trump’s twin, Martha McSally.

The Cook Political Report said the Senate race was a “tossup” and the New York Times called her bid a “worrisome sign for Republicans.” Sinema has the support of EMILY’s List, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC.

Check out Bodine’s report for a summary of Sinema’s positions.

Meanwhile, closer to home, back at CD2, Tim Steller reports that Lea Marquez Peterson, a Tucson Republican jumps into race for Martha McSally’s seat.

Lea Marquez-Peterson’s long-rumored campaign for Congress is a go.

Marquez-Peterson announced Thursday she’s having a campaign launch party as she prepares to run for the GOP nomination in Congressional District 2. …

Marquez-Peterson is the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. After the current holder of that seat, Republican Rep. Martha McSally, began considering a run for U.S. Senate, local GOP bigwigs such as auto dealer Jim Click encouraged Marquez-Peterson to run.

Now, it appears, she’s in. And if she’s in, apparently McSally is out [running for Senate], although [McSally] has not made it official yet.

Hmmm. What if McSally is just being coy and is not really “out”? Never mind …

Scriber’s fellow political junkies think that Marquez-Peterson will be a formidable candidate.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dealing with sexual harassment, Dems take the high road while GOPlins go low

Another way of putting it: Democrats purge for purity while Republicans wallow in their own political pig sty (with apologies to pigs).

Yesterday, Dec. 7th, 2017, Senator Al Franken announced his resignation from the Senate. Franken was bedeviled by allegations of sexual harassment by multiple women and ultimately had to bow to political pressure from a wide swath of his own, Democratic party.

The New York Times provides the full video and transcript of Franken’s Senate speech.

Following are just some of the many published reactions to the resignation.

Franken’s speech announcing his resignation drewmixed reactions on the Senate floor.

When Franken concluded, several senators approached and hugged him. They included Klobuchar and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who slapped him on the back as they tightly embraced.

Franken then turned to the 26 aides seated behind him, shaking each of their hands and giving hugs. The final aide he greeted, a young woman, laughed and cried as they spoke.

But despite the warmth evident on the Senate floor, it became clear as the minutes passed that no senator would speak in tribute to Franken. None did.

Aaron Blake (Washington Post) offers explanations Why Al Franken is done-for — and Roy Moore isn’t.

Taking them in reverse order:

… while Franken probably handled this about as well as he could have politically, his approach was always more about buying time than actually mitigating his problems. Franken repeatedly and profusely apologized, and plenty of Democrats and reporters focused on those apologies rather than what specifically he was (and wasn’t) apologizing for.

That may partly account for why “Al Franken is done for” but it does not explain why “Roy Moore isn’t.” Blake’s first reason is a better, simpler explanation.

The first reason is that the Democratic Party has simply staked out a much stricter position on these issues than Republicans have with Roy Moore and President Trump. A poll released Wednesday shortly after the senators called on Franken to resign showed why. Quinnipiac University asked Americans whether a lawmaker facing multiple sexual harassment accusations should resign. While just 51 percent of Republicans agreed, a full 77 percent of Democrats agreed.

AZBlueMeanie concurs with the first reason: Democrats begin to clean house of sexual harassers while Republicans embrace them. The Blue Meanie concludes:

In a just world, these latest developments would bring more pressure to bear on Roy Moore and Donald Trump for their sexual improprieties. But we live in a world where half of the country lives within the media bubble of “Trump world” and are impervious to facts, or to reason, or to morality and justice.

Quoting Franken from the [Times’ transcript]:

I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.

AZ AG Brnovich rules on his own law suit against Regents

This is the latest development in the fight over who sets university tuition rates. Some legislators want to do that micromanagement and, for his own purposes, the AG rules against regents, concludes Legislature can set university tuition rates. That’s the report from Howard Fischer in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required). Translation: AZ AG Brnovich is ruling on his own law suit.

The fight started back in September so you might want to review the background I posted back then in AZ AG sues Regents over tuition. First let’s review the constitutional background I provided in that earlier post.

Here are the relevant items from the Arizona Constitution.

Article 11, section 6. Admission of students of both sexes to state educational institutions; tuition; common school system
Section 6. The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.

Article 11, section 10. Source of revenue for maintenance of state educational institutions
Section 10. The revenue for the maintenance of the respective state educational institutions shall be derived from the investment of the proceeds of the sale, and from the rental of such lands as have been set aside by the enabling act approved June 20, 1910, or other legislative enactment of the United States, for the use and benefit of the respective state educational institutions. In addition to such income the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.

Here is some of the update in Fischer’s report.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a legal opinion December 7 saying that, with only narrow exceptions, the Legislature has “unrestricted’’ authority to redefine the powers and duties of the Arizona Board of Regents.

That opens the door to ongoing efforts by Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, to rein in the board.

More to the point, Brnovich said he reads prior Supreme Court rulings to say that the Legislature itself could set tuition, wresting that power away from the regents.

And if lawmakers opted to do that, it would make the regents’ legal arguments defending their tuition-setting policies legally moot.

Brnovich filed suit in September, saying the regents have “dramatically and unconstitutionally’’ increased the cost of going to school at any of the state’s three universities. He claims that costs have gone up from 315 percent to 370 percent since the 2002 school year, a figure he said computes out to 14.1 percent on an annualized basis, “the third fastest growth rate among all 50 states.’’

He acknowledged that during the same period the Legislature sharply decreased the aid it supplies to higher education. Legislative budget reports have found that since 2008 alone, state aid went from $9,648 per student to $4,098, even before the effects of inflation are considered.

Brnovich has dismissed that as irrelevant, saying it still does not excuse the regents from what he contends is their obligation to keep tuition to what it actually costs to educate students above and beyond state aid.

So let’s stop right there. Look back at the quotes from the AZ constitution. It does not say that the Regents are responsible for making higher education as free as possible. It does identify the legislature as the body responsible for making “appropriations, to be met by taxation.” And that body is remiss in its obligation. Brnovich can dismiss as “irrelevant” that failure but his assertion does not make the legislature’s responsibility less true.

Stay tuned - the fight is headed to the courts. We need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. If the legislature gets control over tuition our university system is screwed.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Alleged sexual misconduct in the capitol- a Democratic purge and a Republican silence

A Democratic Chorus Rises in the Senate: ‘Franken Should Resign’ reports the New York Times. Franken’s decision on his future is scheduled for today (Thursday, Dec. 7).

Support for Al Franken all but collapsed on Wednesday among his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, with dozens calling for him to resign after a sixth woman said he had made an improper advance on her.

Mr. Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, has scheduled an announcement on his future in the Senate for Thursday, and he pushed back on a Minnesota Public Radio report that he would be resigning. “No final decision has been made and the Senator is still talking with his family,” his office said on Twitter.

By Wednesday evening, there was widespread expectation among senators in the Democratic caucus and aides that Mr. Franken would step down. If he does, he would be the most prominent lawmaker so far to be felled by the swirling allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct sweeping through the Capitol.

So far, I add, a Franken resignation would be uniquely Democratic. Republicans guilty of equally egregious misconduct, or worse, are graced by a political party that’s gone morally silent.

But by and large, Republicans have seemed more tolerant of infractions in their own ranks. House leaders have said nothing since it was revealed Friday that Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas used $84,000 from a secret taxpayer fund to settle a lurid sexual harassment case filed against him. And Republicans are deeply divided over Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate, Roy S. Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls as young as 14, yet has maintained the support of President Trump and other conservatives.

Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the state’s senior Republican, announced last month that he would not seek re-election next year after graphic images that he sent to a constituent appeared on the internet. But he received little pressure to step down.

This apparent tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance by Republicans of such misconduct by other Republicans should not be surprising. Scriber’s accompanying post today points to plenty of evidence that the GOP, supposedly the party of family values, has sold its soul for a 20% corporate tax rate.

Some have said Democrats are simply too quick to destroy their own, but the party appears intent on holding the high ground as sexual harassment scandals rock politics, entertainment and the news media.

But, Scriber thinks, the Democrats might be doing some cold calculations of their own.

If Mr. Franken resigns, the state’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, could choose his successor from a list of prominent female Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Attorney General Lori Swanson.

That appointee could then run to fill the remainder of Mr. Franken’s term next year, when the Democrats have the political momentum.

That calculus may be playing in Democrats’ minds. After Politico published accusations from a former congressional staff member on Wednesday morning that Mr. Franken had forcibly kissed her, Democrats lunged. Unlike earlier accusations, the newest one involved a congressional employee in the workplace.

I understand the point of those calling for Franken’s resignation. A behavioral correction for men in power is long overdue. For example:

“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest,” [NY Senator Kirsten] Gillibrand wrote on Twitter. “The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”

However, I can’t help worrying that if Dems play the party of purity and cannibalize their own, the Representatives and Senators left in Congress - and the White House - will be those whose equally serious transgressions remain accepted at least by their own political party. By taking out flawed but otherwise good guys, the swamp will become even more putrid.

The descent of the GOP into Moore-al bankruptcy

There’s plenty of evidence for the ”moral bankruptcy” of the GOP which, according to the AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona has become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

Some of that evidence is provided by Jennifer Rubin, writing in her Washington Post “Right Turn” column Forget ‘But Gorsuch’ — it should be ‘But the victims’, who describes the descent of the GOP into moral hell.

Republicans have twisted themselves into pretzels to justify support for an alleged serial sex predator who, as president, embraces an alleged child sex predator for Senate. President Trump, the leader of the GOP, endorsed Moore with a poor choice of words (“Go get ’em!“) for the man whom multiple women have said sexually preyed on them as teenagers. …

Moore has denied even knowing these women [who accused him of sexual misconduct]. But Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Let Alabama voters decide!), the White House staff, a slew of GOP operatives, the governor of Alabama and a segment of the conservative media refuse to recognize reality — or, worse, don’t care if the allegations of sexual misconduct with minors are true. Gosh darn, they need the accused child predator’s vote for tax reform! Facts carry no weight with these people, so those who’ve decided the GOP can tolerate an alleged child sex predator in the U.S. Senate won’t be influenced by more evidence, no matter how irrefutable.

You see, once Republicans decided that Justice Neil Gorsuch, or a tax bill, or deregulation, or anything justified whatever egregious behavior and character flaws Trump and then Moore had, then anything and everything could be rationalized away. I’m quite certain that if David Duke ran on support for the tax plan, Republicans would embrace him. This is moral madness, particularly for a party that fancies itself the party of family values.

It’s a telling moment when one party and its president embrace someone against whom so much evidence of egregious wrongdoing has been presented. Mitt Romney tweeted, “Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.” But Republicans already have. I’d like to think a Romney or a governor like Ohio’s John Kasich could run in a primary and beat Trump, but if he stumbles through the Robert Mueller investigation, it’s hard to image the party abandoning him, especially with “respectable” conservatives doling out talking points (Oh, it’s only a tweet! We don’t really know what happened!)

There is no going back for the GOP. Trump may go, but the people willing to accept Trump — and Moore — will be around. And there is no policy alliance possible, no common bond to be had for a great many Republicans and ex-Republicans with those who’d elevate tax cuts or Gorsuch or any issue above a long line of victims. They’d set Moore (and before him, Trump) as a model and entrust to his character the most important issues of state. To those who find that anathema, there is no going back into the GOP fold with the Trump enablers.

Even if Trump had turned out to be brilliant, level-headed, honest, coherent, unifying and constructive, the Faustian bargain would not have been worth it. That he is ignorant, erratic, dishonest, incoherent, divisive and destructive — yet still commands the party’s support — demonstrates that Republicans have made a cold calculation. They gladly put a memory-addled narcissist in the White House with no regard for democracy, because we need the 20 percent marginal tax rate or because we need Gorsuch to uphold traditional values on the bench. The hypocrisy would be laughable if the entire situation and the moral debasement of a national party, and our politics, were not so horrifying.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Congress is pi$$ing away your dollars to shower the rich with tax cuts

Jon Perr (writing in the Daily Kos) explains how Trump’s golden showers will help Trump and hurt the middle class. This was posted on Dec 3rd but is still relevant given the ongoing negotiations in the Senate and eventual reconciliation process.

Here’s the short version from Perr’s blog.

Taxes favor rich
Taxes favor rich

Donald Trump and his Republican allies have two definitions of the term, “golden showers.” The first concerns a notorious—and as-yet unsubstantiated—claim from the so-called Russian dossier: Decorum prohibits elaborating further here.

Decorum? Maybe for Perr. Scriber reminds us all that GOPlins are pi$$ing away your dollars into the coffers of corporations and the ultra-rich.

The second meaning of the term, however, describes any public policy—usually involving taxes—which overwhelmingly delivers its benefits to the very richest people in America. The plutocratic pleasure from this right-wing fetish is all the more ecstatic if raining cash on the gilded-class can be sold under the guise of winnings for workers.

So it is with the supposed “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA) Republicans in both houses of Congress have been trying to rush largely unseen to President Trump’s desk. This $1.5 trillion, 10-year liquid gold waterfall for the wealthy doesn’t trickle down to average Americans. Instead, its new income tax brackets, elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), steep reductions in corporate taxes, bonanza for “pass-through” businesses and abolition of the estate tax guarantee the richest investors and financially-favored families will take all—or, at least, almost all.

Now, you wouldn’t know any of this from the myth-making generated by the Trump White House and the usual suspects among right-wing economists. As Lawrence Summers and Brad Delong among others explained, GOP claims that “the Republican bills could boost GDP 3% to 4% long term” and “American annual household income could increase by an average of $4,000” are belied by history, the clear consensus of economists. After all, the strong 3.3 percent GDP number for the third quarter and low unemployment shows the Obama expansion has continued uninterrupted. Ten years after the start of the 2007 recession, actual U.S. economic output has finally reached its full potential. With interest rates low, corporate profits high and U.S. firms sitting on stacks of cash, capital stocks are simply not an issue.

Nevertheless, Republicans want to slash the statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. (It is worth noting that President Obama repeatedly proposed lowering it to 28 percent; Republicans in Congress balked.) Thanks to a wide range of tax breaks they already enjoy, American businesses face an effective tax rate of 18.6 percent, a figure comparable to most U.S. economic competitors. That’s why, as Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, “Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class.” That doesn’t square with Trump’s promise this week in Missouri that “our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America.”

Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares.

Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been “actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and I’d expect us to continue that.” Executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer have recently made similar statements.

“We’ll be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback” after a tax cut, Kramer said in a Nov. 16 interview.

John Shin, a foreign exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, explained those unsurprising views:

“Companies are sitting on large amounts of cash. They’re not financially constrained. They’re still working for their shareholders, primarily.”

Shin should know.

For more, see the longer Daily Kos version.

For even more on the economic evil being touted by the GOPlins, see AZBlueMeanie’s lesson from history on the failure of GOP ‘trickle down’ economics.

Public lands - Trump version of Gone in 60 Seconds

That’s about how long it took Trump to steal public lands for use by special interests. And his Interior Secretary redefines “special interests”. I’ll bet you didn’t know that YOU are a “special interest.”

Trump Admin makes an odd argument while giving away federal land reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

Presidents have quite a bit of federal authority when it comes to creating national monuments, and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama put that power to use in Utah, creating federal protections for millions of acres of public land.

Donald Trump announced yesterday he’s undoing some of those protections, shrinking the Bears Ears monument in Utah from 1.3 million acres to about 220,000 acres of federally protected land, and reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante from 1.9 million acres to a little over 1 million acres.

That’s nearly 2 million acres of protected public land that the Republican president decided to give away yesterday. One of Trump’s cabinet secretaries defended the move with a curious talking point.

Before the ceremony, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told The Salt Lake Tribune “The president is delivering on his campaign promise to give the state and local communities a voice, which I think is absolutely important. *Public lands are for public use and not for special interests.*”

We live in a time of need for perpetual translation of the Orwellian corruption of our own language. Scriber’s translation of Zinke’s zinger: Public lands are for special interests and not for public use. Benen would agree.

It seemed possible that Zinke misspoke, but he used identical language yesterday in a separate interview: “Public land is for public use and not special interests.”

I realize when it comes to the Trump administration, some up-is-down rhetoric is to be expected, but even by 2017 standards, this is disorienting.

Note, for example, that during the president’s speech yesterday while unveiling the new federal policy, Trump complained about “harmful and unnecessary restrictions” on, among other things, “responsible economic development.” Indeed, Reuters reported in April that when Trump signed an executive order earlier this year to allow national monument designations to be rescinded or reduced, the White House was pushing “to open up more federal land to drilling, mining and other development.”

There it is. Trump is robbing the public of public lands in order to give breaks to the fossil fool industry.

”The President Stole Your Land”

But that may not be the final word. Outdoor recreation companies are fighting back reports the Washington Post in ‘The President Stole Your Land’: Patagonia, REI blast Trump on national monument rollbacks.

Anyone who visited Patagonia’s website on Monday night in search of a warm winter fleece or a pair of snow pants was in for a surprise. Replacing the usual shopping choices were giant white letters on a black background offering a stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

The message continued in smaller letters: “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

Patagonia’s move was part of an ongoing fight in the West, one the company and the outdoor recreation industry generally has been waging against exploitation of the lands for fossil fuel, development and cattle grazing.

REI, another recreational gear company, devoted part of its homepage to a more modest protest. “Despite the loss of millions of acres of protected lands this week,” the company said, “REI will continue to advocate for the places we all love.”

The companies, as well as the entire outdoor recreation industry, are allied with Indian tribes, for whom some of the lands are sacred, as well as with conservationists.

Their lawsuits began flying as soon as the decision was announced.

One came from a coalition of five tribes — Hopi, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Ute Indian.

Separately, a coalition of 10 conservation groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Trust, filed a lawsuit against Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed through the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice. The suit, which is likely to provoke a prolonged court battle, claims Trump cannot legally revoke the land’s monument status.

Trump blows smoke

Trump said he reduced the monuments because “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

That is not and never was the issue. The issue as revealed by the pushback from various conservation interests is preservation of public lands vs. commercial exploitation of them.

Peter Metcalf, founder of Black Diamond Equipment and an environmental activist, called the move “a rape and pillage approach.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, he called it a “real tragedy, to tear up this place that is rich with dinosaur bones, cultural antiquities and is a sportsman’s paradise. That’s not the best use of the land.”

Patagonia’s message included illustrations showing what part of the two monuments will no longer be protected and facts about protected lands, noting that “90 percent of U.S. public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and development; only 10 percent are protected for recreation, conservation and wildlife.”

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard told CNN he too plans to sue the president.

“I’m going to sue him,” Chouinard said. “It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. I think it’s a shame that only 4% of American lands are national parks. Costa Rica’s got 10%. Chile will now have way more parks than we have. We need more, not less. This government is evil and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win.”

At the very least we all can do some small thing to support preservation of national monuments. Shop REI. Wear Patagonia.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Significant digits: Women candidates and CEO pay

Here are a couple of items from the 538 Significant Digits email. Trump is making America great again but perhaps not in the way he imagined the shape of his influence.

354 candidates
Women in particular have been throwing their hats in the ring for elected office lately, with 354 female House candidates (291 Democrats and 63 Republicans) and 38 female Senate candidates (25 Democrats and 13 Republicans) registered so far. It’s important to contextualize this: There are four times as many women challenging House incumbents this time compared to the same period in 2015, and 10 times the number of women challenging Senators compared to 2012 and 2014. Gosh, wonder what prompted all this. [The New York Times]

And that’s just “so far” in this electoral cycle. What prompted all this? Here’s the spoiler: Women Line Up to Run for Office, Harnessing Their Outrage at Trump. Maybe all those women can do something about the next significant digit below.

$88.3 million
CVS Health Corp. is trying to buy Aetna, and the insurer’s CEO is poised for a lucrative exit of the deal goes through. Mark Bertolini could walk away with $88.3 million if he’s fired after the acquisition. [Bloomberg]

Think about the size of his tax cut under the GOP bill. How many middle class salaries fit into that 88.3 mil?