Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No end in sight - Texas decides gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids

What's wrong with this picture
What's wrong with this picture?

This morning’s Daily Star carried this AP report on the Santa Fe school shooting: School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas. Check that. The AP meant to say “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving Texas.” The subtitle should have read “Thoughts and prayers from Texas governor are ineffective in stopping killing of Texas kids.”

Get it? That’s “What’s wrong with this picture.”

Here are snippets.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has more than 1.2 million licensed handgun owners who can openly carry their weapons in public. The state hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting two weeks ago. And until Monday, the governor’s re-election website was raffling off a shotgun.

Guns are so hard-wired into Texas culture that last week’s deadly rampage at Santa Fe High School is considered unlikely to result in any significant restrictions on access to weapons in the Lone Star State.

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed “open carry” for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.

In 2015, Abbott tweeted he was “embarrassed” that Texas lagged behind California in gun sales. In 2017, he bragged about his accuracy with a pistol at a shooting range. In a speech to the NRA convention in Dallas, Abbott said, “The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It is homes without discipline and communities without values.”

On Monday, Abbott’s re-election campaign scaled back its shotgun raffle in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, replacing it with a raffle for a $250 gift certificate. A photograph of the governor aiming a shotgun was removed.

As a journalistic exercise, try rewriting the above snippets substituting “United States” for “Texas” and “President” for “Governor.”

Then think about what always precedes a school shooting …

It’s the thoughts and prayers that always follow the last shooting and thus are predictive of the next school shooting. lf we stop with the thoughts and prayers already and substitute some serious gun control we just might reduce the number of kids killed.

That won’t happen. Why not, you might ask. Texas is the clearest example today of the cancer that eats away at the moral heart of America. Retitled, “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving America.” Our country has decided that so-called gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids.

And check that. American gun rights, we have decided, are worth piles of dead kids. And there is no end in sight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This Mournday Mourning's selection of Illustrated News

Here is the link to AZBlueMeanie’s Mournday Mourning Illustrated News aka Cartoon of The Week.

In Election 2018 'The Democrats are coming.' But which ones and how Democratic?

“The Democrats are coming” and the Republicans know it. That’s the reporting by the AP in Democrats get giddy about a perennial target: Arizona featured in this morning’s Daily Star. There’s a lot of good news there. Here are some examples.

Democrats hope that a primary between three Republicans helps them get a shot at an open U.S. Senate seat that could determine which party controls the chamber. Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers are newly mobilized after recent walkouts that won them a 20 percent pay increase over three years and drew attention to the $1.5 billion in cuts the GOP-controlled state government has made to K–12 education since the Great Recession.

Republicans know they have their work cut out for them. “I think it’s going to be a force that we’re going to have to reckon with, for sure,” said former Gov. Jan Brewer. “A sleeping giant was awoke, they’re awake and alive and they’re out there and they want change,” she said of energized teachers.

Chuck Coughlin, a veteran GOP consultant in Phoenix, said the party’s greatest challenge will be in the Senate race. The Democrat running for the seat being relinquished by Sen. Jeff Flake, Rep. Kirsten Sinema, faces no major primary opposition and has been running ads for weeks introducing herself to voters as a common-sense centrist.

Whoa! Let’s explore that one by the numbers.

This last Saturday evening (May 20, 2018) at the Pima County Democratic Party Udall dinner, one of the featured speakers was US Senate candidate Krysten Sinema. Given that the dinner was a celebration of two awards and capped by a rousing speech by Tom Steyer, I had to wonder why Sinema, as opposed to any other candidate in any other race, was given time at the mic. I can’t remember what she had to say. But apparently the party faithful, including the DCCC, has anointed her. And all that reminded me of some reactions to Sinema’s announcement of her candidacy back in the Fall of 2017.

My own reaction to the announcement appeared on this blog on October 1st, 2017: Kyrsten Sinema wants to be a Senator. Here are reasons why she should not be.. Here’s a snippet.

… According to the FiveThirtyEight tracking, Sinema does vote exactly 50.0% of the time in accord with what Trump supports. See Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump. It is “An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.” However, the more telling observation is the “Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores.” Based on Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election, Sinema is predicted to have voted with Trump 28.6% of the time. Instead she voted with Trump 50% of the time. The difference is 21.5%. I sorted the entire House of Representatives on that difference score and found that only two Democrats were more extreme on that measure than Sinema. That is, she is the third highest of all 194 Democratic members (top 1.5%) of the House in terms of her support for Trump. …

UPDATE: As of today, May 20, 2018, Sinema has edged up a tad. She now votes 56.9% with Trump. The predicted score is 32.7% for a difference of 24.2%. She moved from the third highest to now the second highest of all 194 House Democrats in support of Trumpist positions putting her in the top 1%.

AZBlueMeanie had more to say about Sinema’s evolution in his September 30, 2017 post, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema to run for U.S. Senate.

I have never been a big fan of Representative Kyrsten Sinema, even when she was in the state legislature. My discomfort with her is that she appears to me to be “all show and no substance.” [_Scriber_: Now I don’t feel bad for not recalling her speech last night.] She is not much of a policy wonk, and has a slim legislative record. Of course, she has always been in the minority, so that is a contributing factor.

After her election to the House of Representatives, Sinema joined the conservative Democrat Blue Dog Coalition, and more recently the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus with her fellow Arizona congresswoman Martha McSally.

I’m not sure how one evolves from being a Ralph Nader Green Party “lefty” liberal to a conservative Blue Dog Democrat. That seems rather chameleon to me, adopting whatever one’s circumstances dictate in order to survive politically. That speaks to more ambition than a principled politician. But then, this is Arizona where this can be said just about every politician.

On the same day, Joel Feinman offered some scathing observations about Sinema.

The Three Problems with Kyrsten Sinema or: How Democrats Learned to Stop Worrying and Welcome the Apocalypse was posted on October 1, 2017 by Joel Feinman in the Politics section of his PimaLiberator blog. It resurfaced yesterday in an alert from my readers citing the essay on Feinman’s Facebook page (h/t Carolyn Chausee via Miriam Lindmeier). Below are excerpts from his blog, but you really must read the whole thing in which he cites chapter and verse about Sinema’s votes. Democrats’ forgiveness of them speak ill of the future of our party.

… social media is already ringing with calls for Democrats to unify behind and vote for Ms. Sinema in the general election next November, because “she’s the only real candidate” and “she’s better than (Republican).”

The problem with these pleas is that Ms. Sinema embodies everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party. Her candidacy, even or perhaps especially if successful, will remind Americans once again just how little Democrats seem to care about electing real, inspiring leaders to public office who will change our state and our country for the better.

Everyday seems to bring news that is worse than the day before. Mass shootings, war, unemployment, government-sanctioned white supremacy, environmental degradation. No person of reason can argue with a straight face that the social, economic, political, or environmental trend lines are positive. If the Democratic Party keeps excusing and supporting candidates like Ms. Sinema, in the hope that their election will somehow lead to a progressive political revolution the next election, or the next next election, we will proceed head-first into the abyss. If we do not today revolutionize our party and our politics, then one day soon the next election will be our last.

OK. I hear you say: Sinema is way better than any of her likely Republican combatants in the general election. As they say in Minnesota, Yah, Sure, You Betcha with all due sincerity. So was I reminded by Mrs. Scriber - who also was at the Udall dinner Saturday night. Here’s the evidence from 538. McSally votes 97.3% with Trump (vs. Sinema’s 56.9%). McSally is the 11th most Trumpian House Republican putting her in the top 5% of all House Republicans in terms of support for Trump.

But here’s another way to look at it. In terms of the "Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores”, there are only 15 members of the House separating Sinema from McSally. And that is only a 3% difference.

So, do with this what you will. But remember 167. That’s the number of Democrats who were angered by some of then Rep. Ron Barber’s votes who stayed home in 2014 and thereby were complicit in getting McSally the CD2 seat. Which she kept in 2016. And which may now be her path to the Senate. And then the Presidency.

If you don’t like Sinema for Senate (and there are good reasons why you should not), what are you going to do come November? Are you (oh, hell, we) willing to accept McSally or Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio over Sinema?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lock him up?

Here, from Salon.com (h/t Paul McCreary), is a listing of reasons why we should flip Trump’s campaign chant to “lock him up.” What more do you need to know about Trump? Trump did it and he’s going down for a host of crimes, and some of them have nothing to do with Russia.

I’ve been “covering” the Trump story for over a year now, and I’m sick and tired of stacking up the details of his treachery day after day, week after week. What more do you need to know? He’s a lying, thieving, incompetent, ignorant traitor who conspired with the Russian government to steal the election of 2016 and illegally defeat a candidate who won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. His presidency is illegitimate, and his occupation of the White House is a stain on our nation’s honor and a threat to our democracy. History will cast him into the same sewer in which float the putrid remains of Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis and Richard Nixon. Impeachment would be too kind an end for him. He belongs behind bars, broken, bankrupt and disgraced.

Every day the front pages of the newspapers and the headlines of the cable news shows are filled with evidence of Trump’s lies and thievery. Look at what happened this week alone.

Trump started out denying that he even knew Stormy Daniels, then he denied having a sexual relationship with her, then he said he didn’t know about any payoffs to her. Monday, he filed his required federal financial disclosure form in which he effectively admitted making the $130,000 payment to shut her up just before the election in 2016.

The author provides a long, long list of Trumpian transgressions. Read the original salon.com story for many more.

… every set of stairs has a bottom and in Trump’s case, it’s the law. His lies and dissembling about Stormy Daniels came up against the law this week when he had to file his financial disclosure form. Lying or omitting information on a federal form is a felony, which is why Trump was forced to include the repayment of his debt to Michael Cohen which covered the $130,000 that had been paid out to silence Stormy Daniels in October of 2016. He lied about her and he lied about that payment until he came up against the law and then he was forced to tell the truth.

He has reached the ground floor with Russia and everything else. You can lie at rallies, you can lie to the media, you can lie to voters, but lies don’t work when they come up against laws. That’s where Trump finds himself today. He’s a lying, thieving traitor who conspired with a hostile nation to steal the presidential election of 2016 and he got caught. Not even his bone spurs will get him a deferment this time. He’s going to be drafted for the farm team at Leavenworth. He’s going down.

Your Scriber worries about which of our democratic institutions this wanna be dictator will take down with him.

The author, Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter.

Required reading - GV News Editor supports Goddard dark money initiative

This morning’s editorial in the GV News by Dan Shearer is really, really, really good. FROM THE EDITOR: Let’s bring an end to ‘dark money’. He’s on board, totally, with Terry Goddard’s dark money initiative. Here is the editorial.

Money influences elections. Sometimes it flat-out buys them.

That’s no secret. But whose money is doing the influencing is often impossible to discern. And, thanks to the Legislature, it’s not getting any easier in Arizona.

Terry Goddard wants to end that. He’s a former Phoenix mayor and state attorney general, and he’s tired of dark money — he calls it “dirty money” — calling the shots.

Dark money is a campaign contribution where the donor isn’t disclosed. Nobody knows who’s really behind the donations because the cash is often funneled through non-profits, which are not required to disclose donors, or super PACs, which can raise an unlimited amount of money. Goddard calls this money laundering.

The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling opened the flood gates when it decided that donating to a campaign is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. That means unions and corporations can spend whatever they wanted on political activities as long as they don’t collaborate with a party or candidate. That’s where most of the nasty fliers and TV commercials come from.

But Citizens United didn’t say they could hide their campaign spending, though that’s what it has come to, at least in Arizona.

What has this done to elections? The Brennan Center for Justice analyzed 10 Senate races in 2014, and found outside spending had doubled since 2010 — to $486 million. Outside groups (dark money) tossed in 47 percent of that. Much of that spending comes from outside the state where the election is being held. People who don’t live where you live are calling the shots in your elections. That’s fine as long as we know who the donors are.

But like Goddard said in a visit to Green Valley earlier this year, “In any debate, the first thing you should know is who you’re debating.”

He also said the cost of running a campaign has gone up five times since 2010’s Citizens United ruling.

“It basically meant that millionaires and billionaires became the political class going forward,” he said.

There’s another example much closer to home of dark money running amok.

APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., don’t have to disclose campaign contributions thanks to Citizens United. They will neither confirm nor deny that they were behind more than $3 million in donations that helped get two Republicans elected to the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission in 2014 — that’s the board that sets utility rates, and APS is a utility. APS then spent millions more to get three others elected in 2016. The ACC now has five GOP members.

The ACC then approved a rate hike that allowed APS to rake in an estimated $95 million more from customers.

APS can’t be forced to open its books because the Arizona Corporation Commission — the board it helped elect with its millions of dollars in campaign contributions — has declined to enforce a subpoena.

Funny how that happens.

Tempe’s attempt

Tempe residents felt so strong about dark money influence that in March, they voted by a 91 percent margin to amend the city’s charter to require independent groups spending more than $1,000 on local elections to disclose their donors.

The state Legislature tanked that effort a few weeks later when Gov. Ducey signed legislation that pre-empts those types of local ordinances. The Tempe vote was rendered meaningless.

Ducey, who received more than $3 million from dark-money groups in his 2014 campaign, called it a win for free speech. (Four House Republicans and every Democrat voted against the bill.)

What’s the argument for allowing undisclosed campaign contributions? People who attach their names to a donation might get bullied, the governor says. Maybe we could edge closer to the truth by suggesting that companies putting millions of dollars into political campaigns don’t want their customers to know where their profits are going.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, can do no better than Ducey in laying out a defense for dark money. It says the dark-money proposals are overly broad and a violation of the right to privacy. But not much more than that.

The bottom line is that there is no rational defense for dark money — and there’s plenty of dark money on both sides, by the way.

Constitution change

Goddard says nothing less than a change to the state Constitution will fix the problem.

In short, his initiative calls for anybody making a campaign contribution over $10,000 in a two-year election cycle to “promptly disclose the identity of all original sources of major contributions used to fund that expenditure.”

In other words, the person who started the ball rolling on a donation that’s fed through non-profits or a super PAC would be identified.

They need 225,000 valid signatures by July 5 to get it on the November ballot, but are looking for 300,000 by June 5.

Locally, voters registered in Pima County (any party) can sign. You can find a petition at Democratic headquarters in Continental Shopping Plaza. But don’t let that scare you if you’re not a Democrat — this issue knows no party lines, though it’s true corporations aren’t happy with it and the bulk of support comes from the left. But there are several big-name Republicans in the state who’ve signed on, believing transparency in elections isn’t too much to ask.

Goddard likes to quote Montana state Sen. Duane Ankney, whose state adopted tougher campaign finance laws two years ago: “If someone is going to shoot me in the gut, I want to know who done the shooting.”

Sign on

Read more about the effort at outlawdirtymoney.com. To sign a petition, go to the Democratic headquarters in Continental Shopping Plaza, Suite 208, near Carne y Vino restaurant; or call them at 838–0590. They’re open Monday through Friday, 10–2.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bill Gates rejects job as WH science advisor

His reasoning, according to Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources, was that “nobody fires Bill Gates.”

The Huffington Post reports: Bill Gates Says Trump Didn’t Know The Difference Between HPV And HIV.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told his foundation’s staff that President Donald Trump didn’t know the difference between HPV and HIV when they met with each other on two different occasions, according to an exclusive clip obtained by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

The clip shows Gates telling the room that in two separate meetings with the president, specifically recalling a March 2017 meeting, Trump asked him about the difference between the two viruses.

So I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” the tech mogul said.

HPV, the human papillomavirus, is an infection that can cause genital warts and lead to cervical cancer, while HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Gates said Trump also referred to himself in the third person, reportedly telling him that “Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated millions to public health and development initiatives. In 2016, the foundation announced a $140 million donation to help develop an implantable drug pump to prevent the spread of HIV.

Gates has also spoken out against Trump’s “America First” policy. The tech giant told Politico in March that he planned to explain the importance of foreign aid to the president during their meeting.

“I’ll take his framework and explain why things like health security and continued foreign aid, even in that narrow framework, where you give no credit for saving lives in Africa, kind of pure humanitarian things, even without that, this is money well spent,” Gates told the outlet.

Trump reportedly offered Gates a job as a White House science adviser at their meeting this March. Gates told Stat News in April that he rejected the proposal, as it wouldn’t be a good use of his time.

When I read that last bolded quote to Mrs. Scriber, she thought it was from one of New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz’s items. Day by day during, the era of Trump, it does get harder to discriminate satire from reality.

As a test, go back and reread the first sentence of this post.

Who Pima Ds and Rs are liking these days

Find out what and who Arizona Republicans like. Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) reports on Pima County Republicans Cheer Kelli Ward, who Jeers McSally.

Republicans at this month’s Pima County GOP meeting gave rousing rounds of applause to tea party darling Kelli Ward, a primary candidate for US Senate, who gloated over her lead in recent polls, fawned over Ted Cruz and ripped into fellow Republicans Martha McSally and John McCain.

I can hear Kyrsten Sinema chortling about that one.

Earlier this month RepresentMeAZ sponsored a CD2 forum at Catalina High School. Bruce Wheeler and Billy Kovacs were the favorites, topping Matt Heinz, Mary Matiella, Yahya Yuksel, and Barbara Sherry. Who is missing from that list?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stormy Daniels update - What the President knew and when he knew it

In today’s political and legal environment a very few things we get to know; many more things remain beyond our ken.

Example #1: The details of the Russia investigation are being held closely by special counsel Robert Mueller. Occasionally an indictment is handed out, but the ultimate, public conclusion is a long way off. As Wired.com put it in their morning email,

… this ex-Marine is not messing around with discipline when it comes to the Russia investigation. Reporters inquiring about it are met by Mueller’s tight-lipped, leak-proof spokesperson, Peter Carr: “No comment.” Discipline, order, and relentlessness are the military backbone of Mueller’s current work, and that’s exactly how he likes it.

Example #2: Two suspicious activity reports (SARs) have gone missing from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network reports Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker in Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records. We may or may not ever find out who filched those files and to what end.

Example #3: But one thing we are getting to know a lot about is the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels by President Donald Trump via his money conduit and fixer Michael Cohen. Bear in mind that, given Trump’s habitual lying, the likelihood of Trump telling the truth about any of that is exactly zero. That said, Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) probes Trump’s financial filing and tells us about the real reason Why Trump’s new disclosure on Stormy Daniels payment matters.

It was just last month when Donald Trump chatted briefly with reporters on Air Force One, and in response to a reporter’s question, the president said he did not know about the $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before Election Day 2016. The Republican added that he also didn’t know where his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, received the money to pay the porn star. [See Benen’s earlier report: Trump breaks his silence on Stormy Daniels (to the delight of her lawyer).]

A month later, Rudy Giuliani told a national television audience that Trump’s original version of events wasn’t altogether true, and yesterday, the president disclosed the truth in black and white.

President Donald Trump reported that he reimbursed personal attorney Michael Cohen for costs apparently incurred in paying adult film star Stormy Daniels for a nondisclosure agreement, according to a federally required annual financial disclosure form released by the Office of Government Ethics on Wednesday.

“In the interest of transparency, while not required to be disclosed as ‘reportable liabilities’ … in 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” a note at the bottom of Page 45 of the 92-page report states. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 to $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”

The acknowledgement appeared in a footnote.

At face value, I imagine some might see this acknowledgement as underwhelming. …

What makes Trump’s financial disclosure filing so striking, however, is the letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from David Apol, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, that accompanied the president’s paperwork. Apol noted, for example, that despite Trump’s assertion, the disclosure of the reimbursement payment to Cohen wasn’t optional.

And that’s no small detail.

Indeed, Apol added that Rosenstein “may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the president’s prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017.”

Or put another way, it looked as if the Office of Government Ethics might have been making some kind of criminal referral to the Justice Department about the sitting president. In fact, the Campaign Legal Center’s Adav Noti told Rachel on the show last night that the OGE letter is, “for all intents and purposes, a criminal referral.”

Specifically, if the Cohen payment needed to be disclosed on Trump’s filings, that was true last year, too, when the president filed the previous version of this paperwork. But in last year’s filing, there was no such disclosure.

Oops!

If there was an “intent to deceive,” to use Adav Noti’s phrasing from last night, the legal liability could be serious – beyond any possible violations of campaign-finance laws.

The Stormy Daniels scandal just got even more interesting.

I’m still thinking that of all the sleaze and slime exuded by the Trump administration, the greatest danger to the Trump presidency might be the the Stormy Daniels affair, the payoff, and the coverup.

'The defining challenge of our time' revisited

Over two years ago I posted on Economic Inequality: “The Defining Challenge of Our Time”. That quote is from then President Obama. Among other topics not usually seen as resulting from poverty, I reported that economic inequality is a public health problem. Specifically, the wealthy outlive the poor, and the life expectancy difference is increasing - dramatically. If you were a man born in 1920, there is a 6-year difference in longevity. If you were born thirty years later, the difference over doubled to 14 years. (And the same is true for women.)

Here now is an update on what we’re now calling economic justice.

Nearly two out of every three Americans do not have sufficient funds to cover an unplanned expense.

You read that right. 63% Of Americans Don’t Have Enough Savings To Cover A $500 Emergency Maggie McGrath reported at Forbes magazine.

The car brakes go on the fritz. The refrigerator stops refrigerating. The dog gets his paws on a batch of chocolate chip cookies and earns himself a trip to the vet ER.

These are just three of any number of things that could go wrong during the course of the year. Recovering from any one will set you back about $500, which means these scenarios fall closer to the “undesirable inconvenience” category than they do the “massive calamity” one. And yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans do not have enough money in savings to cover the cost of a single one of these unplanned expenses.

According to a brand new survey from Bankrate.com, just 37% of Americans have enough savings to pay for a $500 or $1,000 emergency. The other 63% would have to resort to measures like cutting back spending in other areas (23%), charging to a credit card (15%) or borrowing funds from friends and family (15%) in order to meet the cost of the unexpected event.

How serious is an unexpected event depends on family income. For example, a Pew study cited by McGrath looked at the relationships between the most expensive “shock”, the number of days of income needed to pay for it, and the family income bracket. I’ll cut through the numbers to make it simple. As income roughly quadruples from less than $25,000 to over $85,000, the most expensive shock nearly quadruples (from $2,400 to $10,000). But as family income declines, the number of days required to pay for the most expensive shock also quadruples (from 26 days to 96 days). So the cost of unplanned events really slams those in the lower income brackets, especially those defined by HHS as in poverty ($25,100 for a family of four).

Consider also that those families in the next lowest income bracket ($25K - $50K) must work 48 days to counteract a $5000 expense. In other words, the ’Economically forgotten’ have much in common with America’s poor, as AZBlueMeanie put it in Blog for Arizona.

The Blue Meanie cited an Axios.com Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics.

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

Why it matters: For two years, U.S. politics has been dominated by the anger and resentment of a self-identified “forgotten” class, some left behind economically and others threatened by changes to their way of life.

When you add them together with the people living in poverty, you get 51 million households. “It’s a magnitude of financial hardship that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Hoopes said.

So what can be done? The Blue Meanie also alerts us to the Poor People’s Campaign Begins With Protests and Arrests as reported in the NY Magazine.

… co-organizer Reverend William Barber II told the LA Times:

Much of what happens to hurt poor people happens in state capitols, not in the Congress. Healthcare is blocked in state capitols. Voting laws are written in state capitols. Denial of living wages happens in state capitols. Cutting money from public education happens in both federal and state, but so much of it happens at the state level.

And so the new campaign is focused as much on 39 state capitals where its protests have already been organized as on anything in Washington. …

The Poor People’s Campaign’s list of demands is as broad and inclusive as those [Martin Luther] King and his colleagues advanced in 1968, and then some, ranging from living wages and universal access to health care, the right to vote without harassment, clean drinking water, family-friendly immigration policies and reduced military spending, to an end to mass incarceration and even an expanded definition of poverty to include people struggling to get by. …

It’s likely that over the next 40 days and beyond the Poor People’s Campaign will drift in and out of the local and national news. But it will insist on its perspective being heard and seen on the political issues of the day, and will try to act as a burr under the saddle of those in both political parties who would ride right past the most urgent economic and social needs of their country in order to appeal to comfortable donors and voters. A lot has changed for the better in America since 1968, but not enough, and certainly not right now.

It remains the ‘defining challenge of our times.’

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Heinz leads Kirkpatrick in CD2 race

Larry Bodine, writing in the Blog for Arizona this morning, reports that a New Poll Shows Matt Heinz in the Lead Over Ann Kirkpatrick in Tucson’s CD2 Congressional Race.

A survey of likely Democratic primary voters in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District shows Dr. Matt Heinz holding a 4-point lead over former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick in the race for the Democratic Party nomination.

In an initial Democratic primary ballot test, Matt Heinz currently leads the field with 27%, giving him a four-point edge over Ann Kirkpatrick (23%) …

[Heinz’s lead] is within the survey’s margin of error of +/–4.9%.

However:

Heinz doubles his initial lead over Kirkpatrick after voters hear positive profile statements about both candidates. After learning more positive information about the candidates’ backgrounds, including their professional experience, Heinz increases his vote by 13 points and moves to an eight-point advantage (40%–32%) over Kirkpatrick.

The poll also reflected CD2 voters’ concerns over Kirkpatrick’s votes while in Congress.

… Survey respondents were read a series of descriptive phrases, and were asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who matched such a description. Votes for Congressional Republicans’ legislation to cut Medicare and the support for Bush-era tax cuts elicited severe negative reactions – more than eight in ten Democratic primary voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate – like Kirkpatrick – who took those positions.

… These results show the highly competitive nature of the Democratic primary, and despite her high-profile and well-financed statewide candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016, 2nd District Democrats have not embraced Kirkpatrick. The contest is very much a two-person race, as the other candidates generate only mid-single-digit support.

Those “other candidates” include Mary Matiella, Billy Kovacs, and Bruce Wheeler.

Undecided voters number 36% before and 14% after hearing positive statements about Heinz and Kirkpatrick.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Illustrated News on this Terrible Twos-day

Sorry - missed the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News. Here it is as the Terrible Twos-day Toons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

On the conversion of NRA 'A' to standout gun safety candidate

Blog for Arizona contributor Larry Bodine penned a post about how Ann Kirkpatrick Stands Out as Gun Safety Candidate in CD2 Race. Bodine celebrated her conversion from ardently pro NRA to now harvesting endorsements from groups promoting gun safety. I’m not going to rehearse the to-and-fro comments (now 28 of them) other than to point you to two of them.

Liza documented AK’s history of support for the NRA and gun rights. Bill Maki (and that would be me) followed up with this:

I am deeply suspicious of candidates who defended gun rights so fervently and now have flipped. What facts have changed in the last 5 years? Any candidate who shows a conversion from pro-NRA to pro-gun-safety should be required to answer a simple question. Why were you pro-gun/pro-NRA in the first place? Liza got it right in her first “leopardess” reply.

In which she said “So THIS is the LEOPARDESS who changed her spots?” and "Kirkpatrick was the only Congressional Democrat in Arizona to receive an “A” rating from the NRA in the last decade which she maintained through Fall 2012. [The Arizona Republic April 5, 2013. Final Chaser Edition. “Arizona’s Gun Divide.”]

Monday, May 14, 2018

Robert Reich predicts 'Trumps as far as the eye can see.'

Robert Reich has advice to Democrats on How To Stop Trump. We ignore it at our electoral peril.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Why did working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president?

With the 2018 midterms around the corner, and prospective Democratic candidates already eyeing the 2020 race, the answer is important because it will influence how Democrats campaign.

Reich proposes two somewhat competing explanations. One is “economic hardship. The working class fell for Trump’s economic populism.” The other is “whites’ fear of losing status to blacks and immigrants. They were attracted to Trump’s form of identity politics – bigotry.” As usual in such explanatory cases, the real answer is “both.”

Certainly many white working class men and women were – and still are – receptive to Trump’s bigotry.

But what made them receptive? Racism and xenophobia aren’t exactly new to American life. Fears of blacks and immigrants have been with us since the founding of the Republic.

What changed was the economy. Since the 1980s the wages and economic prospects of the typical American worker have stagnated. Two-thirds now live paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks have grown less secure.

Good-paying jobs have disappeared from vast stretches of the land. Despite the official low unemployment rate, millions continue to work part-time who want steady jobs or they’re too discouraged to look for work.

If America doesn’t respond to the calamity that’s befallen the working class, we’ll have Trumps as far as the eye can see.

A few Democrats are getting the message – pushing ambitious ideas like government-guaranteed full employment, single-payer health care, industry-wide collective bargaining, and a universal basic income.

But none has yet offered a way to finance these things, such as a progressive tax on wealth.

Nor have they offered a credible way to get big money out of politics. Even if “Citizens United” isn’t overruled, big money’s influence could be limited with generous public financing of elections, full disclosure of the source of all campaign contributions, and a clampdown on the revolving door between business and government.

Trump isn’t the cause of what’s happened to America. He’s the consequence – the product of years of stagnant wages and big money’s corruption of our democracy.

If they really want to stop Trump and prevent future Trumps, Democrats will need to address these causes of Trump’s rise.

But we cannot afford to sit back and count on the “blue wave.” Here’s why, according to John Cassidy at the New Yorker in A Warning Against Democratic Complacency from This Week’s Primaries and Opinion Polls.

On the polling front, a new survey from CNN indicated that the Democrats’ lead in the generic congressional vote is now just three percentage points. A second survey, from Reuters/Ipsos, put the Democrats’ lead at just one point.

To be sure, these findings should be interpreted skeptically. A third survey, from The Economist/YouGov, put the Democrats’ lead at nine points, which represented an increase of six points compared to the previous survey from that pollster. Poll averages, which aggregate the results from all the recent polls, are generally more reliable. The Real Clear Politics poll average puts the Democratic lead at 6.1 percentage points; 538’s version puts it at 6.2 percentage points. Still, these figures represent a significant change from the start of the year, when the Republicans were trailing by double digits in many polls.

We’re ahead, yes, but the polls at least show a lessening of the Resist momentum.

Another thing to note (and watch) is the GOP messaging previewed by Trump in an Indiana rally this past week.

[Cassidy notes] how the Republicans will use Trump to target states and districts that he carried in 2016. In a speech that the Washington Post described as “remarkably on message—for him,” the President warned the crowd that, if [Dem. Senator Joe] Donnelly won, he and the Democrats would “raise your taxes,” “destroy your jobs,” and “knock the hell out of your border.”

All that is gut-level economic messaging.

[Cassidy concludes that] the message of this week is that the G.O.P. intends to put up a fight. For the blue wave to materialize, particularly in the Senate, the anti-Trump mobilization will need to be sustained and well-directed at all levels of the Party. Members of the Resistance, take note.

Is McSally Arizona's next McCain?

Oh, hell no!

I liked our Senator’s straight talk express in 2000, and I detested the Bushies for their slander of McCain in the South Carolina primary. I thought Sen. John made a huge mistake in naming that dim-wit Palin as running mate in 2008 but then forgave him most votes with which I disagreed when he did his thumbs down on the GOP health care bill. McCain is now on his way out of this life still a fierce independent and admired by many. McCain does not drink Covfefe. But Senate aspirant CD2 Rep. Martha McSally does.

There are many reasons to believe that McSally is totally wrong for Arizona. One is that her voting record is 97.2% Trump (according to Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump, 538’s tally of votes in the US House). If she voted the way predicted by her current CD2 constituency, that number would be about 55%. Since I last reviewed McSally’s record for you, she has now moved up a notch from #12 to be the 11th most Trump-like in the US House.

In a long but truly excellent post at Blog for Arizona this morning, Martha McSally Exposed as the Worst Kind of Politician by JD Goode. Goode has the creds to do it. JD is an Iraq combat veteran, former Army officer and native Tucsonan. She has written for the New York Times, Arizona Republic, Task and Purpose, Stars and Stripes and many publications.

If you are like me when it comes to reading op-eds, you go to the last paragraph to get the author’s frame. Then flip back to read the whole thing in that context, looking evidence supporting the author’s conclusion. I’ll do that here starting with Goode’s question and moving on to her conclusion. I leave it to you to read the rest to understand better what led Goode to that end.

Is McSally Arizona’s Next John McCain: This is the part of the article where I refuse to insult John McCain, and I refuse to care if the reader doesn’t like that. I disagree with many of Sen McCain’s policy positions, but … McCain is a genuine American hero who literally sacrificed his entire physical body and soul for this nation – Arizona has been lucky to have him as our Senator and our nation will be less of a place when he leaves this Earth full stop.

Many have said that Martha McSally wants to be Arizona’s next John McCain and assume his position as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. On paper, she certainly seems to have some of the qualities that would make that possible, but McSally is no John McCain. McSally, unlike McCain is literally unable to take a strong position on anything, she is vague, wishy-washy, a shell of a leader – a vessel for whatever the GOP wants to fill her with. Something John McCain never was and is not. Arizona has always had an independent streak, and Sen McCain has fulfilled this desire for western independence well – Congresswoman McSally has proven that she is unable to assume any political risk and will almost always tow the Republican line.

The Big Takeaway: McSally is the worst kind of politician, she is the kind of politician who thinks small -she is shortsighted and dogmatic in her ideology. During her years as a Congresswoman, McSally has failed to mature beyond “Merica” and the A–10 she flew in combat; I do not recall one instance in which McSally has stood in front of her Constituents as talked about big ideas, comforted the poor in her District, or calmed legitimate fears of her constituents – she doesn’t fly high, she shuffles along down in the weeds. McSally has not yet found the courage to speak her truth or help others speak their truth.

In many ways, McSally is a victim of the time she grew up in and the profession she chose – a time when demanding full equality was tricky. I get that – I absolutely do. But times have changed and young Arizonans (men and women) just do not accept this idea of compromise when it comes to equality – they are demanding it. Instead of obsessing over the A–10 fighter jet, perhaps she should sit down with the amazing young people of Arizona and try to understand that concept.

She sold her soul to sit in that cockpit, and then she sold her soul again when she became Trump’s biggest fan. Now she is running for the Senate seat in a state I love, filled with a diverse and beautiful people I love, near a dynamic Mexican border I love. She is running to lead Arizona teachers and children, who I love. She is running to form policy on the extraordinary desert environment and spiritual spaces, I love. She is running to lead all Arizonans into the 21st century, which is a little bit more complex than keeping the damn A–10 Warthog fighter jet. Arizona deserves more than a “One Trick Pony.” We deserve real independence, we deserve someone who truly loves this entire state, and ALL of its people, and ALL of its spaces, and ALL of its challenges, and ALL of its history, and ALL of its potential, and ALL of its future.

Now go read the rest of Goode’s post to reinforce your view, I hope, of why McSally is not fit to be a Congresswoman let alone Senator.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Trump breaks promise on prescription meds - Big Pharma celebrates

You think all the money paid to Michael Cohen by AT&T and Novartis was wasted? Think again. Big Pharma’s investment bought themselves a president. But … Jeez … you’d think the price tag would be higher. On the other hand ….

The Washington Post asks Why would a Swiss health-care company pay Michael Cohen $1.2 million? They answer: Look at drug prices.

… the cold truth is that a million bucks is pocket lint compared with the sweetheart deal that companies such as Novartis have already engineered in the United States. A law prevents America’s largest health-insurance entity, Medicare, from negotiating lower prescription drug prices. That’s a big part of the reason drugs in the United States cost far more than the same compounds prescribed in other Western countries.

Drug pricing in the United States is badly broken. For example, a study published in the journal Neurology found that treatments for multiple sclerosis, a field in which Novartis is a major player, have skyrocketed despite increased competition, thanks to “a seemingly dysfunctional marketplace where expanded choice has led to higher, rather than lower, prices.”

On Friday, Trump unveiled his long-promised plan to tame prescription prices, and guess what? The ban on Medicare negotiation, which candidate Trump promised to end, remains intact. Evidently some of the industry’s lobbying dollars were spent more effectively than others.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) weighs in: Trump abandons key campaign promise on prescription medications.

One of the few key areas on which Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy was lowering prices on prescription drugs. In fact, as regular readers know, he complained bitterly shortly before taking office about the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobbyists, and said drug companies are “getting away with murder.”

The president has even accused the drug industry of corruption, arguing that pharmaceutical companies contribute “massive amounts of money” to politicians as part of a scheme to keep the cost of medicines higher.

He even had a bold idea: if elected, Trump told voters, he’d leverage Medicare’s buying power to lower the cost of prescription medication. Shortly after the Republican’s inauguration, the White House said the new president “absolutely” stood by that position.

And then, his posture changed, to the point that Trump put a pharmaceutical company executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services. And if that wasn’t enough to cement this president’s role as a key ally of drug makers, today did the trick.

President Donald Trump on Friday vowed to lower drug prices for American consumers, outlining a strategy that focuses on private-sector incentives but would not allow Medicare to use its leverage as the biggest player in the market to directly negotiate better bargains for its subscribers. […]

While Trump said his proposal would give Medicare “new tools to negotiate lower prices” — such as allowing Medicare to change its formularies or benefit designs to respond to spikes in generic-drug prices — senior administration officials acknowledged in a briefing prior to his remarks that there is no plan to allow the program to directly barter with drug companies.

Or put another way, just days after Trump boasted, “When I make promises, I keep them,” he audaciously broke one of his most populist promises.

A Washington Post analysis added today, “…Trump didn’t just propose the change on the campaign trail; he said those who opposed it were in the pockets of the drug companies — a criticism that could now just as aptly be applied to him.”

Drug companies – the ones the president accused of corruption and “getting away with murder” – saw their stock prices soar after Trump’s speech, reinforcing the impression that they, not consumers, are the key beneficiaries of the new White House plan.

The Wall Street Journal gets it. Trump’s Plan to Cut Drug Prices Leaves Industry Relieved. President criticizes pharmaceutical lobby ‘abuse’; strategy is a shift away from campaign pledge of more aggressive action. (The full article is behind a pay-wall.)

So does the Huffington Post. Trump’s Plan On Prescription Drug Prices Looks Nothing Like What He Promised. So much for an all-out assault on Big Pharma. Here is more from the Huff Post.

Candidate Donald Trump promised Americans a war on the pharmaceutical industry. President Donald Trump isn’t going to give them one.

On Friday afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services released a policy blueprint for helping Americans pay for prescription drugs that, with every passing year, get harder and harder to afford.

“Today, my administration is launching the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people,” Trump said of the plan during a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Whether and how much the approach will ultimately reduce drug prices is unclear, and will probably remain so for some time. But while some of the ideas Trump endorsed have bipartisan support and the potential to help people, few experts expect the administration’s plan to have the kind of dramatic impact Trump once promised.

The health care industry certainly doesn’t seem scared. Stocks climbed following the speech, while analysts dismissed it loudly, using phrases like “non-event” and “waste of time.”

The drug industry was high on the [Trump campaign] list of predators. He railed against them regularly, even after taking office, famously saying drugmakers were “getting away with murder” by charging such high prices for life-saving medications.

More controversially, Trump also endorsed an idea Democrats had long championed and Republicans had long opposed: having the federal government negotiate prices directly with drugmakers, just like the governments of other developed countries do. Name-brand drugs in those countries are far less expensive than they are in the U.S.

But Trump betrayed those who voted for him - at least those who depend on life-saving prescription drugs.

A year and a half into his presidency, and following some well-publicized meetings with precisely the sort of pharmaceutical industry leaders he once denounced, Trump has backed away from that rhetoric. He’s no longer calling to have the federal government negotiate with drugmakers over prices and, more generally, he no longer identifies the drug industry as the primary culprit behind high prices.

Wait for it …

Yup. It’s not Big Pharma - it’s big gummint.

… Trump has adopted a more nuanced and in many ways more traditionally Republican argument for why prescriptions are so expensive. This view, which the White House Council of Economic Advisers laid out in a February report, blames high prices more on the excesses of big government than on the excesses of Big Pharma.

At any rate:

What’s not on the table are any of the big, potentially game-changing ideas like having the government negotiate directly with drugmakers, or allowing imports of cheap drugs from other countries, or radically redesigning the patent system …

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Trying to Remember - A Fantastickal song for November

Trying to remember our country’s September,
When life was safe and hacks were so few.
Trying to remember the best of October,
Before news was fake, facts were still true.
Trying to remember before Trump’s December,
Hope was still fresh and promised to you.

Sworn to action right after December,
When votes were counted no win in sight.
Now we must face another November,
In which resistance is our guiding light.
Try to envision this next November,
A victory we seek with all our might.

Lyrics modified from “Try to Remember”, the opening song in The Fantasticks. Here is a nice version sung by Josh Groban.

Trump flagellates homeland security secretary - in public.

Back in October of 2016, I posted on a quote from an interview with then candidate Donald Trump: “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”.

Over a year later, then President Donald Trump had changed little. But worse, his party, the GOP, shared his disrespect for the common man (and woman): Disrespect for workers binds Trump and the GOP.

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.

And they have not. But the newest revelation is that members of the GOP keep joining the self-flagellating circus formerly called the White House. Trump does not stop at disrespecting “most people” - because he can’t. He demeans members of his cabinet in front of other members to the point that those cabinet members have figured out that self-flagellation hurts and writing letters of resignation is easier and more cathartic.

The latest such case is homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who reportedly wrote a letter of resignation in response to a Trump tirade that pushes DHS chief toward possible resignation. She’s not the only one to be treated so badly. Trump has taken his verbal whip to AG Jeff Sessions and Chief-of-Staff John Kelly. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) observes:

The emerging pattern is one in which an ill-tempered president, struggling with the pressures and responsibilities of a job he was unprepared for, angrily embarrasses and upbraids some of the top officials in his administration – not for cause, but because he sees them as underlings who deserve his disrespectful ire.

And remember: this is a guy who thinks that “most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

“It’s a miracle the White House’s staffing crisis isn’t more severe,” Benen concludes. Why indeed?

Wikipedia defines self-flagellation as [the act of hitting oneself with a whip as part of a religious ritual], perhaps an act of debasement demanded by Trump the King. Alternatively, we might speculate about cognitive dissonance reduction. Cognitive dissonance, according to Wikipdeia, is “the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.” Scriber thinks it applies to Nielsen and maybe others. She was/is one of Trump’s fiercest loyalists according to the New Yorker essay on her rise to power, How the D.H.S. Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, Became One of President Trump’s Fiercest Loyalists. So Nielsen must believe that Trump can do no wrong - even to herself. Sure enough, last night on the Rachel Maddow show, we learned that Nielsen was still on board with Trump because they both believe, inaccurately, that our southern border is a pump spewing into the U. S. more unsavory people not deserving of respect.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Let's clean house at the Arizona Corporation Commission

You cannot turn on the TV or open up a newspaper these days without running into scandal after scandal coming from an administration headed by the dotard who ran on the promise to “drain the swamp.” There’s already been a lot of reporting about how that promise was not only broken but the “swamp” (aka White House) has become deeper and smellier in large part because of all the President’s men (and some women too). So, rather than the rehash those reports, I’ll let AZBlueMeanie carry the weight on this one today in The Trump Swamp: ‘pay to play’ corruption. Instead, I’ll devote my effort this morning to a more local scandal involving what is often called the 4th branch of AZ government, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).

Last Sunday, the Green Valley News published my op-ed IN MY VIEW: Pay attention to the ‘18 ACC race. The original title was: “Let’s Clean House at the Arizona Corporation Commission”. (I leave it to your judgment as to the better title - just read the article first. Below are some highlights.

Because the ACC is so consequential for Arizonans, it is upsetting to find the ACC and its commissioners exposed to charges of corruption, subject to a federal investigation, and suspect of collusion with the utilities it regulates. Here are themes I extracted from numerous reports in the media.

•FBI investigating outside money in commission election.

•Former ACC chair indicted on federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

•Utility regulated by ACC currently being investigated for spending dark money in commission campaigns.

•Commissioners approved a basic rate hike granting that same utility another $95 million even though their staff determined rates should not be increased.

•Former commissioner resigned, charged with conflicts of interest.

•ACC commissioners voted against transparency in utility political expenditures.

Here is an update on the top items in my list from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Bribery case witness list includes elected officials past and present.

The witness list for the bribery case against Gary and Sherry Pierce, Jim Norton and George Johnson is a who’s who of Arizona politics.

Former Arizona Corporation Commission officials, past and current legislators and candidates for elected office are among the 82 potential witnesses in the federal bribery case.

Former Commissioner Pierce, his wife Sherry, the lobbyist Norton and the owner of Johnson Utilities face charges of felony conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. Each defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges in June. The trial is currently scheduled to begin on May 30, and a final pretrial conference is slated for May 14.

The indictment alleged the defendants conspired for Johnson to pay the Pierces through the Nortons in exchange for Pierce’s favorable votes at the Corporation Commission. Pierce and his wife allegedly received $31,500 from Johnson.

As for [ACC Commissioner] Bob Burns, the defense has questioned his character instead, referring to him as a “rogue commissioner” who’s determined to “burn down the house” at the Commission.

The defense’s claims are totally disingenuous. What the defense is referring to in this case is that Burns has been trying to shed light on the dark money spent in the 2014 election by Arizona Public Service and its parent company Pinnacle West. He is “rogue” only because he is the only commissioner who really gives a sh!t about who is buying our elections. His efforts to get APS and Pinnacle West to open their books is being defeated by the other commissioners in spite of his constitutional authority to do so.

I ended my GV News op-ed with a plea to clean house at ACC and a public service announcement.

The issues I raise will not resolve on their own. We need to elect a new set of commissioners and 2018 is the year to do it. Some of the candidates for election to the ACC will appear in Green Valley this month.

Candidate forum

The public is invited to attend the Democratic Candidates Arizona Corporation Commission Forum on May 20 at 1:30 in the Quail Creek Ballroom. Candidates include Bill Mundell, Sandra Kennedy, Paul Newman, Kiana Sears and Jake Bell.

Please attend, and then vote for candidates with integrity and public service experience.

Monday, May 7, 2018

'A storm is coming' and other hits to the Trump presidency

Rudy results
Latest unvetted addition to Trump's legal team
  • “A Storm is coming” - Stormy Daniels.
  • GOP cries (Michelle) Wolf.
  • Trump writes fiction - about his health.
  • Truth at the moment - according to Suckabee Handers.
  • Ryan’s soul on the auction block. God cancels auction.
  • Pruitt and Carson in annual White House Corruption Competition race.
  • Trump shoots self on Fox. With Friends like these …
  • Trump chases Nobel Peace prize. Nobel committee goes fishing.
  • After USA failures, China bids on Flint cleanup and Puerto Rico recovery. We should only wish!

All that and more fantastical creatures in the Illustrated Gnus from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Friday, May 4, 2018

#RedforEd wins one by Takin' It To The Streets

538’s significant digits email this morning highlighted the results of the #RedforEd walkout:

20 percent
A teachers walkout in Arizona succeeded in increasing educational funding in the state. The walkout shut down schools in the state and tomorrow teachers and kids will be back. Teachers will get a 20 percent raise by 2020 and a further $138 million in funding is awarded to schools. [The Washington Post]

But what the teachers got is still far short of what is really needed. For example, half of the 20% is just a promise from the GOP-controlled legislature for future raises on top of the 10% to take effect this year. The state lege cobbled together a package that hurts taxpayers in local school districts and has no funding mechanism for the other 10%.

All this made the national news as in the Times and Post.

Arizona’s teacher walkout ends with raises, reports the NY Times: Arizona Teachers End Walkout as Governor CheapSkate Signs Bill Approving Raises.

Oops. Sorry. “CheapSkate” managed to creep in there somehow. All the rest of the words are from the Times’ report. Perhaps my slip was due to the fact that our good Guv, who wants to be known as the education governor, started with a budget containing a 1% raise. He was forced to go higher by the teachers’ activism. So why did he not start with 20% in the first place?

A week into a statewide teacher walkout in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a budget bill on Thursday that he said would provide teachers with the 20 percent raises they had demanded, in addition to new funds for classrooms.

While the organizers of the walkout said the bill might not produce as much as the governor promised, they announced an end to their labor action, which had kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school.

In Arizona, as in Oklahoma, legislators refused requests to raise income taxes on the wealthy, and instead turned to a hodgepodge of revenue sources that are likely to hit a wide range of voters. The funding increase in Arizona will come in part from a new vehicle registration fee and a change in the way some school desegregation efforts are paid for.

I’ll get back to that deseg business shortly.

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, said that despite Mr. Ducey’s claim of a 20 percent teacher raise, the union’s calculations showed the new budget guaranteed funding for less than a 10 percent raise. The bill restores only about a quarter of $1.1 billion in annual education cuts since the last recession, Mr. Thomas said, and does not guarantee raises for school support staff.

Like many of the other states rocked by teacher walkouts, Arizona has pursued decades of tax and spending cuts that educators say have devastated schools and made it difficult for teachers to achieve a middle-class lifestyle. In 2015, the last year for which census data was available, the state’s per-pupil funding was the third-lowest in the nation, behind only Utah and Idaho.

Mr. Ducey, a first-term Republican facing re-election, ran for governor promising never to raise taxes, and has said his budget keeps that commitment. In addition to an $18 car registration fee, a plan to shift the costs of several school desegregation plans to local property taxpayers from state government is expected to raise $18 million, in part by increasing property taxes in some low-income school districts.

This is worse than a regressive tax - increasing taxes in low-income districts? The Education Guv gives and taketh away. And in the process gives the middle finger to the teachers movement.

Leaders of the teachers’ walkout movement, which calls itself #RedforEd, said they would be shifting their focus to support a ballot initiative to raise income taxes on individuals with income over $250,000 and couples with income over $500,000.

The Arizona Center for Economic Progress is among the groups supporting the ballot referendum to raise income taxes to secure more schools funding. David Lujan, the group’s director and a former Democratic state legislator, said, “I’ve been around the State Capitol for a couple of decades now. I have never seen the level of grass-roots advocacy that we see this year.”

He added, “I think the education funding crisis will be the No. 1 story in Arizona elections in 2018.”

The Post’s reporting focused on what the AZ state government did not do: Arizona teachers end walkout despite falling short of aims.

Like other states that have seen teacher uprisings, Arizona’s schools have lost a significant amount of state funding since the recession, when states were forced to cut budgets across the board. The state did little to restore funding to schools after the economy recovered. Arizona enacted a corporate tax cut that continued to deplete revenue.

When adjusted for inflation, Arizona cut total state per-pupil funding by 37 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That has led to relatively low teacher salaries, crumbling school buildings and the elimination of free full-day kindergarten in some districts. In 2016, Arizona ranked 43rd in average teacher salaries, according to a study by the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Teacher shortages have led the state to waive education requirements for teaching candidates. In some cases, even people without college degrees can serve as substitutes.

In a joint statement, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a said the walkout was the beginning of a movement to press the state to restore budget cuts.

Right. #RedforEd, don’t you dare give up those red shirts. Arizona needs to do more but will only do more if forced to do it.

Telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see
Takin’ it to the streets.

– [Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers]

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Make America Pay Again - for the Twisted Tryst with Trump

This is a story of teasers, tweets, twists, and turns in the Trump White House.

Porn Star Stormy Daniels alleges a Tryst with Trump.

Trump denies the Tryst with Trump Alleged by Daniels.

Trump’s alleged attorney Michael Cohen pays Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred.

Trump does not sign the nondisclosure agreement for which alleged attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred.

Referring questions to the alleged attorney, Trump pleads ignorance about the money paid by Michael Cohen to Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred.

New attorney Rudy G. admits that Trump reimbursed the alleged attorney Cohen for the money paid to Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred.

Trump admits to most or all of the above having just now discovered that he himself reimbursed the alleged attorney Cohen for the money paid to Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred.

As Rachel Maddow would say, is there anything here I got wrong?

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources have been hearing a persistent rumor about an unverified crowd-funding effort to reimburse Trump for the the money paid to Daniels to not talk about the Tryst with Trump that is alleged not to have occurred. Their motto is, you guessed it, “Make America Pay Again.”

Scriber ends his satire here, leaving you to sort out fact from fiction and reality from lunacy.

Trump caught in tangled web of lies

The news is chock-full of Trump’s falsehoods. I treat you to three topics.

President Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post previews the speech. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:

I have received a lot of honors — like, a lot. I was on the cover of Time more than anybody else. I went to the best schools. I was elected president on my first try. It was the biggest electoral college landslide since Reagan. But people tell me this is a big honor — the biggest, maybe. And I think this is very good for you, because your ratings are going through the roof right now. This crowd is much bigger than Obama’s was.

Your Majesties and Highnesses, people who worked for me once said “do not congratulate!” — but I fired most of them. So come on, get up and applaud. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.

You can fill in the blanks on your own from Milbank’s post.

Lest you think this to be total fiction, be advised:

"President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize.” — South Korean President Moon Jae-in

“No-bel! No-bel! No-bel!” — Audience at Trump’s Michigan rally Saturday (Apr 28)

If, God forbid, Trump is selected for the Nobel prize, you know you can expect that his speech will contain more false claims than Swiss cheese has holes. Here’s the evidence.

President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims so far.

Glenn Kesler and team at the Post do the fact-checking.

In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.

Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.

Trump has a proclivity to repeat, over and over, many of his false or misleading statements. We’ve counted at least 113 claims that the president has repeated at least three times, some with breathtaking frequency.

For example, only days ago, on April 28, Trump racked up 44 claims, many of which came from the president’s 80-minute speech in Michigan. (April 28 is tied in third place with Dec. 8, 2017 for most number of claims in a single day.) In his speech, Trump touched on many of his main themes, such as immigration and jobs, adding in a liberal dose of his favorite false facts. Among them:

You can take your pick here. Below are a few of my faves.

He falsely said that major newspapers and television networks make up nonexistent sources. That is grounds for firing in the news business. Sources can certainly be wrong, but they exist.

He falsely claimed that Democrats colluded with the Russians, and the whole probe started with “a document that was paid for by the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and Hillary Clinton.” But the DNC was a victim of Russian activities, as its emails were hacked and then released via WikiLeaks. The House Intelligence Committee has confirmed that the FBI’s counterintelligence probe began with a tip from the Australian government, which notified U.S. authorities about a drunken conversation between a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, and an Australian diplomat in May. Papadopoulos claimed the Russians had “political dirt” on Clinton. The information in the dossier funded by Democrats came to the attention of the FBI later.

He falsely claimed that fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe “took $700,000 for his wife’s campaign.” McCabe’s wife ran for Virginia Senate, receiving about $700,000 from then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the state Democratic Party. But campaign records show that every cent raised for the campaign was spent. McCabe also did not participate in his wife’s campaign.

UPDATE: Trump’s claim was part of a personal feud with the FBI generally (Comey firing) and McCabe in particular. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Fired Days Before Scheduled Retirement. It appears from this tweet that Trump intended to do financial harm to McCabe.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!
1:30 PM - Dec 23, 2017

Given his habitual lying, it should not be surprising that Trump cannot keep track of what he says from one moment to the next. Neither, apparently, can his legal team.

Giuliani Says Trump Repaid Cohen for Stormy Daniels Hush Money.

President Trump reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer, for a $130,000 payment that Mr. Cohen has said he made to keep a pornographic film actress from going public before the 2016 election with her story about an affair with Mr. Trump, according to Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers.

That statement, which Mr. Giuliani made Wednesday night on Fox News, contradicted the president, who has said he had no knowledge about any payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet before the election.

Asked specifically last month by reporters aboard Air Force One whether he knew about the payment, Mr. Trump said, “No,” and referred questions to Mr. Cohen. He was then asked, “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”

“No,” Mr. Trump responded. “I don’t know.”

See what I mean? Apparently to Trump “no” means “yes.”

In an interview with The New York Times shortly after his Fox News appearance, Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime Trump confidant who recently joined the president’s legal team, said that he had documentation showing that Mr. Trump had personally made the payment. Mr. Giuliani indicated that the goal was to conclusively demonstrate that there was no campaign finance violation involved.

I guess letting Trump’s dishonesty hang out there serves the purpose of dodging the campaign finance charge.

Wait for it. Will Trump go along and leap under Rudy’s bus? Of course.

Trump Says Payment to Stormy Daniels Did Not Violate Campaign Laws.

President Trump on Thursday directly contradicted his earlier statements that he knew of no payment to Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actress who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump said he paid a monthly retainer to his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, and suggested that the payment by Mr. Cohen to the actress could not be considered a campaign contribution.

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

New poll on gun control - Americans believe that killing kids is OK

If you take issue with the title, read on. And then prove me wrong.

The Huffington Post reports a new poll showing How Views On Guns Have Changed Since The Parkland Shooting. Here, in one chart, is the depressing news. The Post’s short take: Interest in new gun restrictions went up at first. That hasn’t necessarily lasted.

There is an awful sameness to the American response to the killing of its kids. Lots of media attention (bodies, crying people), thoughts, prayers, memorials, demonstrations, and then assertion of gun rights, more nonsense about good guys and their guns, and, after a month or a week, it all dies down and is replaced by some other scandal in the media. So it now goes with the Parkland shooting.

Gun control poll results
Post-Parkland gun control opinions return to normal

The school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year launched a new generation of gun control activists, inspired walkouts and marches, and sparked the most substantial ― and long-lasting ― shift in public opinion on guns in recent years. The appetite for gun control appears to have tapered off in the following weeks, but some surveys indicate that some changes in public opinion could endure.

In the more than two months since that shooting, HuffPost and YouGov have conducted five surveys tracking Americans’ views on guns. The results show a burst of support for gun reform in the two weeks after the shooting, followed by a gradual reversion to the mean. Once-heightened concerns about gun violence have tapered back to previous levels, as has a desire for stricter gun laws and a belief that gun restrictions can be passed without violating Second Amendment rights.

Last November I ventured an explanation about Why we kill so many of our fellow Americans. Here are false arguments and real facts about gun control. As part of that essay, I cited a NY Times piece What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer. One answer is culture.

The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the … assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.

The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.

After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 incident. But the United States has repeatedly faced the same calculus and determined that relatively unregulated gun ownership is worth the cost to society.

That choice, more than any statistic or regulation, is what most sets the United States apart.

"In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

How many ways must this be said? When it comes to guns vs. kids, guns win. If you step back and ask about who cares about what, you (well, I) must conclude that my generation, and the next, and perhaps even the next, just does not give a sh!t.

As I proposed in another post:

“The policy of the United States shall be the acceptance of loss of life so that assault weapons are available for legal sale.” I made that up. But can you doubt, given what I and others have written about the latest mass murder, that this is the de facto policy of the United States of America.

There will be another school shooting. There always is. And America will do nothing effective, or nothing at all, to prevent it.

This is the lesson, unfortunately, that the young activists mobilized by the Parkland shooting have yet to learn.

The voters won't forget!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Jon Gabriel, (editor-in-chief of right-wing blog "Richochet.com"), in his "My Turn" on AZCentral.com titled, Gabriel: If Arizona teachers strike now, it's a war against parents, not politicians, on was right.The voters won’t forget who’s responsible for the teacher walkout. But, I predict it won’t be the teachers they hold responsible. Arizona voters know that it is our lawmakers who have systematically underfunded our public schools over the last decade, creating an almost one billion dollar shortage each year, even after the Prop. 123 settlement.

Voters also know, that district capital funds (used for facility repair and maintenance and to purchase big ticket items such as buses and technology) have been cut 85 percent over that same time. And voters definitely know that we have the lowest paid teachers in the nation. That is one of the primary reasons that four months into the 2017-18school year, we had 1,968 classrooms without a teacher and another 3,403 with people who aren’t trained to be teachers.

Arizona voters are behind our teachers not only with words and honks of support, but deeds. All across our state, parents, family and community members, civic organizations, school boards members, district staffs, and yes, teachers, have worked hard to provide viable options for families to deal with school closures.

From Boys & Girls Clubs, to YMCAs, to skeletal crews in schools, to expanded before and after school programs, to city programs, to churches, to food banks, to museums and animal rescue groups; our communities have stepped in to ensure the health and welfare of children. In Tempe for example, the city’s “Kid Zone”, a before and after-school program, operated all day during the teacher walkout. Likewise, with volunteer District teachers and staff, Mesa Public Schools opened four community centers to provide breakfast, lunch and free, supervised activities for children from kindergarten through the sixth grade. In southern Arizona, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona delivered backpacks of food to high-need students, and the Sierra Vista Unified School District, teachers and support staff met at the Mall at the Sierra Vista food court to grade papers and tutor students.

Businesses around the state, such as recreation outlets, dance and martial arts centers, aquariums, sports centers, and grocery stores, have also jumped on-board, offering child supervision, recreation or a limited supply of basic food items. Some businesses, even welcomed employee’s children at work sites and offered flexible schedules to parents.

teachersArizonans are behind the teachers because they know this walkout is not about them, but rather the one million students they serve. We know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions and that the average teacher spends on average, $500 out of their own pocketeach year (some much more), to make those learning conditions as positive as they can. We also know even though quality teachers are the number one in-school factor contributing to student success, they can’t do it on their own. All the staff in a school contribute to a child’s development and education. Finally, we know that despite the fact we overwhelmingly support the better funding of our public schools, our lawmakers are intent on promoting vouchers, tax cuts and tax credits, that continue to divert our tax dollars away from that priority.

Hate to sound like a broken record, but there really is only one way to ensure our public schools and their dedicated teachers are truly valued. We must elect legislators that, well...value them!

Note: I submitted this to the AZ Republic, but it was not published.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

White House Press Corps Hosted Michelle Wolf's Saturday Night Massacre

This last weekend the nation witnessed a Saturday Night Massacre - just not of the Nixonian sort that we usually think of. I’m also not referring to Trump’s public display in Michigan that same night that informed us once again of what a truly awful person as President he is. I am, of course, referring to comedian Michelle Wolf taking a very sharp ax to Trump, members of his administration, and the mainstream media. Wolf’s barbs were not uniformly appreciated and she’s come under attack by those she wounded. For me, some of her punch lines flopped and some triggered a mental “ouch”. But all the rest were spot on.

Michelle Wolf
Michelle Wolf who addressed the WH press corps

So what’s the flap about? Vox.com has the answer for you in its transcript, Wonder what Michelle Wolf said to make everyone so mad? Read it here. Hint: “What would I do without Megyn Kelly? Probably be more proud of women.” But before she even got close to that …

Here we are the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, “Let’s get this over with.” Yep, kiddos this is who you’re getting tonight.

… I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up — unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like, “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it. Yeah. You should have done more research before you got me to do this.

Yeah. I suspect that whoever invited Wolf to do that gig was cringing.

Press corps dinner
Attendance at the WH press corps dinner

Members of the Trump administration walked out when she made those early remarks. Sarah Suckerbee Handers earned kudos from some in the media for her poise under fire. For example:

Maggie Haberman
@maggieNYT
That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive

Nonsense! She was ordered to fill in for the AWOL president and sit at the head table. What was she going to do? March off and prove to the world that Trump and his minions have skins as thick as that of an onion? F-’em if they can’t take a joke. (I’ll come back to this tweet in a moment.)

For me, though, one of the iconic scenes was the view of the Washington Hilton ballroom and the crowd of thousands - thousands! The WH press corps is just not that big. Watch one of Suckerbee Handers’ noon-time pressers and guesstimate the number of journalists in the room. You will see what I mean. So who are those people? At least in part, to quote from Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

For Sure Not Tom elaborates in response to a post from today’s Blog for Arizona.

Here’s why the MSM is sad. Wolf rightly calls them out on their BS.

“There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving…

…You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.”

So the answer is that those in attendance are those who profit from media attention - politicians, corporate execs, lobbyists, all of whom are chummy with each each other and with the reporters who should be seriously worried about the clubbiness of this event.

Yes, Wolf was hard on journalists, but she was right. Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona pens An Open Letter to Michelle Wolf.

I’m one of the millions you inspired with your performance Saturday night.

Whatever you do, please, please, don’t surrender to the attacks. Don’t apologize.

The line drawing the fire, as you know, is your brilliant and courageous comparison of Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Handmaid’s Tale.

No surprise. The attacks on you are not about impropriety or stepping over the line or being mean. They are about truth spoken to power in a way that, for those in power, was alarmingly dead on. After all, what is Sarah Huckabee Sanders if not a high-level functionary for a corrupt regime, just like Aunt Lydia.

You exposed Sanders as a modern-day brown shirt, just as Colbert once exposed the ineptitude of the Bush administration and Larry Wilmore exposed the brutality of Obama’s drone bombing. On each occasion, the room fell silent. Ugly truth wrapped in humor can be unsettling.

So, when pressed to apologize, respond by saying that you’ll apologize as soon as Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologizes to Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton, and countless others she has smeared at the behest of the wannabe tyrant to whose black hole she has so willingly, eagerly and treacherously hitched her wagon.

Along the same lines, illustrating my unease with the attendance Saturday night, Molly Roberts wrote in the Washington Post about how Michelle Wolf got it just right.

Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.

The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

Also in the Post, Jonathan Capehart advises readers critical of Wolf to Shut up about Michelle Wolf if you’ve been silent on Trump’s offenses.

As happens after every White House Correspondents’ Association dinner (a.k.a. Nerd Prom), the question is “What did you think?” What did you think of the comedian hired to skewer the president, the press corps and the political class gathered in the Washington Hilton for a dinner that raises money for scholarships, awards and other things done by the WHCA? The query takes on an added urgency when the comedian crosses a line that offends the glittering precious souls in the ballroom.

Michelle Wolf, the former correspondent and writer for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” whose eponymous special HBO cemented her on the comedic map, didn’t just cross the line. She blithely blew past it like a bank robber through a red light — after plowing through a cement-truck barricade. I’m no shrinking violet. I love a well-executed salty joke wrapped in blue. But Wolf even had me agape and clutching my pearls.

She was a riot!

Like her predecessors, Wolf went after members of the press, the Democratic Party and Trump administration officials. No one was spared. Trump wasn’t there for a second year in a row, which didn’t stop Wolf from taking him down a peg (times infinite). And it didn’t stop Wolf from tearing into the person sitting at the dais in the president’s stead: Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The press secretary doesn’t engender empathy, what with her complicated relationship with truth and a demeanor at the podium that is a mix of rushed annoyance and condescension. Yet I couldn’t help feel a twinge of OMG as Wolf mercilessly ridiculed Sanders seated just feet away. It was as comfortable as when a comic uses a member of the audience as a punchline punching bag. But that feeling was fleeting. Wolf’s eye-popping routine was simply a comedic reflection of Trump, whose presidential library will overflow with coarse, rude, ugly and personal attacks. It probably won’t mention other things like, oh, being embroiled in a scandal involving hush-money for a porn star that was paid by his personal lawyer who was raided by federal investigators. Trump, his staff and Cabinet emulate his rhetorical disregard for the norms, customs and respect we expect from the presidency.

The criticism of Wolf by Republicans, the press and the public was inevitable. Comes with the job, and some of it I agree with. What makes it galling is that those screaming the loudest about Wolf are mute when it comes to Trump. The former is a comedian hired to tell jokes at a dinner where jokes are traditionally told. The latter is the president of the United States. His words, even the jokes, carry weight. They have real consequences and affect real lives. But we’ve become so used to the garbage that sloshes from his Twitter feed and his presidency that we have grown numb to how it sluices over our collective national psyche.

So, until some of this righteous indignation and moral outrage at Wolf is directed at Trump for his inattention to the Flint water crisis and the devastation in Puerto Rico; his silence on the heroism of James Shaw Jr. and the demands for gun control; his disrespect for the rule of law and his inability to effectively govern without striking fear in the hearts of American families, folks need to shut up about Michelle Wolf.

In the end, we must realize that the flap over Wolf’s routine is not about Wolf at all. It’s about Trump, his character (or lack thereof), his shredding of our norms, his destruction of our government, his behaviors that violate the religious principles of those who forgive him all that.

So take your pick. In this corner is Michelle Wolf. In the other corner is Donald Trump who spent the evening of the press corps dinner doing more damage to the country. Politico.com reported that Trump vilifies ‘dishonest’ press at Michigan rally. As the White House press corps celebrates at an annual dinner in Washington, the president again demonizes the media at a rally in Middle America.

In which corner would you prefer to be?